Lebanese-American mezzo-soprano Melanie Ashkar returns to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area this season, making her company debut at OperaDelaware on their Fall Opera Jukebox concert in Wilmington. She recently completed a two-year stint at the Resident Artist Program at Utah Opera in Salt Lake City, where she appeared on the mainstage as The Fox in The Little Prince, Second Lady in The Magic Flute, Clotilde in Norma, Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi and Ida in Die Fledermaus. She also premiered four 10-minute operas for the 100th anniversary of the Golden Spike, including works by Michael Ching and Lisa DeSpain. Melanie joined the Utah Symphony as a soloist for their annual Messiah performances as well as a special semi-staged production of Candide.
Melanie also spent two summers as an Apprentice Artist at Central City Opera’s Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Training program, making her mainstage debut in 2018 as Dritte Dame in Die Zauberflôte and returning in 2019 as La Madre in Madama Butterfly. This past season, she was awarded the Friends of Opera Encouragement Award at the Nebraska District of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. She was also recently named a finalist in both The American Prize in Voice's professional women in opera division and professional women in art song/oratorio division.
Melanie made her New York City Opera debut in 2017, appearing in both Respighi's La Campana Sommersa and the American premiere of Literes's Los Elementos, in which she sang the role of Earth. Earlier in the 2016-2017 season, she originated the role of Jons in a new opera based on Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal with International Brazilian Opera Company, and sang Suse in Marschner’s Der Vampyr with Opera Company of Brooklyn. In the winter, she revisited the role of Bradamante in a production of Alcina with OperaRox Productions, and in June she returned to Utopia Opera, portraying Olga in Eugene Onegin. She was also an Encouragement Award winner at the 2017 Schuyler Foundation for Career Bridges competition, and a finalist in The Gerda Lissner Foundation’s 2016 Lieder/Art Song Vocal Competition. Over the summer, Melanie was a Young Artist at the Martina Arroyo Prelude to Performance program, performing the roles of La Maestra delle Novizie and La Ciesca in a double-bill of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi.
In the 2015-2016 season, Melanie completed her Master of Music degree at Mannes College, The New School for Music, where she performed the lead role of Jo March in Adamo’s Little Women with Mannes Opera. She also sang the alto solos in the world premiere of Faye-Ellen Silverman’s A Free Pen, and premiered Michael Spiroff’s Metrical Charms on her master’s recital, a chamber work that was commissioned especially for her. In addition to concerts with Opera Singers Initiative and the Mannes Festival, Melanie joined Utopia Opera as Lucretia in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia in September. She spent the summer first as a Young Artist with the Opera Company of Middlebury, and then as an Apprentice Artist at Caramoor, and performed as Wowkle in La Fanciulla del West with Apotheosis Opera in July.
In the season prior, Melanie relocated to New York City to attend Mannes College, where she appeared in Mannes Opera’s productions as La Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica and as Zita in Gianni Schicchi in December, and as Older Woman in Jonathan Dove’s Flight in May. She also became a 2015 Artist with Opera Singers Initiative, and was presented in concerts across the New York City metropolitan area.
In the 2013-2014 season, Melanie sang the Witch in Hansel and Gretel with Loudoun Lyric Opera in Leesburg and Purcellville, Virginia. She also portrayed Amastre in Serse with Bel Cantanti Opera in Rockville, Maryland, and Bradamante in Alcina with NAPA Music Festival in Napa, California. She performed Schumann’s song cycle Frauenliebe und -leben with Washington, DC’s Friday Morning Music Club, of which she is a member, and was featured with Opera on Tap’s DC Metro chapter.
In the 2012-2013 season, Melanie appeared as Cendrillon in Massenet’s Cendrillon with Music Academy International in Siena, Italy. In the season prior, she sang the roles of Cherubino in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and La Zelatrice in Puccini’s Suor Angelica with Music Academy International, and she covered Orlando in Handel’s Orlando. In the 2010-2011 season, she portrayed Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte with Lyric Opera Studio Weimar in Weimar, Germany; Dritte Dame in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte with the Austrian American Mozart Academy in Salzburg, Austria; and Orfeo in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice at the University of Virginia. In seasons prior, Melanie has also portrayed Zita in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, Public Opinion in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, and Dorcas in Thomas Arne’s Thomas and Sally at the University of Virginia, and La Maestra delle Novizie in Puccini’s Suor Angelica at OperaFestival di Roma in Rome, Italy. She was also a member of the Opera Studio at the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) in Graz, Austria.
Melanie’s concert repertoire includes Handel's Messiah, Silverman’s A Free Pen, Mozart’s Solemn Vespers, Beethoven’s Mass in C Major, Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols and Monteverdi’s Beatus Vir, all as Alto Soloist. Her musical theatre credits include Jack’s Mother in Sondheim’s Into the Woods and Waiter in She Loves Me, both at the University of Virginia. Melanie has performed in concert with Music Under Construction, Mannes Festival, Opera Singers Initiative, Friday Morning Music Club, Opera on Tap, Repertory Opera Theatre of Washington, and Sunday Opera. She won Second Place in Women’s Voice in the National Federation of Music Club’s New York State competition in 2015, and was a semi-finalist in the 2014 Orpheus Vocal Competition, as well as a finalist in Virginia Opera’s Bravissimo Society Competition in 2011.
Melanie received her Master of Music from Mannes College, The New School for Music in 2016. She also holds a Master of Science in Linguistics from Georgetown University, and graduated with High Distinction from the University of Virginia with a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Linguistics. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.