Spotlight on Opera 2015 Season

11% ($2,965)
December 31st, 2015
Raised $2,965 of $25,000

About The Artist

Spotlight on Opera

Spotlight on Opera is a multi-faceted arts service organization offering a distinguished low-cost summer training program for aspiring and avocational artists, and a concert opera (Spotlight Concerts) where professional singers and emerging artists receive the opportunity to study and perform roles needed to advance their careers. 

Founded in 2007 by Cindy Sadler, an Austin-based singer, teacher, writer, consultant, and stage director, Spotlight is dedicated to providing the highest quality training and performance opportunities to singers aged 15 and up at all stages of their careers. Spotlight began as a one week summer program at St. Edward’s University. It quickly expanded into the four week intensive it is today. Students study vocal technique, acting, diction, the...

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There are many opera training programs available to singers, but Spotlight is special. Here are some of the benefits we offer that most training programs don’t.

  • We are very inexpensive compared to programs of similar length, and offer a lot of bang for the buck. Our Daytime Division students pay only $1500 for weekly voice lessons, musical coachings, acting classes, business of singing classes, lyric diction, instruction on collaborating with pianists, choosing repertoire, audition techniques, and fitness; as well as special workshops with conductors, agents, stage directors, and other master teachers. Our After Five singers pay only $500 and receive musical coaching, performance opportunities, and participation in master classes and workshops.
  • We don’t charge expensive application fees. Most programs charge anywhere from $30-$75 just to apply for their program. This is a real financial burden on young singers who need to apply broadly to improve their chances of getting into a program. We charge $25, which is applied to tuition if students are accepted and refunded if we reject an application. We only keep the money if an applicant declines an invitation to participate.
  • Every Spotlight singer gets to be the star in at least one scene or opera role. Most take part in a variety of concerts, scenes, and operas. We keep them busy!
  • We not only welcome but encourage hobbyist singers. Hobbyists, or as we like to call them, avocational singers, are a very important part of the arts hierarchy. They are big consumers of art themselves, and are frequently members of other arts organizations. They are enriched by their moment in the spotlight and love getting the same rigorous training that pro track singers do. They take the skills they learn or refine with Spotlight back to community organizations like the Austin Gilbert & Sullivan Society or their church choirs; or to professional gigs like the Austin Opera Chorus or the Early Music Ensemble, further enriching these groups.
  • We make it possible for singers with day jobs to participate. Many singers can’t afford to take 4 weeks off work on top of paying for a program. Through our After Five Division, we make it possible for these singers to participate.
  • We emphasize professionalism for ALL singers. Dr. Elden Little, former principal coach and rehearsal pianist for Austin Opera, once said, “We can ALWAYS tell when a Spotlight singer comes in to audition for the chorus. They present themselves very well and always know exactly what they’re doing.”  We train our singers not only to be better performers, but to be well-informed about how the business works, how to present themselves and handle any professional situation, and how to market themselves as singers. 
  • We offer comprehensive business training for singers. We teach our singers how to create effective portfolios, how to find and apply for auditions, how and when to seek management, how to brand themselves as singers, and much more. This is vitally important information in today’s difficult arts climate, yet it is extremely rare to find any university, conservatory, or training program that offers any formally organized courses. The University of Texas had a general program for musicians, but recently defunded it. Spotlight is one of the few places singers can receive this critical training.
  • We travel directly to Texas universities to offer free master classes and auditions. This is makes it easier for cash-strapped singers to be heard.
  • We accept video auditions. This saves money for singers unable to travel to Austin or to a Texas university to be heard, and allows us to hear talented singers from out of state.
  • We don’t finalize repertoire until we’ve heard all auditions. This allows us to choose the best possible opportunities for our unique group of students. 


In the increasingly competitive business of classical singing, it can be very difficult to get a foot in the door. Due to the great expense of producing a staged work, producers prefer to hire a known quantity – i.e. an experienced artist with whom they are familiar, or at least someone who has done the role before. Even established artists can have a hard time getting heard for roles they haven’t previously performed. It’s a Catch- 22! Spotlight Concerts gives deserving artists the opportunity to perform core roles to strengthen their resume.

Artists need a “safe” place to try out new roles in front of an audience. A concert opera setting, with piano in an intimate and relatively low-profile environment, is a perfect first step.  Excellent artists never stop training and growing. While there are many training programs for young and emerging artists, established artists and late bloomers must seek ongoing training a la carte, at great expense. The average cost for a voice lesson is anywhere between $100-160/hour; for a vocal coaching, $50-$80, and travel is often involved. The only way to try out a role they may eventually sing on a big stage is to get hired to do it in a small regional company. 

Emerging artists face a big obstacle in getting producers to take a chance on them in a leading role. Spotlight Concerts offers both established and emerging artists a chance to study and perform key roles, and earn a modest salary for their performances. Spotlight Concerts can produce works that are too expensive to stage. Many great works are disappearing from the opera stage because cast size and other factors make them too expensive for most companies to  mount --- works like Aida, La Gioconda, Lohengrin, and other treasures which these days can only be found on the biggest stages in New York or Europe.  In the future, Spotlight Concerts hopes to offer a Professional Opera, Emerging Artists Opera, and variety of concerts in the fall and spring, and to sponsor a Young Artists Program to mentor talented singers not yet ready for the main stage.


After operating for nine years as an independent arts organization funded mainly by tuition, ticket sales, and a few generous donations, Spotlight on Opera is becoming a 501(c) 3. This will allow us to accept tax-deductible donations and write grants. We are recruiting board members and volunteers, re-evaluating our structure and scheduling, and planning our season. 

In Spring 2015, Spotlight Concerts will stage a gala fundraising concert featuring our resident professional artists as well as some exciting guest performers. Our Emerging Artist production this spring is Mozart’s comedy with heart, Cosi fan tutte, starring newly married soprano Natalie Cummings Bradley and baritone Austin Bradley as the lovers Fiordiligi and Gugliemo; and mezzo Megan A. Liles and tenor Kevin Bryant as Dorabella and Ferrando. Music direction is by Kristin Roach and Nyle Matsuoka.

The Spotlight on Opera training program is gearing up for its 9th summer season, as Executive Director Cindy Sadler and Music Directors Nyle Matsuoka and Kristin Roach travel throughout Texas to bring free master classes and auditions to universities. The program kicks off in July with our popular Aria Extravaganza, which for the past three years has enchanted shoppers at the Whole Foods flagship store in downtown Austin, and continues with several concerts, scenes programs, and two fully staged operas. 

Past repertoire has included Carmen, Falstaff, Le nozze di Figaro, The Ballad of Baby Doe, Cavalleria Rusticana, The Crucible, Gianni Schicchi, Suor Angelica, Little Women, Cosi fan tutte, The Rape of Lucretia, The Medium, Trouble in Tahiti, A Hand of Bridge, The Telephone, Dido & Aeneas, and Abu Hassan.

In the future, Spotlight Concerts hopes to offer a Professional Opera, Emerging Artists Opera,and variety of concerts in the fall and spring, and to sponsor a Young Artists Program to mentor talented singers not yet ready for the main stage.


7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 14 
The North Door - 502 Brushy Street Austin, TX  78702 for ticket information 

Spotlight Concerts teams with LOLA (Local Opera Local Artists) for an exciting Valentine’s show. LOLA will present a cabaret version of Bizet’s Carmen. Next, Spotlight Concerts’ professional artists Cindy Sadler, Nicholas Simpson, and Nyle Matsuoka offer up a classical cabaret covering every aspect of love, as favorite selections from opera, musical theatre, and Neopolitan song are reimagined to tell the story of a turbulent romance. Directed by Rebecca Herman.

With Nyle Matsuoka, piano
Friday, March 6
Stone House Vineyard
24350 Haynie Flat Road, Spicewood, TX 78669 for details

Join us in the beautiful vineyards for an evening of thrilling excerpts from Aida, La Gioconda, the Verdi Requiem, Il trovatore, South Pacific, the Pirates of  Penzance, and more. Sample the delicious wines and delights from Stone House’s kitchen. 

Sunday, March 8, 3-5:30 p.m. for details

Our professional artists and special guests present an afternoon of favorite arias, duets, and ensembles, accompanied by delicious refreshments and beverages and a silent auction. A perfect and pleasant way to kick off our fundraiser and help talented artists at all stages of their careers continue to bring beauty to the world through sublime music.

Friday, May 22 and Sunday, May 24 for details

Two soldiers play a trick to test the fidelity of their sister sweethearts, egged on by a cynical friend and abetted by a saucy ladies’ maid. Mozart’s comic masterpiece stars our emerging artists in a concert version of the opera.  

July 19-August 16 for details

Spotlight’s busy summer season includes our annual Aria Extravaganza concert, an Opera Scenes Showcase, and two performances each of two fully staged operas (TBA). Performances include:

Opera at the Vineyard Concert, July 29th, 2015
Selected Spotlight singers will return to the beautiful Stone House Vineyards in Spicewood, TX to present an evening of arias and ensembles as guests sample delicious wines and cheeses.

Mélodies sur les Chênes, August 2, 2015
Selected Spotlight singers will fill the air beneath the shady oaks with French song, arias, and ensembles at the historic French Legation Museum. 


The $25,000 we are hoping to raise will cover part of our annual budget. 

  • 501(c) 3, including all paperwork and filing fees --- approximately $900.00
  • Audition trips to various universities – approximately $500 per trip, including mileage, food, gas, hotel, and pianist fee. We anticipate at least 4 trips.
  • Budget for producing Cosi fan tutte --- $3000
  • Budget for producing gala concert --- $1500
  • Facility rental for summer program --- $5000 - $7500
  • Faculty salaries for summer (including Executive Director, Artistic Administrator, Assistant Program 
  • Director, Musical Directors, Stage Directors, Coach/Pianists, Acting Coach, Fitness Instructor, Program 
  • Coordinator, Production Assistants, Guest Faculty) – $20,000
  • Production costs for summer program (includes performing rights and bare bones props, costumes, 
  • lighting, set, program printing, advertising, etc.): $5000
  • Accounting - $500

Executive Director Cindy Sadler –
Musical Director Kristin Roach –


All donations made through BELTA are tax-deductible, helpful, and very much appreciated. And we want to thank our donors!

  • $5-49: a printed thank you in our program and on our website.
  • $50-99: a printed thank you in our program and on our website plus two tickets with reserved seating to the Spotlight Concert or Spotlight on Opera production of your choice.
  • $100-199: thanks in the program and on website, and two reserved seating season tickets.
  • $200-$499: all of the above; an invitation to audit master classes; and an invitation to attend the dress rehearsals of both summer operas.
  • $500-$999: all of the above and a recording of your two favorite arias by one of our talented artists and collaborative pianists, with a personalized dedication.
  • $1000-$1999: all of the above, and a private house concert with one singer and one pianist for you and your guests OR vocal music for a wedding, church service, or organizational meeting of your choice (at a mutually agreeable time).
  • $2000-$4999: printed and published thanks, season tickets, and a private house concert with four or more singers and one pianist; a DVD of your private concert. 
  • $5000-$9,999: all of the above plus a gourmet meal for up to 20 guests, prepared in your home, to accompany your house concert; as well as private voice lessons with Executive Director Cindy Sadler and coachings with Music Directors Kristin Roach or Nyle Matsuoka in preparation for performing on this concert yourself (may be transferred). In addition, invitations to audit closed rehearsals and classes during the Spotlight On Opera summer program and a special donor thank-you dinner and concert event.
  • $10,000 - $19,999: printed and published thanks, season tickets; and Executive Director Cindy Sadler will work with you to plan a concert or semi-staged opera of your choice (pending availability of singers) to be performed with piano in your home or an appropriate concert venue; a DVD of your private concert or opera, and an invitation to sit in on all aspects of the collaborative process, including coachings, rehearsals, stagings. In addition, invitations to audit closed rehearsals and classes during the Spotlight On Opera summer program and a special donor thank-you dinner and concert event. 
  • $20,000 and up: printed and published thanks, season tickets; invitations to audit closed rehearsals and classes during the Spotlight On Opera summer program and a special donor thank-you dinner and concert event. Your choice of a private concert or semi-staged opera with gourmet dinner produced in your home or appropriate concert venue; or Spotlight will produce an opera of your choice (pending availability of singers) and fully coach and prepare you to perform a role, to be performed in your home or concert venue. A DVD of your performance will be made available to you.

    Not comfortable donating online?  We accept donations via check as well.  Please mail donations to BELTÀ, 1712 E. Riverside Dr., Suite 25, Austin, TX 78741.  Be sure to mark "Spotlight on Opera" in the memo line so that your support can be routed towards this project.