Conner Gray Covington
Conner Gray Covington recently completed a four-year tenure with the Utah Symphony as Associate Conductor and as Principal Conductor of the Deer Valley® Music Festival. During his tenure in Utah, Covington conducted nearly 300 performances of classical subscription, education, film, pops, and family concerts as well as tours throughout the state. This season he returns to the Utah Symphony as a guest conductor on several occasions and debuts with the Amarillo Symphony, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, the Idaho State Civic Symphony and the North Carolina Symphony. Previously, he was a Conducting Fellow at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he worked closely with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, with whom he made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2016, and the Curtis Opera Theater while also being mentored by Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He began his career as Assistant Conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Memphis Youth Symphony Program. A four-time recipient of a Career Assistance Award from the Solti Foundation US, Covington was a featured conductor in the 2016 Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview presented by the League of American Orchestras.
Recent seasons have included appearances with the symphonies of Kansas City, Monterey (CA), Nashville, Omaha, Portland (ME), St Louis, Virginia, the Oregon Mozart Players, and the Reno Chamber Orchestra. Covington has also worked with the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich as part of the 6th International David Zinman Conducting Masterclass. In 2014, Covington was selected by members of the Vienna Philharmonic to attend the Salzburg Festival as a recipient of the Ansbacher Fellowship for Young Conductors. In 2012, he competed in the prestigious Malko Conducting Competition in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he conducted the Danish National Symphony for a jury headed by Lorin Maazel and was the youngest participant to advance to the third round. Covington also worked with the New Japan Philharmonic in the 2012 Tokyo International Conducting Competition and advanced to the semi-final round.
In the summers of 2011 and 2012, Covington attended the Aspen Music Festival as a fellowship student in the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen. There he worked closely with Robert Spano, Larry Rachleff, and Hugh Wolff as well as other guest conductors throughout the summer. He has also conducted the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in a masterclass with Miguel Harth-Bedoya and for two summers studied at the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors.
Born in Louisiana, Covington grew up in East Tennessee and began playing the violin at age 11. He completed high school at the renowned High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas. He then went on to study violin with Dr. Martha Walvoord and conducting with Dr. Clifton Evans at the University of Texas at Arlington where he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in violin performance. He continued his studies with Neil Varon at the Eastman School of Music where he earned a MM in orchestral conducting and was awarded the Walter Hagen Conducting Prize.
Julia Gershkoff, a soprano from Rhode Island, is a graduate of the University of Southern California, where she received her Master of Music in Vocal Arts and Opera. In the summer of 2020, Julia attended a shortened version of Wolf Trap Opera as a Studio Artist. In her first season at Utah Opera Julia performed Micaëla in Utah Opera’s La tragédie de Carmen and appeared in Light on the Horizon and Songs for our Time for USUO On Demand. She was also the soprano soloist with Utah Symphony in excerpts from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and Handel’s Messiah, also for the streaming platform. Other recent roles include Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro at USC, Joan of Arc in the Maid of Orleans at the Russian Opera Workshop, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte at Mark Oswald’s Summer Program, and Servilia in La clemenza di Tito at Ithaca College, where she received her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance. Julia is thrilled to join Utah Opera as a 2nd-year Resident Artist in the 2021–22 season, where she sings Berta in The Barber of Seville, Tina in Flight by Jonathan Dove, covers Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, and performs as Soprano Soloist with Utah Symphony’s Messiah.
Possessing “a voluminous instrument…with eloquence and force,” Italian-trained American mezzo-soprano Edith Grossman is a versatile performer with a career spanning opera and musical theatre. A graduate of the Crane School of Music in New York and double-alumna of the Merola Opera Program in San Francisco, Edith has established an enviable reputation as an interpreter of new works, having most recently created the role of Rachel in the world premiere of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s If I Were You. For Utah Opera last season, she performed Elle in Poulenc’s La voix humaine and Fate in Brook’s La tragédie de Carmen and appeared in Light on the Horizon and Songs for our Time for USUO On Demand. She was also the mezzo-soprano soloist with Utah Symphony in excerpts from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and Handel’s Messiah as well as a complete performance of Stravinsky’s ballet Pulcinella, also filmed for streaming. During her 2nd year as a Resident Artist, she covers Rosina in The Barber of Seville, and performs the Stewardess in Jonathan Dove’s Flight, and Edith in The Pirates of Penzance, as well as Alto Soloist with Utah Symphony’s Messiah. She is managed by Encompass Arts LLC.
Daniel O’Hearn is an emerging tenor from Tinley Park, Illinois. In June 2020, he graduated with a Master of Music Performance from DePaul University’s School of Music in Chicago. During Utah Opera’s 2020-21 season, Daniel appeared as Gray in Gentleman’s Island and Lillas Pastia in La tragédie de Carmen and was tenor soloist in Light on the Horizon and Songs for our Time for USUO On Demand. He also performed with Utah Symphony in excerpts Handel’s Messiah as well as a complete performance of Stravinsky’s ballet Pulcinella, also filmed for streaming. At DePaul, Mr. O’Hearn in the University’s productions of Britten’s The Beggar’s Opera and Cavalli’s L’Egisto. In 2019 he won the American Prize from the American Prize Oratorio Society of Chicago, placed first in DePaul University’s School of Music Kleinman Competition, and earned an encouragement award from the Metropolitan National Council Auditions in the Central Region finals. As a 2nd year Resident Artist in the 2021-22 season, he appears as Bill in Jonathan Dove’s Flight, Spoletta in Puccini’s Tosca, covers Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance, and performs as Tenor Soloist in Utah Symphony’s Messiah.
Baritone Evan Hammond is a native of Lexington, Alabama. In the fall of 2020, Mr. Hammond made his role debut as Figaro in Opéra Louisiane’s digital production of Il barbiere di Siviglia. In the summer of 2021, he was slated to make his European debut as Masetto in Don Giovanni with the Festival Lyrique-en-mer (COVID19). Other notable performance credits include Le Mari in Les mamelles de Tirésias, the title role in Eugene Onegin, Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette, and Papageno in The Magic Flute. Most recently, Evan received an Encouragement Award from the Upper Midwest Region of the 2021 Metropolitan Opera National Council Competition after winning the Wisconsin District. He has completed young artist training programs with Central City Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera and Shreveport Opera. He holds a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Louisiana State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of North Alabama. For Utah Opera in 2021-22, Evan will perform Fiorello and Sergeant in The Barber of Seville, Steward in Flight, Sciarrone in Tosca, and Samuel in The Pirates of Penzance, as well as Baritone Soloist with Utah Symphony’s Messiah.
Michaella Calzaretta recently completed her third season as Chorus Master and Assistant Conductor at Utah Opera. Under her leadership, the opera chorus has garnered more and more recognition with each production. Of her Moby-Dick, Opera Today extolled her “…superb choral preparation. Her large chorus was flawless in tonal beauty, dramatic engagement, and clarity of diction, even when performing busy stage movement.” In a review of Roméo et Juliette, Opera News praised “…the strong performance of the Utah Opera Chorus, setting a reliably high standard under the direction of Chorus Master Michaella Calzaretta.” Partnership with the Utah Symphony has also been successful, as the opera chorus performed in a semi-staged presentation of Candide and provided vocals for live film concerts of Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Ms. Calzaretta is completing a Doctorate in Choral Conducting at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, where she has studied with Walter Huff, Betsy Burleigh, and Dominick DiOrio. She was the Music Director for the University Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Bloomington, as well as the Music Director for New Voices Opera, a student-run organization that commissions and produces operas by student composers. Ms. Calzaretta holds a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Simpson College and a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Utah Opera Chorus
The Utah Opera Chorus is a semi-professional ensemble, highly praised for their vocal ability and stage prowess. The dedicated members, comprised entirely of local residents, display artistic flexibility and strive to exceed the expectations of each production. They love performing a wide variety of repertoire, from the early Classical-era to contemporary pieces and musical theatre. Of their most recent performance in The Barber of Seville, Opera News praised “The Utah Opera Chorus, under the direction of Michaella Calzaretta, also gave an exceptional performance, adding muscle to the Rossini crescendos while following intricate stage direction.” Previous acclaim adds “Utah Opera’s well-balanced chorus sang with clarity and focus” and “The chorus…was ebullient and powerful.”
The chorus is at home on both the Capitol Theatre and Abravanel Hall stages, though collaboration with the Utah Symphony at Abravanel Hall is particularly special. Notable projects of late include a semi-staged Candide and live film presentations of Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In the spring, the opera chorus will return to perform on the “Bravo Broadway!” Rodgers and Hammerstein celebration concert.
Andrea Church Briscoe