Audience enthusiasm proves success of Jacobs teachers’ lively show

By Peter Jacobi

Bloomington’s First United Church was pretty close to filled Sunday evening with friends and fans who consistently cheered nine singers and four collaborating pianists performing at this year’s Voice Faculty Cabaret, an annual fund raiser for Indiana University’s chapter of Student NATS (the National Association of Teachers of Singing).

Nine of the Jacobs School’s voice teachers contributed their talent and time to the effort, filling the church with jubilant sounds for more than an hour-and-a-half. Among the listeners were their students, who came not to critique but to celebrate. And should any of the performers have been nervous about singing for those they usually teach and coach, surely the jitters must have been wiped away by the audience’s enthusiasm. This was a supportive crowd, expressing gratitude, not evaluation.

As for the musical fare offered that crowd, it was light of substance and lyrical: virtually no opera and absolutely no lieder but, instead, samplings from operetta, Broadway musicals, films, along with songs of romance.

So, for instance, tenor Brian Horne, who put the show together and served as a comfortably casual master of ceremonies, sang Irving Berlin’s cheerful and syncopated “Shakin’ the Blues Away” to get the evening started, and Alice Hopper followed, contributing her operatic soprano to “Thine Alone” from Victor Herbert’s operetta “Eileen” and the Charles Spross exultation, “Let All My Life Be Music.”

Carlos Montane heroically raised his beefy tenor for ultra-high notes in songs from Cuba (“Las Perlas de tu Boca”) and Spain (“Morucha”). Baritone Wolfgang Brendel chose to sing in English the lovely “Warm as the Autumn Light” from Douglas Moore’s opera, “The Ballad of Baby Do,” and then in German a rollicking aria, “Heiterkeit und Frohlichkeit” from Albert Lortzing’s comic opera, “Der Wildschutz.”

Mezzo Marietta Simpson provided her own piano accompaniment as she wove vocal magic with “Count Your Blessings,” written by Irving Berlin for the film, “White Christmas.” Soprano Sylvia McNair shifted mood to ebulliently sing Harry Dixon Loes’ gospel song for children, “This Little Light of Mine” (“I’m gonna let it shine”).

And so the concert moved, from singer to singer, from ovation to ovation. Baritone Andrew Poulimenos heartily added “If I Loved You” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel.” Mezzo Mary Ann Hart focused on subtle humor as she sang Cole Porter’s “Tale of the Oyster” from the musical “Fifty Million Frenchmen” (“Down by the sea lived a lonesome oyster, every day getting sadder and moister”) and “The Lorelei” by the Gershwins, George and Ira, written for their musical, “Pardon My English.”

Pianists Brian Eads, Piotr Wisniewski, and Kevin Murphy provided nifty collaboration for those mentioned above. For baritone Tim Noble, who sang to complete the concert, Steve Zegree sat at the keyboard as partner in fancy and most effective jazz arrangements of “On the Street Where You Live” from “My Fair Lady” and “My Funny Valentine,” taken from the Rodgers and Hart musical, “Babe in Arms.”

A lively evening it was.

© Herald Times


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Memorial foundation brings big names to IU’s Jacobs school

By Peter Jacobi


You may have noticed in the flow of musical events an influx of master classes labeled “A Five Friends Master Class,” followed by “In Honor of,” and then one of five names: Chris Carducci, Garth Eppley, Georgina Joshi, Zachary Novak or Robert Samels.

They, of course, are the five gifted young musicians studying in the Jacobs School whose lives were taken in a plane crash in 2006. Louise Addicott-Joshi, the mother of Georgina, generously decided to establish a foundation in her daughter’s name to provide educational and career development for other young musicians, thereby supporting public performance of music.

The foundation, in turn, made a gift of $1 million to the Jacobs School, set aside to bring some of the world’s most prominent performers and teachers to campus for master classes, lectures and residencies. That enabled the composition department, for instance, to bring the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams here to spend a batch of days not only counseling composition students but also members of the New Music Ensemble as, under the direction of David Dzubay, they prepared a reading of an Adams work, “The Light Within” and featured it in their opening concert of the season. The Adams visit honored Robert Samels, whose focus of study was composition.

Meanwhile, Kevin Murphy, the head opera coach of the school and professor of practice, brought mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung to campus last month for a master class and public performance combine honoring Georgina Joshi, and this coming Wednesday and Thursday, he hosts a visit by soprano Christine Brewer; her recital is on Wednesday evening, and the master class follows on Thursday. Vocal choices, says Murphy, are made by committee: Voice Department chair Mary Ann Hart, department members Marietta Simpson and Gary Arvin, and Murphy.

“In our view,” he explains, “the master classes are the most important element of these visits. The concerts are welcome add-ons. They’re a gift from the artist to our Bloomington public, and, of course, for our voice students to hear a major artist in recital is a major benefit, too. They learn how a leading artist creates interaction in a room, in the performance space. They get an idea how the magic happens. But the master classes are key. They let the students in on what happens earlier, in the learning process, how an artist thinks about music, what that artist values in the performance of chosen repertoire. In the give-and-take of a class, so much of great value happens between the knowing master and the receptive student.

“Michelle’s visit and, now, Christine’s, honor Georgina,” says Murphy, “and her father often comes down to personally experience what happens when great artists and talented students mix. There is such care behind the Joshi gift.”

Murphy calls Brewer a “real powerhouse with an amazing talent. She sings the big roles in opera: Strauss, Wagner. But she can be remarkably intimate in recital, and that, too, offers a lesson to students: how to expand their repertoire through control of range. That’s one of the reasons I want Christine here. She is so flexible in her singing.”

Murphy, who will serve as her accompanist, says Brewer’s recital will “not be long and probably without intermission.” She will feature unusual repertory, music by Alan Smith, chair of keyboard studies and director of keyboard collaborative arts at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, a set of songs titled “Vignettes: Letters from George to Evelyn from the Private Papers of a World War II Bride.” Added, I’m told, will be selections by other American composers, from the Great American Songbook, and encores.

“She’s really terrific with lyrics,” says Murphy, “still another lesson she can concentrate on with the students. Getting the words across, that is so difficult and so important to master.”

Since this column has focused on Georgina Joshi Foundation supported events, I should mention another pair of happenings this week. On Tuesday evening at 7:30 in Simon Music Center Room 242, Harvard Professor Christopher Hasty delivers a Five Friends Master Class Series Lecture on “The Union of Performance, Theory and Analysis in Music and in General.” Hasty follows that lecture up with a colloquium Wednesday at 8 in Simon Center Room 267, “Music and Time.” These hint at deeper digging into scholarly matters but, who knows, might prove provocative and stimulating. Hasty’s appearances remember Robert Samels; like all of the above events, they are free.


© Herald Times


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Jacobs premieres its newest opera production

By Alison Graham


A gentle snow falls onto a young man standing center stage.

He stands shivering outside on a Paris balcony, a small blanket wrapped around his shoulders.

Another man walks onto the balcony, singing Italian.


The cast of “La Boheme” plays out a scene during a dress rehearsal Tuesday at the Musical Arts Center. “La Boheme” is the Jacobs School of Music’s second opera of the season.

As they both enter back into a building, the set spins and gives audiences a view of a Parisian street.

Jacobs School of Music opera performers rehearsed their newest production “La B ohème”   on Tuesday night at the Musical Arts 

“La  B ohème”  is considered one of the most popular operas of all time and was put on by the music school in 2011.

Stage Director Jeffrey Buchman worked on the 2011 production and returned to direct the opera again.

“The biggest challenge is taking a piece that is so popular and making it feel fresh and vital and making people experience it again for the first time,” Buchman said. “We are trying to make sure that what is so fresh and passionate and beautiful in the piece comes through in a fresh, honest way.”

“La  B ohème”  tells the story of Mimi and Rodolfo, bohemians living in Paris. The two fall passionately in love during the first act of the opera.

Throughout the production, the two characters go through the ups and downs of a relationship, breaking up once and finally realizing they were meant to be together.

IU senior Sooyeon Kim plays the lead role of Mimi and finds the character very similar to her own personality.

“She’s very reserved,” Kim said. “But at the same time she has this passion for love. She just falls in love very passionately and she’s been waiting for this moment her whole entire life.”

Kim began singing at a very 
early age.

Her mom was a singer, so it came naturally to her, she said.

“Opera is interesting because it has all of the elements that I want,” she said. “The drama, the acting, singing, music — everything is in opera. It just moves me.”

The emotional journey that Mimi goes through is one of the most moving parts of the opera, Kim added.

Kim said her favorite scene is the final duet between Rodolfo and Mimi.

“That moment is the most beautiful moment in the whole opera,” she said.

The emotion becomes incredibly intense in the opera’s final moments, she said.

Channeling that emotion and trying to pay attention to opera singing techniques at the same time proved to be the biggest challenge for Kim, she added.

“When emotions get into your voice, it can affect your healthy singing,” Kim said. “I really wanted to find a balance between the two and not give up either of them.”

Kim and the other performers auditioned for the opera in April. After being cast, they began working with the conductor about a month ago on their voice work.

For the past three weeks, the actors have worked with the stage directors on rehearsals.

Only getting one night off per week, the actors work long hours everyday to make sure the opera is ready for the opening show.

“We work closely with the singers and make sure everything they do is truthful,” Buchman said. “They take all their cues from the music. It creates a seamless piece where music and drama are working together in a very balanced way.”

Buchman comes to the opera with a large amount of directing 

He worked with the original director of “La  B ohème”  in 2011 to create new ideas for the 

Buchman has directed operas for IU as well as professional shows in Florida and Georgia, among other states.

His experience with IU students differs from his work outside of IU.

Often in his work with professionals, Buchman said, it’s hard to identify how each performer has grown because they’re already at a certain level. That’s why he enjoys working with students, because he can be a part of developing their skillsets.

“With students, it’s an element of growth,” he said. “By now, you’re really seeing them blossom from what they were three weeks ago. That’s one of the exciting things about working at IU.”

Buchman has worked with the students for about three weeks.

He said sometimes the rehearsals have chaotic moments of working with more than 100 performers. Other times, it’s doing more intimate work with just one actor.

“I think that opera is such an amazing art form in the way that you immediately connect with it,” he said. “It’s something that draws you in.”

Buchman described “La  B ohème”  as romantic and fun, saying it was the kind of opera you want to see with other people to share the experience.

“Anyone who comes will be really happy that they came,” he said.

Buchman added that people are often intimidated by the fact that most operas are sung in different languages.

“La  B ohème” is performed in Italian.

However, like most operas, it features supertitles above the stage to aid the audience in understanding the dialogue.

Despite the supertitles, actors work hard to incorporate emotion and body language to communicate with the audience.

Even in Italian, audiences will be able to feel the passion between Mimi and Rodolfo.

“Our daily life is love, hatred, jealousy,” Kim said. “You have all the emotions that we all go through in the opera. It’s universal. Everyone can come see and be involved in any of the moments in this opera.”

“La  B ohème”  opens 8 p.m. Friday at the MAC. Tickets are available at the MAC box office or online at .  The performance will also be streamed online live Friday and Saturday.


© Indiana Daily Student

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OPERA REVIEW: IU’s revival of Rossini’s ‘Italian Girl in Algiers’ ‘awfully good fun’

By Peter Jacobi

IMG_5920The downer on both Friday and Saturday evenings was that there were too many empty seats in the Musical Arts Center. Mind you, the seats that were filled seemed to be occupied by happy campers because their cheers and laughter and applause generously kept coming throughout the performances.

Those present had good reason to so respond because IU Opera Theater’s current revival of Rossini’s delightfully absurd little comedy, “The Italian Girl in Algiers,” is awfully good fun.

And that’s why the downer element: every empty seat represented a lost opportunity for someone to have had an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Both the opera and the production deserved full houses.

Not that there was always perfection on stage. Rossini’s “Italian Girl,” in addition to being delightful and absurd and little, is an immensely difficult undertaking for any opera company, certainly for one built on young and still settling voices. The score abounds in coloratura, particularly for the mezzo selected to sing the title role, Isabella, and the tenor who portrays and sings her lover, Lindoro. They are faced consistently with too many notes stretched across their vocal range, all the way from extreme lows to highs, with abundant leaps and often with the need to negotiate passages with great speed.

That auditions came up with a pair of Isabellas and a pair of Lindoros is more than one should have hoped for. But there they were, Veronica Jensen and Francisco Orrega Huerta on Friday and Deniz Uzun and Lucas Wassmer on Saturday. The two Isabellas tackled their hurdles as if without hesitation or trepidation. Not only that, but they created full-blooded personages: Isabella may be the object of Mustafa’s desire, but she has the will to outmaneuver this Bey of Algiers and get herself and her fellow Italians away from his grasp.

If anything, the part of Lindoro is even more difficult to fulfill. There are more coloratura mezzos around than coloratura tenors. Both Huerta and Wassmer skipped some notes here and there and occasionally went askew when faced with dramatic jumps to the top. But they were brave performers and earned kudos for themselves as both singers and actors.

The third critical role in this opera buffo of Rossini is that of Mustafa. He is a tiger of a monarch who turns out to be a kitten and decides, in the end, that he’d much rather keep the submissive wife he wanted to get rid of than face the future with an Italian girl, with Isabella, whose independent streak will most likely give him nothing but grief. IU’s production features two strong bass-baritones: Stefano de Peppo, on Friday, and Rafael Porto, on Saturday, offered rollicking portrayals of a potentate reduced to fool. They had much to sing and much to do and did so exceedingly well.

All of the singers benefited from the presence of guest conductor Marzio Conti and guest stage director Julia Pevzner. Maestro Conti, from an overture deliciously played by the Concert Orchestra right through to second act curtain, kept commendable control of musical matters, in the pit and on stage. One never forgot in listening that this was Rossini; the needed bounce and bubbles were always present.

Pevzner gave the singers — including Walter Huff’s well-trained, all male chorus — the wherewithal to be comic, the willingness to let go of inhibitions and enter into the opera’s zany make-believe of a world and inhabit it.

The rest of the cast added to the ever-building nonsense: sopranos Brooklyn Snow and Natalie Weinberg as Elvira, the wife Mustafa wanted to rid himself of; baritones Edward Graves and Heeseung Chae as the captain of Mustafa’s corsairs, given the assignment to find a substitute wife and happy to have Isabella come along to save him from his boss’s threat of impalement; mezzos Marianthi Hatzis and Anna Hashizume as Elvira’s maid, and — most importantly — baritones Connor Lidell and Bruno Sandes as Taddeo, Isabella’s befuddled admirer. Sandes, it was duly noted, added whimsical, laughter-stirring choreography to his portrayal.

Daniela Siena contributed excellent diction coaching; the Italian language as sung sounded genuinely Italian. Patrick Mero’s lighting added to the effectiveness of a simple set designed some years ago for a production of Mozart’s “Abduction from the Seraglio” by Robert O’Hearn, a palatial façade with usable doors and windows plus a blue streak low on canvas to suggest the Mediterranean. Dana Tzvetkova deserves praise for the costumes.

I recommend the production. Come fill those seats.


© Herald Times 2014


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Jason Duika sings Verdi at Carnegie’s Isaac Stern and is hired by Palm Beach Opera to cover major roles

jason duikaBaritone Jason Duika has had a banner year.   In late April of this past spring, he appeared opposite fellow alumnus Andrew Lunsford to sing the Si pel ciel from Verdi’s Otello and Di provenza from his La traviata. Since then, Duika was one of 7 finalists in the inaugural James Toland vocal arts competition in Oakland, California and sang Ford’s aria and Ya vas lyublyu. He has also been hired by Palm Beach opera to be the baritone in their young artist program, and to cover Marcello and Schaunard in their December 2014 La Boheme.

Duika earned his Performers Diploma in 2012 from Indiana University and also holds a Bachelor of Arts in voice from Alma College, a Masters of Music in voice performance from Portland State University.

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Jacobs alumna Galia Arad to perform at Glastonbury Festival

GaliaGalia Arad, a JSoM alumna and former student of Alice Hopper and Meredith Mills Kiesgan, will be performing at the Glastonbury Festival on Sunday, June 29 in the Acoustic Tent.

During her time at Indiana University, Arad studied voice and musical theatre, and was a member of the Singing Hoosiers.

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Jacobs alumna Ursula Kuhar to present at the 2014 Association of Arts Administration Educators (AAAE) Annual Conference

Ursula Kuhar mezzo headshotsmallJacobs School of Music alumna Ursula Kuhar (DM Voice ’11) will be presenting on case studies and technology in the classroom at the 2014 Association of Arts Administration Educators (AAAE) Annual Conference in Montreal, Canada this May.

She is currently Director and Assistant Professor of Arts Management at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. Kuhar holds a BS in arts administration with honors and MM in music education from Butler University, a diploma from Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne, and a DM in Voice from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. An active mezzo-soprano, she has performed extensively throughout Europe and the Americas, specializing in 20th century American works, and is a recent Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Regional Finalist.

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Jacobs alumnus Richard Barrett to perform with Cappella Romana at Getty Villa

Richard Barrett (BM, Vocal Performance, ’05), presently a PhD candidate in the Indiana University Department of History completing a dissertation titled “Civic Devotions to the Mother of God in Late Antique Byzantium: Liturgy, Music, Memory and Topography in the History of a City” under the supervision of Deborah Deliyannis, will join acclaimed vocal ensemble Cappella Romana ( for two concerts at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, CA on May 17 and 18, 2014.

Barrett was also the recipient of the Herman B. Wells Graduate Fellowship for the coming academic year, and will be a Visiting Fellow in Residence at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology for 2014-2015.

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Jacobs Alumna Among Winners Named in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions

AmandaWoodbury180The Metropolitan Opera National Council recently announced Jacobs alumna Amanda Woodbury as one of its 5  winners for the 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.  Amanda was one of 9 vocalists who performed with the Met Opera Orchestra during the final round of the competition.

Soprano Amanda Woodbury completed her undergraduate degree at the Jacobs School of Music in 2010 and performed as First Lady in IU Opera Theater’s 2009 production of Die Zauberflöte. She also holds a master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

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Update on alumnus Jason Wickson

jason wicksonSince mid-2012, tenor Jason Wickson has been on a non-stop 18 month journey, performing and debuting eight of opera’s most demanding tenor roles in 12 productions. Roles include: Calàf in Turandot, Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut, Don José in Carmen, Macduff in Macbeth, Dick Johnson in La fanciulla del West, Erik in Der fliegende Holländer, Florestan in Fidelio, and Pollione in Norma. His performance as Erik in Der fliegende Holländer prompted The New York Times to write, “Best was another tenor, Jason Wickson, as a passionate, bronze-toned Erik. With his hapless love for Senta, Erik seems ridiculous in many productions, but Mr. Wickson gave him affecting seriousness.”

In the fall of 2013, Jason made his international debut as Narraboth in Salome with Opera Hong Kong. In April of 2014, Jason will continue his journey as Calaf in Turandot with the Shreveport Opera.

Jason earned a Performer Diploma in Voice from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 2008.

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