Meet Rigoletto fabulous cast and creative team!
Rigoletto: Ken Simms
Ken Simms (Baritone) is a proud member of Los Angeles’ opera community. A native of Los Angeles, he began his formal musical training as a youth with the California Boys Choir. After a long break which included attendance at the University of Southern California and several private occupations in the field of Finance, he began studying with William Bohn in 1999 until his retirement in 2001. He continued his vocal development, Mr. Richard Fredricks, Ms. Gail Gordon and Mr. Christopher Luthi. Mr. Simms has performed the principal baritone roles in Verdi’s Luisa Miller, La traviata, Rigoletto, Un ballo in maschera, Aida, and Otello, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and Cosi fan tutte, Puccini’s La boheme and Tosca, Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann, Rachmaninoff’s Aleko, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Tsar’s Bride.
The Duke: Xavier Prado
Xavier Prado, tenor, a native of Chile and winner of both the Audience Choice Award and one of the top three prizes at the 2022 Palms Springs Opera Guild Vocal Competition. Currently a finalist at 2023 Pasadena Vocal Competition, a semifinalist at the Loren L. Zachary Competition, and winner of the 2019-20 Beverly Hills National Auditions. Praised for his “truly stunning acting and vocals”, Mr. Prado has starred in leading roles in a number of new works and world premiers such as Don Quixote in the opera Dulcinea XL by celebrated composer Juan Colomer in January of 2019, under maestro Ignazio Terrasi and the Los Angeles Grand Ensemble. In 2018 he made his film debut with the lead role in an American television miniseries with a release date still to be determined. Mr. Prado performed the role of Ruodi in Guillaume Tell with opera Southwest, which was broadcast across the United States. As a Studio Artist in Sarasota Opera, he performed as Le Premier Commissaire in Poulenc’s Les Dialogues des Carmélites, as well as dozens of concerts and lead role covers. At Opera San Jose he sang roles in Le Nozze di Figaro and Streetcar Named Desire, as well as the role of Lindoro in L’Italiana in Algeri. Other performances include the leading roles in Don Pasquale with Pocket Opera, Fidelio with the Palisades Symphony, Die Zauberflöte with Guild Opera Company, Rigoletto with Pacific Lyric Opera, and La Bohѐme with Ridgecrest Opera Guild and the Palisades Symphony. Mr. Prado was the tenor soloist for a tour of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Rousse Philharmonic Orchestra in Bulgaria. As a soloist, he has performed with and collaborated in a wide range of repertoire with different companies including such as the Opera Buffs, California Philharmonic, Golden State Pops Orchestra, Opera Chorus of Los Angeles & the Dream Orchestra, Livermore Valley Opera, Santa Barbara Choral Society, Cameretta of Los Angeles, Antelope Valley Symphony and Master Chorale, Ridgecrest Opera Guild, Pacific Palisades Symphony, and Opera en Castellano. Mr. Prado sang the leading role in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette with the Pacific Lyric Association in their Fall 2019 season, followed by a recital series through the Consortium of Music Presenters of Southern California he presented until February 2020. His last public appearance for that year was in March as the tenor soloist for Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at The Soraya Hall with the CSUN Symphony and a grand union of chorales. In late 2021 he made his return to the post-pandemic opera stage in Il Barbiere di Siviglia as Count Almaviva with the Huntington Beach Symphony & in the title role in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Kaschey The Deathless with Independent Opera Company. Other recent performances include the title role in Gounod's Faust with Huntington Beach Symphony & Romeo in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette with in a joint production between Mission Opera & VOPA. Some upcoming performances following this show, will bring him back to the role of Romeo in Romeo et Juliette with the Lyric Opera of Orange County, and The Prince in Independent Opera’s production of Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges. On the side of his music career, he is a passionate motorcycle enthusiast and violinist. He is heavily involved in the non-profit sector, currently serving as executive director of the Family Rescue Center in Canoga Park, CA.
Gilda: Brooke Iva Lohman
Hailed as “witty, adorable, and one to watch” (Singerpreneur), soprano Brooke Iva Lohman is an active recitalist and performer throughout California. Lauded for her clear, high range, crisp, clean fioritura, and moving character portrayals, she is quickly gaining attention as an adept interpreter of some of the most demanding coloratura repertoire for soprano. Ms. Lohman has sung with many Southern California opera companies, including LA Opera, Opera Santa Barbara, Pacific Opera Project, Glendale Opera, Orange County Opera, Mission Opera, Independent Opera, and Pacific Lyric Association. Notable performances include Brigitta (Iolanta), Dew Fairy (Hansel and Gretel), Frasquita (Carmen), Adele (Die Fledermaus), Monica (The Medium), the title role in the West Coast premiere of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Snow Maiden (Snegúrochka), Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte), Olympia (Les contes d’Hoffmann), Atalanta (Serse), and Madame Goldentrill (Der Schauspieldirektor). No stranger to the modern repertoire, Brooke has performed the works of local composers. Most recently, she performed the role of Ticie Pruett in Nathan Wang's On Gold Mountain with LA Opera Connects at the Huntington Library's Chinese Gardens. In Winter of 2020, she sang "Activist One" in the premiere of Andrew Leggett's opera scene, "You may forget but let me tell you this: someone in some future time will think of [...]" an opera in stolen quotations, inspired by the life and work of Valerie Solanas. She was also set to premiere the lead role in Peter Wing Healey's The Tree, with Mesopotamian Opera (COVID cancellation). Ms. Lohman’s upcoming performances include Gilda (Rigoletto), her international operatic debut in Berlin singing Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos), Servilia (La clemenza di Tito), and returning to LA Opera Connects to sing in their community outreach performance of Who Wants to Be an Opera Singer? at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Brooke was named a finalist in the Music International Grand Prix for 2022 and was the CalWestern Region Winner for the 2020 NATS Artist Awards competition, receiving the Irvin Bushman Award. She is a recipient of the Anna Sosenko Assist Trust grant, the Opera Buffs grant, the Opera Guild of Southern California scholarship, the Northridge Arts Council scholarship, and is a member of Pi Kappa Lambda. She received a MM in Vocal Performance from California State University, Northridge, a BM in Vocal Performance from California Baptist University. She lives in beautiful Pasadena, CA with her husband and three cats (Freddie, Felix, and Lili). For more information, please visit www.BrookeIvaLohman.com
Borsa: Elias Berezin
Elias Berezin is a California native. The 2021-22 season saw debuts with Pacific Lyric Association as both Eisenstein and Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus and a return to Guild Opera for role debuts as Ferrando in Cosí fan tutte and Borsa in Rigoletto. An active proponent of new music, Berezin created leading roles as Autumn in JosephNathaniel Cuenca's SCHISM at UCR Arts, and The Inventor in Ian Dicke's ROMAN with Synchromy at Pasadena's Boston Court Theater. Recent appearances as tenor soloist on the concert stage include Handel's Messiah with Music at Westwood; Mozart's Coronation Mass with Music at St. Andrew's; Coronation Mass, Messiah, and Haydn's The Creation with the Palisades Symphony; and recital appearances with the Verdi Chorus recorded during the pandemic. Berezin has appeared as a young artist with Source Song Festival, Songfest, and the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, holds an M.M. from the University of Redlands, and maintains an active studio.
The Countess Ceprano: Julia Powers
Mezzo-Soprano, JULIA POWERS, is an adaptive artist of oratorio and operatic repertoire. She is a new resident of Southern California and excited to begin making music in this community. She made her Bay-Area debut as the ALTO SOLOIST in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with I Cantori di Carmel last December. Looking ahead she will be playing DRYAD in a virtual reality production of Ariadne auf Naxos with Mousaverse, and will be featured in their Young Artist Recital Series. She was based in the Desert Southwest until spring of 2022. During that time she was a member and soloist with the Grammy-winning ensemble, Phoenix Chorale, and the resident mezzo-soprano soloist with Tucson’s Helios Ensemble. Other favorite roles include MISS TODD in The Old Maid & the Thief, JO MARCH in Adamo’s Little Women, and DESIRÉE in ALittle Night Music. She has been an emerging artist with Seagle Festival, Opera in the Ozarks, Chicago Summer Opera and Red River Lyric Opera. She holds an M.M. from Baylor University and a B.M.E. from Stephen F. Austin State University.
Count Ceprano: Eli Katz
Eli Katz was born into a family of musicians. He studied violin and piano along with his two sisters, and sang with his Dad. In high school he played Drums and sang in a Rock Band, and even schlepped his drums to cover for his teacher on a wedding gig! His computer and art skill, along with his attention to detail landed him in a coveted position as Artist at Exceptional Minds Studio, where he does post production graphic editing for award winning Major Motion Pictures. However, Eli’s love to perform keeps tugging him back into music. He had the great fortune of being mentored by Jeannine Wagner, who invited him to sing in the Wagner Ensemble which has taken him to Japan, Korea, France and the Czech Republic. 2019 opened up new singing opportunities with Galina Barskaya, and the Independent Opera Company. He has been in Romeo & Juliet, The Gipsy Princess, The Snow Maiden, as Toby in the Medium, and The Commendatore in Don Giovanni.
Marullo: Jamie Sanderson
Jamie Sanderson Baritone possesses a voice that critics have described as “mellifluous” and “commanding.” He recently played the first priest in Opera Neo’s virtual production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. in 2019 he played the Captain in Opera Neo’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Jamie earned a Master of Music from the Peabody Institute and a Bachelor of Music from the University of California, Irvine. At the Peabody Conservatory, Jamie performed as Marco in Gianni Schicchi, Le Baron in Massenet’s Cherubin, the Father in an outreach production of Humperdinck’s Hänsel and Gretel, and covered Manfred in Jake Heggie’s Out of Darkness: Two Remain. He was also featured as a street singer in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass under Maestro Marin Also.
Monterone: David Ingram
Described as having “a stellar voice” (Hollywood Fringe Festival) David Ingram is a graduate from the University of Arizona with a bachelor's degree in Vocal Performance. David has over 13 years of experience performing for audiences and has performed in China, Mexico, and all over the US in roles such as Don Alfonso, Marcello, and Dr. Caius. Mr. Ingram has a strong interest in new works, with two premieres of new operas under his belt. David is excited to be continuing his education at Cal State University Northridge under Maestro Dr. Hugo Vera. David most recently performed the role of Car Man in CSUN Opera’s production of Speed Dating Tonight! by Michael Ching. David is currently working on the roles of Count Monterone from Rigoletto, and Marcello from La boheme. David expects to graduate with his Masters in Vocal Performance in spring 2024.
Sparafucile: Michael Payne
Michael Payne is a classically trained bass, based in Los Angeles. He earned a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance degree from Lee University (Cleveland, TN) and a Master of Music in Vocal Performance degree from Missouri State University (Springfield, MO).
He made his Carnegie Hall solo debut with Manhattan Opera Studio in 2017 and was a part of the inaugural Teatro Nuovo (formerly Bel Canto at Caramoor) in 2018. He was an avid performer with Ozark Lyric Opera while living in Springfield, Missouri.
Michael has performed at two separate presidential inaugurations, and is featured on many choral recordings with the Missouri State Chorale. Michael taught at Drury University (Springfield, MO) for five years, specializing in classical vocal and musical theatre vocal music.
Currently, he performs across the greater Los Angeles area as a professional singer. He is the bass section leader at Palisades Presbyterian, and a performer with Goode Time Carolers, and has sung with Pacific Opera Project. For more information, visit michaelpaynebass.com
Maddalena: Alexis Wesley
Versatile actor/mezzo-soprano Alexis Wesley is a frequent performer with IOC. Equally at home in opera, oratorio, musical theatre, stage plays and film, she is also a writer and producer of independent film and theatre. Locally, she has performed principal roles with Pacific Opera Project, Mission Opera, The Definiens Project and IOC. Favorite roles include Mrs. Lovett (Sweeney Todd), Charlotte (A Little Night Music), Prudie Cupp (Pump Boys & Dinettes), Miss Todd (The Old Maid and the Thief), Madame Flora (The Medium), Kashcheevna (Kashchey the Immortal), Spring Beauty (The Snow Maiden), Prince Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus), Princess Anhilte (The Gipsy Princess), Gertrude (Roméo et Juliette) and Marcellina (Le Nozze di Figaro). Favorite oratorio solo work includes Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Handel’s Messiah, Kodály’s Missa Brevis, Buxtehude’s Jesu Meine Freude and Vivaldi’s Gloria. She is a frequent soloist at churches across LA County. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, she holds an MM in Voice from CSUN and is a graduate of the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting in NYC. By day, she is a graphic designer.
Giovanna: Britta Sterling
Britta Sterling Soprano soloist Weigl and Shostakovich is a Los Angeles based soprano, who has performed in operas and operettas with various companies around Los Angeles; including with Mission Opera, Glendale Centre Theater, Opera en Castellano, Cal State Los Angeles Opera Theater, Celestial Opera Company, and CSU Northridge Opera Theater. She has performed as a featured soprano soloist and chorister with the Roger Wagner Chorale on their Goodwill Heritage Tour of Japan and South Korea. Britta graduated from CSU Northridge with a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance.
Page: Rachel Yeo
Rachel Yeo is a classically trained high soprano. A Los Angeles native, she has been an active member of the local performance arts industry since a young age. In the 2021-2022 season, Ms. Yeo sang the principle role of Kiyohime in the workshop premiere of Kentaro Kameyama’s chamber opera, Dojyoji, at Boston Court Pasadena. She also made her LA Opera debut as Ngon Hong in their production of On Gold Mountain and sang the principal role of Princess in Independent Opera Company’s production of Puss in Boots. In past seasons, she performed with IOC in their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Cobweb and in Celestial Opera Company’s production of Madame Butterfly. Ms. Yeo is an experienced choral singer and recitalist. She has been singing with the Wagner Chorale since 2012 and most recently made her Japan debut as a soloist in the 2022 Japan Tour. She was a featured artist in the LA Korean Cultural Center’s 2022 Ari Project and in the St. Andrew Church’s 26th and 27th Annual Bach to Broadway Concert series. Rachel received her Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Performance from Mount Saint Mary’s University where she received a full scholarship. During her time at school, she sang for numerous academic festivities, commencements, and local charity events. She was also a Senior Category winner for the Pasadena Schubertiade Lieder Competition
Usher: Ezra Thompson
Ezra Thompson is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, an alumnus of the University of Oklahoma, and a fourth-year PhD student in Mathematics at UCLA. While at Oklahoma, Ezra was a member of Men’s Glee Club, where he was first introduced to opera performance as a member of the chorus in Carmen and L’Orfeo. During undergrad, Ezra spent a year on academic exchange in Bologna, Italy, at the University of Bologna, where he learned Italian and performed with the university chorus, Collegium Musicum. Ezra also performs each Sunday with his church choir at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church.
Ezra and his wife, Holly, reside in Mar Vista. Outside of music, Ezra enjoys cooking, watching sports, playing board and card games with friends, and participating in a competitive online trivia league.
Chorus Mikhail Barsky
Mikhail Barsky was born at Kiev(Ukraine). He studied cello and piano.
Also he has degree in choral conducting. He has sung with different kind of choirs(from small to big choirs) and vocal ensembles(classical, jazz, arrange of instrumental music). Presently he sings at Wagner Ensemble(Director: Jeannine Wagner) and choir of St.Mary of the Angels Church(Bass section leader). Mr. Barsky has sung several principal roles with IOC including Sobakin in "Tsar's Bride" and Old Gypsy in "Aleko".
Chorus: Brenda Osorio
SoCal native and emerging soprano Brenda Osorio has studied opera in Los Angeles, Italy, and Colombia. She has performed the roles of Adele in Die Fledermaus and is currently working on Adina from L’Elisir D’amore with Santa Monica College Opera Theater. Brenda has performed as a soloist and cho- rister in concerts throughout Southern California, the most recent being at Walt Dis- ney Hall with SoCal Choral. Beyond her operatic repertoire, she is also an experienced musical theater singer, performing roles such as Cinderella (Into the Woods), Velma (Hairspray), and Cossette in Les Miserables.
Chorus: Kyrian Corona
Kyrian Corona performs with and serves as Vice President on the Executive Board of Independent Opera Company. Kyrian began her musical career as co-founder, multi-keyboardist and lead singer in the award winning band Rocky Road. She advanced her music education at Cal State Long Beach and UCLA Extension studying piano performance, film scoring and composition. She later developed and performed in multimedia projects at LACE, Museum of Art Downtown Los Angeles and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London. Kyrian sings with and is President of the Burbank Chorale, one of the oldest musical organizations in the state of California. She also sings with and is on the Executive Board of Wagner Ensemble. She has performed with Los Angeles Korean-American Musicians' Association, Southern California Combined Choirs, and LA Opera’s The the Zarzuela Project, with concerts at Carnegie Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Zipper Hall, Royce Hall, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and First Congregational Church of Los Angeles.
Chorus: Sophia Bakaev
Hello! My name is Sophia Bakaev ( but I also go by Sophie) I am a master's student at California State University Northridge studying vocal performance. I have been performing for a big part of my life, but I am very excited about getting into more operatic roles. I also teach basic piano and voice. I am so excited to be a part of this IOC production!
Chorus: Becky Zhang
Jiayang Zhang, a soprano. After she got an undergraduate degree in education in China, she is now a vocal performance major graduate student at CSUN. She has also performed in China, Spain and Japan during her undergraduate years. During her time studying in the US, she participated in several opera programs. Her next role is going to be Musetta from La Boheme, with CSUN Opera.
Chorus: Melanie Keller
Melanie Christine Keller received her Bachelor's degree in Music with an emphasis in Jazz Vocal Arts from San Francisco State University and certificates in Audio Recording and Production from Women's Audio Mission in San Francisco. She performed solo at the Vatican in 2018 and is also a pop songwriter, producer and recording and mixing engineer.
Chorus: Janice Batzdorff
Janice Batzdorff, mezzo soprano, has sung with the chorus for numerous Independent Opera productions. As a singer with the Verdi Chorus, she appreciates the opportunity to participate in a stage production of a Verdi work. She is delighted to again work with Galina Barskaya, Liza Basrkaya, and Stage Director Christina Jensen.
Chorus: Kelsey Fahy
Kelsey Fahy is a mezzo-soprano and engineer based in San Diego County. Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, she decided she wasn’t cold enough and so spent her college years in Minnesota, where she sang in the St. Olaf Choir and performed in Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi, and The Coronation of Poppea. Since relocating to California, Kelsey has performed in chorus roles with Pacific Lyric Association and Lyric Opera of Orange County, has worked as a supernumerary in Otello with Pacific Symphony, and sings regularly with the Southern California Damekor. Her most recent performance was as Mercedes in PLA's production of Carmen. In addition to opera chorus work, Kelsey has understudied the roles of Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus and Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors. Fun fact: listening to the Fellowship of the Ring score was what prompted her decision to pursue singing.
Chorus: Michelle Matsumune
Mezzo soprano Michelle Matsumune has been performing in opera choruses since the 1990s, beginning with a college production of La Traviata in Canterbury, England, and continuing in multiple Independent Opera Company performances, including Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky), Tales of Hoffman (Offenbach), Aleko (Rachmaninoff), and Pygmalion (Rameau). When needed, she lends her flute playing skills to the stage as well, such as in Orfeo (Gluck) and Goyescas (Granados). Michelle sings with the Wagner Ensemble and plays and teaches flute professionally.
Chorus: Jacob Walters
Jacob Walters is a multi-genre Tenor whose youthful, but powerful voice touches the Heart as much as it does the Ear. Having begun training in music at 8 years old, and with a flexibility and passion for music of all types, he has performed in productions that span the entirety of the classical/contemporary spectrum, including his own compositions. An Arizona native, he received his Bachelor of Music in Voice from The University of Arizona, and is currently pursuing a Master of Music in Voice from California State University, Northridge. When not singing or playing piano, you’ll probably find him enjoying a big helping of pasta! Visit him on instagram at @khakijake.
Chorus: Steve Moritsugu
Steve “Mor” Moritsugu has sung many major tenor roles in southern California productions including Otello with Vineyard Touring Opera & orchestra; Yamadori with Pacific Opera Project; Faust, Prince Ramiro, Radames, Cavaradossi, Don Carlo, Don Ottavio, and Manrico with Repertory Opera in Pomona; Ferrando, Alfredo, Lt Pinkerton, Count Almaviva, Tamino, Radames, Don Carlo, Rodolfo, and Manrico with LA Metropolitan Opera. In concert, he has been the soloist for Messiah, Beethoven 9th, and Wagner scenes. He has sung with Long Beach Opera, Landmark Opera, Mesopotamian Opera, Intimate Opera, Newport Theatre Arts Center, Mission Opera, Valley Opera & Perf Arts and LA Opera Connects.
Chorus: Bedjou Jean
Bedjou Jean discovered classical voice 2018 and has been studying it ever since. He is really excited to take part in his first opera production. Check out his youtube channel at https://youtube.com/@bedjoujean
Jennifer Anise is a multidisciplinary artist who began dancing as an expressive complement to her work in film production. A graduate of NYU, Jennifer's dance training has mostly been in the Vaganova style of ballet around Southern California, where she continues to enjoy and explore various forms of dance as a means of storytelling.
Lily is a dance enthusiast who has trained in ballet and jazz for over 3 decades! She has had the privilege of training with the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Westside School of Ballet, and Anna Cheselka Dance Center.