It goes without saying that the beginning of any career is full of uncertainties and daunting obstacles. For young opera singers, though, the keys to success are even more tantalizingly elusive, magnified by the stratospheric level of natural vocal talent needed to even be considered. However, for one alumnus of the University of Tennessee School of Music and the UT Opera Theatre, the dream of singing major roles on opera stages of the world is one step closer.
Soprano Alexandria Shiner, who received her Master of Music degree from UT in 2016, has been selected for the roster of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program at Washington National Opera (WNO). Hailing originally from Waterford, Michigan, Shiner joins twelve other singers in this year’s 16th season of the program, founded by Plácido Domingo to guide young singers on the verge of international careers. The immersive program pairs the singers with renowned vocal and drama coaches for work that covers the gamut of voice lessons, language classes, career guidance, and master classes with Washington National Opera staff and guest artists.
While at UT, Shiner’s UTOT performances included the roles of Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Magda Sorel in The Consul, and the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. In my review of Die Zauberflöte (April, 2015), I wrote:
“[Shiner], aided by spiky headdresses and a sumptuous atmosphere of stars, had perfected the required contrast between the Queen’s disingenuous lament in her Act I aria and the raw vengeance of her Act II appearance. [Her] portrayal went a step further, though, with a gorgeous coloratura, amazing depth and power, and a stunningly vivid dramatic portrayal.” For that performance, she made the list as one of Knoxville’s Most Memorable Operatic Performances of 2015 in the Knoxville Mercury.
More recently as a sign that her talent was being recognized, Shiner received an Encouragement Award in the 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions for the Middle/East Tennessee District.
One of the compelling features of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists program is the opportunity for the singers to perform at the Kennedy Center as well as at various community concerts, recitals, and events throughout the Washington, D.C. area and beyond. This season, the group will perform in a series of three public master classes at the Kennedy Center: with Artist-in-Residence Peter Kazaras, with WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello, and with Artist-in-Residence Eric Owens. As a part of this season, the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists will sing in special performances of Handel’s Alcina and Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.
For the WNO special performance of Alcina on Saturday, November 18, 2017, Shiner has been cast in the title role. She will sing the role of Berta in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville on Thursday, May 17, 2018.
ABOUT WASHINGTON NATIONAL OPERA
“Washington National Opera (WNO) is one of the leading opera companies in the United States. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Francesca Zambello, the company presents a diverse season of grand opera—including both classics from the repertory and more contemporary pieces—plus several newly commissioned American works and a variety of special concerts and events. The WNO Orchestra is led by Music Director Philippe Auguin. Founded in 1956 and an affiliate of the Kennedy Center since 2011, WNO has a storied legacy of world premieres, new productions, international tours, live recordings and radio broadcasts, and innovative education and community-engagement programs. Throughout its history, WNO has been led by titans in the opera field, including the legendary Plácido Domingo, who headed the company from 1996 to 2011.”