LESLEY RESIDENT ARTISTS
A discovery and training program for emerging young opera singers, the Lesley Resident Artists program offers professional experience to exceptional performers every year. This group of highly talented and driven young opera singers is selected through a nationwide audition process. Contracted for one or two seasons, they come to Fort Worth Opera to work for a professional opera company in hopes of furthering or launching their performance careers.
While in Fort Worth, Lesley Resident Artists will sing at various community, donor, and social events, perform recitals, and receive voice lessons, language and diction coaching. They will also participate in masterclasses with established artists and agents brought in by Fort Worth Opera, to foster their artistic development and provide fresh perspectives on the business of singing.
Ms. Rethwisch was a member of the prestigious Santa Fe Opera’s Apprentice Artist program in 2017 & 2018 where she covered Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos and sang scenes from La Rondine (Lisette) and L’elisir d’amore (Adina). Ms. Rethwisch has spent previous summers as apprentice with Chautauqua Opera, where she sang the role of Annina and covered Violetta in La Traviata, Des Moines Metro Opera covering Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, and the CoOperative Program. With Utah Opera, she has sung the roles of First Lady in Die Zauberflöte, Adele in Die Fledermaus, and Nella in Gianni Schicchi. During the 2019-2020 season, she will return to Utah to sing the role of Anna Sørensen in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Silent Night and is covering the roles of Musetta in La Bohème and Adele in Die Fledermaus. Ms. Rethwisch holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Simpson College and a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Florida State University.
Sherman, Texas native Darius Thomas continues to make his presence known in the world of opera with his clear and rich voice. In the 2019-20 season, Thomas will be a frequent performer in DFW as a Resident Artist with Fort Worth Opera, appearing in mainstage productions as Alfred in Die Fledermaus. He will also make his role debut as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet in Knoxville Opera’s touring production. Last season, Mr. Thomas was the tenor in residence for the Mary Ragland Emerging Artists program with Nashville Opera where he performed the roles Dauber in The Cradle Will Rock, and Nathanael/Cochenille in The Tales of Hoffmann. Mr. Thomas holds a Bachelors of Music Degree in Voice Performance from Southeastern Oklahoma State University, and pursues graduate studies at the University of Tennessee- Knoxville, where he studies with American Tenor Andrew Skoog.
In an effort to employ more local singers, FWO has also added the Fort Worth Opera Studio Artist Program alongside our existing young artist program. Designed to expand the company’s educational outreach efforts, these talented young Dallas-Fort Worth vocalists will perform for elementary and middle school students in Fort Worth Opera’s Children’s Opera Theatre productions throughout North Texas.
A native of Washington, DC, Robin Steitz is quickly establishing herself as a sensitive and committed musician in the professional voice world. This season, she looks forward to performing the role of Marianna in the world premiere of Joe Illick and Mark Campbell's opera Frida Kahlo and the Bravest Girl in the World as a Studio Artist with Fort Worth Opera; joining the South Dakota Symphony as the featured soloist in their Christmas on the Prairie concert; and performing the role of Amore in OperaDelaware's production of L'incoronazione di Poppea. In the 2018-19 season, she performed the role of Cricket in the American premiere of Richard Ayres' opera The Cricket Recovers at the Tanglewood Music Center; Amore in Opera Bel Cantanti's production of Orfeo ed Euridice, and Zerlina in Baltimore Concert Opera's Don Giovanni. Ms. Steitz received her MM in Vocal Performance from The Eastman School of Music, graduated from Reed College with a BA in Linguistics, and before pursuing a career in voice was a high school math teacher in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Megan Koch, soprano, was featured in Fort Worth Opera’s 2018 Frontier’s Showcase as Mabel in Nell Shaw Cohen’s Mabel’s Call and “shimmered with nuance” (The Column Online). Megan made her debuts as Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte, Summer 2019), Rose (Street Scene, Summer 2018), and La Princesse (L'enfant et les sortilèges, Summer 2018) at the Varna International Opera Academy. Her upcoming performances with UNT Opera include Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) in the fall of 2019, and her past UNT performances include A Rodgers and Hammerstein Revue, Vixen-Sharp Ears (The Cunning Little Vixen), and Pamina (Die Zauberflöte). Megan has been accepted into the competitive Graduate Artist Certificate at the University of North Texas and will be in the studio of Dr. Carol Wilson.
Meredith Browning began her relationship with the Fort Worth Opera more than 20 years ago in the chorus of Aida and has been involved in every season since as a chorister, cover, comprimario artist, and concert soloist. Fort Worth Opera’s memorable productions of Angels in America and Dead Man Walking featured Ms. Browning singing the roles of Pit Soprano and Sister Catherine. She received her Bachelor of Music from Abilene Christian University in 1995 and her Master’s of Music from Boston University in 1997.
Mezzo-Soprano Kayla Nanto completed her Master of Music in Vocal Performance at University of North Texas and Bachelor of Music at University of Northern Colorado. She is a Performing Artist with The Dallas Opera's Education and Outreach program, which performs children's operas weekly at elementary schools throughout the DFW area. Her most recent engagements include Fileno in Clori, Tirsi, e Fileno with American Baroque Opera, Alto soloist in Messiah with the Ft. Worth Symphony Orchestra, Alto soloist in Petite Messe Solennelle with the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Choral Union, Suzuki (cover) in Madama Butterfly with Opera Ft. Collins, and Ulisse in Orchestra of New Spain’s world premiere of Achillo in Sciro. During her studies, she performed the roles of Siébel in Faust, Petra in A Little Night Music, and Flora in La Traviata at University of North Texas, and the title role in Carmen, and Angelina in La Cenerentola at University of Northern Colorado.
Autumn Capocci is a mezzo-soprano hailing from Buffalo, New York. She is currently a master’s student at the University of North Texas, where last season she performed the roles of Zita in Gianni Schicchi and Lapák the dog in The Cunning Little Vixen. Most recently, she performed in Pittsburgh Festival Opera’s Fight for the Right series as Hortense in Virgula Divina. She received her Bachelor of Music Education from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. While there, she performed in the chorus of The Tender Land with the Crane Opera Ensemble, as well as in the chorus of the world-premiere opera SHOT! with the Nickel City Opera Company.
Kyle B Spears was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas. He is an illustrious graduate of Texas Southern University, where he studied Vocal Performance. Mr. Spears has been in many productions such as Ragtime and The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, and is looking forward to being a part of Fort Worth Opera's 2019-2020 Studio Artist Program. He is a outgoing individual with a vibrant energy and is looking forward to sharing his enthusiasm for the performing arts with this community, and inspiring the next generation of children to dream big.
Lwazi Hlati is a dynamic tenor from Johannesburg, South Africa. He earned his Bachelors of Technology in Vocal Performance from Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, South Africa, and is currently completing his Performer’s Diploma in Vocal Performance from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. As one of Johannesburg’s most sought-after tenors, he’s gained recognition for his performances
as Ferrando (Cosi fan tutte) and Don José (Carmen), as well as extensive concert work across Africa and Greece. Most recently, he’s performed as Sam (Our Town) and Lt. Joseph Cable (South Pacific) with SMU as parts of his graduate studies. Lwazi is looking forward to rejoining the Fort Worth Opera this season and spreading his passion for opera with the next generation.
Christopher Curcuruto is from Sydney, Australia and is in his second year of a Graduate Artist Certificate in Opera at UNT. This summer Christopher performed with the Pittsburgh Festival Opera where he was one of ten singers selected to participate in the Mastersingers Project for Young Dramatic Singers under internationally renowned Wagnerian soprano, Jane Eaglen. An alumnus of the Pacific Opera Young Artist Program, Christopher graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts with a Graduate Diploma of Music (Opera Performance) and holds an Honours degree in Theatre Performance from the University of New England. Christopher is also a member of the Opera Australia Chorus. He is a voice student of Stephen F. Austin and is the recipient of the David L. Shrader Opera Scholarship and sponsorships from the Wagner Society in NSW and the Sydney Savage Club. Recent role credits include the title role in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, Parson (The Cunning Little Vixen), and Don Alfonso (Così fan tutte).
South African Baritone, Prosper Makhanya holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural and Bio-Systems Engineering from the University of Swaziland, and is currently in the Performers Diploma Program at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts. Prosper won the Young Artist Development Award at the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival of 2016. He was awarded 2nd Place in the Graduate Men’s Division of the TEXOMA Regional Competition of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, was cast in the principal role of Dr. Gibbs in the Meadows Opera production of Ned Rorem’s Our Town, 2019. Additionally, he has also performed in Fort Worth Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess, as part of the chorus, including a few minor roles. He has also performed the role of Banquo, at Opera North’s 2019 production of Macbeth, as Resident Artist, while covering the role of Sargent of police in Pirates of Penzance.