Kirk Severtson (conductor and vocal coach) serves as the music director of the Crane Opera Ensemble at The Crane School of Music, in Potsdam, NY. He has been a member of the music staff of The Dallas Opera for six seasons, including for three notable world premières, and of Opera Saratoga for eleven seasons. He has additionally coached at Opera North (NH), the Opera Theater of Lucca (Italy), the Cincinnati Opera outreach program, the Rising Star Singers festival, and Dorian Opera Theater. At The Crane School of Music, he conducts the Crane Opera Ensemble and Orchestra and teaches classes in art song repertoire and accompanying. He also serves as music director for the recently inaugurated Dominic J. Pellicciotti Opera Composition Prize, which received its first production in November 2014 and which recently awarded a full commission and production to Tom Cipullo for his upcoming work Mayo, to be premiered in November 2018. He holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati (D.M.A. and M.M., both in piano performance) and Luther College (B.A. with majors in music, math, and computer science).

Kirk Severtson, Coach


Dolora Zajick, General Director *

Sarah Agler, Administrative Director

Kathryn LaBouff, Director of Diction and Director of Community and Academic Relations

Luana DeVol, Director of the American Wagner Project *

Darrell Babidge, Director of the Emerging Artist and the Young Professional Programs *


Stefano Baldasseroni, Italian Diction *

Dr. Kathryn LaBouff, English Diction

Fabio Sparvoli, Italian Diction & Stage Direction

John Edward Niles, Wagner studies lecturer & coach *


Jae Ahn-Benton*

Cheryl Lin Fielding*

Kirk Severtson*


Beatrice Benzi*

Thom Christoph*

John Parr

Emily Hamper *

Yelena Kurdina *

Ben Terry Lusk

Anthony Manoli

Thomas Muraco *

Joel Revzen

Ken Weiss


Sarah Agler

Darrell Babidge *

Luana DeVol *

Badiene Magaziner *

Monica McCullough*

Jacob Will

Dolora Zajick *

* denotes faculty present for the 2017 Institute


A graduate of the G. Verdi Conservatory in Milan, Beatrice Benzi continued her studies in Barcelona and Siena. She began her career as a chamber musician, notably as a member of a piano duo with Gianandrea Noseda and also as part of a chamber ensemble. Since 1991 she has worked at La Scala with internationally renowned conductors such as Riccardo Muti, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Jeffrey Tate, James Colon, Daniel Harding, Zubin Metha, Daniele Gatti and Riccardo Chailly, with whom she collaborated on several recordings for the Decca label. Beatrice has worked with many celebrated singers including Barbara Frittoli, Cecilia Bartoli, Dolora Zajick, Leo Nucci, Samuel Ramey, Andrea Rost, Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, and Marcello Giordani. She has collaborated on masterclasses in New York for the winners of the Gerda Lissner Competition with tenor Marcello Giordani and worked with Maestro Zubin Mehta at the“Festival del Mediterraneo a Valencia in 2012 and 2013 and in Tel Aviv on productionof Otello and La Traviata.


Beatrice Benzi, Coach

John Parr, piano, is currently Head of Music Staff at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin, Germany, He recently appeared with Heidi Melton accompanying the singer's New York Debut Recital. From 2000-2011 he was San Francisco Opera’s Head of Music Staff. He continues to coach for the Merola Opera Program and to work with the San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows as a guest teacher. A native of Birmingham, UK, Parr studied piano at the Royal Northern College of Music with Sulamita Aronovsky and musicology at Manchester University. He worked for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden from 1985–88, touring with the company to Japan and Korea in 1986. He was engaged at Scottish Opera from 1988-90. In 1991 joined the Lower Saxony State Opera in Hannover, Germany, where he was Head of Music Staff and Musical Assistant to Music directors George Alexander Albrecht, Christof Perick and Andreas Delfs, specializing in the Wagner and Strauss operas. During this time he developed an extensive series of Lieder Recitals and Chamber Music Programs for the Opera, and also broadcast on SFB Radio Berlin and on NDR Television. With San Francisco Opera, Parr has developed and performed in numerous recital programs. From 2002-2005 he worked as a coach at the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth in the summer, and has also given recitals in the Wagner Museum there. From 2011 to 2014 he was Casting Director and Musical Assistant to the Music Director at the Badisches Staatstheater, Karlsruhe, Germany.

John Parr, Coach

Emily Hamper has earned an excellent reputation for her exceptional skills as a vocal coach and accompanist. Singers from her coaching studio perform with major opera companies and symphony orchestras around the world. With an international career spanning twenty years, she has worked as a rehearsal pianist, coach, and assistant conductor for opera companies across Canada and in Europe. Highly sought-after as a collaborator for recitals, she has recently performed in Paris, Toronto, and Montreal. In 2011 she was awarded the Best Collaborative Pianist Prize at the Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition. Her performances have been broadcast on CBC Radio, Radio-Canada, Classical 96.3 FM and Vermont Public Radio. She maintains a passion for teaching and mentoring, having served on the faculty of Wilfrid Laurier University, the Vancouver International Song Institute, the University of Toronto, l'Université de Montréal, and the Banff Centre. In 2014, she was invited by Dolora Zajick to join the faculty of the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices in the USA. Emily is a founding faculty member of the Stratford Vocal Academy, which opens its third season in August 2017 in Stratford, Ontario.

Pianist, recitalist, coach, prompter and assistant conductor, Yelena Kurdina has been a specialist in Russian repertoire at The Metropolitan Opera for over 20 years. She became Placido Domingo’s private coach and has partnered with many of the most outstanding singers of our time. Ms. Kurdina has brought her distinguished musicianship to such renowned festivals and opera houses as the Opera National de Paris, Houston Grand Opera, Saito Kinen Festival in Japan, Teatro de la Maestranza in Sevilla, Spain and Washington National Opera. She has been the assistant to conductors Seiji Ozawa, Vladimir Jurowski, Antonio Pappano, James Conlon, Valery Gergiev, Jiří Bělohlávek, Fabio Luisi among others - with whom she has worked on both Russian and Italian operas. Hailing from St. Petersburg, Russia, Ms. Kurdina is a protégé of John Wustman - the “Dean of American accompanists” - with whom she studied at the University of Illinois. Devoted to working with young artists, she has been on the faculty of the International Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv, and is a regular guest of the Domingo - Cafritz Young Artist Program at the Washington Opera and Domingo - Thornton Young Artist Program at the Los Angeles Opera, SIVAM in Mexico City, and maintains a vibrant private studio in New York City.

Pianist and Coach Anthony V. Manoli has worked with some of the leading opera companies throughout the world including the Théatre Des Champs-Elysées, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Opera Lausanne, L’Opera Du Rhin, the Spoleto Festival in both Italy and the United States, The Los Angeles Opera, The Washington Opera, Opera Company of Boston, Opera New England, Lake George Opera Festival and L’Opera Français de New York. Mr. Manoli was a Fellowship coach at the Tanglewood Festival and has worked with conductors such as Leonard Slatkin, Seiji Ozawa, Claudio Abbado, Robert Shaw, Sir Andrew Davis, Richard Bonygne and Sir Colin Davis. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Mirella Freni, Jose Carreras, Rockwell Blake and Edita Gruberova are just some of the singers with whom he has worked. Mr. Manoli is currently a coach for the Young Artists Programs at the Washington Opera and the Los Angeles Opera. He is also a faculty member of the Mannes College of Music in New York City where he lives and maintains an active coaching studio. He appears frequently in recitals with prominent singers worldwide and has been seen on the A&E channel in performance with Mezzo-Soprano Dolora Zajick along with performances on television throughout Asia with Soprano Young Ok Shin.

Emily Hamper, Coach

Yelena Kurdina, Coach

Anthony V. Manoli, Coach

Kathryn LaBouff has taught English Diction and English Vocal Literature at the Juilliard School of Music since 1986; the Manhattan School of Music since 1984; and the Curtis Institute of Music since 1998. She is the Assistant Chair of the Voice Faculty at the Manhattan School of Music. She has formerly taught at Yale University, Cornell University, Ithaca College, the Mannes College of Music, the Aspen Music Festival, and the Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta, Canada. Her book, Singing and Communicating in English – A Singer's Guide to English Diction, was published by Oxford University Press in 2008. She is currently a diction coach on the staff of the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera and the San Francisco Opera Merola program where she works on productions and gives masterclasses for their respective young artist programs. She was on the staff for Opera Theatre of St. Louis for six seasons. She has coached and prepared more than 300 opera productions in English. Other companies where she has coached productions are: the Canadian Opera Company, Vancouver Opera, Glimmerglass Opera Company, Wolf Trap Opera, Opera Festival of New Jersey, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and the Aspen Music Festival.

Kathryn LaBouff, English Diction

The son of American composer John Jacob Niles and freelance journalist Rena L. Niles, John Edward Niles received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Carnegie Mellon University (1967) and a Master of Music from the University of Cincinnati (1969). He was awarded grants from the American Symphony Orchestra League and the Martha Baird Rockefeller Foundation. An NDEA Fellowship and a Fulbright Scholarship took him to Hamburg, Germany to study advanced conducting. He has also studied with such notable conductors as Richard Lert, Haig Yaghijian, Hans Swarvosky, Erich Kunzel and John Nelson. Mr. Niles was the Music Director/Conductor of Opera Theatre of N. VA/Aurora Opera from 1981 to 2012. Engagements have taken him to the Ithaca (N.Y.) Opera Association, Salt City Playhouse (Syracuse, N.Y.), Bel Canto Opera (New York City), Virginia Opera (Norfolk), Cavalier Productions and COLVA Productions (Arlington, VA), JMJ Productions (Washington, D.C.), and European-American Productions (Hanover, Germany) and at the Auschwitz 50th Anniversary Memorial in Kracow, Poland. He was the Musical Director of Euro-Fest in Prague in July 2002. Currently, John Edward Niles is the Program Director Evelyn Lear & Thomas Stewart Emerging Singers Program, Wagner Society of Washington, DC and an Adjudicator for the Liederkranz Competition, Wagner Division since 2004.

John Edward Niles, Wagner Studies & Coach

Sarah Agler received her BA in violin performance from the University of Nevada at Reno and completed her MM in vocal performance at Indiana University. She has performed leading roles in opera, light opera and oratorios as well as on the concert stage as soloist with major orchestras. She sang Electra in the world premiere of The Cry of Clytaemnestra at Indiana University. Other roles she has performed include the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Susan B. in The Mother of Us All, Suor Angelica in Suor Angelica and Turandot in Turandot. She has performed with numerous opera companies, including the San Diego Opera, Long Beach Opera and the Nevada Opera Company. Ms. Agler has won several awards in different competitions, including the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, the San Francisco Opera Auditions, the NATS and Fuchs Auditions. She has studied with several teachers and coaches, including Ted Puffer, Vera Scammon, Brian Balkwill, Gillian Cookson, Ernest St. John Metz, Michael Carson, Greg Buchalter and George Trovillo; she continues to study with Kathleen Darragh.

Sarah Agler, Vocal Instructor

Baritone Darrell Babidge graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music in the U.K. where he was recognized with four awards and performed the roles of Nottingham (Roberto Devereux), Man (Dawnpath), and Lionel (Maid of Orleans). He also received his Master’s degree from Brigham Young University and his Professional degree in vocal performance from the Manhattan School of Music, funded by the Birgitt Nilsson scholarship. A recent review from the Salt Lake Tribune said “On opening night, baritone soloist Darrell Babidge filled the Capitol Theater with his resonant voice”. Another review from the Opera Now journal has written “Darrell Babidge contributed smooth, polished timbre to the [role of] Almaviva”. Darrell is full-time faculty at Brigham Young University. He also teaches the Utah Opera Young Artists. Many of his students sing professionally and have also been accepted into Young Artist programs at the Metropolitan Opera and Houston Grand Opera. He has been employed by the Metropolitan Opera to teach in their Lindemann Young Artists program.

Darrell Babidge, Vocal Instructor

Luana DeVol was born in California and is now a resident of Henderson, NV. From 1984 to 1987, she was a principal soloist in the German opera ensembles, first in Aachen then in Mannheim, Germany. From 1987 she was a free-lance artist singing in virtually all the major opera houses of the World. Her debut at La Scala was made as Fidelio in the title role under the baton of Lorin Maazel. She also appeared at La Scala as the Dyer’s wife in Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten under the baton of Guiseppe Sinopoli. Her Bruennhilde in Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle, for which she was awarded “Singer of the Year” award in Germany, was heard in many theaters, including the Bayreuth Festival, the Vienna State Opera, and the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. More recent appearances include Elektra in Buenos Aires, and a concert performance of Goetterdaemmerung in Abu Dhabi. Luana DeVol joined the faculty of University of Nevada Las Vegas in the fall of 2008. She now concentrates on giving Master Classes internationally, maintains a private voice studio, and serves on the panel of experts for the New York based Schuyler Foundation for Career Bridges. Most recently she has been appointed to the staff of the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, where she will lead the Wagner Division.

Luana DeVol, Vocal Instructor

Although her career was in opera and Broadway, Badiene Magaziner has become one of the foremost experts in teaching R&B, Pop, Rock, Jazz and Gospel, as well as Opera and Musical Theater. Ms. Magaziner holds a Masters of Music in voice from the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, where she was awarded a full scholarship. Later, she appeared in many opera roles throughout Europe, including Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Eurydice in Orpheus and Eurydice, and alternately as Mimi and Musetta in La Boheme. She has also sung the role of Tosca with the New Orleans Opera, Connecticut Opera, Virginia Opera, Boston Opera and Buffalo Opera.

Badienne Magaziner, Vocal Instructor

An experienced concert artist, bass-baritone Jacob Will has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra and at the International Bach Festival of Schaffhausen, Switzerland. Equally at home on stage, Mr. Will worked for many years with the Zürich Opera appearing in roles such as Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Mustafa in L'Italiana in Algeri, and Colline in La Boheme. Other companies with which Mr. Will has appeared include the New York City Opera as Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro, Vancouver Opera as Oroveso in Norma, the Bavarian State Opera as Samuel in Un Ballo in Maschera and the San Francisco Opera as Masetto in Don Giovanni. Mr. Will is a member of the voice faculty at the University of South Carolina.

Jacob Will, Vocal Instructor

Dolora Zajick is that rare voice type, a true dramatic Verdi mezzo; she has sung the three big Verdi roles, Azucena, Amneris and Eboli (in Il Trovatore, Aida and Don Carlo respectively) all over the world with such companies as the Metropolitan, Chicago’s Lyric, the San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Italy’s La Scala, the Vienna State Opera, London’s Covent Garden, Berlin’s Staatsoper, etc. She has appeared in opera and in concert with some of the world’s foremost conductors. Marilyn Horne, the reigning mezzo-soprano of the previous generation, called Zajick “A force of nature – and it’s not just her amazing voice; it’s what she can do with her voice because of her superb technique and dedication.” The great operatic soprano Birgit Nilsson said that Zajick is “the only one (mezzo-soprano) existing today without any competition in the world.” Ms. Zajick graduated from the University of Nevada with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music before going to New York for further musical studies at the Manhattan School of Music. After winning the Bronze Medal at the 7th International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and being accepted into the San Francisco Opera’s Merola program, she made her operatic debut with the San Francisco Opera as Azucena in Il Trovatore, which launched her into international stardom.

Dolora Zajick, Vocal Instructor

Stefano Baldasseroni, Italian Diction

Born in Italy, Stefano Baldasseroni began studying drums at the age of 4 and by his late 20s he had recorded and toured as a drummer with many world renowned artists such as Frank Zappa’s former Mothers of Invention “The Grandmothers”, Italian diva Patty Pravo, Academy Award’s nominated actor Giancarlo Giannini and EMI platinum artist Moony. After moving to NYC in 2010, besides working as a session drummer, he began working as an Italian language teacher and diction coach for productions at Manhattan School of Music (Falstaff, Lucia, Capuleti e i Montecchi, Luisa Miller, La Bohème and Don Pasquale). In 2012 he was the Italian coach for the summer program, Opera Siena (Suor Angelica and Orlando). In 2016 he was asked by Dolora Zajick to work with the students in her summer program, Institute for Young Dramatic Voices in which he used his skills as a drummer to work with all the singers on rhythm, as well as Italian diction. In September 2016 he was hired by the Juilliard School to assist Corradina Caporello in coaching the Italian diction for the productions of Haydn’s “La Fedeltà Premiata” and Händel’s “Agrippina”. Santa Fe Opera engaged him to be the Italian coach for Händel’s “Alcina” in July 2017 as well as working with the young artists there, after which he returned to the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices. In 2018 he was hired by Rice University, in Houston, to work for their production of Mozart’s “La Finta Giardiniera” and by the Georg Solti Academy to teach at summer programs in China and Italy. He’s currently working for Thomas Muraco’s Opera Repertoire Ensemble on a production of Mozart’s “Cosí Fan Tutte”. He is in the faculty of Manhattan School of Music, the Juilliard School and Curtis Institute.

Cheryl Lin Fielding, Coach

"Warm, grand, and rich”, Cheryl Lin Fielding's pianism has been praised by the New York Sun, and throughout the world. Her performances have taken her to major venues including Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Weill Recital Hall, Merkin Recital Hall, Tanglewood Music Center, Music Academy of the West, Aspen Music Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Juilliard Theater, the Mark Morris Dance Group, and the Getty Museum. Fielding has been honored with the Grace B. Jackson Prize in Excellence by the Tanglewood Music Festival, recognized by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, and three times received the distinguished Gwendolyn Koldofsky Award in Keyboard Collaborative Arts. Her musical studies began at the age of three in Taiwan, first on the piano and later the violin. She continued through dual master's degrees at the Juilliard School (Piano Performance and Collaborative Piano) and the Doctor of Musical Arts in Keyboard Collaborative Arts at the University of Southern California, with extended emphasis in Vocal performance. Fielding has served as music director and vocal coach for Opera Chapman at the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music, Operafestival di Roma, an adjunct professor at California State University at Northridge, Azusa Pacific University, and Chapman University. She was an adjudicator for NATS and Spotlight Awards, and served as a pianist for the Aspen Music Festival, Music Academy of the West, the Juilliard School, Los Angeles Opera, Operalia, and OperaWorks. Dr. Fielding also served as vocal coach and pianist for USC Thornton Opera, Operafestival di Roma, Opera Pacific, and as the Principal Coach at Opera San Jose and Opera Santa Barbara. She is currently on the music staff as a coach and pianist for Dolora Zajick’s Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, and as a Lecturer and opera coach for UCLA Opera at the Herb Alpert School of Music.

Thomas Muraco has earned accolades through a combination of technical virtuosity, tonal beauty, and a unique understanding of the underlying poetry of music. His performances in major concert halls throughout the United States, Canada, Central America, Europe, and Asia reflect his command of a repertoire remarkable for its complete range of musical styles, periods and forms. Throughout his distinguished career he has collaborated with such singers as Ben Heppner, Denyce Graves, Chris Merritt, Benita Valente, Dolora Zajick, Hermann Prey, Sumi Jo, Faith Esham, Martina Arroyo, Roberta Peters, Arleen Augér and Maureen Forrester. He has performed at The White House, the Library of Congress, the Aspen, Banff, Bermuda, Casals, Cincinnati May and Ravinia Festivals and in recital series in all of New York’s major concert halls, as well as universities and cultural centers throughtout the US, Europe and Asia. He had the honor of assisting in the preparation of performances and a recording of La Bohème under the direction of Leonard Bernstein. In addition, he has assisted in preparing both operatic and symphonic repertoire for conductors John Nelson, including the Verdi Requiem at Carnegie Hall, La Traviata and Schumann Scenes from Faust with the New Japan Philharmonic and Die Entführung aud dem Serail with the L’Ensemble Orchestral de Paris. He has also assisted James Conlon with the Cincinnati Symphony, adding yet another aspect to a career which has already established him in the front ranks of American musicians. During the 2007-2008 season, Mr. Muraco was the Studienleiter-Kapellmeister at the Theater Bremen where he conducted many performances during the season, including Verdi’s Nabucco and Carl Goldmark’s Merlin. He has conducted Lakmé in Tel Aviv for the International Vocal Arts Institute, La Cenerentola for his debut with Opera San José, Die Zauberflöte and Idomeneo for Opera McGill in Montreal Canada and La Bohème, La Traviata, Madama Butterfly, don Giovanni Dialogues des Carmélites, Rigoletto, Il Tabaro and Gianni Schicchi all for the Manhattan School of Music. In addition to his busy performing schedule, Mr. Muraco has taught at the Cleveland Institute of Music, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and is presently on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, where he trains pianists in the art of accompanying and coaching, as well as singers in all aspects of the art. He has taught master classes for pianists and singers at the Aspen and Banff Music Festivals and the St. Louis Conservatory. In such master classes he emphasizes the unique relationship of poetry and music in all aspects of the vocal repertoire, bringing to bear his extensive knowledge of languages French, Italian, German and Portuguese among others. Mr. Muraco has recorded on the Serenus, CRI and Musical Heritage labels, his most recent releases a program of music for viola and piano by Britten, Shostakovitch, Bergsma and Shapey with John Graham as well as a Liederabend of Brahms with contralto Maureen Forrester on CBC records.

Thomas Muraco, Coach