photo collage of serse opera

Award-winning opera productions and renowned collaborations are putting BW’s voice performance program in the national spotlight.

Voice program accrues national acclaim

April 20, 2018

Like a crescendo whose momentum is building to culminating splendor, Baldwin Wallace's voice performance program is ascending to national prominence through award-winning opera productions, renowned collaborations and innovative programs.

Top Honors for "Carmelites" Opera

Among successes is a recent first-place national award for last year's main stage production of "Dialogues of the Carmelites," an opera about the Carmelite nuns guillotined in Paris for refusing to renounce their vocation during the French Revolution.

Photo from "Dialogues of the Carmelites"A joint collaboration between BW's Conservatory of Music and Department of Theatre & Dance, the production was announced this year as the division IV winner in the National Opera Association's Opera Production Competition. The blind panel judging included opera professionals and educators across the U.S., who placed "Carmelites" atop submissions from both graduate and undergraduate programs.

"It is quite an accomplishment to have our undergraduate production win out against graduate programs," said Scott Skiba, who directed "Carmelites" and is the director of opera studies at BW. "This award speaks to the talent of our students, the quality of our program and the level of excellence demonstrated in our productions."

Vibrant Vision for Breaking New Ground

With Skiba at the helm of BW's opera program, voice students benefit from his visionary approach to the art form. Having earned critical acclaim for his imaginative stage direction and dynamic physical approach to storytelling, he bridges traditional operatic works with ground-breaking opportunities, such as last year's world-premiere adaptation of Händel’s opera "Serse."

Co-produced with Cleveland Opera Theater, for which Skiba is executive-artistic director, "Serse" was performed at the historic Arcade in downtown Cleveland and featured guest stage director and conductor Timothy Nelson, hailed by Opera News as "the future of opera."

Opportunities for Renowned Collaborations

From prominent alumni, such as multi-time Metropolitan Opera performer Jennifer Rowley '02, to distinguished guest artists and professionals to leading arts organizations, BW collaborations are lifting the university into the national spotlight.

Each year, BW students have the opportunity to work with a different guest stage director for productions. This year "Il Matrimonio Segreto" featured guest director Noa Naamat from the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Future guest directors include Eric Einhorn, stage director of Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago, and other leading directors and conductors from major institutions and opera companies throughout the world.

Also impressive is BW serving as the host institution for the 2020 National Opera Association (NOA) Conference. Among spotlight opportunities for BW students will be involvement in staging the winning production from the NOA Chamber Opera Competition.

Students are also benefiting from distinctive opportunities that enable them to perform alongside professional artists and expand their knowledge and repertoire. One such collaboration includes the {NOW} Festival, Cleveland Opera Theater’s annual event to create, develop and perform new opera.

Another collaboration is with Cleveland Opera Theater to develop a new opera, "The House of Bernarda Alba." Based on Garcia Lorca's final play, this exciting new opera features an all-female cast of BW faculty and students, OBIE award-winning librettist Caridad Svich and music by rising-star composer Griffin Candey. Its world premiere will be in 2020.

Pride in our Community, Mission

"The quality of students and faculty in our program is outstanding," noted Marc Weagraff, chair of BW's department of vocal studies. "Together with innovative programs and productions that break new ground in the art and place us alongside renowned arts organizations for exciting collaborations, the ascent of BW's voice program is being noticed and praised among industry professionals. It is both affirming to our mission and rewarding to everyone in the program."

  • photo collage of serse opera
    BW students perform in the downtown Cleveland Arcade in a world-premiere adaptation of Handel's "Serse," which was produced in collaboration with Cleveland Opera Theater.
  • Photo from "Dialogues of the Carmelites"

    BW's "Dialogues of the Carmelites" is the first-place division IV winner in the National Opera Association's Opera Production Competition.

  • Photo of alumna Jennifer Rowley with BW alumni at "Tosca"

    Jennifer Rowley '02 poses with BW alumni who came to her debut as Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera. Pictured (l-r) are Luke Lemmeier '17, Rowley, Alyssa Holley '17 and Candice Kraus '97.

  • Photo from "The Secret Wedding" aka as "Il Matrimonio Segreto"

    "Il Matrimonio Segreto" ("The Secret Marriage") is an Italian comic opera that was BW's spring 2018 main stage production.