Professor of Music Chair, Voice Division
School of Music, Theatre, and Dance
Kansas State University
Dear NOA Colleagues,
Our 2018 national convention is just around the corner. An exciting convention is being scheduled for January 4-7 at the Loews Hotel in New Orleans. The Board of Directors met in New Orleans earlier this summer for a very productive mid-year meeting. As I write this column, final plans are being accomplished even as a few of our convention committee members are directing in summer opera and vocal programs across the globe. What an amazing group of opera professionals we have in NOA.
NOA has a new Vision Statement: “NOA members are the foundation builders for the future of opera."
There’s no better time than now to be a member of NOA. To become a member or renew your membership click here: www.noa.org.
Looking forward to seeing you in New Orleans!
From the President-Elect
Associate Professor of Voice
Director of Opera Theatre Director
The Druid City Opera Workshop
University of Alabama School of Music
This is a fun time of year when our industry gets the first look at our upcoming convention, the unique sessions and classes and opportunities we'll be offering. As registration opens I hope our membership will take a moment to review the convention schedule and take pride in what we do. This is also a time to entice new members. Tell them about New Orleans 2018 and share with them what our organization can offer them and their students.
Speaking of wonderful opportunities, I hope you'll join us in Atlanta on September 16 for the NOA Southeastern Regional Conference. This one-day event is the first of its kind, and I hope it becomes an inspiration and a model for other regions and states to keep the NOA excitement alive all year long. Click here for information (including registration) or be in touch with Dawn Neely, SE Regional Governor.
I'm writing this from Wichita Falls, Texas where I'm fortunate to be directing a production of Handel's Alcina for Red River Lyric Opera, a young artist program. I love working with young singers, a passion which brought me to teaching and to NOA. Being surrounded by young singers hungry for feedback and eager to learn all they can, along with fellow directors and teachers (including fellow NOA member Copeland Woodruff), united behind the company's mission to create the best possible learning and performance experience for the young singers, reminds me of what brings us all together in NOA - we're building the foundation for the future of our craft.
From the Vice-President for Conventions
Professor of Music
University of California Santa Barbara
Preparations for the 2018 NOA National Convention, Opera’s Tradition and Rebirth: New Orleans 1796-2018, are in motion with an exciting and diverse group of speakers, award recipients, and presenters who will impact all convention attendees and energize our organization. International operatic superstar Greer Grimsley will start it all off as our keynote speaker on Thursday, followed over the next few days by 23 diverse plenary and breakout sessions on topics ranging from historical operatic production to using cutting edge projected imagery. Of course other highlights will include our three competitions, where top-notch judges are lined up to help guide young competitors. And then we will wrap up the conference with celebrations of the achievements of Virginia Zeani and John Moriarty, both giants in the field of opera.
We have chosen to hold the convention this year in the heart of the Big Easy at the Loews New Orleans Hotel, whose hospitality and proximity to the Warehouse District and the Historic French Quarter we will all enjoy. A special thanks to all of our committee heads, the board, and our local committee of Mark Clark, Loraine Sims, and Rachel Harris, who are all working hard to make sure the 2018 Convention in New Orleans will be a very special one.
Laissez les bons temps roulez!
From the Vice-President for Regions
Managing Director, Peabody Opera Theatre
Hello colleagues! I am sure your summers have all been as busy as mine, though I may have you all beat in terms of realtor hell!
I invite everyone to visit the National Opera Association Facebook page, and your regional one as well (search under NOA (region). Feel free to post what you wish - upcoming productions, regional news (job news in your area, for example). It doesn't have to be much, but it is a great way to get the word out. If you have a prop list, you can share it and we can all benefit from saving a few dollars on buying vs. sharing props!
In case you need anything from your Regional Governor, I have included the list below. You can find their email addresses (as well as those for all Officers and Board Members) by CLICKING HERE. Bookmark it!!
The Southeastern Region is holding the first Regional Conference September 16th at Clayton State University in metro Atlanta. Sessions are set, and the day promises to be a great celebration of Opera, Opera Education, and the Southeast! If you are, or will be, in the area, come support hosts Dawn Neely, Kristin Kenning, Justin Moniz, Kurt Zeller and Paul Houghtaling at this historic conference!
Finally, as per our conversation in Santa Barbara, I am compiling a short video for you to post, with a bit from the Gender session and testimonials. That should be put together sometime in the Fall, to post wherever you feel.
Have a great start to the semester, and let me know if I can be of any help to you!
I hope that your summer is going well. Here in Southern Utah, we have had a large forest fire that started in mid-June outside of Cedar City, but as of my writing this, it is 80% contained which is a blessing.
At our mid-year board meeting in New Orleans, the board unanimously voted that 100% of the board would contribute to our Annual Campaign. We have an inspiring and energetic board whose vision is to keep opera thriving. Most of our board has made contributions in honor or in memory of a mentor who led them to the field of opera. Is there someone you would like to honor that inspired you? If so, it isn’t too late to make a contribution to the 2017 Annual Campaign. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every member of NOA made a contribution to the Annual Campaign?
There are so many aspects of opera that our organization fosters such as the scenes competition, the video production competition, vocal competitions, stage director internship program, and the chamber opera competition just to name a few. If every member contributed to the Annual Campaign, our organization could accomplish even more. Please remember that your contribution is tax deductible as well.
I hope to see you at the NOA Conference in New Orleans in January!
Carol Ann Modesitt
Treasurer and Chair of the 2017 Annual Campaign
2017 Southeastern Regional Conference
From the Southeastern Region:
As you have read in some of our officers' columns above, the Southeastern Region is planning an exciting Convention in Atlanta, Georgia at Clayton State University on Saturday, September 16, 2017.
We were excited to have many wonderful session proposals! Our guest speaker is Jerome Shannon, Executive Director, Music Director, and Principal Conductor for Pensacola Opera. The day will end with a members’ recital including a number of student performers.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Registration deadline for Drury Inn Rooms is Monday, August 14th!!
Applications are now open for the 2018 Collegiate Opera Scenes Competition. We are close to finalizing our judges for the preliminary round and the finals in New Orleans. Finals will be held at the Annual Convention in New Orleans in January 2018.
Deadline to apply is October 15, 2017 so please spread the word! CLICK HERE for more details.
Co-Chair, Collegiate Opera Scenes Competition Committee
The Sacred in Opera Initiative Newsletter:
Call for Submissions
Non-traditional forms of publishing such as the Sacred in Opera Initiative Newsletter (a Web and Blog based publication), can enable the broadest possible readership of your research outputs and become an important way to maximize the dissemination and impact of your findings. In order to better serve our community members, the SIO committee continues working diligently to refine its formalized peer review process for the vetting of article submissions and materials to our newsletter. We welcome you to visit our updated submission criteria found in the SIO pages of the NOA website. We are always interested in supporting the good work you are doing in the field of Sacred in Opera. Let us hear from you.
The current list of the SIO Committee and Editorial Board includes:
Jess Munoz, Chair
Dr. Isai Jess Muñoz
University of Delaware
SIO Chair and Senior Editor IJMunoz@udel.edu
Registration for our 2018 Annual Convention in New Orleans is NOW OPEN -- see the schedule HERE
Meanwhile, take a look at some reviews from the 2017 Santa Barbara Convention sessions
(DVD's / CD's of these sessions: email@example.com or call (817) 577-2574)
A Yogic Approach to Aid Singers in Gaining Freedom in the Head, Neck, and Upper Torso
Dr. Susan Williams, University of Alabama
In her sessions on "A Yogic Approach to Aid Singers," Dr. Susan Williams led a methodical and accessible morning flow showing how to release tension and gain freedom in the body. Her form was excellent and her cues clear and easy to follow; furthermore, her calm energy made the practice a great way to start your day at the convention. ~ Submitted by Linda Lister, University of Nevada-Las Vegas
"The Pedagogy of Style: The Synthesis of Technique and Artistry"
Dr. Maryann Kyle, University of Southern Mississippi
Dr. Kyle presented "The Pedagogy of Style: The Synthesis of Technique and Artistry." She clearly explained her idea that breathing and resonance, or "ring," are more effectively understood as aspects of the character. Two students which Maryann worked with gained a better understanding of their bodies and achieved more organic and engaged performances through her session. She also discussed such pedagogical concepts as the shape of the palate and the lengthening of the resonating cavity and their relationship to the color of sound as it correlates to the emotion of the character. All of these technical devices, Dr. Kyle explained, allow for a firmer understanding of style in vocal music and versatility therein, be it opera or musical theater. Dr. Kyle is engaging and charismatic and she presented a highly informative and well-paced class.
~ Submitted by Paul Houghtaling, University of Alabama
Puccini’s Grotesque West: Exoticism and Appropriation in “La fanciulla del west”
C.A. Norling, MMUS Teaching Assistant, University of Iowa
Winner of the Scholarly Papers Competition
Mr. Norling began his interest and love for Puccini when he was an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin Au Claire. His paper looked at the cultural implications of the 1849 Gold rush in California, and how Puccini chose to illustrate the “Grotesque.” There is little connection to the authenticity of the times. Puccini relied on popular indigenous characters. In reality the miners enslaved the Indians. There were Wars of Extermination. In 1845 there were approximately 150,000 Indians in California, and by 1849 there were only 50,000 left. Indians were a source of labor during the Spanish Mission System and it is estimated that 250,000 Indians died during this time. Puccini was trying to look at the appeal of the exotic. Minnie’s house maid is an Indian. Puccini uses tritones, whole tones, and the Scottish snap in Iambic rhythm. He also employs the droning bass to illustrate the authentic. The opera encompasses theft, stupidity, and alcoholism. The paper was interesting and presented some historical information that was actually startling to some of the audience members who were present.
~ submitted by Carol Ann Modesitt, Southern Utah University
Fundraising for University Opera Programs: Ways to Enhance Your Official Budget to Improve Production Values
Melanie Helton, Michigan State University
Melanie offered several suggestions for fund raising. She talked about the possibility of doing a Gala Concert and finding someone who would give enough money to sponsor the event. She suggested getting local theater groups involved. She talked about needing to convince the Development Departments of universities to buy into helping raise money. She said to “be shameless” about talking to people. Give your fund raising a personal touch. Never be afraid to talk to people. Personality goes a long way in raising funds, but if you are successful, you may upset your colleagues. She suggested getting “blurbs” from well- known graduates. Could you get a well-known graduate to come back and perform? Are there matching programs that can be contacted? She suggested going on line and googling opera foundations. You may want to start an Opera Guild whose job is to raise money. Look at you banks, chamber of commerce, hotel and motel associations. Do donors have specific things they love? Find out and see if you can capitalize on those things. She also mention Family Foundations and the Mellon Foundation as a possible source of funding. Melanie did throw out a number of ideas…..the most important…..never be afraid to ask for money.
~ submitted by Carol Ann Modesitt, Southern Utah University
Opera Craft: Creating live virtual opera
Ariana Wyatt and Tracey Cowden, Virginia Tech University
The National Opera Association was honored to present Ariana Wyatt and Tracy Cowden from Virginia Tech University in a session discussing their live virtual opera outreach project based on the computer game Minecraft, entitled Opera Craft: Creating Live Virtual Opera. This wonderful project also featured Ivica Ico Bukvic, who was unable to attend.
Minecraft is a wildly popular computer game where individual gamers can work alone or together to literally build a world- buildings, walls, create entire spaces and characters. The open source software also allows the gamer to change the way the game is played, using invented modules, or “Mods”. This game is particularly popular with High School students, which connected the project to the outreach students in a very unique way.
The session walked the audience through the steps of creating the opera. With the help of the project creators, the High School students created the libretto based on their interests and understanding of the game. They also built the “set”- since the show was all in the actual game, the students could literally build whatever world they wanted. Music from Mozart’s operas, particularly Le nozze di Figaro, Magic Flute, Cosi fan tutte, was then fit into the text, modifying and adapting some of the music and phrasing as needed for the text and transitions. Virginia Tech opera students rehearsed and sang the roles, while the High School students played out the story online in the game. The result garnered national media attention, and an online audience of over 30,000!
Some of the projects goals were to engage the High School students and community in a unique and appealing way, and to give the opera students experience in creating characters using only their voices. The project was produced twice, and both 20 minute productions are available on YouTube.
~ submitted by Sam Mungo, Peabody Conservatory
The Gamification of Opera Workshop
Dr. Ashley Stone from University of Nevada –Las Vegas
Dr. Stone's utterly engaging session explored using the popularity of role playing games to engage students in exploring their opera characters, With gamers in 63% of American households - 41% of whom are female - using such character driven play as a tool in character work seems intuitive.
Role Playing Games (Dungeons and Dragons, etc.) require the creation and building of characters before the game can be played. Players first decide on their characters alignment- levels of lawful, chaotic, good, evil. Rolling various sided dice, character traits such as strength, intelligence, and constitution are determined and added to a “character sheet”, names are created, and traveling parties are formed. Playing the game, the players must have their characters behave according to their character choices and determinations.
Adapting this, Dr. Stone invented a character sheet for opera- including alignment, etc. each student writes a sheet based on what they know or decide based on the opera. Studies reveal gamers report various experiences during play that can apply directly to Opera Workshop. “Flow experience”, where they lose track of time, is essential for an opera character to live fully in the moment; “fun failure”, where failing or dying is seen as a growing and learning experience, allows opera students to try new things without fear of falling down or the dreaded cracking on the high note; receiving “experience points” for trying gives positive reinforcement in an easy way. Even rolling the dice is used, to determine improvisatory work.
With the clear objectives, sense of fun, depth of commitment, and “fun failure” of gaming applied to opera character work and workshop sessions, this connection to gaming makes complete sense, and is something we can all use daily. Dr. Stone is really on to something!
~ submitted by Sam Mungo, Peabody Conservatory
Exploring Contemporary Issues on Race and Religion
The Sacred in Opera Initiative
Dr. Jess Muñoz, The University of Delaware
NOA's Sacred in Opera Chair, Dr. Jess Muñoz, composer Andrew Barnes Jamieson and director Megan A. Meyer resented a session focusing on Jamieson’s opera Heaven Down Here, directed and choreographed by Meyer.
The session began with a Q & A between Dr. Muñoz and the creative team for the opera, which deals with the leadup to the 1978 mass suicide of religious cultists lead by Reverend Jim Jones in Jonestown, Guyana. The team discussed in great detail the way they decided to approach the story- not from the tragic finale, but from the role that Jones played as charismatic leader and manipulative seductor of those of low income and low self esteem.
Jones made his appeal particularly to the African-American community, with a message of anti-discrimination and empowerment. Thus Jamieson looked to the musical idioms of the African-American church for his inspiration. One of the ideas Jamieson used, one that challenges the established operatic conventions, was the use of improvised music, based on inspiration in the moment. Meyer explained how this concept gave her the idea of guiding the piece “in real time”, focusing less on the socio-economic aspect and more on the raw, fundamental use of power, the emotional control Jones had over the adherents.
The session included a few scenes from the show, with the composer at the piano. The music and text proved engaging and powerful, the show following one young troubled girl as she becomes a member of the cult. The focus on the witchery of Jones gave us a fascinating look into the religious fanaticism that lead inevitably to the Jonestown calamity, the worst deliberate loss of American life until 9/11.
~ submitted by Sam Mungo, Peabody Conservatory
Challenging Gender Norms in Opera: Performances of Operatic Literature featuring Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgendered Characters
NOA members Dr. Christopher Meerdink, Dr. Robert Hansen, Professor Jason Charnesky, and Professor Bruce Trinkley
The session began with Charnesky making a strong case about gender identity in the arts and culture- that gender is constructed through community and culture- pink dresses, soldier toys, “pretty girl” and “strong boy.” Charnesky then introduced a piece he and his partner Trinkley wrote to spotlight gender and assumptions of attraction. Buzz and Budd is a story of a flower and bee, an obvious attraction made more so by the revelation that the flower is an orchid and the bee a hornet. Their natural symbiotic relationship is manifested by the authors as two tenors, compelling the acknowledgement of attraction, relationship and symbiosis regardless of gender. An effective and evocative piece, sung by Drs. Meerdink and Hansen.
Charnesky explained that art and culture often view gay characters as sad, or troubled, or over the top silly. A few art songs underscored the theme of the session, including Bolcom’s George and a piece for Ben Moore’s 4 Songs on Texts Concerning LGBT Youth.
The session concluded with a most effective set of exercises, led by Meerdink, meant to bring home awareness of the effect a lack of compassion for the LGBT community can have on members of that population, most telling the fact that 40% of LGBT have attempted suicide at some time in their lives. Given the connection the LGBT community has with the opera world, a longer session, and more focus on this topic, seems warranted.
~ submitted by Sam Mungo, Peabody Conservatory
Effective Practice and Rehearsal Strategies for Singers: Lessons from Cognitive Neuroscience
Dr. Indre Viskontas of the San Francisco Conservatory/University of San Francisco
On Saturday morning of the NOA convention, Dr. Viskontas shared new, interesting and useful information regarding the human brain and how we can become better performers--or vocal pedagogues. For example, did you know an afternoon nap is highly recommended to help with memory and brain processing? Following an invaluable lecture, Viskontas demonstrated techniques in master class form. It was truly inspiring and I gained ideas that I will be implementing into my own performance and my vocal studio immediately. This session was the most popular DVD order of the convention—so, if you have a chance, get one for yourself!
~ submitted by Dr. Lisa F. Dawson, Indiana Wesleyan University
Taking the Scenic View: New Ideas for Opera Scenes Programs
NOA members Linda Lister, Carol Ann Modesitt and Paul Houghtaling
This fast-paced, idea-packed session (presented in tag team style) sparked attendees’ imaginations as the session leaders shared creative programming ideas from their own opera scenes programs including: “The Play’s the Thing: Operas Inspired by Shakespeare” and “Law and Order: Scenes about Crime and Punishment” presented by UNLV Opera Theater; “The Promise of Living: Scenes of Life and Love” and “Real to Reel: Opera Goes to the Movies” at University of Alabama; “Devils, Demons and Redemption” and “Love is Where You Find It: Love Scenes form the Opera Repertoire” at Southern Utah University. My mind is spinning with great ideas for my next scenes program!
~ submitted by Dr. Lisa F. Dawson, Indiana Wesleyan University
Eight NOA members shared their scholarship via academic poster presentations on Friday, January 6, 2017. When I arrived a few minutes before 9:00 a.m. the room was already buzzing with conversations, and the first massage had begun (more on that later!). Each of the presenters was on hand to engage attendees in conversation, to display visual artifacts of their research, to share recordings, scores, and lesson plans, and offer insight into how to use their research to enrich the singing and teaching of opera.
Nicole Asel, from Sam Houston State University, shared her research and performance photos in “A Dia de las Muertos Hansel and Gretel,” showing how using local folk traditions as an inspiration for a children’s opera can create a more meaningful and lasting impact on young, first-time opera goers.
Karen Esquivel, opera director at University of Oregon and Gustavo Castro from Eugene Opera introduced NOA members to "El Gato con Botas: A Multicultural Approach to Building a New Audience in the New Millennium." They presented the opera by Xavier Montsalvatge, and through photos, information, a handout and a video of a live performance from the University of Oregon, showed it to be ideal for elementary outreach in a variety of languages.
Marc Callahan from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill presented “From Meisner to Mozart: Acting Studio Techniques for Opera Workshop.” The project was based on Callahan’s own experience of introducing the Meisner method of acting into his opera workshop class and how the exercises culminated in a production of The Marriage of Figaro. A sample lesson plan and student feedback were included.
Christopher Meerdink from West Texas A&M University, in a crowd favorite, paired his presentation “Massage for Singers” with hands-on massage techniques, that, while beneficial to everyone, have a special application and usefulness for singers. The ten minutes on his massage table invigorated me for a full day of NOA sessions!
In “A D.I.Y. Guide to Revitalizing Underperformed Works,” Bonnie Bunt, a doctoral candidate from University of Nevada, shared her paper on Ambroise Thomas's French opera, Hamlet. Bunt described her methodology and reasoning for providing a new libretto in English and shared examples, inspired by the original Shakespeare. She also demonstrated how the opera could be reduced from its grand opera format to a size manageable for university or small company forces.
Jennifer Stephenson, from Tabor College, presented “Not Just Clowning Around Anymore: Commedia dell’Arte for the Modern Opera Actor.” This poster served to provide examples, both descriptions and images, of Commedia characters and several common opera characters derived from each Commedia archetype in order to aid opera singers in making informed choices of characterization for their own operatic performances. Her handout with visual examples of the characters, was exceptional.
“Reviving Instinct: Pedagogy and Assessment of Movement and Improvisation Education” proved to be a fascinating project. In addition to providing links to course materials and summary videos of student development, Daniel Hunter-Holly’s poster provided an outline of the student learning outcomes, assessment tools, and support materials for advocacy of the movement and improvisation curriculum he has used at University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley.
Finally, the presentation “Opera on the Prairie: The Forgotten Operas of Felix Vinatieri” by Ryan Landis, Mississippi State University, focused on Vinatieri’s life and his final opera The American Volunteer. Composed in 1891 it is one of the earliest operas composed west of the Mississippi River.
The poster sessions were well-worth the hour that I spent in the room, a sentiment echoed by the many NOA members I spoke to: the opportunity to interact one-on-one with each of the presenters offers a unique and powerful experience. The session featured an exciting mix of scholarly topics, all of which are relevant to the convention’s theme of “Fostering Change: Performance and Pedagogy in Opera’s New Millennium.” Because of the intimate presentation format, it is possible to gather much information very quickly and make connections with people with which you may want to collaborate later. Congratulations to each of these scholars!
~ submitted by By Mitra Sadeghpour, University of Northern Iowa
"In the Spotlight"
Congratulations to composer/librettist and NOA Member Kirke Mechem
In Carnegie Hall, June 24, 2017, Songs of the Slave, a suite from his opera John Brown was performed by the Masterwork Festival Chorus, orchestra and two soloists: Donnie Rae Albert as Fredrick Douglass and Marlissa Hudson as a slave mother. Many NOA members will remember Mr. Albert's dynamic keynote speech at our 2016 convention in Indianapolis!
The suite is comprised of six sections:
Prelude ("Blow Ye the Trumpet")
"The Songs of the Slave"
"Speech by Frederick Douglass"
The suite may be performed in the original orchestration or a reduced version (G. Schirmer). It is nearing its 100th performance.
From the NOA Strategic Plan Committee and Board:
NOA's NEW Vision Statement:
NOA members are the Foundation Builders for the future of opera.