Ryan McKinny | Meet the Artists

Bass-baritone. Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro.

Ryan McKinny Headshot

Ryan is a graduate of both the Juilliard School of Music and the Houston Grand Opera Studio.

He made his WNO debut in The Ring this spring, where he played the roles of Donner and Gunther.

Ryan’s favorite opera is Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. In fact, Wagner is his favorite composer of all time, with the title role in The Flying Dutchman being his character of choice.

Other memorable roles include the title role in Rigoletto, and Tiridate in Radamisto

Fun fact! Instead of leaving his wife and two children in Houston every time he’s invited to perform at opera houses around the world, Ryan’s family comes with him! The McKinny family even calls Germany their home-away-from-home, as Ryan has placed his vocal focus on the German repertoire.

Listen to Ryan sing a work from The Flying Dutchman at La Scala in Milan, Italy. 

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Amanda Majeski | Meet the Artists

Soprano. Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro.

Amanda Majeski headshot1_5x7Amanda was born, raised, and currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.

This performance marks her WNO debut.

Amanda has played this role before in several other productions including at The Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago. She’ll return to The Met stage in the 2016/17 season as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. She has continued her relationship with Lyric audiences in such roles as Vitellia in La clemenza di Tito and Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.

A notable moment: In 2009, she was preparing for her role as a peasant in the Lyric Opera’s production of The Marriage of Figaro. The day before a performance, Amanda learned that she would be taking over the role of the Countess. With only hours to prepare for the biggest curtain call of her life, Amanda took the stage. And the rest is history.

Watch Amanda perform a song from The Metropolitan Opera’s production of The Marriage of Figaro

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Spotlight on Wei Wu, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist

Wu, Wei headshot

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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Lisette Oropesa | Meet the Artists

Soprano. Susanna in The Marriage of FigaroMarie in The Daughter of the Regiment

Lisette is a firsLisetteOropesa_480t generation Cuban American.

This season marks her WNO debut, with two back-to-back productions for which she has already won great acclaim.

Lisette and Lawrence Brownlee appeared in The Marriage of Figaro together at the Pittsburgh Opera, and are reuniting on the WNO stage in The Daughter of the Regiment.

She has appeared over 100 times on The Metropolitan Opera stage.

Some of Lisette’s other celebrated roles include Gilda in Rigoletto and Nannetta in Falstaff. She has also appeared in eight of the Met’s Live in HD productions.

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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


Voss-FrancescaZambello-21FINAL_cropOne of the initial choices a director makes in preparing a production is what does it look like? How will I interpret the story? The people you first turn to are your collaborators in the production team, the designers and choreographer. In this case, we also used projections as well as scenery, lights and costumes to define our world.

Many people have asked me how we arrived at the visual world to tell our story. When I worked with the designers, now over a ten-year arc, we thought a lot about how Wagner wrote a story about the end of the world using Nordic myths as his model. In turn, we thought how would we parallel that for today’s audiences.

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Voss-FrancescaZambello-21FINAL_cropDid you know?…

With 94 people in the orchestra, 74 members of the chorus, 63 crew members, and countless others, there are 370 people involved on stage, backstage, and in the pit during the performances.

It takes approximately 17 hours to complete all four operas in the cycle.

The Ring uses 13,000 ft. of chain (that’s more than 2 miles long), 950 lbs. of propane, and over 500 lighting instruments for over 400 lighting cues.

920 liters of liquid nitrogen are used nightly for fog effects.

There will have been over 230 rehearsals leading up to opening night, averaging at 3 hours per rehearsal, totaling over 690 hours rehearsing.

There are a total of 309 costumes for the 175 cast members on stage.

– Francesca Zambello, WNO Artistic Director and Ring director

Spotlight on Rexford Tester, Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist


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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RVoss-FrancescaZambello-21FINAL_cropecently in Takoma (which BTW, I would love to give a shout out to this little burg, since it is so charming), we worked on the killer Siegfried and Brünnhilde duet (Daniel Brenna and Catherine Foster) in Act Three of Siegfried and then did a run-thru of all of Rhinegold—all the cast and our 50 kid supers who play the Nibelungs. It’s amazing how Wagner so brilliantly lays it all out here.

It is a joy to be reunited with Alan Held, our Wotan, who I began this journey with, and now we are putting it all together. Other long-time colleagues in the cast include Bill Burden making his debut as Loge and Betsy Bishop as Fricka. Loge is really the start of it all.

The notorious RBG (Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) once said, “if he had been better lawyer, we would not be in this mess…”

– Francesca Zambello, WNO Artistic Director and Ring director


Voss-FrancescaZambello-21FINAL_cropEvery day from 10:30 in the morning until 10 in the evening, many of us are slaving away like Nibelungs in D.C.’s Takoma neighborhood, where the WNO rehearsal studios are located. In a sort of industrial building, we are fortunate to have three large rehearsal rooms the size of the Kennedy Center stage.

As a director, often these are my favorite times. You are in a rehearsal space with the performers and you can really talk and dig into the meaning of each scene, each word that Wagner wrote. With Wagner, we start by dissecting every scene together, usually around a table, investigating the words, the meanings of the “leitmotifs,” and how the characters interact. So many Ring scenes are just two or three people, so you have to really get on a wave together to find the meaning in the words and music – and then be able to bring the power of it all forward.

– Francesca Zambello, WNO Artistic Director and Ring director

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