Wolf Trap OperaThe Future of Opera


When she founded Wolf Trap 40 years ago, Catherine Filene Shouse dreamed of creating a program that would give young people a chance to experience the demands of a professional career in the performing arts. The Company was established in 1971, and it has developed into one of the nation’s most highly regarded residency programs for emerging professionals in the operatic industry.

Defining a Generation

If you’ve seen a performance at a major opera company in the United States or Europe, you’ve probably heard a former member of the WTO. Alumni of the Company have gone on to significant careers in the world’s leading houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco Opera, New York City Opera, Washington National Opera, La Scala, Deutsche Opera Berlin, and Royal Opera Covent Garden.

Creative Process

Wolf Trap Opera is one of the only companies in the world to select its operas after the roster has been set, matching the strengths of the performers to the repertoire. This boutique approach is almost unparalleled in the opera world, and it’s one of the things that make Wolf Trap a coveted gig and a great place to work.

Each season typically consists of three operas performed in their original languages, as well as concert and recital performances. The WTO’s main home is The Barns at Wolf Trap, and the Company also performs at the Filene Center, Wolf Trap’s outdoor amphitheatre.

Guiding Singers through Transitions

The Wolf Trap Opera (WTO) specializes in guiding singers through transitions. Its two tiers—the Filene Young Artists and the Studio Artists—each serve a distinct demographic of singers on the brink of important career decisions.

Filene Young Artists have completed advanced degrees from the top music schools in the country, and have often participated in year-long young artist companies or summer apprenticeships. Many of them have already won prestigious awards and are on their way to significant careers.

The Wolf Trap Opera Studio is geared toward talented singers who have completed their undergraduate degrees but are still trying to decide if an opera career is right for them. Through performance and training opportunities, the Studio gives them the information and experience to make that choice.

Getting into the Wolf Trap Opera

It’s not easy to get into the WTO, or even to get an audition. We screen about 1,000 applications for the two tiers of the Company, selecting fewer than 500 singers to hear in live audition. The fall 2009 season audition tour stopped in Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, and New York before wrapping up at home in Vienna, Virginia. On average, 15-20 Filene Young Artists and 12-16 Studio Artists are selected each season—approximately 3% of the applicants.

Fellows and Interns

Singers are the most visible part of any opera company, but there are countless other people making the magic happen. To help train the next generation of administrators and artistic personnel, the WTO offers fellowships in stage directing, administration, and coaching. In coordination with Wolf Trap Education, we also offer internships in technical theater, stage management, and administration.

Home Away from Home

Each summer our singers, fellows, and interns are joined by dozens of opera professionals—conductors, directors, designers, coaches, and guest artists. The company assembles for three months here in the Washington, DC area, rehearsing at Wolf Trap’s Center for Education. Learn more about offering summer lodging for one of our artists.

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