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.

Erin Wall | Meet the Artists

Soprano. Marguerite in Faust.

Canadian soprano Erin makes her eagerly awaited return to WNO after portraying Donna Anna in Don Giovanni in 2007. She has performed leading roles at many of the world’s greatest opera companies, including The Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Opéra National de Paris, and the Vienna Staatsoper.

Of her performance of the title role in Thaïs, Financial Times said Erin “wields a soprano of radiance, pristine beauty, and tingling top notices…she made us believe every word.”

Fun fact: Erin has run 2 marathons, 10 half-marathons, and countless 10ks and 5ks.

Listen to Erin sing in Don Giovanni and discuss how she manages technical challenges.

Follow Erin on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, or visit her website for more information.

Marcelo Puente | Meet the Artists

Tenor. Title role in Faust.

Hailing from Argentina, Marcelo makes his WNO debut after engagements at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Oper Stuttgart, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Hamburg State Opera, State Opera Prague, and more.

The in-demand tenor studied at the Córdoba Conservatory and Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, with Renato Sassola. Other roles in his developing repertoire include Turridu in Cavalleria Rusticana, Maurizio in Adriana Lecouvreur, and Calaf in Turandot.

Fun fact: If Marcelo could pick three opera characters to have dinner with, he says he’d discuss love, destiny, politics, songs, and poetry with Manrico (Il trovatore), Don Alvaro (La forza del destino), and Radames (Aida).

Listen to Marcelo sing in Il Trovatore.

Igor Golovatenko | Meet the Artists

Baritone. Title role in Eugene Onegin.

A leading baritone at Bolshoi Opera, Igor has portrayed the charismatic Onegin around the world, wooing audiences at Teatro San Carlo di Napoli to Novaya Opera Theatre.

Igor’s WNO debut as Onegin marks his U.S. debut—the first of many stateside performances to come in his exploding career. Igor is a former soloist with Moscow’s Novaya Opera and winner of the 2008 St. Petersburg “Three Centuries of Classical Romance” competition.

His prior engagements include Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoor at the Cologne Opera, Germont in La traviata at Glyndebourne Festival, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, and more.

“Tchaikovsky’s music is so moving and so close to the heart that audiences cannot be indifferent, no matter if they are Russian, American or European,” Igor told WNO.

Watch Igor sing Eri Tu from Un Ballo in Maschera.

Anna Nechaeva | Meet the Artists

Soprano. Tatiana in Eugene Onegin.

Anna makes her WNO and U.S. deubt in a role she’s masterfully sung with Mikhailovsky Theatre and in concert with Bolshoi Opera. Most recently, Anna portrayed Tatiana alongside Igor Golovatenko as Onegin at the 2017 Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, and the pair reunites again for this production.

The talented soprano was born in Saratov, Russia and made her debut at the Bolshoi Opera in 2012 portraying Nasaya in Tchaikovsky’s The Enchantress. As a soloist at the Bolshoi, Anna’s engagements include Violetta in La traviata, Elisabeth of Valois in Don Carlo, Micaela in Carmen, Amerlia in Un ballo in Maschera, and more.

“I love how Tatiana starts as a sentimental, dreamy girl and becomes a strong woman with moral foundations,” Anna told WNO. “I am reborn with her every time.”

Watch Anna sing Iolanta’s arioso in Iolanta.

Kylee Hope Geraci & Holden Browne | Meet the Artists

Sopranos. Angels in The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me.

Meet our two talented angels in WNO’s heartwarming family opera!

Kylee Hope Geraci

Kylee, 11, makes her WNO debut with The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me. She’s loved singing and music ever since she started talking, and has performed in area musical theater productions and vocal recitals since she was four years old. Two of her favorite songs to sing are “The Lonely Goatherd” (The Sound of Music) and “Quiet” (Matilda). When she’s not performing, Kylee loves writing, reading, swimming, and arts & crafts.

Holden Browne

Holden, 13, made his WNO debut in 2017 as the title character in The Little Prince. Holden says that performing is “exhilarating, because I get to become a different character.” He enjoys a wide variety of songs and plays the clarinet in his school’s symphonic band. In his spare time, he likes to play ultimate Frisbee.

Soloman Howard | Meet the Artists

Bass. Lion in The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me

“Hometown favorite” (Washington Post) Soloman Howard returns to D.C. to reprise the title role of Lion in The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me. Soloman is an alum of the Manhattan School of Music and Morgan State University and a 2014 graduate of our Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. He was last seen on the WNO stage as The King in 2017’s Aida.

Soloman has performed on opera stages around the world, from The Metropolitan Opera to Teatro Real de Madrid. Now he’s back to display his “magical voice” (Washingtonian) as the brash but endearing lion.

Listen to Soloman perform“The Grinch Song.”

Visit Soloman’s website for more information.

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