College Audition Panel Discussion: Meet the Panel (Part 1)

Today I would like to introduce the teachers on our June 30 panel discussion who teach in classical/opera programs.

Meet the panel: Soprano Elizabeth FutralOur first panelist is American soprano Elizabeth Futral, who comes to us from my alma mater, Peabody Conservatory.

Elizabeth Futral has established herself as one of the world’s leading sopranos. She is currently a Professor in the Vocal Studies department at Peabody Conservatory.

 Reared in Louisiana, Ms. Futral studied with Virginia Zeani at Indiana University. She joined the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, won the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions in 1991 and was catapulted to stardom with critically acclaimed performances of Delibes’ Lakmé at the New York City Opera in 1994. Career milestones soon followed, cementing her star status: a win in Placido Domingo’s Operalia Competition, the title role in Rossini’s Matilde di Shabran in Pesaro, her debut at the San Francisco Opera as Stella in the world premiere of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire, and her Metropolitan Opera debut in a new production of Lucia di Lammermoor.

Since that time, she has returned to the Metropolitan Opera as Princess Eudoxie in a new production of La Juive, Princess Yeuyang in the world premiere of Tan Dun’s The First Emperor, Elvira in I Puritani, and additional performances of Lucia. With the Lyric Opera of Chicago she has sung a vast range of roles including Cunegonde in Candide, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, Handel’s Partenope, La Traviata, and The Merry Widow. She has notable relationships with the Washington, Houston, Santa Fe, Los Angeles, New York City, Vancouver, and Minnesota opera companies. Internationally, she has been heard at the Royal Opera Covent Garden, the Bayerische Staatsoper, the Staatsoper and Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Theater an der Wien, the Grand Theatre de Genève, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, and Hamburg Staatsoper.

Ms. Futral debuted with the New York Philharmonic in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 under Zubin Mehta and has returned there for Handel’s Messiah with Sir Neville Marriner and Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio with Sir Colin Davis. Other orchestral highlights include Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini with Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony, To Be Certain of the Dawn with Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra, the Brahms Requiem with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, arias and duets with Placido Domingo and the Chicago Symphony led by Daniel Barenboim, and a New Year’s Eve Gala with Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic.

In demand for contemporary repertoire, Ms. Futral has sung the world premieres of Ricky Ian Gordon’s 27 at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne at the San Francisco Opera, Andre Previn’s Brief Encounter at the Houston Grand Opera, Philip Glass’s Orphée for the American Repertory Theatre, Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Euridice for Great Performers at Lincoln Center, Dominic Argento’s Evensong: Of Love and Angels at the National Cathedral, and Stephen Paulus’ Three Poems of Dylan Thomas with the Tucson Symphony. Other notable performances include concerts and recording of Paulus’ To Be Certain of the Dawn with the Minnesota Orchestra and Osma Vänskä, Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath at Carnegie Hall and Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men at the Houston Grand Opera.

Our second panelist is opera director Andrew Ryker of Ohio University.Meet the panel: Andrew Ryker, Ohio University

Andrew Ryker is the Director of Opera and Assistant Professor of Voice at Ohio University.  He is the former Artistic Director of Boston Opera Collaborative and he has served on the directing staffs at New England Conservatory, Opera New Jersey and Des Moines Metro Opera.  Ryker’s productions have been seen with the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Intermezzo Chamber Opera, Eastern Nazarene College, Boston Opera Collaborative, Millikin University, MetroWest Opera, Drake University and New England Conservatory.  Andrew was the 2006 recipient of the Goldovsky Directing Fellowship with the Harrower Opera Workshop in Atlanta and was a member of the Resident Artist Program at Opera North. Ryker has been featured in The Boston Globe, The EDGE and Classical Singer Magazine; his production of Benjamin Britten’s Curlew River was named Boston’s “Best Staged Opera of the Year” by the Boston Phoenix.

Ryker has been heard with the Boston Pops, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, La Musica Lirica, College Light Opera Company and the Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus. He was baritone soloist for Trinity Church Boston’s performances of Durufle’s Requiem and Bach’s Johannes Passion. Operatic roles include Papageno (The Magic Flute), Count Almaviva (Le Nozze di Figaro), Marco (Gianni Schicchi), Silvio (Pagliacci), Don Alfonso (Cosi fan tutte), John Brooke (Little Women), Strephon (Iolanthe), St. Brioche (The Merry Widow), Le Suritendent (Cendrillon) and Jenik in the US premiere of Dvorak’s Kral a Uhlir.  Andrew has sung in master classes with Pierre Vallet, Vinson Cole, Alan Held and Warren Jones and has been featured on the St. John’s Concert Series as well as various gala performances throughout the Marché region of Italy.

Ryker is also very active in musical theatre and has a diverse background as a performer, director and educator.  Recent highlights include the title role in Andrew Lippa’s I am Harvey Milk, Leo Frank in Jason Robert Brown’s Parade and a solo cabaret at Noce Jazz Club. He’s performed regionally in TitanicThe Scarlet Pimpernel42nd Street, Kismet, South Pacific, Brigadoon and On the 20th Century with Alice Ripley.  Andrew has staged productions of Cabaret, Into the Woods, West Side Story, Candide, Side by Side by Sondheim and Songs for a New World.  Music directing credits include Ragtime, The Wild Party, Jesus Christ Superstar, Spring Awakening, Fiorello, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Rock of Ages and 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  Andrew’s 2015 production of South Pacific won Best Musical at the Cloris Leachman Excellence in Theatre Arts Awards.

Andrew began work with Des Moines Metro Opera in 2010 and has staged touring productions of The Elixir of LoveCenerentola and The Barber of Seville as well as directing for their nationally recognized Apprentice Artist Program. Ryker previously taught at Drake University and New England Conservatory.  He’s an active adjudicator and clinician who has judged for the National Opera Association and he continues to serve as an advisor for the Entrepreneurial Musicianship Program at New England Conservatory.  Andrew’s students have been accepted into many of the premiere graduate and young artist programs in the US including Sarasota Opera, Cincinnati, Ash Lawn and Sante Fe Opera. An active participant in the National Association of Teachers of Singing, Ryker has had over 50 winners in regional and state NATS competitions as well as multiple award winners in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Ryker studied voice with Kathryn Hartgrove and William Cotten and is a graduate of Millikin University. He received his master’s degree in Vocal Performance from New England Conservatory where he was a student of John Moriarty and graduated with Academic Honors.

I cannot tell you how honored I am to have both of these fantastic artists/educators.

I am particularly thrilled about their interest in new music (Futral) and in crossover/musical theater (Ryker). I believe that, for classical music to continue to thrive, it must grow and encompass new art forms. The big tent, folks!

On Tuesday (or maybe before, if I can’t contain myself), I will introduce you to our Musical Theater panelists in Part 2 of this series, to be followed by Part 3, introducing the music students of tomorrow (or at least Fall 2021).

Stay tuned!

To reserve your spot for the June 30 panel discussion, What To Know and What I Wish I Had Known About College Auditions, register HERE.



Published by Mezzoid Voice Studio

Christine Thomas-O'Meally, a mezzo soprano and voice teacher currently based in the Baltimore-DC area, has performed everything from the motets of J.S. Bach to the melodies of Irving Berlin to the minimalism of Philip Glass. As an opera singer and actress, she has appeared with companies such as Charm City Players, Spotlighters Theatre, Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Theater of Northern Virginia, Opera North, the Washington Savoyards, In Tandem Theatre, Windfall Theater, The Young Victorian Theater of Baltimore, and Skylight Opera Theatre. She created the role of The Woman in Red in Dominick Argento’s Dream of Valentino in its world premiere with the Washington Opera and Mary Pickersgill in O'er the Ramparts at its world premiere during the Bicentennial of Battle of Baltimore at the Community College of Baltimore County. Other roles include Mrs. Paroo in Music Man, Mother Abbess in Sound of Music, Dorabella in Cosi Fan Tutte, Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, both Hansel and the Witch in Hansel & Gretel, and many roles in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Her performance as the Housekeeper in Man of La Mancha was honored with a WATCH award nomination. Ms. Thomas-O'Meally received an M.M. in vocal performance from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She regularly attends master classes and workshops in both performance and vocal pedagogy, and is certified in all three Levels of Somatic Voicework™ The LoVetri Method. Her students have performed on national and international tours of Broadway productions, at prestigious conservatories, and in regional theater throughout the country.

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