Act 1 The Parisian embassy of the tiny Balkan state of Pontevedro is hosting a party in honor of the king’s birthday led by the ambassador, Baron Zeta. Zeta is worried because Hanna Glawari, widow of the wealthiest man in Pontevedro, has come to Paris and might marry a Parisian, taking her fortune with her and spelling financial ruin for Pontevedro. Meanwhile, Camille de Rosillon is carrying on a love affair with Valencienne, Zeta’s wife. She keeps insisting that she is a respectable wife—all the while flirting with Camille, nonetheless. At last, Hanna arrives surrounded by adoring admirers. All the men have fallen under her spell. Baron Zeta, realizing that he must do something to prevent any foreign love affairs, sends his secretary, Njegus, to find Count Danilo Danilovich, the embassy attaché. His plan is to get Danilo to distract Hanna from marrying a Frenchman. Danilo arrives from Maxim’s, where he has been busy carrying on a party of his own with the local grisettes. As he attempts to take a brief nap, Hanna walks in. As it turns out, she and Danilo were once in love, but his uncle, the king, forbade the marriage. Danilo now swears that she is too rich for him to ever say “I love you” to her again. Zeta tells Danilo it is his patriotic duty to marry Hanna. Danilo refuses but undertakes preventing anyone else from marrying her. A ladies’ choice dance is announced, and both Cascada and St. Brioche, two of the Frenchmen who want to marry Hanna, compete to get her to dance with them. When Hanna attempts to ask Danilo instead, he offers to sell his turn for 10,000 francs. The mention of so much money scares the other men away. Alone with Hanna, Danilo dances with her after all as the act ends.
Act 2 It is the next day. Hanna has invited everyone from the party to a Pontevedrin festival at her home. She begins the festivities by telling the story of Vilja, a nymph who fell in love with a mortal. When Danilo finally arrives, the sparring with Hanna immediately begins again. Zeta re-enters and assigns Danilo the task of finding the owner of the fan he has discovered and which would seem to belong to Camille de Rosillon’s lover. After not much success, Danilo is joined by some of the other men from the party, who all agree on how difficult it is to figure out women. Zeta then asks Njegus and Danilo to meet him in the summerhouse for a conference. Hanna comes back to find Danilo alone, and she blames him for driving her guests away, demanding that he help her understand how to have fun in Paris. When the moment becomes too intense, they part. Valencienne enters with Camille and tells him this must be their last evening together. They go into the summerhouse to share it privately. At the same time, Zeta arrives for the conference. Njegus—having seen the lovers enter the pavilion—rescues Valencienne by getting Hanna to take her place. Zeta thinks he has discovered his wife and demands that she come out to face his wrath, but when Hanna appears instead, Danilo assumes that she is Camille’s lover. To annoy Danilo, Hanna announces that she has decided to marry Camille. At first, Danilo pretends to be indifferent, but as he gets increasingly angry, he gives into jealousy and finally leaves, heading for Maxim’s to drown his troubles in champagne. The act ends with Hanna realizing that Danilo is still in love with her.
Act 3 It is later that same night, and another party is going on. This time, Njegus is playing master of ceremonies at the cabaret, which has been set up at Hanna’s mansion. As he points out to Zeta, Hanna has even imported real grisettes from Maxim’s to make Danilo feel at home. With the help of the embassy staff, Danilo is brought to the party, where he is greeted by Njegus, who explains, to Danilo’s amazement, that he too has been taken by life in Paris. When a telegram arrives wanting a report on the imminent ruin of the Pontevedrin treasury, Danilo agrees to make a last attempt to prevent Hanna’s marriage. At this moment, Hanna herself appears. Finally, Danilo and Hanna are left alone. He admits that he loves her but cannot bring himself to say the words. Instead, he waltzes with her, and Hanna admits that her engagement to Camille was a fake. Finally, Zeta figures out that it really was his wife in the summerhouse. He takes matters into his own hands by announcing he will divorce her and immediately proposes to Hanna. Hanna points out that, under the terms of her late husband’s will, she will lose her fortune if she remarries. Danilo, thinking that Hanna will once again be the poor girl he once loved, finally says, “I love you” and proposes to her. Only then does Hanna finish the explanation, by adding that she will lose her fortune because it goes to her new husband. As everyone agrees that, no matter how hard you may try, you will never understand women, the curtain falls.
In Franz Lehár’s turn-of-the-century operetta, The Merry Widow, Parisian indulgence meets global politics. Lehár’s 1905 work follows Hannah Glawari, the titular widow, and Count Danilo as they rekindle their love within the diplomatic social world of France. The history of the operetta dates back to 1861—the premiere of French dramatist Henri Meilhac’s comic play L’attaché d’ambassade. In the play, an ambassador of a poor German grand duchy schemes to arrange a high-profile marriage to keep a wealthy widow’s money in the country, thus preventing its bankruptcy. Nearly 40 years later, librettists Viktor Léon and Leo Stein would discover Meilhac’s comedy and, alongside composer Lehár, reposition it in the modern age. Indeed, The Merry Widow is firmly rooted in the cultural ethos of fin-de-siècle Vienna and its musical and political touchstones. To capture this milieu, Lehár drew upon his own experiences traversing Austro-Hungary as a military band leader to create a myriad of musical worlds in The Merry Widow. From Balkan folk tunes to military marches to popular dances enjoyed throughout Vienna’s famous ballrooms, the music situates the operetta within the Viennese zeitgeist. To satisfy the Viennese audience demands, The Merry Widow brims with festive dances, jubilant choruses, effervescent dialogue, lyrical arias, and a rousing finale number at the end of each of its three acts. By design, The Merry Widow is a feast of amusements in both music and plot.
Operetta is known for its combination of serious and popular art forms. Dance had been characteristic of operetta since Jacques Offenbach’s nineteenth-century French works. But Viennese operettas in particular were synonymous with the waltz, that whirling couples dance so beloved by Austrians, and the glittering ballrooms in which it took place. Johann Strauss II was largely responsible for uniting the triple-meter dance and operetta, epitomized by his 1874 work Die Fledermaus. Lehár draws on the lavish associations of the waltz to symbolize social status in The Merry Widow. The opening ballroom waltzes complement the decadent evening spent at the Pontevedrin embassy in Paris. Moreover, the waltz signifies Hannah’s new position in society. Formerly a peasant, Hannah is now bolstered by her newfound wealth and independence. Appropriately, her entrance is marked by a flamboyant waltz as suitors flock around her. The three-beat waltzing rhythm is emphasized to the point of burlesque by the exaggerated “oom-pah-pahs” and rushing strings. Thus the dance simultaneously reflects high society and pokes fun at the absurdity of such diplomatic events.
By the time Lehár composed The Merry Widow, the Golden Age of operetta had passed, and Lehár was faced with the dilemma of having to choose between his Viennese predecessors’ increasingly sentimental style and Offenbach’s earlier, but time-tested, satirical model. He ultimately decided to combine these two styles, resulting in a blend of humor and tenderness that would come to define Viennese operetta’s Silver Age.
Offenbach’s influence on Lehár’s humor is clear. In addition to the exaggerated dances and tongue-in-cheek songs, such as Valencienne’s “Ich bin eine anständige Frau,” Offenbach’s compositional style is explicitly referenced in Danilo’s Act I aria “Da geh’ ich zu Maxim.” The farcical roll call of amusing pet names mimics Offenbach’s famous use of nonsense syllables to satirize stuffier genres. Comedic numbers, however, are punctuated with moments of sincerity. At the end of Act III, when Hannah and Danilo admit their feelings for one another, the ensuing waltz is stripped of its earlier pomp and instead transitions into unabashed Viennese sentimentality. The orchestra delicately accompanies the two singers, who begin with two complementary yet separate musical themes before concluding in unison.
In updating Meilhac’s play, Léon and Stein replaced the German duchy with the imaginary Balkan state of Pontevedro: an idealized folk society and foil to cosmopolitan Paris. The Merry Widow can be interpreted as a synthesis of old and new worlds that takes place over the course of three acts. The work is, however, colored by a distinct reverence for folk culture that reflected the increasing nationalism across Europe at the time. As such, the events in the Pontevedrin Embassy in Paris become the vehicle through which the librettists play off the tension between old world innocence and its modern, cosmopolitan perversion. In response to the gaudiness of Act I, the second act highlights the traditional values of far-off Pontevedro, incorporating folk-inspired numbers that contrast the other acts in mode and meter, including real Balkan folk dances like the kolo. As such, the Pontevedrin space invites introspection and nostalgia. Hannah, who had up to this point been teasing Danilo and flaunting her riches in front of her many money-hungry suitors (for example in the song “Damenwahl”), waxes sentimental and drifts into a dreamy, folk-inspired aria recounting the mythical nymph Vilja and the hunter who loved her. Danilo will sing a complementary folk song in Act III when, after finally losing his patience with Hannah, he erupts into “Es Waren Zwei Königskinder,” a song about a princess’s betrayal of her prince. Both ballads invoke a nostalgia for the folk stories of home, allowing the protagonists to express their true feelings without disrupting the comedic plot. The protagonists’ journeys synthesize old and new worlds, a comforting conclusion for the early twentieth-century audiences who were grappling with a yearning for the past in their increasingly modern lives.
At its core, The Merry Widow is a love story. Former lovers Hannah and Danilo reunite and ultimately reconcile over the course of the work’s three acts. Their journey is complicated by politics and social scandals, and the lovers are set apart from the rest of their Parisian world by their strong ties to Pontevedro. In this way, the folk sentimentality that casts Hannah and Danilo as outliers in the world of this comedy is the very thing that makes them sympathetic protagonists to the original Viennese audience, thus contributing to the work’s initial success. However, by engaging with broader political themes, such as global marketplace expansion and burgeoning nationalism, The Merry Widow holds a mirror to the world in which it was created: that of early twentieth-century Europe. In the following years, the work would be performed thousands of times across German-speaking countries and eventually be translated into three other languages to be performed on four continents, cementing its legacy as one of the most popular theatrical works of all time.
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 100 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 prizewinner 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.
Keturah Stickann’s directing and choreographic work has been seen in countless opera houses across the United States and Canada as well as in Chile, Japan, France, Hungary, and Australia. A champion of new American opera, she has directed and choreographed multiple works by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, including directing the world premiere of their If I Were You at Merola Opera and associate directing and choreographing for director Leonard Foglia on the world premieres of Moby-Dick and It’s a Wonderful Life. She has also directed works by Robert Aldridge (Sister Carrie), Anthony Davis (Lilith), Ricky Ian Gordon (Orpheus and Euridice and A Coffin in Egypt), Jennifer Higdon (Cold Mountain), Laura Kaminsky (As One), and José “Pepe” Martínez (Cruzar La Cara de la Luna). Recent productions by Stickann include Don Giovanni (Minnesota Opera), The Mother of Us All (Chautauqua Opera), Salome (Madison Opera), The Barber of Seville (San Diego Opera)—which was conceived as a drive-in production during the height of COVID, Candide (Michigan Opera Theatre), Rusalka (Madison Opera), Pelléas et Mélisande (West Edge Opera), Orfeo ed Euridice (Florida Grand Opera), Turandot (San Diego Opera and Palm Beach Opera), Norma (Opera Southwest), Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo (Chautauqua Opera), Lucia di Lammermoor (Opera Colorado), Don Quichotte (San Diego Opera), and The Seven Deadly Sins and Pagliacci (Virginia Opera). Upcoming, Stickann joins Foglia once again for the world premiere of Joby Talbot and Gene Scheer’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly at the Dallas Opera, directs La Traviata at Knoxville Opera, and directs Samson et Dalila at Opera Colorado. Before becoming a director, she was a classically trained dancer, performing in opera and concert dance around the country.
Walter Huff is professor of choral conducting and faculty director of opera choruses at the 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, including 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, La Bohème, The Magic Flute, The Coronation of Poppea, Falstaff, Highway 1, USA, La Rondine, H.M.S. Pinafore, Ainadamar, Anne Frank, and Candide. For eight 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 fifth year as a faculty member at the Ravinia Festival’s Steans Music Institute. This season, Huff will serve as principal guest coach for the Atlanta Opera Studio Artists Program.
Previously for Indiana University, William Forrester designed The Most Happy Fella, La Rondine, Der Rosenkavalier, and South Pacific. Among the regional theaters he has designed for are The Alliance Theatre (Atlanta); the Alabama, Colorado, and Utah Shakespeare festivals; Arizona Theatre Company; Denver Center Theatre; Honolulu Theatre for Youth; Kansas City Rep; Utah Festival Opera; and Yale Rep. Forrester recently designed The Three Sisters for The American University in Cairo and has designed for a number of theaters in the Seattle area, where he resides.
Linda Pisano designs for many theater, dance, musical theater, ballet, and opera companies throughout the United States; her ballet designs have toured the U.K. and Canada. An award-winning designer, she was selected to represent the United States in costume design in the World Stage Design Exhibition in Taipei 2017. Her work has been selected for feature in the Quadrennial World Exhibition in Prague, and she is a three-time winner of the National Stage Expo for performance design and a four-time recipient of the Peggy Ezekiel Award for Excellence in Design. Her work was selected from top designers in the United States to be featured and published in the “Costumes of the Turn of the Century” exhibition with the Bakhrushin Museum in Moscow and the China Institute of Stage Design in Beijing. As professor of costume design at Indiana University, she also directs its Theatre and Drama study abroad program in London, is department chair, and produces IU’s Summer Theatre. She is co-author of the recent book The Art and Practice of Costume Design. Some of her favorite projects include The Daughter of the Regiment, Urinetown, Anne Frank, Salome (with Patricia Racette), To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, Sense and Sensibility, Chicago, Madama Butterfly, The Tragedy of Doctor Faustus, A Little Night Music, and the opera Akhnaten. She served two terms as an elected member of the board of directors for the United States Institute for Theatre Technology and is a member of United Scenic Artists, Local 829. She is currently designing the 2023 Nutcracker for the Jacobs School of Music.
This is Russell Long’s first design at the Musical Arts Center. His most recent design credits include Lunch Bunch, 45 Seconds from Broadway, The Music Man, Carrie: The Musical, Pippin, and the national tour of We Outside. He has also worked as the lighting supervisor/resident lighting designer for the Aspen Music Festival and School, where he designed lights for Uncommon Ritual, ¡De Colores!, and Mathew Whitaker. Originally from Southern Arizona, Long studied at Northern Arizona University and has worked with Arizona Theatre Company, Peaks Productions, University of Arizona Opera, Aspen Opera, and Vail Ballet Festival. He is a founding member of Spotlight Youth Productions in Oro Valley, Arizona. He earned an M.F.A. in lighting design from the IU Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance. Locally, Long has worked with the African American Arts Institute and local music and performance group Ben & Winnie.
Andrew Elliot is a makeup artist, wig designer, stylist, and cellist. His design and music work can be seen and heard with IU Jacobs Opera and Ballet Theater, Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre, Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre, Actors Theatre of Indiana, Phoenix Theatre, Zach & Zack Productions, Summer Stock Stage, and more. His work as a makeup artist and stylist can be seen locally and nationally in various publications, commercials, billboards, industrials, and editorials. He spent 2020 recreating icons of film, fashion, and theater, which gained national attention, with features in The New York Times, NowThis News, The Indianapolis Star, and Indianapolis Monthly.
Julia Hoffmann Lawson earned a B.A. in German from the University of Wisconsin and her M.A. and 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 IU, 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 lecturer in the IU Department of Germanic Studies and pursued her interest in literary translating. In 2010, she received Indiana University’s Distinguished Teaching Award for part-time faculty. Her connection to the Jacobs School of Music deepened in 2018 when she designed German for Musicians, a hybrid course for Jacobs graduate students, which she taught until 2022. She is proud to have served as German diction coach for IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater starting with The Merry Wives of Windsor in 2008.
In addition to the libretto for this production of The Merry Widow, Jacobs Professor Emeritus Vincent Liotta has authored and translated numerous works for the musical theater. These include new English librettos for Victor Herbert’s operetta Naughty Marietta, Viva Verdi—an original dramatic concert for chorus, orchestra, and soloists about the life and work of Giuseppe Verdi—and The Merry Wives of Windsor as well as many supertitle translations. In collaboration with Barbara Silverstein, he wrote an original performance translation for Haydn’s opera Orlando Paladino. As a stage director, Liotta is credited with the creation of several world-premiere productions, notably the much-acclaimed opera Vincent by Bernard Rands, Our Town by Ned Rorem, Coyote Tales by Henry Mollicone, The Tale of Lady Thi Kihn by Jacobs professor P. Q. Phan, and Too Many Sopranos by former Jacobs faculty Edwin Penhorwood. Liotta’s professional projects have been seen in opera houses around the world, including Korea, Romania, Argentina, Canada, and Australia. During his tenure at the Jacobs School of Music, he directed over 100 productions for Jacobs Opera Theater, spanning the history of opera from its beginnings in the compositions of Monteverdi and Cavalli to modern works composers such as Benjamin Britten and John Corigliano. Liotta also has an extensive repertory in modern American musicals. (Photo by Scott Eastman)
Baritone Joshua DeGroot hails from Columbus, Indiana, and is currently in his fourth and final year pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance at the Jacobs School of Music. Under the guidance of Timothy Noble, this is DeGroot’s principal debut with IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater, making his company debut in 2022 in the Don Giovanni chorus. Throughout his time at IU, DeGroot has participated in various performances with the University Gilbert & Sullivan Society. He also portrayed the Baron in the Candide opera chorus during his junior year. His involvement extends to multiple additional choirs, including the University Chorale and Singing Hoosiers.
Tenor Ryan Peña is a native of Taft, Texas, and a second-year master’s student studying under Russell Thomas. Peña earned a B.M. in Vocal Performance from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. There, he performed scenes from Così fan tutte in the role of Guglielmo and was featured as bass soloist for Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass. At Del Mar Community College, he performed scenes from Così fan tutte as Don Alfonso and the tenor role Monsieur Vogelsang in Der Schauspieldirektor. Peña was also featured as tenor soloist with the Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra in its 2018 Pops in the Park concert. Last season with IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater, he appeared in the chorus of Don Giovanni and made his Opera Theater role debut as Maximilian in Candide.
From Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, Simon Brea is a first-year master’s student at the Jacobs School of Music. He recently graduated from the SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music with a bachelor’s degree in voice and opera studies under the tutelage of Jacque Trussel. This is Brea’s first production at IU, but he has previously performed roles such as Don Basilio (Le Nozze di Figaro), Le Prince Charmant (Cendrillon), and, most recently, Tamino (The Magic Flute). He is currently studying under Russell Thomas.
Zachary Olmoz is a first-year master’s student with Russell Thomas. He is originally from LaGrangeville, New York, and earned a bachelor’s degree in voice performance from Purchase College. Olmoz previously performed as Kaspar in Amahl and the Night Visitors and Don Basilio in Le Nozze di Figaro at Purchase and at the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice under the direction of Louis Otey and Maria Todaro. He has also performed with Light Opera of New Jersey in its recent production of Candide as well as with Nickel City Opera in its production of Rigoletto. Last spring, Olmoz performed the role of Tamino in Purchase College’s production of The Magic Flute. This past summer, he was a fellow in the Maria Manetti Shrem Opera Program, covering Xabier Anduaga as Ernesto in Don Pasquale.
Anthony Josep is a baritone from Miami, Florida, studying with Jane Dutton. He has performed in previous IU productions as Tapioca in L’Étoile, Papageno in The Magic Flute, Périchaud in La Rondine, and Elviro in Xerxes. He will sing in the chorus for November’s Roméo et Juliette and has been featured in the chorus for past productions, including Anne Frank, La Rondine, Falstaff, La Bohème, The Barber of Seville, La Traviata, and Le Nozze di Figaro. He attended the Houston Grand Opera’s Young Artist Learning Academy, where he studied with Stephen King, and the Trentino Music Festival in Primiero, Italy, where he sang the role of Count Almaviva in its production of Le Nozze di Figaro. Josep has also attended programs such as the Schmidt Vocal Institute, where he studied with Nathan Gunn, Sylvia McNair, and Brian Zeger. Josep actively competes and has been successful in vocal competitions such as the National YoungArts Foundation Competition, where he was named a finalist, and the Classical Singer International Competition College Division, in which he won first place. In addition to solo voice, he is also an active pianist and composer, often collaborating with organizations and singers at the Jacobs School to push new works into the modern opera repertoire.
Jamaican baritone Giovani Malcolm is pursuing a Master of Music in Voice Performance under the tutelage of Timothy Noble. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Delaware with a B.M. in Voice Performance and dual B.A.’s in Political Science and Music Management. In the 2022-23 season, Malcolm’s notable performances included Ned in Joplin’s Treemonisha and Pictordu in Viardot’s Cendrillon. With IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater last season, he was seen in the choruses of Don Giovanni and Candide. He most recently won the Art Song Award at the 2023 George Shirley Vocal Competition. As an activist constantly seeking to push creative boundaries, Malcolm used the moments of civil unrest during 2020-22 as an opportunity to stretch himself imaginatively and vocally with his “Speak Up, Speak Out” recital series in which he performs selections outlining the stories of Black individuals living in America. He continues to advocate for change on the federal level by working as a coordinator for non-profit programs from the White House. This is his IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater role debut.
Baritone Chandler Benn is currently in the master’s program in voice at the Jacobs School of Music. He earned a Bachelor of Music in Voice from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point. Previous roles include Don Giovanni in Don Giovanni, Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro, Bob in The Old Maid and the Thief, Frank in Die Fledermaus, and Betto di Signa in Gianni Schicchi. Benn is also performing as the baritone soloist in Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem.
Tenor Jonathan Elmore, a student of Heidi Grant Murphy, is pursuing a Doctor of Music in Voice Performance at the Jacobs School of Music, where he also earned an M.M. in Voice Performance. He earned a B.M. in Vocal Performance at Virginia Tech (2020) under the tutelage of Brian Thorsett. Most recently, Elmore performed the role of Ferrando (Così fan tutte) with Summer Opera Tel Aviv. His roles at IU include Guard (Anne Frank), King Ouf (L’Étoile), and Ralph Rackstraw (H.M.S. Pinafore) as well as Secondo Soldato (The Coronation of Poppea). Alongside his mainstage roles at IU, he has sung in the choruses for The Barber of Seville, The Coronation of Poppea, and Highway 1, USA. Upcoming engagements include joining the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra as the tenor soloist for its presentation of Handel’s Messiah this winter.
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 and is the 2023-24 recipient of the Georgina Joshi Graduate Fellowship. Most recently, Fitzgerald performed the role of Fiordiligi in Tel Aviv Summer Opera Program’s production of Così fan tutte. Previously at IU, she performed the role of Mother in Hansel and Gretel and was the soprano soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the IU Philharmonic Orchestra and Oratorio Chorus. She holds a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where she performed Ludmila in The Bartered Bride and Alice Ford in Falstaff. Other credits include Micaëla in Carmen with Mid-Ohio Opera, a Grisette in The Merry Widow with Opera Project Columbus, and two seasons with Opera Columbus’s Education Outreach Program. Fitzgerald performed as an opera chorus member with Cincinnati Opera in L’enfant et les sortilèges and Opera Columbus in Madame Butterfly, Carmen, and La Bohème. She placed third in the NATS National Final Competition (2019), received the Encouragement Award in the Cooper-Bing Vocal Competition (2018), and received an Encouragement Award from Friends of Opera, University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition (2023). Fitzgerald also earned a double B.M. from Ohio Wesleyan University in piano/vocal performance.
Soprano Macey Rowland is a second-year graduate student pursuing a Master of Music in Voice Performance under the tutelage of Heidi Grant Murphy. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, she earned a Bachelor of Music with Disciplinary Honors in Voice from Birmingham-Southern College, graduating magna cum laude. There, she performed both operatic and musical theater roles, such as Miss Pinkerton (The Old Maid and the Thief), Pertelote (Chanticleer), Cordelia (Falsettos), and Celeste #2 (Sunday in the Park with George). Additionally, she performed regularly with the Opera Birmingham Chorus starting at the age of 17, singing Hamlet, La Traviata, The Elixir of Love, H.M.S. Pinafore, Tosca, two productions of La Bohème, and covering the role of Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance. During her time at the Jacobs School, she sang as the soprano soloist in the University Chorale’s performance of Beethoven’s Mass in C and performed as a Niña in IU Jacobs Opera Theater’s production of Ainadamar. Most recently, she performed as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi in Lucca, Italy, under the direction of Peter Volpe.
Nate Paul was born and raised in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, earning his Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance at Middle Tennessee State University before completing a Master of Music and vocology certificate at Indiana University this past spring. Studying with Brian Gill, Paul is a first-year doctoral student in voice performance. His voice has been described as “show-stopping and nothing less than thrilling” and as having “the presence of a stage-struck powerhouse.” (Broadway World: Nashville). His most recent theatrical performances include Prologue/Peter Quint in The Turn of the Screw, Adolfo Pirelli in Sweeney Todd, Lord Tolloler in Iolanthe, and Major-General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance. He is a frequent concert soloist as well, having sung as the tenor soloist in Beethoven’s Mass in C, Telemann’s Die Donner-Ode, and Handel’s Messiah. Paul is also an award-winning music director and conductor, with past works including La Cage aux Folles, Les Misérables, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Wiz, Newsies, The Addams Family, Heathers, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. This fall, he will perform an inaugural concert with the Chattanooga Camerata Chamber Orchestra and Choir as the tenor soloist for Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music.
Hailing from Laredo, Texas, tenor Martín Ramírez is a second-year master’s student under the tutelage of Michelle DeYoung. He earned a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance and a minor in opera at Texas State University. Previous vocal instructors include Dana Crabtree at TAMIU and Daveda Karanas at TXST. After performing as a soloist for approximately 3,000 spectators in 2012, he fell in love with performance and has since appeared in various performances including theater and musicals, now devoting full time to opera. Previous operatic roles include Monostatos, later covering the role of Papageno in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Ramón in Rodríguez’s La Curandera, Le Doyen in Gounod’s Cendrillon, which was cancelled due to COVID, and Don Octave in Schickele’s The Stoned Guest. At Jacobs, he sang with NOTUS in his first semester and is currently a choral scholar at Trinity Episcopal Church. Ramírez made his debut with Jacobs Opera Theater singing the role of Ruiz Alonso in Golijov’s Ainadamar and sang in the ensemble for Candide, where he also performed the role of The Rabbi.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette hails Arkansas native Kyle Forehand as “a baritone of stock, a voice you will hear again.” A Master of Music student at Jacobs, he is a graduate of the University of Arkansas (UARK). He was previously seen on Jacobs’ stage in the most recent productions of Candide (Bernstein), La Rondine (Puccini), and Falstaff (Verdi), as well as in UARK Opera Theatre’s productions of Hansel and Gretel (Humperdinck) and The Magic Flute (Mozart) as Papageno. Previously studying in New York, Forehand made his Carnegie Hall debut as the baritone soloist in Fauré’s Requiem with the Crane Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Debuting internationally in 2017 at the age of 22, he performed the role of Belcore in The Elixir of Love (Donizetti), with the Brancaleoni International Music Festival of Piobicco, Italy. In 2019, he performed the bass solos of the Lord Nelson Mass (Haydn) with the University of Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. In 2020, he returned home and made his company debut as Jim in Opera in the Rock’s (Little Rock’s professional opera company) production of the contemporary opera The Gift of the Magi (Conte). Additional operatic performances include Bob in The Old Maid and the Thief (Menotti), Noye’s Fludde (Britten), and Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart). Forehand has been a multifinalist in the Kristin Lewis International Singing Competitions as well as a finalist and winner of numerous NATS competitions at both state and regional levels. He currently studies with Heidi Grant Murphy.
Born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, baritone Ethan Upchurch is pursuing his undergraduate degree in voice performance and music education under the tutelage of Brian Horne. Growing up with two choir teachers for parents, Upchurch had the opportunity to immerse himself in music. In middle school and high school, he performed in musicals, choir concerts, and competitions and grew up watching the productions at Indiana University. He has been seen in the opera choruses of The Coronation of Poppea and H.M.S. Pinafore. He also performed the role of Masetto in Don Giovanni. As an educator, he has volunteered at Sing for Joy as a part of the inclusive participatory music course at Indiana University and volunteers at Bloomington High School South’s choir program. He performed in the opera scenes program at Jacobs under the direction of Patricia Stiles in the summers of 2021 and 2022, playing Papageno from The Magic Flute and Osmin from Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
Cecelia Fornuto, a soprano from Atlanta, Georgia, is a recent graduate of the Jacobs School of Music, where she earned an M.M. in Voice Performance. She completed a B.M. in Vocal Performance at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, in 2021. Fornuto is currently under the tutelage of Carol Vaness and studied with Wolfgang Brendel throughout her master’s program. She made her stage debut at the age of 12 with musical theater roles such as Mary Poppins, Kathy Seldon (Singing in the Rain), and Kim McAfee (Bye Bye Birdie), but she has since switched her focus to more operatic endeavors. In recent years, she has been awarded first place in both the Cleveland Orchestra Concerto Competition (2020) and the Lee University Concerto Competition the following year. Also in 2021, Fornuto was cast in her first opera, as Gretel in Lee University Opera Theatre’s film production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. Most recently, she made her Vienna debut as Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte with the Vienna Opera Academy (2022). She has been in four opera choruses at Jacobs (The Magic Flute, H.M.S. Pinafore, L’Étoile, and Candide); this is her principal role debut.
Soprano Rachel Knappenberger is a junior from Allentown, Pennsylvania, studying with Heidi Grant Murphy. With IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater, she recently sang the role of Dew Fairy in Hansel and Gretel and over the summer, was the cover for Belinda in Dido and Aeneas. Other Jacobs Opera Theater credits include singing in the choruses for The Magic Flute, H.M.S. Pinafore, and Anne Frank. She has also been a part of NOTUS in her sophomore year and various other choral projects at IU.
Haley Guerra is a second-year master’s student at the Jacobs School of Music under the tutelage of Heidi Grant Murphy. A native of McAllen, Texas, Guerra earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), where she studied music education and voice. During her time there, she won first prize in the Texoma region National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Competition three years in a row and was a quarter finalist in the 2021 National NATS competition. She performed as Frasquita in UTRGV Opera Theater’s all-Spanish production of Carmen. She was also the winner of the UTRGV Concerto/Aria competition, and last winter, she was invited to sing in the Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition as a district qualifier. In the fall of 2022, she made her IU Jacobs Opera Theater debut as La Princesse Laoula in Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Étoile. She has sung with IU’s Oratorio Chorus and University Singers, the chorus for the world premiere of Schulamit Ran’s Anne Frank, and as Rosina in The Barber of Seville in Heidi Grant Murphy’s Opera Workshop.
Soprano Tatiana Mills, from New York City, is a first-year master’s student in the studio of Patricia Stiles. She earned her undergraduate degree from the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, where she covered the role of Énone (La descente d’Orphée aux enfers) and made her stage debut as Barbarina in Opera UCLA’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro. Mills continued her studies in France at L’École Normale de Musique de Paris for two years, where she earned a Diplôme d’Exécution Supérieur. In concert, she has performed the partial roles of Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro) and the soprano solo of the Mozart Requiem with L’École Normale de Musique de Paris as well as Gilda (Rigoletto) with the International Vocal Artists Academy of Payerbach. Mills has also been featured as a recording artist on the 2018 Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin Honorary Mention Film, Dressage, as well as the soundtrack for the short film When There Was a Tree (release date to be announced). She received SongFest’s Colburn Fellowship in 2022. This is her debut with IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater.
Originally from Overland Park, Kansas, soprano Ashley Ruckman is a first-year master’s student under the tutelage of Carol Vaness. Ruckman earned a bachelor’s degree in voice performance and a Graduate Certificate in Music Performance from Wichita State University. She made her professional debut at Wichita Grand Opera (WGO) in May, performing the role of Berta in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and looks forward to returning to sing Musetta in La Bohème with WGO in November. Her notable roles at Wichita State University include Hester in Laitman’s The Scarlet Letter, Arminda in La Finta Giardiniera, Esther in The Path to Heaven, and Despina in Così fan tutte. She has recent honors including second place in the 2023 Naftzger Young Artist competition, winner and selected soloist for the 2023 Wichita State Concerto-Aria Concert, and soprano winner of the 2022 Rondelli Vocal Competition. This is her debut with IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater.
Baritone Gabriel Armstrong is a senior from Ogden, Utah, studying voice performance with an outside field in musical theater under the tutelage of Marietta Simpson. He was last seen on the Musical Arts Center stage as Cacambo in Candide. Select credits include Gianni Schicchi (Betto), American Gothical (John), and Così fan tutte with the Cedar Rapids Opera, The Secret Garden and Amazing Grace with Utah Festival Opera, and the upcoming Curious George: The Golden Meatball (Chef Pisghetti) with Constellation Stage and Screen. His short plays have been performed by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Utah New Works Project, and IU Undergrad Shorts Festival. He produced the premiere of his full-length play Fishbowl in December 2022 as an IU Theatre and Dance Independent Project.
David Drettwan is a second-year M.M. student hailing from Elkhorn, Wisconsin, studying under the tutelage of Jane Dutton. Past roles at Jacobs include Don Giovanni (Don Giovanni) and chorus member in the world premiere of Anne Frank as well as a workshop performance of Gianni Schicchi (Gianni Schicchi). Outside of Jacobs, he made his professional debut in the world-premiere production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning new opera Omar at Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina. He also performed Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro), King Arkel (Pelléas et Melisande), and Keeper/Father Trulove (The Rake’s Progress) at Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music.
Last year, bass Noah Lauer performed with IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater as Tripaldi in Ainadamar and Siroco in L’Étoile. He performed as Sarastro in The Magic Flute the previous fall. Also in Bloomington, he premiered the role of Iorwerth in the New Voices Opera production of Rhiannon’s Condemnation, and last spring, he performed as Monsieur de Preville and Boniface with Unsung Opera. Lauer has previously performed as a soloist with Chamber Opera Chicago in a new musical adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, which toured to the U.K. and Canada, Charlie in the children’s opera Miracle!, and ensemble member in Amahl and the Night Visitors. Other performance experience includes Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Grandpa Moss in The Tender Land, Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, and The Gondoliers at Luther College, and the king in The King and I, Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors, Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Captain Keller in The Miracle Worker, Warner in Legally Blonde, and Les Misérables at Theatre Cedar Rapids. Lauer placed second at the National Association of Teachers of Singing Central Regional Competition. He currently studies with Peter Volpe in his third year of the Master of Music in Voice Performance program.