Header image: ©Dave Jones, Empire West Photo

In 2018, Finger Lakes Opera (FLO) established its Young Artist Program to feature up-and-coming musicians around the Finger Lakes region and beyond. In its first two seasons, the Young Artists performed in a scenes program and as chorus members for FLO's main-stage productions. Following the 2019 season, a local benefactor provided seed funding to facilitate the expansion of FLO’s Young Artist Program.

Today, FLO’s Young Artist Program has flourished into one of the company's greatest strengths with applications for the 4-week summer session increasing annually, representing an increase of nearly 543% from 2019. Young Artists now receive weekly stipends, travel allowances, and housing, as well as performance opportunities beyond the summer session.

This expansion has provided the catalyst to bring more opera to more people through community engagement events (recitals at nursing homes, collaborative events with other community groups, etc.) and an in-school presence. As the program continues to grow, FLO is proud to be a launching point for these amazing musicians' careers.

Read below to learn about FLO's 2024 Young Artists!

Black Mexican-American soprano, Kristen Marie Gillis, opened her 23/24 season by making her professional debut with Central City Opera as a Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Studio Artist and joined Opera Ithaca’s Apprentice Artist Program in the Fall, performing in Rusalka as the First Wood-sprite and Turnspit. Notable credits include Eliza (Dark Sisters), Countess Almaviva (Le Nozze di Figaro), Second Lady (Die Zauberflöte), and the title role of Suor Angelica. As an avid competitor, Ms. Gillis has received prizes from the Career Bridges Grant Awards, the Mario Lanza Scholarship Competition, and The Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition. Kristen is a Texas native and proud first-generation college graduate, holding degrees from Temple University and Abilene Christian University.

Kira Kaplan, soprano, hailed for her “youthful allure and charming tone” and “vocal power”, is a Global Talent Young Artist with the National Opera Studio of the United Kingdom working closely with opera companies across the UK. She has been the top grant recipient and winner of the prestigious Career Bridges Grant Competition, as well as three time Regional Finalist and District Winner of The Metropolitan Opera Laffont Council Auditions and First Place Winner of the Artist Division in the 2022 Camille Coloratura Competition. Her roles have included Violetta Valery (La Traviata), Alcina (Alcina), Emily Webb (Our Town), Fiordiligi (Cosi fan tutte), and Diana (If I Were You). Kira has worked with Brevard Music Center (Janiec Young Artist), and Ohio Light Opera. In Spring 2022 she made her Symphony Hall debut as the soprano soloist in the Brahms Requiem and Carmina Burana with the Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra.

Chicago-based mezzo-soprano Hailey Cohen joined Madison Opera as a Studio Artist for the 2023/2024 season, where she sang the roles of Dorthée in Anonymous Lover and Paquette and Old Lady (cover) in Candide. In 2023 Hailey joined Cedar Rapids Opera as a Smith Resident Artist, where she performed the roles of Hattie in American Gothical and Logan (cover) in Charlie and the Wolf. Additional role highlights throughout her career include K. in Would You Eat Me?, Sally in The Boy Who Wanted to be a Robot, Ember and Asintmah (cover) in Future Perfect, Hänsel in Hänsel und Gretel, Orfeo in Orfeo ed Euridice, and Littler Daughter in Proving Up. Hailey graduated from University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance with her masters degree in 2021.

Revered by critics for his “strong clear tenor voice”, Nathan Schafer “sings with clarity and

warmth.” (KDHX). This season Mr. Schafer sang Rodolfo in La Bohème and Fernando in Cosi fan tutte at Shreveport Opera. Previously Mr. Schafer was a soloist for the 75th Anniversary Concert with the Shreveport Symphony. Last season, Mr. Schafer sang Alfredo in Verdi’s La traviata and also made his professional debut at Winter Opera of St. Louis as Ruggero in Puccini’s La rondine. Mr. Schafer has performed with prominent opera houses such as The Dallas Opera, Central City Opera, Tulsa Opera, and Fort Worth Opera. Mr. Schafer’s other roles include Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly), Luigi (Il tabaro), Alfred (Die Fledermaus), Pirelli (Sweeny Todd), Hooker (Emmeline), and Beppe (Pagliacci).

Ethiopian-American baritone and Kansas City, MO native, Yonathan T. Astatke, is a rising interpreter of operatic and musical theater repertoire. Last summer he was a Festival Artist at Opera Saratoga. Yonathan has experienced success in his career at a number of voice competitions across America. At The Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition, he was an Arkansas District winner in 2024, and went on to take Second Prize at the Midwest Regional Competition. He also won an Encouragement Award from the Nebraska District of the competition in 2023. Some of his roles include Papageno (Die Zauberflöte), Billy Bigelow (Carousel), Ford (Falstaff), Count Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), and Demitrius (Midsummer Night’s Dream). Yonathan studied at University of Missouri, Columbia for his undergraduate and is currently pursuing a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from Louisiana State University.



Meet jose - watch his introduction video!

Bass-Baritone Jose Olivares is a recent M.M graduate of the University of Oklahoma, he also holds an undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University - Commerce in Music Education. He has been a young artist at the Seagle Festival and Des Moines Metro Opera, and seen as a soloist with The Norman Symphony. A few notable roles include: Simone (Gianna Schicchi), Dulcamara (The Elixir of Love), Coline (La Boheme), Uberto (La serva padrona), Germano (La scala di seta), Olin Blitch (Susannah) and Farfarllo (The Love for Three Oranges). In his current tenure as a resident artist at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Mr. Olivares will be covering Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana and Frere Laurent in Romeo et Juliette, as well as perform the role of Duke in Romeo et Juliette.

Cris Frisco



Cris Frisco is a collaborative musician equally at home in the worlds of classical and  popular music. He is Director of Music and Director of the Handorf Company Artist  Program at Opera Memphis. This season, he conducts Little Women at Opera  Fayetteville, La Bohème at Opera Birmingham, and Pagliacci and a double bill of  Donizetti’s Pigmalione and Paterson’s The Companion at Opera Memphis; and is the  music director for the McCarter Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol. He also  partners singers in recital in Los Angeles, New York, and Indiana. He is the music director for Anatomiae Occultii’s contemporary dance  production of Sweeney Todd, currently in  development.  A committed educator for the next generation of artists, he has served on the faculty of Westminster Choir College, Rutgers University, City  University of New York, the Castleton Festival, the Mostly Modern Festival, and  Westminster’s CoOPERAtive. He is the founder and artistic director of The New Voice  Project and is Music Director of Opera Fayetteville.



Brazilian pianist Érico Freire Bezerra is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Piano Accompanying and Chamber Music at the Eastman School of Music, under the guidance of Dr. Andrew Harley. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Rio Grande do Sul Federal University (UFRGS) in Brazil and his Master’s degree from Illinois State University. Since the beginning of his DMA, Érico participated in many music festivals, including the 2022 Toronto Summer Music Festival, and Music on Site.Inc (MOSI) 2022 where he served as Music Director in the opera Suor Angelica. Last summer, he attended the 2023 Aspen Music Festival and School as a fellow in the Vocal Collaboration program. Since 2015, he has served as a staff collaborative pianist at UFRGS in Porto Alegre/Brazil. Érico is a recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship and currently holds Graduate Assistantships in Studio Accompanying and Orchestral Keyboard at Eastman.



Dane Noble-Rosema is thrilled to be part of Finger Lakes Opera Summer Season collaborating with the young artists again. A native of South Africa, Dane moved to Rochester in 2004 after studying at Berklee College of Music on their main campus in Boston, MA. Now a naturalized citizen of the United States, he currently holds an adjunct collaborative pianist position at RIT, is Director of Music at St. Timothy Lutheran in Geneseo, and concertizes regularly at senior living facilities, small concert venues, and onboard cruise ships. He is also a section leader for Rochester’s very own First Inversion Choir, and collaborates with artists who travel to Rochester for recitals. Dane’s background in music has a strong focus both in musical theatre and traditional repertoire, and he is an avid composer currently continuing his education in composition of music for Film, Games and TV through Berklee.  



Anna Donnelly, soprano

Goitsemang Lehobye, soprano

Ellen Robertson, soprano

Kaswanna Kanyinda, mezzo-soprano

Alexandra Sanchez, mezzo-soprano

Conor Brereton, tenor

Michael Celentano, tenor

Pedro Valdez, tenor

Steven M. Warnock, baritone

Casey Germain, bass


Danielle Beckvermit, soprano

Kayla Oderah, soprano

Erika Vasallo, mezzo-soprano

Robert Hartfield, tenor

Geoffrey Schmelzer, baritone

Jeremy Harr, bass

Jenny Choo Kirby, piano


Veena Akama-Makia, mezzo-soprano

Danielle Beckvermit, soprano

Nathaniel Catasca, tenor

Jongwon Choi, baritone

Imara Miles, mezzo-soprano

John Allen Nelson, baritone

Robert H. Riordan, baritone

David Soto Zambrana, tenor

Robin Steiz, soprano

Natasha Talukdar Elam, piano

Edward Forstman, piano


Sydney Anderson, soprano

Matthew Campisi, tenor

Nathaniel Catasca, tenor

Jongwon Choi, baritone

Nicholas Danker, baritone

Stephanie Doche, mezzo-soprano

Robert H. Riordan, baritone

David Soto Zambrana, tenor

Robin Steiz, soprano

Victoria Thomasch, mezzo-soprano

Brock Tjosvold, piano


Rachel Abrams, mezzo-soprano

David Fournie, baritone

Julianna Grabowski, soprano

Rose Kearin, soprano

Anders Namestnik, tenor

Starletta Noll-Long, soprano

Evan Stenzel, tenor


Jordan Bachmann, baritone

Caryn Crozier, soprano

Caroline Nielson, mezzo-soprano

Susannah Thornton, mezzo-soprano

Evan Stenzel, tenor

Alison Wahl, soprano