Meet the Cast
Mexican-American bass-baritone Richard Ollarsaba, known for his "meltingly smooth bass-baritone" voice, represented the USA at the 2019 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. He gained recognition during his three-season tenure at the prestigious Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago and as a grand finalist in the 2013 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
In the current season, Ollarsaba debuts at the Glimmerglass Festival, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and Portland Opera, where he plays Escamillo in Bizet's Carmen. He also debuts with Chicago Opera Theater in the world-premiere opera The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing and returns to Knoxville Opera as the Count in Le nozze di Figaro.
During the 2021/22 season, Ollarsaba made notable debuts with New Zealand Opera as the title role in Le nozze di Figaro, Opera Grand Rapids and Opera Carolina in the title role of Don Giovanni, and the Jacksonville Symphony in Puccini's La bohème. Previous credits include Don Giovanni in Hong Kong, Le nozze di Figaro with Minnesota Opera, and Escamillo in Carmen with Kentucky Opera, Minnesota Opera, North Carolina Opera, Tulsa Opera, Annapolis Opera, and the Barhabor Music Festival.
Beyond opera, Ollarsaba has been a featured soloist in numerous concerts, collaborating with orchestras like the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and performing works by composers like Mozart, Handel, Bach, Bernstein, Beethoven, and Verdi.
A native of Tempe, Arizona, Ollarsaba holds degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He has trained at various prestigious institutions, including Minnesota Opera, Music Academy of the West, and Aspen Music Festival, contributing to his multifaceted career in the world of opera and classical music.
Bass-baritone Matthew Burns is celebrated for his versatile musical and comedic talents. Opera News recently praised his "vocal and comedic flexibility" in the role of Leporello in Don Giovanni at Detroit Opera. In the previous season, he showcased his skills in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the Delaware Symphony, Sergeant of Police in The Pirates of Penzance with Nashville Opera, and Sulpice in La fille du régiment with Utah Opera. He also covered the role of Richard in The Hours at The Metropolitan Opera.
This season, Burns takes on Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro with Portland Opera, portrays Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor with Pensacola Opera, and revisits his cover role as Richard at The Metropolitan Opera.
Burns made a notable Seattle Opera debut as Sacristan in Tosca, earning praise for his "dignified bass-baritone" and providing comic relief. His repertoire spans from Don Pasquale at Inland Northwest Opera to Don Magnifico in La Cenerentola with Annapolis Opera.
Renowned for comedic roles, Burns excels as Leporello in Don Giovanni and has performed this character with various opera companies. He's also known for Doctor Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro.
A sought-after concert artist, Burns has graced stages across the country, with highlights including Händel's Messiah at Carnegie Hall and Mozart's Coronation Mass with the Atlanta Symphony. He is also a two-time recipient of the Richard F. Gold Career Grant for Singers.
Mezzo-soprano Emily Fons is a highly versatile artist, captivating audiences and earning acclaim for her musical interpretations spanning baroque to contemporary compositions. In the current season, she returns to the Canadian Opera Company as Cherubino in "Le Nozze di Figaro," graces the New Orleans Opera as Hansel in "Hansel and Gretel," and performs in the world premiere of Nicolas Reveles' "Ghosts" at the San Diego Opera.
Her previous season showcased a remarkable role debut as Ariodante at the Göttingen Handel Festival, followed by appearances as Medoro in a virtual rendition of Handel's "Orlando" with Haymarket Opera Company and her inaugural portrayal of Orfeo in "Orfeo ed Euridice" with Inland Northwest Opera. She reprised roles such as Orlofsky in "Die Fledermaus" in Japan, Cherubino in "Le Nozze di Figaro" at the Seattle Opera, and Rosina in "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" with the Santa Fe Opera.
Earlier in her career, Emily Fons debuted with the Nashville Opera as Angelina in "La Cenerentola" and returned to the San Diego Opera as Rosina in "Il Barbiere di Siviglia." Her notable appearances include those at the Atlanta Opera, Canadian Opera Company, and Seattle Opera.
Throughout her career, Ms. Fons has excelled in a wide range of roles and earned accolades, including a Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions semi-finalist designation and awards from various organizations. A native of Wisconsin, she holds a Master's Degree in Opera and Music Theatre from Southern Illinois University and is a graduate of the Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
American soprano Alexandra LoBianco, whom the Seattle Times exclaimed, “gave an impassioned performance” as the title role in Aida at Seattle Opera, is a highly versatile and acclaimed dramatic soprano known for her musicality and consistency. She recently made a notable debut at the Wiener Staatsoper as Leonore in "Fidelio" and covered the role of Brünnhilde during a Japan tour. In the 2021-2022 season, she will perform Brünnhilde in concert with Seattle Opera and debut as the title role in Tosca with Portland Opera. She also returns to North Carolina Opera for Leonore, sings the title role in Turandot with Maryland Lyric Opera, and sings the Overseer and Confidante in Elektra at the Metropolitan Opera.
In the past season, Ms. LoBianco appeared in filmed productions with Seattle Opera, portraying Santuzza in "Cavalleria Rusticana" and Tosca.
Her career highlights include roles like Chrysothemis and Helmwige at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Tosca at various opera companies, Aida at Opera Colorado, and Donna Anna at Seattle Opera. She has a diverse repertoire and has performed across Europe.
Alexandra LoBianco, a native of Saint Petersburg, Florida, is also dedicated to music education and serves as a board member for Sharing Notes, an organization enhancing the lives of hospital patients through live performances.
Sable Strout, a mezzo-soprano hailing from Maine where she made her professional debut with Opera Maine as Paggio in Rigoletto and recently performed as Flora in La Traviata with Inland Northwest Opera. During a residency with Opera Saratoga in the summer of 2022, she sang mezzo-soprano solos in Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle and covered the role of Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia.
In the 2021/22 season, Strout was an Emerging Artist at Opera Idaho, where she portrayed characters like Olga (The Merry Widow), Mercédès (Carmen), and Sister Lillianne (Dead Man Walking). Prior to her arrival in Idaho, Sable was an Apprentice Artist with the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program at Central City Opera, singing the roles of Sorceress (Dido and Aeneas), Giovanna (Rigoletto), and covering Nettie (Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel). In the spring of 2021, she made her company and role debut as Zerlina (Don Giovanni) with Wichita Grand Opera.
Sable originated the role of Josephine in Valenti & Luftig's Story of an Hour in the 2019 season with Gramercy Opera and joined Opera on the James as a Tyler Young Artist, showcasing her versatility as Ado Annie in Oklahoma! She also performed as part of the outreach program for the company, traveling throughout Virginia and making opera accessible to a new generation.
Upcoming engagements include: Cherubino in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro with Tri-cities Opera and Syracuse Opera, Stéphano in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette with Central City Opera, and Concert/Gala appearances with Opera Saratoga, Bare Opera, Central City Opera, and Opera Maine.
American dramatic tenor Robert Stahley is celebrated for his powerful tenor voice. In the 2022-2023 season, he will perform as Erik in Der fliegende Holländer at Utah Opera, Cavaradossi in Tosca with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Froh in Das Rheingold with The Dallas Opera, Siegmund in Jonathan Dove's reduction of Die Walküre at Opera Santa Barbara, and various roles with the LA Philharmonic and the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. He will also sing in Verdi's Requiem with the Bakersfield Symphony.
A graduate of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein young artist program at LA Opera, Stahley has portrayed roles such as Walther in Tannhäuser, Le Berger in Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, and Parpignol in Barrie Kosky’s La bohème. In the 2021-2022 season, he performed Jupiter in Semele with Opera Santa Barbara, and Narraboth in Salome at Bard Festival.
Stahley's festival appearances include performing in John Corigliano’s The Lord of Cries at the Santa Fe Opera and collaborating with soprano Angel Blue. His past engagements feature the title role in The Tales of Hoffmann with Arbor Opera Theater, tenor soloist in Verdi’s Requiem with the Quad-City Symphony, and more.
He has also excelled on the concert stage, making his Indianapolis Symphony debut and performing as a tenor soloist in various works, including Schubert’s Mass in A-flat and scenes from operas.
Stahley's achievements include winning first prize in the 2019 Wagner Society of New York Competition and earning recognition in other vocal competitions. He completed his Artist Diploma and Masters at the College Conservatory of Music and has worked with esteemed opera companies across the United States.
Ashraf Sewailam, a celebrated bass-baritone, has earned acclaim for his versatile and commanding voice. The New York Times praised his Lincoln Center debut as a "standout performance," and Opera News hailed his voice as "purring and velvety" with a majestic tone.
Last season, Sewailam made his Metropolitan Opera debut in "The Magic Flute" and joined their production of "Ariadne auf Naxos." He performed with Seattle Opera, Tulsa Opera, and Washington Concert Opera, among others. As a director, he led Opera Louisiane’s production of "Lucrezia" and made concert appearances with the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra.
In the current season, he is set to perform Bartolo in "Il barbiere di Siviglia" with New Orleans Opera, Mustafa in "L’italiana in Algeri" with Tulsa Opera, Hakim/Driver in "A Thousand Splendid Suns" with Seattle Opera, and Ferrando in "Il trovatore" with Pittsburgh Opera. He will also feature in "Ghosts" at San Diego Opera and make his directorial debut with "Otello" at Central City Opera. In concert, he will perform Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the South Dakota Symphony.
Sewailam's extensive career includes roles with major opera companies across the United States and a repertoire spanning from Mozart to Verdi. He has also excelled in concert performances, including Mahler's Symphony No. 8 and Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.
Ashraf Sewailam began his career with the Cairo Opera Company and later achieved recognition on the international stage. He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Jadrian Tarver, baritone, has maintained an active roster as an educator, conductor, clinician, composer, and recitalist. He has performed in various roles with Atlanta Opera, Peach State Opera, Capitol City Opera Company, Michigan State University Opera, Inland Northwest Opera Company, and Opera Grand Rapids.
As an educator, he has taught middle and high school choral and band ensembles in Metro Atlanta and Florida. In the fall of 2021, he joined the Gonzaga community as a Lecture-AT, Teaching Fellow Music. He is one of the first teaching fellows to convert successfully into tenure track position. Currently an Assistant Professor of Applied Voice at Gonzaga University. There, he teaches a First Year Seminar focusing on Music and Social Justice, applied voice, and Chamber Singers. He has served as vocal instructor for the Young Artists Vocal Program at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute.
In addition to performing and teaching, he advocates for musicians of color. He curated the Sankofa Recital Series, a vocal artist collaborative that brings awareness to the music of African diasporic composers. While a doctoral candidate a Michigan State University, he was appointed project manager of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) for the Wharton Center for the Performing Arts and the College of Music. In this joint position as a student leader and project manager, he developed relationships across campus, cultivated programming, and activities essential to Michigan State University’s community while advancing progress in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
Dr. Tarver holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education from Bethune-Cookman University, a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Georgia State University, and a Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance from Michigan State University.
Dean Williamson is widely known throughout the United States for his perceptive and commanding conducting. His ambitious and versatile career in standard and contemporary repertoire earns the conductor worldwide acclaim. The Washington Post says “a brilliantly directed, beautifully sung and endlessly funny Barber of Seville…the orchestra, which played the sparkling overture and the vivid storm music with grace and color under the expert baton of Dean Williamson.” The Seattle Times says, “Williamson keeps a sure, steady hand on the singers and the orchestra...realizing the shimmering and otherworldly textures of the score.” After Maestro Williamson conducted Inland Northwest Opera’s Madame Butterfly in 2019, he made his Atlanta Opera debut with La Cenerentola, which he also conducted for Nashville Opera’s return after the pandemic with a new production in the Ascend Arena. Upcoming in 2022 at Nashville he will conduct new productions of a world premiere, Rigoletto, and Das Rheingold for the inaugural season of the new world-class concert hall at Belmont University.
Recently, Mo. Williamson conducted Nashville Opera’s productions of La Traviata and JakeHeggie’s Three Decembers. Additionally, he conducted Le nozze di Figaro with Arizona Opera, Philip Glass’ Hydrogen Jukebox at Washington University and The Rake’s Progress at Northwestern University. Other engagements include Nashville Opera’s productions of Tosca, Maria de Buenos Aires, and Susannah and Opera Idaho’s Madame Butterfly. Additionally, Mo. Williamson conducted Don Pasquale for Intermountain Opera Bozeman and Faure’s Penelope for Vespertine Opera Theater.
After Mo. Williamson’s Lincoln Center début, The New York Times raved “Dean Williamson drew colorful, shimmering playing from the City Opera orchestra.” Dean Williamson was honored witha nomination for the 2015 Emmy Awards for the televised broadcast of the production of Le comte Ory that he conducted for Des Moines Metro Opera.