Experience one of the most gripping and important operas of the new century.
Based on Sister Helen Prejean’s book (also the source for the blockbuster film) about her experiences as a spiritual adviser to prisoners on Death Row, Dead Man Walking is a “masterpiece of words, music, and emotions.” The New York Times
It opens with the brutal murder of two teenagers by Joseph de Rocher. It ends with his execution, Sister Helen at his side. In between, a searing emotional journey. A woman of God struggles to find humanity in a brutal criminal. A murderer is forced to confront and acknowledge his heinous act. And two families—those of the murdered and of the murderer—poignantly reveal that there are many victims of an unspeakable crime.
Oct. 16, 17, 23, 24 Musical Arts Center 7:30 PM
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A teenage boy and a teenage girl are parked near a secluded lake at night, on a date. They have a boombox on the ground nearby and are making out to its music. The De Rocher brothers, hiding close by, emerge from the shadows, quietly. One turns the boombox off; the two brothers then attack the teens. Anthony grabs the boy, who begins struggling; Joseph attacks the girl and begins to rape her. The boy continues struggling until Anthony kills him with a gunshot to the head; this causes the girl to scream. Joseph panics and stabs her until she is silent.
Sister Helen runs a mission called Hope House. She reveals to her colleagues that she has heard from an inmate she has been corresponding with, asking her to be his spiritual adviser, and that she has decided to accept. The sisters are shocked, warning Helen of the dangers of her position, but she is firm. Helen drives to Angola State Prison and muses on her acceptance of De Rocher’s offer. She is stopped by a motorcycle policeman for speeding, but he lets her off with a warning.
Helen arrives at the prison and is met by Father Grenville, who criticizes Sister Helen’s choice to work with De Rocher, claiming that the man is unreachable; he tells her that she’s in over her head. Helen responds that it is her duty to attempt to help the man. Father Grenville leaves her to meet with Warden Benton, who asks many of the same questions and also criticizes her decision. He then conducts her to Death Row to meet with De Rocher.
Warden Benton and Sister Helen walk through Death Row to reach the visiting room. There she meets De Rocher, who is friendly and easygoing. He asks her to speak at the pardon board hearing on his behalf. He seems convinced that she will not return to help him; she assures him that such is not the case. Sister Helen is present at the parole board hearing with De Rocher’s mother and two of his younger brothers, who plead with the pardon board on his behalf. One of Joseph’s victims’ parents lashes out at Mrs.De Rocher in anger, and he is led away from the hearing.
The four parents of De Rocher’s victims speak angrily to his mother and to Sister Helen, who attempts to calm both sides in the debate. The parents accuse her of not understanding their pain and sorrow. Word comes from the pardon board; De Rocher has not been granted his wish. Barring intercession from the governor, he is to die for his crime. De Rocher is convinced that Helen has abandoned him; she tells him that she has not and will not. He is angry and rejects all her suggestions to confess and make peace with his actions.
Helen is attempting to find money to get food from the vending machine, having forgotten to eat. She begins to hear voices in her head: the parents, the children at Hope House, Father Grenville, the motorcycle policeman, Warden Benton, and her colleagues, all telling her to stop attempting to help De Rocher. The warden enters to tell her that the governor has refused to act to save him and gives Helen some money for the machine. She stands for a moment, then faints.
A guard enters and tells De Rocher that his execution date has been set for August 4. The guard leaves as Joseph muses on his fate.
Helen wakes up in terror from a nightmare, alarming Sister Rose, who begs her to stop working with De Rocher; Rose reminds her that she has yet to sleep well since she began helping him. Helen says she cannot; the two women pray for the strength to forgive De Rocher.
It is the evening of the date set for the execution. De Rocher and Sister Helen are talking; they discover they share a common love for Elvis. For the first time, he admits that he is afraid. She reassures him, urging him to confess and make peace with what he has done; again he refuses. The warden enters and informs them that Mrs. De Rocher is there to see him.
Mrs. De Rocher and her two younger sons are there. Joseph visits with them and attempts to apologize; she will have none of it, preferring to believe to the end that he is innocent. She complains that she baked him cookies but was not allowed to bring them in. She then asks Helen to take a last picture of the four of them together with the camera in her purse. The guards lead Joseph away; she looks after him, reminiscing, near tears, eventually losing control.
Helen speaks with the victims’ parents. One of them, Owen Hart, takes her aside and confesses that he is less sure of what he wants now than he was; he tells her that he and his wife have separated due to the stress they have felt. Helen attempts to console him; they agree to part as “fellow victims of Joseph De Rocher.”
Helen and De Rocher converse one last time; once again she attempts to get him to confess to the murders. This time, something in him snaps; he breaks down and tells her the entire story. He expects Helen to hate him; instead, she says she forgives him and that she will be “the face of love” for him at his execution. He thanks her. Father Grenville enters and begins the final preparations for the execution.
Guards, inmates, the warden, the parents, the chaplain, and protesters assembled outside the prison sing the Lord’s Prayer as Sister Helen reads a passage from the book of Isaiah. They approach the death chamber, and Helen is separated from De Rocher. The warden asks if he has any last words; he says he does and asks forgiveness from the parents of the murdered teenagers. The warden gives the nod, and the execution proceeds. De Rocher dies thanking Helen once again for her love; the opera ends as she stands over his body and sings her hymn one last time.
by Matthew Schnaars Musicology M.A. Student
The opera Dead Man Walking is a highly emotional and poignant adaptation of Sister Helen Prejean’s experience with the death-row inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Prejean—a Roman Catholic nun and member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Medaille (since renamed the Congregation of St.Joseph)—served as a spiritual adviser for two inmates sentenced to the death penalty. Her time there, including the months leading up to the execution of both of the men in 1984, would eventually be turned into her nonfiction book Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, released in 1993. Just two short years later, in 1995, Sister Helen’s story would be picked up and adapted into a film of the same name by director Tim Robbins. The film makes several marked changes to the narrative presented in the book: Sister Helen’s time at Angola is shortened to a number of weeks instead of years, the two inmates’ personalities are combined into one fictional character named Matthew Poncelet, and the execution by the electric chair is turned into death by lethal injection. One important detail was added by Robbins—the verbal confession of the inmate to the violent crime he committed, and others were left alone—the role of Sister Helen and the inmate’s request for forgiveness from the parents of the victims.
When Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie began their collaboration for the stage opera of Dead Man Walking—commissioned and premiered by The San Francisco Opera in October 2000—both the book and the film played an influential part in the new setting, affording yet another unique iteration of the story. The name of the inmate changed once more, to Joseph de Rocher, and several aspects of the victims’ families were altered. But most importantly, added to the prologue was the on-stage depiction of the rape and murder of a teenage girl and her lover. This depiction, while rightly shocking and alarming, is absolutely necessary to the dramatic power of the opera—there is no question about Joseph’s part in the crime, and immediately evident is the power of violent crime and murder to upend and destroy the joy of life. In this way, the opera Dead Man Walking forces the audience to acknowledge Joseph’s guilt before allowing them to consider his confession and redemption.
Of course, the most noticeable difference between the film and the opera lies with Heggie’s musical setting. Borrowing styles from the American vernacular, Heggie uses the sounds of gospel and blues to ground the opera in the musical context of Louisiana, and, more generally, of the South. The opening number of the first act, “He Will Gather Us Around,” could easily have been pulled from a hymnal, and many of Joseph’s lines are sung in a bluesy manner, sliding from note to note. What is most striking, however, is how many of these musical references occur only in conjunction with a character’s reflection on the past, evoking by association the familiar nature of day-to-day life before it has been torn asunder by deplorable violence.In contrast to these moments of relative stability, dialogue and conflict between characters are more frequently set to unusual melodic contours, shifting harmonic centers, and unpredictable rhythms, not allowing the listener to be comfortable or feel settled. This is a drama meant to jar and unsettle by means of a creeping sensation of unease.
In a similar vein, all of the arias within the opera are subtly provoking; while they serve the traditional function of prolonging an emotional state during a moment of introspection, Heggie and McNally additionally employ the arias to reveal the multi-faceted depths of a character’s personality, often in a manner suggesting the character’s future development. When Sister Helen reflects over her journey with God on the drive to Angola, both her unwavering faith and her anxiety toward meeting Joseph are clear, but as she asks God for the strength to be “human,” there is a premonition that her faith will be altered forever from her experience. And, as Joseph reflects on a sensual encounter with a woman, he simultaneously reveals how much he longs for and needs another to comfort him emotionally. The ensemble settings are equally layered, as in the meeting between the parents of the victims and Joseph’s mother. Although they initially argue with one another, the same melodic motive runs throughout, and they find each other singing the same music and words; each character has been likewise affected by one unspeakable act.
It is within this context that the meaning and significance of Dead Man Walking is found; this is the reason why so many different adaptations of the same story are uniquely compelling. Violence disturbs and upsets, and almost singularly leads only to more violence, until the chain of negativity is broken by a courageous individual willing to place herself in the midst of this turmoil. Sister Helen Prejean’s depiction of life on death row suggests that even though an inmate walking to his execution is already considered a “dead man,” he who believes in the power of repentance and forgiveness can still find new life.
Of David Neely’s performances of Dead Man Walking with Des Moines Metro Opera, Opera News wrote, “Conductor David Neely led an immaculate reading of this challenging score.From the meandering phrases of the opening prelude, through the tense confrontations that proliferate the piece, to the gut-wrenching anguish of the many extended ariosos and ensemble, Maestro Neely allowed the score to unfold with both sensitivity and tension....The orchestra has never sounded more committed, singly and in ensemble.”
Equally at home in operatic and symphonic settings, Neely is known for his polished, expressive performances and wide-ranging repertoire. His international conducting career includes opera productions in Dortmund, Saarbrücken, Coburg, Bonn, St.Gallen, Bielefeld, Kaiserslautern, Halle, Eutin, and Kuala Lumpur, and concerts with the Bregenzer Philharmoniker, Dortunder Philharmoniker, Bochumer Symphoniker, and Eutiner Festspielorchester.In 2000, he conducted the German premiere of Mark Anthony Turnage’s The Silver Tassie and in 2007, the American premiere of Robert Orledge’s completion of Debussy’s The Fall of the House of Usher. He has been a frequent guest conductor with Sarasota Opera, having recently led, among other works, their American Classics series of operas.
Neely has held the position of music director and principal conductor of Des Moines Metro Opera since 2012, where he has achieved critical success with such productions as Jenůfa, La Fanciulla del West, Elektra, Peter Grimes, Macbeth, Eugene Onegin, Dialogues of the Carmelites, La Bohème, and Three Decembers (Heggie).
He is also a respected educator, currently holding the positions of director of orchestral activities and associate professor of orchestral conducting at the University of Kansas, and previously serving as music director of the Butler Opera Center at the University of Texas at Austin. This is his fourth appearance at Indiana University, having recently led concerts with the University, Symphony, and Chamber orchestras.
In 2011, he played a key role in a successful effort to save the Eutiner Festspiele. He earned degrees in piano performance and orchestral conducting from Indiana University, where his teachers included Leonard Hokanson and Zadel Skolovsky (piano), and Thomas Baldner and Bryan Balkwill (conducting).
Jose Maria Condemi’s directorial work, which has been presented by companies in North America and abroad, encompasses an eclectic range of styles and repertoire and has been consistently praised for its creatively theatrical and innovative approach.
Notable engagements include Carmen, Madama Butterfly, Faust, Tosca, Così fan tutte, Un Ballo in Maschera, The Elixir of Love for Families, and the world premiere of The Secret Garden (San Francisco Opera), Ernani, Tristan und Isolde, and Il Barbiere di Siviglia for Families (Lyric Opera Chicago), Aida (Houston Grand Opera), Luisa Miller (Canadian Opera Company), Orphée et Eurydice, La Bohème, Tosca, and Il Trovatore (Seattle Opera), Frida (Michigan Opera Theater), Ainadamar, Don Giovanni, La Traviata, Il Trovatore, and María de Buenos Aires (Cincinnati Opera), A Streetcar Named Desire (Kentucky Opera), Don Giovanni (Portland Opera), Così fan tutte, and Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Atlanta Opera), Cendrillon (New Orleans Opera), The Elixir of Love (Opera Theatre of Saint Louis), Maria Padilla (Minnesota Opera), Florencia en el Amazonas (Opera Colorado and Utah Opera), Simone Boccanegra (Teatro Colón/Buenos Aires), Il Trovatore (Austin Lyric Opera), Tosca and María de Buenos Aires (Florida Grand Opera), La Traviata (Wolftrap Opera), Falstaff, Die Zauberflöte, The Elixir of Love, La Rondine, Don Pasquale, and La Traviata (Opera San Jose), Susannah and Roméo et Juliette (Festival Opera), and the San Francisco Opera Western Opera Theater’s national tours of Die Fledermaus and Don Giovanni. As associate director, he has worked on the Ring Cycle and Les Troyens (San Francisco Opera), Così fan tutte (Lyric Opera Chicago), Il Ballo in Maschera (Canadian Opera Company), and Falstaff (Houston Grand Opera.)
Collaborations with contemporary composers include directing the world premieres of Hector Armienta’s River of Women and The Weeping Woman and the workshop performance of the San Francisco Opera-commissioned piece Earthrise by 2000 Pulitzer Prize-winner Lewis Spratlan.
His theater directing credits include Caryl Churchill’s Mad Forest, Dürrenmatt’s The Physicists, Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden, and Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba.
Condemi is also in high demand as a trainer of young artists and has been a guest lecturer, master teacher, and stage director for the San Francisco Opera Center, Seattle Opera Young Artists Program, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Houston Grand Opera Studio, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), University of Houston Moores School of Music, Opera Theater of Lucca, and the New National Theater Young Artists Programme in Tokyo. Highlights of his educationaldirecting assignments include new productions of Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi, La Bohème, and La Cenerentola for the Merola Opera Program and Così fan tutte for the Seattle Opera Young Artist Program.
Originally from Argentina, Condemi earned an undergraduate degree in opera stage direction at the Teatro Colón/Buenos Aires and a Master of Fine Arts in Directing degree at the University of Cincinnati CCM. He was a first-time Adler Fellow in Stage Direction at the San Francisco Opera and a Fulbright Fellow.
He is currently director of opera at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and was artistic director of Opera Santa Barbara, where he oversaw artistic planning and the Studio Artists Program, from 2010 until 2015.
Steven C. Kemp is a New York City-based set designer for theatre and opera. Opera designs include Silent Night, The Marriage of Figaro, Tosca, The Italian Girl in Algiers, Il Trovatore, Faust, Idomeneo, and Anna Karenina (Opera San Jose), Rigoletto and Falstaff (Opera Santa Barbara/OSJ), A Streetcar Named Desire (Merola/Opera Santa Barbara/Kentucky Opera), Don Giovanni and The Elixir of Love (San Francisco Conservatory of Music), Figaro 90210 (Abrons Arts Center, NYC), and A Streetcar Named Desire (Opera Grand Rapids/Fresno Opera/Townsend Opera). His designs in New York include numerous Off-Broadway productions for Keen Company, Mint Theater Company, Second Stage, The Playwrights Realm, Cherry Lane Theatre, New Worlds Theatre Project, The Shop, Red Dog Squadron, 59E59, and 47th Street Theatre. Regional and international work includes Asolo Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, Bucks County Playhouse, Royal George Theatre, and the Hungarian Theatre of Cluj. As an associate designer, he has worked for The Metropolitan Opera, English National Opera, Sante Fe Opera, Dallas Opera, Minnesota Opera, San Diego Opera, and 10 Broadway productions, including Cabaret, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Memphis.
An award-winning costume designer, Linda Pisano’s work covers a broad range of performance genres, including ballet, theatre, musical theatre, opera, and contemporary dance. She is particularly fond of collaborating on new works and world premieres. As professor of costume design at IU, she heads the Design and Technology area of the Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance, and directs its study abroad program in London. A member of USA Local 829, her designs have been featured with companies throughout the United States, Canada, and the U.K. Her work has been featured in the Quadrennial World Design Expo in Prague and the World Design Exhibition in Toronto, and several of her designs, including her costumes for IU Opera Theater’s 2014 production of La Traviata, are currently on exhibition at the Bakhrushin Museum in Moscow, Russia. Some of her designs for IU Opera include Der Rosenkavalier, Akhnaten, South Pacific, La Rondine, The Merry Widow, and the world premieres of Vincent and The Tale of Lady Thi Kính. Audiences can also enjoy her costume designs for IU Opera’s upcoming spring production of Oklahoma!
Patrick Mero is the head of lighting for IU Opera and Ballet Theater. He has designed the lighting for La Traviata, H.M.S Pinafore, Le Nozze di Figaro, Werther, Falstaff, Xerxes, Don Giovanni, Albert Herring, La Bohème, Tosca, L’Italiana in Algeri, West Side Story, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi, and Alcina. He has also done extensive design work for the Jacobs School of Music Ballet Department, the IU African American Art Institute’s Dance Ensemble, and Cardinal Stage Company. In addition to his work in Bloomington, he has worked at Spoleto Festival USA. Mero originally hails from Charleston, S.C., but calls Bloomington home.
Matt Herndon is an advanced actor combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors, a Bloomington native, and a graduate of IU (B.A. in Theatre and Drama, 2011). He has choreographed the violence for several local productions, including She Kills Monsters and Mad Gravity for the Bloomington Playwrights Project; king oedipus, Macbeth, Oleanna, and The Rimers of Eldritch for Ivy Tech Theatre; The Lieutenant of Inishmore for University Players; The Crucible and Waiting for Lefty for Bloomington High School North; Sonia Flew for Jewish Theatre of Bloomington; and IU independent productions of Sunday on the Rocks, Closer, and Hamlet. Herndon has served as stunt coordinator for several local short films, including Daystime, Caligo, Sequela, Team Inspire, Born Again, and Pilgrimage.
Along with his responsibilities as professor of choral conducting and faculty director of opera choruses at the Jacobs School of Music, Walter Huff continues his duties as Atlanta Opera chorus master. He has been chorus master for The Atlanta Opera since 1988, preparing the chorus in more than 120 productions and receiving critical acclaim in the United States and abroad. Huff received his Bachelor of Music degree from the Oberlin Conservatory and his Master of Music degree from Peabody Conservatory (Johns Hopkins). He studied piano with Sarah Martin, Peter Takács, and Lillian Freundlich, and voice with Flore Wend. After serving as a fellow at Tanglewood Music Center, he received Tanglewood’s C.D. Jackson Master Award for Excellence. Huff served as coach with the Peabody Opera Theatre and Washington Opera, and has been musical director for The Atlanta Opera Studio, Georgia State University Opera, and Actor’s Express (Atlanta, Ga.). He also has worked as chorus master with San Diego Opera. He served on the faculty at Georgia State University for four years as assistant professor, guest lecturer, and conductor for the Georgia State University Choral Society.Recently, he was one of four Atlanta artists chosen for the first Loridans Arts Awards, given to Atlanta artists who have made exceptional contributions to the arts life of Atlanta over a long period of time. While serving as chorus master for The Atlanta Opera, Huff has been the music director for The Atlanta Opera High School Opera Institute, a nine-month training program for talented, classically trained high school singers. He has served as chorus master for the IU Opera Theater productions of Don Giovanni, The Merry Widow, Akhnaten, Le Nozze di Figaro, Lady Thi Kính, H.M.S. Pinafore, La Traviata, The Italian Girl in Algiers, La Bohème, The Last Savage, South Pacific, Die Zauberflöte, and Il Barbiere di Siviglia. This past June, Huff served as choral instructor and conductor for the Sacred Music Intensive, a workshop inaugurated by the Organ and Choral departments at the Jacobs School. In addition, he maintains a busy vocal coaching studio in Atlanta.
Brent Gault has taught elementary and early childhood music courses in Texas, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. He specializes in elementary general music education, early childhood music education, and Kodály-inspired methodology. Gault also has training in both the Orff and Dalcroze approaches to music education.
He has presented sessions and research at conferences of the American Orff-Schulwerk Association, the Dalcroze Society of America, the International Kodály Society, the International Society for Music Education, the Organization of American Kodály Educators, and MENC: The National Association for Music Education. In addition, he has served as a presenter and guest lecturer for colleges and music education organizations in the United States and China.
Articles by Gault have been published in various music education periodicals, including the Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, the Journal of Research in Music Education, Music Educators Journal, General Music Today, the Kodály Envoy, the Orff Echo, and the American Dalcroze Journal.
In addition to his duties with the Music Education Department, Gault serves as the program director for the Indiana University Children’s Choir, where he conducts the Allegro Choir. He is a past president of the Organization of American Kodály Educators.
Daniela Siena brings many years of experience in teaching Italian diction and language to singers. She was introduced to operatic diction by Boris Goldovsky, who was seeking a native speaker without teaching experience to work with singers according to his own pedagogical principles. Siena went on to teach in a number of operatic settings (among them, the Curtis Institute of Music, Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, and Seattle Opera). Over the years, she worked with a number of well-known singers, including Samuel Ramey, Justino Díaz, Carol Vaness, Wolfgang Brendel, June Anderson, Gianna Rolandi, and Jerry Hadley. The conductors, coaches, and stage directors with whom she has worked include Otto Guth, Max Rudolf, Edoardo Müller, David Effron, Arthur Fagen, Anthony Pappano, Anthony Manoli, Terry Lusk, Dino Yannopoulos, Tito Capobianco, Andrei Șerban, John Cox, and John Copley. At New York City Opera, Siena worked closely with Beverly Sills—as her executive assistant, as a diction coach, and as the creator of English supertitles for a dozen operas. More recently, she worked for two years as a coach for the Young Artists Program of the Los Angeles Opera and, for the past six years, she has taught in Dolora Zajick’s summer Institute for Young Dramatic Voices. Born in Florence, Italy, to an Italian mother and a Russian émigré father, Siena arrived in the United States at age seven. She received a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and, in her twenties, worked for two years in Italy as secretary to the president of the Olivetti Company. Many years later, she continued her education, earned a master’s degree, and became licensed as a psychotherapist by the state of California, where she practiced for 15 years. The mother of two grown children, she moved to Bloomington to be near her son, who lives here with his wife and two young daughters.
Mezzo-soprano Sarah Ballman, from Eagle Grove, Iowa, is currently pursuing a Doctor of Music in Voice Performance at Indiana University, where she studies with Patricia Havranek. Ballman received her Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Performance with honors at South Dakota State University (SDSU) in Brookings, S.D., in 2009, where she studied with Emily Wood Toronto. Throughout her years at SDSU, Ballman performed in many opera scenes, including Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Angelina), Bizet’s Carmen (Carmen), and Mozart’s The Magic Flute (Pamina). She also performed the role of Olga in the 2008 world premiere of Kristen Kuster’s chamber opera The Trickster and the Troll with the Heartland Opera Troupe. She received her Master of Music in Voice Performance from Indiana University in December 2012.At IU, Ballman has performed with various ensembles, including the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, Conductor’s Choruses, and the Joshi Handel Project (Priest of the Israelites in Handel’s Esther). Ballman has also performed as alto soloist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for Handel’s Messiah (2011, 2014) and with the Bloomington Chamber Singers for Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (2012). Her roles with IU Opera Theater include Una Conversa in Puccini’s Suor Angelica, Octavian in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, Prince Charmant in Massenet’s Cendrillon, Nefertiti in Philip Glass’s Akhnaten, and Thi Kính in the world premiere of P.Q. Phan’s The Tale of Lady Thi Kính.
Southern Californian Rachel K. Evans, mezzo-soprano, has appeared on the IU stage as Bradamante in Handel’s Alcina and Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther. Last year, she cofounded a new student group, the University Gilbert & Sullivan Society, and coproduced the group’s first production, Iolanthe, in which she also sang the role of Queen of the Fairies. Evans has performed with Reimagining Opera for Kids and New Voices Opera and has premiered works by several student composers. Performance highlights at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she earned her B.A. and M.M., include Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi (Zita) and Suor Angelica (La Badessa and La Maestra delle Novizie), Mozart’s Così fan tutte (Dorabella), Britten’s Albert Herring (Nancy), Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges (L’enfant and L’écureuil), and Mozart’s La finta giardiniera (Ramiro). Evans also appeared with the Lyric Opera of Los Angeles as Armelinde in Massenet’s Cendrillon and as Suse Blunt in Marschner’s Der Vampyr. She has also performed with the Opera of the Foothills as Orlofsky in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus. Evans is in her final year of doctoral studies at IU and studies with Patricia Havranek.
Eric Smedsrud, baritone, hails from Eden Prairie, Minn. He is in his second year pursuing a Master of Music in Voice Performance and is in the studio of Carol Vaness. He was seen last year on the IU Opera stage as Abdul in Menotti’s The Last Savage. Other opera roles include Frank Maurrant in Weill’s Street Scene and Sam in Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti.
Reuben Walker is a second-year doctoral student at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. He has been seen on the Indiana University Opera Theater stage in the roles of Mr. Scattergood in Menotti’s The Last Savage, Captain Corcoran in Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore, Le Bailli in Massenet’s Werther, and Pandolfe in Massenet’s Cendrillon. With New Voices Opera, he premiered the role of Captain Keeney in Ezra Donner’s Ile and the role of Richard Nixon in Chappell Kingsland’s Intoxication: America’s Love Affair with Oil. Walker has toured with IU’s outreach program, Reimagining Opera for Kids, premiering the baritone roles in Kingsland’s The Firebringers and performing the dual role of El Duende and Payador in Piazzolla’s María de Buenos Aires. Past concert performances include Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem with the Bloomington Chamber Singers and Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder for IU Ballet’s Dark Elegies. Other performances at IU include Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn and Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs. He has performed numerous solo recitals in western Washington, including complete performances of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise. He studies with Patricia Havranek.
Summer Aebker is currently pursuing her D.M. in Voice Performance at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where she is an associate instructor and a student of Costanza Cuccaro. She performed the role of Sardula in IU Opera Theater’s 2014 production of Menotti’s The Last Savage and was a guest soprano for the IU New Music Ensemble. Aebker earned her M.M.in Voice Performance from Bowling Green State University (BGSU), where she performed the roles of Iole in Handel’s Hercules and Phyllis in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe. She was also a guest artist for the BGSU Philharmonia andthe Wolfe Center for the Arts Gala Opening. Her B.M. is from the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music. She performed the role of Sandman in Ohio Project Columbus’s production of Penhorwood’s Too Many Sopranos and the Wedding Planner in OperaWorks’ improvisational production titled Zombie-Apoco-Lips: The Opera in Northridge, Calif. She is a first-place winner for National Association of Teachers of Singing Great Lakes Regional, second-place winner of the Dr. Marjorie Conrad Art Song Competition, a finalist in the Nicholas Loren Vocal Competition and the BGSU Concerto Competition, as well as third-place winner for the Indianapolis Matinee Musicale Collegiate Scholarship Competition. Aebker is a lecturer of music at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio, where she has performed in various faculty recitals.
Kelsea Webb is originally from Anderson, Ind. She has been involved in over 150 stage productions and has worked as a performer, stage director, producer, props master, scenic painter, costume designer, and carpenter. Her opera roles include Alice Ford (Verdi’s Falstaff) and Gertrude (Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel). She has also performed in musical theater productions, including Lt. Genevieve Marshall (Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific), Nancy (Bart’s Oliver!), Yvonne/Naomi (Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George), and Lucy (Gesner’s You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown). A strong advocate of new works, she has premiered the roles of Lydia (Scenes from 1836) with the Conner Prairie Museum, and Grace Fisher (Todd Syswerda’s Where Fortunes Lie). With Reimagining Opera for Kids, she has premiered the roles of Ana (Ortiz’s Ana y su sombra), the Unicorn (Bernofsky’s Mooch the Magnificent), and Rainbow Crow (Kingsland’s The Firebringers). Webb is a recipient of the Bella Voce and Bravo awards from the Bel Canto Foundation (2015) and awards from the Matinee Musicale Competition (2014), Marion Philharmonic Orchestra Aria Competition (2011), and Bach Festival Young Vocalists Competition (2010). She has spent the past two summers as an assistant stage director with the Bay View Summer Music Festival and currently serves as stage director for the IU Undergraduate Vocal Performance Workshop under the direction of Sylvia McNair. Webb holds a Master of Music in Voice Performance from IU and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Indiana Wesleyan University. She is a student of Patricia Havranek.
Tiffany Williams, soprano, is a native of Jackson, Miss. Last summer, she was featured as the soprano soloist in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music with the Jacobs School of Music Summer Festival Chorus. She is currently pursuing a Master of Music in Voice Performance as a student of Marietta Simpson. She received her bachelor’s degree in piano and voice performance from Jackson State University, where she studied with Phyllis Lewis-Hale. She performed in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi (Nella) with the Mississippi Opera Company. This is her IU Opera Theater debut.
Leeza Yorke, soprano, completed her high school studies in Santa Ana, Calif., at Orange County School of the Arts. She is now in the first year of her undergraduate study as a voice performance major. Her roles include Old Lady in Bernstein’s Candide as well as the title role in Handel’s Ariodante. She also performs with the California Philharmonic in Culver City, Calif. Yorke has worked with many mentors, including Larry Livingston, Maria Lazarova, Ruby Hinds, Darryl Taylor, Brian Asawa, Peter Atherton, and Marya Basaraba. She is currently studying with Teresa Kubiak.
Jeremy Gussin, bass-baritone, is a second-year doctoral student studying under Andreas Poulimenos. From Iowa City, Iowa, he completed undergraduate studies in music education at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire (UWEC). While at UWEC, Gussin performed as Papageno in Mozart’s The Magic Flute with UWEC Opera and sang with Jazz Ensemble 1 under the direction of Bob Baca. He also composed for and student-conducted the Singing Statesmen. A strong proponent of contemporary popular music, Gussin participated as a panelist in a discussion on vocal jazz and contemporary a cappella at the national American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) convention in 2013. He also arranged two pieces for the “A Community that Sings” initiative at the 2014 North Central ACDA convention in Des Moines. While at Indiana, he has performed as a soloist for the Singing Hoosiers and the Vocal Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Ly Wilder and the late Steve Zegree. Gussin has appeared in IU Opera productions of Verdi’s Falstaff (Pistola), Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (Antonio), P.Q.Phan’s The Tale of Lady Thi Kính (Ly Troung), and Menotti’s The Last Savage (Maharajah). He sings professionally in studio sessions for clients such as Hal Leonard, Alfred, and Lorenz through Airborne Studios in Zionsville, Ind.
Bass-baritone Andrew Richardson is a doctoral student at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Hailing from South Bend, Ind., he earned his bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from DePauw University and his master of music degree from IU. With IU Opera Theater, he has also appeared as Zuniga (Carmen), Rambaldo (La Rondine), Sarastro and 2nd Armored Man (The Magic Flute), Maharajah (The Last Savage), The Father (Hansel and Gretel), Ariodate (Xerxes), Notary (Der Rosenkavalier), Benoit/Alcindoro (La Bohème), Antonio (Le Nozze di Figaro), and Wagner (Faust). Richardson also performed the role of Uberto in a special production of La serva padrona at IU. Other performances include Bartolo (Le Nozze di Figaro), Simone (Gianni Schicchi), and Colline (La Bohème). Last summer, he performed Schubert’s Winterreise at the Green Castle Summer Music Festival as well as recitals featuring Brahms’ Vier ernste Gesänge and Schumann’s Liederkreis, Op. 39. He is a student of Andreas Poulimenos.
Edward Atkinson, tenor, is a native of New Brunswick, Canada. He recently completed his Performer Diploma at Indiana University and is currently working on a master’s degree under the instruction of Patricia Havranek. His past voice teachers include Virginia Zeani, Timothy Noble, and Marie Jarriel Roberts. He most recently appeared as Prince Kodanda in IU Opera Theater’s 2014 production of Menotti’s The Last Savage. In 2014, he also performed as L’amante in Menotti’s one-act opera buffa Amelia al ballo and as Ruggero in Puccini’s La Rondine for opera workshop performances directed by Carol Vaness. He has performed recently as the tenor soloist in a variety of choral concerts, including Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor, Bach’s Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, Brahms’ Liebeslieder Walzer, and Handel’s Messiah. Atkinson has performed such roles as Don Ottavio (Mozart’s Don Giovanni), Tamino (Mozart’s The Magic Flute), and Belmonte (Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio) with the Lawrence Opera Theatre in Lawrence, Kan. In 2014, he was featured as the tenor soloist on two IU doctoral recitals, performing Benjamin Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings and Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac. Atkinson currently serves as the director of sacred music at Annunciation Church and at St. Paul the Apostle Church. He is also the founder and music director of the Saint Ambrose Schola Cantorum, which specializes in Renaissance masterworks. He is also currently the creative director of Ontos Brands, an international ad agency specializing in branding and advertising for mid-sized corporations, established performing artists, and academic institutions.
Eddie Mony, a tenor from Kenya, is currently a second-year undergraduate student at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. He has won several first-prize awards at the Kenya National Music Festival as a solo singer. He has performed as soloist for the Kenyatta University Choir, the Nairobi Music Society, and The Kenya Conservatoire of Music. Mony has performed solo concerts in Macclessfield, U.K.; Jyväskylä, Finland; Nairobi, Kenya; Trenton, Mo.; and Spencer, Ind. His most recent concert was in Eldoret, Kenya, with Sylvia McNair. Mony has also worked closely with opera coach and pianist Kimberly Carballo. He recently sang in Kingsland’s The Firebringers with Reimagining Opera for Kids. His role as Father Grenville in Dead Man Walking is his first with IU Opera Theater.He is a student of Andreas Poulimenos.
Amanda Sesler, a soprano from Erie, Pa., is pursuing a master’s degree in voice performance. She received a bachelor’s degree in music education from Indiana University in 2012. She recently performed the role of Cio-Cio-San in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly with La Musica Lirica in Novafeltria, Italy. Other roles include Yvette in Puccini’s La Rondine with La Musica Lirica, Creator/Eagle/Moon Chief in Kingsland’s The Firebringers with Reimagining Opera for Kids (ROK), and Pamina/First Lady in Mozart’s The Magic Flute with ROK. She toured China as the vocal soloist with the Windiana Concert Band’s Golden Age of Broadway Tour. She was awarded the first-prize Robert and Sophia Marks Award by the Indianapolis Matinee Musicale in 2015.
Soprano Madeline Stern, a New York native, is currently in her second year of her Master of Music in Voice Performance at Indiana University. She has also been seen on the IU Opera Theater stage as the Business Woman (Menotti’s The Last Savage) and Cousin Hebe (Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore). This past summer, she performed the role of Fiordiligi (Mozart’s Così fan tutte) in Arezzo, Italy, with Oberlin in Italy. Stern earned her undergraduate degree from the Jacobs School of Music and is a student of Alice Hopper.
Jonathan Bryan, baritone, completed his bachelor’s degree at Louisiana State University (LSU) and is in the first year of his master’s studies. During his time at LSU, Bryan performed many roles, including Romberg and Hammerstein’s The New Moon (Besac), Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock (Dick/Scoot), Mozart’s Così fan tutte (Guglielmo), and Lehár’s The Merry Widow (Danilo), as well as the title role in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Outside of school, he has performed with La Musica Lirica in Novafeltria, Italy, where he appeared in their productions of Puccini’s La Rondine (Rambaldo) and Cimarosa’s L’impresario in angustie (Don Crisobolo). Bryan has also performed with Castleton Festival, in Castleton, Va., where he covered the role of Paris in their production of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. He also sang in Lehár’s The Merry Widow (Danilo) for a production staged by the Festival of International Opera of the Americas in Campinas, Brazil. He has also appeared on the concert stage as a soloist in many choral works, including Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb with the LSU A Cappella Choir, and Finzi’s Lo, the Full Final Sacrifice, in which he was the baritone soloist with the C.S. Lewis Choral Institute in Oxford and Cambridge, England. He will appear as Guglielmo in IU Opera’s upcoming production of Cosí fan tutte. Bryan is a student of Wolfgang Brendel.
Icelandic bass-baritone Jóhann Schram Reed is a second-year master’s student of Wolfgang Brendel at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. He was most recently seen in the role of Emile De Becque in IU Opera Theater’s production of South Pacific. Other recent engagements include Pistola in Opera San José’s 2013 production of Verdi’s Falstaff, Inspector Javert (Schönberg’s Les Misérables), Jupiter (Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld), Mr. Ford (Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor), and the title role in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. In the summer of 2012, Schram Reed took part in the Arias in Motion performance project with OperaWorks Young Artists Program in Northridge, Calif. Other recent roles include The Devil in Stravinsky’s L’histoire du Soldat and Dr. Grenvil in Verdi’s La Traviata, where he performed under the baton of noted conductor Michael Morgan with the Festival Opera of Walnut Creek, Calif. Before commencing his undergraduate studies in 2010, Schram Reed was awarded the Most Promising Young Artist award by his hometown of Reykjavík, Iceland, for his studies and performances there. Since then, he has been well received both in competitions and performances across California, Virginia, and New York, including private recitals, opera productions, and choral engagements. He will return to the stage this spring in the role of Don Alfonso in IU Opera Theater’s production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte.
Mezzo-Soprano Annie Chester completed her undergraduate studies at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 2014 under the tutelage of Scharmal Schrock. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Chester now calls San Francisco, Calif., home. With IU Opera Theater, she performed the roles of Olga is Lehár’s The Merry Widow, Amastre in Handel’s Xerxes, Cherubino in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and Third Spirit in Mozart’s The Magic Flute as well as being a member of the choruses of La Bohème, Falstaff, and Candide.Choir solo credits include Gabriel in Schütz’s Sei gegrüsset Maria, alto soloist in Mozart’s Requiem, mezzo soloist in Corigliano’s Fern Hill, alto soloist in Mozart’s Coronation Mass, alto soloist in Beethoven’s Mass in C Major, and the alto soloist in Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle. Other operatic credits include Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte with the Toronto Summer Opera Workshop, Third Lady in Mozart’s The Magic Flute with the Blooming Voce Summer Opera Workshop, Dido from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with Reimagining Opera for Kids, various debuts with New Voices Opera, and Nellie from Some Enchanted Evening with Oswego Opera.Under the direction of Wolfgang Brendel, Heidi Grant Murphy, and Patricia Stiles, Chester performed scenes as Sesto (La clemenza di Tito), Romeo (I Capuleti e i Montecchi), and Orpheus (Orpheus and Euridice). She is a second-year master’s student under the instruction of Patricia Havranek.