April 9, 2020

Meet the talented singers competing in this year’s High Note Vote then click here to head over to voting, live now!

Anastasia Malliaras made her operatic debut in 2013 as Nannetta in Bay View Music Festival’s production of Falstaff and has since played the role again at West Bay Opera in 2019 and also played the roles of Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos), Héro (Beatrice et Bénédict), Frasquita (Carmen), Belinda (Dido and Aeneas), Despina (Cosí fan tutte), Marie (La fille du régiment), and Olympia (La Fille du Regiment). In 2017, she was seen as Marie Astor Hampton in the world premiere of the opera Tesla with SoBe Arts. Previously, Anastasia has been a Studio Artist at Central City and a participant of the Young Artist Vocal Academy at Houston Grand Opera and the iSing! International Young Artist Festival. Awards and accolades include being the one of the finalists of the 2019 Zachary Competition, winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Los Angeles District in 2018, Encouragement Award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions San Diego District in 2015, and winner of the 2014 Shirley Rabb Winston Vocal Competition where she was then invited to sing at the National Society of Arts and Letters 70th Anniversary Gala. Anastasia is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Chamapaign where she received a Bachelor’s of Music in Vocal Performance, as well as a graduate of the University of Southern California where she received a Master’s of Music in Vocal Arts.

Anne LaBella is a lyric soprano whose performance has been described as “delightful” and “dynamic”. She is a graduate from Montclair State University and has performed with many companies in Southern California, including Pacific Opera Project, Repertory Opera Theater, Fine Arts Network, LA Metropolitan, Riverside Lyric Opera,  and Capital Opera.  Recent roles include Serpina in “La Serva Padrona” and Sesto in “Guilio Cesare”. She is looking forward to playing the role of Frasquita in “Carmen”, when all of this calms down. 

Ava Kuntz is a 16-year-old junior in the Classical Voice Conservatory at OCSA. She has been taking lessons privately for nine years and currently studies voice under the expertise of Kathleen Martin of Voice Classics Studio in Laguna Niguel.
Ava was recently named a merit award winner in non-classical voice in the Music Center’s Spotlight Competition and placed second at NATS’ Cal-Western competition in both Classical and Musical Theater. She is a 2020 Orange County Register Artist of the Year nominee for Classical Voice. Ava aspires to a career on the stage and dreams of singing at the Salzburg Festival.

Caroline Nelms is a versatile singer who frequently performs musical theater, opera and American standards throughout Southern California. She holds a Master of Music degree from UCLA. She recently sang the role of Juliet with Pacific Lyric at the CA Center for the Arts and played The Wardrobe in Beauty and the Beast with Theatre Royale at Pechanga. She is a frequent soloist with the San Diego City Ballet, Center Chorale, Southern California Philharmonic, Temecula Valley and Coachella Valley Symphonies. Caroline looks forward to being the soprano soloist in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with the Pacific Coast Chorale and a featured soloist with orchestra in “Jean Will Presents” at the CA Center for the Arts in the future (post-pandemic).

Elizabeth Gross is a soprano currently living and working in Orange County. She has previously appeared as Cinderella in Pauline Viardot’s Cendrillon and as Mustardseed/First Fairy in Henry Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, and has understudied the role of Juliette in Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. She was also cast as Antonia in Santa Monica College’s spring 2020 production of Jacques Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffman and hopes to perform the role sometime in the future.

Emma Ujifusa is a graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA and holds a degree in Music Education and Applied Voice. Some of her notable opera performances in her time at Pepperdine include Adele in Strauss’ Die Fledermaus and Ciesca in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. She is excited to make her debut with The Lyric Opera of Orange County singing the role of Pamina in The Magic Flute. In addition to her operatic work, Emma is passionate about choral singing. She is a vocal coach for the choirs at Los Cerritos Middle School in Thousand Oaks.

For the last decade, Emily Weinberg has studied the art of vocal performance with her teacher, Daniel Hendrick, as well as at California State University Fullerton with Professor Janet Smith. Her studies led to her lead roles as L’enfant in Ravel’s “L’enfant et les sortilèges” and Dorabella in Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte”, as well as two international tours with the CSUF University Singers as a featured soloist. Since graduating from CSUF with her BM in vocal performance, Emily auditions for young artist programs internationally, performs regularly with the Pacific Chorale, and teaches her own students the joys of classical music.

Spinto soprano, Georgia McQuade received her Bachelor of Music with an emphasis in performance from San Jose State University in 2007. In 2009, Mrs. McQuade received her Master in Music from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, while there she performed the roles of Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte , Mrs. Anderson in A Little Night Music, and Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana. After graduating, Mrs. McQuade moved to New York where studied with Metropolitan Opera singer Heidi Skok and vocal coach Mikhail Hallak. She also sang in the chorus of La Traviata with the Amore Opera Company, and in the chorus of Falstaff with the Martina Arroyo’s Prelude to Performance Program. Currently she lives in Southern California where she teaches privately and performs regularly in choirs and recitals.

Jenny Ahn, a lyric coloratura soprano, has performed the complete leading roles of Eurydice (Orpheus in the Underworld) and Mabel (Pirates of Penzance) in addition to various roles in scenes, such as Adina(L’Elisir d’Amore), Giulietta (I Capuleti ed i Montecchi)and Ilia (Idomeneo). She has also performed as soprano soloist in Handel’s Messiah and in chamber music pieces like Schubert’s Shepherd on the Rock. Passionate about helping children, she has organized and performed in fundraising concerts singing both classical and crossover repertoire. She received extensive training in “bel canto” under Orietta Moscucci (Italy), Mary Curtis-Verna, Juliana Gondek, Kristof Van Grysperre and Suzan Hanson.

Kelsey Wood is a mezzo-soprano and multi-disciplinary artist from Los Angeles, California who studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Previously, she has performed as a soprano soloist in Schubert’s Mass in G, Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, Gypsy Woman in Aleko, Second Tourier in Suor Angelica, as well as choral tours in the UK, China, Germany, and Czechia, and sharing her love for art song in recitals in the US and Europe. In Los Angeles, she is a session vocalist with Stanley Recordings. She currently sings with Vox Kreativa and El Coro Fulbright in Madrid, Spain.

Jessica Gonzalez-Rodriguez, Mexican-American Mezzo-Soprano, known for her “warm tones and a lyrical upper range,” recently appeared in the Prague Summer Nights Festival as Marcellina and was seen with Opera Santa Barbara in La bohème and Eugene Onegin. In 2019 she also appeared in Vienna as Prince Orlofsky and made her role debut as Frida Kahlo in the opera Frida with Opera Steamboat. Other highlights include Hansel with the Manhattan Opera Studio, Suor Dolcina, the Third Witch in Verdi’s Macbeth, Nancy in Albert Herring as part of the LA Opera Britten/100 celebration with the Repertory Opera Company, Hippolyta in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Chicago Summer Opera Program, and Siebel with the Redlands Opera Theatre, where she was featured as a Resident Artist for their 2016-2017 season.

Kendall Harb is a soprano in the Orange County area celebrated for her stage presence as well as her rich and colorful voice. She has a passion for opera performance and has played the role of Fiordiligi in Cosi Fan Tutte, Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus, La bergère in L’enfant et Les Sortilèges, Meg Page in the Merry Wives of Windsor, La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi, and Miss Todd in The Old Maid and the Thief. She has received numerous awards for her vocal achievements including first place in the vocal division at CSUF’s School of Music concerto competition, Rio Hondo Symphony’s Young Artist Competition winner, and winner of the
American Educators of Italian Origin’s aria competition. She also has received the SAI Alumnae of Pasadena Young Artist award and CSUF’s Jane Paul Hummel award and scholarship. One of her fondest musical moments was receiving a masterclass with Deborah Voigt through The National Association of Teachers of Singing of Los Angeles. Furthermore, she holds the title of the New York Concert winner of The Franz Liszt Los Angeles International Voice Competition, where she performed a full recital composed of repertoire by Franz Liszt for the Hungarian Consulate of New York.

Tenor Luke Norvell has enjoyed a busy 2019-2020 season performing. Thus far in the season, he has sung Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus with Clyde Opera Group and Independent Opera Company, King Kaspar in Amahl and the Night Visitors with Lyric Opera of Orange County, Prince Charming in Viardot’s Cinderella with Lyric Opera of Orange County, and Alfredo in La Traviata for the Singing in Solitude series with the SoCal Vocalist Relief Fund. He has also covered Alfredo in La Traviata with Landmark Opera, Azaël in Debussy’s The Prodigal Son with Lyric Opera of Orange County, and the titular role in Faust with Valley Opera and Performing Arts. On the concert stage, he has appeared as the tenor soloist for Mozart’s Requiem and Handel’s Messiah with The Master’s University Singers and Orchestra. Upcoming roles include Die Knusperhexe in Hänsel und Gretel and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni with the Luke Housner Summer Opera Workshop, Fenton in Falstaff with Puget Sound Concert Opera, and Alfredo in La Traviata with Clyde Opera Group.

Mary Frances Conover is a Santa Catalina Island native, and an alumna from Chapman University’s College of Performing Arts. Her professional credit are in opera and musical theatre, Knott’s Berry Farm’s seasonal shows, and is revered across Southern California for her portrayal as Marilyn Monroe.
She is grateful for the opportunities presented to her, including featured roles with Pacific Symphony’s Opera for Kids, and making her Carnegie Hall debut as Despina Così Fan Tutte with Angels Vocal Art in 2019. Her favorite credits include Maggie Mills in Ghost Town Alive! (Knott’s), Mabel in Pirates of Penzance (Mysterium Theater), Philia in Funny…Forum (Stage Door Repertory), Adele in Die Fledermaus (Opera Chapman), and Maguelonne in Viardot’s Cinderella (Lyric Opera O.C.).

California-born baritone, Michael Segura started his artistic journey among stage acting, choir, musical theater, and barbershop. Ultimately he became a classical musician and opera singer, studying under Aram Barsamian, and is now working towards his Bachelor of Music degree at California State University of Fullerton under the instruction of Dr. Mark Goodrich. Michael has joined Lyric Opera of Orange County as the Winter Fairy in The Fairy Queen (Purcell). In addition, Segura has portrayed Belcore from Elixir of Love with the Pacific Symphony. Other roles include: Marco in Gianni Schicchi (Puccini) and Des Grieux in Le Portrait de Manon (Massenet). 

Romanian-American mezzo-soprano MonaLisa Pomarleanu has been recognized for her regularly compelling interpretations on stage since a young age. She has performed as a soloist in
diverse venues including the Musco Center for the Arts, The Opera Nationala Româna Timisoara, The Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She made her operatic debut in 2018 with the Lyric Opera of Orange County in Henry Purcell’s ‘The Fairy Queen’ as the Summer Fairy, and more recently has played the role of Idamante from Mozart’s ‘Idomeneo’ in a set of scenes, as well as Due Conversa in Puccini’s ‘Sour Angelica’ both under the baton of Kristof Van Grysperre. MonaLisa is currently in pursuit of her Bachelor of Music degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with plans to pursue a career in opera and vocal performance.

Norman Espinoza a Bass from San Jose California, is delighted to perform for the 2020 High Note competition. Norman has graduated from San Jose State University where he obtain both his M.M. and B.M. in Vocal Performance. He recently relocated to Orange County and has also performed internationally and with numerous opera companies in the Bay Area. Recognized for his powerful low notes, Norman has sung the roles of Sarastro, Sparafucile, Seneca, and Leporello, to name a few. Off stage, Norman and his wife have a business in financial services helping families and individuals find the financial freedom they deserve. You can find out more about Norman by visiting his professional Facebook page at

Olivia Kellett is thrilled to have a chance at continuing the operatic legacy inherited from her grandmother, and to help showcase works that have flown under the radar. Her previous roles include Papagena in The Magic Flute with Santa Monica College Opera, Lady Billows in Albert Herring with Opera Chapman, and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with the Franco American Vocal Academie. You can see her next as Josephine in Lyric Opera Orange County’s performance of HMS Pinafore. With this and every performance she hopes to honor the passion
for music honed by her teachers, Carol Neblett and Janelle DeStefano.

Known for her dulcet, sweet sound, soubrette soprano Sara Barkouras currently studies at the Orange County School of the Arts’ Classical Voice conservatory. She has always had a passion for the arts, joining her school choirs and playing advanced piano since age nine. With a background in musical theatre, she has spread her talents to the Stangeland Family Youth Choral Academy with the Oregon Bach Festival and Eastern Europe with her ensemble. She has performed in the chorus of The Fairy Queen, Aladdin, and Wicked, and as Cosette in Les Miserables. Now sixteen, she plans to pursue a career in theatre, opera, and voice performance.