The Cast of
Oh! 2016 - 2017 Season
Rodolfo | Dane Suarez
Dane Suarez is quickly establishing himself as a “warm and robust tenore spinto” with “pure earth-shaking lyricism.” He sang on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House as a 2014 National Semi-Finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and this past season, made his Kennedy Center debut with Washington National Opera as Ely Parker in Glass’ Appomattox. Two exciting company and role debuts for Dane included his “beautiful, soaring, and moving” performance as Cavaradossi (Tosca) with LoftOpera that “brought down the house” and Rodolfo (La bohème) at Crested Butte Music Festival. Upcoming engagements include performances with Sarasota Opera (studio artist covering Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly and singing Flaminio in Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre re) and recitals with Annapolis Opera and Midland Opera Theatre in Texas.
Marcello | Blas Canedo-Gonzalez
Blas Canedo-Gonzalez is considered “one of the most promising young talents of his generation,” according to the national Colombian television program “Vivamos la Opera.” Blas was recently hailed “an audience favorite, with a strong baritone performance,” by the North Channel Star; and he was noted for his “memorable connection with the audience with his performance of the Barber of Seville,” by the Fort Bend Star during his performance at the Houston Symphony’s Summer Community Concert series.
Blas won the “Pavel Lisitsian” award at the Lois Alba Competition and is an alumnus of the Moores Opera Center at the University of Houston where he performed leading baritone roles. His future artístic engagements include the title role in Verdi’s Rigoletto with Opera Verismo in San Francisco, and Dr. Rappaccini in Catán’s Rappaccini's Daughter with Alamo City Opera.
Mimi | Amanda Kingston-Beetle
A native of Madison, Wisconsin, Amanda made her professional debut as Josephine in HMS Pinafore with Nevada Opera. Other operatic roles include Mimi in La bohème, Gilda in Rigoletto, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Violetta in La Traviata, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Corinna in Rossini's Il Viaggio a Reims, Hannah in The Merry Widow, and Despina in Così fan tutte. She has performed roles with Opera Columbus, Lakes Area Music Festival, Opera in the Heights, The Ohio Light Opera, Brevard Music Center, and Lone Star Lyric Theater. Amanda holds Degrees in Voice from the University of Houston and The University of Michigan.
Musetta | Natalie Polito
Praised for her “note perfect and thrilling” (Times Union) performances as the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute at Opera Saratoga, rising star soprano Natalie Polito is enjoying a busy career on the country’s finest opera and concert stages. Ms. Polito’s recent performance highlights include her highly acclaimed Opera Columbus debut as Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro as well as performances of Countess Almaviva with the State Repertory Opera of New Jersey, Violetta in La Traviata at both Opera Providence and First Coast Opera in St. Augustine, FL, Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute under the baton of Martin Katz with the Master Players Concert Series of Delaware as well as Queen of the Night with both Opera Saratoga and the Erie Chamber Orchestra, a concert of Mozart opera favorites with the Colorado Symphony, her New York and LoftOpera debut as Alice in Le Comte Ory, First Lady in The Magic Flute and Gretel in Hansel and Gretel with Virginia Opera, and Musetta in La Bohème at the Green Mountain Opera Festival. Ms. Polito made her international debut in concert at the National Academy of Music in Hanoi, Vietnam. She has been heard in past performances with the Santa Fe Opera, Sarasota Opera, Cape Cod Opera, Opera New Jersey, Santa Fe Symphony, Stamford Symphony, Lake Placid Sinfonietta, and the Berklee Performance Center. She is the 2015 winner of the Mario Lanza and Elaine Malbin Vocal Competition, and the recipient of the Santa Fe Opera’s Lillian Caroff Mayer Award. Ms. Polito holds an M.M. in Vocal Performance from The Boston Conservatory and a B.M. in Vocal Performance with Honors from Northwestern University. A Chicago native, she currently resides in New York City. For more information, please visit: www.nataliepolito.com
Schaunard | Thom Gunther
Having completed his coursework for his doctorate at the University of Kentucky in addition to his Artist Diploma at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music he is quickly making his presence felt on the operatic scene both nationally and internationally. Recently he was Opera in the Heights’ Dandini in La Cenerentola. Most recent performances have included Silvio in I Pagliacci, Masetto in Don Giovanni and Mercutio in Romeo et Juliet. He has been the title role in Steven Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, Schaunard in La Bohéme with the Dominican Republic National Symphony, and performed in San Francisco’s Merola Opera Program’s production of composer André Previn's: A Streetcar Named Desire in the iconic role of Stanley Kowalski. Among other roles performed include Javert in Les Misérables, Don Giovanni in Don Giovanni, Marcello in La Bohéme, Billy Bigalow in Carousel, The Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro and Silvio in I Pagliacci. Mr. Gunther has advanced to the second round four different times within the Metropolian Opera Competition twice in the Upper Midwest and twice Mid-South Regions respectively. He was also a finalist in the Chicago Lyric Opera’s Ryan Opera Center Competition.
Colline | Benjamin LeClair
Singer Benjamin LeClair is a giant in life and in the world of music. At 6 ft. 8 inches tall, he has towered over his colleagues on stages across the US, Holland, and in Germany where he has given over 150 performances as lead bass soloist at the Oldenburg State Theater. Notable during this engagement were role debuts as King Mark in Tristan und Isolde, Friar Laurence in Berlioz’s Romeo et Juliette, and Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte. Further performances in Oldenburg included roles from his repertoire in La Bohème, The Barber of Seville, Così fan tutte, Eugene Onegin, and the solo turns in Mahler’s 8th Symphony, among others. This January he will join Haymarket Opera at the Valletta Early Music Festival in Malta for a performance of Stradella’s St. John the Baptist.
His first professional engagement came the age of 22 when he was invited to the Pine Mountain Music Festival. During his studies at Northwestern University in Chicago, he performed with local opera companies and also with Central City Opera in Colorado, a frequent jumping-off point for young professionals. Subsequently he was invited to sing the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro at Opera in the Heights in Houston. Altogether he has appeared with Opera in the Heights 5 times, most notably as the Four Villains in The Tales of Hoffmann where his performance was described as “an unmitigated triumph”. He was accepted into the Merola Opera Program in San Francisco two times and sang successfully in productions of Così fan tutte and Albert Herring. He gave a performance described as “masterful” and “phenomenal” when he helped launch the Haymarket Opera in Chicago, a company dedicated to baroque works, singing the role of the cyclops Polifemo in Handel’s Aci, Galatea and Polifemo. He has also sung with the Santa Fe Opera, Reis National Opera in Holland, Austin Lyric Opera, Nasvhille Opera, North Carolina Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Opera Birmingham, Florentine Opera, St. Petersburg Opera and symphony orchestras in Knoxville, Indianapolis, and Bangor, Maine among others.
Benoit/Alcindoro | Cesar Torruella
Acclaimed for his “charisma” in Bel Canto roles, Puerto Rican baritone César Torruella successful interpretations includes roles like Beaupertuis in Nino Rota’s Il cappello di paglia di Firenze, Leporello in Don Giovanni, Don Alfonso in Così fan Tutte, and the title roles in Don Pasquale and Gianni Schicchi. Mr. Torruella is praised for his “perfect comedic timing and dramatic chops” in Verdi’s Falstaff performed in New York, Cincinnati, and Puerto Rico. His Buffo (comic) repertoire is distinguished with performances as Dulcamara in L’elisir d’amore, and Dottor Bartolo in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Other credits Sacristàn in Puccini’s Tosca, Don Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro, Monsieur Javelinot and Thierry in Poulenc’s Les dialogues des Carmelites and Alcindoro/Benoit in La Bohème, both performed in Tel Aviv, Israel. His debut as Colline in Puccini’s La Bohème for Teatro de la Ópera, and Don Magnifico in Rossini’s La Cenerentola for Music Academy of the West. Mr.Torruella holds a master’s degree from the University of Houston Moores School of Music.
Parpignol | Calvin Harris
Tenor Calvin Maurecé Harris is a native of Hampton, Virginia and a proud alumnus of Virginia State University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music. Since arriving in Houston, Texas in 2012, Mr. Harris has been a member of the Opera in the Heights chorus. In 2013, he made his operatic debut on the OH! stage playing the role of Il Commissionario in La Traviata. In addition to his work with Opera in the Heights, Mr. Harris has also performed with a variety of ensembles and organizations within Houston including the City Wide Grassroots Chorus and the Houston Ebony Opera Guild.
Customs Sergeant | Riley Vogel
A recent graduate from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Riley Vogel is enjoying all Houston has to offer. Recent roles include Sarastro in Die Zazuberflote, Seneca in L'Incoronazione di Poppea, and Don Bartolo in Le Nozze di Figaro. Mr. Vogel has been a member of the chorus for La Cenerentola and Orfeo ed Euridice with Opera in the Heights.