Opera North 2018 Resident Artist Biographies


Opera North is proud to bring a select group of talented young professionals to the Upper Valley each summer. This company of Resident Artists performs and covers appropriate roles in the mainstage productions of the season, in addition to showcasing their talents at concerts around the Upper Valley.

Michael Bagby, Assistant Conductor (Singers & Swingers), Pianist & Vocal Coach (Tales of Hoffmann and Barber of Seville), is a native of Iowa. Michael earned a DMA in vocal coaching and accompanying from the University of Illinois, under the direction of Julie Gunn, and completed his masters at the University of Michigan, where he studied with Martin Katz. He also holds bachelor degrees in piano performance and K-12 vocal education from Iowa State University. Recently, he worked as the music director and pianist in the world premiere of Nathan Gunn: Flying Solo directed by Hershey Felder. Additionally he worked as the music director for Coastal Carolina’s The Color Purple. He premiered his composition for solo piano, Bells, in the Issac Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall. He is a two-time recipient of the Nancy Wustman Memorial Award in Vocal Accompanying.

Cara Collins, Voice of Antonia’s Mother, Nicklausse cover (Tales of Hoffmann), Berta (Barber of Seville), recently she received an Encouragement/Audience Favorite Award at the New York International Vocal Competition 2018 Finals. Other roles include Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, Elizabeth Proctor in Robert Ward’s The Crucible, Ottavia in L’incoronazione di Poppea, Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro, Mutter in Hänsel und Gretel, and Hippolyta in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Cara studies voice with Dr. Sherry Overholt and holds an undergraduate degree from SUNY Purchase College Conservatory of Music.

Attila Dobak, Crespel (Tales of Hoffmann), Bartolo cover (Barber of Seville), graduated from the Longy School of Music of Bard College in 2013, after which he joined Opera North as a Resident Artist. There, he covered the roles of Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor and Emil de Becque in South Pacific and sang Gideon March in Little Women. At the Miami Summer Music Festival in 2014, he was featured in the role of Figaro in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. In the 2016/17 season, he appeared at the Boston Lyric Opera in performances of Puccini's La bohème, Ferenc Lehár's The Merry Widow and Bizet's Carmen. Following those, he took the stage at Müpa Budapest in the title role of Kodály's Háry János. He made his debut at the Hungarian State Opera this season in the role of Ali in Rossini's L'italiana in Algeri.

Amal El-Shrafi, Antonia, Giulietta cover (Tales of Hoffmann), has been hailed by the Boston Music Intelligencer as “shining through with a strength and power that matched her character’s presence onstage.” The Palestinian-American soprano is quickly gaining traction as a versatile performer in both concert work and opera. Recent engagements include performances with Sarasota Opera, Mobile Opera, Opera Company of Middlebury, Beth Morrison Projects and her Lincoln Center debut with the New York Philharmonic. She has been a two-time regional finalist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and holds a Master’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music. Ms. El-Shrafi currently resides in NYC with her musical cat, Mimi.

Madelyn Gunn, Assistant Director/Assistant Stage Manager (Singers & Swingers/Tales of Hoffmann/Barber of Seville), is a director and producer of theater and opera. Madelyn graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Music in 2017, studying classical voice, theater and business administration. Madelyn made her start creating staged scenes from art song in 2015. From there, she moved on to larger scale works with King Arthur, a Purcell/Dryden semi-opera, and was recently credited as Assistant to the Director in the Krannert Center production of Hansel and Gretel. She also interned at the Vienna State Opera House and PROTOTYPE Festival. Madelyn specializes in projects in development, most recently as Lavinia in Polly Peachum, a musical by Gene Scheer and Bill Van Horn, and working with Jonah Bokaer Choreography for their adaptation of Dido and Aeneas / Neither.

Derek Jackenheimer, Nathanaël, Franz (Tales of Hoffmann), Almaviva cover (Barber of Seville), is excited to be joining Opera North this summer as a Resident Artist. He recently debuted with North Carolina Opera as Don Curzio in Le nozze di Figaro and covered Le Remendado in Bizet's Carmen with Greensboro Opera. He received a Masters of Performance at UNC-Greensboro, where he studied with Clara O’Brien. Derek's roles with UNCG Opera Theatre include Chevalier de la Force in Dialogues of the Carmelites, Old Galileo in Philip Glass’ Galileo Galilei, and Kaspar in Amahl and the Night Visitors. Derek’s solo orchestral appearances include Mendelssohn’s Elijah and St. Paul, Mozart's Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Bruckner's Te Deum, Charpentier's Te Deum, and multiple Bach cantatas.

Blake Jennings, Luther, Crespel cover (Tales of Hoffmann), Don Basilio cover (Barber of Seville), is a native of Longview, Texas and recently received his Masters in Opera Performance from Boston Conservatory. During his time at Boston Conservatory, Blake portrayed many roles including the Prophet in Nico Muhly's Dark Sisters, Falstaff in Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Don Alfonso in Mozart's Così fan tutte. This past summer, he was a studio artist for the Chautauqua Opera Company, where he made his company debut as the Fourth Spirit and cover for Charon in Monteverdi's L'Orfeo as well as cover for the Bass in Philip Glass' Hydrogen Jukebox. Starting in the fall, he will join Boston University's Opera Institute as a young artist. Mr. Jennings is a student of Dr. Rebecca Folsom.

Jeehoon Kim, Fiorello, Figaro cover (Barber of Seville), baritone, is an active performer in the Twin Cities. He recently made his operatic debut as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly. This was followed by his acclaimed performance of the title role in Rigoletto with Really Spicy Opera Company where he was lauded for his “bright and bombastic” voice and “great dynamic range in his voice and acting” (Twin Cities Arts Reader). Additionally, Mr. Kim has performed Tarquinious in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia and the title role in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi with the University Opera Theatre at the University of Minnesota. In 2017, Mr. Kim won the Kenwood Symphony Orchestra Competition. In 2016, he won the Classical Music Voice Competition in Minnesota and was invited to Boston to compete in the National Finals.

Stephen McCluskey, Hermann, Dr. Miracle cover (Tales of Hoffmann), Ambrogio (Barber of Seville), baritone, has captured audiences’ attention with his warm resonant voice. He has performed roles in Le Nozze di Figaro, Werther and The Crucible, as well as sung Professor Bhaer in Little Women, Don Bartolo in Barbiere di Siviglia, Colline in La bohème and the title role in Don Giovanni. Recent concert performances have included Brahms’ German Requiem, Mozart’s Requiem, Fauré's Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Creation, Duruflé’s Requiem, and Bach’s St. John Passion. Recently, he won the Encouragement Award at the South Carolina Met Council auditions and performed as a studio artist at Opera Saratoga. Stephen graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Music degree from Georgia State University and is currently pursuing his Masters at Florida State University.

Emily Misch, Olympia (Tales of Hoffmann), coloratura soprano, has been praised for her “scintillating precision” (Opera News). Her 2017-2018 season includes the Grand Finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Valeria in the workshop of Tom Cipullo's Mayo (National Opera Center) and soprano solos in Mozart's Requiem, Haydn's Paukenmesse (Huntington Choral Society), and Carmina Burana (Altoona Symphony Orchestra). Recent engagements include Ravinia Festival's Steans Music Institute (Vocal Fellow), Mater Gloriosa in Mahler's Symphony No. 8 (Berkshire Choral International), and Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165 (Greenville Symphony Orchestra). She has received prizes from the Schuyler Foundation for Career Bridges, the Gerda Lissner Foundation, Mannes College of Music and Yale University.

Brady Muth, Schlémil, Lindorf cover, Dapertutto cover (Tales of Hoffmann), is working to receive his Masters degree in the Yale Opera program while studying under vocal professor Dr. Richard Cross. Brady has recently performed the role of Sarastro in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte with Yale Opera, as well as Lodovico in Verdi's Otello with Opera Fort Collins in Colorado. He has also worked with Opera Classica Europa, a company based in Germany, touring throughout Hesse and Versailles while performing roles such as Angelotti in Puccini's Tosca and the Sprecher in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte.

Ashley Puenner, Nicklausse (Tales of Hoffmann), Berta cover (Barber of Seville), holds a Master of Music in Voice from the University of Kansas and a Bachelor of Music in Voice at Illinois Wesleyan University. She was a Studio Artist with the Florentine Opera in 2016-2018, where her roles included Second Lady in The Magic Flute, First Witch in Dido and Aeneas, and Mrs. Hurstwood in the world premiere of Sister Carrie, which was recorded and released on the Naxos label. Other recent credits include Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, Carmen in The Tragedy of Carmen and Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd. Pursuing an avid interest in newly composed music, Ashley has premiered works by several composers including Robert Aldridge, Emile Naoumoff and Forrest Pierce, along with commissioning a song cycle by American composer Nathan Jones (Six Qabbani Love Songs).

Seamus Ricci, Assistant Director (Singers & Swingers/Tales of Hoffmann/Barber of Seville), is a director based in Pittsburgh, PA with directing credits in operas, musicals and plays. Recent opera directing credits include Les contes d’Hoffmann (Bel Cantanti), La Rondine (Undercroft Opera) and Don Giovanni (Neighborhood Opera Company). Opera assistant directing credits include La Rondine (Opera San Jose), Die Zauberflöte (Carnegie Mellon University), Die Fledermaus (Carnegie Mellon University) and Carmen (Pittsburgh Festival Opera), working with directors such as Crystal Manich, Candace Evans, Daniel Rigazzi, Wayne Bryan and Jonathan Eaton. Seamus has also worked with Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Opera, Pittsburgh Festival Opera and City Theatre of Pittsburgh.

Jacob Rivera, Andrès, Franz cover (Tales of Hoffmann), graduated from Purchase College the Conservatory of Music with an Undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance. While there, Jacob performed as Don Ottavio from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Lucano in L’incoronazione di Poppea, Kaspar in Amahl and the Night Visitors and Ezekiel Cheever in The Crucible. Jacob has also participated in the chorus of the Martina Arroyo Foundation program from 2015-2017 in La fille du régiment, La bohème and Bizet’s Carmen.

Carson Rose Schneider, Pianist & Vocal Coach (Singers & Swingers/Tales of Hoffmann/Barber of Seville), is a New Jersey native who currently lives in Minneapolis, MN, where she finished her DMA in collaborative piano and coaching from University of Minnesota. A versatile collaborator, she works regularly as a duo partner, chamber musician, rehearsal pianist and coach. Most recently, she was principal coach for the Fargo-Moorhead Opera Gate City Bank Young Artists. After Opera North, she will be a 2018 Herndon Foundation Emerging Artist with Virginia Opera. Recent productions include Speed Dating, Tonight!, Alcina, Carmen, Suor Angelica and Madama Butterfly.

James Smidt, Spalanzani, Hoffmann cover (Tales of Hoffmann), appeared in the 2017-2018 season with the AJ Fletcher Opera Institute as Ramiro in La Cenerentola and Pelléas in Impressions de Pelléas. In the summer of 2017, he appeared with GLOW Lyric Theatre as Rev. Parris in The Crucible and Marco Palmieriv in The Gondoliers. In the summers of 2015 and 2016, he studied at The Chautauqua Institute under the direction of Marlena Malas and performed in recital with Mikael Eliasen and Craig Rutenberg. Other roles performed include Orphée & Pluton in Orphée aux enfers, Male Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia and First Armored Man in Die Zauberflöte. In the 2018-2019 season, he will make his debut as Peter Quint in The Turn of the Screw, the title role in Massenet’s Werther, and Grimoaldo in Rodelina, while continuing his pursuit of an Artist Certificate in Opera at UNCSA.

Jessica Toupin, Antonia cover (Tales of Hoffmann), is a young lyric soprano studying Vocal Performance and Mathematics at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Most recently, she made her debut with the UMass Orchestra as the 2018 Concerto Competition winner. Additionally, she made her debut in the role of Gretel in UMass Amherst’s production of Hansel and Gretel and premiered the role of Hester Prynne in the world premiere of Eric Sawyer’s The Scarlet Professor with 5 College Opera. This past summer, she sang with the AIMS Orchestra under the baton of Lukas Beikircher in Graz, Austria. In 2016, she was a finalist of the national Classical Singer competition and the recipient of the Barbara E. Maze Award from the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston, MA.

Rachel Weishoff, Giulietta (Tales of Hoffmann), Rosina cover (Barber of Seville), mezzo-soprano, is pursuing her MMA at the Yale School of Music, studying with Doris Yarick-Cross. Roles include Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel, Second Lady in Die Zauberflöte, and partial role, Orsino in Lucrezia Borgia. In her hometown of NYC, she has performed with Mannes Opera as Erika in Vanessa and with Chelsea Opera as La Seconda Cercatrice (La Suora Infermiera, cover) in Suor Angelica. She performed in Central City Opera’s season as a selected recitalist, as well as partial roles, Dorabella and Mercedes. She recorded the role of Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible with Albany Records of which Opera News reviews her “brave, weighty rendering” as “marvelous.” A Presser Scholar of Music, she holds her BM and MM from SUNY Purchase. Roles include Cherubino, Hermia and Orlofsky.

Jordan Wells, Cochenille, Pitichinaccio, Hoffmann cover (Tales of Hoffmann), recipient of the 2018 Brown/Loranger Fellowship at SongFest, will start the fall as a second year masters student at the University of Memphis. His recent credits include Rodolfo in La bohème at Red River Lyric Opera and Martin in The Tender Land at the University of Memphis. His upcoming credits include Tamino in Die Zauberflöte at the University of Memphis. Jordan made his professional debut in Nashville Opera’s world premiere of Elmer Gantry.

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