2017 Featured Artists

Santiago Ballerini

Santiago Ballerini is recognized in the Americas as one of the leading tenors in Bel Canto repertoire. Respected and celebrated by his colleagues, directors and theaters around the world, Ballerini hails from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and has sung in all major opera houses in South and North America. Ballerini covered the roles of Don Ottavio in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and Count Almaviva in Rossini’s “IlBarbiere di Siviglia” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in season 2016- 2017. He also returns this season to the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires as il Tenor Italiano in “Der RosenKavalier” from Strauss and As Ramiro on Rossini’s Cenerentola.This past season, Ballerini made his United States debut at the Caramoor Festival in New York as Fernand in “La Favorite” to rave reviews.Read More

He will return to Caramoor July of 2017 to sing Gualtiero in Bellini’s “Il Pirata.” He also sang the role of Tybalt with The Atlanta Opera in its production of“Romeo et Juliette”in 2016, and returns this season to debut Tonio from Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment. After singing the role of Conde Libenskof in “Il Viaggio a Reims” at the prestigious Teatro Bellas Artes in Mexico City in 2016, Ballerini returned to the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires to sing Jünge Graf in Zimmerman’s “Die Soldaten.”In January of 2016, Ballerini was awarded the Grand Prize at the “Laguna Magica”international Vocal Competition in Chile, receiving invitations to sing Cassio in Otello with Teatro Artgentino and to sing with Tenerife Opera. Ballerini was a semifinalist in the “Fancisc Vinas” at the Liceu Theatre and the Argentine Finalist at the Neue Stimmen Competition in Dresden, Germany. He won First Prize at the National Competition of “Festivals Musicales,” The “ Americas society Competition,” and the “Opera San Juan Competition.” Highlights of past seasons include performances at Teatro Solis in Montevideo singing the role of Nemorino in Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore” with baritone Mr. Erwin Schrott, and multiple performances at Teatro Colon including Prometeo in“Prometeo” from Luigi Nono, and Arbace in Mozart’s “Idomeneo.” He also performed Lindoro (“Italiana inAlgeri”) at Teatro Argentino, Belmonte (“Die entfürung ausdem Serrail”), Lord Perci (“Anna Bolena”), Gennaro (“Lucrezia Borgia”), Ferrando (“Cosi fan Tutte”), Ernesto (“Don Pasquale”) Alfred (“Die Fledermaus”), Tebaldo (“I Capuleti e I Montecchi”) at Teatro Avenida, Don Ottavio (“Don Giovanni”), Romeo and Tybalt (“Romeo et Juliette”),Jaquino(“Fidelio”) at Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Tamino (“Die Zauberflöte”) at Teatro Libertador in Cordoba. Also sang Beethoven’s 9th at Colsubsidio Theatre’s re-opening, in Bogota, Colombia. In 2014, Ballerini was awarded the “Upcoming Opera Singer” in Argentina by the Congress of Argentina and the Argentine Association of Critics. He also was a featured soloist for the “50th MET Anniversary Gala” honoring Sherrill Milnes, and was a scholarship recipient to study with Mr. Milnes. Before starting his professional singing career, Ballerini was a pianist for nine years, and also studied Music Therapy at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, specializing in addiction treatment.

Jessica Ann Best

Jessica Best gave a spine tingling rendition of Lloyd Webber’s “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” that bewitched everyone in the audience.” – South Magazine

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Ms. Best is thrilled to return to the Savannah Voice Festival this summer to sing the title role in Alice Ryley by Michael Ching and Gertrude in Roméo et Juliette. The 2016 season is exciting and filled with modern opera; including three world premieres and five role premieres. Ms. Best recently performed the role of Mrs. Foster in Shot! with Nickel City Opera. Earlier in the year she sang the roles of Ettalina and Stelladora in John Musto’s Bastianello with the Rochester Lyric Opera, The Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors with Nickel City Opera and the title role in the world premiere of Alice Ryley, by Michael Ching and The Savannah Voice Festival. She looks forward to  singing the roles of Bessie and Mary Rivers in the world premiere of Jane Eyre with the Center for Contemporary Opera in New York City in October 2016. Ms. Best is a returning artist with the Savannah Music Festival, giving concerts of the operatic and musical theater repertoire. Her credits include: Gotham Chamber Opera, The Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program, Opera Tampa,  Finger Lakes Opera, The Savannah Music Festival, The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, The Rochester Oratorio Society, The Rochester Bach Festival, The Rochester Chamber Orchestra, First Inversion and The Rochester Early Music Festival.

Megan Cleaveland

Megan Ann Cleaveland, soprano, is a third year fellow with the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), where she is pursuing a Master’s of Music degree under the tutelage of Dr. Marilyn Taylor.

During her time as a Fletcher fellow, Megan has enjoyed performing the roles of Olympia in Offenbach’s Les Contes D’Hoffmann and Serpetta in Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera as well as Adele in Die Fledermaus and The Foreign Woman in Menotti’s The Consul. Professional engagements include Papagena in Die Zauberflöte and Mrs. Nordstrom in A Little Night Music, both with Piedmont Opera. She was recently the soprano soloist for UNCSA’s Carmina Burana.

The past two summers included scenes from Lucia di Lammermoor during Opera Theatre of the Rockies’ Vocal Arts Festival and a performance of the title role in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, where she studied with soprano Renata Scotto in Mezzano, Italy.
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This season she performs the roles of Elena and Micaëla in the Institute’s productions of Il cappello di paglia di Firenze and La tragédie di Carmen. This spring she sang the role of La Vierge Marie in Berlioz’s L’enfance du Christ with the North Carolina Master Chorale.

Angela De Venuto

Chicago native, soprano Angela De Venuto most recently won first place in the Classical Singer competition as an Emerging Professional, and the Lynne Harvey Foundation Scholarship in the Musicians Club of Women competition. She recently performed a solo recital at Preston Bradley Hall in Chicago through the Musicians Club of Women, as soprano soloist in Mozart’s Requiem at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, Illinois, as Lauretta in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, and as Drusilla in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea with DePaul Opera Theatre, Susanna in scenes from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and Rosina in scenes from Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Savannah Voice Festival, Despina in DuPage Opera’s production of Così fan tutte, and Miss Jessel throughout Chicago Fringe Opera’s sold out run of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw to critical acclaim.  (more…)

Peter Lake

Peter Lake just finished performing as a Resident Artist for Opera North in his role and house debut as Paris in La belle Hélène. Last summer Peter worked as a young artist at Central City Opera where he won the 2016 Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Apprentice Award. In the fall he travelled to Virginia Opera as a Herndon Foundation Young Artist where he covered Count Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia. (more…)

Alex Lawrence

A recipient of the prestigious Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Arts, young baritone Alex Lawrence has been recognized for his rich voice, sensitive musicians hip and commanding stage presence. Since his professional debut in Basel, Switzerland in 2011, Lawrence has appeared with some of the great opera companies in the United States and abroad. (more…)

Meechot Marrero

Puerto Rican soprano Meechot Marrero, hailed by El Nuevo Día as, “a revelation…a young Puerto Rican star with a great career ahead” is a recent master’s degree recipient of the Yale School of Music, and in the 2016/17 season, will join the Deutsche Oper Berlin ensemble, after being awarded the American-Berlin Scholarship from the Opera Foundation. At Deutsche Oper Berlin, Ms. Marrero will perform the roles of Frasquita in Carmen, Giannetta in L’Elisir d’Amore, Papagena in Die Zauberflöte, Belinda in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Bianca and Gabriela in La Rondine. She performed at Savannah Voice Festival in 2016 as Juliette in Roméo et Juliette.Read More

In past seasons, Meechot Marrero has performed extensively in Puerto Rico, performing with the Festival Casals as Trujamán in de Falla’s El retablo del Maese Pedro, Despina in Così fan tutte with the Teatro de la Opera, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte and Concepción in Ravel’s L’Heure Espagnole at the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico, and Rafaela in Vásquez’La Mina de Oro with the Teatro Repertorio, UPRRP. Concert engagements have included soprano soloist with the Festival Casals in Menotti’s Muero porque no muero, de Falla’s Siete Canciones Populares Españolas, Villa-Lobos’Bachianas Brasileras No. 5 and Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Puerto Rico, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater with the Coro de Niños de San Juan and Haydn’s Creation with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Bayamón. Professionally and during her education at Yale School of Music, Meechot Marrero has performed Tytania in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lauretta in Gianni Schicchiand Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro with Yale Opera, Despina in Così fan tutte and Zerlina in Don Giovanni with the Savannah Voice Festival, Norina in Don Pasquale at Opera in Williamsburg in Virginia, Mimi in La Bohème in concert with the Savannah Philharmonic. Concert appearances include Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Handel’s Messiahwith the Hartford Chorale in Connecticut. A native of Corozol, Puerto Rico, Meechot Marrero is the recipient of the Career Bridges grant from the Schuyler Foundation, and the Phyllis Curtin Career Entry Prize from the Yale School of Music. Ms. Marrero began her musical studies with the San Juan Children’s Choir, and, after completing a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology at the University of Puerto Rico, received further training from the Puerto Rico Music Conservatory and Yale Opera at the Yale School of Music.

Jeffrey Martin

Bass-Baritone Jeffrey Martin, a native of Maryland, recently finished his Masters Degree at The Peabody Conservatory at The Johns Hopkins University. Mr. Martin’s Peabody career took flight with The Peabody Conservatory as The Man with the Cornet Case/Puppet-master from Argento’s Postcard from Morocco, of which The Baltimore Sun said: “Jeffrey Martin brings solid tone and exemplary diction…”

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Chelsea Miller

Chelsea Miller, a native of Memphis, received a bachelor’s degree in music education at Drury University in Springfield, MO. After graduating, she moved to Baton Rouge to study at Louisiana State University, where she received a Master of Music in vocal performance. While there, she performed the roles of Micaëla in La tragédie de Carmen and Tisbe in La Cenerentola. (more…)

Carlton Moe

Carlton Moe, tenor, debuted at Carnegie Hall with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra as the Brother in Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins and has performed as soloist in major works such as Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Mozart’s Requiem, and Handel’s The Messiah with such orchestras as the Oregon Symphony, Portland Chamber Orchestra, Walla Walla Symphony, and the Charlottesville Symphony Society.

Heralded by the New York Times as an “ardent tenor” his previous opera credits include Lakmé (Gerald), I Capuletti e I Montecchi (Tebaldo), The Mother of Us All (John Adams), Ernest Bloch’s Macbeth (Malcolm), with Manhattan School of Music Opera Studio, Roméo et Juliette (Tybalt) with Aspen Music Festival, Albert Herring (Albert) with Napa Music Festival, and The Elixir of Love (Nemorino) with the Student Opera Association of PSU. For his portrayal of Chevalier de la Force in Portland State University Opera’s production of Dialogues des Carmélites, Mr. Moe “made a lasting impression that drew an additional helping of bravos at the end of the performance” (oregonmusicnews.com). Carlton also sang the role of Sparky in the premiere recording of Kenneth Froelich’s opera Valentine with Heretic Opera.

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He completed his B.M. in voice at Portland State University and his M.M. in classical voice at The Manhattan School of Music.

Nan Qin

Nan Qin, bass-baritone, is a native of Yucheng city, Shandong Province, China. Mr. Qin got his Master’s degree in Vocal Performance from University of North Texas, where he performed the roles of Balli in Werther, Leporello in Don Giovanni, Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Capulet in Romeo et Juliette, Devin in Le Devin du Village, and Pandolfe in Cendrillon. He is the finalist of Classical Singer Competition and Lois Alba Aria competition.

Emily Righter

Accomplished mezzo-soprano, Emily Righter has been enchanting audiences “…with her gorgeously controlled mezzo voice and emotive, physically adept presence to match.” (The Star-Ledger). After her performances of Alessandro in Eliogabalo, Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker, “Emily Grace Righter stood out for her impassioned, idiomatic delivery of the role of Alessandro. In 2015, Ms. Righter gave several master classes and workshops at prestigious universities along with a Guest Artist Series recital at Mercyhurst University. Most recently, Ms. Righter was heard in Philadelphia as the Mezzo Soprano soloist in Rossini’s Stabat Mater, Verdi’s Requiem and John Rutter’s Magnificat. In February 2017, Emily made her Tampa Opera debut as Angelina in La Cenerentola. Ms. Righter was recently heard at Carnegie Hall in October 2016 and will be singing for various benefit concerts throughout 2016/17. (more…)

Scott Russell

Scott Russell, bass, is from Roanoke, Va. and currently lives in New York City. Scott is enjoying a career ranging from opera and music theater to oratorio and church music at home and abroad. He is the recipient of many awards including the NYC district and regional winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Some recent credits include: Gianni Schicchi (Simone) with the Savannah Music Feststival; La bohème (Colline) with Savannah Philharmonic and V.O.I.C.Experience, Don Giovanni (Il Commendatore), Schwabacher Summer Concerts, and 2 Grand Finale concerts with Merola Opera program of San Francisco Opera;Read More

Mother of us all (Daniel Webster), La boheme (Colline), Die Zauberföte (Sprecher) with Manhattan School of Music; La Péricole (cover of Don Andrès, Vice-Roi) with New York City Opera; world premiere of Jack and the Beanstalk (The Giant) with Nevada Opera, the world premiere of Quartet (Bear) at Carnegie Hall with RTB, Don Giovanni (Masetto) with Nevada Opera, Susannah (Rev. Olin Blitch) with the International Vocal Arts Institute in Israel and Virginia, Oliver! (Bill Sykes) with Utah Festival Opera and MT, and the musical revue It’s a Grand Night for Singing (“Leading Man”) with Washington D.C. Savoyards. Mr. Russell is a regular soloist at churches up and down the east coast.

Kristin Schwecke

Kristin Schwecke has been heralded as “A name to keep in mind…Her voice filled the house and dominated the stage. Simply spectacular! What a promising dramatic soprano!” – Opera Lively
On the operatic stage, Kristin has recently appeared as La Contessa in Le nozze di Figaro with Hubbard Hall Opera Theater, First Lady in The Magic Flute with Piedmont Opera, Magda in La Rondine with the AJ Fletcher Opera Institute, Abigail in Robert Ward’s The Crucible with Piedmont Opera, and 2nd Sprite in Rusalka with North Carolina Opera. As a Young Artist, Kristin has been engaged as a Festival Artist with the Sherrill Milnes’ Savannah Voice Festival for several summers. She was an Apprentice Artist with Chautauqua Opera where she performed in Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes and Verdi’s Falstaff and was a featured soloist with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. Kristin is a former Young Artist with the Crested Butte Music Festival where she sang Mimi (La bohème) in concert under the baton of Covent Garden’s David Syrus. Read More

In concert, Kristin has most recently sung Verdi’s Requiem with the University of North Carolina School of the Arts Symphony Orchestra and Mozart’s Requiem with the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra. Her other solo concert engagements include Rutter’s Requiem, Bruckner’s Te Deum, Debussy’s L’enfant prodigue, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Beethoven’s Mass in C, Dubois’Seven Last Words and Handel’s Messiah. She has appeared with orchestras nationwide including Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra, Cobb Symphony Orchestra, and the University of Wisconsin Madison Symphony Orchestra. Ms Schwecke has received honors in the Heafner Williams Vocal Competition, the Fritz and Lavinia Jensen Foundation Competition, Charlotte Opera Guild Competition, Rosen-Schaffel Young Artist Competition, Schubert Club Bruce P Carlson Scholarship Competition and internationally from the Czech and Slovak International Singing Competition. She was also the winner at the District level and received an Encouragement Award at Regional level in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. A native to Wisconsin, Kristin graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison with a Masters degree in Voice. She also holds a Performing Artist Certificate from the AJ Fletcher Opera Institute at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Currently, Kristin is a student of world renowned mezzo-soprano, Victoria Livengood. Ms Schwecke is currently Voice faculty at Salem College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Chad Sonka

Chad Sonka is quickly becoming a sought after American baritone. This summer, he joined Central City Opera as an Apprentice Artist, covering Scarpia in Tosca. Most recently, Chad performed the role of Don Quixote in The Man of La Mancha with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre. Previous performing credits: Gianni Schicchi (Marco) with Savannah Music Festival; Carmen (Dancïro) with Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre; The Mother of Us All (Virgil T.), The Rape of Lucretia (Junius), Faust (Wagner), Elijah (Elijah) with Manhattan School of Music, and Amahl and the Night Visitors(King Melchior) with Nevada Opera. Mr. Sonka has been a chosen participant of Dolora Zajick’sInstitute for Young Dramatic Voices, as well as Sherrill Milnes’ VOICE Studio at the Savannah Voice Festival for four summers.Read More

He was also a featured bass soloist with the Cedar Rapids Concert Chorale and has performed recitals at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Chad is also an active voice teacher, previously teaching at Manhattan School of Music and now at Luther College.

James Wright

Described by critics as “tremendous,” “entertaining” and “talented,” baritone James Wright is a favorite among audiences for his charismatic presence and warm tone. His recent operatic roles include the Sacristan in Tosca, Rev. Gruffydd in Roger Ames’ How Green was My Valley with El Paso Opera, Angelotti in Tosca with Nickel City Opera and Papageno in The Magic Flute with Undercroft Opera of Pittsburgh. This season James will be appearing as Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro and Bob inThe Old Maid and the Thief with Nickel City Opera and Richard White in Michael Ching’s Alice Ryley with The Savannah VOICE Festival.

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Other operatic roles include The Pilot in Portman’s The Little Prince, John Sorel in The Consul, Valentin in Gounod’s Faust, Dr. Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Schaunard in La Bohéme and King Melchior in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors.

Nicholas Yaquinto

Baritone Nicholas Giovanni Yaquinto is an active member of the Atlanta music scene, and a native of Savannah, Georgia. Mr. Yaquinto recently made his professional debut at the Atlanta Opera as Paris in their production of Roméo et Juliette. In the 2016 summer season he performed the title role of Roscoe Conway in Seagle Music Colony’s world premiere production of Roscoe by Evan Mack. (more…)


SVF 2017 Barber of Seville bios

2017 VOICE Studio Bios & Headshots