Michael Butler is a young lyric tenor hailing from Washington D.C. After many years of intensive piano studies, the sweet melodies of Puccini and Verdi won him over to the stage. A few recent accolades include First Place in the 2020 Sue Goetz Ross Memorial Voice Competition, First Place in the 2020 National Classical Singer Competition, and the Encouragement Award at the 2020 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (Capitol District). In November 2019, Michael was featured as the lead tenor, Prince Sou-Chong, in Lehár’s Das Land des Lächelns with Washington Opera Society. Other previous highlights include the role of Claudio in the world premiere of Frances Pollock’s BRISCULA, the Magician with Belcantanti Opera Company in 2020, Dancaïre in Bizet’s Carmen and Messenger in Verdi’s Aïda (Washington Opera Society), Tamino in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (Bethesda Music Festival), Borsa in Verdi’s Rigoletto and Ivan Lïkov in Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride (Belcantanti Opera Company), and the title role in Rossini’s Le Comte Ory (Chicago Summer Opera). Michael was a Resident Young Artist in Des Moines Metro Opera’s 2020 summer season.
Lisa Chavez hailed for “her buttery, richly colored Mezzo” by Opera News. The 18/19 season was capped off with a "star turn" as Maggie in the World Premiere of Iain Bell's Stonewall commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising with New York City Opera. This season was full of role debuts including Rosina in The Barber of Seville and Fenena in Verdi's Nabucco with Sarasota Opera, as well as Amneris in Aida with Washington Opera Society. She returned to Sarasota Opera after her debut in 2017, as Madame de Croissy in Dialogues of the Carmelites for all 11 performances of Carmen in their Winter 2018 season. She immediately followed Sarasota to sing Carmen with Opera in Williamsburg as well as with Washington Opera Society in D.C. Past Carmen productions include performances as a Guest Artist with Opera San Jose, and performances as a Guest Artist with Opera San Jose, and performances with New York City Opera.
Praised by the New York Times for her “bright, sizable and expressive voice,” Kristin Sampson’s 2019-2020 calendar opens with a featured soloist appearance on the 75th Anniversary Concert for New York City Opera. Additional performances include the roles of Mimì in La bohème with MidAtlantic Opera and Liu in Turandot with Opera Grand Rapids, as well as several concert appearances with New York City Opera. 2018-19 performances included concerts featuring the music of composer Jeremy Gill, Mimì in La bohème, guest soloist in the New York City Opera Pride Concert, as well as being a featured artist at the 2019 Festival of Nature at Lake Tizsa in Hungary. Upcoming seasons include the roles of Tosca and Mimì, as well as concert appearances throughout the United States. The 2017-18 season included performances as Minnie in La fanciulla del West with New York City Opera, and at Teatro del Giglio in Lucca, Teatro Goldoni in Livorno, and Teatro Verdi in Pisa, Italy. Ms. Sampson is a two-time recipient of a grant from the Olga Forrai Foundation. She has performed in the U.S. with the New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Opera Orchestra of New York, Opera Carolina, Dicapo Opera Theatre, Augusta Opera, El Paso Opera, and the National Lyric Opera among others, and internationally with the Opera Society of Hong Kong, Armel Opera Festival, National Theater of Szeged, Teatro Municipal de Santiago, and Teatro dell'Opera di Roma.
Bass-baritone Kevin Short's current and future engagements include performances of Pfleger in Elektra and covering Leporello in Don Giovanni at the Metropolitan Opera; Le Comte de Gormas in Massenet’s Le Cid at Theater St. Gallen; Archibaldo in Montemezzi's L’amore dei tre re at Sarasota Opera; Nick Shadow in The Rake’s Progress at Théâtre de Caen, l'Opéra de Reims, l'Opéra de Rouen, l'Opéra de Limoges, and Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg; and Porgy in Porgy and Bess at Seattle Opera. He also has two major recording projects with Maestro Larry Foster on the Pentatone music label: Lodovico in Verdi’s Otello and a solo aria album with Orchestre de l'Opéra de Marseille. In addition to performing in over twenty operas at The Metropolitan Opera, he has performed in prestigious North American and European houses including Santa Fe Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Washington National Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Canadian Opera Company, Opéra Comique, Oper der Stadt Köln, Staatstheater Stuttgart, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Theater Basel and at festivals including Bregenzer Festspiele and Festival d'Aix-en-Provence.
American violinist Kurt Nikkanen is an international soloist of the highest order. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, he began his violin studies at the age of three, later studying with Roman Totenberg and Jens Ellerman. At twelve he gave his Carnegie Hall debut, performing with the New York Symphony; two years later he was invited by Zubin Mehta to perform the Paganini Concerto No.1 with the New York Philharmonic for a Young People’s Concert. He is a graduate of the Juilliard School, where he was a scholarship student of Dorothy DeLay.Mr. Nikkanen regularly receives invitations from the leading orchestras and presenters in the USA and Europe, and has toured Japan and the Far East. In North America he has appeared with the Dallas Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Cleveland Orchestra, and in Europe with the BBC Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Rotterdam Philharmonic and the Dresden Staatskapelle. He has worked with many leading conductors. An enthusiastic advocate of contemporary music, Kurt Nikkanen has given numerous performances of the John Adams Violin Concerto, with orchestras such as the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Oregon Symphony, Hallé Orchestra and Cincinnati Symphony (all under the composer’s direction).
Julien Benichou ( Conductor )
Hailed as “one of the most interesting and accomplished conductors of his generation,” Julien Benichou is noted for his blend of flexibility and control, inspiring musicality and incredibly infectious energy. Benichou currently serves as Music Director for the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra (MSO), and was recently appointed Principal Conductor of the Washington Opera Society. He is also the Music Director of the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra (CYSO) and the Southern Maryland Youth Symphony Orchestra (SMYOC). This past December, he made his debut with the New York City Ballet, in Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, and returned to Carnegie Hall, in a concert that featured Robert Redford and Vice-President Al Gore.
As Music Director of the MSO for the last 12 seasons, Benichou has greatly raised the profile of the ensemble, attracting premier artists, as well as expanding the orchestra’s season. This year, he collaborates with Stefan Jackiw, Virgil Boutellis-Taft, Kurt Nikkanen, Brandie Sutton and Leon Fleisher. Previous seasons have included concerts with such noted artists as Kevin Short, Lester Lynch, Arnaud Sussmann and Tine Thing Helseth.
Michael Capasso ( Host )
Michael Capasso is the General Director of the New York City Opera. He has produced, directed, and toured opera and musical theater productions in the U.S. and abroad for over 30 years. In June of 2014, he led the successful effort to bring the New York City Opera out of bankruptcy. The revitalized New York City Opera returned to the stage in January 2016 with a celebratory production of Tosca. In 1981, he, along with Diane Martindale, founded New York’s Dicapo Opera Theatre. Over the 30 years of his leadership, Dicapo Opera Theater presented a diverse programming to the New York public. In addition to his work with the Dicapo Opera Theatre, Mr. Capasso has directed operas at l’Opéra de Montréal; Mallorca Opera; Toledo Opera; Connecticut Opera; New Jersey State Opera; Opera Carolina; and Orlando Opera among others. Mr. Capasso founded the National Lyric Opera in 1991, a touring company that has brought fully staged operas to communities in the American Northeast.