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BW wins two national awards for opera productions

The national recognition includes kudos for a virtual opera festival featuring new "Micro Operas" performed by BW voice students, as well as applause for the spring production of "We've Got Our Eye On You."



A scene from "The Stream" (Michi Wianko, composer; Sarah LaBrie, libretto) – one of nine new works featured in BW's Operas [in Place] festival, nominated by OPERA America for a national "Digital Excellence in Opera" award.

When the OPERA America "Awards for Digital Excellence in Opera" were presented in New York last night, Baldwin Wallace University took first place in the University/Conservatory Projects category.

The win comes for the Operas [in Place] festival, produced by the Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music in collaboration with Cleveland Opera Theater and On Site Opera (NYC), a creative pivot born during the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"On Site Opera was thrilled to be even a small part of such an innovative project like Operas in Place. At a time when the entire opera industry was struggling for ways to stay connected with artists and audiences, Scott and the students at BW created something truly epic and impactful. I am so happy that everyone's efforts are being recognized by Opera America through this award,” says Eric Einhorn, co-founder, general & artistic Director, On Site Opera.

Opera at a distance

Billed as a "virtual festival of micro operas for our time," the ultimate 2022 digital production brought to life nine newly commissioned works, each with an average duration of 10-15 minutes, and all focused on COVID-19 safety.

"Each piece was composed with special attention to the rehearsal and performance parameters of social distance to protect artists," explained Scott Skiba, director of opera studies at BW and executive artistic director of Cleveland Opera Theater.

"Using Zoom, rehearsing outside in the "opera tent" and devising a complex, multi-step process that blended solo voice and instrumental recordings, the project was rehearsed and performed in a manner that was safe for our students and audience and responsive to our global situation."

Commissioned for student voices

Scott Skiba

Skiba, a pioneer in producing interdisciplinary collaborations in alternative venues and a proponent of new opera, added that the music was "written specifically for BW voice performance students and produced entirely by an award-winning design and production team." 

To bring his vision to life, Skiba recruited internationally recognized composers and librettists whose work is produced by major opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera and other top companies around the world.

Skiba says, "The assembly of composers and librettists is a literal 'who's who' of the opera industry; each of them tremendously talented artists and wonderful human beings. The project gave BW students unique and unprecedented opportunities to collaborate with these exceptional librettists and composers, to learn about audio, video, and digital techniques that are portable to other artistic endeavors."  

Dream team

The composers and libettists that created micro operas for "Operas in Place."

Skiba adds, "The experience also enabled students to develop new repertoire in a never-been-done-before process while connecting with these amazing artists whose professionalism, collaborative spirit, openness, and kindness are exemplary. I couldn't dream up a more fantastic group of people from whom the students could learn. I was humbled by their willingness to participate in this endeavor and blown away by the achievement of all involved."

The production team included Brittany Merenda, digital design; Steve Shack, lighting design; and Dean Buck, assistant conductor, chorus master and {NOW} Fest music director with Cleveland Opera Theater, who are regular collaborators for BW Opera productions.

In addition, the project was supported by talented BW faculty, staff and students, including Jason Aquila, BW voice performance music director; Dr. Soo Han, former BW director of orchestra studies; Dr. Gabriel Piqué, BW assistant professor of saxophone and jazz studies; and Eric Einhorn, co-founder, general and artistic director, On Site Opera - Project Producing Partner. Recent BW graduates Tim Michel '21 and Brian Pattison '21 served as audio engineers.

For a taste of the variety in the festival, watch the OPERAS [In Place] "sizzle reel" here:

National Opera Association Winner

The Opera America Award comes on the heels of another national win for BW's vocal performance program. 

The National Opera Association (NOA) annual opera production competition bestowed a first place prize for BW's winter production of "We’ve Got Our Eye On You."  BW took one of 10 first place awards out of 87 entries in graduate and undergraduate divisions based on production size and budget.

The creative team on "We’ve Got Our Eye On You" included, Nkeiru Okoye & David Cote, who also served as one of the nine composer and librettist teams commissioned to write for the Operas [in PLACE]. 

Other behind the winning production were Scott Skiba, producer stage director, Dean Buck, conductor, Heather Dennen, choreographer, Steve Shack lighting design, Brittany Merenda, projection design and recent graphic design and theatre graduate Ari Smedley '24 who made their costume design debut with this production. BW faculty and staff members Pope, Josh Ryan, and Destinee Siebe served in the chamber orchestra.

A scene from BW's NOA award-winning spring spring production of "We’ve Got Our Eye On You."


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