Finger Lakes Opera, Inc. (FLO) – Rochester’s only professional opera company – continues to grow during the company’s 10th year, announcing both the roster of 2023 Young Artists and a $40,000, multi-year grant from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) to support the recovery of the nonprofit arts and culture sector.
After a competitive audition process with nearly 500 applications, FLO’s 2023 Young Artists are sopranos Anna Donnelly, Goitsemang Lehobye, and Ellen Robertson; mezzo-sopranos Kaswanna Kanyinda and Alexandra Sanchez; tenors Conor Brereton, Michael Celentano, and Pedro Valdez; baritone Steven Warnock; and bass Casey Germain. The Young Artist Program was established in 2018 and has evolved into one of the company’s greatest strengths, now offering all Young Artists weekly stipends and housing in addition to performance opportunities, career development coachings, and valuable connections with industry professionals. The 2023 Young Artists will be showcased in a variety of performances beginning in the summer of 2023. Dates, times, locations, and ticket price information for all FLO’s summer events will be released at the end of April.
In addition to the Young Artist Program, FLO is expanding in other areas as the company approaches the end of its 10th Anniversary. Grant funding from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) will fund FLO’s continued growth, including securing artistic talent for FLO’s upcoming workshop and world premiere of composer B.E. Boykin’s first full opera, Two Corners. Stage Director Kamille Howard will bring the opera to life, along with librettist Jarrod Lee and FLO artistic director Gerard Floriano.
NYSCA funds also have allowed FLO to make changes at the administrative level to support the work on stage. FLO hired Gwen Paker as the Communications & Community Engagement Director to champion the company’s ever-growing engagement programming, known as FLO Out & About. Paker’s work thus far has increased FLO’s presence in the community from three outreach performances in 2019 to nearly three dozen in 2022, with further growth anticipated in 2023. Gwen Paker is a recent graduate of the Eastman School of Music and operatic soprano herself. She served as an intern in the summer of 2021 and joined the administrative team on a part-time basis that fall. “Being a part of the company’s growth, especially through its 10th season, has been an honor,” Paker commented, “I look forward to working in this new role to support FLO’s mission and continue to connect with audiences and communities across the Finger Lakes and Rochester regions.”
FLO Executive Director, Elizabeth Long stated, “FLO is grateful to have been recognized by NYSCA for the company’s hard work in expanding engagement and educational programming, especially in this year, as FLO not only returns to indoor, mainstage production, but also workshops the newly commissioned, one-act opera by B.E. Boykin.” Details about the summer season will be released at the end of April.
NYSCA Executive Director Mara Manus said, “We are immensely grateful to Governor Hochul and the Legislature for their unprecedented investment of $240 million to support arts organizations across the state. New York State arts organizations such as FLO are the cornerstone of our vibrant arts economy. As crucial drivers of our health and vitality, we are grateful to the unwavering dedication of arts workers across the state.”
NYSCA Chair Katherine Nicholls said, “On behalf of the entire Council, I congratulate Finger Lakes Opera on this award. Their creative work provides the benefits of the arts to both their community and all of New York.”
About Finger Lakes Opera - FLO is committed to the professional creation and production of opera in Rochester and the Finger Lakes region with a diverse roster of mainstage and emerging young artists. Through engagement and accessibility, FLO adds value to the cultural and economic landscape of the community. Founded in 2012 by current Artistic Director Gerard Floriano, FLO became an independent non-profit organization in 2017. Executive director Elizabeth G. Long was hired in 2019, marking the beginning of FLO's expansion and increased presence that continues today.
About Two Corners - In March of 2022, FLO commissioned B.E. Boykin to compose a one-act opera along with librettist Jarrod Lee. FLO received funding from OPERA America to cover half of Boykin's fee. Two Corners is based on Boykin's late grandmother (Florine) and her deep friendship with a white woman, in a small, rural Alabama town. The story will be told through a series of flashbacks, which delve into issues that challenged this friendship. Two Corners will be workshopped in late July 2023 and premiered in August 2024. The lead role of Florine will be sung by soprano Kearstin Piper Brown, who has committed to the project and will be involved in the 2023 summer workshop process and the 2024 world premiere. Kimille Howard will serve as the project’s stage director.
About the New York State Council on the Arts – NYSCA preserves and advances the arts and culture that make New York State an exceptional place to live, work and visit. NYSCA upholds the right of all New Yorkers to experience the vital contributions the arts make to our communities, education, economic development, and quality of life. NYSCA further advances New York's creative culture by convening leaders in the field and providing organizational and professional development opportunities and informational resources. Created by Governor Nelson Rockefeller in 1960 and continued with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, NYSCA is an agency that is part of the Executive Branch. For more information on NYSCA, please visit http://www.arts.ny.gov, and follow NYSCA's Facebook page, Twitter @NYSCArts and Instagram @NYSCouncilontheArts.
For more information about FLO, please visit fingerlakesopera.org or call 585-450-3880.