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Bienen School of Music Announces 2015-16 Opera Season Lineup

Season includes the Robert M. and Maya L. Tichio Vocal Master Class Series

  • Opera season includes works by Mollicone, Barber, Bernstein, Mozart and Carlisle Floyd
  • Theme of fall opera production focuses on three varying views of love and marriage in U.S.
  • Master classes by Lawrence Brownlee, Susanna Phillips, Marilyn Horne, Matthew Polenzani
  • Floyd's “Susannah” to be performed at Northwestern for the first time in spring 2016

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Three one-act operas -- each with a different view of love and marriage in America -- and master classes led by renowned vocalists, are among Northwestern University’s 2015-16 opera season highlights. 

Presented by the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, all three operas will be staged by Michael M. Ehrman, artist-in-residence and director of opera at the Bienen School.

The season will include the first opera performances (Nov. 19-22) in the new Shirley Welsh Ryan Opera Theater: “American Dreams,” an evening of three one-act operas by Henry Mollicone, Samuel Barber and Leonard Bernstein.  

The Bienen School’s Robert M. and Maya L. Tichio Vocal Master Class Series brings stars of the opera world to Northwestern’s Evanston campus. This season, guest artists will include tenors Lawrence Brownlee and Matthew Polenzani, soprano Susanna Phillips and mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, who will coach promising Northwestern voice and opera students during the Tichio Vocal Master Class Series.

Open to the public, these upcoming events will be held on the University’s Evanston campus at the Shirley Welsh Ryan Opera Theater and the Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall, two venues located in the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts at 70 Arts Circle Drive; or Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., as noted.

Fall 2015 Opera 

American Dreams: Three One-Act Operas” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22, at the Shirley Welsh Ryan Opera Theater, 70 Arts Circle Drive. Directed by Michael M. Ehrman, the fall opera production focuses on three different views of love and marriage in America, from the Wild West to 1950s suburbia. Henry Mollicone’s “The Face on the Barroom Floor” tells two parallel stories of love and jealousy, set in the present day and the Old West. Samuel Barber’s “A Hand of Bridge” reveals the hidden dreams and desires of two couples playing the card game. Leonard Bernstein’s “Trouble in Tahiti” depicts a day in the life of a young married couple longing for love and connection. 

All three works will be performed in English. Seating is limited for this production, which will be the first performance to take place in the intimate new Shirley Welsh Ryan Opera Theater. The production will feature live accompaniment by members of the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Robert McConnell. Tickets are $18 for the general public and $8 for students with valid IDs.

Winter 2016 Opera

Mozart’s “Le nozze di Figaro” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 28, in Cahn Auditorium. Directed by Michael M. Ehrman, Mozart’s opera centers on servants Susanna and Figaro as they attempt to plan their wedding while their master, Count Almaviva, has his eye on the pretty young bride-to-be and attempts to delay their marriage. Complicating matters are a jealous countess, an amorous teenager, a scheming older woman and her beleaguered lawyer. Emanuele Andrizzi will conduct. The production will be performed in Italian with English supertitles. Tickets are $18 for the general public and $8 for students with valid IDs. 

Spring Opera

Performances of Carlisle Floyd's “Susannah” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 19; 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 21 and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 22, in Cahn Auditorium. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the opera’s premiere and it will be the first time this opera is performed at Northwestern. Written during the McCarthy era, “Susannah” is based loosely on the apocryphal tale of Susannah and the Elders. Set in New Hope Valley, Tennessee, Susannah -- a pretty and well-mannered young woman of humble origins -- is faced with hostility from her church community. Michael M. Ehrman will direct and John DeMain will conduct. Tickets will be $18 for the general public and $8 for students with valid IDs.

Robert M. and Maya L. Tichio Vocal Master Class Series

The following master classes will take place at the Ryan Center’s Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall.

• The master class series begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, with a class led by American operatic tenor Lawrence Brownlee. Brownlee is appearing in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s fall production of “Cinderella.” He also has appeared on the stages of the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera Covent Garden and Opéra national de Paris, among others. Tickets for Brownlee’s master class are $10 for the general public and $5 for students with valid IDs. 

• Soprano Susanna Phillips, the 2010 Beverly Sills Artist Award-winner, will lead a master class at 7 p.m. Monday, March 7. Phillips’ 2015-16 performance season includes a return to the Metropolitan Opera for an eighth consecutive season starring as Roselinda in the Jeremy Sams production of “Die Fledermaus,” conducted for the first time by music director James Levine, as well as a return of her acclaimed Musetta in Puccini’s “La Bohème.” Phillips also will return to the stage of Lyric Opera of Chicago, Feb. 22 to March 19, in Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet.” A return to Boston Lyric Opera will mark Phillips’ debut in the role of Hanna in a new production of Lehár’s “The Merry Widow.” Tickets are $10 for the general public and $5 for students with valid IDs.

Marilyn Horne, a Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano, will host a master class at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 5. Horne is the voice program director at Santa Barbara's Music Academy of the West and holds residencies at the University of Oklahoma and Oberlin Conservatory. Horne’s numerous honors and awards include multiple Grammys, the National Medal of Arts, and an induction into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She also was named a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by France's Ministry of Culture. Tickets are $10 for the general public and $5 for students with valid IDs.

Matthew Polenzani, the 2004 Richard Tucker Award-winning tenor, will be featured in a recital accompanied by pianist Alan Darling at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 30. Polenzani’s 2014-15 performance season included his return to London’s Royal Opera House for “Idomeneo,” productions of “Les contes d’Hoffmann” at the Metropolitan Opera, “L’elisir d’amore” and “Die Zauberflöte” at Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper and his Opernhaus Zurich debut in “La traviata.” Tickets to his performance are $25 for the general public and $10 for students with valid IDs.

Polenzani will conclude the Bienen School’s 2015-16 Tichio Master Class season at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 1, with a master class at Galvin Recital Hall. Master class tickets are $10 for the general public and $5 for students with valid IDs.

Michael M. Ehrman

Among director Ehrman’s credits are critically acclaimed productions at the Houston Grand Opera, Greater Miami Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Minnesota Opera, Chautauqua Opera and Chicago Opera Theater. Ehrman has staged more than 20 productions for Central City Opera, where he is currently director of the Young Artist Training Program. His Chicago credits include “The Magic Flute” at the Ravinia Festival and “Noye’s Fludde” for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Robert McConnell 

Conductor Robert McConnell is a recent Northwestern doctoral student and a protege of Victor Yampolsky. McConnell recently conducted for the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s outreach program.

Emanuele Andrizzi

Conductor Emanuele Andrizzi is on the music staff of Lyric Opera of Chicago and will be making his debut at St. Louis Opera with “La Bohème.” 

John DeMain

John DeMain won the Grammy Award for his recording of “Porgy and Bess,” which he has conducted at Houston Grand Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera and on Broadway. He is a frequent guest conductor at San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera and Glimmerglass Opera, and is music/artistic director of Madison Opera and the Madison Symphony.

More information about these events is available online.

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