We find ourselves in the midst of yet another Iowa winter; overcast skies, sub-zero temperatures and lots of snow and ice (though not as much this year!) always seem to herald the start of our annual opera outreach tour, OPERA Iowa! This year is no exception. Our troupe arrived in Indianola on Thursday, February 1 and, after checking in, spent the day getting settled in to their new apartments. In just a short week, they’ve held many musical and staging rehearsals for both Jack & the Beanstalk and The Barber of Seville, and have also started preparations for their arias program and three classroom workshops: Singers & Vocal Styles, Decide. Design. Direct. and Let’s Make an Opera! In just a couple weeks, the troupe will hit the road, traveling across Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri to introduce this wonderful art form to over 25,000 students!
Without further ado, we’d like to introduce the fantastic group of artists for our 31st annual OPERA Iowa troupe:
Pianist John Cockerill is a coach and music director for opera and musical theatre, residing in Chicago. Recent productions include First Lady Suite, Young Frankenstein, Xanadu, Argento’s The Boor, Wargo’s Seduction of a Lady, and High Fidelity. He holds a M.M. in Collaborative Piano from the University of Colorado-Boulder, and a M.M. in Musicology and a B.M. in Piano Performance from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He will be featured on the premiere recording of Ross Crean’s opera The Great God Pan (Naxos America/Parma Recordings, summer 2017).
Fun facts: his hobbies include reading, hiking and eating Thai food. John was inspired to get involved in music by his childhood church’s pianist who was also his first piano teacher. His parents had a collection of classical music and Broadway vinyl records and cassette tapes which he thoroughly enjoyed listening to as a child. John is also the oldest of 5 children!
California native Dustin Damonte just completed a summer as a young artist at the Seagle Music Colony where he performed the roles of the doctor in Loesser’s The Most Happy Fella and premiered the role of O.B. Conway in Evan Mack’s Roscoe. Recent performances include the role of Krumpelblatt in Elana Langer’s Four Sisters with Boston Opera Collaborative’s. Past roles also include Don Curzio in Opera Theater Pittsburgh’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Monostatos in NEC’s Die Zauberflöte, Tamino in the Portland Summer Opera Workshop’s Die Zauberflöte, and Lucano in NEC’s L’incoronazione di Poppea. His concert repertoire includes performing as the Angello della Gloria in Cartellieri’s La Celebre Natività del Redentore, Handel’s Messiah and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Damonte will be performing as Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk with the Seagle Music Colony’s fall outreach program this year as well as the roles of Danceny in Susa’s Dangerous Liaisons and Prunier in Puccini’s La Rondine in Boston Opera Collaborative’s upcoming season. He received his master’s degree in vocal performance from the New England Conservatory, and studies with Michael Meraw.
Fun facts: Dustin enjoys cooking, watching baseball, playing Frisbee golf and eating virtually anything!
Anthony Egendorfer has previously worked with companies such as Cabrillo Music Theatre, Universal Studios Hollywood, and The Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, doing everything from designing lights and building sets, to mixing audio and everything in between. His favorite part of theatre is facing unique set of challenges and solving problems on the spot to make sure the show goes on smoothly. He is excited to work on this production and to experience real seasons in Iowa, unlike his sunny home in a coastal town of Southern California where it is summer year round, and hopes you enjoy the show.
Fun facts: He enjoys building things (mostly remote controlled planes and quadcopters) and learning anything and everything new, especially theatre-related. Anthony started volunteering at a young age working in musical theatre but this is his first time working with opera! He was born and raised in beautiful sunny southern California, close to Los Angeles, where he had the opportunity to gain experience working in theatre.
Thaddeus Ennen, baritone, is excited to be returning to his home state to perform with OPERA Iowa. Recently, He debuted as a young artist at Santa Fe Opera where he performed the role of Count Paris in Roméo et Juliette and covered Jake Wallace in La fanciulla del West. Previously, Thaddeus performed as a Resident Artist with Pensacola Opera where he performed the roles of Baron in La traviata, Cascada in The Merry Widow, and Manfred Lewin in Jake Heggie’s Out of Darkness. Other recent credits include, Horace Tabor in The Ballad of Baby Doe, the title role in Sweeney Todd with the Janiec Opera Company and Le Dancaïre in Carmen with Knoxville Opera. Thaddeus earned his master’s from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and his bachelor’s from Simpson College.
Fun facts: Tad likes traveling, scuba diving, hiking and motorcycling. His favorite foods are sushi and BBQ.
Meghan Kasanders, is quickly gaining recognition as a promising young dramatic soprano. Ms. Kasanders will sing her company debut with Opera Saratoga in Saratoga Springs, New York, where, she will cover the role of Alice Ford, in Verdi’s Falstaff, and sing the role of Sadie Pollock in Blitzstein’s Cradle Will Rock. After singing in upstate New York, Ms. Kasanders will return to Reno, Nevada and sing with the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, where she will work with the famous dramatic mezzo soprano, Dolora Zajick and internationally acclaimed Wagnerian soprano, Luana DuVol. Meghan will then move to New York City in September to start in the Artist Diploma in Opera Studies (ADOS) program of the Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts at The Juilliard School. Ms. Kasanders has previously sung with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Des Moines Metro Opera and the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices. Meghan is a proud recent graduate of the Masters of Music in Vocal Performance program at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, Texas, as well as an alumnus of Simpson College, in Indianola, Iowa, where she received her Bachelors of Music in Vocal Performance.
Fun facts: Meghan’s dad got her interested in music as a child. They would sit together with his guitars and sing Beatles songs. Her family calls her “Megamonster” and they love watching embarrassing home videos from childhood and having family jam sesssions.
Mezzo-soprano Christina Pezzarossi, from Miles City, Montana, received her Master’s degree from the The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. Ms. Pezzarossi’s operatic roles include Alice in Falstaff, Beth in Mark Adamo’s Little Women, the title role in Handel’s Agrippina, Minerva in Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, and Rosina in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia . Last year, she performed as Hermia in Purcell’s Fairy Queen with Opera NEO in San Diego and Alisa in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor with Opera San Jose. She has also performed with Oberlin in Italy, Emerald City Opera, and Taos Opera Institute and received an Encouragement Award from the San Francisco District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Fun facts: Christina loves to ride horses, hike, play tennis and golf, walk on the beach and cook. Her favorite animals are dogs and she is a fan of country music. Christina was inspired by her mother, who gave her a Best of Maria Callas CD in 8th grade, which she played repeatedly for hours.
Bass-baritone Ted Pickell is a recent graduate of Northwestern University, where he received a Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance, and University of the Pacific, where he received his Bachelor’s of Music. Recently, he performed in Susannah, Trouble in Tahiti and The Marriage of Figaro with the Northwestern University Opera Theatre, and in Don Giovanni with Point Loma Opera Theatre. He also returned as a voice fellow to Music Academy of the West, where he performed in The Bartered Bride. On the concert stage, he sang as the bass soloist in Mozart’s Requeim with Northwest Indiana Symphony. Ted will return to Des Moines Metro Opera this summer to join the apprentice artists and the cast of Billy Budd.
Fun facts: Ted’s hobbies include playing video games, watching TV, hiking, running and playing with his puppy. His favorite foods are ice cream, cookies and trail mix. While Ted was in college, he lost over 190 pounds and was featured on the Today Show on national TV for his accomplishment!
Icelandic bass-baritone Jóhann Schram Reed was most recently seen in the role of Don Alfonso in their 2016 production of Così fan tutte. Other recent roles include Owen Hart (Dead Man Walking), Inspector Javert (Les Miserables), Jupiter (Orphée aux Enfer), Mr. Ford (Die Lustige Weibe von Windsor) and Pistola in Opera San José’s 2013 production of Falstaff and the title role in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. In the summer of 2016, Mr. Schram Reed was featured as a fellow at Marilyn Horne’s Music Academy of the West. Other recently performed roles include The Devil in Stravinsky’s L´histoire de Soldat and Dr. Grenvil in La traviata, where he performed under the baton of noted conductor Michael Morgan with the Festival Opera of Walnut Creek, CA. Equally at home in choral settings, Mr. Schram Reed most recently sang the baritone solo in William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast. Upcoming engagements include his international debut joining the Tokyo Sinfonia this fall in Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, celebrating five-hundred years since the Reformation. Jóhann completed his graduate work at the Jacobs School of Music, a student of baritone Timothy Noble.
Fun facts: Originally from Reykjavik, Iceland, Jóhann enjoys traveling, watching movies, reading, playing video games and eating his favorite foods: lasagna or sushi. Jóhann grew up in a musical family – his father is an opera signer, his mother plays piano and his four siblings all play instruments and sing!