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Opera in the Graduate Program

  Graduate students Joanne Robinson and Brian Ming Chu in MANON
Graduate students Joanne Robinson and Brian Ming Chu in Manon
Graduate students differ from undergraduates in that they usually have had time to discover whether opera is a career goal for them, and will have begun to acquire the vocal technique to help them attain it. Unlike undergraduates, however, they only have two years in which to pursue their goal (although many stay longer in a different program), and so need to hit the ground running. Graduate students who do not wish to pursue opera, however, are not compelled to do so; there are no opera requirements for Voice majors at the graduate level.

Although there is a very small and highly selective Graduate Performance Diploma [GPD] in Opera, the majority of graduate students are pursuing opera as an elective within one of the programs in Voice; the notes which follow are addressed to these students who are not GPD Opera majors. From the point of view of the Opera Department, it makes no difference whatsoever whether the student is doing the MM, DMA, or GPD in Voice. Although the Voice GPD is indeed a performance-intensive program, it does not confer special privileges in casting. It may, however, be attractive to those who do not need the academic qualification, who want to take fewer academic classes (which are, in fact, strictly limited in this program), who wish to give two recitals instead of one, or for whom the difference in price is important. GPD students who are cast in major leading roles may also petition the Voice faculty to count an opera performance as one of their required recitals.

Graduate students also differ from one another in the amount of operatic experience they have had as undergraduates. Their ability to “hit the ground running” as far as opera is concerned depends upon the extent of this experience. New students will interview with the department chair and take diagnostic auditions in their first week as a means of assessing their experience. Assignment to opera classes and to many of the season's roles are made as a result of these auditions. Students who have not had equivalent classes elsewhere will be assigned to one of the basic classes: Movement for the Stage or Acting for Opera. Students with a stronger background may elect one of the more advanced classes. In any case, the purpose of the basic classes for graduates is to bring them up to speed by their second year in the program.

Graduate students J.J.Hobbs and Alyssa Bowlby in ALBERT HERRING  
Graduate students J.J.Hobbs and Alyssa Bowlby in Albert Herring
Graduate students with an unusual aptitude for opera may apply to be accepted into the Opera Performance Certificate track at any time in their program; check the link for further information.

Peabody is fortunate to attract many students from overseas, who have contributed a wealth of talent to our student body. [Our production of Verdi’s Falstaff in 1996 had students from Russia, China, Korea, Costa Rica, and England alongside Americans in the leading roles.] However, difficulty in speaking English can hold a student back from being able to take advantage of opportunities at Peabody or possible engagements in the community more than any other single factor. Overseas students should thus make it their first priority to master the courses which the school offers in the English language.

Most graduate students will want to get onstage as soon as possible. The Opera Department mounts about 8 productions each year, for a combined total of around 40 performances. The various names — Opera Workshop, Opera Outreach, Chamber Opera, and Opera Theatre — may sound confusing; they differ mainly in the size of the accompanying forces (from piano solo to full orchestra) and in the proportion of the budget that is spent upon costumes and decor:

Backstage photograph of J Austin Bitner by Jesse Hellman,
taken during FALSTAFF performance, 1996
All pictures by JESSE HELLMAN
Thirsty work waiting to go onstage in Falstaff

Graduate students may expect to have at least two performance assignments, and very often more, during the two years of their program. We also try to cast everybody in at least one role with orchestra (Opera Theatre or Chamber Opera) before they graduate. Given the challenge of a role in a major production, however, it is less likely that incoming students will be cast for a significant role in their first year, while they are still relatively unknown to us, but we try to make up for this in the second year. Furthermore, all interested students get the possibility of taking part in at least one opera class each year, and many take more than one.

 

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