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2022-23 Resident Company

Save the date August 7, 2022, at 4 pm

Opera San José mission has always been to support the development of emerging operatic talent and we are thrilled to welcome our 2022-23 cohort of Resident Artists.  Among these artists include cherished returning artists taking on roles they’ve dreamed of for years as well as new faces that we are eager to see take to the stage of the California Theatre.  This year also marks our expansion of the program to include our first-ever Composer in Residence. These residents are the future of opera – and the future is bright indeed. 

We hope that you will join us for our Resident Artist Showcase, streamed live from our Heiman Digital Media Studio on August 7, 2022,  at 4 pmEnjoy stunning arias, dynamic duets, insightful interviews and more! 

Free to attend, reserve your ticket today!


Tenor Zhengyi Bai has recently completed his training in the renowned Adler Fellowship Program at San Francisco Opera. As a 2018 participant of the Merola Opera Program, he has been recognized by the San Francisco Chronicle for his “charming verve.

”Bai made his San Francisco Opera company debut as Remendado in 2019-2020 season’s Carmen and also appeared as the Dancing Master and Lamplighter in Manon Lescautlater the same season. In the spring of 2021, he performed in San Francisco Opera’s Adlers at the Drive-In concert which heralded SFO’s return to live performance, and covered the role of Almaviva in the company’s production of The Barber of Seville. In the 2021-2022 season he performed the role of the First Prisoner in Beethoven’s Fidelio with San Francisco Opera.

Born and raised in Shandong province of China, Bai began his studies as a piano student and a collaborative pianist. It was in his junior year in college he discovered his true instrument: his voice. With a solid musical foundation of piano study, Zhengyi Bai flourished in his vocal studies, completing his initial vocal training in Shandong, China, and continuing his opera training in the United States.


Baritone Eugene Brancoveanu is a returning Resident Artist at Opera San José. Past roles with OSJ include Eisenstein (Die Fledermaus), the Father (Hansel and Gretel), and Count De Luna (Il trovatore), Stubb (Moby-Dick), Leporello (Don Giovanni), Stanley Kowalski (A Streetcar Named Desire), and Escamillo (Carmen). He has also appeared in OSJ’s digital productions of Sing For Your Supper! and Love and Secrets, as well as Schumann’s Dichterliebe.

Recent engagements for Mr. Brancoveanu include Older Brother in Jabri’s Cities of Salt with Opera Movie NY, and serving as director and performing the role of Pasha Selim in The Abduction from the Seraglio with Livermore Opera. In Freiburg, Germany, he appeared as Falke in Die Fledermaus, Darcy in Mechem’s Pride and Prejudice, and Escamillo in Carmen, and performed the title role in Don Giovanniin Warsaw, Poland. Other international performances include appearances at Heidelberg Opera, Stuttgart Opera, Salzburg Music Festival, Munich State Opera, Berlin Opera, Pesaro Teatro Rossini, Piccola Scala di Milano, Macerata teatro di opera, Romanian National Theater, Tokyo Opera House, Matsumoto Opera, Montreal Opera and Opera Theater of Tel Aviv.

After his successful apprenticeship with San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, he was awarded the position of Adler Fellow, where roles performed included Tomski in Pique Dame, Riccardo in The Italian in Algiers, the title role in Don Giovanni, the Pilot in The Little Prince, Belcore in The Elixir of Love, Enrico in Lucia di Lammermoora nd Tarquinius in Britten’s Rape of Lucretia.

Career highlights include the title role of Shostakovich’s Orango with the L.A. Philharmonic under the direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen and Peter Sellers, which was recorded for Deutsche Grammophone, and the role of Marcello in Baz Luhrmann’s Broadway production of La Bohème, for which he received both an honorary Tony Award and the 2004 LA Stage Alliance’s Ovation Award (for his performance in the Los Angeles production).

Mr. Brancoveanu graduated from the Academy of Music in Transylvania, Romania, and the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria.


Tara Branham is a director of opera and theatre. In the summer of 2022, she directs the U.S. premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Coraline at West Edge Opera, in collaboration with Paper moon Opera Productions. In the 2022 –2023 season, Tara will make her California Theatre debut directing Tosca for Opera San José, followed by a return to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis to direct a reimagining of Mozart’s Così fan tutte. Previously Tara directed The Barber of Seville for OTSL’s Opera on the Go education program, seen by over 80,000 students nationwide. As Resident Director with Opera San José, Tara helmed digital productions of Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers, starring Susan Graham, and Love & Secrets: A Domestic Trilogy, which included Wolf-Ferrari’s I Segreto di Susanna, Four Dialogues by Ned Rorem, and The Husbands by Tom Cipullo. Also for OSJ, she directed and co-created the musical pastiches Sing for Your Supper! and The Parting Glass. Her production of the U.S. premiere of octagon, starring Kiki Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk, The Old Guard) at Jackalope Theatre, received a sold-out extension. This was a culmination of three years of development and collaboration with playwright and television writer Kristiana Rae Colón (Showtime’s The Chi), with whom she also directed and co-produced the sold-out world premiere of good Friday. Tara graduated cum laude from Ball State University.


Described as having “a gorgeously warm tone and deep resonance” (Opera News), Baritone Darren Drone is quickly making a name for himself in the opera world as an exciting up and comer. During the 2021-2022 season, Mr. Drone joined the Metropolitan Opera roster as a featured soloist in Porgy and Bess, covered Mitchell in the world premiere of Carlos Simon and Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s it all falls down at Washington National Opera, made his Opera Memphis debut as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte and was set to make a debut with Florentine Opera as Schaunard in La bohème (COVID19 –rescheduled to 2024). In the 2022-2023 season, Mr. Drone will make his Opera San José debut in the title role of Verdi’s Falstaff and will create a role in a world premiere by Rene Orth; he also makes his Portland Opera debut as Zuniga in Carmen.

In the summer of 2021, Mr. Drone joined the Santa Fe Opera roster, covering the roles of the Count in Le nozze di Figaro, Starveling inA Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the Captain in Eugene Onegin. In the summer of 2022, Mr. Drone returns to Santa Fe, singing Moralès in Carmen and covering the title role of Falstaff. 


A recent graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, contralto Megan Esther Grey is quickly gaining attention in roles large and small across the United States. In 2021-2022, she returned to The Metropolitan Opera to cover both Suzuki and Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterly, performed the title role of Britten’s Rape of Lucretia with UNT Opera, sang Emilia in a concert production of Verdi’s Otello with the UNT Symphony Orchestra and makes her Washington Concert Opera debut as Mistress Bentson in Lakmé. In the summer of 2022, Ms. Grey will join the Santa Fe Opera, covering the role of Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde. During the 2022-2023 season, Ms. Grey will make her Opera San José debut as Emeline in Alma Deutscher’s Cinderella and Mistress Quickly in Falstaff. She will also appear as the soloist in Mahler’s Rückert Lieder with the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra and cover Dritte Dame in both the holiday adaption and the new production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte with The Metropolitan Opera.

Throughout the disrupted 2020-2021 season Ms. Grey performed in multiple recitals in collaboration with pianist Matthew Gemmill. In April of 2021, she was joined by pianist Mark Bilyeu and trombonist Derek Bromme for performances of Libby Larsen’s Mary Cassatt and Dominick Argento’s From the Diary of Virginia Woolf. This multimedia recital featured paintings by Mary Cassatt, as well as mixed media prints by Mer Brich and an animated script by Alexandra Saulsbury. In the summer of 2021, Ms. Grey returned to Wolf Trap Opera as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in Concert.


Praised by The New York Times for her “plummy, penetrating voice,” soprano Maria Natale is the recipient of many awards and grants from some of the most prestigious vocal competitions nationwide. She was awarded First Prize in the National James Collier Vocal Competition, Second Prize and Audience Choice in the Elizabeth Connell Prize, Second Place in the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition, a Grand Finalist in the Loren L. Zachary Vocal Competition, a grant recipient from the Licia Albanese–Puccini Foundation, Giulio Gari International Vocal Competition, and the Second Prizewinner of the Opera at Florham Vocal Competition.

Recently, Ms. Natale made her debuts at Tulsa Opera as Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly and at Opera San Joséas Nedda in Pagliacci. She has also been seen as OSJ as Cio-Cio San and as Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus. Other engagements include Opera Maine as Violetta in La Traviata under conductor Stephen Lord, about which Opera News proclaimed “her powerful soprano easily filled the house,” and her Sarasota Opera debut as Liù in Turandot, where she was hailed as having an “unequivocal as Italian sound” (New Outpost).

As a concert soloist, Ms. Natale has been featured at Carnegie Hall in Fauré’s Requiem and Mozart’s Missa Solemnis with Mid America Productions. She has also appeared as the soprano soloist with NYC Master Chorale in Dvořák’s Te Deum and Mozart’s Requiem.

The 2022/2023 season will feature her return to Opera San José as Countess Almaviva in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, as well as her debut as the title role in Puccini’s Tosca.

RENE ORTH (Composer)

Rene Orth is a composer who “breaks new ground”(Opera News),writing music described as “…always dramatic, reflective, rarely predictable, and often electronic” (Musical America).Her music focuses on dramatic and lyrical storytelling, and she takes a keen interest in blending electronic soundscapes with acoustic music. She recently completed her three-year tenure as Composer-in-Residence for Opera Philadelphia and will be the inaugural Composer-in-Residence at Opera San José for the 2022–2023 season.

Orth’s work has been performed by a variety of opera companies and orchestras, including Chautauqua Opera / Opera Memphis (upcoming TBA), Berkeley Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, Summerville Orchestra, New World Symphony, Julliard Youth Symphony, Festival d’Aix en Provence, Opera Philadelphia, Tapestry Opera, Fort Worth Opera, and Washington National Opera, and Curtis Opera Theater. She has collaborated with notable artists and ensembles such as the Del Sol, Dover and Aizuri Quartets, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Sasha Cooke, Daniela Mack Shrader, Blythe Gaissert, Zach James, Seraph Brass, Rock School of Dance, and Pennsylvania Ballet.

Recent distinctions include an OPERA America Commissioning Grant and Discovery Grant for Female Composers, American Composers Forum Subito Grant, and Kentucky Foundation for Women Artist Enrichmnet Grant. She has been in residence at Festival d’Aix en Provence, Yaddo, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, the Orchard Project Greenhouse, Avaloch Farm Institute, Tapestry Opera, Lake Champlain Music Festival, and Luzerne Music Center.

NIKOLA PRINTZ (mezzo-soprano)

Nikola Printz is an artist and performer known for their dark, velvety voice, charismatic stage presence, and artistic fearlessness. They most recently were seen as the title role of The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein with Pocket Opera, as well as the title roles of Carmen and Dido with Opera San José, where they were a Resident Artist for the 2021/2022 season. They were recently praised by Opera News as having “a big opulent tone and an easy reach to their high register.” Other recent appearances include “Behind the Stage Door” with the 2021 Merola season, Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine, and the premiere of Jake Heggie’s song cycle, “Intonations. ”Other role debuts include Orfeo ed Euridice and Carmen—as well as Rosina, Cherubino, and Isabella in L’italiana in Algeri with Opera Memphis, where they were a Resident Artist. Nikola recently received high praise for their recent recital debut with San Francisco Opera, opening the Schwabacher Recital season with a program based on their journey of their gender discovery.

During their Artist residency in Memphis, Nikola became an accomplished aerialist, training in Static and Dance trapeze. They have cultivated several aerial acts sung and performed live with both piano and orchestra in grand concert halls and Smokey cabaret clubs alike.

Nikola will be a featured solo artist in their second summer at Merola in 2022, and in the fall as the role of Hannah After in As One with Opera Steamboat, and returning to San Francisco to sing Oreste in Leonardo Vinci’s Baroque gem, Astianatte with Ars Minerva.

Outside of opera, Nikola writes and records their own music, playing a plethora of different instruments as well as riding their motorcycle and roller skating. They are also an advocate for accessibility in the arts and are currently learning ASL. 


During the 2021—22 season, Puerto Rican soprano Natalia Santaliz made her debut as Zerlina in Don Giovanni with Berkshire Opera Festival; covered Belinda in Dido and Aeneas and Maria in West Side Story with Opera San José; joined the Gerdine Young Artists Program at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis where she covered Papagena inThe Magic Flute; and performed as soprano soloist for the Fauré Requiem with Orquesta Sinfónica de Puerto Rico. Additional highlights of past seasons include singing Nella and covering Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi under Kent Nagano at the Festival Napa Valley; performing The Blue Project: Puerto Rican Folk Music presented by New World Symphony; and soprano soloist in John Rutter’s Requiem with the Puerto Rico Symphony. Ms. Santaliz has sung the roles of Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, Mařenka inThe Bartered Bride, Camila in Navarro’s Frenesí, and been a guest artist with Ópera de Puerto Rico, Teatro de la Ópera, Fundación Puertorriqueña de Zarzuela y Opereta, Teatro Lírico del Oeste, among others. Ms. Santaliz participated in Martina Arroyo Foundation’s “Prelude to Performance” and the Sherrill Milnes Voice Studio as part of the Savannah Voice Festival in Georgia. She began her training at the Escuela Libre de Música Ernesto Ramos Antonini of Mayagüez before graduating with honors from the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico and ultimately receiving her master’s degree from Mannes School of Music.