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NOA Notes Newsletter
Vol. 42, No. 3
August 2019

In This Issue

From the President
From the President-Elect
From the Vice-President for Conferences
From the Vice-President for Regions
From the Finance Committee
Young People's Opera Committee
Salt Lake City Conference Session Reviews

Important Notice to Membership:
Nomination Slate for Officers and Board Election


2020 Cleveland Conference:
Jan. 8-11, 2020

View the Schedule

Register Now

Early bird registration ends Sep 14!

2020 Collegiate Opera Scenes Competition

Apply by
October 15

From the President

Paul Houghtaling

Associate Professor of Voice
Director of Opera Theatre Director
The Druid City Opera Workshop
University of Alabama School of Music

Summer is an exciting time for so many of our members.  Young Artist Programs and a huge array of opportunities for students take the focus for lots of directors and teachers, while other teaching artists are recharging for the upcoming academic season.  Still others are working tirelessly to prepare NOA regional events, including the Texoma Regional Conference on September 21 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. I hope to see you there!  And judging is now under way for the Opera Production Competition with a national network of judges.  Good luck to all entrants!

There is no down time for NOA. Whatever your summer holds, I hope it gives you a bit of time to reflect on the importance of our work as opera educators. Please make plans to attend the national conference in Cleveland which will offer an opportunity for all of us to gather and celebrate our work together, with our students, for our students, and for our craft and its future.

Happy summer! Very best for the fall season!  See you in Cleveland … Opera Rocks!  #NOACLE


From the President-Elect

Benjamin Brecher

Professor of Music
The University of California Santa Barbara

Dear Membership,

The Board has had a busy early summer with a very productive meeting and site visit in Cleveland. The Cleveland 2020 Conference is shaping up to be a wonderfully diverse event with a uniquely 'Cleveland' flare with its roots in popular music and of course, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Scott Skiba and Lisa Dawson are planning a very special weekend.

NOA isn't just the National Conference!  Plan on attending a regional event this year.  Barbara-Hill-Moore, Rebecca Renfro, and Melinda Brou are planning a one day  TEXOMA Conference in mid September 20-21 in Dallas Texas.

NOA is about all of you.  Please let any board member know your ideas and vision for NOA moving forward. 

I hope you all are enjoying a restful productive summer.


From the Vice-President for Conferences
Lisa Dawson

Professor of Voice
Indiana Wesleyan University


The 65th Annual NOA Conference will be held in Cleveland, Ohio on January 8-11, 2020.  Scott Skiba, our local host in Cleveland, has been working to prepare the way for us; he has some awesome venues lined up for some of our events!  We had a large amount of session proposals, and I would like to thank the Conference Committee for its work in reviewing them. The schedule is going to be full, informative, inspiring and lots of fun!

Be sure to check the website by clicking later in August to view the full schedule. Until then, here are a few teasers:

            We are planning to Rock some opera in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

            Howard Watkins will be sharing insights with all of us and working with singers in a masterclass!

            Libby Larsen will join us for conversation and memories of Dominick Argento!

            We will travel to The Music Box Supper Club for a lovely evening of food and opera!

            The Hilton in Downtown Cleveland is stunning with breathtaking views of Lake Erie. The rooms 
            and meeting spaces are top notch—along with the amenities and service!

Can’t wait to  see you there!


From the Vice-President for Regions

Dawn Neely

Assistant Professor of Voice and Director of Opera Workshop
West Georgia University

I'm happy to report that there are several larger NOA Regional events coming up! The first one is in the Texoma region at Southern Methodist University on September 20 and 21st. Deadline for proposals is August 1st. Check out the link for more information: 

The next event is tentatively planned for March 2020 in the Eastern Region. The Southeastern region will have its one day conference on Saturday, February 15, 2020. Deadline for proposals is tentatively set for November 1st. NOA members are welcome to come to any regional event so please join us!

Lisa Dawson and the Great Lakes Region are planning to pilot a NOA Opera Performance Peer-Review Program for 2019-2020. This program will offer a blind peer review of productions for the support of promotion and tenure among members at their respective universities. If successful, this program will be administered at the Regional level. Lisa and Tammie Huntington, along with those in their region, are working on guidelines for funding, hosting, and reviewing productions. The board looks forward to hearing their report at the 2020 Conference and Mid-Year meetings next year. 

Don't forget!!! Your Region has a Facebook page!! I would like to encourage all of our NOA members to send in their production info as well as pictures for their respective regions. Let's help promote each other's events! 


From the Finance Committee

Carol Ann Modesitt, treasurer

Chair, Finance Committee and 2019 Annual Campaign
Cal-Western regional Governor

Music Department
Southern Utah University

From the Annual Campaign Finance Committee:

Greetings from the Finance Committee!  We trust your summer has been productive and hope you found time to re-charge.

With all of the changes in tax laws it seems about the only thing we are allowed to deduct is charitable donations.  This reinforces the fact that NOA is a 501c3 organization, which means your donations to NOA are charitable deductions.  

Please remember that your dues cannot begin to fund all of the great programs and competitions that NOA sponsors.  It is the hope of the officers and board that our members will find it within their hearts and budgets to help support the organization as it tries to fund the needs of the directors, teachers, students, and singers who count on our organization and its special programs. 

For those of you who have made a donation to NOA this year, you have my heartfelt thanks.

Carol Ann

Young People's Opera Committee
Review of Fox Fables by Peter Winkler

Fox Fables 

The Fox and the Grapes 

The Fox and the Hen 

The Lion and the Fox
opera in one act 


Music by Peter Winkler 

Libretto by Rhoda Levine with Peter Winkler 

Review by Lynette Pfund


The Fox and the Grapes 

Fox (tenor), Grape no. 1 (soprano), Grape no. 2 (mezzo), Grape no. 3 (baritone) 

The Fox and the Hen 

Fox (tenor), Hen (soprano)  

The Lion and the Fox 

Fox (tenor), Lamb (soprano), Dove (mezzo), Lion (baritone) 

Opera companies and university opera programs are frequently looking for performance opportunities for their emerging singing professionals. Opera outreach is a wonderful way to flesh out the resumes of young artists and to get out into communities with opera performances. Fox Fables, written by Peter Winkler and Rhoda Levine, is a humorous show full life lessons to be sung by young professional singers for young children. It also has many interesting characteristics that producers and directors will love.  

The ideal audience for Fox Fables is elementary aged children. The three playful stories with the exaggerated characters and ridiculous situations will instantly relate to children. The Fox talks about being disgusted by “road kill” because his tastes are too refined, the Grapes hum in the sun, the Hen makes all sorts of silly clucking noises, and in between gigantic roars, the Lion lures his meals by pretending to be sick with fake coughing. The stories are well chosen (fables are often in school curriculums), and the enthusiastic presenter can easily craft educational materials around the opera to extend classroom learning. Other topics found in the opera, such as plant growth cycles, using common sense, and lessons such as “don’t go with strangers” and “be smart” already tie into existing class lessons. 

The score itself is professionally formatted, very clear, and easy to read. On its own, the production is the perfect length for a fifty minute/hour-long school assembly. The show is divided into three parts, the first two stories lead up to the third, but do not fully rely on each other. This is nice if there is a need to cut one to make the outreach show fit a 30-minute elementary music class period. There is built-in casting flexibility, too. The production ultimately needs a quartet (soprano, mezzo, tenor, and baritone), with the four voices performing more than one role as the stories progress. However, if you have a slew of singers who need roles, you can simply spread them out. Extreme humor in the stories allow for lots of creativity, including a bit of improve worked into the Hen’s character. The show does not call for a single prop and has very few set pieces. A little creativity is needed for the last story, but overall this is a low maintenance show, perfect for traveling outreach. 

Fox Fables, however, will need some time to put together. The music has some challenges. The score calls for a single pianist. This part has lots of character and will keep your pianist busy with brisk, simple to compound meter changes with lots of syncopation. These meters make perfect musical sense, but for many young professionals (and pianists) the musical transitions between them may be new. It will take some rehearsal time to coordinate. The singing parts are not overly rangy, but they are well-written for the voice.

The parts are interesting and will challenge younger singers in the right way. The soprano parts range from a low (D) to a high (A-flat), but they mostly sit in the middle of the voice. The mezzo parts are mostly low to middle ranged: low (B) to an (F) on the top of the staff. The tenor range is medium with a few high notes that should not be a problem because of how they are approached. The baritone part may be a stretch for some young singers. The range is from (C) to high (F) with long stretches full of high (E-flats).   

Overall, Fox Fables is destined to be performed. It offers the right kinds of challenges to young singers. It is crafty and foolish in all the best ways for those performing and for those watching the performance. There is room for creativity and cooperative education. It is low maintenance which will keep costs down for those who have tight budgets. 

Lynette Pfund co-directs the opera workshop in the Lionel Hampton School of Music at the University of Idaho. 

Salt Lake City Conference Session Reviews

A sampling of some of the sessions from the conference.
Look for more summaries in each issue of Notes!

Review by Mitra Sadeghpour

Seven excellent presenters took part in the poster session on Friday, January 4.

The poster session is always one of my favorite sessions at the NOA conference because it is an opportunity to speak directly to the presenters and learn quickly about multiple topics.  This year did not disappoint! Each of the seven presenters had engaging posters, interesting supporting documentation and recordings, and were able to passionately converse about their topic and answer an enormous range of questions.

This year's presenters were: 

  • Susan Williams: Cuckold: The Husband's Unfaithful Wife in Operatic Plots
  • Christina Amonson: Scenes of Kurt Weill: Democracy in Programming a University Opera Workshop
  • James Harrington: Singers, Inc.: Practical Entrepreneurship as a Core Competency for Voice Students in the 21st Century(watch for a forthcoming article from James in NOTES as part of the Student Opportunities Committee)
  • Rebecca L. Renfro: A Case Study of Trans-global Collaboration
  • Jen Stephenson: "Soft Skills:" Preparing Singers for the Future (Jen, also a member of the Student Opportunities Committee, will also be authoring an articles for NOTES)
  • Garrett Torbert: The Voice of Samson: An Exploration of the Vocal Writing of 19th century French tenor Gilbert Duprez's Opera "Samson"
  • Shayna Tayloe: Analysis of Fluctuation in Vibrato Rate Using Affect in Operatic Repertoire

Poster sessions are rewarding for both the presenters and their audience--
consider submitting an abstract next year!

Learning Through Serivce: Opera Outreach and Education
Review by Carol Notestine

Dr. May’s presentation was very clear, interesting, and thought-provoking.  I will whet your appetite - go on Dr. May’s website to see what he has to say: www. 

Why have an outreach program?
  • Development for interdisciplinary opportunities for teachers
  • Students learn through performance and by reflecting on activities and performances
  • Service to the community musical growth, provide in depth musical experience
  • Work with colleagues, find non-traditional partners as well as traditional (libraries, schools, retirement center, etc.) and performance spaces, and select repertoire to fit the situation
Dr. May has available model forms for creating  your outreach program and pre and post-evaluations.


Pastiche Productions: Making Opera Personal for 21st Century Students
Review by Samuel Mungo

Ann Baltz, Daniel Hunter-Holly, and David Ronis presented a wonderful session on modern pastiche productions. After defining the term pastiche in a modern way, as an homage or “riff” on a master’s work or idea, they spoke about some of their own pastiche shows.

It was interesting to learn of the many different ways to put together such a production- using pre-existing narrative vs. allowing the students to write their own, celebrating a given composer vs. following a theme, etc.  Most fascinating for me was the way they highlighted the value of a pastiche show - creating a dialogue between old and new music and ideas, allowing students to invent characters and text (letting them speak in their own voice), and the pedagogy of “What If?” - using existing music in a totally different way to reveal deeper and more universal truths.  Collaborating with students in this way sounds like a great way to further the mission of NOA as the Foundation of Opera!

The Art of the Assistant Director: Marc Callahan
Review by David Ronis

What does an assistant director really do?  Take notes?  Fetch coffee for the director?  Actually, those activities and much more.  Marc Callahan, Assistant Professor at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, who has had quite a bit of experience assistant directing, primarily in European opera houses, shared his experience and ideas on the subject.  The work of an assistant director varies from project to project and really depends upon the needs of the director as well as the working dynamic between director and assistant director.  The work of the AD can be as simple as taking staging notes, or as many-faceted as to include staging the chorus, privately coaching singers, having a major role interfacing with the tech staff, and even walking and singing a role (on book) for a singer who is ill.  This was a fascinating presentation that spoke to those interested in assistant directing – mainly students – as well as those directors who might start working with assistants.

Cliff Notes: A Guide to Abbreviating Opera for Small Departments
Review by David Ronis

Richard Masters and Ariana Wyatt, of Virginia Tech, presented an informative session addressing issues involved in producing opera in a small department on a small budget.  Using their recently re-thought production of The Marriage of Figaro as an example, they took the audience, step-by-step through their process and how they arrived at a viable version of the show that worked for their students.  They spoke about dealing with a very small budget and other production issues.  Most interestingly and creatively, they effectively cut out the recitatives from Figaro and added narration.  This solution could easily be one that other university opera producers could use as a model.

Nomination Slate for Officers and Board Election

In accordance with the January 2019 changes to the NOA Bylaws, the Nominating Committee carefully considered all nomination suggestions received by March 15, both those received by from members in addition to their own recommendations brought forth as a Committee.  The Committee has selected the following slate of nominees for upcoming Officer and Board vacancies.

President - Benjamin Brecher
President-Elect - Lisa Dawson
VP for Conferences - Jess Munoz
Members of the Board: (3 vacancies to fill)
Minnita Daniel-Cox - Board Member
Susan Gonzalez - Board Member
Rebecca Renfro - Board Member
Marc Callahan - Board Member

The election will be held at the next Annual Meeting (January 2020 in Cleveland) and the membership will vote to fill the Officer vacancies and three open positions on the NOA Board of Directors.

Board nominiee biographies:
Susan Gonzalez began her career at the age of 8 as a professional actress on stage and screen. She has appeared in International festivals, concerts, and with major opera companies around the world. Her credits include a leading role in the BBC series, SAILOR, which was awarded Great Britain’s SUN AWARD for excellence. An EMMY award nomination followed for a television version of Il Barbierre di Siviglia featuring Susan as Rosina.  She sang Fiordiligi in Cosi fan Tutte, Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus, Baroness von Freimann in Der Wildschütz, and Norina in Don Pasquale for a national tour with the National Opera Company. Susan went on to sing Violetta in La Traviata with Lyric Opera of Chicago at Grant Park, and New Orleans Opera, Adina in L’elixir d’amore for Chicago Opera Theater, and Lake George Opera Festival, Mimi in La Boheme at Dayton Opera, and many others.  Her international credits include debuts with the Bolshoi Opera at Cheboksary’s Pushkin Festival, Yoshkarola Opera Theater and Nishny Novgorod State Opera House singing leading roles in La Traviata, Eugene Onegin and Faust. Susan is currently the Director of the Hunter Opera Theatre at Hunter College in New York City producing and workshopping new operas.  She has directed works for D’ell Arte Opera Ensemble, New Jersey State Opera and Bronx Arts Ensemble. She received a Bachelor of Music degree from University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and Master and Doctorate degrees from Eastman School of Music. 
Rebecca L. Renfro is an Associate Professor at Sam Houston State University, where she holds the title of Director of Opera.  Dr. Renfro’s directing credits include productions for Greater Worcester Opera, Opera del West, University of Connecticut Opera Theater, Lone Star College, Lone Star Lyric Opera, and the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival.  Under Dr. Renfro’s leadership, SHSU Opera has garnered national recognition, having been selected as an NOA Opera Scenes Competition finalist from 2011-2018; winning second place in 2015 and 2018 in the NOA Music Theatre Division.  The ensemble was awarded an NOA Production Competition prize in 2012, and was honored with the American Prize in Collegiate Opera in both 2014 and 2015. SHSU Opera made its international debut in May of 2018 with a collaboration with Kobe College of Dido and Aeneas in Osaka, Japan. Dr. Renfro was selected as the 2012-2014 winner of the NOA Dissertation Competition, and has served as a State Governor for the NOA Texoma Region, as well as served as a member of the nominating board for NOA in 2018. She currently serves on the executive board of Greater Worcester Opera in Massachusetts, and was a founder of Opera del West, a regional opera company based in Natick, MA.  In addition to her work as a musician, Dr. Renfro holds a degree in accounting and worked as an accountant and auditor in the oil and gas industry for five years.
Dr. Marc Callahan holds degrees from Oberlin College, the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, the École Normale de Musique de Paris, and the Schola Cantorum. His operatic career has taken him around the world, performing at houses such as: The Royal Opera House, Opera North (UK), Santa Fe Opera, Théâtre des Champs Élysées, Théâtre du Capitole, Opéra National de Lyon, Opéra de Montpellier, Opéra Comique, Théâtre Royale de Versailles, and the Opéra de Marseille. He has recorded with Virgin Classics, FRA Musica, Passavant, Newport Classic, Editions d’Ambronay, and Radio France. Opera magazine has reviewed him as “a powerful baritone, providing wickedly glamorous tone.” As a director and designer, he has received critical acclaim for his production of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Les Indes Galantes, saying it was “designed and directed with jaw-dropping invention.” He has worked on productions at the Royal Opera House, the Aldeburgh Festival, the Holland Festival, Scottish Opera, Miami Music Festival, the New World Center, Théâtre du Châtelet, and the Théâtre du Capitole. Recent productions include: The Marriage of Figaro, Cendrillon, and The Blue Forest, Help, Help, the Globolinks!, Der Jasager, Lohengrin, Alcina, Die Walküre, and L’incoronazione di Poppea (“…devising a brilliant production of remarkable dramatic intimacy.”).
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Minnita Daniel-Cox attended Bowling Green State University where she received a Bachelor of Music in Music Performance. Upon completion of her baccalaureate studies, she attended The University of Michigan where she received her both her Master of Music and her Doctorate of Musical Arts degrees. Most recently, Dr. Daniel-Cox performed an American Music Recital tour in Bulgaria and has been a featured soloist with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra, and Bach Society of Dayton. Two of her notable roles have been Sister Rose in Heggie’s Dead Man Walking and Anna Gomez in Menotti’s The Consul, both performed with Dayton Opera. She has appeared with the University of Dayton, Yellow Springs, Flint, Ann Arbor, and South Bend Symphony Orchestras as well as the Defiance and Packard Symphonic Bands. Her research regarding the musical settings of texts by poet and Dayton native, Paul Laurence Dunbar, led to her establishment of the Dunbar Music Archive. Dr. Daniel-Cox has a passion for teaching and has taught music courses or applied voice for programs at Western Michigan University, University of Michigan, Bowling Green State University, and within the award-winning music program at Grosse Pointe South High School. After serving four years as Artist-in-Residence, Dr. Daniel-Cox is now Assistant Professor of Voice and Coordinator of the Voice Area at the University of Dayton where she teaches applied lessons, music courses, serves as Artistic Director of the yearly musical/opera productions, and coordinates the Vocal Performance Institute, a summer program for high school aged singers.


National Opera Association

2020 Conference, Cleveland

January 8-11, 2020


NOA's Vision Statement:


NOA members are the Foundation Builders
for the future of opera.
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