Toledo Opera will welcome Julia Swan Laird (soprano), Imara Miles (mezzo soprano), Brendan J. Boyle (tenor) and Matthew Payne (baritone) and Steven Naylor (pianist) as Resident Artists for the 2022-2023 season.
All five will serve as touring artists for the Opera on Wheels program which travels extensively, visiting local educational institutions and bringing live opera to the furthest reaches of the Toledo area. Annually, the program is performed for 20,000 students from Findlay to Ann Arbor and Sandusky to Archbold.
This season, the traveling production will be a newly adapted children’s opera, which sources its music from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. Joshua Borths of Capital University is adapting the score and writing the libretto. James M. Norman, Toledo Opera’s co-artistic Director and Director of Production, will direct the production. “Continuing a decades long tradition, I look forward to working with the next generation of opera artists who will call Toledo Opera home next season. This group is absolutely fantastic,” shared Norman.
The five will also perform Toledo Opera’s fifth and sixth installments of Opera Outdoors. Opera Outdoors is a series of pop-up live performances at outdoor community hubs throughout Toledo. Vocal selections from the classical repertoire, along with musical theater and other American standards will be heard in the fall of 2022 and the spring of 2023.
The Resident Artists will also sing smaller roles in Toledo Opera’s mainstage productions of Suor Angelica/Cavalleria, The Merry Widow, and Celebrazione del Coro which are slated for this season.
Delaware native Julia Swan Laird is a young and promising artist who graduated from Arizona State University with a Master of Music degree in Opera Performance. Since receiving her Master’s, Laird has sung mainstage roles with companies across the United States such as Opera West!, Piedmont Opera, Opera Delaware, Baltimore Concert Opera, and Tulsa Opera, and is a member of the North Carolina Opera chorus. In July 2022, she will perform Menotti’s The Telephone with Pittsburgh Festival Opera. Equally at home in the concert hall, Laird was a featured soloist for the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) in Graz, Austria and performed excerpts from Der Rosenkavalier and Rigoletto with the AIMS Festival Orchestra. She was awarded the 2018 Warren Hoffer Art Song Scholarship at ASU, for which she performed a recital comprised of Libby Larsen compositions on the theme of the female perspective.
Winterthur Museum featured Laird’s recital as the opening event for its 2020 Women’s Suffrage Centennial Celebration. She has been a Resident Artist with the Mount Desert Summer Chorale in Bar Harbor, Maine, and a soloist with the St. Joseph on the Brandywine Choir and Chamber Ensemble in Delaware and the Choral Society of Durham and Pro Cantores Orchestra in North Carolina.
Laird placed fourth in the 2019 AIMS Meistersinger Competition and third in the 2019 American International Czech and Slovak Competition. She has been a finalist with the Saltworks Opera Competition, Pittsburgh Festival Opera Mildred Miller Competition, and MIOpera Competition, and the first place winner at Arizona NATS, Cal-Western Regional NATS, and North Carolina NATS.
Hailed for her expressiveness and lush sound Imara Miles, mezzo-soprano, is originally from the Washington, DC area. With experience in both operatic and musical theater repertoire, Miles has been a featured performer in shows such as Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Berta), The Drowsy Chaperone (Title Role), Gianni Schicchi (Zita), and Little Women (Cecelia March) to name a few.
As a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania (B.A.) and Indiana University (M.M.), she has been a young artist of programs such as The Glimmerglass Festival, Grant Park MusicFestival, Pensacola Opera, and will soon be joining both Des Moines Metro Opera and Toledo Opera as an Apprentice Artist and Resident Artist,respectively.
Her past awards and recognition include being a finalist for the Jette Parker Young Artist program with the Royal Opera House, a semi-finalist for The Ryan Opera Center with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Encouragement award winner from the Metropolitan Opera’s Laffont Competition, and a semi-finalist in the George Shirley Vocal Competition. Ms. Miles’ upcoming credits include Lily (Porgy & Bess) with Des Moines Metro Opera, Nettie Fowler (Carousel) with Pensacola Opera, and Marcellina (Le Nozze di Figaro) with Knoxville Opera.