George Gagnidze | Meet the Artists

Baritone. Iago in Otello

George makes his WNO debut as the devious Iago, a role he is set to perform around the world from Opéra National de Paris to the Deutsche Oper Berlin. Among the foremost Verdi baritones of our time, George is known internationally for his performances of vocal distinction and psychological complexity, from the title role in Rigoletto at the Metropolitan Opera to Scarpia in Tosca at Wiener Staatsoper.

Listen to George sing the title role in Nabucco.

Visit George’s Twitter, Facebook, or website for more information.

Russell Thomas | Meet the Artists

Tenor. Title role in Otello.

Russell’s voice of “gorgeously burnished power” (The New York Times) has led him to the world’s top opera houses, including the WNO stage in 2018 as the title role in Don Carlo. Thomas is well on his way to being our generation’s greatest Otello, having already sung “compelling” (L.A. Times) concert performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and forthcoming stagings with the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Canadian Opera Company. He brings his telling of this titanic role to the United States opera stage for the first time in these WNO performances.

Read about Russell in Opera News:

Visit Russell’s Twitter, Facebook, or website for more information.

Deborah Nansteel | Meet the Artists

Mezzo-soprano. Emilia in Otello.

Deborah Nansteel first made appearances on the WNO stage as a member of the Domingo-Cafritz Artist Program in 2013–2015, performing in Cinderella, The Magic Flute, and more. She has since performed in 2018’s La traviata and 2019’sFaust. With her “formidable display of vocal power and dramatic assurance,” Deborah has made outstanding debuts at esteemed venues throughout the country, including Lyric Opera of Chicago, New York Philharmonic, and the Metropolitan Opera.

Zach Borichevsky | Meet the Artists

Tenor. Cassio in Otello

Known for his “beautiful timbre” and his creation of “intimate moments of beauty,” Zach Borichevsky makes his WNO debut as Cassio, Otello’s captain. A series of significant débuts have established Zach as one of the most exciting new vocal talents to emerge on the international stage, with celebrated performances such as Rodolfo in La bohème with Finnish National Opera, Romeo in Roméo et Juliette for Teatro Municipal de Santiago in Chile, and Alfredo in La traviata for the Glyndebourne Festival.

Listen to Zach discuss his performance in La bohème at the London Coliseum:

Visit Zach’s website for more information.

Wei Wu | Meet the Artists

Bass. Sarastro in Otello

Wei first made appearances on the WNO stage as a member of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program in 2013– 2016, performing in The Little Prince, Better Gods, The Magic Flute, and more. He returned in 2018 to sing Don Basilio for The Barber of Seville and 2019 to sing Sacristan in Tosca. In his fast-growing career, Wei’s “rich, low bass” (The Washington Post) has taken him to Santa Fe Opera, Minnesota Opera, and Pittsburgh Opera.


Wei sings Sacristan in WNO’s 2019 Tosca.

Visit’s Wei’s Facebook for more information.

Become a member of Washington National Opera’s Young Artist Program!

Apply today! Applications due September 13.

Applications for singers and pianists are now open for the 2020-2021 season of Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. Applications are FREE and can be found online here. Our annual audition tour covers six major cities and a variety of dates around the country. Applications are due by September 13, 2019.

The Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program is a leading resident-training program for artists on the verge of international careers. The program offers exceptionally promising young singers and coach/accompanists two years of intensive training, study, and career guidance with the resident faculty, and a team of world-renowned visiting master teachers and coaches which includes Joan Dornemann, Kathleen Kelly, Dennis Giauque, Dwayne Croft, Leah Crocetto, Erie Mills, Laura Brooks Rice, and Neil Shicoff among others.

Training includes regular voice lessons, one-on-one language tuition, daily work with a variety of vocal, musical, and dramatic coaches, movement work, nutrition and financial counseling, a recital series, scenes programs, concerts with local orchestras, and regular auditions for visiting agents and administrators. Members of the program are featured prominently in performances on the various stages at the Kennedy Center, and throughout the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

Welcome to the 2019-2020 Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists

Washington National Opera (WNO) has announced the roster of emerging talent selected for the 18th season of its Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program (DCYAP), which begins in August 2019.

Program Director Robert Ainsley leads the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, which offers intensive training and mentorship in technique, repertoire, language, movement, finance management, and career development as well as extraordinary performance opportunities on the WNO mainstage and around Washington, D.C., for these rising stars.


The 2019–2020 Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists are:

Joshua Blue, Aurora, Illinois (tenor, second season)

Amanda Bottoms, Buffalo, New York (mezzo-soprano, first season)

Joshua Conyers, The Bronx, New York (baritone, second season)

Marlen Nahhas, Houston, Texas (soprano, second season)

Alexandra Nowakowski, Chicago, Illinois (soprano, second season)

William Meinert, Herndon, Virginia (bass, first season)

Samson McCrady, Tucson, Arizona (baritone, second season)

Thomas Morris, Atlanta, Georgia (pianist/coach, second season)

Matthew Pearce, (tenor, first season)

Alexandria Shiner, Waterford, Michigan (soprano, third season)

Rehanna Thelwell, (mezzo-soprano, first season)

Samuel Weiser, Princeton Junction, New Jersey (bass, second season)

William Woodard, Bloomington-Normal, Illinois (piano, first season)


The DCYAP hosts a faculty of leading master teachers and coaches, which will be led in 2019-2020 by new Artist-in-Residence Leah Crocetto. The celebrated American soprano played the title role of Aida in WNO’s 2016–2017 season and will be seen in next season’s production of Otello.

Through the year-long training and preparation program, the Young Artists will star in a special performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute; perform and cover supporting roles in Samson and Delilah, Blue, Porgy and Bess, and more; participate in world premieres as part of WNO’s annual American Opera Initiative Festival; and appear in a masterclass series, recitals, and concerts in prestigious venues and communities across the region.

Stay tuned for performance dates and Young Artist updates throughout the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program’s 2019-2020 season.

The “opera man” down the street gives an impromptu lesson

A rumor was spreading among Park View’s neighborhood kids: there was an “opera man” down the street.

That “opera man” is tenor David Cangelosi, who is residing in the Washington, D.C. neighborhood during his run as Spoletta in WNO’s Tosca. “ In Park View, “this particular street has a very deep mix of residents,” David said. “Their parents work to see they have broad cultural exchanges.”

So David decided to teach a singing lesson. Six children and their parents happily gathered in a local home for dinner, conversation, and music.

Children from Park View, D.C. take turns feeling David Cangelosi’s larynx and diaphragm during a singing lesson.

 “I got right down on the floor with them,” David said. “We spent about 45 minutes learning ‘the basics.’ Then we sang the first line of ‘Recondita armonia’ from Tosca…complete with translation and Italian language training.”

The evening continued with food and wines from around the world.

After a full day of Tosca rehearsals, David admitted he was exhausted leading up to the gathering.

“But these little tykes brought me right back to life,” he said.

Keri Alkema | Meet the Artists

Soprano. Title role in Tosca (5/11, 14, 17, 20, 22, 25)

Keri Alkema is an alumna of the first-ever graduating class of our Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. With her “rich, full vocal presence” (Toronto Star), Keri has in demand at the world’s top opera houses.

Keri takes on a role she has performed to great acclaim at distinguished companies including English National Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Opera Frankfurt, and Palm Beach Opera. Of her portrayal of Tosca at Orlando Philharmonic, Keri was praised for her “songbird tone with exceptional warmth” (Examiner.com).

Fun fact: Keri shifted from mezzo to soprano repertoire following her portrayal of Donna Elvira in New York City Opera’s Don Giovanni. Her first Puccini role as a soprano was Mimì in La bohème.

Listen to Keri discuss her portrayal of Tosca for Canadian Opera Company:

Visit Keri’s Facebook or website for more information.

Ethan McSweeny | Meet the Artists

Director of Tosca, D.C. native

Known internationally for his elaborate re-imaginings of Shakespeare works, D.C. favorite McSweeny returns to WNO to direct Puccini’s striking Tosca. Ethan made his WNO debut directing the world premiere of Better Gods in 2016’s American Opera Initiative Festival.

Prior to his current role as artistic director at the American Shakespeare Center, Ethan served as associate director to D.C.’s own Shakespeare Theatre Company. He has directed award-winning opera, film, Broadway, and theater works, including the 2018 Helen Hayes-winning Twelfth Night at Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Ethan has been celebrated for his “probing intellect” and “dazzling staging” (Forbes), with productions “so sharp it’s like seeing a play in live high def” (The Washington Post).

Watch a clip of 2016’s Better Gods, of which DC Theatre Scene praised Ethan for directing “just right”:

Visit Ethan’s website for more information.

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