2018 Judges

JOSEPH ILLICK is the Artistic Director of the Fort Worth Opera, after serving for fifteen seasons as Music Director and Principal Conductor. He has also served as Executive and Artistic Director of Performance Santa Fe, as Artistic Director of the Lake George Opera Festival, as Interim Artistic Director of Greater Miami Opera, as Artistic Director of Voices of Change, as Music Director of the Pittsburgh Opera Theater, as Artistic Director of Shreveport Opera, and as Principal Conductor of the Teatro Lirico D’Europa.  He has conducted for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Opera Carolina, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Augusta Opera, Skylight Opera Theatre, Eugene Opera, Opera Omaha, Nevada Opera Theater, Minnesota Opera National Tour, Pittsburgh Opera Theater, Greater Miami Opera, Lake George Opera Festival, Atlantic Opera USA, Stadttheater Aachen, Vienna Chamber Opera, and the Covent Garden Ensemble. He is the conductor of the Albany label recordings of the world premiere of Thomas Pasatieri’s opera Frau Margot and the world premiere of Jorge Martin’s opera Before Night Falls.  He has appeared as an accompanist and as a piano soloist both in Europe and the United States. His opera UnShakeable was commissioned by Santa Fe Opera and has been performed over 40 times in New Mexico and Colorado.


Hector Armienta is the founder and artistic director of Opera Cultura, whose mission is to explore music theater and opera through a cross-cultural lens.  He holds a BM degree in composition from California Institute of the Arts and an MM degree in composition from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Mr. Armienta is a nationally recognized Mexican-American composer who  focuses on creating work that explores the Mexican and Mexican-American cultural experience. He has received awards and commissions from Meet the Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, Arts International, Opera Pacific, the Pacific Symphony, two San Francisco Arts Commissions, Oakland East Bay Symphony, and Western Stage Theater. His work for orchestra and theater has received support from three NEA grants in artistic excellence.As an opera and music theater composer, he draws on stories and music that represent his bi-cultural roots.  Parts of his music theater trilogy, Aguas Ancestrales/Ancient Waters, have been performed by Opera Pacific, Western Stage Theater, The York Theater and Teatro Latea in New York, and Philadelphia’s Center City Opera. His bilingual children’s opera based on a Mexican folk tale, Los Coyotes y Las Conejas, has been performed by the Music Theater Collaborative, Fort Worth Opera, and Tulsa Opera. Cuentos de Peregrinacion/Tales of Pilgrimage, premiered in San Jose in March 2014 and subsequently in Guadalajara’s Teatro Degollado. Most recently, he has acquired the rights to develop Rudolfo Anaya’s epic novel, Bless Me Ultima, into an opera.


Katherine Olsen is one of the world’s most sought-after opera coach/accompanists.  She has worked, for the past ten years, with the Martina Arroyo Prelude to Performance in New York City.  Ms. Olsen has played for and adjudicated many prestigious vocal competitions including: The New Tang Dynasty Vocal Competition, The Puccini Competition, The George London Awards, The Richard Tucker Foundation, The United Negro Spiritual Foundation, and Voci Verdiane-Busetto, Italy.  She was the Principle Coach and Artistic Administrator for Baz Luhrmann’s Tony Award –winning production for Puccini’s “La Bohème on Broadway.”As a pianist she has collaborated with such artists as: Ben Heppner, Leona Mitchell, Sherrill Milnes, Cheryl Studer, Gary Lakes, Barbara Daniels, Carolyn Blackwell, Renata Scotto, Marcello Giordani and Riccardo Caruso.  Ms. Olsen has held staff positions with: Juilliard School’s American Opera Center, Lyric Opera Chicago, University of Tennessee and Orlando Opera. Katherine has performed for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Bush at the White House, and she has performed at the Library of Congress on three separate occasions. Ms. Olsen currently serves on the board of The Singer’s Development Foundation and the Marcello Giordani Foundation.  She is also the Founder of Encompass Arts LLC, representing leading Broadway, Film, Stage and Operatic talent.

American operatic soprano Talise Trevigne begins the 2017-18 Season at Hawaii Opera Theatre in the role of Micaëla Carmen and she travels to Canada to recreate the role of Clara in JFK at Opéra de Montréal.  At the University of Michigan Trevigne gives a concert performance singing the female title role in Porgy and Bess, a role for which she recently received great acclaim.  At Opera Omaha the artist steps into a role of Ma Proving Up and finishes the season in the title role of L'incoronazione di Poppea at Cincinnati Opera.  Ms. Trevigne’s recent highlights include performances at Kentucky Opera in the title role of Madama Butterfly, a role which has brought her great success. In a return engagement with CBSO in the UK she sang Strauss’s Four Last Songs, and appeared in Jake Heggie’s world premiere It’s a Wonderful Life at Houston Grand Opera.  Other highlights include the role of Leila in Les Pêcheurs de Perles at North Carolina Opera, and at Glimmerglass Festival the role of  Bess in Porgy and Bess in a new production by Francesca Zambello.  Recent great successes include the artist’s role debut as Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly at North Carolina Opera, and the title role in Iris at Bard Summer Scape Festival, both of which brought her unprecedented accolades from critics.  Additionally, she was nominated for a 2016 Grammy Award in the category Best Solo Classical CD for her rendition of Christopher Rouse’s masterpiece Kabir Padavali with Albany Symphony.


Justin Werner is an operatic professional with extensive experience in production, education, and artist representation. Mr. Werner founded Stratagem Artists in 2018, which cultivates and represents a select roster of classical singers.  Between 2014-2018, Mr. Werner was a co-founder and artist manager at Couret & Werner (C&W) Artist Management.  Mr. Werner gained his initial Artist Management experience at IMG Artists, where he served as an Artist Management intern.  Mr. Werner was the founder and Artistic Director of New York Opera Exchange (2011–2015), which afforded numerous opportunities for emerging singers, directors, and designers to mount critically acclaimed productions. According to Opera Today, "Artistic Director Justin Werner manages to infect others with his enthusiasm through sheer force of charisma and passion."  Additionally, Mr. Werner founded the Independent Student Opera Initiative at Boston University.  A valued advisor for emerging artists, Mr. Werner is a frequent panelist for Opera America's Career Blueprints and Feedback Audition programs. He has presented masterclasses and workshops for institutions such as Emerging Leaders of New York Arts (ELNYA), the Yale School of Music, Boston University, the New York Opera Alliance, and the Seagle Music Colony. In 2018, Mr. Werner will serve on the juries of the McCammon Vocal Competition, the MetroWest Vocal Competition, and the Classical Singer Vocal Competition.  Mr. Werner earned his BM in Vocal Performance from Boston University and his Advanced Certificate in Vocal Performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College.