National search brings five award-winning young singers to South Florida audiences
MIAMI AND FORT LAUDERDALE, FL, July 25 2023 — Rising against hundreds of others in an intensive national audition process, an exclusive cadre of five rising stars has earned coveted positions in Florida Grand Opera’s prestigious Studio Artist Program. These extraordinary young singers will represent FGO on the mainstage, in touring children’s productions, and a series of performances throughout Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.
“It’s always exciting to welcome our new Studio Artists,” says the Samuel M. Townsend Studio Artist Program Manager Neil Nelson. “Each season brings a unique and intriguing mixture of talent, background, and personality that enriches and elevates our audience experiences.”
As the face of opera in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Studio Artists spend the full season performing principal and comprimario roles alongside FGO’s roster of acclaimed directors, conductors, and musicians. They tour Miami-Dade and Broward counties to offer a variety of concerts such as the beloved SongFest series, and a touring outreach opera for young audiences, among other events. In the 2023-24 season, they will embark on a special new initiative, the Zip CODE (Community Opera Delivered Equitably) Tour, designed to bring vibrant opera performances to nontraditional venues in a plethora of zip codes throughout Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. The Studio Artists receive training from FGO artistic staff and top industry professionals from around the world on a broad spectrum of topics, with an emphasis on vocal technique, acting, language, repertoire, and best business practices for working singers. FGO also coordinates opportunities for in-house auditions with agents and General Directors, press interviews, and donor relations to prepare them for a life in the opera industry.
Second-year Studio Artist and Joseph McBrayer returns to sing Gastone in season opener La traviata and Beppe in I pagliacci. Acclaimed for his “ardent” Paolino in 2023’s El matrimonio segreto, he also offered up a comic turn as Gherardo in Gianni Schicchi and Buoso’s Ghost. McBrayer returns to FGO after performances as Sam (Susannah) with Marble City Opera and Alfredo (La traviata) at the Quisisana Resort in Lowell, ME opposite his fiancée, Hayley Lipke. He has appeared with the Atlanta Opera, Capitol City Opera, and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where he performed the roles of Alfredo in La traviata, Woz in The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, and Tamino in The Magic Flute. An avid performer of orchestral works and Broadway, McBrayer has also appeared as the tenor soloist in Britten’s War Requiem, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and musicals such as Falsettos and She Loves Me.
First-year Studio Artist Sara Kennedy is an award-winning soprano known for her powerful interpretations of Mozart heroines. Hailed by Operawire as an “exciting singer with a killer voice,” she recently debuted with Opera Arlington as Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte) and as Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) with Teatro Grattacielo/Camerata Bardi Vocal Academy and Painted Sky Opera. She was a 2022 Sarasota Opera Winter Season Apprentice Artist and an Opera Fellow at OperaFest Sewanee, where she won the prestigious Jacqueline Avent Concerto Competition. Her musical theatre roles include Anne Egerman in A Little Night Music and The Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods. Kennedy will make her FGO debut as Annina (La traviata). She will later cover the role of Nedda in I pagliacci and appear as Musetta (La bohème).
Mezzo-soprano Taylor-Alexis DuPont joins the FGO Studio having made her professional debut in 2019 as a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Grammy award-winning production of Porgy and Bess. Most recently, she won first place at the 25th Lotte Lenya Competition and debuted with Washington National Opera as Phoebe in The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson. She has appeared with Florentine Opera in the title role of Luisa Fernanda, Hansel in Hansel & Gretel, and Bessie in Weill’s Mahagonny- Songspiel. She was also recently featured in three new operas at the Glimmerglass Festival: as Reba (Taking up Serpents) Archangel Gabriel (Holy Ground, a world premiere) and Phoebe in an expanded version of The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson. DuPont makes her FGO debut as Flora in La traviata and Musetta in La bohème.
Praised for his “outstanding singing” and “big, bass-y baritone” by the Dallas Morning News, dramatic baritone and Des Moines native Joseph Canuto Leon joins the Studio to sing the roles of Baron Douphol in La traviata and Schaunard in La bohème. He will also cover Giorgio Germont (La traviata), Silvio (I pagliacci), and Marcello (La bohème). Leon has appeared with the Dallas Opera, Charlottesville Opera, American Baroque Opera Company, Painted Sky Opera, Opera on the James, and Opera in the Rock. His roles include Ford (Falstaff), Count Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), the Villains (The Tales of Hoffmann), Belcore (L’elisir d’amore), The Father (Hansel and Gretel), Baron Zeta (The Merry Widow), Donner (Das Rheingold), and the title role in Eugene Onegin.
Hailed by the Akron Beacon Journal for his “stellar singing” and “stunning” voice, first-year Studio Artist and bass-baritone Keith Klein kicked off his career in 2014 by winning the Kansas City Superstar competition and appearing on Season 10 of America’s Got Talent. Most recently, he has appeared as Elder McLean (Susannah) and Angelotti (Tosca) with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Dr. Podsnap (Awakenings) with Odyssey Opera, and Sparafucile (Rigoletto) at Opera Colorado. In 2022, Klein won an Encouragement Award in the Metropolitan Opera’s Laffont Competition and the Barbara and Stanley Richman Memorial Award from Opera Theatre of St. Louis. He makes his FGO debut as Dr. Grenvil in La traviata, followed by Colline in La bohème.
ABOUT THE FGO STUDIO
The FGO Studio Artists are managed by Samuel M. Townsend Studio Artist Program Manager Neil Nelson, under the artistic leadership of Director of Artistic Operations Matt Cooksey and General Director and CEO Susan T. Danis. Established in 1984, the FGO Studio enjoys an international reputation as a highly competitive and comprehensive career development program. The young professionals chosen demonstrate extraordinary potential for significant contributions to the field of opera. Alumni of the program include award-winning countertenor Key’Mon Murrah, most recently awarded Finalist and Encouragement award of Placido Domingo’s international Operalia competition; Grammy-winning soprano Jessica E. Jones; Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis; Metropolitan Opera tenor Andrew Bidlack; and Miami’s own mezzo-soprano Amanda Crider, founder and former Artistic Director of illuminarts.
ABOUT FLORIDA GRAND OPERA
Florida Grand Opera produces classic grand opera, contemporary work, and new commissions in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Founded in 1941 as the Opera Guild of Greater Miami by Arturo Di Filippi, it merged with Opera Guild of Fort Lauderdale in 1994 and is now under the leadership of Susan T. Danis. Florida Grand Opera is the oldest producing arts organization in the state of Florida and the seventh oldest opera company in the United States. Its Florida Grand Opera Studio trains the opera stars of tomorrow, whose work supporting the world-class artists starring on FGO’s stages and performing in the community brings some of the greatest music ever composed to all of South Florida. Its 2023–24 season takes place at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, and features Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata, Ruggero Leoncavallo’s I pagliacci, and Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème. All FGO productions feature projected translations in English and Spanish. For more information, please visit fgo.org.
# # # # #
Marketing and Communications Manager
WHO: Florida Grand Opera
WHAT: FGO Studio Artists
WHEN: 2023-24 Season
WHERE: Miami-Dade and Broward Counties
WHY: Rising against hundreds of others in an intensive national audition process, an exclusive cadre of five rising stars will represent FGO on the mainstage, in touring children’s productions, and a series of performances throughout Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.