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Special Reports

MA 30 The Influencers: Michael Heaston

December 1, 2015 | By John Fleming

Director of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program &
Adviser to the Artistic Director, Washington National Opera
Associate Artistic Director, Glimmerglass Festival

Michael Heaston is a man who hears plenty of auditions by young opera singers. He is head of both the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program at Washington National Opera and the Glimmerglass Festival Young Artists Program. He has been a judge for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and the Dallas  Opera Guild Vocal Competition.

What does he listen for?

“I am listening, first and foremost, for the quality of the instrument,” Heaston says. “The voice must be well-produced, technically solid, and make an artistic statement. I am listening for people who use words, interpret text, and have both a musical and a dramatic opinion.”

In the past decade, Heaston has emerged as a key coach, mentor, and champion of young talent by virtue of his positions at Glimmerglass and WNO, and he has a close connection with Francesca Zambello, director of both companies. Previously he spent six seasons at the Dallas Opera, where he was head of music staff and assistant conductor for more than 25 productions, including the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick. For seven years, he was a score consultant to the Met’s HD broadcasts. With a master’s degree in accompanying and coaching from the University of Minnesota, he has served as a collaborative pianist in classes by singers such as Harolyn Blackwell, Håkan Hagegård, Diana Soviero, and others.

Heaston is also instrumental in the commission of short works as program director of WNO’s American Opera Initiative, which is in its fourth season and features Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists. Better Gods, an hourlong opera on an important figure in the history of Hawaii by Luna Pearl Woolf (music) and Caitlin Vincent (libretto), will be premiered in a production by the program January 8-9, 2016.

Jonathan Herman\


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