Featured Guests 2023

Sveinung Bjelland, pianist, Norway

Sveinung Bjelland is one of Norway’s leading classical pianists. He is professor at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo and at the University of Kristiansand. His recording of Scarlatti and Mendelssohn sonatas received international acclaim and was nominated for the Norwegian Grammy Award (Spellemannsprisen) in 2006. This was followed by numerous other recordings. His latest album, which was released in June 2018 and consists of concertos by Chopin and Schumann, has already received outstanding reviews. Bjelland is much in demand, both as a concert soloist with the leading Norwegian orchestras and as a chamber musician throughout the world.

Lise Davidsen, soprano, Norway

Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen, hailed by the The Economist as “opera’s newest star”, has taken the classical music world by storm since winning Queen Sonja Singing Competition in 2015. Her resounding success in all the most prestigious venues around the world, as well as her recordings on Decca, have garnered overwhelming critical attention and a huge following. 

This season, Davidsen makes many anticipated company and role debuts including Jenůfa at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Salome at the Opéra national de Paris; her role debut as Leonora La Forza del Destino, first in concert with the Norwegian National Opera and then on stage at the Metropolitan Opera; and she reprises Giorgetta Il Tabarro and Lisa Queen of Spades, both at the Bayerische Staatsoper. On the concert platform she opens the Metropolitan Opera season in an exclusive recital with pianist James Baillieu and she will perform as a guest soloist at the Last Night of the BBC Proms alongside star cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and conductor Marin Alsop. She also appears in concert with the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Teatro Real, Peralada Festival and The Broad Stage; Recitals with tenor Freddie De Tommaso and pianist James Baillieu at the Gran Teatre del Liceu and at the Salzburg Easter Festival; and solo recitals in Vienna, Madrid, Valencia and London. 

Peter Di-Toro, National Opera Studio London, Great Britain

Peter is responsible for the National Opera Studio’s communications, branding, website and marketing. He brings a wealth of arts marketing experience to the Studio, having worked with orchestras, venues, record labels, festivals and artists. He joined the Studio from the Guildhall School where he led a nationwide branding project as part of the School’s new strategic plan to refocus its wide-reaching Guildhall Young Artists programme.

Prior to this, Peter was Head of Marketing and Communications at the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Marketing Executive for Classical Music at Barbican Centre and held marketing positions for numerous major and independent record labels, including Warner Classics, EMI Classics, Decca, Signum and Naïve.

Peter is also an Arts Marketing Consultant and sings professionally for a number of choirs around the UK and abroad.

James Gaffigan, conductor, USA

American conductor James Gaffigan has attracted international attention for his equitable prowess as both a conductor of symphony orchestras and opera.

Gaffigan is General Music Director of Komische Oper Berlin and Music Director of the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia. He additionally serves as Music Director of the Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra.

In the 2023/24 season, he returns to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the St. Louis Symphony. In Summer 2023, Gaffigan leads the Metropolitan Opera, the Orchestra de Paris with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra.

Ulrike Köstinger, Operabase, Austria

Ulrike Köstinger has a strong performing arts industry background. She studied International Business Administration at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, and Arts Management at the University of Zurich. Ulrike worked in the casting office, organizing the Young Singers Project at the Salzburg Festival, then moved to work at L’Oréal Austria as a product manager in their marketing department. She also worked at Teatro alla Scala, as an executive assistant to Alexander Pereira. Up until 2020, Ulrike was the Director of Cooperation & Development for the classical music video-streaming-platform takt1. Ulrike has been in the management team of Arts Consolidated (Operabase, CueTV) for two years in the position of Chief Content and Partnership Officer before becoming CEO in January 2023. Outside of Arts Consolidated, she voluntarily serves as the chairwoman of “Next Generation – Friends of the Salzburg Festival” and is a passionate marathoner.

The Norwegian National Opera Orchestra

The Norwegian National Opera Orchestra, established in 1827, is among the top orchestras in Norway. During opera and ballet performances you can hear them from the orchestra pit, but in recent seasons the Norwegian National Opera Orchestra has performed their own independent concerts on stage. The Opera Orchestra is adept at creating the perfect framework for any opera performance and will accompany the Competition’s six finalists in the grand final concert 26 August.

Liv Redpath, soprano, USA

Liv Redpath won the Lied Prize in the Queen Sonja Singing Competition 2021. She has quickly emerged on opera and concert stages around the world; recent and upcoming seasons include important role and house debuts. Liv portrayed Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier (R. Strauss) for her debut at Bayerische Staatsoper in Münich. She repeated the role for her debut at The Royal Theatre of La Monnaie, Brussels. She will once again portray Sophie at Santa Fe Opera in 2024. Liv debuted as Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor (G. Rossini) at Deutsche Opera Berlin in 2022. She will return to the role for her Royal Opera House debut in London 2024. This year she will make her Metropolitan Opera debut as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte (W.A. Mozart). Liv Redpath is a graduate of Harvard University and The Juilliard School.

Melissa Wegner, The Metropolitan Opera, USA

Melissa Wegner is the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and the Laffont Competition. She is responsible for identifying, awarding, and developing the world’s most promising operatic talent. Ms. Wegner is a sought-after juror for international voice competitions, having adjudicated in South Africa, Russia, Latvia, Italy, and Georgia. She is on the faculty of The Ravinia Festival’s Steans Music Institute and is a frequent guest speaker at academic institutions, professional companies, and digital media outlets.

She has been awarded by many organizations for her leadership in the industry, including Musical America’s Top 30 Professionals of the Year.