Jury

Learn more about the members of the Opera For All Voices Jury below:


dr. KIP CRANNA - Jurist, MOderator & consortium dramaturg

Dr. Clifford (Kip) Cranna, Dramaturg at San Francisco Opera, has served on the staff since 1979 and was Director of Music Administration for over thirty years. He has coordinated the commissioning or co-commissioning of more than 20 operas. In 2008 he was awarded the San Francisco Opera Medal, the company’s highest honor, and in 2012 he received the Bernard Osher Cultural Award for distinguished efforts to bring excellence to a cultural institution. In 2014 he received the Star of Excellence Award for outstanding service to the programs of the San Francisco Opera Guild.  

He holds a B.A. in music from the University of North Dakota and a Ph.D. in musicology from Stanford University. For thirty years he was Program Editor and Lecturer for the Carmel Bach Festival. He lectures and writes frequently on music, teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory and the Fromm Institute at USF, and moderates the SF Opera Guild's Insight Panel Discussions. He was Dramaturg for the 2016 production of Wagner’s “Ring” at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. (photo credit: Carlin Ma)


Octavio Cardenas

Stage director Octavio Cardenas has been captivating audiences with his visionary, visceral, and physical style of directing. Recent productions include La Boheme with Minnesota Opera and H.M.S Pinafore with Baylor Opera. Upcoming productions include Maria de Buenos Aires for Des Moines Metro Opera, and the world premiere of Bless me Ultima with Opera Southwest.

Octavio’s recent directing credits with Silent Night for Fort Worth Opera and Kansas City Lyric Opera were described as “a breathtaking realization” with “many brilliant touches.” The Kansas City Star called the Lyric’s production “one of its finest performances in recent memory.” Other recent productions include Galileo Galilei for Des Moines Metro Opera, Carmen for Opera Santa Barbara and Florencia en el Amazonas with the Tulsa Opera Young Artist Program.

As Director of Opera for Baylor University, Octavio has directed productions of L’elisir d’amoreThe Turn of the ScrewDialogues des Carmélites, and La finta giardiniera. He currently serves as the head of the directing staff at Des Moines Metro Opera and has also been in the directing staff at Chautauqua Opera.


Martha Collins

Stage Director Martha Collins has been praised by reviewers for her 'world-class, magical staging', 'mastery of zany, comic fun' and 'her direction of insightful character portrayals' and ‘quality’ productions.

Ms. Collins recently directed Dialogues des Carmélites at Sarasota Opera, where she previously has directed productions of Tosca, Carmen, Madama Butterfly, La Traviata, and L’Elisir d’Amore. For Sarasota Youth Opera, Miss Collins directed the world premiere of Daron Hagen and Sandy McClatchy’s Little Nemo in Slumberland, the U.S. premieres of Dean Burry’s The Hobbit and The Secret World of Og, Britten’s The Little Sweep for which she also wrote the new Prologue of “Let’s Put on an Opera”, and Krása’s Brundibár for which she also wrote an original prologue in collaboration with Youth Opera music director Jesse Martins.

Martha has taught acting at New York University, Swarthmore College, Ryder University, Manitoba University, the Florence Voice Seminar in Italy, and she maintains a private studio for vocal and dramatic coaching in New York City. As a singer, she performed extensively throughout her native Canada both as a concert and operatic performer, and has been heard on CBC's Arts National Radio in numerous recitals and orchestral concerts.


Peter Kazaras

Stage Director Peter Kazaras currently serves as Director of Opera UCLA.  Previously, he was the Artistic Director of the Seattle Opera Young Artist Program. Earlier in his career, he received worldwide acclaim as an operatic tenor, performing at the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro all Scala, Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, and Houston Grand Opera among many others.

Mr. Kazaras has directed over twenty productions for Seattle Opera’s main stage and Young Artist Program, as well as for Washington National Opera, Los Angeles Opera, The Dallas Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, Eos Orchestra, Red: {an Orchestra}, The Juilliard School, Merola at San Francisco Opera Center, Wolf Trap, and the Cabrillo and Caramoor Festivals. 

In high demand as a judge for international competitions, Mr. Kazaras has participated in two outings of Seattle Opera's International Wagner Competition, the Elardo International Competition in New York, Marilyn Horne’s competition at Music Academy of the West, Les Azuriales Festival, and for District and Regional Auditions of the Metropolitan Opera National Council. He is a member of the Glimmerglass Festival Artistic Advisory Board as well as the New York Festival of Song Advisory Board


Dr. Dale Kruse

Dr. Dale Kruse, tenor, resides in Hopkins, MN and holds degrees from Luther College (B.A.), Drake University (M.M.) the University of Minnesota (D.M.A.). 

Prior to joining the voice faculty at St. Olaf College, he conducted the Augsburg College Cedar Singers Men’s Choir, taught choral music at Armstrong High School and Wayzata High School and served on the voice faculty of Gustavus Adolphus College. He was Music Director for the Minnesota Opera’s “Project Opera” program, Summer Camp and the Children’s Chorus Master. During his tenure he participated in the commissions of The Giver by Susan Kander and Memory Boy by Rienaldo Moya.

He is currently serving as Past-President/Membership Chair of the Minnesota NATS Chapter.  A frequent performer in the Twin Cities, he has sung with the Minnesota Opera, Minnesota Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Prairie Home Companion, Berkshire Opera, Oregon Bach Festival, and Lyra Concert Baroque Orchestra. (photo credit: Sigrid Redpath)


Carolyn Kuan

Recognized as a conductor of extraordinary versatility, Carolyn Kuan’s commitment to contemporary music has defined her approach to programming, and established her as an international resource for new music and world premieres. Appointed Music Director of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra in 2011, she has recently signed a new six-year contract extending through May, 2022.

Carolyn Kuan’s engagements have included performances with the symphonies of Baltimore, Bournemouth, Detroit, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Seattle, Taiwan, Toronto and West Australia; Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Resident Orkest; the New York City Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet; the Colorado Music Festival and Glimmerglass Festival; the New York City Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Santa Fe Opera, and Washington National Opera.

Recipient of numerous awards, Ms. Kuan holds the distinction of being the first woman to be awarded the Herbert von Karajan Conducting Fellowship by the Herbert von Karajan Centrum and American Austrian Foundation in 2003, resulting in her residency at the 2004 Salzburg Festival. Ms. Kuan graduated cum laude from Smith College, received a Master of Music degree from the University of Illinois, and a Performance Diploma from the Peabody Conservatory. (photo credit: Steven Laschever)


DR. Everett McCorvey

Dr. Everett McCorvey, a native of Montgomery, Alabama, has performed as a tenor at the Metropolitan Opera, the Kennedy Center, Aspen Music Festival, Radio City Music Hall, Birmingham Opera Theater, Teatro Comunale in Florence, Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, as well as performances throughout Asia, Europe and South America. He holds degrees from the University of Alabama, including a Doctorate of Musical Arts. 

He is the founder and Music Director of the American Spiritual Ensemble, a group of 24 professional singers performing spirituals and other compositions of African-American composers. The mission of The American Spiritual Ensemble is to keep the American Negro Spiritual, the folk songs of American Negro salves and the foundation of American music, alive. 

Dr. McCorvey is currently the Director and Endowed Chair of Opera at the University of Kentucky and the Artistic Director and Conductor of the National Chorale, New York. Most recently he was awarded the Kentucky Star of Literary Arts.


Deborah Nansteel

Recognized for her formidable display of vocal power and dramatic assurance, mezzo-soprano Deborah Nansteel recently completed the Washington National Opera Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, where she performed Tisbe in La Cenerentola, Third Lady in Die Zauberflöte, as well as The Cat in Tony Award winning composer Jeanine Tesori’s The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me. 

In the 16-17 sesason, Ms. Nansteel has and will perform the roles of Flosshilde in Das Rheingold with North Carolina Opera, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly with Arizona Opera, La Duegne in Cyrano with Michigan Opera Theatre, Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking with Opera on the Avalon and return to Washington National Opera as Marquise of Birkenfield in La fille du régiment and for their production of Champion. She will also take part in Mainly Mozart Festival’s production of Jake Heggie’s The Work at Hand and will sing a solo in Mozart’s Coronation Mass at Carnegie Hall.

Ms. Nansteel is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) where she earned an Artist Diploma in Opera and a Master of Music in Voice. 


James Robinson

American stage director James Robinson is Artistic Director at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, where he has mounted productions including Jack Perla’s Shalimar the Clown, Terence Blanchard’s Champion, Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland, Peter Ash’s The Golden Ticket, John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, and John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer and Nixon in China. 

Elsewhere, Mr. Robinson has directed new productions of Lucia di Lammermoor, Giulio Cesare and Abduction from the Seraglio for Houston Grand Opera, Norma, Il Trittico and L’Elisir d’amore for the San Francisco Opera, Norma, Elektra and Nixon in China for the Canadian Opera Company and numerous productions for The Santa Fe Opera and New York City Opera. His work has also been seen at Australian Opera, the Washington National Opera, the Los Angeles Opera, the Seattle Opera, the Royal Swedish Opera, the Dallas Opera, the Minnesota Opera and Chicago Opera Theater. Additionally, he has created productions of Bernstein’s Mass and Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher for the London Symphony Orchestra, Amadeus at the Hollywood Bowl, and other productions for Carnegie Hall and the Minnesota Orchestra.


Valérie Sainte-Agathe

Valérie Sainte-Agathe has prepared and conducted the San Francisco Girls Chorus since 2013—including performances with renowned artists such as Jon Nakamatsu, Deborah Voigt, Frederica von Stade, Gustavo Dudamel, The New Century Chamber Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, Philip Glass, and Aaron J. Kernis.

A native of Martinique, Ms. Sainte-Agathe received her Bachelor of Music degree in Choral Conducting from Universite Paul Valery in Montpellier, and her Diplome d’Etudes Musicales in Piano, Chamber Music and Theory from the Montpellier Conservatory. She holds a Master’s Degree in Management from the University of Montpellier, and has also studied Piano Performance at Colorado State University.

She participated in numerous productions of the Opéra National de Montpellier and Opera Junior, first as a vocal coach, then as a choirmaster. In 2000, she was appointed as Artistic Coordinator and Music Director, where she trained young singers between 6 and 25 years old and prepared choirs for the Orchestre National de Montpellier, the Radio France Festival and the Festival Presence in Paris.

In 2012, she received her Master’s degree in Cultural Project Management from the Paul Valéry University and led the university choir Ecume. (photo credit: Joseph Fanvu)


Gene Scheer

Gene Scheer’s work is noted for its scope and versatility. With composer Jake Heggie, he has collaborated on the critically acclaimed 2010 Dallas Opera world premiere, Moby-Dick, Three Decembers, the lyric drama To Hell and Back and Camille Claudel: Into the fire, a song cycle and an operatic adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life in December 2016 for the Houston Grand Opera.

Mr. Scheer worked as librettist with Tobias Picker on An American Tragedy, which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 2005. Other collaborations include the lyrics for Wynton Marsalis’s It Never Goes Away, featured in Mr. Marsalis’s work Congo Square and the oratorio August 4, 1964, for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra with composer Steven Stucky. The work was nominated for a Grammy in 2012 for best classical composition. In 2015, Mr. Scheer collaborated with Joby Talbot on the opera Everest, based on the doomed 1996 Everest expedition and 1ith Jennifer Higdon on an operatic adaptation of Cold Mountain, which premiered in the summer of 2015 at The Santa Fe Opera. This work won the International Opera award, presented in London, for the best World premiere in 2015 and was nominated for a Grammy for best classical composition.


Bright Sheng

Bright Sheng is respected as one of the leading composers of our time, whose stage, orchestral, chamber and vocal works are performed regularly by performing arts institutions throughout North America, Europe and Asia. 

Mr. Sheng’s music is evident with a strong Asian influence. However, it is the synthesis with Western musical tradition that makes his work truly distinctive and original, an outcome from his profound understanding of both cultures, as Sheng admits: “I consider myself both 100% American and 100% Asian.”

In addition to composing, Sheng enjoys an active career as a conductor and concert pianist, and frequently acts as music advisor and artistic director to orchestras and festivals. He is currently the Leonard Bernstein Distinguished University Professor at University of Michigan, and the Y. K. Pao Distinguished Visiting Professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology where, in 2011, he founded and has been serving as the Artistic Director of The Intimacy of Creativity—The Bright Sheng Partnership: Composers Meet Performers in Hong Kong.

He was born in Shanghai in 1955, and moved to New York in l982 where he pursued his graduate works and studied composition and conducting privately with his mentor Leonard Bernstein. (photo credit: Peter Shin)


Louise Toppin

Louise Toppin, has received critical acclaim for her operatic, orchestral, and oratorio performances throughout the United States, Central America, Europe, Uruguay, China, New Zealand, and Japan.               

Performances in the 2015 – 16 season included the 150th celebration of the ratification of the 13th amendment for Congress and President Obama at the U.S. Capitol, a performance in Havana, Cuba for the new U.S. Ambassador’s residence and with the women’s orchestra, Chatauqua Institute and the opening of the Smithsonian’s African American Heritage Museum.

Since 2010, she has been on the summer faculties of The Baltimore Summer Opera Workshop, The Vocal Course for The National Conservatory, The Amalfi Coast Music Festival and the Accra Symphony Operatic Course. She serves on several boards including the North Carolina Arts Council, the National Association of Negro Musicians and she is the Director of the non-profit organization Videmus and administers the George Shirley African American Art Song and Opera Aria Competition.

She is currently the Kappa Kappa Gamma Distinguished University Professor of Music and Chair of the Department of Music at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and in September of 2017, she will join the faculty of The University of Michigan.