Detroit Opera Resident Artists - Detroit Opera

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After an international search, Detroit Opera is proud to announce five new singers who will train in our Resident Artist Program for 2022-23. The redesigned program provides a comprehensive career development to emerging singers who have demonstrated potential to make important contributions to the art form.

Our new Resident Artists for 2022-2023:

          • Melanie Spector, soprano
          • Elizabeth Polese, soprano
          • Gabrielle Barkidjija, mezzo-soprano
          • Leo Williams, tenor
          • Ben Reisinger, baritone

2022-2023 Resident Artist Biographies:

Melanie Spector, soprano

Praised for her "beaming soprano" by Operawire, Melanie Spector is a coloratura soprano on the rise who was born and raised in New York City. Most recently, she performed as Königin der Nacht in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte with both Eugene Opera and the Stuttgart Philharmonic, making her international debut. Other recent performances have included the Metropolitan Opera Guild's In-School Performance Tour and a concert of Italian opera repertoire with the Queens Symphony Orchestra.

Melanie has been a District Winner/Region Finalist in Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition (2021, 2022), and has received awards from the Gerda Lissner Foundation, the National Society of Arts and Letters, and the SAS Performing Arts Company. This summer, she will be a Festival Artist at the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, and she will sing Woglinde in Wagner's Das Rheingold at the Miami Music Festival. In addition to singing, Melanie is a regular panelist on the Toll Brothers Metropolitan Opera Quiz during Saturday matinee broadcasts.

Elizabeth Polese, soprano

Canadian soprano Elizabeth Polese has been praised as “powerful and engaging” by The Globe and Mail, with “power to spare” by Opera Canada. She has recently been a young artist with Atelier Lyrique (Opéra de Montréal), Tanglewood Music Center, Highlands Opera Studio, and the winner of the Sullivan Foundation Gail Robinson Award for Soprano and Hynatyshyn Developing Artist Award for Classical Voice. This season, she has appeared as Papagena in Barrie Kosky’s Die Zauberflöte (Opéra de Montréal). She goes on to sing Queen Isabel in the North American premiere of George Benjamin’s Lessons in Love and Violence (Tanglewood), and in a chamber music recital with Mendelssohn Orchestra Academy at Gewandhaus Orchester in Leipzig, Germany. During the 2022-2023 season, she will also appear in concert with Orchestre Classique de Montréal and as Nuria in Ainadamar with Opéra de Montréal. Originally from Toronto, Elizabeth holds degrees from the University of Toronto and calls Montréal her home.

Gabrielle Barkdijija, mezzo-Soprano

Mezzo-soprano Gabrielle Barkidjija is originally from the Chicago area. Notable performances in her career thus far include Dorabella (Cosi fan tutte), Ada Lovelace (The Infinite Energy of Ada Lovelace), Fanny Price (Mansfield Park), Captain (Dog Days), Béatrice (Béatrice et Bénédict), Zerlina (Don Giovanni), Mère Marie (Dialogues of the Carmelites), and Estelle (Later the Same Evening). She has been a young artist with the Merola Opera Program, Central City Opera, the Aspen Music Festival, and the Boston University Opera Institute. She completed her bachelor's and Master’s of Music (full-scholarship) at Northwestern University. She earned Encouragement awards in the Metropolitan Opera National Competitions in Boston and Chicago and second place in the Orpheus Vocal Competition and the Classical Singer Competition. In 2021, she received a nomination for a GRAMMY with The Crossing Choir. The Boston Musical Intelligencer recently wrote that Gabrielle was "riveting on stage and sang with damnable commitment and satisfying vocal chops" as Brittomara in the Boston premiere of Jake Heggie's "If I were you."

Leo Williams, tenor

Leo Williams is a proud alumnus of Indiana University and recipient of The Georgina Joshi International Grant, The Jacobs Premier, & The Schmidt Foundation Scholarships. Stage credits at Indiana University include La fille du Régiment, Peter Grimes, The Crucible, The Consul, Les Pêcheurs de Perles, Samson et Dalilah, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Lucia di Lammermoor. He has also had an active performing career overseas and appeared in La bohème, L’elisir d’amore, Lucia di Lammermoor, and Don Giovanni. Leo was a 2020 Opera Maya Studio artist, Berlin Opera Academy Principal Artist, and an Opernfest Prague Fellow. Recent debuts include: Cavaradossi/ Spoletta (Naples, Fl), Macduff (Australia), Don Ottavio, and Tamino (Germany). He is a past participant in The UNISA International Voice Competition (South Africa). After winning a coveted spot in the Nationwide Detroit Opera Resident Artist Program final auditions, he goes on to join the program for the 2022-2023 season. An avid lover of world travel and speaker of 5 languages with years of classical dance training, Leo served as Assistant Professor of the Indiana University Soul Revue.

Ben Reisinger, baritone

Ben Reisinger is a baritone from Rochester, New York, living in Lansing, Michigan. Reisinger attended Michigan State University studying with Professor Mark Rucker. He also works with Laurie Feldman, stage director, teacher, and coach.  Reisinger is a two-time District of Michigan winner in the Metropolitan National Council Auditions and a two-time Encouragement Award winner and recipient of the Dr. David DiChiera award both in 2020 and 2021 in the Eastern Regional event. In 2017 he was the American Prize Award winner in Vocal Performance in the Collegiate Opera/Operetta division. He has performed many roles while studying at Michigan State University; notably, Ricky Ian Gordon's Grapes of Wrath, coached by Ricky Ian Gordon. He was part of the Martina Arroyo Foundation's "Prelude to Performance Program" in 2017. He has been a frequent performer in masterclasses with many great artists, including Renee Fleming, Jan Opalach, and Julia Bullock. Along with being passionate about opera, Ben was one of the Northeast Vocal Finalists for the Michael Feinstein' Great American Songbook' Competition in NYC.

I have had the good fortune to have a career that has spanned the better part of three decades, working with the finest artists in the world.  I can say, without a doubt, that I wouldn’t have had the success that I have without the strong foundation provided by several training programs.  These programs allowed me to have a safe space to grow, to explore, to test my ever-expanding boundaries, and even to fail in a safe space.  This is a precious time at the start of any artist’s professional career.  I am very proud to oversee the Detroit Opera’s Resident Artist Program, and I look forward to supporting the creation of the next generation’s stars."
- Christine Goerke, Associate Artistic Director, Detroit Opera

Providing a safe space for the next generation of singers to thrive and get to the next level of their artistry is very important to us at Detroit Opera. Our goal is to give the five extremely talented selected singers a place to collect the tools they need to succeed in this highly competitive industry. It is thrilling to be part of their journey to achieving their dreams."
- Nathalie Doucet, Head of Music and Resident Artist Program Director, Detroit Opera

In 2021-2022, hundreds of singers worldwide applied for the Detroit Opera Resident Artist Program. Upon reviewing each application carefully, we invited 12 extremely talented singers for a final round of auditions at the Detroit Opera House. We had the opportunity to hear them sing on our stage, in our house. The newly redesigned program is an individualized training program. It will focus on the training each artist needs to get to the next level of their respective careers in this highly competitive industry. Detroit Opera will give these rising stars a home where they will build on their talent and achieve their highest potential.

Our Resident Artists will commit to an intense training program while living in Detroit from September through June. This residency is for one year, with an option to renew. The Detroit Opera Resident Artists receive voice, movement, and language training. They will have performance opportunities with the Detroit Opera and organizations in and around the community. Our Resident Artists have the chance to be cast in principal and supporting roles and covers in mainstage productions, giving them access to work with our guest artists, directors, and conductors. They will also participate in recitals and concerts with different organizations in and around Detroit.