Rising Stars Reminisce January 15, 2020

On Sunday, January 19, Rising Stars in Concert will celebrate the tenure of eight departing Ryan Opera Center artists. Join us in wishing them "toi toi toi" as they take the next step in their careers and read on to see what they'll remember most about their time in the program.

Photo: Todd Rosenberg

KAYLEIGH DECKER

Second-year mezzo-soprano

"Although it has only been a year and a half, my time as a member of the Ryan Opera Center has been one of the most demanding, yet rewarding, periods in my life. I have been challenged in ways I never expected, and grown into an artist I never imagined. Through many hours of observation and performance opportunities with the world's greatest artists, I have garnered perspective on what it takes to be a singer of integrity in the 21st century. Throughout my time at Lyric, I have learned that there is neither a finished product nor is there an arrival point, and despite its elusiveness, this is what makes live performance so magical. I have learned to trust and embrace this process. While I am a bit anxious about leaving this nurturing environment, I am confident, with the tools I have acquired here, that I can keep my eye on the horizon and keep striving for truth. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."

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Photo: Todd Rosenberg

ERIC FERRING

Second-year tenor

"My time in the Ryan Opera Center has been filled with the greatest challenges and largest triumphs of my life. I remember it like it was yesterday: the Final Auditions in September 2017. I was hoping and praying so hard backstage that I didn't even hear my name called to join the 2018/19 Ensemble. With a hearty push from my dear mentor and friend, Julia Faulkner, I was thrust into the deep end of a pool I wasn't sure I could swim in. From singing small roles, understudying large roles, or in the case of Ariodante last season, taking over a principal role for the entire run, I have been given monumental opportunities and inspiration, as well as the gifts of lifelong friends, mentors, and memories. I am unbelievably thankful that the Ryan Opera Center took a chance on this Iowa boy and helped him turn into the man who is not only ready, but excited to enter this scary yet exhilarating career as an opera artist."

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Photo: Todd Rosenberg

LAUREN DECKER

Fourth-year contralto

"I can hardly believe nearly four years have come and gone since I joined the Ryan Opera Center family. To try to quantify all that has happened since Dan Novak called to invite me to sing at the Final Auditions seems nearly impossible! I've traveled to places I never imagined I'd go, have worked with the most incredibly talented and thoughtful artists – the list could go on for pages. But the lessons that lie beneath that illustrious list of experiences are what I will hold closest to my heart. Lessons of vulnerability in front of 3,000+ people a night. Lessons of grace in busy rehearsal rooms. Lessons of teamwork with the countless people involved in any given rehearsal or show. Lessons of resilience and hard work. I hope to go out in the world and make known everything you've given me all around. Thank you."

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Photo: Jaclyn Simpson

CHRISTOPHER KENNEY

Second-year baritone

"The Ryan Opera Center has been one of the most formative and beneficial experiences in my life as an opera singer. The lessons I've learned and the people I've met have helped propel me into the highest ranks of the field – and have given me a deep appreciation for detail, dedication, and artistry. Being able to work with master artists like Renée Fleming and Patricia Racette has especially opened for me the unbounded artistic ideas that I have yet to explore. Whether singing on the main stage or elsewhere, like the Harris Theater for Beyond the Aria, I have cherished my time in Chicago. I'm truly grateful to have been a part of an institution with such a storied history as Lyric and the Ryan Opera Center."

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Photo: Jaclyn Simpson

EMILY POGORELC

Second-year soprano

"When I reflect back on my time at the Ryan Opera Center, I think of the incredible people with whom I have met and worked. To be able to observe artists such as Alice Coote, Susan Graham, and Nina Stemme craft incredible performances is such a huge gift for a young artist. It also was so rewarding to be able to hone my own artistry with the guidance of guest teachers, such as Patricia Racette and Anne Sofie von Otter, and work on a daily basis with our incredible mentors, Julia Faulkner and Craig Terry. However, looking back, I know I will always cherish most the incredible relationships I have had with my colleagues. I have learned so much from each and every one of them and formed beautiful friendships to last a lifetime. The Ryan Opera Center is not only one of the best training programs in the world – to me, it will forever be my family."

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Photo: Todd Rosenberg

MARIO ROJAS

Third-year tenor

"Like a kid walking into a candy shop, I entered this building, full of dreams and with no idea how much my life would change after that moment – and how much I would learn in my time at the Ryan Opera Center and Lyric. To think that as a young artist I had the opportunity to step in and sing Alfredo in La traviata on the main stage where Simoneau, Kraus, Gedda, Araiza, Hadley, Sabbatini, Calleja, Polenzani, and Berrugi, to name a few, had sung the role, to this day gives me chills. I have nothing but gratitude for every lesson learned, every performance sang, every role learned, and for letting me enter those historic backstage doors every single day!"

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Photo: Todd Rosenberg

RICARDO JOSÉ RIVERA

second-year baritone

"My time in the Ryan Opera Center has been full of many wonderful experiences that have helped me grow and further my skills as an opera singer and as an individual. Ever since I was accepted into the program, the life lessons have never stopped. From voice lessons, coachings, and performing, to getting to meet and work with many wonderful and talented artists from very diverse backgrounds, I have experienced so much in these past two years. Not many people are as fortunate to get to know the business in the way the Ryan Opera Center offers, and for that I am deeply grateful. I will never forget what I have learned from the people that guide us in this program about discipline, perseverance, and dedication. I have loved being a member of the Ryan Opera Center family, and I cannot thank all of you enough for taking me in and believing in me and my talent."

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Photo: Todd Rosenberg

MADELINE SLETTEDAHL

third-year pianist

"It is almost impossible to put into words the growth and experience I have gained as a musician over my three years as the pianist for the Ryan Opera Center. Through my participation in this one-of-a-kind program, I've honed my skills as a vocal coach and gained significant experience working with many conductors as a répétiteur for several opera productions and performances. It's been a privilege to perform frequently with my talented singing colleagues both here in Chicago and abroad, developing both musically and interpersonally in a field that has so much to say about the human experience. I've also developed meaningful relationships with my sponsors and many other supporters of both the Ryan Opera Center and of Lyric. I will never forget this time I've spent in Chicago, and for that, I'm immensely grateful."

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Learn more about Madeline's unique role in the Ryan Opera Center in this blog post: Madeline on the Move.

 


Don't miss your chance to see all of the 2019|20 Ryan Opera Center Ensemble members before they leave Chicago.

Hear Kayleigh Decker, Christopher Kenney, and Ricardo José Rivera (as well as continuing members David Weigel and Anthony Reed), in Puccini's Madama Butterfly February 6-March 8; Emily Pogorelc, Eric Ferring, and Mario Rojas, (in addition to continuing members David Weigel and Anthony Reed) in Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades February 15-March 1; and Lauren Decker (alongside continuing members Mathilda Edge and Kathleen Felty) in Wagner's Die Walküre as part of this spring's Ring cycle.