We are very proud to report that Madison Leonard, a current Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist at Washington National Opera, was named yesterday as one of five outright winners of the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions competition, performing on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera with the Met orchestra conducted by Maestro Bertrand de Billy. She sang Gilda’s notoriously difficult aria ‘Caro nome’ from Rigoletto, and Gretel’s aria from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.
Leah was born in Adrian, Michigan and studied vocal performance at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. She made her WNO debut as Madame Lidoine in 2015’s Dialogues of the Carmelites.
She returns to WNO in the 2017-2018 season to take on not one but TWO Verdi classics! She made her role debut as Aida in the fall of 2016 with San Francisco Opera opposite Brian Jagde, and her role debut as Elisabeth of Valois in Opera Philadelphia’s 2015 production of Don Carlo, where she sang alongside Eric Owens. Of her performance in Aida, the San Francisco Chronicle raved her singing “emerged with ease and purity…and she could deliver the most crystalline thread of sound with equal mastery.” Philly’s Broad Street Review said Leah “was impressive as Elisabeth with fine-spun Verdian phrasing, haunting pianissimi, and a perfectly-placed high C at the finale.”
Concept designer for Aida.
Born Marquis Lewis in Los Angeles, RETNA drew inspiration for his name from a Wu Tang Clan lyric.
Deriving his style from the influences of illuminated manuscripts and other text-based art forms, RETNA has become an established contemporary street and studio artist.
Tidbit! RETNA has developed a unique constructed script with roots in calligraphy, hieroglyphics, Hebrew, and Native American typographies that is consistently seen throughout much of his work.
Tenor. Radamès in Aida.
Carl was born in Arlington, Virginia and attended Shenandoah Conservatory of Music.
He made his debut as Samson to rave reviews in Washington National Opera’s 2004 production of Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Delilah. Additionally, he has previously sung Radamès with the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap’s 2015 concert performance of Aida.
Fun Fact! Carl has worn a huge variety of different hats throughout his career, including but not limited to that of a big rig trucker, bounty hunter, singing waiter, and jewelry designer!
Tenor. Radamès in Aida.
Yonghoon was born in South Korea, and studied at Seoul National University and the Mannes College of Music.
This will be his first time with the Washington National Opera, as well as his first time playing the role of Radamès.
Notable moment: In his first professional appearance as Carmen’s Don José with the Opera Company of Middlebury’s debut production, Yonghoon pulled a banana in lieu of a prop knife due to low funds…to a great audience reception!
Soprano. Aida in Aida.
Tamara was born in Arizona and brought up in the Chicago area. She attended the University of Cincinnati – College Conservatory of Music.
A veteran artist with Washington National Opera, Tamara has previously performed in WNO productions of Un Ballo in Maschera as well as Falstaff. The role of Aida will also be a familiar one; she has taken on the beloved role at both the Metropolitan Opera and Opera Australia.
Fun fact! Tamara runs a YouTube channel called Exit Stage Left, in which she gives advice for budding artists and vlogs about her various experiences as a professional opera singer.
Written in an engaging and accessible style, William Berger’s Verdi with a Vengeance: An Energetic Guide to the Life and Complete Works of the King of Opera provides an overview of the composer’s life and the cultural context in which he worked, along with plot descriptions, commentaries, and recommended listening for individual operas.
In the three-volume The Operas of Verdi, Julian Budden offers a comprehensive composition history and musical analysis of each of Verdi’s operas, complete with musical illustrations. Volume Three of this indispensable series covers Don Carlos, Aida, Otello, and Falstaff.
Peter Conrad’s Verdi and/or Wagner considers two cultural giants of the 19th century: “a native son attached to the soil versus a wandering exile; a tribune of the people versus a dictatorial aesthete; a man of progress versus an atavistic myth-maker; a spokesman for afflicted humanity versus a creator of gods, giants, dragons, dwarves, and fairies.”
For Verdi’s Aida: The History of an Opera in Letters and Documents, Hans Busch collects and translates materials related to the unusual genesis of Verdi’s Aida, which was commissioned by and first performed at Cairo’s Khedivial Opera House.
Artists from many disciplines—painters, architects, sculptors—have been inspired to “cross over” to the world of opera. Last season, Washington National Opera presented Jun Kaneko’s vison for Madame Butterfly, which originally premiered in Omaha, where the Japanese sculptor and ceramicist now makes his home. The production, Kaneko’s first foray into theatrical design, was a natural fit; after its successful premiere, Kaneko went on to design scenarios for The Magic Flute and Fidelio. Other modern artists who have made their mark in opera include Marc Chagall, David Hockney, and William Kentridge, among many others.
With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the world grew smaller. The journey from Europe to India was instantly reduced by 7,000 kilometers. To mark the opening of the waterway—and to even more closely align Egypt and Europe—the Khedive, the ruler of Egypt, hoped to have a new piece from Verdi, who initially declined. Instead, Cairo’s Khedivial Opera House welcomed its first patrons with a production of Verdi’s Rigoletto, written nearly two decades earlier.