Spotlight on Robert Ainsley, Program Director of WNO’s American Opera Initiative and Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists

Before we dive into opera, tell us a little bit about yourself! When did you discover your love of the arts?

I grew up in a small city in the north of England with a lot of history – Durham, with its beautiful 1,000 –year-old Norman cathedral and castle. I was very academic and ‘nerdy’ through high school, and my big break came when I received a government scholarship to attend the private school in my hometown. Although my mum had paid for a few guitar lessons (she always harboured secret hopes that I would be the next Jimmy Page…), my first real musical experience came at 11, when the school provided me with free violin and piano lessons ‘in return’ for my singing treble in the chapel choir; it seemed like a good deal to me, and I never looked back.

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Spotlight on Wei Wu, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist

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Bass Wei Wu tells us about his introduction to music and his favorite movie star. Read even more about him here. 

 

Where were you born?  Did you grow up in a musical household?

I was born in Beijing, China.  Not really, But my whole family loves music. I remember when I was young, my grandfather listened to some jazz recordings and my dad listened to classical music which was really rare in my generation.

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Spotlight on Raquel González, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist

Gonzalez Raquel Headshot croppedSoprano Raquel González discusses her second season with the WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists. Read even more about her here.

 

Where were you born?  Did you grow up in a musical household?

I was born in Iowa City, Iowa. Neither of my parents is musical, though my siblings and I all picked up music through band, choir, or orchestra.

 

Is that where you consider “home” today?

Home for me is where my family lives now – Lawrence, Kansas. Read more

Spotlight on Rexford Tester, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist

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Tenor Rexford Tester discusses his first season with the WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists. Read even more about him here.

 

Where were you born?  Did you grow up in a musical household?

I was born in Tazewell, VA. I grew up in a musical household, however, not classically trained. My family sang southern gospel music together in church.

Is that where you consider “home” today?

Tazewell will always feel like home, however, wherever I am living, I consider it home. So, D.C. is now home too.

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Spotlight on Aleksandra Romano, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist

Romano Aleksandra Headshot 2Mezzo-soprano Aleksandra Romano returns for a second season with the WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists. Read even more about her here.

Where were you born?  Did you grow up in a musical household?

I’m originally from New Haven, CT. I grew up playing violin, but no one in the house was classically trained. I grew up on a healthy diet of folk and rock music, sprinkled with a little gospel. My brother is also a musician, though of more electronic music and rock.

Is that where you consider “home” today?

CT will always be my hometown, and I relish every minute that I get to spend there, but as a traveling singer, you learn to bring home with you, either in the form of small mementos or a dog or bringing your entire family along with you. I bring a couple of pictures and small things wherever I go, so that I can feel grounded, even if I’m in a hotel for a week or two. Read more

Spotlight on Michael Brandenburg, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist

Brandenburg Michael HeadshotTenor Michael Brandenburg joined the WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists in the fall of 2015. Read even more about him here. 

Where were you born?  Did you grow up in a musical household?

Austin, Indiana.  I come from a completely non-musical family.

Is that where you consider “home” today?

While growing up in a small, rural town in southern Indiana was certainly instrumental in shaping who I have become, I have felt right at home here in Washington and I plan on making this city my home.

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Spotlight on Timothy Bruno, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist

Bruno Timothy J HeadshotBass Timothy Bruno joined the WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists in the fall of 2015. Read even more about him here. 

 

Where were you born? Do you consider this home today?

I was born in Williamsport, PA: home of the Little League World Series. However, I lived in Toledo, OH from my sophomore year of high school until I came to Silver Spring for the Young Artist program.

What was your first transformative musical experience? How old were you?

Frankly, I had never been very into the popular music culture. Before I got into opera, and before opera, barbershop quartet music, I didn’t really connect to music. The one exception was, for some reason, when I was around 10 years old, I became obsessed with Jesus Christ Superstar. So obsessed, in fact, that I wore out my VHS copy of it.

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Spotlight on Joel Ayau, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist

AyauJoelheadshotJoel joined the WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists as a pianist and coach in 2015. Read even more about him here. 

 

Where were you before you entered the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist program?

In the army! My first job after finishing my doctorate at Michigan was as the pianist for the Army Chorus, a part of the United States Army Band, “Pershing’s Own”. It was a great first job; interestingly, it was also the position that my piano teacher Martin Katz held during the Johnson administration. I was stationed at Fort Myer in Arlington, VA, and performed for visiting dignitaries, military ceremonies, and concerts. I also performed at Betty Ford’s funeral services, played for all of the former living presidents, accompanied Frederica von Stade and George Shirley, and travelled to China twice to assist in joint concerts between the US Army Band and the band of the People’s Liberation Army.

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Spotlight on Daryl Freedman, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist

Freedman Daryl HeadshotDaryl portrays Queen Lili’uokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawaii, in our American Opera Initiative world premiere of Better Gods

Where were you born?  Did you grow up in a musical household?

I was born in Philadelphia. I actually wasn’t introduced to opera until college. My dad has always had an incredibly extensive music collection though, and there was always music playing on the stereo when I was growing up. Mostly classic rock and jazz.

Is that where you consider “home” today?

I have been loosely based in New York City ever since I attended graduate school at Manhattan School of Music. I have been traveling so much that I don’t actually keep an apartment there- I just sublet a place whenever I’m back in the city.

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Lost in the Stars and the Quest for American Opera

By Kim. H. Kowalke, President and CEO of the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music

Shortly after Kurt Weill arrived in New York in 1935, George and Ira Gershwin invited him to the dress rehearsal of Porgy and Bess. “It’s a great country where such a work can be written — and performed,” Weill told a reporter, in obvious reference to his own situation as a refugee from Nazi Germany, where performances of his works, including The Threepenny Opera, had been banned. Weill opined that “if there will ever be anything like an American opera, it is bound to come out of Broadway. I’m all in favor of the Metropolitan—as a museum, but not to start a movement of an American musical theater.”

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