Barbara and Halsey Sandford Studio Artist Program

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Training Tomorrow's Stars Today!

The acclaimed Barbara and Halsey Sandford Studio Artist Program at Kentucky Opera brings young professional opera singers to Louisville to train and expand their experience as they prepare for their careers. With nearly 400 young singers auditioning annually, the program features some of the most talented upcoming voices in North America.

2018/19 Studio Artists

Taylor Burkhardt collaborates with a number of vocalists and instrumentalists as a duo partner, chamber musician, rehearsal pianist, and coach. She joins the Barbara and Halsey Sandford Studio Artist Program as a pianist/coach for Die Zauberflöte; Enemies, A Love Story; Rigoletto; and the touring production of Amahl and the Night Visitors. Recent productions she has rehearsed/coached at the University of Minnesota include ​La voix humaineOrphée aux enfers, Idomeneo,The Rape of Lucretia, and Gianni Schicchi. As opera répititeur at the University of Missouri, she rehearsed Gianni SchicchiSuor AngelicaAmahl and the Night VisitorsThe Crucible, and the world premiere of The Outlaw by Justin Pounds as well as performing the final scenes from both The Rake’s Progress and Eugene Onegin. Other past operatic engagements include La Cenerentola at Bay View Music Festival and L’elisir d’amore at Music Academy of the West. In summer 2018 she will be the educational outreach pianist for Mill City Summer Opera’s production of Carmen.  Her teachers include Timothy Lovelace, Warren Jones, Martin Katz, and Peter Miyamoto.

Hailed as “the hilarious Thomas J. Capobianco,” tenor T.J. Capobianco is joining the Barbara and Halsey Sandford Studio Artist Program with Kentucky Opera in the 2018-19 season. He will debut as Monastatos and First Armored Guard in The Magic Flute, Nissen in Enemies, a Love Story, and Borsa in Rigoletto. In the spring of 2018, T.J. performed with Des Moines Metro Opera’s traveling OPERA Iowa troupe portraying Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville and Jack in John Davies’ children’s opera Jack and the Beanstalk. He will spend his second summer with the company, where he will cover Bill in Flight, perform Dr. Blind in Die Fledermaus, and participate in the Apprentice Artist Scenes Program as Peter Grimes (Peter Grimes), Male Chorus (The Rape of Lucretia), among others. T.J. appeared with New Orleans Opera in October 2017 where he made his debut as Beppe in Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci; he also debuted as King Kaspar in Amahl and the Night Visitors with Opéra Louisiane in December 2017. Raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, T.J. earned his Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

Courtney Elvira is a lyric mezzo-soprano with her hometown roots in St. Petersburg, FL. This summer, She completed her second season with Des Moines Metro Opera’s Apprentice Artist program, covering Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus.

This past year, Courtney sang the role of Third Spirit in The Magic Flute with St. Petersburg Opera and covered roles in her second season with Opera Saratoga, summer 2017. This coming fall, she’ll be singing Second Lady in The Magic Flute with Kentucky Opera. Soon after, she heads to Dayton, Ohio, for the role of Lilith in Dayton Ballet’s Dracula: Bloodlines along with making her Dayton Opera debut as Giovanna in their Rigoletto. She also looks forward to performing Kate in Dayton Opera’s The Pirates of Penzance next February and the mezzo soloist in Handel’s Messiah this coming December. She’ll also be making her debut in two operas with Opera Ithaca in mid April 2019. Courtney graduated in 2015 from Carnegie Mellon University with her master’s degree in Vocal Performance after studying with the acclaimed Maria Spacagna. As per the recommendation of Mrs. Spacagna, Courtney continues her studies with Stella Zambalis.

Canadian mezzo-soprano Reilly Nelson has been praised by the Boston Music Intelligencer for her “bright and glowing [voice], with a bit of an edge when needed.” Reilly recently completed her graduate studies at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music (CCM), where she was a student of Thomas Baresel. In August 2018, Reilly will join the Barbara and Halsey Sanford Studio Artist Program with Kentucky Opera. The 2017-2018 season includes two role debuts for Ms. Nelson: Flora Bervoix in La Traviata and Vera Lynn in the United States premier of Another Brick in the Wall with Cincinnati Opera. Cincinnati credits include Lupe Marin in Robert Xavier Rodriguez’s Frida with Cincinnati Opera, Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel with CCM Opera, Mrs. Van Buren in a workshop of Ricky Ian Gordon’s new opera Intimate Apparel (a co-production with CCM, Cincinnati Opera, and The Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theater’s New Works Program), and Virginia Woolf in Dominick Argento’s From the Diary of Virginia Woolf (a co-production with Cincinnati Chamber Opera and Cincinnati Song Initiative). Reilly was a vocal fellow at Tanglewood Music Center in the 2013 and 2014 summer seasons, where highlights included selections from Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été led by maestro Stéphane Denève, a world premier of Bernard Rands’ Folk Songs, and John Harbison’s Closer to My Own Life. Reilly was the winner of the 2017 Middle/East Tennessee District MONC audition and a 2016 finalist and winner of the Carolyn Weber Award in the Kurt Weill Foundation’s Lotte Lenya Competition.

Murrella Parton, soprano, is a native of Seymour, Tennessee. She joins the Barbara and Halsey Sandford Studio Artist Program as the resident soprano where she can be seen as First Lady in The Magic Flute, Sheva/Hannah in Ben Moore’s Enemies, a Love Story, and Countess in Rigoletto. In the summer of 2018, she will return to Cincinnati Opera to sing in the choruses of Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer and Julien Bilodeau’s Another Brick in the Wall. Most recently she performed the role of Sabina in the workshop of Rufus Wainwright’s new opera Hadrian with Cincinnati Opera. In addition, she has performed the roles of Nella in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, Ginevra in Handel’s Ariodante, Elettra in Mozart’s Idomeneo, Sylviane in Lehar’s The Merry Widow, and Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte. This year, she was a district winner in The Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the recipient of the Italo Tajo Award at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Opera Scholarship Competition (where in recent years she was awarded both the Andrew White and Seybold-Russell Awards) and is also a finalist in the Cooper Bing Competition. Parton is a graduate of the University of Tennessee Knoxville and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Adrian Sanchez, baritone, joins Kentucky Opera in their Barbara and Halsey Sandford Studio Program. This 2018-2019 season features his company debut as the Speaker and Second Armored Man (The Magic Flute) and Marullo (Rigoletto), followed by a debut with Opéra Louisiane as Morales (Carmen). Sanchez’s 2017-2018 season included his Indianapolis Opera debut as Marquis d’Obigny while covering Germont (La traviata), an apprenticeship at Sarasota Opera, and covered Jud Fry (Oklahoma!) and Marullo (Rigoletto) at Charlottesville Opera. Additionally, Sanchez has performed Schaunard (La bohème) with the Muddy River Opera Company and Don Alfonso (Così fan tutte) with Oberlin’s In Italy summer program. While completing his graduate studies, Sanchez covered renowned American baritone, Nathan Gunn, as Zulfikar in the orchestra workshop of Mohammad Fairouz’s new opera, Bhutto. He also premiered the role of Petrus in Jeremy Gill’s orchestra performance of Letters from Quebec to Providence in the Rain. A native of Haslett, Michigan, Sanchez received his master’s in music from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and holds degrees in both performance and music education from Michigan State University. He is a second place winner of the 2018 Lois Alba Aria Competition and is the student of Metropolitan Opera alumnus, Richard Fracker.