The Houston Grand Opera Announces New Studio Artists

Five new talents join six returning artists in the competitive training program.

By Amarie Gipson May 17, 2022

The Houston Grand Opera is one of the world’s leading opera houses and has served the Houston community since 1955. But becoming internationally acclaimed doesn’t happen overnight. It requires decades of rigorous leadership, high-quality productions and a pulse on generations of new talent. Earlier this year, the HGO hosted its annual Concert of Arias (think American Idol but with opera singers), all competing for a spot in the HGO Studio training program. 

HGO Studio was designed 45 years ago as a launching pad for emerging opera coaches, singers and musicians. After hundreds of applications and a competitive audition period, the HGO has selected five first-year artists to work alongside six returning talents. For up to three years, HGO Studio artists will receive professional training, roles in major productions and more. 

The program has produced a number of esteemed, Grammy Award-winning alumni, including Ryan McKinny (2005-08), Eric Owners (1995-97) and Joyce DiDonato (1996-98). This year, pianist and opera coach Michelle Papenfuss will join the first-place Concert of Arias-winning baritone Navasard Hakobyan and sopranos Erin Wagner, Meryl Dominguez and Renée Richardson in the first-year cohort. Returning talents include tenors Eric Taylor and Ricardo Garcia, baritone Luke Sutliff, mezzo-soprano Emily Treigle, pianist Bin Yu Sanford and bass Cory McGee. 

“It is thrilling to see the pure talent in this year’s class of HGO Studio members. Their passion and energy are contagious,” HGO Studio Director Brian Speck said in a statement. “And it is truly gratifying to know that by helping them build on their innate talents to achieve their dreams, we’re helping to ensure the future of the entire art form.”

Under the leadership of its new director, Khori Dastoor, the HGO has more in store for a bold 2022-23 season, including productions of La Traviata, starring Grammy Award-winning soprano Angel Blue, and world opera favorite Tosca. 

For more information on the HGO Studio program and the 2022-23 performance season, visit here

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