Meet the 2019-20 Artists in Residence

Opera Colorado is excited to announce our incoming 2019-20 Artists in Residence. We’re especially pleased to share the news that this group of seven artists includes three familiar names: Kira Dills-DeSurra (mezzo-soprano), Eric McConnell (bass-baritone), and Tyler Tucker (coach-accompanist), all of whom are returning for their second year in the Artist in Residence Program. Joining them for this eight-month residency in Colorado are Laura Soto-Bayomi (soprano), Thomas Cilluffo (tenor), Isaiah Feken (baritone), and Joshua South (bass). The Artists in Residence are the heart of the Opera Colorado education & community engagement programs, performing in schools and community events around the state, as well as taking on select mainstage roles. We look forward to sharing their talents with you this fall! In the meantime, read on to learn a bit more about each artist.


Laura Soto-Bayomi soprano

Soprano Laura Soto-Bayomi is establishing herself as a passionate and versatile performer, equally at home on the concert and operatic stages. A native of Secaucus, NJ, Ms. Soto-Bayomi has performed with Amore Opera in NYC, and was the soprano soloist in Mozart’s Requiem with the Brearley Singers at Riverside Church. During the summer of 2018, Ms. Soto-Bayomi performed the role of Magda in Kristine McIntyre’s production of La Rondine with Oberlin in Italy’s Arezzo Opera Festival. Ms. Soto-Bayomi has enjoyed summers as a Young Artist with the Chautauqua Opera Company (2015-17), performing the roles of Norina in Don Pasquale, Peep-Bo in The Mikado, Soprano 1 in Missy Mazzoli’s Song from the Uproar, and also sang in art song recitals and musical theatre cabarets. Other roles include Governess (The Turn of the Screw), Zweite Dame (Die Zauberflöte), Rosalinde (Die Fledermaus) and Climene (L’Egisto). Ms. Soto-Bayomi was a New England Disctrict Regional Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera Vocal Competition (’15) and a NJ State Opera Competition Finalist (’14). As an Artist in Residence with Opera Colorado for the 2019-20 season, Ms. Soto-Bayomi will appear as Berta in the mainstage production of The Barber of Seville, and in the touring productions as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel and Micaela in Carmen. Ms. Soto-Bayomi holds degrees from New England Conservatory (BM) and Bard College Conservatory’s Graduate Vocal Arts Program (MM) where she was a student of Patricia Misslin.

Kira Dills-DeSurra mezzo-soprano

Kira Dills-DeSurra is a vibrant American mezzo-soprano whose magnetic stage presence has an effortless charm and truth. This season she will be returning to Opera Colorado as an Artist in Residence to cover the role of Rosina (The Barber of Seville) and sing Shepard Boy (Tosca). She will also be performing Hansel (Hansel and Gretel) and Carmen (Carmen) in Opera Colorado’s touring productions. This past season she debuted with Opera Colorado as Flora (La Traviata), Gertrude Stein in Tom Cipulo’s After Life and sang a performance of Cherubino in Mozart’s timeless masterpiece The Marriage of Figaro, she was also featured as Stéphano (Romeo and Juliet) and Hansel (Hansel and Gretel) in Opera Colorado’s touring productions. Kira has been an Apprentice Artist with Central City Opera the last two summers singing Zweite Dame (Die Zauberflöte) and Mercédès (Carmen). This summer she will be singing the role of Diana in La Calisto with Opera NEO. She hails from Petaluma, California and earned her Artist Diploma and Master of Music from Roosevelt University: Chicago College of Performing Arts and her Bachelor of Music from the University of Southern California.

Thomas Cilluffo tenor

Thomas Cilluffo received his MM in Voice Performance in April of 2017 from the University of Michigan where he studied under the legendary tenor, George Shirley. Tom grew up in Traverse City in northern Michigan where he developed his love for music and theater, but he also has many other passions. He is an avid craftsman and enjoys making jewelry, woodworking, and blacksmithing. For the past seven years, Tom has held a “second job” making fine custom conducting batons for orchestral and choral conductors all over the world. He’s even been known to make a magic wand or two! Other than making loud noises while singing opera, he also plays the Highland Bagpipes, making him a favorite of the neighbors… Before coming to Opera Colorado, Tom was the tenor resident artist with Portland Opera in Portland, Oregon where he sang Contino Belfiore in La Finta Giardiniera, Borsa in Rigoletto, and the Sergeant of Police in Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Other credits include Spoletta in Portland Summerfest’s Tosca, Adolfo Pirelli in Pittsburgh Festival Opera’s Sweeney Todd, Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni), and Roméo (Roméo et Juliette). This season at Opera Colorado, he will perform the role of Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville at the student matinee, as well as cover the role on the mainstage, Spoletta in Tosca, The Witch in the touring production of Hansel and Gretel, and Don Jose in the touring production of Carmen.

Isaiah Feken baritone

Isaiah Feken, a former Patricia and Dr. Carl S. Hoveland opera fellow, recently finished his graduate studies at the University of Georgia where he served as the principal baritone for UGA Opera Theatre. Roles with UGA Opera Theatre include Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, Guglielmo in Cosí fan tutte, and the title role of Don Giovanni. Other credits include Ford in Verdi’s Falstaff with Crested Butte Music Festival as well Fred Graham in Kiss Me Kate! and Harry Stritch in the world premiere of A New Kind of Fallout with Opera Theatre Pittsburgh. As an Artist in Residence for Opera Colorado’s 2019-2020 season, Isaiah will perform the mainstage role of The Jailer in Tosca and sing the role of Figaro in the student matinee performance of The Barber of Seville. As a part of the touring productions, he will perform the Father in Hansel and Gretel and Escamillo in Carmen. Isaiah is a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and received his Bachelors of Music from University of Tulsa.

Eric McConnell bass-baritone

Originally from Thornton, CO, Eric McConnell has trained as a young artist with Central City Opera, Opera Saratoga, Seagle Music Colony, and the Aspen Opera Center. McConnell made his debut with Opera Colorado this past fall as Dr. Grenvil in La Traviata. With the company’s touring productions, he performed Sandman in Hansel and Gretel and Friar Laurence in Romeo & Juliet. Other past roles for McConnell include Blitch (Susannah), Bartolo/Basilio (The Barber of Seville), Frank (Die Fledermaus), and Sarastro (The Magic Flute). Additional career highlights include singing Elisha Fitzgibbon in the orchestral premiere of Evan Mack’s Roscoe with the Albany Symphony Orchestra, in a performance featuring renowned soprano Deborah Voigt. This summer, he sings the Sodbuster in Missy Mazzoli’s Proving Up at the Aspen Music Festival and School. This season, he returns as an Artist in Residence at Opera Colorado, where he will perform as Ambrogio in The Barber of Seville and Angelotti in Tosca. Additionally, he will sing Bartolo in the student matinée performance of The Barber of Seville. He will also make his debut with the Denver Philharmonic, singing the bass soloist in Mozart’s Requiem. McConnell holds degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Miami.

Joshua South bass
Joshua South, bass, has performed with many world-class performers, including Paul McCartney, Kelli O’Hara, and Kelsey Grammar at venues such as Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center. In the 2018-2019 season, he sang Riff in West Side Story (Central City Opera), Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte (Boulder Opera Company), Sarastro in The Magic Flute (Arapahoe Philharmonic), Pandolfe in Cendrillon (Boulder Opera Company), Dottore Grenvil in La Traviata (St. Petersburg Opera and Boulder Symphony) and the Big Bad Wolf in Cesar Cui’s Little Red Riding Hood (Boulder Opera Company). In 2016, South was featured at Opera North (USA) as Angelotti in Tosca. He also sang the role of Sparafucile with Amore Opera, the Alter Diener in Elektra with Create Opera, and was an apprentice artist with Sarasota Opera. Joshua also developed and performed the role of Mr. Hare in the New York workshop of Julian Grant and Mark Campbell’s The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Profitable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare, a new opera which served as a collaborative effort between Boston Lyric Opera and Music Theatre Group. As an Opera Colorado Artist in Residence this season, Joshua will perform the mainstage roles of Fiorello in The Barber of Seville and sing Basilio in the Student Matinee performance. He will also perform Sciaronne in Tosca. With the company’s touring productions, he will perform Sandman in Hansel and Gretel, and Zuniga in Carmen. Joshua holds music degrees from Manhattan School of Music, Birmingham Southern College, and is originally from Huntsville, Alabama.

Tyler Tucker coach accompanist

Tyler Tucker recently finished a degree in opera coaching at Florida State University, where he was principal pianist for Candide, La Traviata, Prince of Players, and Alcina, for which he also served as continuo harpsichordist. He also conducted Menotti’s The Medium and played the U.S. premiere of Michael Williams’s The Prodigal Child with Florida State Opera. Before returning to FSU, Tucker was a staff pianist and coach at the University of Houston for three years. In 2018, he served as rehearsal pianist for Opéra Louisiane’s production of Hansel and Gretel and also as pianist for Spotlight on Opera’s production of The Pirates of Penzance. He returns to Opera Colorado as an Artist in Residence this season, where he will play for the touring productions of Hansel and Gretel and Carmen. Tucker will also serve as the rehearsal pianist for the student matinee of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. Originally from Big Spring, Texas, he holds degrees in voice performance from both the University of Houston and Florida State University.

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