Three recent graduates of SUNY Fredonia State are hitting high notes in the opera world.
San Francisco’s Merola Opera Program, established in 1957 and seen as one of North America’s most prestigious opera training organizations, has accepted three Fredonia alumni for its summer program this year. It is an honor for Fredonia considering that only 23 singers, as well as five apprentice coaches and one technical director, are chosen every year from an application pool of approximately 800.
The three young singers are soprano Mary Evelyn Hangley, of Long Beach; tenor Boris Van Druff, of Olean; and tenor Kyle Van Schoonhoven, of Lockport.
Van Schoonhoven, a 2011 alumnus, was one of the Buffalo/Toronto district winners in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions held in Buffalo in December 2015.
“This is truly extraordinary. Acceptance into the Merola program is one of the highest honors a young professional singer can receive,” said Gerald Gray, director of choral activities at Fredonia, announcing the news. Even having one alumni accepted into the program is an honor, Gray noted, but having three in one year is rare for even the most elite conservatories.Alumni of the Merola program have included Carol Vaness, Deborah Voigt and Dolora Zajick. Over the years the program has featured master classes with opera legends such as Régine Crespin, Jane Eaglen, Hans Hotter, Dame Joan Sutherland and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.
The Merola Opera Program is affiliated with the San Francisco Opera. It is named for the San Francisco Opera’s first director, Gaetano Merola. The program pays for each participant’s tuition, travel and housing expenses, and also includes a living stipend. The 11-week program begins June 6.