Sir John Falstaff, the portly rascal of Windsor, sits in the Garter Inn with his “bad companions” Bardolfo and Pistola. When Dr. Caius enters to accuse the three of abusing his home and robbing him, Falstaff dismisses the charges with mock solemnity. He then upbraids his friends for being unable to pay the bill. Seeking to better his fortunes, Falstaff plans to woo wealthy matrons Alice Ford and Meg Page. He writes love letters to both, but his henchmen decide their ethics forbid them to deliver the notes. Falstaff gives them to a pageboy instead and lectures his cronies on honor as he chases them from the Garter Inn.
Alice and her daughter, Nannetta, are talking with Meg and Dame Quickly. They soon discover that Falstaff has sent identical letters. Outraged, they resolve to punish him, then withdraw as Ford arrives with Caius, Fenton, Bardolfo, and Pistola, all warning him about Falstaff’s designs. Briefly alone, Nannetta and Fenton steal kisses until the women return, plotting to send Quickly to Falstaff to arrange a rendezvous with Alice. Next, Nannetta and Fenton are interrupted by Ford, who also plans to visit Falstaff. As the women reappear, all pledge to take the fat knight down a peg or two.
At the inn, Falstaff accepts Bardolfo and Pistola’s feigned penitence for their mutiny. Soon, Quickly curtsies in to assure the knight that both Alice and Meg return his ardor. Arranging a meeting with Alice, Falstaff rewards Quickly with a pittance and then, alone, preens himself. The next visitor is Ford, disguised as “Master Brook” and pretending an unrequited passion for Alice. Employed to break down the lady’s virtue, Falstaff boasts he already has set up a tryst and steps out to array himself. Ford, unable to believe his ears, vows to avenge his honor. Regaining his composure when Falstaff returns, he leaves arm in arm with the knight.
In Ford’s house, Quickly tells Alice and Meg about her visit with the knight at the inn. Nannetta does not share in the fun; her father has promised her to Caius. The women reassure her before hiding, except for Alice, who sits strumming a lute as her fat suitor arrives. Recalling his salad days as a slender page, he is cut short when Quickly announces Meg’s imminent approach. Falstaff hides behind a screen, and Meg sails in to report that Ford is on his way over in a fury. Quickly confirms this, and while Ford and his men search the house, Falstaff takes refuge amid the dirty linen in a laundry basket. Slipping behind the screen, Nannetta and Fenton attract attention with the sound of their kissing. While Meg and Quickly muffle Falstaff’s cries for air, Ford sneaks up on the screen, knocks it over, and pauses briefly to berate the two lovers as the chase continues upstairs. Alice orders servants to heave the basket into the Thames and then leads her husband to the window to see Falstaff dumped into the muddy river.
At sunset outside the inn, Falstaff bemoans his misadventure while downing a mug of warm wine. His reflections are halted by Quickly, who insists that Alice still loves him and proves it with a note appointing a midnight rendezvous in Windsor Park. Alice, Ford, Meg, Caius, and Fenton sneak in as Falstaff enters the inn with Quickly, who tells him the gory tale of the Black Huntsman’s ghost, often seen in Windsor Park at midnight. Alice and the others take up the story, plotting to frighten Falstaff by dressing up as wood sprites.
In the moonlit Windsor Forest, Fenton sings of love and receives a monk’s costume for the masquerade; Nannetta is a queen of the fairies; Meg, a nymph; and Quickly, a witch. Everyone takes off as Falstaff lumbers in dressed up as a huntsman and wearing antlers. Scarcely has he greeted Alice when Meg warns of approaching demons. As the knight cowers, Nannetta calls the forest creatures to their revels. They torment Falstaff until he begs for mercy. When the conspirators unmask, Sir John takes it like a sport. Ford betroths Caius to the queen of the fairies (now Bardolfo in disguise) and unwittingly blesses Nannetta and Fenton. Ford too has been duped, but he can forgive as well. Falstaff then leads the company in declaring the world is but a jest.
by Michael Shell
In preparing to direct this production of Falstaff, two things occupied my mind. The first was the tremendous responsibility of bringing this masterpiece to life. The second, even more significant than the first, was how to responsibly direct two brilliant emerging artists to portray the role of Falstaff, a character constantly shamed and mocked because of his size.
Falstaff is a masterpiece. Verdi and Boito have spun a web of music and words so complex and intertwined that it enhances the Shakespearian source material, The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV. Without the traditionally expected arias, duets, and ensembles acting as standalone sections, the drama continuously unfolds in real time, with only a few moments of pause. The condensed dramatic speed makes the show a joy while simultaneously keeping a director up at night!
As both a director and educator, the challenge was to responsibly contextualize the opera and the way it views the eponymous character. On the surface, we see a man in decline. An aging knight, once revered by many, is now scrounging for money to feed his appetite both corporally and sexually. At the same time, Falstaff is blessed with a never wavering self-conceit.
The opera celebrates all the temporal joys of life. The character Falstaff embodies that celebration in all ways, which is the catalyst for the joy in the opera. Even in his darkest moments of reflection, he never once looks down upon himself. From his mouth, the character states how he has become too fat and is getting old. Yet moments later, he sees his size as his asset for power and seduction. Even in the end, when his plot is revealed, he admits he has made an "ass" of himself but insists that the people in Windsor would be bored and boring if it were not for him. Falstaff is truly one of the most confident and body positive characters ever written.
In all fairness, the opera does not focus solely on Falstaff's size. The other characters' judgment of Falstaff is fair due to his attempts to seduce two married women to steal their money. Yet, the thrust of the humor lies in poking fun at both his size and behavior. As a director, I collaborated with our two singers to be on the lookout for any moment where we bordered on just making a mockery of size. We did our best to focus instead on truthful behavior that, given the circumstances, brings about humor.
This masterpiece has many problematic lines in the libretto that relate to a time when marginalization and otherism were even more rampant and unchecked than in our current society. While we have made some adjustments in our supertitles to the racially charged phrases that have no plot or character payoff in the end, we specifically chose not to alter all of the more offensive titles. The story's humor continues to move forward, but having these lines accurately translated allows us, the audience, to reflect on the times we have judged a book by its cover.
Theater and art, in general, are not meant solely to present a utopia, but to reflect the current times and to, hopefully, shine a light on certain types of behavior or a lack of awareness in society. The playwright Bertolt Brecht composed this line of text in his musical The Threepenny Opera, "Human beings have the horrid capacity to make themselves heartless at will."
In Falstaff, we, the audience, can reflect on how we have allowed the darkest and basest parts of ourselves to come out. However, the gift of being human is that we can learn from past behavior and grow. Like the social justice heroes of the past, present, and future, Falstaff never once lets the people of Windsor off the hook. He takes the jabs and comments in stride, and, quite frankly, while he does not get the girls or the money in the end, he retains his dignity and rightfully deserves and gains the respect of the community who once judged him.
Music director of the Oviedo Philharmonic (OFIL) from 2011 to 2017, Marzio Conti received recognition and the acclaim of audiences and critics for his achievements in guiding the growth of the orchestra to new artistic heights, notably with OFIL’s recordings of the complete symphonic works of Saint-Saëns for Warner Classics. Conti has earned numerous awards and has been named a juror for the arts prize of the prestigious Premios Asturias. Among his generation’s leading exponents of the flute, Conti performed with major orchestras and made numerous recordings through the mid-1990s, after which he devoted himself to conducting. A student of Piero Bellugi, Conti quickly received engagements as a permanent director of various Italian and foreign orchestras. He conducts both opera and the symphonic repertoire and collaborates with leading international dance companies as well as major soloists. Conti has appeared as a guest conductor throughout Europe at such notable venues as the Rome Opera, Theater Dortmund, and London’s Wigmore Hall. He has conducted numerous orchestras, including Orchestra Haydn, Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid, Brandenburger Symphoniker, Korean National Symphony Orchestra, and Haifa Symphony Orchestra (Israel), to name a few. He has collaborated with a host of soloists, including Barbara Hendricks, Bryn Terfel, Misha Maisky, Midori, Lin Harrell, Sabine Meyer, and Jean-Pierre Rampal. Through recordings, broadcast media, and live performance, Conti has worked to develop the profile and quality of several institutions. Before his work with OFIL, he was principal conductor at the Istituzione Sinfonica Abruzzese (1998-2002), music director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Turin (2001-04), music director of the Teatro di Tradizione per l’Opera Italiana of Chieti (2003-08), and artistic director of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Sanremo (2004-10). When he stepped down as OFIL’s music director, the city of Oviedo awarded Conti the Gold Medal of the Auditorium Prince Felipe in recognition of his extraordinary contributions. Since 2014, he has collaborated as guest conductor and visiting professor with the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.
Michael Shell is associate professor of voice at the IU Jacobs School of Music, where he teaches acting and opera workshops, and directs mainstage productions. His philosophy is to inform, excite, and empower his students to be the most authentic singing actors possible. Over the past two years, he has created the new core of Jacobs dramatic training courses. His productions have been praised by critics across the nation. A Broadway World reviewer recently commented on Shell’s new production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide: “This production was one I could watch over and over again.” Shell has directed productions for Atlanta Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Opera Omaha, Opera San José, Opera Tampa, Opera North, Virginia Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Wexford Festival Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and Houston Grand Opera. He made his international directing debut at the Wexford Festival Opera in 2010 with a production of Winners by American composer Richard Wargo and returned the following fall to direct Double Trouble–Trouble in Tahiti and The Telephone. He has written and directed three cabarets, including All About Love and The Glamorous Life—A group therapy session for Opera Singers, both for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Shell earned a B.M. and an M.M. in Music/Vocal Performance from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He was a Corbett Scholar at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and studied acting and scene study at H. B. Studios on an H. B. Studios merit scholarship. Shell has been guest faculty and director at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Florida State University, Oklahoma University, A. J. Fletcher Opera Institute, and Webster University–St. Louis, teaching opera workshops and directing full productions and workshop performances. He is also on faculty at the International Vocal Arts Institute Summer Opera Program in Tel Aviv.
Robert O’Hearn earned his bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in 1943. As principal designer for IU Opera and Ballet Theater, O’Hearn designed sets and costumes for more than 40 productions and taught in the Opera Studies program for many years. Prior to coming to IU, he designed sets and costumes for the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna Staatsoper, Vienna Volksoper, Hamburg Staatsoper, New York City Opera, Greater Miami Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Santa Fe Opera, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and Ballet West. O’Hearn served as professor for the Studio and Forum of Stage Design in New York from 1968 to 1988. He has given lectures and classes at Carnegie Mellon, Brandeis, and Penn State University. In 2005, he received the Robert L. B. Tobin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatrical Design.
Alice Trent is lighting supervisor at the IU Jacobs School of Music. She has designed extensively throughout the Midwest and South, and has worked as an assistant lighting designer at the Cleveland Play House, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, The Drama League, and Town Hall Arts Center of Denver. She received the 2019 Barbizon Lighting Company Jonathan Resnick Lighting Design Award and the 2019 Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) Spiegel Theatrical Artist Award. Trent placed first in the 2019 SETC Projection Design Competition for her work on King Charles III and was a 2020 Gilbert Hemsley Internship Program Finalist. She earned an M.F.A. in Lighting and Digital Media Design from the University of Tennessee Knoxville.
Walter Huff is professor of choral conducting and faculty director of opera choruses at the IU Jacobs School of Music. He served as chorus master for the Atlanta Opera for more than two decades, leading the renowned ensemble in more than 125 productions, with critical acclaim in the United States and abroad. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the Oberlin Conservatory and a 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). 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. He has served as chorus master for many IU Jacobs School of Music Opera and Ballet Theater productions, most recently, L’Étoile, It’s a Wonderful Life, Lucia di Lammermoor, West Side Story, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, Dialogues of the Carmelites, The Elixir of Love, Bernstein’s Mass, Le Nozze di Figaro, Parsifal, Suor Angelica, La Traviata, Little Women, The Barber of Seville, Xerxes, and La Bohème. For four years, Huff has served as choral instructor and conductor for the Jacobs School’s Sacred Music Intensive. He conducted the Jacobs Summer Music series productions of Arthur Honegger’s King David and Stephen Paulus’s The Three Hermits. This past summer, Huff returned for his third year as a faculty member at the Ravinia Festival’s Steans Music Institute. He also maintains a busy vocal coaching studio in Atlanta. Huff and Jacobs faculty choral colleague Chris Albanese were invited to present at the American Choral Directors Association National Virtual Convention in March 2021.
Pianist and vocal coach Allan Armstrong is assistant professor of music in voice at the IU Jacobs School of Music, where he specializes in art song literature and opera coaching. He is also the official accompanist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions for both the Colorado/Wyoming District and the Rocky Mountain Region. From 2017 to 2020, he was a postdoctoral scholar and visiting assistant professor in chamber and collaborative music at the Jacobs School. He was previously a member of the applied piano faculty at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, where he codirected the nationally award-winning Bravo Opera Company. Armstrong has been a principal production pianist and coach at Eugene Opera, Opera Colorado, St. Petersburg Opera, Opera on the Avalon, Sugar Creek Opera, Tel Aviv Summer Opera Program, and Opera Tampa. He has taught on the faculty of the Sherrill Milnes Savannah Voice Festival and the International Vocal Arts Institute, in Blacksburg, Virginia. In 2005, he coached and recorded the newly revised version of Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle under the direction of the composer’s son, Peter Bartók. In 2010, Armstrong was a featured solo pianist in a recital of the complete solo piano works of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Del Tredici at New York University Steinhardt. Armstrong earned a Doctor of Musical Arts in Collaborative Piano degree from the University of Colorado Boulder. He also earned a Master of Music degree in Chamber Music and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Florida, where he studied with Svetozar Ivanov and Robert Helps. Armstrong holds professional memberships in the College Music Society and the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS). In 2019, he was chosen to participate in the acclaimed NATS Intern Program at the New England Conservatory.
Pianist Shuichi Umeyama is assistant professor of music in opera studies and an opera coach at the IU Jacobs School of Music. A collaborator with internationally known vocalists since 1988, he has performed numerous concerts as a soloist and accompanist. His repertoire includes concertos by Brahms, Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and others, and his recitals have been broadcast on Japan National Broadcasting (NHK). He has served as coach and accompanist for the Indianapolis Opera and Opera Memphis. In addition, he has served as an official accompanist for many competitions throughout the United States. He is a former music director of the Aoyama Theater and the Belvillage Opera Theater in Japan. Umeyama studied accompanying with violist William Primrose and earned Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.
Lino Mioni, originally from northern Italy, earned a Ph.D. in Italian Studies in 2020 from Indiana University. Previously, he taught Italian language, literature, and culture at U.S. universities including The Ohio State University and the University of Georgia as well as in Europe. With his background in Romance languages and linguistics, he has designed and led workshops on Italian diction for singers. Among other institutions, he taught Italian and German language courses for singers at the Conservatory of Music of Coimbra, Portugal. He also served as Italian diction coach for the school’s opera productions and performances. He has curated the translations of librettos and prepared the supertitles for operas such as Ranieri de Calzabigi’s libretto for Gluck’s Orfeo e Euridice, Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti’s and Guido Menasci’s libretto for Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, Ruggero Leoncavallo’s libretto for Pagliacci, and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. At the Jacobs School, he was Italian diction coach for La Bohème.
Praised for his “arrestingly warm, masculine sound and abundance of swagger” (Boston Music Intelligencer), Chauncey Blade is a bass-baritone from southern Illinois. Previously, he performed the role of Count Monterone in Verdi’s Rigoletto with Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera. He has worked with Opera Saratoga as a young artist and performed the role of House Baritone in the U.S. premiere of Gareth Williams and Anna Chatterton’s Rocking Horse Winner. Past performances include Pandolfe in Massenet’s Cendrillon, Pallante in Handel’s Agrippina, and Harašta in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen. He studies with Brian Gill, works regularly with breath specialist Deborah Birnbaum, and began singing under the teachings of dramatic soprano Martha Sheil. Blade is pursuing a Performer Diploma from the IU Jacobs School of Music. He earned an M.M. degree from New England Conservatory and a B.A. in Linguistics from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Jeremiah Sanders is a nationally awarded baritone and maintains an active schedule as a performer, educator, and conductor. This past year, they earned a Metropolitan Opera National Council District win in Kansas City, Missouri, and were a finalist in the IU Jacobs School of Music Diversity Competition and both the National Arts and Letters Vocal Competition and the Opera Mississippi John Alexander Vocal Competition. They have been a young artist at the San Miguel Institute of Bel Canto in Guanajuato, Mexico; Martina Arroyo’s Prelude to Performance in New York City; International Opera Performing Experience in Mercatello sul Metauro, Italy; and Opera Saratoga in Saratoga Springs, New York. Recently, they were the four villains in Union Avenue Opera’s production of The Tales of Hoffmann. At Jacobs, they have performed as Father in Hansel and Gretel, Preacher/Street Singer in Bernstein’s Mass, Giorgio Germont in La Traviata, and Marcello in La Bohème. A homegrown talent, they earned a Performer Diploma in Voice Performance from the Jacobs School, Master of Music in Vocal Performance from Butler University, and Bachelor of Arts degree at Manchester University. At Jacobs, they have studied voice with Jane Dutton and acting with Michael Shell. They look forward to stepping into the role of Charlie in South Bend Lyric Opera’s production of Three Decembers.
Colin Anderson is in his first year of studies toward a master’s degree in voice performance at the IU Jacobs School of Music, studying under Brian Horne. Previously, Anderson attended Oberlin Conservatory, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance under the tutelage of Kendra Colton. His previous roles include Sam in Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti and Bottom in Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Raised in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont, Skyler Schlenkerattended Hanover High School in Hanover, New Hampshire, and is in his second semester as a Performer Diploma student in voice at the IU Jacobs School of Music, studying with Carol Vaness. He turned to a career in voice performance after a successful NCAA stint as a defensive end at Ithaca College. As an athlete, he competed in several multi-state all-star football and track and field competitions. Since leaving competitive athletics, he has played and covered many leading roles at the University of Colorado’s Eklund Opera program, Aspen Music Festival and School, and Brevard Music Center. At Jacobs, Schlenker has performed as Marcello in La Bohème; Ford will be his second role with IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater. Previous performances outside of IU include the title role in Sweeney Todd, Jesus Christ in The Gospel of Mary Magdalene with composer Mark Adamo, Top in The Tender Land, Perchik in The Fiddler on the Roof, Papageno in The Magic Flute, Bernardo in West Side Story, and a cover of the lead role of Frederik Egerman in A Little Night Music at Aspen.
Tenor Cameron King is in his first year of studies in the Master of Music in Voice Performance program at the IU Jacobs School of Music, under the tutelage of Carlos Montané. Originally from Central Florida, King recently earned a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from Florida State University (FSU) as a student of Jeffrey Springer. At FSU, King appeared in such operas as Puccini’s La Boheme, Marschner’s Der Vampyr, Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice, Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict, and Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience, as well as in newer works including Floyd’s Of Mice and Men. Within the FSU scenes program, he performed excerpts from Puccini’s La Rondine and Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. He also performed with Teatro Lirico d’Europa in a traveling performance of Puccini’s Tosca. During the 2021 season, he was the first-place winner of the Charleston International Music Competition, first-place winner of the Southeastern National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Student Auditions, and third-place winner of the NATS National Student Auditions.
Nick Stevens is a second-year master’s student at the IU Jacobs School of Music hailing from Washougal, Washington, where he discovered his passion for singing opera after becoming involved in several high school musical theater productions. In 2018, he earned his bachelor’s degree in voice performance from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, and has been featured in such roles as Sam Kaplan in Kurt Weill’s Street Scene, the Witch in Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, and, most recently, at Jacobs as Laurie in Mark Adamo’s Little Women.
Tenor Rodney Long was born and raised in Georgia. A versatile singer, he has been a finalist at the state and regional level in the National Association of Teachers of Singing auditions numerous times for both the Classical and Musical Theater categories. Favorite stage credits include roles in Aida (Mereb), Into the Woods (Wolf), and Le Nozze di Figaro (Don Curzio). IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater credits include Chevalier de la Force (Dialogues of the Carmelites), wig maker (Ariadne auf Naxos), Gee-tar (West Side Story), and an ensemble member in L’Étoile. In concert, he has sung as tenor soloist for the Saint-Saëns Christmas Oratorio, J. S. Bach’s Christ Lag in Todes Banden, and Dubois’ Seven Last Words of Christ. He graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance degree from Columbus State University (Columbus, Georgia), as well as a Master of Music in Voice Performance and a Graduate Certificate in Vocology from the Jacobs School of Music. A student of Brian Gill, Long is currently pursuing a Doctor of Music in Voice Performance at Jacobs. In addition to his doctoral studies, he is an associate instructor in the IU Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies for the popular music performance group IU Soul Revue.
Kenyan tenor Eddie Mony earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in voice performance from the IU Jacobs School of Music, where he is currently pursuing a Doctor of Music Education. A voice student of Julia Bentley, he also serves as the executive president of the Kenyan Classical Singers’ Organization. His performance experience includes being a soloist for the Kenyatta University Students’ Choir, Nairobi Music Society, and Kenya Conservatoire of Music. He has engaged audiences in solo concerts under Kenya’s OPERAtion Classics, which raises funds to support education through opera productions in exclusive venues. His international presence is flourishing, with appearances in the United Kingdom under the Martyn Donaldson Music Trust and in Finland, Canada, and the United States, including a performance at the historic Tivoli Theater in Spencer, Indiana. Mony recently performed a solo charity concert for Habitat for Humanity, Monroe County, at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington, Indiana. He sang the role of Father Grenville in the IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater production of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking. In addition to classical music, he performs traditional music from Kenya.
Philip McCown is a graduate of Auburn University (B.M.) and Indiana University (M.M.) currently pursuing a Performer Diploma under the tutelage of Peter Volpe. Last season, McCown made his IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater debut as Laurie in Mark Adamo’s Little Women. Previous IU credits include the choruses of Le Nozze di Figaro, Parsifal, and La Traviata. At Auburn, he performed the roles of Eisenstein (Die Fledermaus), Aeneas (Dido and Aeneas), and Count Almaviva (Le Nozze di Figaro). He has also performed in the opera workshop scenes programs of Carol Vaness and Heidi Grant Murphy as Tom Rakewell (The Rakes Progress), Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor), and Martin (The Tender Land). This past summer, he participated in the International Performing Arts Institute, where he also performed in a scenes program singing Edgardo and Martin.
Tenor Jeremy Sivitz is a burgeoning young artist with a particular propensity for comedy and character. A versatile actor, he is noted by directors and coaches as a “stage animal,” tenacious on and off the stage. Bardolph marks his role debut with IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater. A dedicated singing actor, he has delighted audiences as Pedrillo in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Ali in Zémire et Azor, Dr. Blind in Die Fledermaus, Monostatos in The Magic Flute, and Don Basilio/Don Curzio in Le Nozze di Figaro. He will make his role debut with Anchorage Opera next spring as Spoletta in Puccini’s Tosca. Committed to community involvement, Sivitz is a familiar face at local companies, groups, and festivals, including Princeton Opera Company, both as a performer and a diction and music coach; Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice in the choruses of such operas as Carmen, La Bohème, Les Trois Mousquetaires, and Otello; Alaska Chamber Singers as a featured soloist; and Anchorage Opera. He teaches voice at Solstice Vocal Arts in Anchorage, Alaska, where he was born and raised. He earned a B.M. in Vocal Performance from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and is currently pursuing an M.M. at the Jacobs School, where he is a student of Timothy Noble. Outside of music, Sivitz is an avid dancer, aerial acrobat, and painter.
Praised for his “clear enunciation and powerful steady voice” by Opera Canada, bass Drew Comer is a second-year master’s student studying under the tutelage of Jane Dutton and Gary Arvin. Most recently, Comer performed the role of Sarastro in Mozart’s The Magic Flute with Bloomington Chamber Opera. During his time at IU, he has performed the roles of Marco in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, Antonio in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and Curio in Handel’s Giulio Cesare. He appeared in the choruses of The Barber of Seville, Oklahoma!, Florencia en el Amazonas, The Music Man, Lucia di Lammermoor, Dialogues of the Carmelites, Bernstein’s Mass, The Three Hermits, and Suor Angelica. In 2018, he made his Canadian debut with the Halifax Summer Opera Festival, where he brought to life the roles of Masetto in Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Seneca in Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea. With Katherine Jolly’s Opera Workshop, he performed in scenes from The Mikado (Pooh-Bah), La Clemenza di Tito (Publio), The Magic Flute (Sarastro), and Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Osmin). He has also sung in master classes with soprano Caroline Worra and tenor Matthias Klink. An Indiana native, Comer earned a bachelor’s in voice performance degree from the IU Jacobs School of Music in 2019 as a student of Patricia Stiles, graduating magna cum laude.
Bass Andrew Forsythe hails from Michigan. He recently completed a Master of Music in Voice Performance degree at the IU Jacobs School of Music and is currently pursuing a Performer Diploma under the tutelage of Timothy Noble. Forsythe is a graduate of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, studying with John Paul White. With Oakland University Opera, Forsythe appeared as Frank Maurrant in Street Scene, Plunkett in Martha, and Sarastro in The Magic Flute. He also appeared as Marquis D’Obigny in La Traviata with IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater. Most recently, he premiered a new set of art songs by Daixuan Ai, Catalogue of Unabashed Gratitude, set to the poetry of acclaimed poet and IU professor Ross Gay.
Soprano Mary Martin is a doctoral student at the IU Jacobs School of Music, where she studies with Carol Vaness. This is Martin’s third production with IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater, marking her role debut as Alice Ford in Falstaff. Previous Jacobs stage appearances include the Governess in The Turn of the Screw, the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro, and Hanne in Haydn’s oratorio The Seasons. She has also served as an associate instructor of voice at Jacobs and has been a two-time recipient of the Sarah Joan Tuccelli-Gilbert Fellowship Award. Professional credits include the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor and an upcoming role debut as Bea in Three Decembers with South Bend Lyric Opera, Antonia in Arbor Opera Theater’s The Tales of Hoffmann, Gretel in Hansel and Gretel, and Nannetta in Falstaff with Opera MODO. She has also performed with Central City Opera and Michigan Opera Theater and has been a featured soloist with Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra, Midland Symphony Orchestra, Livingston Symphony Orchestra, Michigan Pops, and Saginaw Choral Society. She earned her B.M. and M.M. voice degrees at the University of Michigan (U-M), where her performance highlights included Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, Nannetta in Falstaff, and Amy in Little Women. She also had the honor of performing the “Star-Spangled Banner” for President Obama at U-M’s commencement ceremonies. She maintains an active voice studio and has directed the Michigan Opera Theatre Operetta Remix program for young singers for three years.
Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Rebecca Achtenberg is in the second year of her Performer Diploma in Voice Performance studies at the IU Jacobs School of Music, under the tutelage of Heidi Grant Murphy. Last spring, Achtenberg was seen as Mimì in La Bohème and in the chorus of Xerxes with IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater. Earlier in 2021, she appeared with Bloomington Chamber Opera as Elle in La voix humaine, and this past summer, she was a member of the inaugural class of vocal fellows with Lakes Area Music Festival. In 2019, she was seen as Older Alyce in Glory Denied with Penn Square Music Festival, Lia in L’enfantprodigue with Garden State Opera, Rosario in Goyescas with Hub City Opera Theater, Annina in La Traviata with New Rochelle Opera, and the High Priestess in Aida with Boheme Opera NJ. Achtenberg is a graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music, with a double degree in voice and comparative literature, and earned a master’s degree in voice from Westminster Choir College. She recently received the Freund Merit Award in the National Society of Arts and Letters Voice Competition and is a recipient of second prize in the Annapolis Opera Vocal Competition and the Five Towns Music and Arts Foundation Competition. She serves as an associate instructor in voice for the Jacobs School.
Born in Colmar, France, 24-year-old soprano Solène Le Van has been recognized as “nothing short of amazing” (SlippedDisc) and a “peerless soloist” (All About the Arts). This season, Le Van will sing at Festival Theater Hudson (Shepherd, Tannhäuser) as well as with the South Coast Symphony and the Burbank Philharmonic. Future engagements include recitals for the Metropolitan Opera and Pasadena Opera guilds and debuts at the Musikverein in Vienna as Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor and at Opera Classica Europa as Antonia in The Tales of Hoffman. A soloist in the American premiere of Handel’s 1741 Messiah, she has previously performed with the Young Musicians Foundation, Hollywood Chamber Orchestra, and Malaga Philharmonic in Spain. A prizewinner of the Metropolitan Opera Council (Second Prize Midwest/Joyce Castle Award) and the French Embassy (Cultural Services Award), she has won 18 national and eight international competitions, including Concours Léopold Bellan (Paris), Ise-Shima (Japan), Danubia Liszt (Budapest), and Classical Singer. Acclaimed by Pizzicato Magazine for her “excitingly performed” collaboration with conductor José Serebrier (Reference Records), Le Van will soon release her debut recording of French melodies. She is a Princeton graduate and the recipient of highest honors from the Royal College of Music, London (voice/violin). The cofounder of the Jon Frederic West Vocal Academy with mentor Jon West, she is an associate instructor and a master’s student at the IU Jacobs School of Music in the studio of Heidi Murphy.
Grace Lerew is a native of Allentown, Pennsylvania. She is pursuing a master’s degree in voice performance under the tutelage of Carol Vaness. Lerew has been seen on stage at the IU Jacobs School of Music in several performances, including as Beth March (Little Women), Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi), Street Singer (Bernstein’s Mass), and in the Blumenmädchen chorus (Parsifal). Her choral experience includes Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, Krzysztof Penderecki’s St. Luke Passion, and Mahler’s second symphony with The Cleveland Orchestra. She has also been seen in Michael Shell’s Opera Workshop program singing Polly Peachum (Threepenny Opera), Pamina (The Magic Flute), and Contessa Almaviva (Le Nozze di Figaro). Lerew has sung roles with the Berlin Opera Academy in Germany and the Israel Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv. In December, she will sing Anne Trulove (The Rake’s Progress) and Norina (Don Pasquale) in Carol Vaness’s Opera Workshop.
Born and raised in Moreno Valley, California, Geneil Perkins is a third-year doctoral student at the IU Jacobs School of Music, where she is an associate instructor in voice and a student of Jane Dutton. Perkins appeared most recently in Xerxes (Amastre) and Little Women (Alma March) at the Jacobs School. She earned an M.M. in Voice from Brigham Young University and a B.M. from Southern Utah University. She has had previous roles in Die Fledermaus (Prinz Orlofsky), Suor Angelica (La Zia Principessa), The Old Maid and the Thief (Miss Todd), The Mikado (Katisha), Gianni Schicchi (Zita), and The Magic Flute (Zweite Dame).
Mezzo-soprano Alice Lind is a first-year graduate student pursuing her Master of Music in Voice under the tutelage of Timothy Noble. A native of Clinton, Iowa, she earned her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Drake University. While there, she served as performer and assistant stage director with Drake Opera Theatre. Performance credits include Third Lady in The Magic Flute and Dame Quickly in Falstaff. Recent opera scenes credits include Bradamante in Alcina, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Sibella in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and stage director for The Magic Flute. She has also performed the roles of La Badessa and Zia Principessa (cover) in Suor Angelica and Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro with the International Lyric Academy in Italy. She recently competed in the Iowa National Association of Teachers of Singing Vocal Competition, receiving first place in both the Advanced Musical Theater and Classical divisions.
Mezzo-soprano Sara Dailey, from Portage, Indiana, is working toward a Master of Music in Voice Performance degree under Julia Bentley. Dailey has appeared with IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater as Alma March in Little Women and Mistress of the Novices in Suor Angelica, as well as in the choruses of Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites, Bernstein’s Mass, and Wagner’s Parsifal (in which she also performed the prophetic Voice from Above.) She is also a stage electrician and resident stage manager for Bloomington Chamber Opera.
Mezzo-soprano Antoinette Pompe van Meerdervoort, from Lake Forest, Illinois, is a junior at the IU Jacobs School of Music, where she studies under the tutelage of Jane Dutton. Pompe van Meerdervoort is also an IU Theatre and Drama minor, having performed in Hamlet, Crazy for You, Twelfth Night, and The TwistedTales of Poe. She appeared in a New Voices Opera showcase and participated in Conductors Chorus. She recently covered the role of Ruggiero in Alcina with Chicago Summer Opera. She previously studied opera at Northwestern University, where she attended the vocal seminar and performed in The Impresario. She was a Frank Little Scholar at the Music Institute of Chicago in high school. She also studied theater at the University of California, Los Angeles and the British American Drama Academy.