UNC Opera performs a wide range of opera, operetta, and musical theater repertory, including both standard and new works. UNC Opera generally presents one mainstage production per semester, often double-cast with orchestra, in Hill Hall Auditorium, Memorial Hall, and Historic Playmakers Theater on the UNC campus. The company not only serves the educational and artistic needs of the University but also provides affordable and accessible performances for the community.
This past year (2020-2021) UNC Opera presented a TikTopera production of Ravel’s The Child and the Spells in December 2020 (watch the TikTopera here). In Spring 2021, back on campus, UNC Opera produced a recorded staging of Meredith Monk’s Scenes from ATLAS. With no lyrics in the score, Director Marc Callahan reimagined a new story of travel for the opera. A young boy immigrating to America with his parents and a stray dog he befriends on his journey. Read more about the journey of creating Scenes from ATLAS and watch the production here.
Other recent productions include, Il sogno di Scipione by W.A. Mozart (November 2019). This inventive production was reimagined to take place on the moon and involved numerous retro-futuristic elements, including larger than life gummy bears, cupcakes, and lots of sequins. In November 2018, UNC Opera presented Handel’s Alcina with baroque orchestra conducted by Professor Brent Wissick, and in March 2019 they presented Kurt Weill’s One Who Says Yes with guest buyoka Umekawa Ichinosuke and a chamber orchestra conducted by Professor Evan Feldman. The production of One Who Says Yes won first place in Division II of the National Opera Association’s production competition. Other notable UNC Opera productions include Massenet’s Cendrillon (which UNC Opera director Marc Callahan was named a national semi-finalist for The American Prize in Directing-The Charles Nelson Reilly Prize, 2018-19), Couples Therapy (a program of duets from various stages of relationships), and a twin bill of Menotti’s The Telephone of Pauline Viardot’s Cendrillon (Cinderella), including students from local schools.
UNC Opera has a long history of excellent productions, a few more standouts include a fully staged production of Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, set in 2015 in Chapel Hill, to commemorate the last opera in Hill Hall Auditorium before its 2017 renovation, a pairing of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Michael Ching’s contemporary sequel Buoso’s Ghost, the world premiere of Searching for Spinoza (music and lyrics by Thomas Conroy, book by Suzanne Ishee); Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and La Clemenza di Tito, and Cavalli’s L’Egisto with baroque orchestra conducted by Professor Brent Wissick.
The Opera has developed a reputation for dynamic American programming, often with a tie to the state of North Carolina. Throughout its history, UNC Opera has presented a variety of works by American composers, including the East-Coast premiere of Robert Moran’s From the Towers of the Moon with the composer and librettist Michael John LaChiusa in residence, the world premiere of James Legg’s The Power of Xingu (with the composer in residence), the NC premieres of Milton Granger’s “talk opera” The Proposal (composer in residence), Richard Wargo’s The Music Shop and James Harp’s The Tale of Johnnie S. Kickey (an adaptation of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi). Other highly praised productions have ranged from French Baroque opera—Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre’s Cephale et Procris—to classic and modern masterpieces such as Mozart’s Cosi fan tutti, Britten’s Albert Herring, and Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock.
UNC Opera singers have performed locally, nationally and internationally, with groups including NC Opera and Durham Savoyards, and internationally with the International Young Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival.
UNCOPERA2U is the Opera’s community and educational outreach program, part of our commitment to increased access to the arts. This year’s Opera cast members brought scenes to a local elementary school, The Telephone to an eldercare facility, and more than 100 area children to a free Student Matinee of Cinderella. For information about arranging a performance for your school or group, contact the director, Dr. Marc Callahan, at email@example.com.
Auditions for UNC Opera productions typically are held in the preceding semester. For information, contact Dr. Marc Callahan (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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