The Florentine’s Artist in Residence program returns for second season, thanks in part to stimulus funding
MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin - August 5 2009 - The Florentine Opera Company names Sarah Lewis Jones (soprano) of Columbus, OH, Julia Elise Hardin (mezzo soprano) of Lawrence, KS, Aaron Blankfield (tenor) of Memphis, TN, and Scott Johnson (baritone) of Madison, WI, as resident artists for the 2009-2010 season Florentine Opera Studio. The Studio program, which offers a full season of artist-in-residence employment for talented singers beginning their professional careers, will run from October 2009 through May 2010 and provide these promising young artists with performing experience and training essential to career development in the opera art form.
Vital funding for the 09-10 Studio Artist program is provided by the Wisconsin Arts Jobs program from the National Endowment for the Arts with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Governor Doyle's announcement and a full list of arts organizations receiving funding can be viewed here. This support will allow the Florentine Opera to employ the four emerging singers participating in the program for the upcoming season.
Wisconsin Arts Board Executive Director George T. Tzougros said, "The arts jobs program validates the fact that arts jobs are real jobs that add value to our communities."
Studio artists will sing supporting and comprimario roles during the Florentine Opera's mainstage performances, in addition to serving the educational and outreach goals of the Florentine Opera Company. Artists will also perform in public performances in collaboration with other Milwaukee Area arts groups-including an October 2009 concert with Master Singers of Milwaukee and as soloists in Handel's Messiah with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in December 2009. A major focus of the studio artists will be presenting the Florentine's 2009-2010 season children's touring opera program, Jack and the Beanstalk at schools and community venues throughout southeastern Wisconsin. They will also be featured at outreach and education initiatives and have the opportunity to gain continuing training and career advice through masterclasses and coachings with visiting artists and master teachers.
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ABOUT THE 2009-2010 STUDIO ARTISTS:
Sarah Lewis Jones ~ Soprano
Soprano Sarah Lewis Jones recently completed her Master of Music in Vocal Performance from The Ohio State University. Sarah has been a member of the Opera Columbus Education & Outreach program for the past two years. She has most recently been seen as the Witch/Mother in the touring production of Hansel & Gretel. Other recent performances include Clorinda in the Opera Columbus touring production of Cinderella and Giunone in La Calisto with The Ohio State University. She was a semi-finalist in the 2009 Irma M. Cooper Opera Columbus International Vocal Competition, 2007 recipient of the Margaret Speaks award from The Ohio State University, 2007 winner of The Ohio State University Concerto Competition and was awarded second place in the 2001 Junior Division of the Irma M. Cooper Opera Columbus International Vocal Competition.
Julia Elise Hardin ~ Mezzo Soprano
Julia Elise Hardin, a native of Lawrence, KS, resides in Chicago. This "powerful" and "expressive" singer draws from her extensive acting background. Recent engagements include reprising the role of Polly in Britten's The Beggar's Opera, with Lorin Maazel's Castelton Festival 2009, covering the role of Sesto with Chicago Opera Theater's La clemenza di Tito, and other productions with The Opera Company in Chicago. Additional roles include performances with Central City Opera 2008 season as Rosalia in West Side Story, the Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas, as well as covering and performing Mrs. McLean in Susannah. She has also sung Tisbe in La Cenerentola for the Lyric Opera of Chicago's Opera in the Neighborhoods program, Paoluccia in Piccinni's La Buona Figliuola with Fondazione Lirico in Bari, Italy, and as a featured soloist in Bach's Magnificat with the Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Hardin was a selected for the 2009 Neue Stimmen semi-finals in Germany, and a finalist for the Chicago Union League competition. She was winner of the 2007 Friends of Austria vocal competition, second place finalist for the 2007 NATS vocal competition, and a 2006 I Solisti soloist for the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music's Opera and Music Festival in Lucca, Italy. Ms. Hardin holds a bachelors degree from the University of Kansas and a masters from Northwestern University. She is a student of Pamela Hinchman.
Aaron Blankfield ~ Tenor
Aaron Blankfield has studied opera at the University of Tennessee and most recently at Westminster Choir College. While at the University of Tennessee, he sang a number of supporting roles, including Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Flute in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Tenor in Charpentier's Magnificat, Lippo in the Ice Cream Sextet from Street Scene and Tenor in Handel's Messiah. In 2004, he sang Nemorino in the Act II Quartet from L'elisir d'amore with Oberlin in Italy. He has also appeared at the Lake Placid Institute, and in ensembles with Knoxville Opera and Opera Memphis. He has performed with Boheme Opera New Jersey as Borsa in Rigoletto and Gastone in La Traviata. While at Westminster Choir College, he sang the role of Alessandro in Mozart's Il Re Pastore. Mr. Blankfield was featured as solo artist in the Greater Trenton Symphony Orchestra New Year's Eve Concert 2006 and 2007, as well as the GTSO's recent 75th Anniversary of the War Memorial Concert.
Scott Johnson ~ Baritone
A native of Madison, Wisconsin, baritone Scott Johnson completed his BM at USC in Los Angeles, where he performed the roles of Sellem in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, Il Gran Sacerdote in Mozart's Idomeneo, and Shrike in the West Coast Premier of Lowell Liebermann's Miss Lonelyhearts. Other roles include Pelleas in Pelleas et Melisande, Dr. Malatesta in Don Pasquale, and Jackson Pollack in the World Premier of Art and Desire, all with the University of Wisconsin Opera, where he recently received his Master of Music. Scott has also been seen as a frequent performer with the Tuscia Operafestival in Viterbo, Italy, where he has performed the roles of Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, Marcello in La Boheme, and Germont in La Traviata. In 2008, he was a Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. More recently, Scott could be seen making his debut with Madison Opera as Wagner in Gounod's Faust, and Mr. Lindquist in A Little Night Music with Central City Opera, where he has also portrayed Diesel in West Side Story.
ABOUT THE WAYNE & KRISTINE LUEDERS FLORENTINE OPERA CENTER:
The 09-10 season marks the first in which the Studio Artists will utilize the new Wayne & Kristine Lueders Opera Center as a home base from which to rehearse, receive coachings and appear in community performances. The Opera Center, located in the heart of Milwaukee's revitalized Riverwest neighborhood, is a customized 3,000 square foot building housing two rehearsal / performance spaces, offices, kitchen facilities, workshops for designing and building productions, costumes and wigs, and a warehouse for the storage of production elements.
ABOUT THE WISCONSIN ARTS BOARD:
For more information on the Wisconsin Arts Jobs program, please click here or contact the Arts Board by email or phone at (608) 266-0190.
The Wisconsin Arts Board is the state agency which nurtures creativity, cultivates expression, promotes the arts, supports the arts in education, stimulates community and economic development and serves as a resource for people of every culture and heritage. Since 1973, the Arts Board has supported artists and art organizations with funds from the state legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.