Second NatureSecond Nature

Second Nature

Set in a fictional future when humans have retreated from nature because of the deteriorating environment, Second Nature tells the story of two inquisitive and courageous youths who decide to leave the safety of their artificial habitat and work to heal the planet. This opera will be staged outdoors at Millennium Park.



All Second Nature tickets are sold out.

All K–12 students may reserve two free tickets by calling the OGR box office at (616) 451-2741.

All college students may purchase one ticket for $5 by calling the OGR box office at (616) 451-2741. College students who attend a school in our Collegiate Consortium may email to receive a free ticket.


The Opera Grand Rapids education team has developed free curriculum packets to prepare students to see this opera. Each packet consists of five lessons, each of which should take about an hour to complete. Please access the curriculum packets below:

Grades K–4 Curriculum, presented by Bill & Hollis Bokhout
Grades 5–8 Curriculum, presented by Rachel Mills
Grades 9–12 Curriculum, presented by Austin McWilliams

Production Team

Austin McWilliams | Conductor

Austin McWilliams, conductor and countertenor, strives to present compelling, intriguing music that is directly relevant to the communities in which it is performed.

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He is an Adjunct Professor at Western Michigan University, where he conducts the university operas and assists the choral division. Austin is the Co-Artistic Director of the Ad Astra Music Festival, a classical music festival in Russell, Kansas, known for its innovative and unique programming. In 2019 at Ad Astra, Austin conducted the outdoor premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s new opera Proving Up, and he will conduct the world premiere of Anna Pidgorna’s opera about the life of Trudy Furney in 2021. He is a faculty member at Missouri Scholars Academy, an annual, month-long governor’s school for gifted high school juniors. In 2019, Austin earned a Master of Music degree in choral conducting at WMU under Kimberly Dunn Adams. There he designed a recital on HIV/AIDS awareness in collaboration with several community organizations. Austin graduated in 2017 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering with highest honors. He hails from the illustrious micropolitan hub of Poplar Bluff, Missouri, where he received his formative training from Rachael Bonk.

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Cara Consilvio | Stage Director

Cara Consilvio is a director and producer of opera, film and theater.

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In 2019, Cara directed An American Dream at Anchorage Opera, The Elixir of Love for Piedmont Opera and The Threepenny Opera for Syracuse Opera. In 2018, Cara directed the world premiere of Inheritance by composer Lei Liang and librettist Matt Donovan for UC San Diego. She directed her first Suor Angelica with Tri-Cities. She also directed After Life and Dialogues of the Carmelites for Loyola University New Orleans and The Merry Widow for The Hartt School. Cara earned outstanding reviews for her 2017 productions of Hydrogen Jukebox at Chautauqua Opera and Glory Denied at Tri-Cities Opera.

Cara is a co-founder of Hup! Productions. Her film directing projects include a feature documentary currently in production titledFor the Love of Friends, her debut narrative short film C.I.T., which was screened at eleven festivals and her upcoming short film Dry. Cara is executive producer and co-story writer of the horror comedy feature film Camp Wedding, which is currently finishing its festival run and being distributed by Gravitas Pictures. She has also produced and directed many tribute videos, promotional videos, and behind the scenes mini-docs for the NEA Opera Honors, the NEA Jazz Masters videos, OPERA America and American Composers Orchestra.

Cara brings her extensive performance background and training as a dancer, actor and singer to her work. She earned a BA in Dramatic Art and Dance from UC Berkeley, where she trained in Graham and Cunningham technique with Marnie Wood and Carol Murota. She pursued advanced acting training with the American Conservatory Theater and Williamstown Theater Festival. During her seven years as an actor in NYC, Cara studied acting and improvisation with Michael Howard, Gene Frankel, Kurt Braunohler and Armando Diaz, performing in independent films, theater and dance. As a singer, Cara trained in musical theater and opera. She studied voice with Bill O’Neill, Mark St. Laurent, Craig Wich and Martina Arroyo, and completed three years of post-baccalaureate studies in vocal performance at SUNY Fredonia.

When she’s not directing, Cara enjoys going on adventures with her husband, Alex and her dog, Marty.

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Robert Byrens | Accompanist

As one of the region’s most sought after collaborative pianists, Robert Byrens’ playing has been described as “beautifully expressive with a singing tone and impeccable articulation.”

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He served as artist faculty pianist and vocal coach at Grand Valley State University for thirty years, retiring in 2020. Robert was the rehearsal pianist and vocal coach for Opera Grand Rapids from 1993 until his retirement in 2018, but he enjoys occasional return engagements. In 2016, he partnered with Nancy Steltmann, former principal cellist of the Grand Rapids Symphony, to form “Il Duo Lirico”.

Robert has performed in vocal master classes for many renowned singers and pianists including Phyllis Curtin, Elly Ameling, Gerard Souzay, Jessye Norman, Martin Katz, and Robert Spillman.  As a professional violist, he has been a member of the Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, South Bend, and Battle Creek Symphonies. He has performed in summer festivals at the Blossom Music Center, Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute, Fontana Chamber Arts, Garth Newel and the Chamber Music Festival of Saugatuck where he was Associate Artistic Director and performer from 1993 through 2008.

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Gregório Taniguchi | Jake

Gregório Taniguchi crafts compelling and unstuffy performances that move audiences.

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His dedication to rhetoric in music draws listeners to hear historical works as a dynamic and living part of our musical culture, illuminating classics for a modern audience. Contemporary vocal music and new works by emerging composers likewise come alive through his communicative artistry.

Gregório has empowered narratives with an intuitive sense for storytelling as the Evangelist in Bach’s St. John Passion and Christmas Oratorio, Æneas in Cavalli’s La Didone, Miles Zegner in Missy Mazzoli’s Proving Up, and Septimius in Handel’s Theodora. He has toured Ecuador with the emerging ensemble Las Aves and presented historically-informed 17th-century Italian and Spanish sacred repertoire in the cathedrals of Quito during Holy Week. He advocates for the intimate connections created by chamber music and regularly presents recitals of classic and contemporary art song. He has worked closely with pioneers of the early music movement as well as the next generation, including Paul Elliott, Scott Allen Jarrett, Jeffrey Thomas, and John Butt. Gregório enjoys the alchemy of collaborative ensemble singing, especially with Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Clarion Vocal Ensemble, Seraphic Fire, Cantus, Washington Bach Consort, Oregon Bach Festival, and Staunton Music Festival.

Gregório is passionate about being an active part of the community of artists, supporting composers in recording new works as a studio singer and faith communities as a choral scholar. He also serves as a language coach, especially in his native Portuguese.

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Antona Yost | Lydia

Mezzo-soprano Antona Yost grew up in Salt Lake City. There she discovered a passion for singing while a student at the Madeleine Choir School.

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She went on to receive a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from the University of Southern California and a Master of Music in Voice Performance from the University of Michigan. In 2018, she made her professional operatic debut with Detroit-based Opera MODO, singing the role of Angelina in their innovative adaptation of Rossini’s La Cenerentola. Since then she has performed various operatic roles with companies in the upper Midwest region and was recognized as a winner of the 2020 Michigan District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Recent highlights include presenting Poulenc’s one-woman opera, La voix humaine at the University of Michigan, and singing the role of Cherubino in Corgliano’s Ghosts of Versailles with Chautauqua Opera. She is thrilled to be making her Opera Grand Rapids debut singing the role of Lydia in Matthew Aucoin’s Second Nature this season.

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Dominic Aragon | David/Bonobo

Dominic Aragon is a native of Wichita, Kansas. He currently resides in Lakewood, Ohio where he is a chorister at the historic Old Stone Church in downtown Cleveland.

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Mr. Aragon recently completed an Artist Diploma in Voice Performance from the University of Colorado – Boulder. While living in the Front Range, he performed concert works by Handel, Mozart, Bruckner, Poulenc, Saint-Saëns, Faure, and Claussen with various ensembles and sang as a chorister with the Colorado Bach Ensemble and the Boulder Bach Festival. He has also enjoyed performing roles including Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, Onegin in Eugene Onegin, Bernardo in West Side Story, Yamadori in Madama Butterfly, Fredrik in A Little Night Music, Falke in Die Fledermaus, Escamillo in The Tragedy of Carmen, and Nardo in La Finta Giardinera. Last summer, Mr. Aragon was a resident artist at the Ad Astra Music Festival where he sang the role of Pa in Missy Mazzoli’s Proving Up, and most recently performed the role of Luis Garzón in Reinaldo Moya’s chamber opera, Tienda.

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Avalon Cutts-Jones | Elizabeth

Avalon Cutts-Jones is a Grand Rapids, MI native who comes from two musical families.

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Her predecessors made their mark in the gospel music industry through groups such as The Wings of Faith, The Pilgrim Wonders, and The Pilgrim Angels. Under their influence her love for music was birthed. Fueled by that passion she’s had the opportunity to travel the world as a background vocalist for world-renowned artist such as Marvin Sapp, Maurice Griffin, and Jessica Reedy.

Avalon is known for her vocal versatility performing different genres such as R&B, gospel, jazz, and classical. She has appeared on “The Word Network” as well as “The Bobby Jones Gospel” show. In 2018, her voice could be heard in the role of Rosa Parks in Douglas Tappins’ I Dream with both Toledo Opera and Opera Carolina. She has had the privilege of touring through Spain and Portugal on the “Oh Happy Day Tour” with the Alabama Gospel Choir as a featured soloist. As a vocal performance major at Grand Valley State University, Avalon has had the opportunity to be the special music for the 2019 commencement ceremony at Van Andel Arena as well as the Inauguration of GVSU’s first female President Philomena V. Mantella.

Avalon Cutts-Jones Music can be found performing throughout the Midwest. Performances, news, and upcoming dates can be found on all social media outlets. A choirgirl with quartet roots who loves jazz harmonies while performing classical with a neo-soul vibe, meet Avalon Cutts-Jones.

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Lily Belle Czartorski | Elder Constance

Lily Belle Czartorski is currently in her senior year at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, pursuing degrees in vocal performance and music education.

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Her recent credits in OU operas include: Mother Marie in Dialogues of the Carmelites (2020), Anna Maurrant in Street Scene (2019), and Nancy in Martha (2018). She was a winner of the 2019 Oakland Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition, the 2019 Opera Modo Aria competition, and most recently placed third and won the Friends Of The Opera Award in the 2020 Grand Rapids National Collegiate Vocal Competition.

Spurred by a passion for all genres of music, Lily has travelled performing a cappella, pop music, participated in several professional musicals, and served as the music director for Gold Vibrations, Oakland University’s national award winning a cappella group. She is always in pursuit of creative ways to share her love of music, and her performances singing opera while roller skating have earned her nearly 12,000 followers on tik tok.

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About the Composer

Matthew Aucoin | Composer

Matthew Aucoin (b. 1990) is an American composer, conductor, writer, and pianist. He is the newly-appointed Artist-in-Residence at Los Angeles Opera.

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This position, created for Aucoin, fuses his work as composer and conductor: each season, Aucoin will conduct at LA Opera, including the Los Angeles premiere in November of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten. Aucoin will also compose a new full-length work for LA Opera which will premiere in a future season. Additionally he will serve as the company’s advisor on new music and work regularly with members of its opera studio.

In the 2014-15 season, Aucoin conducted the premieres of two of his operas: Crossing, at Boston’s American Repertory Theater (directed by Diane Paulus); and Second Nature, a chamber opera for the young, at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Aucoin wrote the libretti for both works. He is currently at work on a new opera for the Metropolitan Opera / Lincoln Center Theater’s New Works program.

In October 2016, pianist Conor Hanick and the Alabama Symphony gave the first performances of Aucoin’s first piano concerto, commissioned by The Gilmore Foundation. Earlier, Aucoin conducted the premiere of his new orchestral work, Evidence, commissioned by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Last season, his song cycle Merrill Songs (set to texts by James Merrill) was premiered by tenor Paul Appleby at Carnegie Hall, which co-commissioned the work along with Wigmore Hall, London. Violinist Jennifer Koh commissioned and debuted Aucoin’s new solo violin work, resolve, for the New York Philharmonic Biennale and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. In early 2017, Aucoin’s dramatic cantata The Orphic Moment will receive its European premiere at the Salzburg Landestheater, with the composer conducting.

Aucoin has recently made orchestral conducting debuts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic; the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra; the Rome Opera Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago (a special event featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma); opera productions have included Music Academy of the West (The Bartered Bride, as well as his own chamber opera Second Nature); Teatro Petruzzelli in Bari, Italy (Le Nozze di Figaro) and Juilliard Opera (Eugene Onegin). This season he makes his German conducting debut with a new production for the Leipzig Ballet set to scores by Britten, Ives, Janacek, and others.

Aucoin’s orchestral, instrumental, and vocal music has recently been performed by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and bassist Alexander Hanna; Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra; members of the Chicago Symphony; Boston’s A Far Cry; countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo; violinist Keir GoGwilt; the Gramercy Trio; and San Antonio’s SOLI Chamber Ensemble. His music has been heard at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival; the Curtis Institute of Music (the Three Études, commissioned for pianist George Fu); the conservatories of Tianjin and Shenyang, China (recitals by violinist Rachel Lee Priday); New York’s MATA Festival at SubCulture (Ms. Priday and pianist David Kaplan); the Sarasota Opera House; Italy’s Spoleto Festival; the Canadian Opera Company’s Bradshaw Amphitheatre; and the Peabody Essex Museum, where he is Composer-in-Residence.

Aucoin is a 2012 graduate of Harvard College, where he studied with the poet Jorie Graham; and a 2013 recipient of a graduate diploma in composition from The Juilliard School, where he studied with composer Robert Beaser. Shortly before he graduated from Harvard, Aucoin was hired as the youngest Assistant Conductor in the history of the Metropolitan Opera, where he worked with Thomas Adès, James Levine, and Valery Gergiev. From 2013 to 2015, Aucoin was the Solti Conducting Apprentice at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where he studied with Riccardo Muti and, in 2014, made his CSO debut substituting for an indisposed Pierre Boulez.

Aucoin remains an active pianist: with his regular collaborator, violinist Keir GoGwilt, he has recently given recitals in New York, Boston, Edinburgh, Spoleto (Italy) and Toronto. Aucoin regularly performs with many of the world’s leading opera singers, including Renée Fleming, Paulo Szot, Rod Gilfry, and Anthony Roth Costanzo. Aucoin has also performed as a pianist in several Chicago Symphony Orchestra chamber concerts.

An accomplished writer, Aucoin’s essays and poetry have appeared in The Yale Review, The Colorado Review, The Boston Globe, and The Harvard Advocate. He has served as guest lecturer for the New York Shakespeare Society and a guest host for New York’s WQXR. Aucoin has been the subject of major profiles in The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and The Chicago Tribune. His music has been featured on radio programs including This American Life, From the Top, and Studio 360.

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