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Press Released: 29 Sep 2009

OPERA America: Making Connections 2009-2010 Season Begins September 30

Presenters Include Singers Joyce DiDonato, Dawn Upshaw and Designer John Conklin

OPERA America, the national service organization for opera, will present the first Making Connections session of the 2009-2010 season on Wednesday, September 30 at 6:30 p.m. Making Connections is OPERA America's professional development program for early-career opera artists, including singers, composers, librettists, designers and directors.

From September 2009 through May 2010 OPERA America will present a total of 12 Making Connections events. The panel discussions, artist spotlights and master classes are followed by informal receptions where attendees have an exceptional opportunity to network with their colleagues and the presenters.

The first installment of the 2009-2010 Making Connections season, Audition Advice for Singers, takes place on Wednesday, September 30. Preparing for and performing auditions are major hurdles for opera singers. Industry experts at this session discuss the elements involved in ensuring an effective audition season. Panelists for the evening are Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano; Gayletha Nichols, director of the Metropolitan Opera's National Council Auditions and Bill Palant, vice president, artist manager at IMG Artists. Jonah Nigh of OPERA America will moderate.

World-renowned soprano Dawn Upshaw conducts a master class on Wednesday, October 14 featuring music by contemporary composers. Upshaw is well-known for her support of new music, and this workshop presents a rare opportunity to experience the knowledge and talent of one of the industry's finest musicians.

On Wednesday, October 28 scenic and costume designer John Conklin will join OPERA America's President & CEO Marc A. Scorca for a stimulating discussion on issues of design. Selected images and samples of Conklin's work will be on display during the evening.

"We are delighted to provide developing opera artists with the opportunity to learn from this stellar array of industry professionals," stated Marc A. Scorca. "What makes these evenings so rewarding is the interactive aspect. Attendees are encouraged to ask questions during the discussions and network with colleagues and presenters at the reception. Several attendees have embarked upon collaborative projects after having met at our Making Connections sessions."

Making Connections is held in the OPERA America offices on the 16th floor of 330 Seventh Avenue (29th Street). A reception follows each panel discussion. Admission for OPERA America members is $5 in advance or $10 at the door. Admission for non-members is $10 in advance or $15 at the door.

Podcasts of Making Connections sessions are available free to OPERA America members at www.operaamerica.org/makingconnections.

Visit www.operaamerica.org/makingconnections for more information and to register.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

About the Presenters

John Conklin's set and costume designs are seen in opera houses, theaters and ballet companies across the world. He has designed for Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, The Dallas Opera and Bastille Opera. At Seattle Opera, he has designed sets for Prokofiev's War and Peace and Puccini's La bohème and both sets and costumes for Verdi's Il trovatore, Bellini's Norma and Britten's Turn of the Screw. He returns to the company in 2009 to design sets for La traviata and costumes for Il trovatore. Conklin's credits at the Metropolitan Opera include costumes for Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina, sets and costumes for John Corigliano's Ghosts of Versailles and sets for Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor and Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande. For Glimmerglass Opera, where he served as associate artistic director for 18 years, he designed sets for Puccini's Fanciulla del West and Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio, and costumes for Richard Rodney Bennett's Mines of Sulfur, among others. Conklin has designed extensively on Broadway, receiving a Tony Award nomination for his set design for The Au Pair Man. He recently received the Robert L.B. Tobin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatrical Design.

Joyce DiDonato, called "the flame-toned American mezzo" by Britain's Telegraph, is among the most captivating performers of her generation and enjoys an enthusiastic international following. Notable performances with the Metropolitan Opera; Opéra National de Paris; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; La Scala Milan and other companies have earned critical acclamation, as has her growing discography. Born in Kansas and a graduate of Wichita State University, the singer trained with the young artist programs of San Francisco, Houston, and Santa Fe opera companies. After Salzburg and Edinburgh Festival debuts this summer, DiDonato opens the new season as Marguérite in Berlioz's Damnation de Faust with the London Symphony Orchestra under Valery Gergiev, her eighth role debut in four years. She returns to the Metropolitan Opera in Il barbiere di Siviglia and debuts with Los Angeles Opera in the same work. DiDonato begins the new year in Spain with a recital tour of Italian love songs and returns to Lyric Opera of Chicago as Cherubino, followed by another role debut as Rossini's Elena in La donna del lago in Geneva, to be repeated in Paris and Milan. Her Carnegie Hall mainstage debut with the Met Orchestra and James Levine was followed by a return to Covent Garden to close the season in Il barbiere di Siviglia. At the Metropolitan Opera, DiDonato's rumbunctious Rosina in a new production of Barber delighted international movie audiences in a much-admired transmission by The Met: Live in HD. Among her important earlier roles were Queen Elizabeth in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda, Dorabella in Mozart's Così fan tutte; Sesto in Handel's Giulio Cesare, and Fox in Janácek's Cunning Little Vixen. A dedicated interpreter of modern opera, DiDonato made her New York City Opera debut as Sister Helen Prejean in Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking, and with Houston Grand Opera she premiered and recorded the roles of Meg in Mark Adamo's Little Women and Katerina Maslova in Tod Machover's Resurrection. DiDonato's honors include the Met's Beverly Sills Award, the Royal Philharmonic Society's Singer of the Year, citations from Operalia and the Richard Tucker, George London, Sullivan and ARIA Awards Foundations.

Gayletha Nichols joined the artistic staff of the Metropolitan Opera in the fall of 2000 as executive director of the National Council Auditions. She brought to the Met two decades of experience as a singer, teacher and career advisor. From 1992-2000, she was director of Houston Opera Studio, the young artist development program at Houston Grand Opera, where she created and individualized the training both for singers and pianists. Nichols auditions hundreds of singers across North America every year and in her travels addresses many universities, conservatories and festivals on developing the next generation of opera singers. She is a frequent adjudicator in national and international competitions and consults for other young artist programs across the country.

A Vice President, Artist Manager at IMG Artists, Bill Palant manages some of the world's most acclaimed singers, including Measha Brueggergosman, Denyce Graves, Matthew Polenzani and Andreas Scholl, as well as numerous emerging stars such as Joshua Hopkins, Joseph Kaiser and Kelley O'Connor. His clients appear at the world's greatest performing arts institutions including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Salzburg, Edinburgh and Verbier festivals, as well as with all the leading North American and European symphonies and opera companies, and many record for the most distinguished labels in the industry including Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, Nonesuch, Virgin Classics, Chandos and Ondine. Before taking his position at IMG Artists, Palant was a member of the Metropolitan Opera's rehearsal department for five seasons, and he also worked for the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood. He is a graduate of Oberlin College with a degree in psychology.

Joining a rare natural warmth with a fierce commitment to the transforming communicative power of music, Dawn Upshaw has achieved worldwide celebrity as a singer of opera and concert repertoire ranging form the sacred works of Bach to the freshest sounds of today. Her ability to reach to the heart of music and text has earned her both the devotion of an exceptionally diverse audience and the awards and distinctions accorded to only the most distinguished of artists. In 2007, she was named a Fellow of the MacArthur Foundation, the first vocal artist to be awarded the five-year "genius" prize, and in 2008, she was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Upshaw's 2009-2010 season opens with concerts in Edinburgh, Montreux, Zurich and the Proms featuring the music of Mahler, Berio and Golijov performed with David Zinman and the Tonhalle Orchestra. This season she also sings the world premieres of three new works written for her, including a chamber piece by David Bruce to open the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center season in New York; an orchestral work by Alberto Iglesias with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, where Upshaw is an artistic partner; and a song cycle by Osvaldo Golijov for Upshaw and Emanuel Ax, with concerts in Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles, San Francisco and at Carnegie Hall. Upshaw appears twice again at Carnegie this season, reprising her celebrated role in John Adams's El Niño and taking part in a festival celebrating Louis Andriessen. She performs for the first time with the Toronto Symphony, and joins Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic for his inaugural season at Disney Hall, among other highlights.

Making Connections: September - October 2009

Audition Advice for Singers
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Speakers: Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano; Gayletha Nichols, director of National Council Auditions at the Metropolitan Opera; and Bill Palant, vice president, artist manager, IMG Artists.
Moderator: Jonah Nigh, OPERA America
Workshop: 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Reception: 7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Master Class with Dawn Upshaw
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Presenter: Dawn Upshaw, soprano
Master class: 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Reception: 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Pre-registration is required for this event.

An Evening with Designer John Conklin
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Participants: John Conklin, designer and Marc A. Scorca, OPERA America
Master class: 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Reception: 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Upcoming Making Connections Events
November 18, 2009: Social Networking in the Life of an Opera Artist
December 2, 2009: Strategic Planning for Independent Artists
January 13, 2010: Master Class with Harolyn Blackwell
January 27, 2010: Tax Issues for Artists
February 24, 2010: High School Singer Open House
March 10, 2010: Master Class with William Burden
March 24, 2010: Fundraising for Independent Artists
April 28, 2010: An Evening with Martina Arroyo on Role Preparation
May 26, 2010: Building and Managing Your Network


For more information on OPERA America, visit About Us.

For press inquiries, contact Press@operaamerica.org or 212.796.8628.