Waundell Saavedra, President and Artistic Director grew up on gospel, jazz, musical theater and then later got the bug for opera in college. Entering college as a Math Major, he changed to a Music Performance Major a year later encouraged by a voice teacher. From a boy soprano to a basso, his first operatic role was Balthazar in Amahl and the Night Visitors. He has gone on to sing many other operatic roles. But Mr. Saavedra’s first love is the Oratorio and Mass having sung such works as Dvořák’s Stabat Mater, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Mozart’s Requiem, Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Handel’s Messiah, Faure’s Requiem, Duruflé’s Requiem, Brahms’ Eine Deutche Requiem, and Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass.
Mr. Saavedra is also a composer and has written works for solo piano, voice and piano, chamber works, and opera. His operas include The Great Supper, which premiered in 2010, and Sweet Dreams, a children’s vocalise opera that premiered October 2012 at The National Opera Center. In 2007 he founded Empire Opera with a mission to bring new audiences to opera by showcasing new and rarely performed works. He has created a unique niche where deserving artists from near and far can get performance experience through readings, recitals and full productions of operas. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Temple University and was in the Graduate Performance Diploma program at Peabody Conservatory. He went on to become a resident artist at the Academy of Vocal Arts and has performed with the Metropolitan Opera Chorus. He periodically performs with the Concert Chorale of New York in engagements with the New York Philharmonic. Mr. Saavedra prepares to record a new CD this year along with a debut recital in Vienna, Austria.
Donna Darden-Medina, Secretary. Donna Darden, soprano, has appeared in numerous operatic roles and as a solo artist with symphonies both in the United States and abroad, some of which include: Operascona in Switzerland; Ezio Pinza Council for American Singers of Opera in Italy; Israel Vocal Arts Institute in Tel-Aviv; Amalfi Coast Music Festival in Italy; the Orchestra Filarmonic Italiana; the Pittsburgh Symphony; Pittsburgh Opera Center at Duquesne; Opera Theater of Pittsburgh; Opera Bel Canto, in Washington, D.C., Opera Nova; New York Vocal Artists; the Wilmington Symphony and the Fayetteville Symphony in N.C.
Singing with Empire Opera, Ms. Darden has performed in various concerts and opera roles which include: “Monica” in The Medium; “L’Infante” in Le Cid and most recently as “Twinkle” in the premier of Sweet Dreams performed at The National Opera Center. While pursuing her performing career, she has taught both music and voice on many different levels and at various institutions including: The Diller Quaile School of Music in New York City; Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ms. Darden holds an Opera Artist Diploma from Duquesne University; and received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.