THE BENENSON YOUNG ARTIST PROGRAM

2020-2021 Season Benenson Young Artist Program

The Benenson Young Artist Program is a stepping stone to a successful career as an opera singer for emerging professional artists. During their five-month residency in Palm Beach, The Benenson Young Artists develop and polish essential stagecraft and performance skills, aided by musical and career guidance from Palm Beach Opera’s experienced artistic and administrative staff, as well as distinguished guest faculty. The Benenson Young Artists appear on the mainstage in supporting roles, cover leading roles, and perform in concerts and special events throughout our community.

The Benenson Young Artist Program is part of a unique three-tiered training system at Palm Beach Opera that includes the Studio Program and the Apprentice Artist program.

The Benenson Young Artist Program is funded by The Edward H. Benenson Foundation, Inc.

  • Shannon Jennings
    Shannon Jennings
    Soprano
  • Patricia Westley
    Patricia Westley
    Soprano
  • Jenny Anne Flory
    Jenny Anne Flory
    Mezzo-Soprano
  • Moisés Salazar
    Moisés Salazar
    Tenor
  • Heeseung Chae
    Heeseung Chae
    Baritone
  • Christopher Humbert Jr.
    Christopher Humbert Jr.
    Bass-Baritone

Would you like more information about auditions?

For more information about our Benenson Young Artist Program and auditioning, click here.

Guest Faculty

Voice Teachers
Stephen King
Michael Paul
Nova Thomas
Craig Rutenberg
Danielle Orlando

Diction Coaches
Corradina Caporello, Italian
Bénédicte Jourdois, French
Marianne Barrett, German

Acting Coach
Paul Curran

2019-2020 Season Benenson Young Artists

Emily Blair, Soprano
Patricia Westley, Soprano
Cara Collins, Mezzo-Soprano
Maria Vasilevskaya, Mezzo-Soprano
Duke Kim, Tenor
John Tibbetts, Baritone
Ted Allen Pickell, Bass-Baritone

2018-2019 Season Benenson Young Artists

Joanna Latini, Soprano
Emily Blair, Soprano
Sylvia D’Eramo, Soprano
Natalie Rose Havens, Mezzo-Soprano
Brian Wallin, Tenor
Robert Stahley, Tenor
Ben Schaefer, Baritone
Ted Allen Pickell, Bass-Baritone

2017-2018 Season Benenson Young Artists

Chelsea Bonagura, Soprano
Kasia Borowiec, Soprano
Francesca Aguado, Mezzo-Soprano
Derrek Stark, Tenor
Brian Wallin, Tenor
Joshua Conyers, Baritone
Andrew Richardson, Bass-Baritone
Andrew Simpson, Bass-Baritone

Shannon Jennings
Soprano
Shannon Jennings

Praised by The Washington Post for her dramatic intensity and vocal ability, soprano Shannon Jennings’ 2019-20 season included her role debut as Micaëla in Carmen with Annapolis Opera, where she returned to perform the title role in Tosca. In the summer of 2019 she made her debut with the National Symphony Orchestra and Philadelphia Orchestra as the soprano soloist in ADVENT by Michael Giacchino, and in the fall she joined Virginia Opera for a concert celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Dominion Energy Center. Ms. Jennings was invited back to Wolf Trap Opera as a Filene Artist in 2019, performing Bubikopf in Ullman’s Der Kaiser von Atlantis, Argentine in L’île de Merlin, and Iseut in Le vin herbé in a co-production with Wolf Trap Opera & Washington Concert Opera. She returned as part of their virtual season in the summer of 2020 where she was scheduled to sing the role of Elizabeth Zimmer in Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers (COVID19) and a Zarzuela Concert with Steven Blier (COVID19), but instead performed scenes as Tatyana from Eugene Onegin as well as performing as the soprano soloist in the premiere recording of Michael Giacchino’s Nouvelle Modernica. Ms. Jennings was scheduled to join the National Orchestral Institute for Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (COVID19), and in the fall of 2020, she looked forward to making both her house and role debut as Mimi in La bohème with Kentucky Opera (COVID19). In 2021, Ms. Jennings will be joining Palm Beach Opera, singing Erste Dame in Die Zauberflöte, and covering Mimi in La bohème and Nedda in Pagliacci.

Ms. Jennings was a 2018 Apprentice Artist with Santa Fe Opera, where she covered soprano Ana María Martínez as Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly. As a Resident Artist with Pittsburgh Opera from 2016 to 2018, she sang Giannetta in The Elixir of Love, Aunt Sarah/Iraqi Woman/Shrink in The Long Walk, and Constanza in the rarely seen Handel opera, Richard the Lionheart. Pittsburgh in the Round hailed Ms. Jennings as “a vision… [singing] treacherously difficult music with what seemed to be the greatest of ease and with a voice of beautiful quality and quantity.”

Ms. Jennings is an alumna of the Merola Opera Program, where The Bay Area Reporter wrote that “her darker sound and clear tone have a blooming quality that easily filled the big opera-house acoustic.” Other residencies have included Virginia Opera, Central City Opera, Ash Lawn Opera, the Wolf Trap Opera Studio, and the Mittelsächsisches Theater in Freiberg, Germany, where she began her career performing Pamina in Die Zauberflöte. Ms. Jennings has sung as a soloist with Washington Concert Opera, the Virginia Symphony, the Richmond Symphony, and the Mittelsächsisches Philharmonie. Other highlights include Marguerite in Faust with Annapolis Opera, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte with Opera Orlando, Josephine in HMS Pinafore with Virginia Opera, Mimì in La bohème with DC Public Opera, and Guinevere in Camelot with Virginia Opera, for which AltDaily praised her as “the perfect blend of beauty and spirit,” after she appeared in the role for the detained lead in a nearly sold-out performance.

A formidable competitor, Ms. Jennings was a finalist in the 2019 George London Foundation competition, a winner of the 2017 Mildred Miller International Voice Competition, a Capitol District Winner in the 2016-17 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and a winner of the 2015 Annapolis Opera Vocal Competition. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Florida State University.

Patricia Westley
Soprano
Patricia Westley

New Zealand–American soprano Patricia Westley is gaining recognition as a young artist of great vocal and theatrical appeal. In the 2020-21 season, Ms. Westley will return to Palm Beach Opera as a Beneson Young Artist, where in 2019 she made her role and house debut as Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel. In the spring of 2021 she will perform the role of Papagena and cover Pamina in their production of Die Zauberflöte, cover Musetta in La bohème, and make her role debut as Giulietta in I Capuletti e i Montecchi. In the spring of 2020, Ms. Westley was looking forward to making her Carnegie Hall debut as the soprano soloist in Forrest’s Requiem for the Living with MidAmerica Productions (COVID19).

In 2019, Ms. Westley rejoined the Merola Opera Program, singing the role of Selena in the world premiere of If I Were You by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer. Additional season credits include her Pacific Symphony debut in their production of L’enfant et les sortilèges as La bergère Louis XV, Une pastourelle, La chauve-souris and La chouette, and her Schwabacher Recital Series (San Francisco Opera Center) debut in musical collaboration with Martin Katz.

Ms. Westley’s 2018 season highlights include her San José Chamber Orchestra debut as a featured soloist, in partnership with the San Francisco Opera Center, and her Oakland Symphony debut as soprano soloist in Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem. In the summer of 2018, she a resident artist with San Francisco Opera’s illustrious Merola Opera Program where she performs the leading romantic role of Elisa in Mozart’s early masterpiece Il re pastore.

A favorite with San Francisco audiences, Ms. Westley has performed with Pocket Opera as Adele in Die Fledermaus, for which she was critically hailed as “vocally-comically sensational”, and with Lamplighters Music Theatre as Yum-Yum in The Mikado, Elsie in The Yeomen of the Guard, and Casilda in The Gondoliers. During the 2016–2017 season Ms. Westley fulfilled a young artist residency with Shreveport Opera, making mainstage debuts as Musetta in La bohème, Despina in Così fan tutte, and Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof.

Ms. Westley’s talents have been acknowledged and encouraged in the vocal competition circuit; she has won the 2016 East Bay Opera League Competition, has placed as a finalist in the Franco-American Vocal Academy’s 2016 Vocal Competition (Grand Concours de Chant), and has earned a 2015 Encouragement Award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Her training includes young artist residencies with Pittsburgh Festival Opera, the International Vocal Arts Institute, the Tyrolean Opera Program, and SongFest. Ms. Westley earned her Master of Music in Opera Performance from the University of Oklahoma and her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Vocal Performance from Carnegie Mellon University.

 

Jenny Anne Flory
Mezzo-Soprano
Jenny Anne Flory

Mezzo-soprano Jenny Anne Flory, from Dayton, Virginia, graduated with her MM in Opera Performance, as a member of the University of Maryland Opera Studio (May 2017). She holds a BM in Vocal Performance from James Madison University (May 2015).

Jenny Anne is thrilled to join Palm Beach Opera during their 2021 Festival season as a Young Artist, where she will be singing Second Lady in their production of Die Zauberflöte and Romeo in the Discovery Series Production of I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Ms. Flory was an Apprentice Artist at Palm Beach Opera for their 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons, where she worked with coaches Ksenia Leletkina and Timothy Cheung.  Flory did outreach programs in Palm Beach County and sang in multiple concerts for donors and the general public. She covered Hansel in the Young Artist’s production of Hansel and Gretel, and also participated in the choruses of Turandot, La traviata, Don Giovanni, and Die Fledermaus.

In the summer of 2019, Jenny Anne attended “Si Parla, Si Canta” in Arona, Italy for the month of June.  There she sang La Suora Infermiera in Suor Angelica, along with singing scenes from Cenerentola and Il Crociato in Egitto. Over the 2017 summer, she participated in the Wintergreen Music Festival Vocal Intensive where she sang the alto solo in Mozart’s Requiem and worked with conductor Erin Freeman.  She also traveled to Italy to participate in the Bel Canto in Tuscany Emerging Artist Program, where she worked with vocal coach Giovanni Reggioli, and teachers Elizabeth Bishop and Arianna Zukerman. She returned to the Wintergreen Festival in July 2018.

Ms. Flory sang Orfeo in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, Cupidon in Offenbach’s Orfée aux enfers, and the title role in Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia last season with the Maryland Opera Studio.  She recently performed the role of Flora in Charlottesville Opera’s La traviata, and participated in the chorus of MOS’s productions of Regina and Don Giovanni.  She also sang with her classmates in the MOS New Work reading and the MOS Opera Scenes (Spring 2016).  Some of her previous roles at JMU include Lady Angela/Patience, Buttercup/HMS Pinafore, Third Lady/Die Zauberflöte, and Edith/Pirates of Penzance.

Flory has performed as the alto soloist for Handel’s Messiah (Ovation Singers, St. Anne’s Episcopal, JMU), Mozart’s Requiem (JMU), Haydn’s Maria Theresa Mass (First Pres. Charlottesville) and Vivaldi’s Gloria (JMU).  She also sang the soprano solo in the Dvořák Mass in D Major and Te Deum.  Ms. Flory was the first recipient of the Maryland Opera Studio Scholarship, started in 2015.  She sang the National Anthem at the inauguration of University of Maryland Chancellor Robert L. Caret, and at the school wide 2015 graduation at James Madison University.  Ms. Flory previously studied voice with Dr. Carrie Stevens, Delores Ziegler, and Linda Mabbs, Elizabeth Bishop and Arianna Zukerman. She currently studies with Nova Thomas.

 

Moisés Salazar
Tenor
Moisés Salazar

Sponsored by Ms. Anne Bazik  

Moisés Salazar is a Mexican-American tenor born and raised in the state of California. Moisés graduated with a Bachelor’s in Music from the University of Toledo in 2018. In the spring of 2020, Moisés was invited to participate in the Opera Theater of St. Louis’(OTSL) Gerdine Young Artist program, where he was scheduled to perform the role of Elder Gleaton in Susannah. He will be returning to OTSL in the spring of 2021 as a Gerdine Young Artist. As a Benenson Young Artist Program at Palm Beach Opera this season, he will be covering the roles of Rudolfo in La Boheme and Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, and he will sing the role of Tebaldo in I capuleti e I Montecchi. His previous roles include Ferrando in Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, Señor Alcalde in Sonenberg’s The Summer King, Lysander in Britten’s A Midsummer Nights Dream, Borsa in Verdi’s Rigoletto, and Rinuccio in Puccini’s Gianni’s Schicchi.

Heeseung Chae
Baritone
Heeseung Chae

Heeseung Chae, Baritone from South Korea, graduated Opera Institute at Boston University. He completed his Master and Bachelor of Music degrees at Seoul National University, and he received his Performance Diploma from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. He has performed the roles of Schaunard in La bohème, Ceprano in Rigoletto, and Ford in Falstaff at Verdi Gala concert at Seoul national University. At IU, he performed Haly in L’italiana in Algieri, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, and Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia. With the BU Opera Institute, he performed Philp Glass’s Hydrogen Jukebox and Il Conte in Le nozze di Figaro and Paul Watson in Johnathan Berger’s The War Reporter and Pelléas in Pelléas et Mélisande by Debussy. He also performed Marullo and covered Rigoletto at Charlottesville Opera as a Young Artist on 2017 and covered Il Conte on 2018 at the same program. He performed Marullo again in Rigoletto at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as a Gerdine Young Artist on 2019. On 2021, Heeseung will perfrom Schaunard and cover Marcello in La bohème, cover Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Silvio in I Pagliacci at Palm Beach Opera as a Benenson Young Artist. He studied with Andreas Poulimenos at IU and studied with Matthew DiBattista at BU.

Christopher Humbert Jr.
Bass-Baritone
Christopher Humbert Jr.

Sponsored by Dr. Donna Kesselman Raggio and Mr. John J. Raggio

With a “rich baritone voice,” and a “towering and alluring” stage presence, bass-baritone, Christopher Humbert Jr. has proven a favorite with several US audiences. Originally from Akron, Ohio, he has been seen in multiple operatic and theatrical productions throughout his home state with Opera Columbus, Mid-Ohio Opera, Nightingale Opera Theatre and others where he performed as Pooh-Bah in The Mikado, Count Carl-Magnus in A Little Night Music, Aeneas in Dido and Aeneas, Fred Graham in Kiss Me, Kate, and more. Christopher has since performed with Seagle Music Colony (Don Bartolo in Le Nozze di Figaro, Jud Fry in Oklahoma) and Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre. Humbert was recently selected to join Opera Theatre Saint Louis during the 2020 season as a Gerdine Young Artist. During this time, Humbert was featured on St. Louis Missouri’s Channel Nine station for the inaugural “Songs for St. Louis” televised concert series. In addition to opera, Mr. Humbert is a frequent oratorio and concert soloist: Mozart’s Requiem, Bach’s Ein Feste Burg ist unser Gott, Schütz’s St. Matthew Passion, and Bach’s St. John Passion, Händel’s Messiah. Humbert was a first–place finalist it Opera Guild of Dayton’s Tri-State Vocal Competition (2019) and has frequently won classical music and musical theatre awards from the National Association of Teachers of Singing. Humbert has since returned to Carnegie Hall stage as a soloist with Manhattan Concert Productions’ in Dona Nobis Pacem by Ralph Vaughan Williams, in which he shared the stage with ensembles from two of his former alma maters. In 2021, Humbert will be joining Des Moines Metro Opera, Palm Beach Opera as a Beneson Young Artist covering artists Morris Robinson, and Ryan Speedo Green, as well performing the role of Il Commedatore in Opera Columbus’ Don Giovanni. He would like to thank his closest advisors and mentors for continuously being a source of support and wisdom throughout his career.