March 06, 2019

Ryan Opera Center Final Auditions Yield New Ensemble Members for 2019/20 Season

The Lyric Opera House was abuzz with excitement on Sunday, September 30, when 20 finalists representing the world’s finest emerging singers performed in the Final Auditions of Lyric’s renowned artist-training program, The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center.

The finalists included new candidates as well as several current ensemble members auditioning for another year in the prestigious program. All performed for an avid audience of invited Lyric donors and subscribers gathered in the Ardis Krainik Theatre, who enjoyed hearing so many fine rising stars over the course of the afternoon. Lyric’s dramaturg, Roger Pines, served as master of ceremonies.

Judges for the Final Auditions were Lyric’s general director, president & CEO Anthony Freud; music director Sir Andrew Davis; vice president, artistic planning Andreas Melinat; and three central figures in the life of the Ryan Opera Center – director Dan Novak, music director Craig Terry, and director of vocal studies Julia Faulkner. 

While the judges deliberated, the audience was treated to a performance by one of the program’s most successful alumni of recent years, Texas-born tenor David Portillo, returning to Lyric this season to portray Arbace in Idomeneo. He was accompanied by Ryan Opera Center pianist Madeline Slettedahl.

David relished his years at the Ryan Opera Center for “the opportunities to learn the craft from the best singers in the world, to work with wonderful coaches, and to have that all in one place!” He remembers very well what life in the program was like: “You might sing a small role one night, coach a big role the next day, and that evening maybe have a donor event to sing for, so you’re constantly changing what you’re doing and you have to be adaptable for all that to happen.” 

In his first Lyric production, La traviata, David shared the stage with Renée Fleming, Matthew Polenzani, and Thomas Hampson, “which was a little surreal! But it was also very much a responsibility that I had to rise to, and I was excited to be able to do it.”

David’s career is going great guns, with leading roles at major companies internationally. A highlight? “The first thing I did at the Met was the young audiences’ production of The Barber of Seville. Being on that stage with that cast – I’d worked with them all before – and feeling a great, positive energy with the audience, plus making my debut in a role I love to sing, just felt right.” 

At the end of the day, three singers learned that they will join the Ryan Opera Center ensemble for the 2019/20 season: 
Soprano Mathilda Edge, Chandlerville, Illinois
Mezzo-Soprano Kathleen Felty, Lubbock, Texas
Bass Anthony Reed, Alexandra, Minnesota 

The newly named ensemble members will join these current Ryan Opera Center artists: soprano Emily Pogorelc; mezzo-soprano Kayleigh Decker; contralto Lauren Decker; tenors Eric Ferring and Mario Rojas; baritones Christopher Kenney and Ricardo José Rivera; bass-baritone David Weigel; and pianist Madeline Slettedahl, all of whom will return for another year in the world-renowned program.

The full group – the 2019/20 Ensemble – will convene next spring to begin rigorous coachings, classes, rehearsals, and a terrifically varied performance schedule.

Each year, the Ryan Opera Center holds preliminary auditions around the country. A small group of gifted young singers, mostly from the post-graduate level, are selected from approximately 400 applicants worldwide and invited to final-round auditions in Chicago each September. 

For the sixth consecutive year, the Final Auditions were attended by an invited audience of some 1,000 Lyric subscribers and donors, who also participated by voting for the Audience Favorite Award. The award and $500 cash prize went to tenor Anthony Ciaramitaro of Coral Springs, Florida.

Main image: Jaclyn Simpson