The curtain rises on a cottage at the edge of a deep forest, the home of Hansel and Gretel, and their parents, Peter and Gertrude. The family is poor, and the parents must go into town to earn money to buy food, leaving the children home to do chores. Lamenting her hunger pains, Gretel discovers milk left by the woman next door. Hansel is excited and samples the milk. Gretel distracts her brother by dancing, and they sing and whirl together.
The children are interrupted by the return of their mother, who scolds them for not doing their chores. In her anger, Gertrude knocks over the pitcher of milk. Enraged and upset, she sends the children out into the forest to find strawberries for supper. When the children are gone, she prays for help, and exhausted, falls asleep. Peter’s voice is heard in the distance, returning from a fair. He happily tells Gertrude that he has sold all of his brooms and has brought home a knapsack filled with food. When he asks about the chil- dren, she explains that they did no chores, so she sent them into the forest to search for food. Peter is stunned: “Don’t you know that the wicked one lives there? The Gingerbread Witch, who tempts children with sweets. Once she captures them, she pushes them into the oven, until they are baked into the gingerbread cookies!” Panicked, the two parents rush off to rescue Hansel and Gretel.
The two children are in the middle of a forest of huge trees. Gretel sits on a mossy rock, weaving a crown of wildflowers. Hansel is looking for strawberries. Happy with his success, he crowns Gretel the Queen of the Forest. Suddenly, the sound of the cuckoo is heard. Hansel imitates the bird and begins eating the strawberries. The tired children quarrel over the berries, and Hansel empties the basket. Realizing the coming darkness, the children’s high spirits turn into fear. They try to be brave, but as the mists rise, and their calls for help only bring echoes, they fall to their knees in fear. The Sandman comes to calm them and lulls them toward sleep. Singing their evening prayer, the children fall asleep on the moss. In their dreams, they see a stairway leading up into heaven, with angels who descend and surround them with love, just like their prayer.
It is morning, and the mist has lifted. The Dew Fairy wakes the children, who rub their eyes in disbelief, recalling the marvelous dreams they experienced. When they turn around, in place of the trees, a Gingerbread House has magically appeared. Made of can- dies, pastry, and cake, Hansel and Gretel begin to sample the wonderful treats. Suddenly, the door opens, and there stands the Witch. She lures them, offering yet more treats. Suspicious, the children try to escape, but the Witch freezes them in place with her magic wand. She puts Hansel into a cage, where she plans to fatten him up for her supper. She brings Gretel back to life and tells her to set the table. Bringing Hansel special food to make him “plump and tender,” she checks the oven to make sure everything is ready. While the Witch is feeding Hansel, Gretel steals the magic wand and breaks the spell holding her brother locked in the cage.
When the Witch asks Gretel to open the oven door, the girl pretends she doesn’t know how to do it. The Witch bends forward to show her, and the children shove her into the flames. The oven burns more and more fiercely, and bursts into pieces, falling into ruins. When the smoke clears, Hansel and Gretel are surrounded by Gingerbread Children, who have resumed human form, yet appear to be asleep. Using the Witch’s wand again, Hansel and Gretel bring them back to life. Suddenly, they hear their father in the distance, and the children cry for joy. When Mother and Father arrive, everyone celebrates! The Witch has been baked into a giant burnt gingerbread cake, the children are all safe, and the family is reunited. In a final chorus, all join in singing the lesson Peter taught his children at the beginning of the story: “When our grief ’s too great to bear, God will send his love and care.”
by Bridget Foley M.A. Musicology Student
“Next to a great forest there lived a poor woodcutter with his wife and his two chil- dren. The boy’s name was Hansel, and the girl’s name was Gretel.” Thus begins Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s retelling of the German folktale “Hänsel und Gretel,” one of the many stories gathered for their Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales). One of the 210 fairy tales compiled in the collection, “Hänsel und Gretel” shares similar tropes that have often been associated with Grimm retellings. Wicked stepmothers, gloomy forests, and monstrous witches are all present within their little tale of brother and sister left to fend for themselves due to the throes of extreme poverty.
German readers, however, would have also been familiar with a different edition of this story, namely the version edited by Ludwig Bechstein. Abandoned by his father and neglected by his mother, Bechstein sought to give children what he himself lacked in his own childhood: hope. Unlike the Brothers Grimm, who crafted their tales based on how German families would tell them, Bechstein would edit these tales in a way he thought they ought to be told to children. Gone was the evil stepmother who delighted in leaving the children in the woods; Bechstein replaced her with an overworked and sympathetic mother who reluctantly sent her children away knowing she could no longer provide for them. The witch, whom the Brothers Grimm described as almost animalistic, with red eyes and a keen sense of smell, now had a comedic element to her, especially seen in descriptions of her “big, big nose” and “grass-green eyes.” The story was also littered with spirituality: the reframing of the woods as a place of quiet contemplation, the addition of prayer, and the children often being saved by divine benevolence.
Engelbert Humperdinck and his sister Adelheid Wette would have been familiar with the Bechstein retelling of “Hänsel und Gretel” during their own childhoods, and this famil- iarity would inspire their family-driven creative output later in life. In April 1890, Wette wrote to Humperdinck, requesting him to set four folksongs from the Bechstein fairy tale to music for her own children. After this performance in the Wette home, Humperdinck’s family convinced him to turn the work into a fully fledged opera. Although Wette is the one credited with writing the libretto, it was a collaboration between the siblings, their father Gustav, and their partners. Conflicting interests plagued the composition of the opera, such as Gustav preferring the Grimm version over the Bechstein, so much so that Engelbert Humperdink referred to it as “Das Familienübel,” or “The Family Headache.”
Though the premiere of the opera was not seamless, having issues ranging from ill performers to missing scores, Hänsel und Gretel steadily gained popularity over time. Rich- ard Strauss, who conducted the premiere on December 23, 1893, declared the work “a masterpiece.” The Hänsel und Gretel touring company, founded by Georg Richard Kruse, introduced the opera to several other German cities. It premiered in England as early as 1894 and found its way to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. In 1931, Hänsel und Gretel was the first complete opera to be broadcast via radio by the Metropolitan Opera on Christmas Day. In fact, performances of the opera have been closely associated with Christmas, due to its family-friendly nature.
Humperdinck captures both the carefree nature of childhood and the spirituality of Bechstein’s tale by using simple folk melodies and hymns interspersed throughout the piece. The overture, which Humperdinck coined “Children’s Life,” begins with the famous “Evening Prayer” melody until rambunctious folklike dances interrupt it. The hymn, however, never truly goes away, perhaps representing the divine providence the children receive during their journey. Each act begins with a folk tune or a setting of a well-known verse. “Susie, liebe Susie” in Act I and “Ein Männlein steht im Walde” in Act II were both from famous German song collections of the nineteenth century, and Act III begins with a folklike prelude. Hansel and Gretel sing the “Evening Prayer” in an earnest chorale at the end of Act II, as they pray for guidance and protection in an unfamiliar environment. This theme returns at the very end of the opera as well, as the children sing of their triumph over evil. All of this cultivates a character of warmth and piety that is at odds with the original Grimm fairy tale, tying it directly to the softened tone of Bechstein’s version.
Audiences were immediately drawn to the combination of melodic appeal and har- monic complexity of Hänsel und Gretel. The rich and intricate orchestrations were clearly inspired by Humperdinck’s friendship with Richard Wagner, whom he worked with on the latter’s Parsifal. Though Wagner did not live to see Hänsel und Gretel, he certainly would have approved of the fairy-tale setting. In the wake of the Italian verismo movement, where operas focused on real-life situations, Hänsel und Gretel stands out as a beacon in its time. Though Humperdinck could never quite match the popularity of his Fairy-Tale Opera, the sheer number of performances in the 129 years since its premiere should act as a testament to the nostalgic yearnings of a simpler time, and it will continue to delight audiences for many years to come.
Arthur Fagen has been professor of orchestral conducting at the Jacobs School of Music since 2008. Additionally, he has been music director of the Atlanta Opera since 2010. He has conducted opera productions at the world’s most prestigious opera houses and music festivals. From 1998 to 2001, he was invited regularly as guest conductor at the Vienna State Opera, in addition to performances at the Metropolitan Opera, Staatsoper Berlin Deutsche Oper Berlin, Munich State Opera, and many more. On the concert podium, he has appeared with numerous internationally known orchestras. Fagen has an opera repertory of more than 75 works. He has served as principal conductor in Kassel and Brunswick, as chief conductor of the Flanders Opera of Antwerp and Ghent, as music director of the Queens Symphony Orchestra, and as a member of the conducting staff of Lyric Opera of Chicago. From 2002 to 2007, he was music director of the Dortmund Philharmonic Orchestra and the Dortmund Opera. He and the Dortmund Philharmonic were invited to the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Palais de Beaux Arts in Brussels, and to Salzburg, Beijing, and Shanghai. Fagen conducted a new production of Turandot at the Atlanta Opera in 2007, opening the season and inaugurating the new opera house, the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. He was a regular guest conductor of the Munich Radio Orchestra and guest conducted the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Schleswig-Holstein Festival, and many others. He was first-prize winner of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Conductors Competition as well as a prize winner of the Gino Marinuzzi International Conductors’ Competition in Italy. Fagen has recorded for BMG, Bayerischer Rundfunk, SFB, and WDR Cologne. He records regularly for Naxos, for which he has completed the six symphonies of Bohuslav Martinů. His Naxos recording of Martinů’s piano concertos was awarded an Editor’s Choice award in the March 2010 issue of Gramophone magazine.
An award-winning director, Candace Evans has been internationally praised for “a flawless sense of timing” (Opera News), with work that is “genuine gripping drama” (Opera Now). Her production of La Viuda Alegre for the legendary Teatro Colón was named in the top three operas of the entire Argentinian season. Known for incisive storytelling, she wrote the libretto, and directed Wisdom of Stone, for OperaVision Europe during the lockdown of 2020. Evans’ performance career includes an M.F.A. in classical acting/directing, with national and international acting tours. She has danced with the Wisconsin Ballet, sung with the Dallas Symphony, done national voiceovers, and appeared in both film and episodic television. This combination of talent and experience illustrates why her directorial style includes the integration of musical intent, dramatic truth, and the physical life of performers. Previously on the theater/music faculty of Southern Methodist University, she is committed to working with young artists at least once annually. Honored to return to the Jacobs School of Music for her seventh production, Evans has directed/choreographed such operas here as Florencia en el Amazonas, Candide, Mass, and Akhnaten. She has also collaborated with Yale, Carnegie Mellon, and Shenandoah universities, Oberlin in Italy, La Musica Lirica, Taos Opera Institute, and Seagle Colony. Among her past professional engagements are the opera companies of Dallas, Santa Fe, Arizona, North Carolina, San José, San Diego, Palm Beach, Madison, Fort Worth, Grand Rapids, Birmingham, and Livermore as well as Opera Southwest and the Florentine Opera.
Swiss-born Max Röthlisberger was professor emeritus of music and head of the Department of Stage Design and Technical Production at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. He acted, directed, and designed sets in European opera houses for 40 years and was in his 60s when he was recruited to IU by former music dean Wilfred Bain in 1973. Röthlisberger was chief designer for Zurich Opera and guest designer at opera houses in Milan, Vienna, Munich, Hamburg, Geneva, Paris, Rome, Venice, Naples, Brussels, and The Netherlands. A set designer for more than 20 Swiss movies, he was awarded the Reinhart Ring, Switzerland’s highest award in theater. Röthlisberger retired in 1987 and returned to Switzerland. He died in 2003 at the age of 89.
A Bloomington-based designer and scenic artist, Mark F. Smith is director of scenic painting and properties for IU Jacobs School of Music Opera and Ballet Theater, where he has worked on more than 100 hundred productions during the past 25 years. Design work for Jacobs School projects includes Florencia en el Amazonas, Don Giovanni, Ariadne auf Naxos, Hansel and Gretel, Bernstein’s Mass, and La Bohème. His design for 2016’s Florencia en el Amazonas was featured in San Diego Opera’s 2017-18 season. In addition to work for Indianapolis Civic Theater, Butler Ballet, and Indianapolis Ballet’s company premiere production of The Firebird, area theatergoers will recognize his designs for more than a dozen Cardinal Stage Company shows, including Les Misérables, A Streetcar Named Desire, My Fair Lady, Big River, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Smith earned a Master of Fine Arts in Scenic Design from the IU Department of Theatre and Drama and was a student of former Jacobs faculty C. David Higgins and Robert O’Hearn. Upcoming productions include Swan Lake for Indianapolis Ballet.
Dana Tzvetkov is a draper and designer whose work has been featured in Central City Opera’s Tosca (2016) and Carmen (2017) as well as the National Opera Association’s Hagar (2016). Her designs have appeared on the Musical Arts Center stage in Saudade, Carmen, and Peter Grimes. She has designed rentals for Ball State Opera Theater, Mississippi Opera, DePauw University, and Butler University. She worked alongside Linda Pisano for Opera San Antonio to build costumes for a cast including Patricia Racette and Michelle DeYoung. Tzvetkov has been commissioned to create concert gowns for DeYoung and Sylvia McNair. Tzvetkov served as the costume shop supervisor for IU Jacobs Opera and Ballet Theater from 2013 to 2022. She returned to Central City Opera in summer 2018 to coordinate its production of Il Trovatore.
Allen Hahn’s lighting design was last seen in the Musical Arts Center in Die Fledermaus in 2015. His international design credits include the operas Kafka’s Trial and Giulio Cesare (Royal Danish Opera), Émilie (Finnish National Opera), Der freischütz, (Opera Bilbao), La Fanciulla del West (Opera Zuid-Netherlands) and John Cage’s Songbooks at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam with the music ensemble Alarm Will Sound. In July 2023, he will return to Santa Fe Opera to design Tosca, directed by Keith Warner, with whom he has worked at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Spoleto Festival USA, and Opera Zuid in the Netherlands. Other lighting design credits for opera in the U.S. include Rinaldo (New York City Opera), Don Giovanni (Glimmerglass), Émilie (Lincoln Center Festival), Lizzie Borden (Boston Lyric Opera), Luisa Miller (Spoleto Festival USA), Die Fledermaus (Portland Opera), Death in Venice and The Coronation of Poppea (Chicago Opera Theater), Pagliacci (Opera Memphis), Bluebeard’s Castle (Opera Omaha), Miss Lonelyhearts (The Juilliard School), Elegy for Young Lovers (Curtis Institute of Music), and numerous credits for New York’s Gotham Chamber Opera. Hahn’s design work for theater and dance includes companies and festivals in Australia, Europe, Asia, and South America, and cities across the United States. His work has also been included in the Prague Quadrennial Exhibition of Stage Design. His dance- for-camera work as a director and designer has been seen in the short films Breath Light Stone and Mutable Spirals of Ascension, which have been selected for inclusion in festivals in the United States and internationally, with Breath Light Stone garnering awards in multiple categories. Hahn heads the M.F.A. program in lighting design at IU.
Brent Gault is professor of music education at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. He 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, Dalcroze Society of America, International Kodály Society, International Society for Music Education, 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, Canada, China, and Ireland. Articles by Gault have been published in various music education periodicals, including the Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, Journal of Research in Music Education, Music Educators Journal, General Music Today, Kodály Envoy, Orff Echo, and American Dalcroze Journal. He is the co-editor (with Carlos Abril) of Teaching General Music (2016, Oxford University Press) and author of Listen Up! Fostering Musicianship Through Active Listening (2016, Oxford University Press). In addition to his duties with the Jacobs School 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.
Julia Hoffmann Lawson earned a B.A. in German from the University of Wisconsin and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in German Literature from Indiana University. She has lived and studied in Germany and Switzerland and spends as much time there as she can. She taught German language and literature for many years at Indiana University, Northern Virginia Community College, and Georgetown University as well as for private language contractors in the Washington, D.C., metro area. She and her husband returned to Bloomington in 2002, where from 2004 until 2016, she worked as a lecturer in the IU Department of Germanic Studies and pursued her interest in literary translating. In 2010, she received IU Distinguished Teaching Award for part-time faculty. Her connection to the Jacobs School of Music deepened in 2018, when she designed and began teaching German for Musicians, a hybrid course for Jacobs graduate students. Lawson has served as German diction coach for IU Jacobs Opera Theater since The Merry Wives of Windsor in 2008 and most recently for The Magic Flute in 2021.
Cori Ellison, a leading creative figure in the opera world, has served as staff dramaturg at Santa Fe Opera, the Glyndebourne Festival, and New York City Opera. Active in developing contemporary opera, she leads Opera Lab, a unique new practical training program for composers, librettists, and performers at The Juilliard School, where she serves on the vocal arts faculty. She is also a founding faculty member of American Lyric Theater’s Composer Librettist Development Program and was the first dramaturg invited to participate in the Yale Institute for Music Theatre. At New York City Opera (NYCO), she was a curator of the annual VOX American Opera Showcase and cofounded and led City Opera’s “Words First” program for opera librettists. She has been a sought- after developmental dramaturg to numerous composers, librettists, and commissioners, including Glyndebourne, Canadian Opera Company, Opera Philadelphia, Chicago Opera Theater, Icelandic Opera, Arizona Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Beth Morrison Projects, Santa Fe Opera, Miller Theater, Opera Birmingham, On-Site Opera, Indiana University, and Crane School of Music. She has served as production dramaturg for projects including The Coronation of Poppea at Cincinnati Opera; Orphic Moments at the Salzburg Landestheater, National Sawdust, and Master Voices; Aci, Galatea, e Polifemo at National Sawdust; Washington National Opera’s Ring cycle, Opera Boston’s The Nose, and Offenbach!!! at Bard Summerscape. She is a faculty member at the Ravinia Steans Music Institute Program for Singers and has taught and lectured for schools, performance venues, and media outlets worldwide. She creates supertitles for opera companies across the English-speaking world and helped launch Met Titles, the Met’s simultaneous translation system. Her English singing translations include Hansel and Gretel (NYCO), La vestale (English National Opera), and Shostakovich’s Cherry Tree Towers (Bard Summerscape). She has often written for The New York Times and has contributed to books including The New Grove Dictionary of Opera and The Compleat Mozart.
Colin Anderson, baritone, is a passionate artist who uses musical storytelling to create emotional connections with audiences. With recent performances as Ford in the 2021 IU Jacobs Opera Theater production of Falstaff, Anderson has portrayed Bottom in Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Miami Classical Music Festival and Oberlin Conservatory, Sam in Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, and Antonio in Le Nozze di Figaro by Wolfgang Mozart. He has also delved into twenty-first century opera through performances of Du Yun’s Angels Bone, Rachel J. Peter’s Wild Beasts of the Bungalow, and played a silent role in Missy Mazzoli’s Proving Up. In each contemporary production, he has enjoyed working closely with composers and librettists. Along with his operatic career, Anderson has a love for art song of many styles. He has a particular interest in music by underrepresented minority groups, showing that classical music is more diverse than one might believe it to be. Anderson is pursuing a master’s degree with Brian Horne.
Bryan McClary is recognized for his warm and rich baritone voice. He has performed a number of operatic roles, including Diego Rivera in Frida by Robert Xavier Rodríguez, Sam in Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, and Le Roi in Massenet’s Cendrillon, for Opera Steamboat, Westminster Choir College, and the Savannah Voice Festival. Other roles include Sander in Zémire et Azor by André Ernest Modeste Grétry, Second Armored Man in The Magic Flute by Mozart, and Thierry and Jailor in Dialogue of the Carmelites by Francis Poulenc. McClary has also performed with IU Jacobs Opera Theater in its 2021 production of Xerxes by Handel, in the role of Elviro. He recently made his international debut in Greece performing with Camerata Bardi in Mozart’s Don Giovanni as Masetto and covering the title role. He was also selected for the second round of the Classical Singer Competition. He has performed in master classes with Metropolitan Opera baritone Sherrill Milnes and mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves. In 2020, McClary earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Westminster Choir College, studying with dramatic soprano Sharon Sweet. He has also coached with Milnes, soprano Nova Thomas, and pianists J. J Penna, Susan Ashbaker, and Akiko Hosaki. McClary is pursuing a Master of Music in Voice Performance with Peter Volpe.
A soprano from Mansfield, Ohio, Rachel Fitzgerald is pursuing a Doctor of Music degree at the Jacobs School of Music under the instruction of Heidi Grant Murphy. Fitzgerald holds a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where she performed the role of Ludmila in The Bartered Bride and Alice Ford in Falstaff. Other credits include Micaëla in Carmen with Mid-Ohio Opera and Olga Kromow as well as Hanna Glawari cover in The Merry Widow with Opera Project Columbus. Not a stranger to opera chorus, Fitzgerald has performed in ensembles with Cincinnati Opera, Opera Columbus, and Mid-Ohio Opera. She placed third in the National Association of Teachers of Singing National Final Competition (2019), received the Encouragement Award in the Cooper-Bing Vocal Competition (2018), and spent two seasons with Opera Columbus’s Education Outreach Program. Fitzgerald also earned a double B.M. from Ohio Wesleyan University in Piano/Vocal Performance.
Malinda Wagstaff is a warmhearted soprano pursuing her master’s degree under the tutelage of Carol Vaness. This season, Wagstaff will be featured as Annina in La Traviata with Inland Northwest Opera and in various pop-up performances in her hometown of Spokane, Washington. Previously at the Jacobs School, she has performed as First Lady in The Magic Flute and in the ensembles of Falstaff and La Rondine. In Carol Vaness’s Opera Workshop, she performed the role of Manon in act two of Manon Lescaut. She earned a bachelor’s degree with high distinction from the Eastman School of Music with an Arts Leadership Certificate. While at Eastman, she prepared the role of Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd (canceled due to COVID-19). She also performed as Angel More in The Mother of Us All and La Chouette in L’enfant et les Sortilèges. Recent awards include an encouragement award from the Metropolitan Opera Laffont Oregon District and a first-prize award in the Coeur d’Alene Symphony’s Young Artist Competition. Wagstaff has participated in the Prague Summer Nights Festival, Harrower Summer Opera Festival, and the Mediterranean Opera Studio Festival, including the roles of Suor Angelica (canceled due to COVID-19) and Effie in The Ballad of Baby Doe, Czech opera scene work, and ensemble performances in Don Giovanni and Le Nozze di Figaro. She also serves as a teaching artist and the vice president of the non-profit What is Opera, Anyway?
Antoinette Pompe van Meerdervoort, mezzo-soprano, is a senior in her undergraduate studies under the tutelage of Jane Dutton. Most recently, she sang the role of La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi and Suzuki in Madame Butterfly at IOPE in Italy. She was also an emerging artist at Cedar Rapids Opera, where she covered the role of Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance and sang in the chorus. This past March, Pompe van Meerdervoort made her Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra debut singing the role of Kate Pinkerton in a Madame Butterfly concert. Other IU Jacobs Opera Theater credits include Meg Page in Verdi’s Falstaff and the chorus of Highway 1, USA. She recently placed first in the Lima Symphony Young Artist competition in the Junior Voice Division, was named a winner of the National Society of Arts and Letters competition (Bloomington Chapter), and was runner-up in the Matinee Musical Collegiate Scholarship Competition. Pompe van Meerdervoort is also a Theatre and Drama minor, where she has performed in mainstage productions of Hamlet, Crazy for You, and Twelfth Night. She was part of IU Summer Theatre’s radio show The Twisted Tales of Poe in collaboration with WFIU public radio. Other opera credits include Ruggiero in Alcina with Chicago Summer Opera and The Impresario with Northwestern University’s vocal seminar. She was a Frank Little Scholar at the Music Institute of Chicago while in high school. She has also studied theatre at UCLA and the British American Drama Academy. Pompe van Meerdervoort is from Lake Forest, Illinois.
Born and raised in Moreno Valley, California, Geneil Perkins is a doctoral student of Jane Dutton. Perkins was most recently seen in Falstaff (Mistress Quickly) at the Jacobs School of Music. She holds an M.M. in Voice from Brigham Young University and a B.M. from Southern Utah University. She has previously performed in Xerxes (Amastre), Little Women (Alma March), 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 (Second Lady).
Anna Donnelly is a soprano from Cincinnati, Ohio. With IU Jacobs Opera Theater, she has performed the roles of Drusilla in The Coronation of Poppea and Sister Constance in Dialogues of the Carmelites in addition to singing in several opera choruses. Other credits include Pamina in The Magic Flute with Miami Music Festival, Second Boy in The Magic Flute with Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and the titular role in Patience with the University Gilbert & Sullivan Society. Donnelly performs frequently with Bloomington Chamber Opera; she sang Giannetta in The Elixir of Love in April 2022 and appeared in Liebestrennung: Love’s Separation and The Magic Flute. She has been a member of IU’s University Singers and NOTUS Contemporary Vocal Ensemble. She was first-prize winner in the undergraduate voice division of the Indianapolis Matinee Musicale Scholarship Competition in February 2019. Donnelly is pursuing a Master of Music degree under the tutelage of Heidi Grant Murphy.
Soprano Kayla Kramer, from Cincinnati, Ohio, is a second-year master’s student studying under Carol Vaness. Kramer completed her undergraduate studies at Miami University in 2020, earning a degree in voice performance. She was last seen in IU Jacobs Opera Theater’s production of La Rondine, as Yvette last spring. Other credits include Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and Miss Silverpeal in Mozart’s The Impresario with Miami University Opera. Kramer spent a summer at the American Institute of Musical Studies, where she participated in lieder and operetta concerts as well as a master class with Barbara Bonney. This past summer, Kramer made her professional debut in the Cincinnati Opera Chorus for its production of Aida. Hansel and Gretel marks her second production with Jacobs Opera.
Tenor Benjamin Bird is originally from Palmdale, California. A doctoral student studying with Peter Volpe, he holds a master’s degree in voice from Brigham Young University, where he appeared in The Barber of Seville (Almaviva), Manon (des Grieux), The Elixir of Love (Nemorino), Die Fledermaus (Alfred), and The Pirates of Penzance (Frederick). He has also performed with Utah Vocal Arts Academy in productions of Don Giovanni (Don Ottavio) and Le Nozze di Figaro (Don Basilio/Don Curzio). He was a featured soloist with Brevitas Choir on its 2016 album, Nowell Sing We. In summer 2019, he sang one of the title roles in The Three Hermits for IU Summer Chorus. Bird has previously appeared in IU Jacobs Opera Theater’s productions of Ariadne auf Naxos (Tanzmeister/ Brighella), Dialogues of the Carmelites (L’Aumonier), Giulio Cesare (Nireno), and Le Nozze di Figaro (Don Basilio).
Born in Seoul, South Korea, tenor Daesung Choi earned a bachelor’s degree in voice from Yonsei University in Seoul and is pursuing a Performer Diploma in Voice with Brian Horne. Other teachers at Jacobs include Gary Arvin and Shuichi Umeyama. Choi’s repertoire includes “Lamento di Federico,” “Nessun Dorma,” “E lucevan le stelle,” and “Ch’ella mi creda,” among other works, He has also performed as the Duke in Rigoletto in opera workshop. At Yonsei University, he performed four recitals, two featuring art song. He sang in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in 2020.
Jamaican soprano Sashekia Brown is a dynamic artist who regularly performs throughout the Caribbean and North America. She was a scholarship recipient of the 2021 Premiere Opera Vocal Arts Institute young artist program and placed first in the 2021 National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Cal-Western Regional competition in both the Advanced Classical Treble Voice 4th/5th Year College/Graduate Age and the American Negro Spiritual categories. She went on to be a finalist at the national level NATS. Brown has also won the 2022 University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) Concerto Competition and performed Milhaud’s Quatre chansons de Ronsard with the UNR Symphony Orchestra at its annual Honors Concert. Most recently, she was a semifinalist in the 2022 Classical Singer Competition in Chicago, Illinois. This season, Brown made her company debut with Toledo Opera as Girlfriend 1/Nurse/Congregant 1 in Jeanine Tesori’s opera Blue. This is her debut with IU Jacobs Opera Theater. She recently earned a Master of Music in Voice Performance and is pursuing a Performer Diploma in Solo Performance at the Jacobs School of Music with Carol Vaness. Other voice teachers and coaches include Albert Lee, Daniel Fung, and Jamaican pedagogues Keastner Robertson and Carline Waugh. Brown is the recipient of career grants from the Government of Jamaica through the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports, and Education Fund.
Caribbean-American soprano Shenika John Jordan is a native of New York City actively performing in the United States and abroad as an arts advocate who seeks to use music as a catalyst for positive change. She has been the featured soloist for events including the Sphinx Conference (Detroit), ICYOLA Music Series at Walt Disney Concert Hall (Los Angeles), and İmadeddin Nesimi’s 650th Anniversary in New York City’s Kaufman Center. She recently performed the premiere of Heidi Breyer’s Amor Aeternus: A Requiem for The Common Man at Carnegie Hall. Her international performance highlights include the Lisbon Summer Music Festival (Portugal) as well as solo work in Paris, London, and Toronto. She is a member of the renowned American Spiritual Ensemble and performed on its 25th Anniversary National Tour. Operatic roles include Beatrice (Berlioz’s Beatrice and Benedict) and Oberto (Handel’s Alcina). In addition to performance, John Jordan is owner of Cooking and Opera LLC, a multidisciplinary movement that connects communities through music and food. She is also a cofounder of The Classical Musicians Network, an initiative designed to unite individuals and organizations in the classical music community. She is pursuing a Doctor of Music in Voice Performance degree with Brian Gill.
Nathalie Friederich, soprano, is making her IU Jacobs Opera Theater debut. She transferred to IU in 2021 and is currently a junior voice performance major studying with Jane Dutton. In the spring of 2022, Friederich won first place in the Indianapolis Matinee Musicale Competition. In 2019, she received the first-prize scholarship in the Atlanta Music Club Scholarship Competition. She has also received second place in the American Protégé Competition, first place in New York’s Schubert Competition, and an encouragement award from the Schmidt Vocal Competition.
From Allentown, Pennsylvania, soprano Rachel Knappenberger is a sophomore voice performance major studying with Heidi Grant Murphy. In the 2021-22 season, Knappenberger was featured in the IU Jacobs Opera Theater choruses of The Magic Flute and H.M.S. Pinafore.