Participants Selected for 2016 Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors

by Suzanne Calvin


Monday, June 20, 2016

Contact: Suzanne Calvin 214.443.1014                            Or Celeste Hart 214.443.1071                          


Participants Named for Second Annual

Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for

Women Conductors at The Dallas Opera


Nov. 26 – Dec. 11, 2016 in Dallas, Texas


Six Selected for Elite Opera Program from

156 Applicants Representing 31 Countries


Distinguished Faculty include Marin Alsop, Nicole Paiement, Carlo Montanaro and Alec Treuhaft


Initial Support from the Richard and Enika Schulze Foundation Additional Support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation,

Baker Botts LLP, Susan and Mark Geyer, Holly and Tom Mayer, Martha and Max Wells, and the TACA Bowden & Embrey Family Foundations Artist Residency Fund


DALLAS, JUNE 20, 2016 – The Dallas Opera is proud to announce the names of the six distinguished professionals selected to participate in the second annual session of the Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors at The Dallas Opera taking place November 26 -- December 11, 2016 in Dallas, Texas:

  • Elizabeth Askren (USA)
  • Mihaela Cesa-Goje (Romania)
  • Alexandra Cravero (France)
  • Tianyi Lu (New Zealand)
  • Chaowen Ting (USA/Taiwan)
  • Zoe Zeniodi (Greece)

Working to address a long-standing career issue in the opera world, The Dallas Opera in 2015 launched a unique, new residential program—one of only three in the world—designed to provide training and career support for distinctively talented women conductors.  Female conductors, as well as accomplished women singers, opera coaches, accompanists, and instrumentalists with established careers seeking to develop new skills at the podium, were encouraged to apply.

A total of 156 women conductors and professional musicians heeded the call and applied by the April 22nd deadline.  Of that number, approximately one-third of the IWC applicants (59) came from the United States. 

Other nations represented in this year’s applicant pool were from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Columbia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Lithuania, and Mexico; as well as New Zealand, Poland, Finland, Russia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

Applicants from these 31 countries included music directors, principal and assistant conductors, concertmasters and music staff from top-ranked symphonies, opera companies, and conservatories.


As is the case each year, four U.S. observers were chosen to “audit” the 2016 Institute: Ching-Chun Lai, Michelle Rofrano, Carolyn Watson and Parisa Zaeri.


The institute had key, foundational support from the Richard and Enika Schulze Foundation.  Naming support came through the generosity of Linda and Mitch Hart.  Additional vital support comes from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Baker Botts LLP, Susan and Mark Geyer, Holly and Tom Mayer, Martha and Max Wells, and the TACA Bowden & Embrey Family Foundations Artist Residency Fund.

The 2016 Linda and Mitch Hart Institute will consist of hands-on master classes with Marin Alsop (Music Director, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra, and the only conductor ever to receive the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship); The Dallas Opera’s Martha R. and Preston A. Peak Principal Guest Conductor Nicole Paiement and Carlo Montanaro, a renowned Italian conductor. 

The institute will include career advancement seminars with experienced professionals like Alec Treuhaft, former senior vice-president of IMG Artists; industry discussions; intensive one-on-ones and networking opportunities; as well as the chance to conduct The Dallas Opera Orchestra in two public concerts on the evenings of December 4th and December 10th (additional details to be announced at a later time).

As part of TDO’s 5-year commitment to each institute “class” of conductors, alumnae will be invited to summer reunions for additional masterclasses with piano and singers, and a series of introductory seminars about the business of music: General Management, Marketing and Communications, Development and Finance.  In our inaugural program last December and the first round of follow-up discussions this spring, the 2015 class of conductors reiterated their interest in this type of training on multiple occasions. 


Keith Cerny, The Dallas Opera’s Kern Wildenthal General Director and CEO notes: “The Dallas Opera has demonstrated, in multiple ways, its commitment to reshaping the opera field through the use of innovative public outreach, by exploring new technologies, commissioning new works to expand the operatic repertoire, and programming with passion and imagination.”

“This much-needed program,” Mr. Cerny added, “will enable more women conductors to add their talents and perspectives to our collective understanding of this art form, while encouraging conversation about the necessity of women in leadership roles.”


The Dallas Opera’s Martha R. and Preston A. Peak Principal Guest Conductor, Nicole Paiement, who also serves as the Artistic Director and Conductor for San Francisco’s renowned contemporary opera company, Opera Parallèle, commented, “In tandem with my work as a professional conductor, I have spent many years striving to develop and support exceptional young talent, both onstage and in the orchestra pit.  I am tremendously pleased to be able to continue this aspect of my career in a leadership role here in Dallas and I sincerely hope my work with the women in this institute can serve as a source of both valuable insights and inspiration.”

Nicole Paiement’s residency for the institute is supported by the TACA Bowden & Embrey Family Foundations Artist Residency Fund.

Marc A. Scorca, President and CEO of OPERA America, earlier remarked: “The Dallas Opera continues to expand its influence and stature among American opera companies, as shown by this exciting new initiative.  The company is to be applauded for taking a significant step to remedy the existing gender imbalance on the podium.  This effort complements OPERA America’s support of the work of female opera composers and promises to enrich the art form by encouraging more gifted artists to express themselves through opera.”





Elizabeth Askren has worked as Assistant Music Director in leading European venues (Théâtre des Champs Elysées, The Concertgebouw, etc.) and has guest conducted orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.  Débuts for the 2015-16 season include concerts with the Romanian National Opera in Cluj and the Opera Orchestra of Toulon.  Ms. Askren is a laureate of France’s ADAMI, and has received fellowships from the Salzburg Mozarteum, the Royaumont Foundation, and the Aldeburgh Festival.  A finalist candidate for the Mahler Competition, she was invited by Lorin Maazel as “Apprentice Conductor” for the inaugural season of the Castleton Festival in Virginia. She is the subject of several radio and press interviews, and is currently a Young Leader of the French American Foundation.  Ms. Askren holds diplomas in piano and conducting from the Juilliard School, Oberlin Conservatory, and the Conducting Institute of Bard in the United States, and the Schola Cantorum and the Ecole Normale de Musique in France. 



Mihaela Cesa-Goje gained widespread attention in 2009 as the winner of the Taki Concordia Conducting Fellowship founded by Marin Alsop and in 2010, a Conducting Grant from the League of American Orchestras.  In 2011, she was awarded the Dudamel Fellowship from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and later that same year, was selected from a field of 160 candidates for a masterclass with Bernard Haitink and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra.  Earlier in her career, Ms. Cesa-Goje received the “Sandor Vegh Prize” from the Romanian Mozart Society for an outstanding performance of Mozart’s “Der Schauspiele Direktor” at the Cluj National Opera, Romania.  In 2005, she completed her Conducting Diploma at the Royal Academy of Music in London and was awarded the Irene Burcher Prize.  In 2013, she earned a graduate degree in conducting from Gh Dima Music Academy in Cluj, Romania, where she studied with Florentin Mihaescu. She also studied with Harold Farberman, Gustav Meier, Patrick Russill and Roland Börger.  Ms. Cesa-Goje is regularly invited to Cluj National Opera. In her first season (2014) she conducted eight different titles.



As a musician of many talents with a charismatic personality and artistic sensibility, Alexandra Cravero has quickly earned the reputation of being one of this generation’s conductors to watch.  With a National Diploma and Masters in viola and conducting from the National French Conservatory, Alexandra was also finalist at the Besancon, Pedrotti, and Cadaques competitions.  She has assisted Pierre Boulez, Kurt Masur, Tito Ceccherini, Patrick Davin and directed the BBC, the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic, the Sofia Radio, the Theatre de La Monnaie and the Opera National du Rhin Orchestras.  On the operatic stage, she has directed, among others, Annick Massis, Michael Spyres, Magdalena Kožená, and Etienne Dupuis.  Her vast operatic repertoire spans many centuries: Carmen, The Pearl Fishers, Norma, Faust, Porgy and Bess, The Cunning Little Vixen, Reigen, and Doctor Atomic, to name a few.  Upcoming engagements will see Alexandra Cravero direct The Tales of Hoffmann, Tosca, La traviata, and the Orchestre National de Lille at the Paris Philharmonic Hall.


Now based in the United Kingdom, Tianyi Lu is the Junior Fellow in Conducting at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Music Director Designate of the Bristol Metropolitan Orchestra. She has been assistant conductor to Thomas Søndergård with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Sir Mark Elder with the Hallé, Alice Farnham with the Welsh National Youth Opera and Carlo Rizzi at the RWMCD.  She is regularly engaged by orchestras throughout Wales and New Zealand and was Music Director of The Magic Flute with Opera Otago.  Ms. Lu has studied with David Jones, John Hopkins and Uwe Grodd and has attended masterclasses with Bernard Haitink, Neemi Järvi, Sian Edwards, Alexander Polynichko, Marin Alsop and Kenneth Kiesler.  She was voted as a finalist at the twelfth ‘Interaktion’ conducting workshop by players of the Berlin Philharmonic and professional players in Germany.



Winner of the 2009 International Conductors’ Workshop and Competition, Chaowen Ting currently serves as Conductor of the Georgia Tech Symphony Orchestra. A protégé of Bernard Haitink, Ting studied with the maestro at Lucerne Festival and was later invited by Haitink to observe his work with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  Outside of the U.S., she has conducted the Lucerne Festival Strings (Switzerland), Mihail Jora Bac?u Philharmonic (Romania), Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra (Croatia), St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic (Russia), and Orquesta Filarmónica de Honduras (Honduras).  She won the 2013 Bruno Walter Memorial Scholarship and was a Conducting Fellow at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.  In addition to her symphonic repertoire, opera productions she directed received honors from National Opera Association’s Opera Production Competitions for two consecutive years.



Zoe Zeniodi has conducted productions at the Florida Grand Opera, Greek National Opera, the Onassis Cultural Center and guest conducted all the major Greek orchestras as well as Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra, the Brno Philharmonic, Palm Beach Symphony, New Florida Philhamornic, and JONDE, among others.  She is currently the Music Director of Broward Symphony Orchestra, Momentum Athens Chamber Orchestra and the Associate Music Director of the Festival of the Aegean.  Previous positions include: Chief Conductor of MOYSA, Assistant/Cover Conductor for Florida Grand Opera, Music Director of Alhambra Orchestra and Associate Conductor of Frost Symphony Orchestra. She has released five CD recordings of contemporary music.  Ms. Zeniodi holds a DMA in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Miami and also studied at the Royal College of Music and the Mozarteum, Salzburg.


(Headshots of this year’s class are available.  Contact






Ching-Chun Lai, Director of Orchestras at the Crane School of Music, SUNY-Potsdam, has worked on opera productions of Pelléas et Mélisande, Don Pasquale, L’elisir d’amore, Maria Stuarda, Alcina, Thaïs, and The Turn of the Screw. Her performances of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion were described in Isthmus as “consistently excellent.”  During her tenure, the Crane Symphony Orchestra has performed in Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. Recent engagements include the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and its youth orchestra.  Dr. Lai studied conducting with Gunther Schuller and James Smith. Additional studies include Gstaad Menuhin Festival and Academy, Gustav Meier, and JoAnn Falletta.  She received her DMA degree from UW-Madison, where she received the Church Memorial Conducting Award, and earned her Master’s degree with Distinguish Performance from the New England Conservatory of Music.



Michelle Rofrano recently completed her master’s degree in conducting at the Peabody Conservatory, where she studied with Marin Alsop, Gustav Meier, and Markand Thakar. She will serve as assistant conductor for the upcoming Oberlin in Italy 2016 summer festival.  Ms. Rofrano recently led a production of Così fan tutte with D.C. Public opera, and she was the assistant conductor for Baltimore-based new music ensemble Symphony Number One during its 2015-16 Season. Previous engagements include serving as cover conductor for productions with Lyric Opera Baltimore and Opera Birmingham, performances with the Opera Project of New Jersey and Rutgers Symphony Orchestra, and masterclasses with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra and Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Rofrano holds a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from Rutgers University.



Conductor Carolyn Watson is Director of Orchestral Studies at Texas State University. From 2013-2015 she held the position of Conductor of the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra.  A Fellow of the American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival, Ms. Watson was a major prizewinner at the 2012 Emmerich Kálmán International Operetta Conducting Competition in Budapest.  She has participated in master classes with Peter Eötvös, Yoel Levi and Alex Polishchuk and conducted musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic in Interaktion.  Ms. Watson is the recipient of the Brian Stacey Award for Emerging Australian Conductors, the Charles Mackerras Conducting Prize and Opera Foundation Australia’s Bayreuth Opera Award. She holds a PhD in Performance (Conducting) from the University of Sydney where her doctoral thesis was Gesture as Communication: The Art of Carlos



A native of Dallas, Texas, Parisa Zaeri maintains an active career as a conductor, collaborative pianist, and vocal coach.  Her recent musical engagements include serving as Music Director for Boulder Opera’s upcoming production of Carmen (Fall 2016), as Cover Conductor for the American premiere of Philip Glass’s Witches of Venice at Opera Saratoga (Summer 2016), and as Assistant Conductor for the recent Southern Methodist University production of  Die Zauberflöte (Spring 2016).  Notable mentors include Paul Phillips and Grant Wenaus.  Ms. Zaeri graduated with her Master’s degree in Piano Performance -- Collaborative Piano from New York University in May 2015 and currently resides in Denver, Colorado, with her husband and two dogs.








Contact Suzanne Calvin, Director of Media and PR at

Or Celeste Hart, Communications Manager at


The Dallas Opera Family Performances are generously supported by

Texas Instruments and the Betty and Steve Suellentrop

Educational Outreach Fund.


TDO Family Performances are a part of the

Perot Foundation Education and Community Outreach Programs


Ticket Information for the 2016-2017 Dallas Opera Season

All performances are in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center unless otherwise indicated.  Single Tickets range from $19 to $275.  Full Subscriptions start at $95, Flex Subscriptions (three-performances of your choice) begin at $75.  Family performance tickets are just $5.  For more information or to make your purchase, contact The Dallas Opera Ticket Services Office at 214.443.1000 or visit us online, 24/7, at



THE DALLAS OPERA 2016-2017 FALL SEASON INFORMATION The Dallas Opera celebrates its Sixtieth Year in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in the Dallas Arts District. Evening performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees begin at 2:00 p.m. unless otherwise stated.  English language translations will be projected above the stage at every performance and assistance is available for the hearing impaired.  The Joy and Ronald Mankoff Pre-Opera Talk will begin one hour prior to curtain at most performances, excluding FIRST NIGHT of the season.


EUGENE ONEGIN by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

October 28, 30(m), November 2, 5, 2016

A tumultuous and lush romantic opera!

Libretto by K.S. Shilovsky, after Pushkin

Time: Late Nineteenth Century

Place: Czarist Russia

Conductor: Emmanuel Villaume

Stage Director: Jean-Claude Auvray*

Costume Designer: Maria Chiara Donato

Lighting Designer: Laurent Castaingt

Choreographer: Cooky Chiapalone

Wig & Make-up Designer:

Chorus Master: Alexander Rom

Starring: Andrei Bondarenko (Eugene Onegin), Svetlana Aksenova* (Tatyana), Stephen Costello (Lensky), Kai Rüütel** (Olga), Mikhail Kazakov (Prince Gremin), Elizabeth Batton (Larina), Meredith Arwady (Filipievna), Greg Fedderly (Triquet), Musa Ngqungwana* (Zaretski)

A classic, period production originally created for the Israeli Opera Tel-Aviv-Jaffa!


MOBY-DICK by Jake Heggie

November 4, 6(m), 9, 12, 18, & 20(m), 2016

Back by Popular Demand!

Libretto by Gene Scheer

Time: Nineteenth Century

Place: Whaling Ship on the High Seas

Conductor: Emmanuel Villaume

Stage Director: Leonard Foglia

Set Designer: Robert Brill

Costume Designer: Jane Greenwood

Lighting Designer: Gavan Swift

Projections Designer: Elaine J. McCarthy

Wig and Make-up Designer:

Chorus Master: Alexander Rom

Starring: Jay Hunter Morris (Captain Ahab), Stephen Costello (Greenhorn), Morgan Smith (Starbuck), Musa Ngqungwana* (Queequeg), David Cangelosi (Flask), Jacqueline Echols* (Pip), Peter McGillivray* (Stubb)

Our internationally acclaimed production!


* Dallas Opera Debut

** American Debut


The Dallas Opera is supported, in part, by funds from:  Texas Instruments Foundation, TACA, City of Dallas, Office of Cultural Affairs; the Texas Commission on the Arts and The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)American Airlines is the official airline of The Dallas Opera.  Lexus is the official vehicle of The Dallas Opera.  Advertising support from The Dallas Morning News.  A special thanks to the Elsa von Seggern Foundation for its continuing support.



One Response to Participants Selected for 2016 Linda and Mitch Hart Institute for Women Conductors