Soprano Elena Villalón is a current studio artist at Houston Grand Opera, and was named a Grand Finals winner of the 2019 Metropolitan National Council Auditions. Villalón begins the 2020-21 season as a second-year studio artist at Houston Grand Opera, and will perform in their new digital season in Vinkensport, The Snowy Day, and Hansel and Gretel, as well as in the Studio Showcase as Sophie in Werther, Lulu in Lulu, and Poppea in L'Incoronazione di Poppea. Due to Covid-19, performances at HGO as Sophie in Werther, Clorinda in La Cenerentola, and Amy in the anticipated world premiere of Joel Thompson’s The Snowy Day, have been canceled. At the end of the season, she covers Bess in Breaking the Waves. Other appearances include recitals with Cincinnati Song Initiative and at the Rienzi Museum of Fine Arts as part of the studio recital series, and a concert of baroque cantatas and arias with Mercury Chamber Orchestra.
In the 2019-20 season, Villalón performed Inès in Kevin Newbery’s new production of La Favorite, and La Mujer in the world premiere of Javier Martínez' El Milagro de Recuerdo with the Houston Grand Opera, as well as covering the roles of Pamina in Die Zauberflöte and Michal in Saul. In June 2020, she was slated to join Santa Fe Opera as an Apprentice Artist, as the First Wood Sprite in Rusalka.
In the 2018-19 season, Villalón was a Gerdine Young Artist with the Opera Theater of St. Louis, where she made her professional debut as Barbarina in Mark Lamos’ new production of The Marriage of Figaro, and covered in The Coronation of Poppea. She performed scenes as Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor and Marzelline in Fidelio with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and was awarded the Barbara and Stanley Richman Award by OTSL. In spring 2019, Villalón was a Grand Finals winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and was a Finalist and Audience Prize winner in Houston Grand Opera’s Eleanor McCollum Competition. She performed the role of Adele in Die Fledermaus at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where she completed her undergraduate studies in 2019, also performing Miss Wordsworth in Albert Herring, and Lucy in The Telephone in her time at CCM.
Passionate about art song and concert repertoire, Villalón spent summers at the Tanglewood Music Center and at Songfest as a Colburn Fellow. In her two summers at Tanglewood, performance highlights included the soprano solo in Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero, Max in Oliver Knussen’s Where the Wild Things Are, the world premiere of Michael Gandolfi’s In America, concerts of Bach cantatas conducted by John Harbison, and concerts and recitals curated by Dawn Upshaw, Stephanie Blythe, Margo Garrett, and Sanford Sylvan.
Villalón has remained committed to integrating community engagement and activism with her musical career. She has raised tens of thousands of dollars curating benefit concerts and fundraisers for various organizations and causes such as Unidos por Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, and GirlForward, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating opportunities for girls who have been displaced by conflict and persecution. During her undergraduate degree, Villalón organized the Campus Election Engagement Project, involving the partnership of interdisciplinary performers from the conservatory and officials from the Hamilton County (OH) Board of Elections and League of Women Voters, in an effort to galvanize young people into participating in the political process. From 2016-19, she served as the Associate Artistic Director of Cincinnati Song Initiative, an organization devoted to bringing art song to the Greater Cincinnati area, with an emphasis on the innovation and development of new works.
Villalón lives in Houston, TX, where she enjoys (besides singing): sailing, sewing, cooking, causing mischief, and spending time with her dog, Scooter.