CCM alumna Joelle Harvey recently starred in New York City Opera’s production of Telemann’s “Orpheus,” singing the role of Eurydice. Harvey, who holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in vocal performance from CCM, was also mentioned in a New York Times review of the production and was praised by Times writer Anthony Tommasini for her “bright, agile soprano” and “winsome presence.”
April 30, 2012
Review from L’elisir d’amore opening at Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia
By David Patrick Stearns
When The Elixir of Love raised its frivolous head on the Post a comment Academy of Vocal Arts season, one had to remember that this organization functions to train singers for the real world, which can mean making something out of very little. Comedian Artie Lange writes about In the up-and-down opera world, singers never know when they’ll end up in a revival of, say, The Pajama Game to make ends meet.
But such a low opinion of The Elixir of Love was defied, possibly smashed, from the first moments of AVA’s Saturday opening. In the tiny Warden Theater, where productions are best regarded as sketches of the real thing, here was a handsome set that appeared to have suffered no compromise. Costumes were stylish. Wigs fit! An updated concept placed the opera in Mussolini’s Italy in World War II, giving it new life.
The director was Nic Muni, a seasoned innovator who ran the Cincinnati Opera for years and often works with the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto. His contention is that Elixir was intended to have serious underpinnings — composer Gaetano Donizetti called the 1832 opera buffa a melodramma giocoso — and, in any case, gave deeper motivation to the simple plot about a boy seeking a girl with a fake love potion. In this production, when the stereotypical minx Adina appears to be spurning the bumpkin who loves her, she’s actually saving him from execution by a jealous, well-armed Blackshirt. Such touches counted for a lot. The opera went from being casually formulaic to purposely lightweight.
The oddest part: AVA’s latest star in the making, mezzo-soprano Margaret Mezzacappa, was very much seen but very seldom heard. The setting was a library, and in a role seemingly created for this production, Mezzacappa was the stern librarian who not only dominated the room but, amid the happy ending, seemed to end up with a guy of her own. This created an implied secondary romantic plot that was obligatory in 1950s Broadway musicals, and for a reason: It takes a bit of weight off leading characters who may be too stereotypical to really carry an entire opera. And what a fascinating opportunity for her to create a character using everything but her primary strength.
Of course, this opera wouldn’t be done at all were it not a good vocal showcase. And the big discovery, for me, was soprano Sydney Mancasola in the leading role of Adina. She’s a classic soubrette with a voice that’s bright, focused, accurate, and projects an air of effortlessness, partly thanks to the solidity of her vocal technique, partly due to her comfort level onstage. She sashayed around as if she owned the place. And she did.
The other principal singers were promising but not at home in this genre. Though Luigi Boccia delivered the goods in Nemorino’s famous Act II aria, “Una Furtiva Lagrima,” his promising lyric tenor perhaps has a bit too much meat for
this type of bel canto opera. Much the same could be said for Wes Mason as his rival Belcore and Musa Ngqungwana as Dr. Dulcamara, the elixir salesman, though it’s hard to imagine anybody minding amid such a satisfying overall package. One would be lucky if any future Elixir encounters are this good. A small but chronic problem: The AVA chorus is made up of divas and divos in training, and they don’t exactly stay in the background. Given a chance, they steal focus.
From cincinnati.com – Arts in Focus
by Janelle Gelfand
Former Cincinnati resident Malcolm Fraser, 72, passed away on May 15th in Stockport, England, of natural causes relating to long term health issues stemming from a hematologic disorder.
Mr. Fraser was a prominent figure in the Cincinnati Arts community, primarily relating to his work at the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati, where he was the CCM Opera department chair and holder of the J. Ralph Corbett Distinguished Chair in Opera, 1985 to 2003. Under his leadership the CMM Opera department won numerous prestigious awards, including 26 awards from the National Opera Association for the best college opera productions in North America, and he inspired and helped many people in the pursuit of their operatic careers.
In 1996 he was a co-founder with Lorenzo Malfatti, a former CCM faculty member, of Opera Theatre of Lucca, CCM’s operatic study abroad program in Lucca, Italy. Singers, instrumentalists, coaches, designers and production staff were overseen by an international faculty in the most comprehensive summer opera program in Italy.
Singers who honed their craft during his 18 years at CCM follow Mr. Fraser’s predecessors from the Italo Tajo generation and are working all over North America and Europe. Currently, CCM artists are working in the following companies (in many cases three or four with each company): Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, San Francisco Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Santa Fe Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Orlando Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Seattle Opera, Skylight Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Portland Opera, Canadian Opera, Vienna State Opera, Kassel Opera, Stuttgart Opera, Lucerne Opera, Karlsruhe Opera, Dusseldorf Opera and many more.
After he retired in 2003, he moved back to England.
In 1979, Mr. Fraser was a co-founder of the Buxton Festival, an international celebration of the arts held in Buxton, England.
He loved opera and spent his entire career advancing himself in that field and helping to spread his passion to others. He encouraged his students and colleagues to take risks and have fun with the art form that he enjoyed so much.
He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Fay Conway-Fraser, his four sons Dom, Sam, Hal and Tim, eight grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and others. He was a dedicated family man who balanced his enthusiasm for opera with his commitment to and love for his wife, four sons and ever-growing family. He will be missed by his family, friends and colleagues, and will be remembered as a generous and passionate man.
His funeral will be held at 11am on Tuesday May 29th at St John the Baptist church in Tideswell, Derbyshire, England.
Countertenor John Holiday, baritone José Rubio and mezzo-soprano Caitlin Mathes will all be featured as principle artists on a recording of Philip Glass’s Galilieo Galilei. The recording is a joint endeavor by Portland Opera and Orange Mountain Music.
Click here to read more about this new recording.
Thursday May 10th, 8:00pm
Saturday May 12th, 8:00pm
Sunday May 13th, 2:00pm
For additional information or to purchase tickets,
please visit the CCM Box Office:
By Janelle Gelfand
The Mark Wesley Brax, 23, of Columbia, S.C., a University of Cincinnati student killed over the weekend in a two-vehicle crash in southeastern Indiana, was studying voice at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music.
He was “a brilliant young man with a beautiful baritone voice,” who spent the summer at the prestigious Tanglewood Festival in the Berkshires before coming to CCM for his master’s degree.
Robin Guarino, chair of the opera department at CCM, said the aspiring opera singer was “an exceptional artist and an inspiration to all.
“We are heartbroken at this loss, and send our love to his family and all those who knew him.”
The school held an informal memorial on Monday for students, faculty and staff.
Since arriving at the College-Conservatory of Music, Mr. Brax was the baritone soloist in J.S. Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” in November, participated in the undergraduate production of Handel’s “Serse” and sang with the CCM Chamber Choir and the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati.
“Talented, focused, and dedicated to his craft, Wesley was a joy to work with in rehearsals and performance,” said Earl Rivers, CCM director of choral studies.
He was admired for his “acute intelligence, musical sensibilities far beyond his 23 years, and a truly beautiful lyric baritone voice that was easily produced,” said Kenneth Shaw, associate professor of voice at CCM.
“These, combined with a positive, classy personality, made Wes Brax one of the most beloved and respected students we’ve had at CCM in my 13 years on faculty. His vivacity and personal presence lit every room he entered, and gave depth and nuance to his every performance. His recent performance of Elviro in Opera d’arte’s Serse was both a joy and a triumph. His death is a loss beyond comprehension,” he said.
This quarter, Mr. Brax was working as the assistant director for the May production of “La Cenerentola” (Cinderella), for which he wrote the supertitles.
The opera will be dedicated to his memory.
The accident on Saturday afternoon happened near the entrance to Versailles State Park in Ripley County. The student was eastbound on U.S. 50 just east of the park entrance when he lost control in heavy rain and began to skid sideways. His Pontiac Grand Prix skidded into the westbound lane when a westbound Toyota Highlander driven by Donielle R. Stewart, 35, of Cincinnati, struck the Grand Prix. Mr. Brax was pronounced dead at the scene. Stewart suffered compound fractures to her ankles and leg injuries.
Indiana State Police believe that Brax lost control in the wet conditions and began to hydroplane, which caused the crash.
Bass-Baritone Nathan Stark is currently covering in Billy Budd at the Metropolitan Opera.
What a thrilling, and terrifying, experience to get a call from the Metropolitan Opera saying, “you’re on today, Mr. Stark – the artist you’re covering is sick and unable to rehearse this evening. Please be here in 30 minutes to begin staging Act 1, scene 1. We’ll also need you to sing through the musical run-through of act 2 this evening.”THANK GOD I was prepared musically, off-book and memorized. I barely had time to take a 5 minute shower, warm up my voice (while in the shower) and jump on the A train to Lincoln Center before I was standing between opera superstars like Nathan Gunn, James Morris and Dwayne Croft singing through Billy Budd – an opera I’d never done before. Everybody from the artists to stage director, the coaches to the conductor congratulated me afterward for being so well prepared in stepping in. They were all so very kind to me and it’s a moment I’ll never forget.
5 CCM Students (almuni & current) have won awards at the internationally prestigious Gerda Lissner Competition held this past week in New York City. Congratulations!
Results from the 2012 Gerda Lissner Foundation Competition.
CCM Opera is proud to announce the winners of the 2012 Opera Scholarship Competition.
Corbett $15,000 – Yi Li, Returning AD Student
Tajo $15,000 – Jacqueline Echols, Returning AD Student
White $12,500 – Thomas Richards, New AD Student
Seybold/Russell $10,000 – Edward Nelson, Returning MM Student
Alexander $10,000 – Chabrelle Williams, Returning AD Student
Corbett $2,000 – Summer Hassan, New MM Student
In the Competition there were 65 total applicants and 25 semi-finalists, including from CCM:
• Emma Char (AD)
• Jennifer Cherest (MM2 Future AD)
• Karen Ho (AD)
• Eric Jurenas (MM)
• Xi Wang AD/DMA)
• Yi Li (AD)
1st Place ($3,000), plus Audience Favorite award ($500): Yi Li
3rd Place ($2,000): Eric Jurenas
8 Finalists ($750 for those not winning one of the top prizes), including:
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!
Did you know that The Golden Ticket, American Lyric Theater’s (ALT) first opera commission – based on Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – is being produced for the third time this winter? The Golden Ticket received its world premiere at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2010, followed by its European premiere at Ireland’s Wexford Festival. This month, ALT is partnering with The Atlanta Opera to present The Golden Ticket…and… even more exciting news… we are recording the performances for release on CD later this year!
The recording will featuring many of the singers who premiered their roles at OTSL, including Daniel Okulitch ( as Willy Wonka, as well as many artists who first created their roles in ALT’s New York City workshops. We are also very excited to announce that the recording will be conducted by none other than the composer himself, Peter Ash!
Reviewing the world-premiere, The London Financial Times said that this operatic adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory “captures the wit, wizardry and wonder of Dahl’s story” and has a “fun-filled score, with zippy contemporary ambiance”; and The Chicago Tribune was thrilled to discover a “deliciously droll fantasy kids will cheer…and adults can savor!” By recording The Golden Ticket, audiences around the world will soon be able to enjoy this wonderful new opera for years to come.
Click here to visit Musical America’s website and read Jenelle Gelfand’s article.
The 2012 CCM Opera Scholarship will take place Saturday, March 31st starting at 10:00 am in Corbett Auditorium. Singers compete for over $70,000 in scholarships and prize money. This Competition is open to the public and audiences are encouraged to attend.
Judges for the competition this year are: Metropolitan Opera singer Claudia Catania, renowned Metropolitan Opera Stage Director, Fabrizio Melano and Stage Director and Artistic Director of Opera Theatre of Saint, James Robinson.
A reception following the competition will be held in the Baur Room where the judges will announce their decision.
A professor at CCM since 1999, Terry Lusk brings a valuable perspective from decades of professional experience to his weekly coachings with CCM students. Recently, we sat down with Professor Lusk to reflect upon his career.
1. Where is your hometown?
2. Where did you receive your education?
Morton East High School and Northwestern University
3. Where/when was your 1st professional engagement?
New York City Opera
4. Can you tell us some of the notable artists you have worked with throughout your career (singers, conductors, etc.)
I have worked with many fine conductors: Erich Leinsdorf, Charles Mackerras, Stage director-Jean Pierre Ponnelle,S Singers-Leontyne Price, Margaret Price, Luciano Pavarotti, Sherrill Milnes, Dolora Zajick, Mignon Dunne, Ruth Anne Swenson, Giorgio Tozzi, Regine Crespin,
5. What opera companies have you worked for during your career?
Santa Fe, New York City, San Francisco
6. Can you tell us some of the highlights of your career? Was there a particular production you enjoyed working on?
I always enjoyed working on Jean Pierre Ponnelle productions.
7. Did you have a mentor in your career that you feel guided you in the right path?
John Crosby, the founder of the Santa Fe Opera
8. What was the most challenging job you have worked on in your career?
I taught for one year in a junior high school.
9. What was the 1st opera you worked on at CCM (either as faculty or guest artists)?
Rossini’s Voyage a Rheims
10. What do you enjoy most about working with the students here at CCM?
11. If you could have picked another profession, what would it have been?
Something to do with foreign languages.
12. Do you have any hobbies/activities that you’d like to share?
I love gardening.
13. What advice would you give to someone who is starting out in your career path?
Study foreign languages and listen to a lot of classic recordings of opera, especially Jo Stafford, Fischer Dieskau, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, and Maria Callas.
Zhang Xuan (CCM Alumna) served as the fifth music director of the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra from 2005 to 2007. In January 2008, she became the first woman to conduct the Staatskapelle Dresden in its principal hall. In March 2009, the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi announced the appointment of Zhang as its next music director, the first woman to be named music director of an Italian symphony orchestra, effective with the 2009-2010 season.
February 16th, 2012
The Merola Opera Program has created the Zheng Cao Opera Fund, named for mezzo-soprano Zheng Cao, who was a 1994 Merola fellow and has terminal lung cancer. Cao was born during China’s Cultural Revolution and came to the United States with practically nothing, becoming a household name on opera’s greatest stages. Among her signature performances was her 2008 portrayal of Ruth Young Kamen in the world-premiere performances of San Francisco Opera’s “The Bonesetter’s Daughter.”
The fund, initially endowed by Annette Campbell-White, will fund one incoming Merola artist, either an Asian/Pacific artist or a mezzo-soprano. The fund’s first recipient is Chinese tenor Yi Li, an incoming Merola 2012 participant.
“So many of Zheng’s friends have wanted to help her in this brutal journey through cancer, and this seems a small way that we can let her know how much she means to us and what an impact she has made, and will continue to make, in so many lives,” said mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, a close friend and a long-time mentor to Cao.
Cao and her husband, Dr. David Larson, were on hand Tuesday night at the Opera House for the announcement of the fund and a presentation to Yi Li, who sang an opera aria and two Chinese songs to prove he is clearly a good choice as the fund’s first recipient.
Von Stade and fellow singer Nicolle Foland spoke movingly of Cao’s spirit, sense of humor and warmth. In typical fashion, von Stade effusively tried to push the spotlight on Foland, who has been at Cao’s side at virtually every hospitalization and medical test since she was diagnosed.
Dayton Opera presents Metropolitan Opera tenor
Marcello Giordani in Recital
March 11 at 3 p.m.
Dayton Opera offers an extraordinary opportunity to hear the international opera star Marcello Giordani in recital on Sunday, March 11.
Hailed by Opera News in its March 2008 issue as “the greatest leading tenor of his generation,” Mr. Giordani maintains a heroic schedule of engagements at the world’s top opera houses. He comes to Dayton following a series of acclaimed performances at Lyric Opera of Chicago in Aida and at the Met in Madame Butterfly (photo above) and Ernani.
His Ohio appearance will take place at Dayton’s acclaimed Schuster Center, built in 2003 and renowned for its acoustics and patron amenities. Mr. Giordani will be joined by soprano Melissa Zapin and pianist Katherine Olsen.
Cincinnati Opera is pleased to share with you a special offer from our friends at Dayton Opera: a 20% discount on tickets. Regular prices $36-$92. Buying is easy! Purchase online at www.daytonopera.org or call(888) 228-3630. Use the code “Music Hall” for your discount.
Marcello Giordani Star Gala
Sunday, March 11 at 3 p.m.
Schuster Performing Arts Center
1 West 2nd Street
Dayton, OH 45402
This grand finale of Transient Glory features new music by today’s top composers. One of the featured composers is Douglas J. Cuomo. Last November Mr. Cuomo was invited by CCM Opera and Cincinnati Opera to workshop his opera DOUBT via the Opera Fusion: New Works collaboration. The Transient Glory program is all performed by the choral conductors who participated in the workshop and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, led by recent MacArthur “genius” fellow Francisco J. Núñez. JACK Quartet also performs, and WNYC radio personality John Schaefer leads the composers in insightful discussions.
You can read more about this program at Carnegie Hall’s website.
MEROLA OPERA PROGRAM ANNOUNCES ZHENG CAO OPERA FUND FOR ASIAN/PACIFIC ARTISTS AND MEZZO-SOPRANOS
- CHINESE TENOR YI LI NAMED FUND’S FIRST RECIPIENT FOR MEROLA 2012
SAN FRANCISCO, February 14, 2012— The Merola Opera Program has created the Zheng Cao Opera Fund, named for Zheng Cao, a mezzo-soprano with Merola in 1994. Each summer the fund will sponsor one incoming Merola artist: either an Asian/Pacific artist or a mezzo-soprano. In addition to covering the artist’s training and housing costs, the Zheng Cao Fund will provide the additional funding needed to cover visa and travel costs associated with bringing an Asian/Pacific artist to San Francisco. The fund’s first recipient will be Chinese tenor Yi Li, an incoming Merola 2012 participant.
Tenor Yi Li began studying voice in 2002 and entered Sichuan Conservatory of Music in 2003 where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Arts. In 2007 he began teaching at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music where he pursued a Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance. In 2010, the young tenor received a full scholarship to enter the Artist Diploma Opera program at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He has won a number of international vocal competitions, including the 21st International Singing Contest at Marmande France in 2009.
In preparation for this week’s CCM Opera production of Don Giovanni, cast members worked with conductor Junghyun Cho and the CCM Orchestra on stage in Patricia Corbett Theater.
For ticket information please contact the CCM Box office.
by W. A. Mozart
Thursday, February 9th – 8:00pm
Friday, February 10th – 8:00pm
Saturday, February 11th – 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sunday, February 12th – 2:00pm
Patricia Corbett Theater
Don Giovanni – Jonathan Stinson
Leporello – Nicholas Ward
Donna Anna – Holly Cameron
Il Commendatore – William Tvrdik
Don Ottavio – Ian McEuan
Donna Elvira – Samina Aslam
Zerlina – Abigail Santos
Masetto – Andrew Lovato
This month CCM Opera and Cincinnati Opera’s first work shop in the Opera Fusion: New Works series, was highlighted in Opera America’s 2011 Winter quarterly publication.
Composer, Douglas Cuomo and librettist (the Playwright) John Patrick Shanley brought their opera, DOUBT to Cincinnati for Opera Fusion: New Works. The workshop was directed by, Robin Guarino and Conducted by Maestro Gary Wedow with CCM Opera students singing all lead and ensemble roles. Students from throughout CCM OMDA participated in the workshop which was documented by Academy Award nominated filmmakers, Julia Reichert and Steven Bogner.
Ian Ramirez wins Constance Eberhardt Memorial Award in the National Opera Association Voice Competition
CCM Opera is proud to announce Ian Ramierz (MM, tenor) placed 3rd in the Scholarship Division at the National Opera Association Voice Competition on January 7th in Memphis, TN. Ian competed with eight other finalists from around the country and was chosen to receive the Constance Eberhardt Memorial Award.
Congratulations Mr. Ramirez!
CCM Opera’s Jonathan Stinson (DMA, baritone) participates in Atlanta Opera’s “24-Hour Opera Project”
Atlanta Opera offered an opportunity for composers and librettists to compete in a exciting and one of a kind opportunity called the 24-Hour Opera Project.
Composers, librettists, stage directors, and singers all participated in the 24-Hour Opera Project. Composers and librettists were randomly paired together, and had 12 hours to write an opera scene. At the end of 12 hours, the pieces were assigned to a stage director, who picked singers from a pool of applicants, and had 8 hours to rehearse before presenting the pieces in a showcase-concert 24 hours after the project began.
CCM Opera’s Jonathan Stinson was selected from a national pool of composers to participate.
This is the exchange between Jonathan and Robin Guarino as the clock started. Atlanta Opera’s blog also chronicled the event from the 2011 24-Hour Opera Project.