Marietta Simpson named IU Rudy Professor

SimpsonMezzo-soprano Marietta Simpson, professor of voice, was recently named an Indiana University Rudy Professor.

This spring, Simpson will be artist-in-residence for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ Monsanto Artists Training Program. She’ll be the mezzo soprano soloist in the Felix Mendelssohn realization of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the Mendelssohn Choir of Philadelphia and will serve as guest clinician for the National Association of Teachers of Singing.

In addition, she’ll travel to Kenya to begin gathering material for a collection of arrangements titled Mosaic Melodies of the Diaspora, one of the first collections of songs that combines the vocal folk music of Kenya with American Negro Spiritual music.

Rudy Professorships are awarded to attract and retain outstanding IU faculty members who are viewed by peers as superior in their fields of study. It was established by the estate of James Rudy, an IU alumnus and an Owensboro, Ky., farmer who died in 1956.

Read the full story.


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Three Jacobs students finalists in Grand Concours Vocal Competition

Three Jacobs School of Music students will be finalists in the Grand Concours Vocal Competition. Jeremy Johnson, Claire Lopatka and Erik Krohg will be competing in the finals which will be held in the University of Texas in Austin on February 21, 2015. This competition focuses on exclusively French repertoire. Best of luck to our Jacobs finalists!

grand concours comp finalists


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Alumna Nadja Michael Returns to the Metropolitan Opera Stage

nadja_michael_02____g__gellerIndiana University Jacobs School of Music Alumna, German Soprano Nadja Michael will return in February to the Metropolitan Opera performing the lead female role in Bela Brartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle.
Miss Michael studied with Professor Carlos Montane.
For more on Nadja Michael, visit her website:
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Hundreds of performers put on quite a show, with Zegree’s spark and spirit

By Peter Jacobi


To say that the weekend’s “Chimes of Christmas” presentations in the Indiana University Auditorium were the work of hundreds is no exaggeration.

The Saturday matinee employed more than 80 Singing Hoosiers, the four-member Singing Hoosiers Band, a quartet of Singing Hoosiers Horns, the Vocal Jazz Ensemble of eight, an IUnison group of 12, another 45 performers tied to Syncopation, the 34-singer African American Choral Ensemble, the visiting 35 youngsters from Columbus North High School’s Concert Choir, 13 IU Horns, 11 who constitute the IU Trombone Choir, and 16 Harvey Phillips Tuba Santas.

Add soprano Sylvia McNair and directors for each of the above musical units. Add the master of the whole affair, Steve Zegree, and who knows how many contributors behind the scene, and you get the idea. It takes a village to produce “Chimes of Christmas.”

The result was quite a show and, from what the applause and cheering would suggest, a definite crowd pleaser. There’s no doubt that the musical emphasis of the program has changed since previous Singing Hoosiers director Michael Schwartzkopf retired a few years back and Steve Zegree took over.

The content holds less traditional holiday fare: carols and historic chestnuts. These have given way to new songs and, more than that, to new arrangements, jazzier arrangements that appear to please enough folks for a show decades in the making to have — for the first time — a matinee performance, meaning two instead ofone.

For this viewer, to hear Sylvia McNair and the Singing Hoosiers join in a poignant “Silent Night” will probably be a best-appreciated and best-remembered moment, much more so than the program’s “Grand Finale,” an arrangement of Beethoven’s Hymn of Joy from the Symphony Number 9. This “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” was done up so the well-loved tune could barely be discerned, given the rhythmic twists and melodic turns.

I can understand the enthusiastic reaction. With virtually all the above listed musicians contributing to the musical might emanating from the Auditorium stage, it became hard for an audience to resist a “wow” response. The result did have impact.

As usual, “Chimes” held multiple items, 21 to be precise. So, there was something for everyone in the mix. Six Christmas-themed numbers for the Singing Hoosiers rightfully opened the program, most of them led, and led with persuasive purpose, by Duane Shields Davis, a newly acquired adjunct professor in the Jacobs School. Maestro Davis should be held on to; he’s very, very good. Doubling as singer on Saturday, he partnered Sylvia McNair in the charming Frank Loesser duet, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”; they sang it charmingly.

Ly Wilder brought her now-expected verve and jazz savvy to her own upbeat arrangement of “Santa (Bang Bang)” and a “Santa’s on His Way” medley. Raymond Wise, director of the African American Choral Ensemble, contributed his well-trained choir and an ebullient presentation of “He Brought Joy.” Jeff Nelsen and his IU Horns stressed tradition in their performance of the lovely “Carol of the Bells.” Daniel Perantoni led the Tuba Santas in a TubaSanta Suite. The Singing Hoosiers A Cappella remembered Hanukkah with an ebullient interpretation of Mike Boxer’s “Al Hanissim.”

Another highlight for this listener came when doctoral candidate Caleb Lewis stepped forward to lead the Singing Hoosiers in a beautiful Darmon Meader arrangement of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” The show did not lack variety.

Steve Zegree served as master of ceremonies, leaving the task of conducting mostly to others.

But, of course, he was the spark and spirit behind the whole of “Chimes.” Spark and spirit the show certainly had, in plentitude.


© Herald Times 2014

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Vocal performance major receives award, grant

Darian Clonts, an Atlanta native and a master’s degree candidate in vocal performance, won $3,000 from the Pierians Foundation.

Pierians Foundation uses its National Project Award to support the career aspirations of emerging artists.

The national arts organization is a nonprofit organization that is committed to “delivering quality artistic programs to communities throughout the United States and to raising funds to support community-based artistic projects, art appreciation programs, art education programs in schools and emerging artists in the performing, visual and literary arts,” according to a press release from the organization.

To be nominated for the National Project Award, an up-and-coming artist has to demonstrate “unusual and exceptional artistic talent and potential,” according to the release.

This year’s recipient received his award due to his talent and experience as a tenor.

Clonts studied at the Cobb County Center for 
Excellence in the Performing Arts for high school, where he was a vocal major and studied under tenor Bradley 

During his time at the school, he received the music department’s 2008 Presidential Scholarship to Morehouse College, where he eventually became a vocal performance major.

He traveled the United States and Canada, according to the release, singing tenor in the Morehouse College Glee Club and the group’s quartet.

At Morehouse, he studied voice with renowned vocal performers Uzee Brown Jr. and David Morrow.

Starting in 2010, Clonts performed four seasons as a member of the Atlanta 

The Atlanta Singers is a professional vocal ensemble that contains “some of the region’s finest soloists,” according to the release.

The group focuses on the art of small-ensemble choral performance with shows around the country.

“It was an honor to recognize the artistic gift of our own, local talent, Darian Clonts,” Janet Payne, president of the Atlanta Chapter of the Pierians Inc., said in the release.

Clonts came to IU in 2013 to work toward his master’s degree at the Jacobs School of Music.

He performed for the school in the Jacobs School opera H.M.S. Pinafore as part of the chours.

Clonts also performed in the chorus of “Porgy and Bess” at Princeton University this past year.

He was also a member of the Atlanta Opera Chorus during the 2013-14 season.

He performed in all three of the season’s productions: “La Traviata,” “Carmen” and “The Italian Girl in Algiers.”

“It fills our heart with joy to bestow our 2014 National Artistic Award to a young man as dedicated to excellence as Darian,” Mollie W. Neal, president of the Pierians Foundation, said in the release.

“He strives for the best in his artistic ability, and that is what the Pierians Foundation Inc. rewards.”


© Indiana Daily Student 2014

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Singing Hoosiers perform annual concert

By Alexis Daily


The IU Singing Hoosiers will perform its annual Chimes of Christmas holiday spectacular this weekend. Chimes of Christmas will have performances at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the IU Auditorium.

In addition to the Singing Hoosiers, there will be special guest appearances from IU African American Choral Ensemble, IU Vocal Jazz Ensemble I, IUnison, Sylvia McNair, Jeff Nelsen and IU Horn Choir, Syncopation and Santa Claus.

“First and foremost, Chimes is going to be fun,” Singing Hoosiers Director Stephen Zegree said. “It is also fast-paced, family-friendly and filled with energy, excitement, enthusiasm and pure 

Zegree is the fourth director in Singing Hoosiers’ history and a professor in the Jacobs School of Music.

The Singing Hoosiers started performing in Chimes of Christmas in 2012, but the spectacular has been an IU tradition since the 1950s.

“From very traditional holiday music, to jazz, to pop, to Broadway, to Top 40, to gospel, there truly is something for everyone,” Zegree said.

The Singing Hoosiers perform several concerts annually on the road and on IU’s campus, including its annual spring concert in March. The group also performs at Big Ten athletic events.

Senior music education major Kendall Renaud said she joined Singing Hoosiers in January 2013 and that the experience has made her grow as a musician and brought out a side of her musically she has never seen before.

“Being a Singing Hoosier means being a part of something bigger than yourself,” she said. “It is a huge family that shows nothing but love, support and acceptance. It is the one place where I have never once felt self-conscious of anything.”

Darian White, a junior majoring in nonprofit management, said he joined Singing Hoosiers during the fall semester of his freshman year.

He said he thought he would have to leave behind his show choir past in high school, but Singing Hoosiers has allowed him to continue to do what he loves.

“For people who have never been to Chimes, they need to check it out, as there is not a holiday concert quite like this one anywhere in our area,” Zegree said.

Tickets are available for both performances, with ticket prices ranging from $17 to $22 for the general public and $12 to $17 for IU students and children.


© Indiana Daily Student 2014

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Topo’s 403 is pleased to announce “A Taste of Opera”, a musical and culinary special event.  The restaurant will serve a four course tasting menu throughout an informal concert given by faculty and students of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Department of Opera Studies.

The musical program is hosted and directed by Wolfgang Brendel, Professor of Voice, and accompanied on piano by Kevin Murphy, Professor of Voice and Head Opera Coach.  Brendel has selected 7-8 top vocal students from the Department to perform pieces ranging from Opera and Operetta to Musical Theater and Holiday Classics.

The event will take place Wednesday, December 3, 2014 beginning at 6pm.  The $45 prix fixe menu will include three small plate courses and a dessert course, to be previewed on the Topo’s 403 website at  Wine pairings will also be available.  Additionally, 20% of the event’s sales will be donated to a student aid fund founded by Professor Brendel for the IU Jacobs School of Music.

Reservations for dinner seating at 6pm are kindly requested, and it is suggested to book early as space is limited.


Topo’s 403 serves a fresh Greek and Mediterranean-inspired menu of mezedes, salads, soups, entrees and desserts from $5 to $30.   The Taverna at Topo’s features premium liquors and signature cocktails, wine list featuring the Mediterranean regions as well as new world options, draught and bottled beers, and live music most Thursdays through Saturdays.

Topo’s 403 regular hours of operation are 5pm to 10pm Tuesday through Saturday, with late-night menu available after 10pm Thursday through Saturday.  Topo’s 403 is located at 403 N. Walnut St., on the corner of 8th Street and North Walnut Street.  Reservations are accepted at 812.676.8676 and via

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MUSIC REVIEW: “In sum and total, this ‘Last Savage’ is a hoot”

By Peter Jacobi


Zany. Manic. Silly. Absurd. Laughter producing. With just a touch of the poignant. The question raised: How much results from the production and how much from the work itself?

The current version of Gian Carlo Menotti’s “The Last Savage” on stage at the Musical Arts Center is a riot. Its sets and staging were a huge success three years ago at the Santa Fe Opera, where the folks in charge decided that the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth was worth a gamble: the revival of a Menotti opera that had been critically torn to shreds when premiered. The gamble worked in Santa Fe.

Likewise, those who determine the repertory of Indiana University’s Opera Theater decided what was done in Santa Fe should be attempted here. The scenery and costumes designed by Allen Moyer were imported. So was stage director Ned Canty. So was choreographer Kyle Lang. Matters musical — conductor (Constantine Kitsopoulos), chorus master (Walter Huff), orchestra (IU Symphony), and singers (two student casts and a chorus) — were very nicely taken care of here. Lo and behold, the gamble has worked again.

The question posed above, however, remains: Credit the production or Gian Carlo Menotti’s music and libretto?

Quite frankly, I don’t know, having not seen or heard the opera before. And quite frankly, for the moment, I don’t care. Director Canty was right when, during the rehearsal period, he told me, “There are plenty of operas that make us cry or laugh, but ‘The Last Savage’ offers delight, and we need delight.”

Menotti’s story is thin. We meet an industrial magnate from Chicago who plans to marry off his daughter to an Indian prince. The daughter complicates matters; she’s an anthropologist on the hunt for the last primitive man; marriage is not on her mind. Dad hires a young Indian fellow named Abdul to act the part of savage. Rather than falling for the prince, the daughter falls for the hire, while the prince decides he favors a servant girl in his father’s palace. Anthropologist and Indian fellow move into a cave with modern conveniences, of course.

There’s plenty of room for satire in the story and in the production. The hired “savage” turns out to be the most worthy character, least warped by the high life of his native India or the confusing high life in Chicago. Baritone Robert Gerold played the role on opening night with considerable charm. It became easy to side with his portrayal of Abdul and worry for the befuddled young man in the unfolding chaos. Please note: I have not yet seen the alternate cast but will this week and, then, report on it.

Coloratura soprano Martha Eason gave Kitty, the anthropologist, plenty of personality, a flexible voice, and a commendable way with diction, unusual for singers of such a vaulted range.

The cast is huge for so slender an opera, but everyone — from the majors to the comic and bearded male servants running about in body stockings, turbans, and what looked like diapers — contributed to the comic atmosphere.

Baritone David Rugger portrayed the daughter-loving and money-loving father of the independent Kitty with verve and a good voice. Bass baritone Jeremy Gussin and mezzo soprano Olivia Thompson added fuel for laughter as the clownish Maharaja and Maharanee. Their son, Prince Kodanda, is given a large-sized presence by tenor Edward Atkinson. His eventual partner in the swiftly changing romance department is a fine soprano, Summer Aebker, as the servant Sardula.

Keeping control and adding gusto was music director Constantine Kitsopoulos, who made sure all the musicians, those on stage and in the orchestra pit, were doing justice to Menotti’s music, which may not be the composer’s very best but certainly features some effective arias and ensembles. The English supertitles for the opera’s English libretto helped listeners keep track of the verbal goings-on; they were supplied by the Santa Fe Opera.

Plaudits also to lighting designer Lee Fiskness, whose good work casts the right lights and shadows on sets that are, by themselves, chuckle inducing.

In sum and total, this “Last Savage” is a hoot.

© Herald Times 2014

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The Last Savage: Menotti’s Bow To Screwball Comedy

By George Walker

“…imagine if Donizetti and Puccini collaborated on the score of a Doris Day-Rock Hudson movie.” stage director, Ned Canty

Eric Smedsrud and Angela Yoon as Menotti's leopard skin clad lovers.

Eric Smedsrud and Angela Yoon as Menotti’s leopard skin clad lovers.

Opera and musical fans who think that all Gian Carlo Menotti wrote was the elegiac Amahl and the Night Visitors should be ready to be quite delightfully amazed with IU Opera Theater’s production of his The Last Savage. I got a sneak preview at Thursday night’s dress rehearsal.Who knew or even suspected that Menotti could write the words and the music for an international satire on love, politics, and the arts that still seems fresh, charming and new fifty years later?

The Last Savage is at its heart a silly love story. Mr. Scattergood, Reuben Walker, an American millionaire an equally wealthy Maharajah, Andrew Richardson, seek to unite their fortunes with the marriage of the marriage of their children. Neither the American’s perky grad student daughter Kitty, Angela Yoon, nor the Maharajah’s somewhat sulky son Prince Kodanda, Will Perkins, are particularly interested in the match, but major fortunes are at work.

The Maharajah’s complex of family problems and the millionaire’s complex of management issues are very neatly and amusingly dramatized, sung about and acted out. The marriage is tentatively agreed upon, but first the daughter demands the right to search India for a primitive man and to civilize him for her thesis. The two fathers hire a young man, Abdul, Eric Smedsrud, to play the savage. Complications, as they say, ensue.  They’re all stock tropes from the musical comedy, operetta and opera closet, but Menotti’s opera makes some of them quite fresh and all of them welcome.

Abdul, the faux savage is caught and tamed by Kitty. Then he’s treated to a mind numbing display of what passes for culture at a monster reception. There are competing religions that all claim to have the correct address for god, and philosophy that says there is no God.  An Andy Warhol look alike does a Jackson Pollack style mechanical painting. A peace signing poet mouths doggerel. A trio and a vocalist satirize the hard edged abstract classical music of the 60s. It’s all overwhelming, but very funny. Abdul has a quite appropriate melt down and flees back home and out to a cave in the jungle.

It’s a pinnacle of the action…Will Kitty get back together with Abdul or marry the Prince. Will the Prince have to marry Kitty or might he wind up with the family servant Sardula, Olivia Yokers, that he’s always pined for? And what about the running gag between Mr. Scattergood and the Maharajah’s wife, Olivia Thompson, about a bit of past history that may be more than just a bit?

I’ve shared some of the story with you, but haven’t touched on the very colorful production. The stage design is full of modern approaches mixed with old style tricks for the eye that seem to take scenes miles deep into the stage and right up front as well.  The singing was assured and strong. Acting by all was very good. The dancing by the Maharajah’s multi tattooed servants is simply hilarious.

IU Opera Theater’s production of Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Last Savage conducted by Constantine Kitsopoulos with stage direction by Ned Canty is a shamelessly campy, very colorful production that works hard to please, and please it does. There’s more than enough music and vocal display for opera fans and plenty of spectacle and action for those who prefer musicals.

The Last Savage plays November 14, 15, 20 and 21 in the Musical Arts Center. You can find this review and an interview with singers who play the “savage” on our web site at WFIU dot ORG/arts.

At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker.

© WFIU 2014



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Live stream this weeekend of an opera you have never seen on screen!

The IU Opera cast performs a scene in "The Last Savage" on Tuesday.

The IU Opera cast performs a scene in “The Last Savage” on Tuesday.

Indiana University Opera Theater is live-streaming Giancarlo Menotti’s The Last Savage this coming weekend, Nov 14 & 15, in an acclaimed production from Santa Fe.

There are no videos available of this opera. This could be your only chance!

Click here to watch.


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