2019 Finalists and Semi-finalists

Introducing the finalists and semi-finalists to the Butler Opera International Competition.

Felicia Moore - Soprano, Winner

Crystal White - Soprano, Finalist

Crystal White, soprano is quickly gaining recognition as one of the most uprising singers of her time. White’s 2018-2019 season began with her Afro-American Chamber Orchestra Debut leading a concert of spirituals and Opera a La Carte. She also made her Houston Ebony Opera debut, performing in Hall Johnson’s revival of Son of Man. Upcoming engagements include performances with Houston Ebony Opera and the Afro-American Chamber Orchestra.

In the 2016-2017 season, Crystal participated in the Texas Music Festival in Le Chiavi Bel Canto Institute working with renowned singers and vocal coaches including Dr. Richard Bado, Melanie Sonnenberg, David Burnakus, Ruth Ann Swenson, Nova Thomas, and Ted Taylor.

In 2019, White was awarded the 4th annual Saengerbund Awards finalist award. In her formal studies, Crystal received titled scholarships, including the “Winifred and Maurice Hirsch Memorial Scholarship” at the University of Houston and the “Howard Hoard award in voice” at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Crystal has made appearances with the San Antonio Symphony, Moores Opera, Crittenden Opera studio, and UTSA lyric opera. Notable performances include Ann Putnam, Contessa, Elisetta (Il Matrimonio Segreto), Fata Morgana, Bianca (La Rondine), Abbess, Alida Slade (Roman Fever), and Agathe.

Crystal White is currently based in Texas, where she studies with Dr. Timothy Jones. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a Master of Music degree from the University of Houston.

John Noh, Tenor

Courtney Elvira - Mezzo Soprano, Finalist

Courtney Elvira is a lyric mezzo-soprano with her hometown roots in St. Petersburg, FL. This summer, She completed her second season with Des Moines Metro Opera, participating in the Apprentice Artist program. She was delighted to cover Prince Orlofsky in  the riotous, Die Fledermaus. Earlier this year, Courtney sang the role of Third Spirit and covered Third Lady in The Magic Flute with St. Petersburg Opera.

This season, Courtney will be performing all over the country, making appearances with Kentucky Opera, Dayton Opera and Philharmonic, Brava! Opera Theater and Opera Ithaca. This September, she will perform Second Lady in Kentucky Opera's production of Die Zauberflöte. Soon after, she'll head to Dayton, Ohio, to sing Lilith in Dayton Ballet's Dracula: Bloodlines, along with appearing as Giovanna in Dayton Opera's Rigoletto.  In December, Courtney will be joining the Dayton Philharmonic as the mezzo-soloist in their annual performance of Handel's Messiah. She returns to Dayton Opera next spring, as the mezzo-soprano Artist-in-Residence. There, she'll be singing Kate in The Pirates of Penzance. Soon after, Courtney will be heading to the west coast, where she will be singing her first Hansel, in Hansel and Gretel, for Brava! Opera Theater.Finally, She’ll be joining Opera Ithaca, in April, for a double-bill performance of La liberazione di Ruggiero and a commissioned work by Kamala Sankaram, The Enchantress. Visit her website at www.courtneyelvira.com.


Carlos Enrique Santelli - Tenor, Finalist

Winner of the 2018 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, tenor Carlos Enrique Santelli is a recent graduate of Los Angeles Opera's Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, where he covered Nadir in The Pearl Fishers. Last season, Mr. Santelli made his Dayton Opera debut as Count Almaviva in The Barber of Seville. This season, he performs the role of Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore with Virginia Opera. On the concert stage, he will sing the tenor solo in Mendelssohn’s Die Erste Walpurgisnacht with the Sacramento Choral Society and Handel's Messiah with the Boise Philharmonic. Future engagements include his debut with San Diego Opera where he will reprise Almaviva, as well as appearances with Opera Orlando as Tonio in La fille du régiment and Dayton Opera as Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola.

Recent projects with LA Opera include performances in Salome, conducted by James Conlon, and Wonderful Town, conducted by Grant Gershon. Additionally, Mr. Santelli appeared as a guest soloist in a special gala celebrating the 10-year anniversary of LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program. Further collaborations on the West Coast include numerous projects with LA Opera’s Artist-in-Residence Matthew Aucoin.

Mr. Santelli received his Bachelor of Music degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and his Master of Music from the University of Michigan. It was at the latter institution that he had the distinction of holding a Jessye Norman Graduate Fellowship. He is a native of Orlando, Florida.

Daewon Seo, Baritone
Seunghee Lee, Bass
Abigail Rethwisch, Soprano
Zaray Rodriguez, Mezzo-Soprano
Bian Haoxiong, Tenor
Robert Mellon, Baritone
Peter Barber, Bass

 Daewon Seo - Baritone, Finalist

A native of South Korea, baritone Daewon Seo recently received his Artistic Diploma from Oberlin Conservatory. This year, he will be making a debut with the Cleveland Opera Theater in the role of Barone Douphol from La Traviata and also with Opera Camerata New Jersey in the role of Siméon From L’enfant prodigue by Debussy.

During his 2018-2019 season, he performed the role of Harlekin in Ariadne auf Naxos by Strauss with Miami Music Festival. He has won of William C. Bard Competition and Lois Alba Aria competition. He has also won the S.Livingston Mather Competition for three years. He appeared Sherril Milnes’s Masterclass at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

During his years at Oberlin Conservatory, he performed the role of Il Conte from Le nozze di Figaro. He was also the baritone soloist for Orff’s Carmina Burana. He has worked with renown artists such as Marilyn Horne and Gerald Finley in masterclasses.


Seunghee Lee - Bass, Finalist

Bass Seunghee Lee is from Seoul, South Korea, In 2014, he played as Colline in La boheme by G. Puccini, with the University of Texas at Austin. Since then, he continuously built his opera career with various roles as Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro by W.A> Mozart, Simone in Gianni Schicchi by G. Puccini, Officier/Jailer in Dialogues des Carmélites by F. Poulenc in 2015, Gideon March in Little Women by M. Adamo in 2016 and Speaker in Die Zauberflöte by W.A. Mozart in 2017. In two opera festivals, he consecutively performed as Bartolo in Le nozze di Fiagro with the Miami Music Festival in 2017, and Canto Vocal Program with full scholarship in 2018. Coming soon in 2019, he is scheduled to play as Bonz cover and Imperial Commissioner in Madama Butterfly with St. Petersburgh Opera Company, Antonio in Le nozze di Fiagro, as well as Officer and Basilio cover in Il barbiere di Siviglia in Chautauqua Young Artist, NY.

Additionally, he won the Schubert Lied Competition and Korean Art Song Competition. Mr. Lee is the finalists from Soma International Foudnation Inc. Lois Alba Aria Competition 2017, San Francisco Opera Center, Merola Opera Program in Dallas region 2017, New Jersey Association of Verismo Opera International Vocal Competition NY 2018 and Haugh Light Opera Vocal Competition in 2019. Mr. Lee received his Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Yon-Sei University, his Master of Music in Opera Performance and doctorate degree, D.M.A from the University of Texas at Austin.


Abigail Rethwisch - Soprano, Semi-Finalist

Soprano Abigail Rethwisch stepped in on less than two hours’ notice in March 2017 to sing the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor for the entire run of Utah Opera’s production thrilling audiences with “her command of bel canto technique and riveting dramatic talent” (Opera News).


During the 2018-2019 season, Ms. Rethwisch makes her company and role debut with Intermountain Opera Bozeman as Mabel in Pirates of Penzance. She will also join Opera Southwest as a guest soloist in their New Year's Eve Gala and return to Utah Opera to sing First Lady in Die Zauberflöte. In the 2017-18 season she sang Adele in Die Fledermaus, and Nella in Gianni Schicchi with Utah Opera and joined the Utah Symphony as a soloist on their Great American Road Trip. Past Utah Opera appearances include Carmen, The Long Walk, Man of La Mancha, and Messiah. In the 2017-2018 season Ms. Rethwisch also sang Der Königin der Nacht with CoOperative in Princeton, NJ and joined the Columbus Symphony for the Brahms Requiem and Saariaho’s Leino Songs.

Visit her website at www.abigailrethwisch.com .


Talin Nalbandian - Mezzo-Soprano, Semi-Finalist

A native of Los Angeles, California, Talin Nalbandian is an Armenian-American mezzo-soprano. As a recent member of Virginia Opera’s Herndon Foundation Emerging Artists Program from 2017-2019, Ms. Nalbandian performed the role of First Nursemaid in Street Scene, covered Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni and Ms. Olson and Mrs. Jones in Street Scene, and participated in the educational outreach tours. In the past, she has also worked with Opera San Josè, Des Moines Metro Opera, Sarasota Opera, and Wolf Trap Opera. Some roles include Suzuki (Madama Butterfly), Maddalena (Rigoletto), 1st trio member (Trouble in Tahiti), Caverna (L’Opera Seria), Bianca (The Rape of Lucretia), Marcellina (Le Nozze di Figaro), Mallika and Mistress Bentson (Lakmè), and Dorabella (Così fan tutte). Future engagements include singing as the alto soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Symphony Silicon Valley, performing the role of Ruby in Cold Mountain at Music Academy of the West in the Summer and returning to Opera San Josè in the Fall to sing the role of Sandman and cover the role of Hansel in Hansel and Gretel. Talin is a first place winner of the Henry and Maria Holt Vocal Competition and a finalist of the Mentoris Vocal Competition and the Gerda Lissner Lieder/Song Competition. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pepperdine University and a Master of Music degree from Manhattan School of Music.


Bian Haoxiong - Tenor, Semi-Finalist

 Haoxiong Bian is a Chinese Tenor, A 2017 recipient of a China Scholarship Council Foundation award and government-sponsored. This Past Spring of 2019 Mr.Bian was Nadir in Les Pêcheurs de Perles with Manhattan School of Music . Some Scene works includes La Bohème (Rodolfo) in 2014, and The Pearl Fishers (Nadir) in 2016 with University of Century Arkansas. In addition to recitals, his solo work includes work with The Symphonic Choral Concert Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Victory of WWII in Shanghai Oriental Art Center, 2015.

He won Singapore International Vocal Competition, China National College Vocal Competition.

Mr.Bian graduated from Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of Ms.Shirley close, He is DMA student of Voice Department in the University of Texas at Austin.


Taehwan Kim - Baritone, Semi-Finalist

Baritone Taehwan Kim has currently been pursuing Doctor of Musical Arts in Opera Performance at The Butler School of Music, studying with Baritone Donnie Ray Albert. Mr. Kim also earned Graduate Diploma at New England Conservatory, Master of Music at Peabody Conservatory, and Bachelor of Music at Seoul National University. At his hometown South Korea, he played various operatic roles, such as Yakuside in Madama Butterfly at Korean National Opera, Barone in La traviata at Seoul National University and at Seoul Arts Center. After coming to the United States, baritone Taehwan Kim performed a variety of operatic roles as well, such as Pandolfe in Cendrillon, Count in Le nozze di Figaro, Fininal in Der Rosenkavalier, Escamillo in Carmen, Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Clock and Black Cat in L’Enfant et les Sortilèges, Simeon in L’Enfant prodigue, Guglielmo in Cosi fan tutte, Papageno in The Magic Flute, and Ronaldo in Later The Same Evening. He was also a soloist in various oratorios, such as Fauré’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, and Dubois’ The Seven Last Words of Christ. This year, he has performed Sam in Trouble in Tahiti and title role in Eugene Onegin at Butler Opera Center, and Marcello in La bohème and John Brooke in Adamo’s Little Women in the Opera in the Ozarks. And he will perform title role in Don Giovanni this fall semester at Butler Opera Center as well. Besides, baritone Taehwan Kim is a member of a professional male vocal quartet “Klang”, who have been performing various concerts professionally, especially in Texas area. In the beginning of this year, he has won a finalist award in the 4th Annual Saengerbund Awards(A German Vocal Competition). Currently, Mr. Kim is the recipient of Butler Centennial Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Opera and Willa Stewart Setseck Scholarship.


Peter Barber - Bass, Semi-Finalist

Peter Barber, an American bass and first-year master’s student at the University of Southern California, has often been compared to a “young Samuel Ramey” in terms of his vocal range and stylistic versatility as a singer. Some of his performance highlights include: Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, the Mikado in The Mikado, and Doctor Bartolo in The Barber of Seville. Peter was also an essential performer in Opera Lucca last summer, playing roles in a scenes program that include, but are not limited to: Sparafucile in Rigoletto, Leporello in Don Giovanni, Dulcamara in L’Elisir d’amore, and Alidoro in La Cenerentola. In the Fall semester of 2018, Peter performed La Fauteuil and L’Arbre in Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges, and Le Chambellan in Stravinski’s Le Rossignol with the USC Thornton Opera program. For the summer season of 2019, Peter will be attending the prestigious Music Academy of the West, where he was accepted as one of 21 vocal fellows from a record-high audition pool of nearly 700 people. In addition, Peter will be playing the principal bass role of Stobrod/Blind Man in the academy’s production of Cold Mountain by Jennifer Higdon. Peter is currently in the voice studio of Rod Gilfry, and hopes to pursue a career in operatic performance after graduating from USC in 2020. 

Visit his website at www.petermbarber.com