The finale excites and horrifies in equal measure … deftly blending thrills and piety.” – The Washington Post
The French Revolution’s bloody reign of terror is at its zenith, every aristocrat is fair game, and the country’s convents and monasteries are under siege.
In 1794, 16 nuns of the convent of Compiègne were martyred—imprisoned and then guillotined for refusing to denounce their vocation and faith.
Their story is the inspiration for Poulenc’s wrenchingly beautiful masterpiece. A timid young aristocrat enters the convent thinking she’ll find safety and peace . . . a beloved Mother Superior rages at God as she faces death . . . a novice exhibits grace beyond her years. Each woman’s emotional and spiritual journey is illuminated through the composer’s dramatic and musical virtuosity.
The finale excites and horrifies in equal measure ... deftly blending thrills and piety.
The Washington Post
Handwritten congratulations from Francis Poulenc to Virginia Zeani, IU Jacobs School of Music Distinguished Professor Emerita, on the occasion of her creation of the role of Blanche in the premiere performance of Dialogues of the Carmelites.
“Merci du fond de mon coeur, chère Zeani, d’avoir prête votre voix d’or à ma pauvre Blanche. Je ne l’oublier ai jamais. Je vous embrasse. – Francis Poulenc (Milan, 26/1/57)” [“Thank you from the bottom of my heart, my dear Zeani, for having lent your golden voice to my poor Blanche. I shall never forget it. With love, Francis Poulenc (Milan, January 26, 1957)”]
Synopsis, Director's Notes, and Program Notes
Paris and Compiègne, France, 1789-94
Set against the backdrop of the Reign of Terror, the Marquis de la Force remains oblivious to the rising chaos, even as his son and daughter report dangerous conditions in the streets of Paris. Blanche de la Force decides to retreat from the world and join the Carmelite nuns of Compiègne. She is informed by Madame de Croissy, the elderly Prioress, that the Carmelite Order is not a refuge. It is their duty — through prayer — to guard the Order.
Within the convent, the cheerful Constance tells Blanche that she had a dream that the two of them will die together while they are still young. On her deathbed, the Prioress commits Blanche to the care of Mère Marie as Blanche continues to wrestle with her fears.
Sister Constance speculates to Blanche that the Prioress had been given a death that seemed unworthy of her. She remarks that perhaps another will now find death surprisingly easy. Madame Lidoine, chosen to be the new Prioress, greets the sisters, reaffirming, as daughters of Carmel, that their duty lies in prayer.
The Chevalier de la Force, Blanche’s brother, arrives in the night, certain Blanche is no longer safe (being both aristocratic and a member of a religious community). Blanche refuses to leave the country with him, claiming that she has found happiness in the Carmelite Order. She later admits that fear keeps her from leaving. When the Father Confessor announces that he is no longer allowed to celebrate Mass, Sister Constance asks, “Are there no citizens left to come to the aid of the country?” Mère Marie proclaims that the Carmelites can save France by giving their lives as martyrs, but the new Prioress corrects her: “It is not permitted to choose to become a martyr; God decides who will be martyred.”
The nuns are ordered to relinquish their religious habits when the Legislative Assembly nationalizes the churches. Mère Marie replies to the officials that no matter how they are dressed, the nuns will continue to serve. “The people have no need of servants,” the officer retorts. “No, but they have a great need for martyrs,” Mère Marie responds. Sister Jeanne hopes to calm Blanche’s fears by celebrating the infant Christ. When the icon is broken, fear spreads amongst the Sisters.
In the absence of the new prioress, Mère Marie proposes that the nuns take the vow of martyrdom, however, all must be in agreement. After a secret vote, there is one dissenting voice. Sister Constance claims she dissented but changes her mind so the vow may proceed. Blanche runs away. The officials return to dissolve the order and require the nuns to swear obedience to the French State. The Prioress warns the nuns that “each will answer before God for her vow, but I will answer for all of you.”
Blanche hides at her father’s house (overrun by peasants after his execution), but Mère Marie finds her and tries to lead her to safety. Meanwhile, the remaining nuns are arrested and condemned to death as enemies of the State for defying the new laws. Singing the Salve Regina, the nuns climb the scaffold. Blanche appears at the last minute and chooses to honor her vow by joining her sister Carmelites in death.
by Francesca Zambello
Francis Poulenc composed this opera between 1953 and 1956. At that time, he had recommitted himself to spirituality and Roman Catholicism, although he was openly gay, and the church officially opposed homosexuality. The end of World War II was weighing heavily on his heart and soul. He was grappling with the New France; he was despairing of the many people who were two-faced, who had not joined the Resistance, and who had been collaborators with the Nazis. He reflected back on dark moments in his own country’s history and the parallels to the French Revolution. What would he think if he looked at our country now?
My inspiration for the production comes from the source. Long ago, I made a solemn visit to the Picpus Cemetery on Rue de Picpus in Paris, where the 16 Carmelite nuns, our protagonists, were interred in an open grave after their atrocious beheadings at the Place de la Nation in 1794. Parisians witnessed one of the worst excesses of Robespierre’s Reign of Terror during this time that followed the French Revolution. The sisters’ only “crime” was holding fast to their religious beliefs. Their memorial is located in the back of the cemetery, ironically near the grave of the American General Lafayette who fought in both the French and American Revolutions. His gravesite is dirt from the Battle of Bunker Hill, and it is actually American land; interestingly, our flag flew on the site all during World War II. Horrifically, we all know this kind of genocide still happens. One can hope this offering of art helps people reflect on our world today.
Plaque at the entrance to the field of common graves at Picpus Cemetery.
by Meredith Rigby
Ph.D. Musicology Student
“We do not die for ourselves alone, but for each other,” says Sister Constance in Act II, Scene 1 of the opera. The true story of the 16 Carmelite nuns executed by the Reign of Terror, their steadfast commitment to martyrdom, and the hymn they sang as they were led to the guillotine sparked several artistic recreations in the twentieth century. Gertrud von le Fort first told the story in her 1931 novel Die Letzte am Schafott (The Last at the Scaffold). She saw parallels between the Reign of Terror’s desolation of religious and human values and that of contemporary regimes, specifically Bolshevism and Nazism. Following the success of the novel, Georges Bernanos was commissioned to write a film script based on the story. Bernanos emphasized his own struggles with the fear of death and the search for its meaning in his script. While Bernanos’s adaptation was never realized as a film, it was produced as a stage play, and Francis Poulenc saw it at least twice. When his publisher suggested he set it as an opera, Poulenc readily agreed. He adapted the libretto himself and finished the opera in 1956.
The plot focuses on the young aristocrat Blanche de la Force, a character invented by von le Fort. Terrified of the brewing revolution, Blanche resolves to join the Carmelite order to preserve her dignity. While she is there, the old Prioress who has taken Blanche under her wing dies an agonizing death. After a new Prioress is installed, revolutionaries storm the convent and evict the nuns. Mother Marie encourages her sisters to take a communal vow to become martyrs. Blanche, still afraid of death, flees to her father’s house. However, when Mother Marie comes to visit, she finds that Blanche’s family has been killed, and she is being forced to work as a servant. The rest of the Carmelites are imprisoned and eventually sentenced to death. As they are led to the guillotine, Blanche reappears and joins them, finally unafraid.
The main theme explored in the piece is transfer of grace from one person to another through sacrificial death. Poulenc, as a Catholic himself, would have been familiar with this doctrine that a person may receive benefits they do not deserve through the willing sacrifice of another. The ultimate theological example, of course, is Christ’s death providing salvation for the world. These concepts can be seen in the opera in the many reversals and substitutions of one character’s fate for another. The old Prioress dies a fearful death she does not deserve so that Blanche, the fearful one, can die in grace. Mother Marie, a noblewoman, is passed over for the position of Prioress in favor of a commoner. Sister Constance, the innocent and childlike one, possesses the deepest insights about grace and death. Finally, the nuns resolve to gladly accept death so they can redeem their people.
Poulenc’s focus in setting this story as an opera was to explore deep human emotions, particularly fear and pride, and his musical style and setting serve this goal. The singing style is largely recitative or arioso, melodic yet speechlike, and the orchestra, although large, is used strategically, as not to overwhelm the voices. These features allow the music to closely follow the constantly shifting emotions and actions of the characters. The focus is mostly on individual experience; the nuns only sing together during hymns, emphasizing their religious solidarity. The music emphasizes emotional progressions in particular events as well, heightening their significance. In the Prioress’s death scene, for example, the music progresses from calm to violent over an ostinato of minor thirds in the bass, marching toward the inevitable moment of death.
Poulenc also uses recurring leitmotivs for characters and ideas. The music accompanying Blanche often contains continually shifting harmonies and lines in contrary motion, representing her fear and anxiety. Mother Marie’s pride is represented by a steady repeated note in the bass, with aristocratic-sounding rising dotted-note figures in the treble. Sister Constance is accompanied by lighthearted, folklike melodies.
One particular leitmotiv appears during moments of foreshadowing and profound insight into the meaning of grace through death. It first appears in Act I, Scene 1, where Blanche describes her notion that dying is like falling into the ocean, at first frightening but then peaceful. The leitmotiv accompanying this text is characterized by wide intervals and a full, lush string sound, and begins with a sequence of three large downward leaps. This initial appearance foreshadows Blanche’s character development from fear to strength. It appears again notably when Sister Constance says they will die at the same time, in Act I, Scene 3, and again after the Prioress has died, when Constance sums up the theme of transfer of grace: “We do not die for ourselves alone, but for each other.” These moments also foreshadow Blanche’s eventual fate and its meaning.
These musical and philosophical themes all come to fulfillment in the powerful final scene of the opera. As the nuns approach the scaffold, they sing together a hymn, the Salve Regina, their voices united in resolve against the sickening slicing sound of the guillotine. One-by-one they disappear until only Sister Constance is left. When Blanche enters—her appearance accompanied by the wide-intervalled leitmotiv—she, and we, finally understand that she is able to be here only through grace by the sacrifice of others. Now she can join the Carmelites in offering their own lives for the grace of their people.
Born in Israel in 1972, Rani Calderon is a conductor, composer, and pianist. Speaking eight languages fluently, he is at home with both operatic and symphonic repertoire. Calderon was music director of the Opéra national de Lorraine from 2014 to 2018. He is the first Israeli conductor to have held such a position in France. During his time there, he moved the orchestra’s rehearsals to the prestigious stage of “Salle Poirel,” established a chamber music festival, and raised the level of the orchestra considerably. From 2010 to 2012, Calderon was music director of the Teatro Municipal de Santiago de Chile, conducting the first Chilean performance of Ariadne auf Naxos and Debussy’s Jeux. He studied piano with legendary Israeli pianist Pnina Salzman, a pupil of Alfred Cortot. Calderon studied conducting with Mendi Rodan and Noam Sheriff, and composition with Yitzhak Sadai. His opera teachers included Bruno Rigacci in Florence; an assistant of Tullio Serafin in his youth, Janine Reiss, in Paris; a close collaborator of Maria Callas, Richard Trimborn; Rita Loving in Munich; and Tom Christoff in Dresden. Calderon’s first appearances as an opera conductor were at Spazio Musica in Orvieto, Italy, where he won first prize for three consecutive years (1996-98), conducting performances of Puccini’s Suor Angelica, Madama Butterfly, and Il Tabarro. His career then led him to various opera houses, festivals, and orchestras, such as the Semper Oper Dresden, Theater an der Wien, La Monnaie, Bruxelles, Royal Danish Opera, Monte-Carlo, Toulouse, National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia, Orchestre National de Belgique, Orchestre National d’Ile de France, Orchestre National de Montpellier, and others. As a composer, he is working on a project of seven song cycles set to poems by Alexander Pushkin for different voices and orchestra, of which three have been completed. He is also working on a large-scale opera in French based on Victor Hugo’s novel Notre-Dame de Paris.
Francesca Zambello is an internationally recognized director of opera and theater as well as the general director of The Glimmerglass Festival since 2010 and the artistic director of The Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center since 2012. She has also served as the artistic advisor to San Francisco Opera from 2005 to 2011 and as the artistic director of the Skylight Theater from 1987 to 1992. In her current roles at the Kennedy Center and The Glimmerglass Festival, she is responsible for producing 12 productions annually. She has begun major commissioning programs for new works in both companies that have resulted in productions of many large- and small-scaled new works. Both companies have thrived financially and increased their national and international profiles as a result of her artistic vision and leadership.
Her American directing debut took place at the Houston Grand Opera with a production of Fidelio. She debuted in Europe at Teatro la Fenice in Venice with Beatrice di Tenda and has since staged new productions at major theaters and opera houses in Europe and the U.S. She has worked at over 50 major opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Paris Opera, the Bolshoi, Munich State Opera, Covent Garden, and Australian Opera. Her work has also been seen at many of the world’s major festivals. Collaborating with outstanding artists and designers and promoting emerging talent, she takes a special interest in new music theater works, innovative productions, and producing theater and opera for wider audiences.
Zambello has been awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government for her contribution to French culture and the Russian Federation’s medal for Service to Culture. Other honors for her work include three Olivier Awards from the London Society of Theaters and two Evening Standard Awards, for Best Musical and Best Opera. She has also received the award for Best Company Achievement. The French Grand Prix des Critiques was awarded to her twice for her work at the Paris Opera. She has received the Medallion Society Award from San Francisco Opera, recognizing 30 years of work for the company. Other awards include Best Production in Japan, the Palme d’Or in Germany, the Golden Mask in Russia, and the Helpmann Award in Australia.
Zambello’s most recent opera projects have included The Ring and Aida for San Francisco Opera and The Washington National Opera, and Porgy and Bess and Show Boat for commercial DVD release. Musical and theater projects have included developing Voigt Lessons with Terrence McNally and Deborah Voigt; Rebecca for Vienna’s Raimund Theater, Stuttgart’s Palladium Theater (presented by Stage Entertainment), and in St. Gall, Switzerland; The Little Prince with Oscar-winning composer Rachel Portman; Napoleon in the West End; The Little Mermaid for Disney on Broadway; the musical The Little House on the Prairie for national tour; The Master Butchers at the Guthrie Theater, and Aladdin in Disneyland. Film works have included Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors for BBC Television, a new film for the BBC, Sony, and PBS of The Little Prince; and West Side Story for the floating stage in Bregenz.
Zambello has also served as an adjunct professor at Yale University. An American who grew up in Europe, she speaks French, Italian, German, and Russian. She attended Moscow University in 1976 and graduated cum laude from Colgate University in 1978. She began her career as an assistant director to the late Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. She lives in New York with her wife, Faith Gay, a founding partner at Selendy and Gay, and stepson, Jackson.
Garnett Bruce’s body of work includes directing at Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera, and his European opera debut staging Turandot for the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples. From 2008 to 2011, he was the artistic adviser and principal stage director for Opera Omaha, where he led a cycle of the Mozart-Da Ponte operas. He began directing for the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University in 2004, receiving a faculty appointment in 2006. He has been on staff at the Aspen Music Festival and School since 1993 and on the faculty since 1997. Born in Washington, D.C., Bruce was a choirboy at Washington National Cathedral and holds degrees in English and drama from Tufts University. After internships with Hal Prince and Leonard Bernstein in the early 1990s, he joined the staffs of the Santa Fe Opera, Washington National Opera, Dallas Opera, and Opera Colorado. His award-winning production of La Cenerentola for Kansas City has traveled to Austin, Orlando, and Madison. Known especially for his large-scale work of the standard repertoire, he has created stagings of Turandot, Carmen, Tosca, Aida, Pagliacci, and La Bohème that have been seen coast to coast.
Hildegard Bechtler’s recent work includes Antony and Cleopatra (National Theatre), Hamlet (Harold Pinter Theatre), the world premiere of Thomas Adès’ The Exterminating Angel (Salzburg/Royal Opera House/Metropolitan Opera/Royal Danish Opera), Consent (National Theatre and West End), La Traviata (Glyndebourne), and The Damnation of Faust (English National Opera/Berlin). Her West End credits include Oresteia (Olivier nomination), Top Hat (Olivier nomination), Good People, Old Times, The Sunshine Boys (also Los Angeles), Arcadia (also Broadway), The Master Builder, The Crucible, Hedda Gabler, The Misanthrope, and The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?. Bechtler’s other theater credits include Richard III and Uncle Vanya (Almeida); Roots and Trelawny of the Wells (Donmar Warehouse); Farewell to the Theatre (Hampstead); Cause Célèbre, Richard II, and All About My Mother (Old Vic); The Seagull, Primo, and Hedda Gabler on Broadway. Numerous productions at the National Theatre include Waste, A Taste of Honey, Scenes from an Execution, After the Dance (Olivier Award), The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other, The Hothouse, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, Iphigenia at Aulis (Evening Standard Award nomination), and Richard II. Royal Court Theatre productions include Blasted, Krapp’s Last Tape, and My Name is Rachel Corrie (also in New York). Her work in opera incudes Scottish Opera’s award-winning Ring Cycle and productions at Santa Fe Opera, La Scala Milan, Opera North, Munich Staatsoper, Sydney Opera House, and Paris Opera. Her film and TV credits include Hamlet, Primo, Krapp’s Last Tape, The Merchant of Venice, Richard II, The Waste Land, and Hedda Gabler.
French designer Claudie Gastine was born in Marseille, France, moving to Paris in the early 1960s. Soon after, she began designing costumes for theater, opera, ballet, and film. Her first creation for theater was the sets and costumes for Notre petite ville with director Raymond Rouleau in Paris, and the costumes for the opera Il furioso all’isola di San Domingo at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy, with Gian Carlo Menotti. That production came to the United States and was performed at The Washington National Opera in 1979. Her work with Menotti includes the costumes for Don Pasquale (Hamburg Opera), La Traviata (La Fenice, Venice), LeNozze di Figaro, The Birthday of the Infanta (Spoleto Festival USA, Charleston), and Eugene Onegin (Teatro Nuovo, Festival dei Due Mondi, Spoleto, Italy). With director Jean-Marie Simon, Gastine designed costumes for LaBohème (Lucca, Italy), La Traviata, and Manon (Geneva Opera, Switzerland), Jérusalem and Rigoletto (Palais Garnier, Paris), and others. With director Nicolas Joël, she designed for Un Ballo in Maschera (Opéra Bastille, Paris) and La Rondine (La Scala, Milan). She has also designed costumes and sets for many theater productions, including Ruy Blas (costumes, Bouffes du Nord, Paris), Peines de cœur d’une chatte anglaise (costumes, Théâtre Montparnasse, Paris), and Maison de poupée (sets and costumes, Théâtre de la Commune, Aubervilliers).
Mark McCullough designs for opera and theater companies in the United States and abroad. He has lit productions for the Vienna Staatsoper (MacBeth), Bolshoi Theater (La Traviata), Metropolitan Opera (Le Nozze di Figaro), National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing (The Tales of Hoffmann), La Scala (Cyrano de Bergerac), Madrid’s Teatro Real (Luisa Miller), Strasbourg’s Opéra National du Rhin (The Beggar’s Opera), The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (The Queen of Spades), and Opera North (Eugene Onegin), as well as numerous productions with Boston Lyric Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Dallas Opera, Glimmerglass, Canadian Opera Company, New York City Opera, Seattle Opera, and San Francisco Opera, including the full Ring cycle directed by Francesca Zambello. Among his successes in theater have been the Broadway productions of Outside Mullingar, Jesus Christ Superstar (revival), After Ms. Julie, and The American Plan. International theater credits include Whistle Down the Wind (Aldwych Theatre, London), Der Besuch der alten Dame (Ronacher Theatre, Vienna), Artus (St. Gallen, Switzerland), Rebecca (St. Gallen, Switzerland, and the Palladium Theatre, Stuttgart), and the U.K. tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. Future engagements include Der Freischütz at Vienna State Opera, Porgy and Bess and Siege of Calais at The Glimmerglass Festival, Aida at San Francisco Opera, and West Side Story with Houston Grand Opera.
Laura Bickford is a New York City-based lighting designer working in theater, dance, and opera. Bickford is currently the lighting director for Glimmerglass Opera. She was the lighting supervisor for Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, New York Live Arts, New York City Ballet, and New York City Opera. She works as a lighting designer for Bernhard Link Theatrical and is an assistant for Mark McCullough and Robert Wierzel.
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 IU Jacobs School of Music Opera and Ballet Theater productions of The Merry Widow, Akhnaten, Le Nozze di Figaro, Lady Thi Kính, H.M.S. Pinafore, La Traviata, The Italian Girl in Algiers, La Bohème, The Last Savage, South Pacific, Die Zauberflöte, The Barber of Seville, Dead Man Walking, Die Fledermaus, Carmen, Oklahoma!, The Daughter of the Regiment, Florencia en el Amazonas, Madama Butterfly, Peter Grimes, The Music Man, Don Giovanni, L’Étoile, It’s a Wonderful Life, Lucia di Lammermoor, West Side Story, and The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. For four years, Huff has served as choral instructor and conductor for the Jacobs School’s Sacred Music Intensive. In addition, he maintains a busy vocal coaching studio in Atlanta. In the summer of 2016, he conducted Arthur Honegger’s King David for the Jacobs Summer Music series with the Summer Chorus and Orchestra. In the summer of 2018, Huff served on the faculty at Ravinia Festival’s Steans Music Institute (Vocal Division).
Jennifer Ringo is known internationally as a language coach and teacher of vocal diction. She has prepared productions for the Seattle Opera, New York City Opera, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater, Houston Grand Opera , Cincinnati May Festival, and Aspen Opera Theater. She taught vocal diction at Bard College Conservatory of Music from 2005 to 2008. She has taught at the International Vocal Arts Institute in Montreal, Israeli Summer Arts Festival, and Song Fest, and works regularly with the Domingo Thornton Stein Young Artists Program of the Los Angeles Opera, as well as with the Steans Institute at the Ravinia Festival. As an internationally acclaimed soprano, Ringo has sung leading roles with San Francisco Opera, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Houston Grand Opera, and the Canadian Opera Company, among others. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa then pursued graduate studies in voice performance at The Juilliard School. She was a member of the San Francisco Opera Merola program and the Houston Grand Opera Studio. She counts as her mentors Nico Castel, Robert Cowart, Janine Reiss, and Pierre Vallet. Ringo maintains a vocal studio in New York and Los Angeles.
Daniela Siena brings many years of experience in teaching Italian diction and language to singers. She was introduced to operatic diction by Boris Goldovsky, who was seeking a native speaker without teaching experience to work with singers according to his own pedagogical principles. Siena went on to teach in a number of operatic settings (among them, the Curtis Institute of Music, Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, and Seattle Opera). Over the years, she worked with a number of well-known singers, including Samuel Ramey, Justino Díaz, Carol Vaness, Wolfgang Brendel, June Anderson, Gianna Rolandi, and Jerry Hadley. The conductors, coaches, and stage directors with whom she has worked include Otto Guth, Max Rudolf, Edoardo Müller, David Effron, Arthur Fagen, Anthony Pappano, Anthony Manoli, Terry Lusk, Dino Yannopoulos, Tito Capobianco, Andrei Șerban, John Cox, and John Copley. At New York City Opera, Siena worked closely with Beverly Sills—as her executive assistant, as a diction coach, and as the creator of English supertitles for a dozen operas. More recently, she worked for two years as a coach for the Young Artists Program of the Los Angeles Opera and, for the past six years, she has taught in Dolora Zajick’s summer Institute for Young Dramatic Voices. Born in Florence, Italy, to an Italian mother and a Russian émigré father, Siena arrived in the United States at age seven. She received a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and, in her twenties, worked for two years in Italy as secretary to the president of the Olivetti Company. Many years later, she continued her education, earned a master’s degree, and became licensed as a psychotherapist by the state of California, where she practiced for 15 years. The mother of two grown children, she moved to Bloomington to be near her son, who lives here with his wife and two young daughters.
Baritone Milan Babić is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the Jacobs School of Music. He is pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance under the tutelage of Carlos Montané. His roots lie in Arlington Heights, Illinois, where he attended Buffalo Grove high school. Observing his passion for musical theater, Babić has played several leading roles in popular productions and traveled to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in January 2015, where he was a player in the all-state Illinois Theater Festival production of the musical Pippin. Since then, he has been well received in ensembles and competitions from California to Germany. In 2018, he traveled to Weimar, Germany, to perform the role of Frank in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus. Babić began his career as a student at IU Opera Theater in 2015 in its production of The Barber of Seville. Since then, he has played a role in six IU operas, including Carmen, The Daughter of the Regiment, Madama Butterfly, Peter Grimes, L’Étoile, and Ariadne auf Naxos. He debuted in Madama Butterfly as The Commissioner at the Jacobs School in 2016.
Ian Murrell hails from Vandalia, Illinois, and is currently a first-year doctoral candidate studying with Timothy Noble. Murrell has appeared in several principal roles in IU Opera productions, including Enrico (Lucia di Lammermoor), Harry Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life), and Ned Keene (Peter Grimes). Murrell is an alumnus of the Chautauqua Opera Company, where he studied the role of Maximilian (Candide), while performing Judge #2/Prefect (Candide) and covering Hannah Before (As One). He is also an alumnus of the Aspen Music Festival and School (2015) and Asheville Lyric Opera young artist program (2014). This November, Murrell will be singing the role of Riff in the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert version of Bernstein’s West Side Story.
Tenor Rodney Long was born and raised in Georgia. He graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Music degree in voice performance from Columbus State University (Columbus, Georgia) and 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. His most recent professional opera engagement was with the Bel Cantanti Opera Company (Washington, D.C.) in its production of The Barber of Seville. Other favorite stage credits include roles in Aida (Mereb), Into the Woods (Wolf), and Le Nozze di Figaro (Don Curzio). In concert, he has sung as the tenor soloist for J. S. Bach’s Christ lag in Todes Banden and for Dubois’ Seven Last Words of Christ. With IU Opera Theater, he performed the role of the wig maker in Ariadne Auf Naxos and Gee-tar in West Side Story (2018), and was an ensemble member in L’Étoile (2017). He is currently pursuing a Master of Music in Voice Performance and a Graduate Certificate in Vocology from the Jacobs School of Music, where he studies with Timothy Noble. Long is also an associate instructor with the IU Soul Revue.
Tenor Carl Rosenthal is currently pursuing a Master of Music in Voice Performance with Andreas Poulimenos and Gary Arvin. He has previously appeared on the IU Opera Theater stage as Bernardo in West Side Story, Mr. Martini in It’s a Wonderful Life!, and in the chorus of Lucia di Lammermoor. Other IU performances include Gonzalve in L’heure espagnole and scenes from Roméo et Juliette (Roméo) with the Carol Vaness Opera Workshop. A 2018 recipient of the Georgina Joshi International Fellowship, he debuted this past July at Prague’s historic Estates Theater as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte with the Prague Summer Nights Festival. Originally from Arlington, Virginia, Rosenthal earned a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University and worked as a mathematics teacher in New York City before coming to Jacobs.
American-Italian soprano Rose-Antoinette Bellino praised as a “vocal powerhouse” and known for her “brilliant vocal acrobatics,” began performing in operas at the age of 10. This summer, she made her Israeli debut singing the role of Adina in The Elixir of Love with the Israeli Vocal Arts Institute. Last year, she made her IU Opera Theater debut as the Soprano Angel in Heggie’s It’s a Wonderful Life and later that season, sang the title role of Lucia in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. This spring, she will make her debut with New Voices Opera singing the role of Lady Jane Grey in the world premiere of Jane the Quene by John Punt. Bellino was recently the recipient of Partners for the Arts 2017 second-place prize for Promising Young Artist. Other highlights include Königin der Nacht/Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte), Kitchen Boy (Rusalka), Dido (Dido and Aeneas), and Princess (L’enfant et les sortilèges). Originally from the Greater Boston area, Bellino is a second-year master’s student at the Jacob School of Music and an alumna of McGill University Schulich School of Music in Montreal Canada and Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick, Massachusetts.
Yingge Liu, from Beijing, China, is currently pursuing a Performer Diploma with Wolfgang Brendel at the Jacobs School of Music. She was previously seen in the chorus of IU Opera Theater’s Lucia di Lammermoor. She earned a Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music and began at Jacobs in fall 2017 as a winner of the Artist Excellence Award. In 2016, she appeared in “Rossini Concert” in San Marino and at the Teatro San Carlo in Napoli. Her previous credits include Long March (Doctor Hong) with China National Center for the Performing Arts, La Calisto (Linfea), La Bohème (Musetta), Le Nozze di Figaro (La Contessa), and Die Zauberflöte (Pamina). Liu was a finalist at the Francisco Vinas competition in Barcelona, Spain.
Liz Culpepper, mezzo-soprano, is a second-year doctoral student in Patricia Havranek’s studio. She is originally from Austin, Texas, where she also earned a B.A. in Voice Performance from the University of Texas. During her master’s studies at IU, she performed the roles of Suzuki in Madama Butterfly and Mrs. Sedley in Peter Grimes. This past summer, she portrayed Suzuki at the Brevard Music Festival. She is also an active participant in IU’s Choral Department and has sung in many of its ensembles.
Mezzo-soprano/contralto Lauriane Tregan-Marcuz, a native of France, is currently in her first year of the Performance Diploma program at the Jacobs School of Music, studying with Carlos Montané. She performed the Third Lady in The Magic Flute with Lyric Opera Studio in Weimar in summer 2017. She also performed as a soloist in Mozart’s Requiem at the Theater of Bordeaux. She was in the chorus of Candide with The Glimmerglass Festival in January 2018 in Bordeaux. She also sings in several opera theaters in France (Bordeaux, Tours).
Russian-American mezzo-soprano Elizaveta Agladze made her operatic debut as Zia Principessa in Puccini’s Suor Angelica in March 2015 in New York. Later that year, she performed the roles of Dritte Dame and Dritte Knabe in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte in Germany with Lyric Opera Studio Weimar. In 2016, she returned to Weimar as Angelina in Rossini’s La Cenerentola, earning herself praise for “grandiose mastery” by Göttinger Tageblatt. In 2017, she performed the role of Olga in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin with Hudson Opera Theatre and participated in recitals at the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and in her hometown of Pushchino, Russia. Last season Agladze was seen as The Composer in Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos with the IU Opera Theater. A participant in OperaWorks Advanced Artist Program (2013) and Lyric Opera Studio Weimar (2015, 2016), Agladze earned bachelor’s degrees in music and psychology from Emory University and a master’s degree in organizational sciences from The George Washington University. She is currently a first-year master’s student in voice performance under the tutelage of Carlos Montané at the Jacobs School of Music.
Mezzo-soprano Gretchen Krupp is a native of northern Virginia. She most recently was a young artist with The Glimmerglass Festival, where she performed the Head Hen, Woodpecker, and Innkeeper’s Wife in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen. In April, she was a grand finalist in the 2018 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. She was also a finalist in Houston Grand Opera’s 2017 Concert of Arias. During her time at Indiana University, she has performed Alisa (Lucia di Lammermoor), Auntie (Peter Grimes), Marquise (The Daughter of the Regiment), and Sister Lillianne (Dead Man Walking). In 2017, she was a studio artist with Wolf Trap Opera, where she covered Clarice in Rossini’s La pietra del paragone. While an apprentice artist with Des Moines Metro Opera, Krupp covered Mistress Quickly in Falstaff. She was also the mezzo soloist in Mahler’s Second Symphony with the Hoosier Philharmonic in 2016. She is an alumna of Dolora Zajick’s Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, Houston Grand Opera’s Young Artists Vocal Academy, and the Voice Institute at the Chautauqua Music Festival. She recently earned her Master of Music from the Jacobs School of Music and is currently finishing her Performer Diploma under the tutelage of Jane Dutton. Krupp earned her B.M. in Vocal Performance from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Soprano Tiffany Choe is a senior pursing her Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance with a minor in Music Education under the tutelage of Heidi Grant Murphy. Choe began her classical voice studies in her hometown of Orange County, California, with Molly Melachorus. Choe has appeared in numerous IU productions, most recently, as Rosalia in West Side Story and Laoula in L’Étoile. She has participated as a chorus member in IU productions of Carmen, Madama Butterfly (Aunt), and Peter Grimes. She has also been featured in IU opera workshops, appearing as Servilia in La Clemenza di Tito and Blonde in Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
Cincinnati native Anna Donnelly makes her IU Opera Theater debut as Sister Constance. Donnelly is a member of the University Singers and has also performed as a featured soloist with IU’s contemporary vocal ensemble, NOTUS. She is a member of the Indiana University Gilbert & Sullivan Society, where, in 2017, she played the role of Patience in Patience. In summer 2018, she appeared as the Second Spirit in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s production of The Magic Flute. In July 2018, she was a student in the Music in the Marche program in Mondavio, Italy. Donnelly has been a finalist in both the Schmidt Vocal Competition and the Overture Awards Competition. She is currently a third-year undergraduate at the Jacobs School of Music, pursuing a degree in vocal performance under the tutelage of Alice Hopper.
Aruban-American mezzo-soprano Erin Koolman is a second-year doctoral student in the studio of Patricia Stiles. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Music Education and a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from Indiana University in 2012 and a Master of Music from Kansas State University in 2015. She is from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and Oranjestad, Aruba. Her past performances include Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Chicago, Trial by Jury, White Christmas, and Hansel and Gretel (Hansel). Koolman has performed scenes from Die Zauberflöte (Dritte Dame), Lakmé (Malika), and I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Romeo). She has had multiple performances abroad, including a choir tour in Northern France with Kansas State University choirs and, most recently, in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico with OperaMaya. Since August 2017, she has served as staff singer for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Indianapolis. This is Koolman’s debut with IU Opera Theater.
Imara Miles, a native of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, is a mezzo-soprano in her second year at Indiana University. She is under the tutelage of Patricia Stiles and made her opera debut last fall in the Carol Vaness Opera Workshop production of Gianni Schicchi as Zita. She previously performed with IU Opera in the ensemble for The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. A recent graduate of York College of Pennsylvania, Miles studied under Erin Lippard and performed in productions of The Drowsy Chaperone (Title Character), The Pirates of Penzance (Ruth), Guys and Dolls (Gen. Matilda Cartwright), and The Boyfriend (Lady Brockhurst). Recently, she was part of Grant Park’s Project Inclusion Vocal Ensemble fellowship and performed with the Grant Park Choir for the premiere of Ēriks Ešenvalds’ The Pleiades. She was also a member of NOTUS: Contemporary Vocal Ensemble.
Shaina Sanders graduated in 2018 with her master’s degree from Indiana University, where she is now pursing a D.M. At IU, she has sung a variety of opera scenes in both opera workshop and recital, including the Marschallin (Der Rosenkavalier), Elizabetta (Don Carlos), Amelia (Un Ballo in Maschera), Leonora (Il Trovatore), and Norma (Norma). In 2016, Sanders sang the role of Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Prague Summer Nights Festival, as well as the roles of Alice Ford and the Marschallin in scenes from Falstaff and Der Rosenkavalier. In 2017, she sang the role of Erste Dame in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte with the Lyric Opera Studio Weimar. She is a student of Carlos Montané, and this is her IU Opera debut.
Soprano Stephanie Tokarz is currently working toward a Performer Diploma at the Jacobs School of Music, where she studies with Carol Vaness. Tokarz earned a Master of Music degree from Bowling Green State University and a Bachelor of Music from Indiana University. Past roles include Princess Ida in Princess Ida and Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas. In recent years, she has enjoyed working with both the IU Opera and Toledo Opera choruses.
Benjamin Bird, from Palmdale, California, made his IU Opera Theater debut last season as Tanzmeister/Brighella in Ariadne auf Naxos. A second-year doctoral student studying with Peter Volpe, Bird earned 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 ThePirates of Penzance (Frederick). He has also performed with Utah Vocal Arts Academy in its 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.
Tenor Vincent Festa was seen last season with IU Opera Theater as King Ouf in L’Étoile and as Brighella and Tanzmeister in Ariadne auf Naxos. Additional roles include Bob Boles in Peter Grimes. Previous performances at Jacobs include Nicolas in Britten’s cantata Saint Nicolas and Brahms’ Liebeslieder-Walzer. Festa spent summer 2017 in the Dordogne region of France, where he studied at L’Art du Chant Français, founded by Glenn Morton and Michel Sénéchal. While a studio artist at the Chautauqua Opera Company in 2016, he covered the role of Nanki-Poo in The Mikado and appeared in the scenes program as Count Almaviva from The Barber of Seville. Other roles include Nika Magadoff in The Consul in Boston’s Jordan Hall, Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Opera on the Avalon, Colin in L’amant anonyme by Saint-Georges with The Little Opera Theatre of New York in collaboration with New Vintage Baroque, and Peter Quint in The Turn of the Screw under the direction of Nic Muni at Bard College. Festa was a 2014 vocal fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, where he made his Boston Symphony Orchestra debut in Bernstein’s Candide as Charles Edward. Festa, a native New Yorker, earned a bachelor’s degree from The Juilliard School and a master’s degree from the Graduate Vocal Arts Program at Bard College Conservatory. He is currently pursing his doctorate at the Jacobs School under the tutelage of Timothy Noble.
Originally from Naples, Florida, baritone Conner Allison is in the second year of the Master of Music in Voice Performance program at the Jacobs School of Music, studying with Brian Horne. Allison has recently been seen performing with the ensembles of the IU Opera Theater productions of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Chabrier’s L’Étoile.
Izaya Perrier is a native of Bellingham, Washington. He is in his third year of undergraduate voice studies under the tutelage of Timothy Noble. Other IU Opera credits include A-Rab in West Side Story and a Townsperson in Don Giovanni. Other notable roles include Papageno (Die Zauberflöte), Herr Buff (Der Schauspieldirektor), Ramon (Mireille), Aladdin (Aladdin), and Bobby (A Chorus Line). He has also been in the chorus of other shows, including Norma and The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Hailing from La Crosse, Wisconsin, Joseph Madary is a second-year master’s student studying under the guidance of Brian Horne. IU Opera Theater credits include Officer Krupke in West Side Story and the choruses for L’Étoile and Lucia di Lammermoor. His non-IU credits include Orpheus in Orpheus in the Underworld and Mr. Angel in Der Schauspieldirektor.
Steele Fitzwater, bass-baritone, is a first-year master’s student pursing a degree in voice performance with Peter Volpe. Originally from Dawson, West Virginia, Fitzwater recently earned his undergraduate degree in voice from Miami University. He has been featured in a number of opera and concert performances, including Street Scene and Le Nozze di Figaro with the Janiec Opera Company, A Little Night Music and Così fan tutte with Miami University Opera, and The Magic Flute with Opera Roanoke.
Soprano Kayla Eldridge, a native of Bentonville, Arkansas, is pursuing a Master of Music in Voice Performance under the tutelage of Timothy Noble. She graduated from IU in the spring with a Bachelor of Music. This marks her IU Opera Theater role debut. Her other IU Opera credits include the choruses of La Bohème, Peter Grimes, and, most recently, Lucia di Lammermoor.
North Carolina native Joseph Ittoop is pursuing a Doctor of Music in Voice Performance with a minor in Collaborative Piano at Jacobs. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and performed opera and oratorio in the United States and Europe before coming to IU. Past engagements include Alfredo Germont (La Traviata), B. F. Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly), Rodolfo (La Bohème), Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), Ferrando (Cosìfan tutte), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni), Gonzalve (L’heure espagnole), Fritz (L’amico Fritz), and Lenski (Eugene Onegin). Past scenes include Werther (Werther), Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor), Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffman), Duca (Rigoletto), and Rodolfo (Luisa Miller). Past solo appearances include Britten’s Saint Nicolas Mass and Rejoice in the Lamb, J. S. Bach’s B Minor Mass, Magnificat, and Weihnacts-Oratorium, Beethoven Mass in C and Choral Fantasy, Gounod’s St. Cecilia Mass, Händel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Theresienmesse and Die Schöpfung, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Mozart’s Requiem and Great Mass in C Minor, Rossini’s Stabat Mater, Saint-Saëns’ Oratorio de Noël, and Stravinsky’s Pulcinella. Last summer, Ittoop performed Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings with the IU Summer Philharmonic and participated in a European choir residency at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, and St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. In addition to singing, Ittoop plays clarinet, classical and jazz piano, and saxophone, and is an accompanist for both the Jacobs School and the IU Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance Department. He is a student of Patricia Havranek.
Baritone Brandan Sanchez is pursuing a Master of Music in Voice Performance, studying with Julia Bentley. He earned his Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from San José State University (SJSU) and has participated in the Opera San José Young Artist Program. He has performed roles in Postcard from Morocco and Orpheus in the Underworld with SJSU Opera Theater. Solo works include Fauré’s Requiem and Brahms’ Requiem, both with SJSU. In summer 2015, he debuted with the Symphony Silicon Valley in Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music. In 2016, he performed Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass with the Ireland Limerick Sinfonia. Most recently, he joined Peninsula Cantare in the Carmina Burana and Mozart’s Vespers and will be joining them again in 2019 for John Rutter’s Mass of the Children.