Thursday, November 4, 2010

Outrageous Opera Video Contest

It's National Opera Week, a week dedicated to bringing opera to a wider audience and showing them what it's all about - as well as the fact that anyone can enjoy opera!

One of many activities going on at MOT this week is our "Outrageous Opera Video Contest." We want your most creative, most outlandish ideas about opera put on YouTube!

Can your dog sing opera? Can you belt out an aria, but only in the shower? All musical styles are welcome, but submissions must be opera-related.

All you have to do is make a video, upload it to YouTube, and send us the link. If you win, you'll receive box seats to La Bohème at the Detroit Opera House, and dinner before the performance at the Cadillac Café. To enter, send us your link before Monday, Nov. 8.

Need some inspiration? Check out Bugs Bunny.

In addition to this contest, the Detroit Opera House is holding a free open house on Saturday, Nov. 6. Come down to tour seldom-seen parts of our home, including backstage areas and the costume and makeup shops; you can even walk on the stage!

Also, be sure to check out singers from our upcoming production of La Bohème at the DIA's Friday Night Live! series, this Friday at the Detroit Institute of Arts at 7 & 8:30 p.m.Celebrate opera, Detroit!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Opera Camp 2010

Don't forget, Opera Camp will be presenting their final performance on Sunday, August 8, 2010 at 3 pm! The performers have been working hard for two weeks on scenes from The Mikado, La Boheme, The Magic Flute, Rigoletto, Fledermaus, and Falstaff. The Opera Camp is made up of college-age and more mature singers. For two weeks they've been at the Opera House for intense dance, acting and voice classes. From what I've heard in the hallways, this is going to be a spectacular performance! And with tickets at just $10, you can't afford to miss this!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Operetta Workshop Presents: The Mikado

Yesterday I stopped by the final dress rehearsal for the Operetta Workshop's production of The Mikado, and I can assure you it's going to be a great show! Enjoy a few pictures of the cast, and stop by the Opera House today at 6pm in the main theater to see this fantastic show!

Monday, July 19, 2010

American Ballet Theatre Summer Dance Intensive

For the past three weeks, young dancers from around the country have been perfecting their skills and learning new techniques under the direction of top quality American Ballet Theatre artistic staff, alumni and guest teachers. The program has earned the reputation for being the most thorough and rewarding dance experience a student can have during the summer. As the dancers finish up their last week at the intensive and prepare for their final performance, I asked student Katherine Gibson and ABT instructor Samantha Shelton a few questions about their ABT Summer Intensive experience.

Gibson has been studying different forms of dance for ten years now and this is her second year at the ABT Summer Intensive.

One of her favorite things she’s done in class is partnering. The steps for White Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake were explained to the students (though it will not be performed at the final student performance), who were then given the chance to practice the routine before dancing with the music.

Gibson noted that she has learned many important things this summer at the intensive. She says that each teacher focuses on a different aspect of ballet. While some, like artistic director Alaine Haubert (pictured above), concentrate on form and technique, other teachers emphasize personality in dancing or techniques to remember complicated dance combinations, like Samantha Shelton.

A unique aspect of the DOH’s 6th floor Chrysler Foundation "black box" theater is that it doesn’t have a mirror. Gibson said “…I realized that I dance better when I'm forced to feel where my body is positioned instead of looking in a mirror to see what I was doing wrong. This helped me improve my technique and pick up combinations quicker because I wasn't worried about looking in the mirror. It helped me focus on my own corrections.”

Gibson is very excited for the final performances on the opera house stage. Its large size gives her a different feeling from other performances at home. “I feel like I have to project my dancing to the very back of the huge house whereas other stages don't give me the same energy.”

Instructor Samantha Shelton has been on faculty for the ABT Summer Intensives for fifteen years, but has been studying dance for many more (she trained at U of M, in New York, and with the Joffrey Ballet). At the DOH, she loves the studio and space and the amazing stage that she notes as spacious and gorgeous. And her favorite part about working with the students? Their great enthusiasm.

The ABT Summer Intensive final performances will be on Friday, June 23 at 1:00 and 4:00.

Tickets are available at the door or through the box office at $15 for adults and $10 for children under 15.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Learning at the Opera House: Operetta Workshop

Another great summer music program was launched this week as part of Learning at the Opera House. The Operetta Workshop is a three-week day camp for young people to learn acting, singing, and dancing. This year they are working on The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan. The show is directed by Julie Smith, who is enjoying her third year as director of the camp. Around 35 participants ranging in age from 10 to 18 meet at the opera house five days a week for three weeks, leading up to a final performance that will take place on Friday, July 30, 2010 at 6 pm in the Opera House. They are performing the full opera, including costumes and sets, so there is no time to waste!

They got started right away on Monday morning, introducing the show, rehearsing music, and going over audition tips. Auditions were held on Wednesday, and the cast was announced the same day. The auditions are held in front of everyone; it allows the cast to get comfortable singing in front of an audience. Every participant is given a recording of the music so they can practice at home. The goal is to have all music and dialogue memorized by the end of the second week, but some cast members will be off book before that.

I sat in on a rehearsal today to see how things are progressing and was blown away by the talent of the cast! Everywhere I looked I saw work being done; while a sectional was held to review parts of Act I with Julie in one room, some were in the hall reviewing lines and a few were listening to a recording and singing along. The voices are young but strong, and well-suited to the music. I was only hearing the very beginning of music rehearsals, I can only imagine what I'll hear in two weeks at the final performance!

I talked to director Julie Smith about what makes this workshop so special, and she remarked that all summer music programs are special because they provide the "extra oomph" that most kids don't get during the school year in a music class. Gilbert and Sullivan is a great choice of repertoire for this age group because the music is well-known but not too difficult, and the plots are accessible, with issues young people can relate to. Julie hopes that the cast will leave with a sense of accomplishment, increased confidence, and new friendships.

Michelle, a 15-year-old who is back for her second round of Operetta Camp, says she first came to the camp because of her music teacher at school, who encouraged her to get involved in summer music activities. Michelle returned to the camp this year because even though the end goal is the performance, the camp still feels like a workshop.

I looked over the schedule for this week and was amazed at all the material that is covered in such a short time! Over the course of the camp, the cast will be introduced to music history, character development, diction, staging, costumes, rehearsal etiquette, and many other things that are required to get a show off the ground.

The Operetta Workshop is a great opportunity for young people to be introduced to opera, performing, and putting a show together. They meet other people who love performing, and in the end they get to sing on the Opera House Stage! I can't wait to see the final performance!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Create and Perform 2010

Check out some highlights from the Create and Perform workshop's final performance that took place last week at the Opera House!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Create and Perform 2010

For the past two weeks kids from all over metro Detroit have been meeting at the Opera House for the Create and Perform workshop, one of this summer's Learning at the Opera House programs. The program was created by Karen DiChiera as a way to teach beginning composition, creative thinking, and cooperative problem solving to kids ages 10-18. I sat in on a rehearsal for their final performance, which takes place tomorrow, July 9th, at 4 pm.

The two-week program begins with a physical improvisation, where kids mime the use of an object and pass it on to the next person, who turns the object into something else, passes it on, and so on. The kids learn to express themselves through song cycles, skits, improvisation, and instrumental ensembles. Special guests local comedienne Fran Dent and members of the Audubon Society of Detroit stopped by to provide ideas and inspiration. I was surprised to see just how much material these kids have created in just two weeks! At the end of two weeks a performance is given for parents and friends to showcase all of the hard work that has been put in. Unfortunately the audience won't get to see everything; some material is cut to keep the program from getting too long.

One of the things I love about this program is that kids are allowed to create and explore without worrying about the 'rules' of composition. They are provided with an outline, then encouraged to be creative and improvise. Only after they've finished do they look back and figure out what they did. This approach quiets the inner critic and allows the kids to create and work without judgment, and the results are astounding! In just a short time I heard parts of an original song cycle, saw scripted skits, and a large group improvisation. The intense, focused environment provided by Karen DiChiera forces participants to push themselves creatively and work together with young people from different backgrounds.

I'm very excited to watch the final performance tomorrow at 4pm here at the Detroit Opera House, I can't wait to see the end product of all the hard work!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Another new face at the DOH!

Hello! My name is Carrie, and like Eleanor, I started an internship at the Opera House this week! I just graduated from Butler University in Indianapolis with a Bachelor's in vocal performance. This is a photo of me singing Pamina in Butler's spring production of The Magic Flute (which you can see this spring at the Detroit Opera House, As a singer, the opera house is a very exciting place for me to be. I love the magic of opera; it moves you in a way no other live performance can. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to share my love of opera with you!

The first opera I saw at the Detroit Opera House was Porgy and Bess. Porgy and Bess has a uniquely American feel; the voices are operatic but the subject matter and jazz influence are purely American. It also contains one of my favorite arias of all time, "Summertime." Click the link to see a fantastic performance of "Summertime" by the legendary Leontyne Price.

Of the operas I've seen, my favorites are probably Tales of Hoffman by Offenbach, La Traviata by Verdi, and La Boheme by Puccini, but there are so many more I'd love to see!

During my time here, I'm hoping to give you a look at what happens before the opera season starts, because there's a lot going on! Learning at the opera house is in full swing, dancers from all over the world are here, and of course we're preparing for our fantastic fall season!

Stay tuned for more exciting updates from the DOH interns!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dr. D Wins Prestigious Opera Honor from the National Endowment for the Arts



Washington, D.C. At today’s meeting of the National Council on the Arts, the NEA’s advisory body, NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman announced the recipients of the 2010 NEA Opera Honors: soprano Martina Arroyo, general director David DiChiera, composer Philip Glass, and music director Eve Queler.

Now in its third year, the NEA Opera Honors is the highest award our nation bestows in opera. This year, the awards will be presented at an award ceremony and concert produced by the Washington National Opera on Friday, October 22, 2010 at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. The evening will feature video tributes to each honoree created and produced by OPERA America. Admission will be free, but tickets will be required. Ticket information will be made available on Monday, September 20, 2010 at

Chairman Landesman said, “On behalf of the NEA, I extend my heartfelt congratulations to this group of stellar artists and thank them for all they have accomplished and shared with us in the course of their careers. Their works of art have delighted and challenged us, illuminated our sense of the world, and refreshed our understanding of what is possible.”

NEA Director of Music and Opera Wayne S. Brown said, “This class of NEA Opera Honorees is four outstanding individuals, who together represent the finest traditions of opera. Without their artistic accomplishments, the world of American opera would be far less extraordinary.”

Martina Arroyo is admired around the world for her operatic roles, oratorio and recital performances, recordings, and also for her commitment to young artist development through the Martina Arroyo Foundation.

David DiChiera’s varied career includes important posts in Ohio and California, as well as at the Michigan Opera Theatre, which has played an important role in the cultural and economic vitality of Detroit.

Philip Glass has had an unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of our time, including especially his 20 operas, symphonies, compositions for his own ensemble, and his wide-ranging collaborations.

Eve Queler is being recognized for her focus on rarely performed operas and for her dedication to emerging singers, which she has brought to her work as music director of the Opera Orchestra of New York.

These four honorees will each receive an award of $25,000 in recognition of their significant lifetime contributions to American opera. NEA Opera Honors recipients are nominated by the public and chosen by an NEA-convened panel of opera experts. Past honorees are John Adams, Frank Corsaro, Carlisle Floyd, Richard Gaddes, Marilyn Horne, James Levine, Lotfi Mansouri, Leontyne Price, and Julius Rudel.

Biographies and photos of the four 2010 NEA Opera Honors recipients are available at

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Detroit Opera's Recent Addition

Hi! My name is Eleanor and this week I started a summer internship with the Detroit Opera House. It’s been a busy first few days, but I’m really excited to be here! Let me tell you a little bit about myself:

I’m a rising junior at Kalamazoo College (I transferred there last year from Case Western Reserve University) and I’m studying music. I’ve been playing harp for about 9 years now and after my undergrad studies, I’m planning on studying music history or musicology with hopes of doing research or teaching.

I had my first opera experience this year when one of my classes visited the opera house to see Tosca. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to opera. We ate lunch at the opera house, went on an extensive tour of the building, saw the opera, and then had a meet-and-greet with the some of the artists. I learned so much about both opera and musicianship!

Again, I’m thrilled to be here and can’t wait to see how the summer unfolds! You’ll be hearing from me through the opera house’s Twitter, Facebook and blog. Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bravo Bravo: An Insider's Perspective

Maybe this is the first time you’ve heard of Bravo Bravo or maybe you’ve heard about it, are excited for the event, got your tickets in hand but still aren’t quite sure what to expect. Whatever the case may be I’ve decided to write this blog to give newcomers and the curious alike a better idea about what Bravo Bravo is really like from the people who can tell you the best, past party-goers.

Linda Hyter, a Clinical Care Coordinator at Children’s Hospital first attended Bravo Bravo in 2008 “ It wasn’t what I was expecting” she said. The 38-year-old Detroit native found out about the event from former Bravo Bravo committee members, Alexis Lewis and Kyra Sanders, after trying to get involved in her community and was surprised by the festive nature of Bravo Bravo, which she admits she became addicted to. “ It was an open bar type feel and the first year I went they had body painting and me and my friends got half our faces painted with butterflies”, “You end up waiting the next year for it to come around,” she laughs.

“The atmosphere is upbeat and full of energy.” She said of the event. Hyter also spoke of the diversity of the crowd and how that added to the energy as people from all walks of life were coming together to mingle with one another and have a good time. “It was the best”, said Hyter. When describing the music scene Linda explained how there’s something for everyone as the event gives off different vibes and moods as guest travel around the opera house and encounter different types of music. “The event exceeded my expectations,” Zemen Marrugi, Event Planner and owner of Opal E Events explained. The 28-year-old had always been a fan of the opera house and attended various musicals and performances there in the past. Marrugi first attended Bravo Bravo last year after agreeing to become sponsor at the suggestion of her business partner.

“The event was really exciting, it was a good representation of the city and was so much fun.” She said. Zemen who invited her clients to last year’s event felt it was a good way to introduce people to the city and invite people to the event that you’ve never done business with. Like Hyter, Marrugi also felt the same about the events music scene. “No matter what your personality is, you’ll find something you’ll enjoy” she said after describing how at last years event the main stage transformed into a club like venue for live performances while the smaller rooms featured more coffee house performances and the hallways featured food and drinks from various restaurants and drink vendors from the local area.

Both Linda and Zemen believe that Bravo Bravo is an event not to be missed. To Linda, events like Bravo Bravo show people that they can make a difference in their community and still have a good time. She also believes that Bravo Bravo is one of the premiere events to be a part of in the city and the best thing about it is the people. She also feels coming to Bravo Bravo is a good start if you are thinking about become involved in the community and is a good place to network. Hyter says that ticket prices shouldn’t turnoff guest, as tickets are pretty inexpensive in comparison to other fundraising events. When I asked Linda what was her favorite Bravo Bravo moment she explained how in the last two years, it has become buying her ticket because she knows she’s all set for event from that point on and that she’s done her part to contribute to the fundraising goal.

Zemen who has a similar outlook believes that Bravo Bravo is one of those events you ought to attend once because it has become a nice tradition and a part of the city’s history. She also believes that people should share in the experience of the event because it’s a lot of fun and features a great combination of food and music.

This year Linda says she looks forward to seeing the fashions and visiting the different spaces designed around the different fashion capitals of the world. She also tells me she looks forward to seeing her boyfriend’s expression since it’s his first time. “Me and my friends have been hyping him up for the event but we feel like he doesn’t understand” she says. Linda recommends that women come dressed to Bravo Bravo a little sexy but tasteful. She also says that comfortable pumps are a must, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking and standing. Zemen tells me she looks forward to mingling with the other attendees and seeing the transformation one of her favorite venues will make this year. For fashion tips she recommends that women have fun when deciding what to wear. She also says that they don’t have to be a fashionista and that a cool accessory or cute top will do the trick “Its not like you should be worried about making the fashion hall of shame” she says with a giggle “It’s for a good cause and everyone’s enjoying themselves”.

Bravo Bravo takes place Friday, June 4th, at the Detroit Opera House from 7:30 p.m to 12:30 a.m. Tickets are $95 for the month of May and $105 for the month of June. This year Bravo Bravo takes on a fashion theme and will feature more than 40 of Detroit's trendist restaurants and bars providing delicious food and the latest in libations. Each room of the opera house is filled with music, and features a variety of music by local bands and musicians. Proceeds from the event support Michigan Opera Theatre and the Detroit Opera House. For more information follow this link: Bravo Bravo Destination Fashion.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Interview with Tenor Noah Stewart (Mario Cavaradossi)

Raised in Harlem, NY Noah Stewart was first exposed to classical music as a middle school student performing as a member of his school's choir. There his choir director recognized his potential and encouraged him to pursue singing as a career. In his last year of junior high he entered into a competition under the vocal division and won first place.

While in high school he continued to sing in choir at the La Guardia High School for Performing Arts where he sang as a Tenor. “I was bad,” he said, recalling what it was like for him. On his first day of choir all the students laughed at him after the choir director pointed out that he was sitting in the wrong section, “I was sitting with all the all girls in the alto section and the director asked me what was I doing and told me that I was a supposed to be sitting with the tenors” While attending La Guardia High school he was introduced to many forms of music, including opera.

In his second year he attended the Harlem school of Arts where he studied music. As a student he received free tickets to events at the Lincoln Center and MET. He also enrolled in an opera workshop, He felt that opera opened up a new world for him, “opera was play time for me” he said “In order to be a good opera singer you have to have a good imagination because opera brings you into a whole new world.” At the end of his senior year he auditioned for Juilliard and got in on a full ride. The first two years at Juilliard weren’t stressful on the young opera singer “It wasn’t that difficult because I had such great preparation in high school, my school had a lot of resources I felt very prepared”.

While in college he continued studying opera both inside and outside of school attending free concerts at the MET and Lincoln Center whenever he could. He also attended the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, an 8-week festival held during the summer, twice during the first half of his career as a college student. When thinking about his time in Colorado he explained how he liked working in the different setting because it gave him a chance to learn more about music and work on his art. He also felt it gave him the chance to figure out who he was as a person as well as an artist. His last years at Juilliard weren’t as easy “It was intense, there were 8 undergrads in the vocal program 2 of us graduated on time, 2 stayed behind and the others dropped the program he explained.

At the age of 21 Noah graduated from Juilliard and auditioned for the Manhattan School of Music but decided not to go because he really wanted to sing he also felt he needed a break from the pressure of the conservatory environment. He explained to me how all his friends got jobs very young and how it was harder for him to start his career because his voice was not finished developing. “So I took a year off which of course became three-like it always does” he said with a laugh. During that time Noah waited tables, worked as a receptionist at Carnegie hall, and worked retail. “ What a lot of people don’t realize is how expensive it is to start a singing career” he said and “I thought I wouldn’t sing because my voice was out of shape” he said, explaining what it was like for him after making the decision to get back into singing.

After hiring and working with his current vocal coach he auditioned for the Academy of Vocal Arts and got in. He later moved to Philadelphia for 8 months then moved back to New York after discovering that it wasn’t for him. He then auditioned for the San Francisco Opera’s summer apprentice program. “That summer completely changed everything,” he said referring to his acceptance into the program and the time he spent there. “I was more mature, people took more notice of me”. While working with the San Francisco Opera he appeared in “Transformations”, a modern opera, soon after he was invited to join the opera house’s young artists program.

He stayed with the company for three years and made his professional debut there in the world premiere of the opera “Appomattox” by Philip Glass “That’s when people really started to take notice of me.” Shortly after that he was scheduled to sing the secondary tenor role in the opera “Macbeth”, which he claimed was his springboard into professional opera. During the last performance of the opera the tenor originally assigned to the role became sick and he had to take his place. “I only had 15 minutes to prepare but I was calm because I had a feeling something special was going to happen” the performance which was a success motivated him enough to move back to New York to get an agent to start his career.

When asked if this was the tenors first time appearing in Tosca or as Cavaradossi he replied that it was. “It’s very exciting, I’m very fortunate to be invited back after Nabucco,” he said. The singer appeared in MOT’s production of Nabucco earlier this fall. “My manager, Bernard (Uzan), is directing and this is one of the few times he gets to see me act.” The opera house is one of my favorites, its very beautiful, the cast is phenomenal and I’m lucky to have the support of Dr. D.,” he said recognizing his status as a newcomer to opera and that not many people his age would have the opportunity to sing in such roles.

When asked to describe the audition process he had to go through in order to appear as Cavaradossi he explained to me how he had sung for Dr. D in the past for a role in Carmen but didn’t get the role because he had already cast another tenor. When asked what it has been like working with the other opera singers he replied that it’s been fun, that it’s always great and that he’s happy to have a job. He also explained how he has enjoyed the cultural makeup of the cast as well as working with the smaller size. He also tells me how honored he is to share the stage with such great artists and to be working with the conductor. He also shares with me how at home he feels with Michigan Opera after his second production and how he feels he’s being spoiled.

When asked what he felt was the hardest part about being an opera singer he replied being alone. Not being able to share great moments and experiences with people. He tells me how he believes it’s harder on him because he comes from a social family. He also tells me that as an opera singer you almost have to be social because it’s a very lonely life otherwise. The advice Noah has for aspiring opera singers is not to listen to anyone, and to keep on dreaming. He tells me that it’s hard and lonely and that no one tells you how to do it because everyone’s path is different. He also says it important to never stop believing in your self, always take advantage of the resources you have and never stop learning.

You can see Noah Stewart as Mario Cavaradossi in Michigan Opera Theatre's production of Puccini's, Tosca at the Detroit Opera House May 21 & 23.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Win Tickets to The Detroit Science Center!

In honor of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day and the upcoming production of The Very Last Green Thing, showing at the Detroit Opera House, Saturday, April 24, the Michigan Opera Theater will be hosting a competition asking participants to describe how their family is "going green" for a chance to win a family 4-pack of tickets to the Detroit Science Center.

Participants are encouraged to describe, in 100 words or less, how their family "goes green" and have until 5 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday, April 22 (Earth Day), to enter the competition. Contestants can send their responses to with "The Very Last Green Thing Competition" entered in the subject line of the email.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Neoclassical music meets Rock in Trans-Siberian Orchestra's performance of Beethoven's Last Night 2010

The Detroit Opera House lends its stage to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in their performance of "Beethoven's Last Night". The multi-platinum selling orchestra which is known for producing christmas carols in a rock opera style, will be performing at the opera house during their 2010 tour Wednesday, April 21, 2010.

"Beethoven's Last Night" which was released in 2000, as the bands first non-christmas album, tells the story of Beethoven's final night on earth, during which he meets fate, her son Twist and Mephistopheles, one of the seven princes of hell. "Beethoven's Last Night" is one of TSO's gold-selling albums and peaked Billboard Charts at number 165.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra was founded in 1996 by Paul O'Niell and friends, Jon Oliva, Robert Kinkel and Al Pitrelli. The orchestra is largely known for incorporating neoclassical, symphonic music with progressive hard rock/metal. The orchestra also stages elaborate concerts with a full light show complete with pyrotechnics. While recording the group requires a 60-piece orchestra and choir and 14 vocalists, 14 musicians and 2 narrators while on stage.

Before founding Trans-Siberian Orchestra Paul O'Niell worked with rock bands managing and producing big names like Aerosmith, Humble Pie and the Scorpions. O'Niell now works as the orchestra's composer, lyricist and producer along with Jon Oliva who works also works as the composer. Robert Kinkel works as the orchestras co-producer, key board player, and Music Director and Al Pitrelli works as the guitarist and Music Director.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra's albums have included five studio albums and six compilation albums. Among them are 1996's Christmas Eve & Other Stories, 1998's The Christmas Attic, 2004's The Lost Christmas Eve and 2006's live Prince of Peace (Live).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Queen of the Night: An interview with Soprano Jennifer Rowley

Cast in the leading female role as Donna Anna, in Michigan Opera Theater’s production of Don Giovanni, you never would've guessed that this is the singers first time appearing in the opera, let alone in the role. You also would’ve never guessed that the singer is a relatively young artist who made her operatic debut back in 2003, as The First Lady, in Cleveland Opera’s production of "The Magic Flute.”

Born and raised in Ohio, the soprano admits that her introduction to opera was “funny”- explaining that she hadn’t heard her first opera until she was 21. “I sang in choir and in musicals but that was about it; I also liked sports,” Rowley said. “My high school choir director suggested that I take voice lessons, I eventually did, then my voice teacher recommended that I try opera but I wanted to sing musical theatre,” her focus then, as an undergrad at Baldwin-Wallace’s Conservatory of Music. All that changed when her voice teacher encouraged her to sing Mozart's "Queen of the Night" aria, which the budding artist did successfully, a feat rarely accomplished by young opera singers, she tells me. “I switched to opera in my sophomore year even though I still hadn’t seen one,” she laughs.

Shortly after that, Rowley was picked as the very first student to participate in an exchange program for young artists with the Instituto Superior del Arte of the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, Argentina. While she was there she studied Italian and saw her first opera La Traviata which she fell in love with. When she returned to Baldwin-Wallace she began to study acting more seriously especially in her last two years, the subject eventually became her minor, “ I studied the Stanislavski method and Shakespeare, I also studied a lot of period pieces, as I felt these were important because operas are usually very traditional.” After that Rowley attended Indiana University’s School of Music in pursuit of her Masters degree. “The program focused only on the musical side” she said, happy that she had made the decision to take acting as an undergrad. In the summer between her second and third year as a graduate student she left IU for Middlebury College, a language immersion college in Vermont, where she studied in the German for Singers program. “They teach every language you can possibly think of,” she says, “from the time you arrive to the time you leave everything is taught in another language.” “I returned to IU fluent in German before I graduated” she laughs.

At 23, Rowley made her debut as The First Lady in the Cleveland Opera’s production of "The Magic Flute" “It was amazing, I was in my hometown and all my family lived close by, it was an awesome experience” she said of her debut. The singer also got to work with Conductor Anton Coppola, a highly regarded conductor in the world of opera. For the first rehearsal with the orchestra the conductor asked her to sing “Queen of the Night” because the singer cast as the Queen was unavailable. “I don’t know how he knew I could sing it,” she said recalling the moment. “I was really nervous, I was the youngest in the cast and was singing with established opera singers like Cythia Haymon-Coleman.” “When it was my turn to sing the conductor pointed to me and said, “Are you ready child?” she said, playfully imitating the conductor. After she got done singing the aria all the singers and members of the orchestra stood up and applauded her. “That normally doesn’t happen,” she said still amazed. Impressed by her singing Coppola told the artist that she was a star. “It was a huge honor for me” she says recalling the moment.

After graduating from IU, the soprano moved to New York where she met her current voice coach, Rita Shane. She also traveled to Italy to study at the Teatro Communale di Bologna as a young artist. There she took voice lessons and acting in Italian, the program was also a language immersion program.

A typical performance day for the singer, she tells me, “Is all about relaxation.” “I usually sleep very late, my voice is at it’s peak at around three or four in the afternoon, so I trick my body into getting into that mode by sleeping later during performance days,” she says. The singer tells me that breakfast is also very important emphasizing protein. “I usually have eggs with toast and peanut butter- I have to have peanut butter. I also drink two-to-three cups of coconut water, then I don’t eat for the rest to the day.” Explains the singer, out of fear of developing acid reflux or a stomachache during the night of her performance, she also likes to eat fruit. The singer doesn’t usually like to talk during performance days instead she chooses to stay quiet. She also drinks cups hot water with a slice of lemon and honey, a trick she learned from her voice instructor. When explaining what its like for her backstage she tells me that she tries to stay calm and have fun-usually arriving to the theatre an hour and a half before, with her laptop in-hand listening to pop music. After the performance is over she tells me that she’s usually very hungry and needs at least one beer.

Non-performance or auditions days are similar to performance days for the artist in terms of caring for her voice and in trying to maintain a calm and relaxed demeanor. She tells me that its just as important to take care of yourself during audition season, as one can audition twice a day, 2-4 times a week. Audition season in NY typically runs from mid September to mid December, ending about a week before Christmas. “We’re all usually sick during the holiday,” she jokes, implying that the illnesses they work so hard to fight off eventually catch up to them.

Of all the roles Rowley has appeared in her favorite wasn't as a performer but as a cover or stand-in as Violetta in Verdi’s Opera “La Traviata,” while working with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis. The singer got the opportunity to sing the role during the first week of rehearsals due to the late arrival of the opera singer originally cast for the part. “It affected me so deeply” she said, of the musical experience, “you know what’s going on emotionally because of what is written in the music, even if you have no idea what is being said” she says. “It was such an honor, I left the room crying everyday”, “Even the novel “La dame aux camellias” by Dumas is so touching, it’s a story about immense love, it leaves me speechless, the opera is unbelievable and has never been matched by anything I’ve performed since.”

When asked about her current role as Donna Anna in Mozart’s Opera Don Giovanni Rowley explains that while it was the most difficult role she’s ever worked on, she never thought she would sing Donna Anna. “ I always thought of it as a “big girl” role,” she said, clarifying the fact that she’s still making the transition from young to established artist. “I always thought I had to be at the top of my game,” said the singer. Although Rowley felt this way she knew playing the role was “the next best step” so she began working on it while in Italy. “It turns out that it was the right step and I was completely wrong in my thinking, the role fits like a glove,” Rowley said.

To prepare for her roles the singer delves into research about the characters, the period and the story itself. “I want to know as much as possible” says Rowley. To successfully play Donna Anna she feels that its important for the actor to figure out what it is the character wants and what the character has to do to get what she wants. “Its all about what the audience doesn’t know” explains the singer “to be and to do, you have to understand who they [the characters] are and where they are coming from because it defines the very way you go about getting what you want in the scene” she says quoting an admired thespian thinker. The singer describes Donna Anna as a conundrum or the pivot of the opera. She says as an actor you have to ask yourself if you are going to go for the truth or deceit when playing Donna Anna. The truth being that, Donna Anna had no idea that the man in her room was Don Giovanni and that he raped her; or the deceit being that, she knew it was Don Giovanni, claimed to think it was Don Ottavio and that it is actually guilt, that motivates her to avenge her fathers death throughout the opera. “The way you choose to play it, decides how the rest of the opera changes or follows.” “You have to come in with a distinct choice” she says, pointing out that the director and creator, John Pascoe, for MOT’s production chooses “the truth”.

When asked to describe what it has been like working with the other singers of Don Giovanni, Rowley tells me that she’s an awe everyday. The singer describes working with soprano Kelly Kaduce as fascinating “You can tell she has made clear decisions, has a clear back story and always has an inner monologue going on for what her character wants in each scene." When describing what it has been like working with Robert, Burak and David she tells me that it has been educational listening the way the three phrase the Italian lyrics because they all speak Italian fluently and so beautifully. Rowley also says that she has no words when it comes to working with Don Giovanni’s conductor Christian Badea. “I’m just so blessed to be doing Donna Anna with this conductor, he’s so strong in what he wants from the singers, It’s been the greatest experience, he makes you a better singer.” She also described her experience working with the stage director, Chia Patino, as being “such a pleasure” as she’s so clear in what she wants.

When asked whether she has had the opportunity to tour the area, the singer tells me that she’s familiar with Detroit, actually having stayed in Royal Oak throughout her childhood. “Detroit is really interesting, I love the architecture,” says the artist. During her free time Rowley tells me that she walks along the river walk. She also tells me that, what she really wants to do, is go see the Tigers play on Opening Day. “They’re playing against Cleveland, my hometown” she says.

When asked about her musical preferences Rowley tells me that she enjoys listening to pop, rock and country music. She also likes listening to jazz and the blues. She’s currently into British musician, Jamie Cullum, a classically trained pianist who takes American pop music and twists them with jazz. She also likes listening to Matt Nathanson and Alison Krauss. The singer also tells me that she’s addicted to American Idol and is currently rooting for season’s finalist, Lee DeWyze.

Other than opera the artist loves to learn about wine and is a self professed “foodie”. She tells me how a trip to a vineyard in Tuscany sparked her love for wine. She also likes attending wine tastings and reading and about the different regions that make wine. The singer also states that New York is a fantastic place to live for someone who loves food as one can find something different to eat every night. It's not just eating the food that interests her she tells me it’s the fact that there’s a science behind the combining and the preparation of certain foods. The singer also loves sports particularly baseball and football. “The Colts let me down” she says referring to their super bowl loss. She also tells me that she’s plays on a softball team, and likes to play volleyball. The singer also has an interest in Spanish and Mexican art. When asked about her pet peeves Rowley tells me, singers who talk about singing all the time, “It should be left at the theatre,” she say’s laughing.

The last movie the singer saw was "Inglorious Basterds". “It was a fabulous movie, incredible acting” she said. The artist was impressed by actor, Christoph Waltz’s performance, who won an Oscar for his role in the movie. The singer also shares with me her favorite operas, Verdi’s "La Traviata" and Puccini’s "Tosca" and when asked if she has ever performed outside of opera she tells me that she has as a college and high school student appearing in musicals and in the choir. She also tells me that she would love to play the Prima Donna, Carlotta, in Phantom of the Opera. The farthest her career has taken her, geographically, is Buenos Aries, Argentina. And according to Rowley the hardest thing about being an opera singer is the politics involved in the business. “It really gets to you” she says. “A lot of times amazing singers don’t get heard because they don’t have the political connections to break into the business.” “It can be very hard and disappointing.”

The advice the young singer has for aspiring opera singers and those trying to make a career in the performing arts is that they should own who they are and own what they do. She also says that it’s important that they believe in themselves or no one else will believe in you either. “Being a singer is very hard and if you’re not set and happy with who you are and what you do better than anyone else, you won’t get there,” she says. She also says that it helps to have thick skin because there is so much more rejection than acceptance at times.

If Jennifer was not an opera singer she tells me that she would like to move to Napa or live in a villa in Tuscany to work in a vineyard. “I’m very interested in the wine making process and the life of the grape” she says.

You can see Jennifer Rowley as Donna Anna in MOT’s production of Don Giovanni at the Detroit Opera House, April 16th and the 18th. This production marks her debut with the company.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ten Reasons Why You Should See The Tchaikovsky Ballet in Sleeping Beauty

1) We bring you exceptional dancers... The Perm Tchaikovsky Ballet is arguably one of the best ballet companies in the world.
2) It's one of Russia's most prestigious ballet companies, behind the Kirov Ballet (the World's second oldest ballet company) and the Bolshoi Ballet.
3) The Perm Ballet was greatly influenced by the Kirov and Vaganova schools.
4) The Sleeping Beauty Ballet is widely regarded as Tchaikovsky's finest musical score and was his first successful ballet composition.
5) Sleeping Beauty is one of the more famous ballets from classical repertoire and was choreographed by Kirov ballet master, Marius Petipa.
6) You'll be seeing the ballet the way audiences did in 1890... The Tchaikovsky Ballet will be performing Marius Petipa's original choreography.
7) Possible VIP access... Audiences who attend Friday's ACCESS event will only pay $15 for tickets (per person) which will get them seating on the main floor, a free drink and a chance to mingle with their friends, the dancers and MOT's General Director, David DiChiera after the show in a post performance reception.
8) Adaptations and arrangements from Tchaikovsky's score are used in the 1959 Walt Disney animated film version of "Sleeping Beauty."
9) No other ballet company knows Tchaikovsky like Perm... the company focuses on the works of Tchaikovsky and has performed all of his ballets.
10) The Sleeping Beauty Ballet was considered one of many masterpieces choreographed by Petipa.

* It's an event all audiences can enjoy! : )

Friday, March 12, 2010

Win Your Family Tickets to The Detroit Science Center!

"How's your family "going green"?", ask two members of the Michigan Opera Theatre's Children's Chorus, in a YouTube video competition, designed to promote their upcoming performance of Cary John Franklin's "The Very Last Green Thing."

The competition which was launched earlier this week encourages viewers to post a video response for a chance to win one of five family-four pack tickets to the Detroit Science Center. Contestants have until Wednesday, April 23 to post their response in order to be considered in the competition. Individuals interested in entering the contest can participate by clicking the YouTube link, on the opera houses homepage or they can follow this link MOTCC's Very Last Green Thing Video Competition.

A fully staged production of "The Very Last Green Thing" will be performed by the Michigan Opera Theatre's Children's Chorus, MOTCC, on Saturday, April 24, 2010 at the Detroit Opera House. The MOTCC will be partnering with the Detroit Science Center and Detroit's RecycleHere! program. The Detroit Science Center will give a brief presentation from their " Going Green" traveling show before Saturdays performance. Families are also encouraged to bring a plastic bottle from home to recycle with RecycleHere!.

Composed by Cary John Franklin with libretto by Micheal Patrick Albeno, the opera depicts a classroom of students in 2192, who take a rare field trip outside and discover a time capsule, containing an unusual object... a small-green withering plant.

Friday, February 26, 2010

MOT Announces 10-11 Opera Season

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10-11 Season Opens with Revival of The Mikado
Perennial Favorites La Boheme, The Magic Flute, Rigoletto
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DETROIT, Michigan, February 26, 2010...Michigan Opera Theatre announced today the details of its 40th anniversary season, including a revival of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, which opens the season. Other works to be performed include perennial favorites La Boheme, The Magic Flute, and Rigoletto.

During the 2010-11 season, Michigan Opera Theatre commemorates its 40th anniversary with a season of audience favorites. Over its 40 year history, MOT has become known for presenting opera standards while integrating groundbreaking new works, fulfilling its mission through four decades of operatic excellence and community involvement. The company's bold vision, cast by founder and general director Dr. David DiChiera, led to the opening of the Detroit Opera House, three world premieres including the landmark opera Margaret Garner, Andrea Bocelli's operatic debut in Werther, and the beginnings of many young opera star careers, including Gregg Baker, Marcello Giordani, Leona Mitchell, Maria Ewing, Kathleen Battle, and Leah Partridge.

"I'm immensely proud of what we, as a company and a community, have been able to accomplish in our 40 year history, but there is so much work left for us to do." says Michigan Opera Theatre General Director Dr. David DiChiera. "Main stage works that entertain, inspire, and move us are at the core of what we do as a company. We are excited to present a season of opera favorites, especially Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, one of our most requested works, which has not been performed by the company since 1991."

Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado Mikado
October 16-24, 2010
Performed in English

One of MOT's most requested productions and Gilbert and Sullivan's most popular works, The Mikado returns to the Michigan Opera Theatre stage October 16-24, 2010 for five performances. The October 2010 performances will commemorate the 125th anniversary of The Mikado. At its premiere in London in 1885 at the Savoy Theatre, it had one of the longest runs of any theater work. Michigan Opera Theatre last performed The Mikado in 1991, making the fall 2010 performances the first time in nearly 20 years that it will appear on the MOT stage.

Set in the fictitious town of Titipu, Japan, The Mikado is a satire of a bureaucratic society gone haywire. The musical score contains some of the best-loved songs of all time, including "Three Little Maids," "The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring" and "I've Got a Little List."

The production will be under the baton of Mark D. Flint, a veteran of numerous MOT productions and a favorite of MOT audiences for orchestrating and conducting the world premiere of David DiChiera's Cyrano in 2007.

La Boheme
Puccini's La Boheme
November 13-21, 2010
Performed in Italian with English supertitles

Puccini's enduring opera La Boheme returns to the Detroit Opera House stage November 13-21, 2010. A bittersweet tragedy of young love, the opera centers around six penniless bohemian friends in snowy Paris surviving on very limited means. Full of idealism, beauty and unbridled love, they
soon encounter the harsh realities of life. Imitations of Puccini's masterpiece are all around us, most notably the Broadway blockbuster musical Rent-but the gorgeous original is incomparable and never fails to pull at your heart strings. Michigan Opera Theatre last produced La Boheme in 2005.

DemuroAlternating in the lead role of Rodolfo is Sardinian (Italian) tenor Francesco Demuro, who will make his MOT debut. Demuro, a highly sought-after young artist, has performed in the most prestigious international houses, including La Scala in Milan, Teatro Regio in Parma, and Covent Garden in England. He is quickly garnering attention throughout the world as a major tenor to watch. He will alternate in the role with American tenor Noah Stewart, who made his MOT debut in the fall 2009 production of Nabucco, and is increasingly developing into one of opera's most sought-after young leading tenors.

Performing the role of Mimi is American soprano Kelly Kaduce, who since her MOT debut as Caroline Gaines in the world premiere of Margaret Garner in 2005 has become a major soprano star. Kaduce will open the Santa Fe Opera summer 2010 season performing the title role in Madame Butterfly. She will alternate with Italian soprano Grazia Doronzio, who will make her MOT debut following her performances as Liu in Turandot at the Met.

Detroit's favorite Romanian baritone Marian Pop, best known for creating the role of Cyrano for the world premiere of David DiChiera's opera in 2007, returns to MOT as Marcello. He will alternate in the role with young up-and-coming Italian baritone Giovanni Guagliardo, who is making his MOT debut.

Performing the role of Schaunard is baritone Lee Gregory, making his MOT debut. Returning to perform the role of Benoit and Alcindoro is bass-baritone Jason Budd, who last performed with MOT during the world premiere of Cyrano in 2007.

Conducting the Puccini classic will be Italian maestro Giuliano Carella, who will also be on the podium for the company's upcoming production of Tosca in the spring 2010 season. La Boheme will be staged by Italian director Mario Corradi, marking his twentieth production with the company. Sets and costumes were originally created for Montreal Opera with sets designed by Claude Girard and costumes designed by Claude Girard and Andre Prévost.

Magic Flute
Mozart's The Magic Flute April 9-17, 2011
Performed in English with English supertitles

Mozart's beloved final opera, The Magic Flute, has captivated audiences since its premiere in 1791. In the opera, Prince Tamino and bird-catcher Papageno go on a humorous musical journey, armed with a set of silver bells and a golden flute, as they travel through Egypt on a quest for the beautiful Pamina. Brilliant music and a fantastical setting make The Magic Flute a treasured fairytale opera for all ages. The opera includes one of the most recognizable and demanding arias in all of opera, "The vengeance of Hell boils in my heart," sung by the Queen of the Night. Michigan Opera Theatre last performed the opera in 2004.

Alternating in the lead role of Tamino is Texas-native Chad Shelton, who will make his MOT debut in the role. He has garnered acclaim on national and international stages for his characterizations of leading roles, including Tamino. Shelton will alternate with American tenor Norman Shankle, who will also be making his MOT debut. Shankle is known for his portrayals of Mozart roles.

Canadian soprano Katherine Whyte makes her MOT debut as Pamina, following her recent debuts with English National Opera, Atlanta Opera, and l'Opéra National de Bordeaux. Performing the role of the Queen of the Night is Canadian coloratura soprano Aline Kutan, returning to MOT following her performances in the 2002 production of Lakmé where she stunned audiences by performing all five performances with spectacular ease and technical agility.

Maestro Stephen Lord returns to MOT to lead the production, after his most recent Michigan Opera Theatre appearance conducting The Elixir of Love during the spring 2009 season.

Verdi's Rigoletto
May 14-22, 2011
Performed in Italian with English supertitles

Verdi's dramatic tragedy Rigoletto closes the 2010-2011 season, May 14-22, 2011, telling the woeful tale of Rigoletto, the razor-tongued court jester. A paternal curse renders him powerless against his enemies. Fooled into assisting in the abduction of his own daughter, Rigoletto's heart is pushed to the limit as he is forced to watch her suffer at the hands of his licentious master, the Duke of Mantua. Enraged, he plans the perfect revenge - death for the Duke and retribution for his daughter. As the plot twists, the power of the curse is realized and Rigoletto is left holding the shards of his broken life.

Widely regarded as one of Verdi's most glorious and moving scores, Rigoletto, along with Il Trovatore and La Traviata, firmly cemented Verdi's position as the preeminent Italian composer of his day. Verdi's composition explores the vast range of human emotion, providing a unique depth to the characters. From the beloved "La donna e mobile," one of opera's most famous arias, to the exquisite "Caro nome," the immortal melodies of Verdi's first great masterpiece continue to move audiences worldwide.

Internationally renowned maestro Steven Mercurio, a Detroit favorite, will return to lead the Michigan Opera Theatre Orchestra alongside French stage director Bernard Uzan, who last directed the world premiere proValentiduction of Cyrano at MOT in 2007.

The role of the Duke of Mantua will be performed by James Valenti, who recently made his MOT debut in the fall 2008 season as Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly. He has since performed all over the world, including debuts at the Met and Covent Garden. Further casting will be announced at a later date.


Subscription prices range from $58-$484. Like last year, Michigan Opera Theatre is offering a payment plan for subscriptions. If a patron subscribes by March 30, 2010, the subscription cost will be split into four equal payments due at the end of each month with the final payment due on June 30, 2010.

As always, subscriptions are offered first to renewing subscribers. Renewal packets will be mailed February 2010. Subscribers may renew subscriptions online at Subscribers enjoy the benefits of priority seating, limited free ticket exchanges and advanced purchase opportunities for some non-subscription events. New 2010-11 subscriptions will be available through Michigan Opera Theatre online at, as well as through the ticket office. Michigan Opera Theatre will again offer special package discounts for "first-timers," as well a distance discount for new subscribers traveling more than 80 miles to attend performances. The popular "family series" discount will also continue through the 2010-11 season. All subscription information may be obtained by calling the Michigan Opera Theatre ticket office at (313) 237-SING (7464).

Single Tickets:
Single ticket prices will remain unchanged from last season, ranging from $25 - $117 for all opera productions. Single tickets for Michigan Opera Theatre's 2010-11 opera season will become available in August 2010. Single tickets will be available in person at the Detroit Opera House ticket office (1526 Broadway, Detroit, MI 48226), by phone at (313) 237-SING (7464) and through Michigan Opera Theatre's online ticketing at Single tickets will also be available through all Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at 1-800-745-3000 or online at For group sales rates, please contact the Michigan Opera Theatre box office.

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2010-11 Michigan Opera Theatre Productions

Gilbert & Sullivan's
The Mikado
October 16-24, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Friday, October 22, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 23, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, October 24, 2010 3:00 p.m.

La Bohème
November 13-21, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Friday, November 19, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 20, 2010 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, November 21, 2010 3:00 p.m.

The Magic Flute
April 9-17, 2011

Saturday, April 9, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Friday, April 15, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April, 16, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 17, 2011 3:00 p.m.

May 14-22, 2011

Saturday, May 14, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 20, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 21, 2011 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 22, 2011 3:00 p.m.