Tag: opera

Social activism explored in Lawrence opera production of “Hydrogen Jukebox”

With the help of the combined talents of vanguard composer Philip Glass and iconic beat poet Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence University’s opera studies program explores four decades of social activism in four performances of “Hydrogen Jukebox.”

The production will be staged Feb. 16-18 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 19 at 3 p.m. in Stansbury Theatre of the Music-Drama Center. Tickets for the general public, at $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for students, are available through the Lawrence Box Office. The opera is free to members of the Lawrence community with an ID.

A talk back with members of the cast, production team and Lawrence faculty will follow the Friday (2/17) and Saturday (2/18) performances.

The opera grew out of a 1988 chance meeting between Glass and Ginsberg at a New York City bookstore. A piano piece composed by Glass to accompany a Ginsberg reading of the anti-war poem “Wichita Vortex Sutra” at Broadway’s Schubert Theater evolved into a full-length piece that became “Hydrogen Jukebox.” The name came from a verse in Ginsberg’s 1955 poem “Howl.”

The opera’s first public performance was on May 26, 1990 at the Spoleto Music Festival in Charleston, S.C.

According to Glass, the idea behind “Hydrogen Jukebox” was to create a portrait of America covering the 1950s through the late 1980s by incorporating the personal poems of Ginsberg that examined a variety of social issues, from the anti-war movement and the sexual revolution to Eastern philosophy and environmental issues.

Copeland Woodruff, director of opera studies at Lawrence, who is directing the production, said he selected the work in part to expose students to social activism in the country during the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.

“The primary impetus of choosing an opera at an academic institution, especially an undergraduate one, is to serve the population of students you currently have,” said Woodruff, whose 2016 production of “The Beggar’s Opera” earned first-place honors in the National Opera Association’s Division 6 best opera production competition. “With the prevalent social unrest at universities and colleges last year, it seemed a responsible thing to do. I did not, however, anticipate falling so completely in love with Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg.”

The production features a cast of six singers and an actor. It incorporates a considerable among amount of video projection content, which is used in a variety of roles throughout the performance, including environmental and expressive of characters and thoughts.

“The cast, designers and I looked at the poetry and Glass’ and Ginsberg’s fascination and dedication to Eastern thought,” said Woodruff, “and we crafted an evening that is a journey from loss and back on the path of regaining oneself and one’s purpose.

“Highlights along the road include experimentation with consciousness to reconnect; opening oneself to help others, but having only harsh words and doubt to convey; looking into the past and finding the growth potential instead of being marred in past wrongs and shortcomings; and seeing things clearly and dispassionately, so that we may be most helpful to others and ourselves.”

Andrew Mast, Kimberly Clark Professor of Music and director of bands, conductors the music ensemble for the production. Bonnie Koestner, associate professor of music, is the production’s music director and Reed Woodhouse, a senior vocal coach at Juilliard, is visiting guest artist and a vocal coach for the production.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence opera program recognized with national award — again

The hits just keep on coming for Lawrence University’s opera studies program.

For the second straight year, Lawrence has garnered national recognition. Its 2016 production of “The Beggar’s Opera,” which was performed last February at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, was awarded first-place honors in the 2015-16 National Opera Association’s (NOA) Division 6 Best Opera Production competition.

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Lawrence’s 2016 production of “The Beggar Opera” earned first-place honors in the National Opera Association’s Division 6 Best Opera Production competition.

Lawrence earned top honors against competitors with graduate student programs, some of which are previous winners in the category.

The college’s first micro-opera production, “Expressions of Acceptance,” which was performed at the PAC in November 2015, tied for third place in the 2015-16 NOA’s Division 1 Best Opera Production competition.

“This is a win for all of Lawrence because opera is a huge, intricate event,” said Copeland Woodruff, who joined the college in the fall of 2014 as director of opera studies. “Opera incorporates all of the disciplines — singing, instrumental solo and ensemble, collaborative piano, theatre design and technical craft, acting, choreography, stage combat, research in history, literature, art, sociology, psychology and of course administrative assistance to make it all happen. We are so lucky to have such a supportive, collaborative environment at Lawrence that fosters this type of exploration.”

“Expressions of Acceptance” was a collaborative effort between Woodruff, Margaret Paek, director of Lawrence’s dance program and Matt Turner, director of the ensemble Improvisation Group of Lawrence University (IGLU) in conjunction with Lawrence’s student organization GLOW and Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities, Riverview Gardens and COTS. Through , 5-8 minute micro-operas, it examined issues and experiences that both bind people together as well as differentiate us. The pieces were perrformed in non-traditional places in the PAC, including stairwells, bathrooms and even an elevator.

“I am thrilled that our students’ talent is recognized and revered by our peers across the nation.”
      — Copeland Woodruff, director of opera studies

This was the second year in a row Lawrence was recognized nationally for its opera program. In 2015, Lawrence earned first-place honors in the undergraduate division of the Collegiate Opera Scenes competition at the joint national conventions of NOA and the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS). Lawrence’s 2015 production of “The Tender Land” earned second-place honors the NOA’s Best Opera Production competition.

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Lawrence’s micro-opera production “Expressions of Acceptance” earned third-place recognition the National Opera Association’s Division 1 Best Opera Production competition.

“These awards allow our students to garner a idea of where they stand among their peers,” said Woodruff, who will accept the awards in person in January at the 2017 NOA national convention in Santa Barbara, Calif.  “I’m so proud of the dedication, hard work and long hours everyone devoted to crafting these memorable, landmark experiences. I am thrilled that our students’ talent is recognized and revered by our peers across the nation.

“Being remote from other opera companies and schools with opera programs, it is important for our students to participate in these competitions so that they can compare themselves with the pool of artists who will be their competitors for and colleagues in graduate schools, summer opera training programs and their eventual career,” Woodruff added.

The production competitions are based on an anonymously submitted video of the production. Judges, who are industry and academic professionals, base their decisions on criteria that includes musicianship of both singers and instrumentalists; dramatic credibility and characterization; production concept, staging and execution; and overall quality of the production. The scenes competition is based upon live performance at the national conference.

The divisions are based upon the size and scope of an institution’s music and opera program, level of vocal training of the singers and production budget.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence interdisciplinary project examines gun-related issues through micro-operas

Straight-from-the-Heart_newsblogGuns, one of America’s most polarizing topics, gets examined through a unique lens — improvised micro-operas — in Lawrence University’s presentation of “Straight from the Hip.”

Through a series of nine mini-vignettes, each approximately three minutes in length, the issue of gun presence and gun awareness in the community will be explored Monday, Oct. 24 at The Draw, 800 S. Lawe St., Appleton. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required through the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.

Designed to challenge the audience to think about issues that are complex and often highly partisan, “Straight from the Hip” is based on 135 responses to a local, month-long social media survey conducted by three Lawrence faculty members.

Featuring 30 student performers, the program is an interdisciplinary endeavor created by the collective brain trust of Copeland Woodruff, Lawrence’s director of opera studies, Margaret Paek, director of Lawrence’s dance program and Matt Turner, director of the ensemble Improvisation Group of Lawrence University (IGLU).

“Each of these arts has the power to connect, transform and uplift,” said Paek. “Combined, the three art forms have exponential power. The full use of all the capacities of the performers helps them embody the art in a deeply personal way and can help reach the audience more profoundly.”

Turner, an unabashed fan of interdisciplinary projects, says it is “crucial our students see how important collaboration is to us as faculty. This really is the future. Students will find themselves in situations in which they will have to use movement, music and improvise and compose.”

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Margaret Paek

The survey solicited answers to questions about personal relationships with guns, whether a person had ever used a gun in self defense and if there were specific local areas or locations in which a person felt unsafe and why, among others.

Choosing a single survey answer, the performers will craft an emotional landscape for that response which may be spoken, sung, whispered, turned into a dance or a sonic play, producing a short, improvised theatrical performance. The various vignettes may feature a soloist, a trio, a quartet or a quintet performing.

John Adams, curator at The Draw, a modern art gallery near the Lawrence campus that fosters artistic creative collaborations, loved the concept behind “Straight from the Hip” and generously offered the gallery’s various spaces for the production. The audience will be divided into small groups and guided through The Draw’s three floors for each short performance.

Each of six complete “shows” will last approximately 30 minutes and start on the half hour beginning at 7 p.m. The last performance starts at 9:30 p.m.

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Copeland Woodruff

Because of its interdisciplinary structure, “the students foster a sense as ‘artists,’ not ’singer,’ ‘guitarist,’ ‘cellist,’ ‘dancer,’” said Woodruff. “The divisions blur, so that they are contributing with their full range of capabilities and testing those that may not be their primary mode of expression. Their sense of ensemble dynamics is extremely sophisticated.

“I am so in awe of our students’ ability and willingness to approach this challenging topic with curiosity, generosity and artistic rigor and examination,” he added.

By its very nature, Paek believes different parts of the production will affect different people.

“Some will be more moved by the words, some will be more impacted by the music and some will be more touched through the movements of the performers,” she said.

Turner underscored that point by citing one of the vignettes that focuses on a father and son reminiscing about fond memories of hunting together, a confluence of gun hunting and family.

“I personally do not like guns, but that said, I have learned to see other perspectives through this project,” said Turner.

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Matt Turner

Acknowledging the wide, and often divisive, range of opinions related to gun control and gun violence, the program’s aim is to stimulate careful thought and meaningful dialogue rather than advocate a specific viewpoint.

“It is a complicated subject tied up with personal freedom and how far that personal is freedom allowed to go when considering someone else’s personal freedom and sense of freedom,” said Woodruff, who grew up in a home in Alabama that had guns, although he personally never shot one.

Paek hopes “Straight from the Hip” provides a process for audience members and performers alike get to see this topic through someone else’s eyes, heart or personal experience.

“The conversations that we have already had have helped me think in broader terms and be more compassionate towards perspectives that are different than mine. It has reminded me how complex this issue truly is.”

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

 

Lawrence Artist Series welcomes opera star Lawrence Brownlee

If you enjoy opera, you’ll love Lawrence Brownlee. If you don’t, he may turn you into a convert.

With effortless sound and sparkling diction, Brownlee brings his powerful and agile tenor voice to the Lawrence Memorial Chapel stage Saturday, April 16 at 8 p.m. in the latest Lawrence University’s Artist Series concert.

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Tenor Lawrence Brownlee

Tickets, at $25/$30 for adults, $20/$25 for seniors and $18/$20 for students are available through the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.

While performing opposite the leading ladies of contemporary opera, Brownlee has established himself as a star on the international scene. He has dazzled audiences in nearly every major theater in the world and enjoys a relationship with many prominent conductors and symphony orchestras.

Since being named Grand Prize winner of the 2001 Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, the Associated Press has named him one of “the world’s leading bel canto tenors.” National Public Radio hailed his voice as “an instrument of great beauty and expression.”

“Lawrence Brownlee is, without exaggeration, a phenomenon in today’s operatic world,” said Joanne Bozeman, a voice instructor in Lawrence’s conservatory of music. “With all due respect to other fine tenors, I don’t believe anyone currently matches him in the high-flying bel canto repertoire. NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert of Mr. Brownlee singing spirituals is a great way to sample what he will bring to the chapel stage as an equally phenomenal recitalist.”

Brownlee’s operatic highlights include: “La Cenerentola” in Milan, Houston, Philadelphia and the Metropolitan Opera; “L’italiana in Algeri” in Milan, Dresden, Boston and Seattle; and the title role in the 2015 world premiere of Daniel Schnyder’s “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird,” a work written specifically for him, at the Opera Philadelphia.

Brownlee’s discography boasts the Grammy Award-nominated “Virtuoso Rossini Arias,” a  testament to his broad impact in the classical music genre. He also has contributed several opera and concert recordings, among them “Armida” at the Metropolitan Opera and “Carmina Burana” with the Berlin Philharmonic.

In 2013, Brownlee released a collection of African-American spirituals entitled “Spiritual Sketches” with pianist Damien Sneed, which the pair performed at Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series. In a review of the album, NPR it as “soulful singing” that “sounds like it’s coming straight from his heart to yours.”

An avid salsa dancer and photographer, often taking portraits of his on-stage colleagues, Brownlee is a die-hard football fan and has treated many NFL audiences to his rendition of the national anthem.

A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Brownlee earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana’s Anderson University and a graduate degree from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence takes “The Beggar’s Opera” to the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center

Lawrence University Opera makes its Fox Cities Performing Arts Center debut Feb. 25-28 with four performances of John Gay’s revolutionary “The Beggar’s Opera” in the Kimberly-Clark Theater.

Performances Thursday, Feb. 25- Saturday Feb. 27 begin at 7:30 p.m. A matinee performance on Sunday, Feb. 28 begins at 3 p.m. Tickets, at $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for students, are available at the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749 or the PAC Box Office, 920-730-3760.

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Elena Stabile as Polly Peachum and Mitchell Kasprzyk as Captain Macheath perform in Lawrence’s production of “The Beggar’s Opera.”

Written by Gay as an English counter-response to 18th-century Italian opera, “The Beggar’s Opera” challenges conventional ideas of criminal and governing factions, of love and necessity. The revolutionary opera changed theatre for the next two centuries, introducing the use of popular songs and ballads of the time in a biting satire on English government and society.

At the time, men called thief-takers received stolen goods from thieves and returned them to their rightful owners for a fee. Knowing the names and crimes of each thief they dealt with, the thief-takers could, if not provided enough bounty, turn him over to the authorities for a 40 £ reward. The authorities profitably cooperated with thief-takers in this corrupt system.

“John Gay and his fellow satirists observed and railed against the corruption in the magistrates and elected officials,” said Copeland Woodruff, director of opera studies and stage director of the production. “‘The Beggar’s Opera’ is rife with these antitheses, pointing out that Lords are no more upstanding that the Highwaymen.”

The opera follows the tale of Peachum, thief-taker and informer, who conspires to send dashing and promiscuous highwayman Macheath to the gallows after Macheath has secretly married Peachum’s daughter, Polly. The result is a tale of chase and escape, of thieves and prostitutes, of love and loss, all told by the Beggar, who insists that the performance be viewed like all other fashionable operas of the time. In reality, of course, “The Beggar’s Opera” deliberately breaks away from the form of any opera before it.

Woodruff credited his experience working with the PAC last fall on his special “Expressions of Acceptance” micro-operas event for the location change from Lawrence’s Stansbury Theatre to the downtown venue.Beggar's-Opera_newsblog-4

“After planning the micro-operas there and meeting and working with the wonderful, generous team at the PAC, it seemed a perfect fit for this opera,” said Woodruff. “The Kimberly-Clark Theater has a very intimate feeling and the audience will be feet away from performers in a piece that is of the people and by the people.”

Guest conductor Hal France directs the orchestra, while Bonnie Koestner serves as music director and vocal coach. Choreography was designed by Margaret Paek and fight choreography by J. Christopher Carter. Michael J. Barnes served as the production’s accent coach.

In the double-cast production, sophomores Ian Grimshaw and John Perkins share the role of Mr. Peachum. Senior Elena Stabile and junior Lizzie Burmeister portray Polly Peachum, while seniors Mitchell Kasprzyk and David Pecsi portray Captain Macheath. seniors Kelsey Wang and Katie Mueller share the role of Lucy Lockit.

In addition to live music played my members of the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra during the opera, Holy Sheboygan!, a local band of Lawrence alumni, will play a pre-opera concert beginning 30 minutes before the start of each day’s performance as well as during two 10-minute intermissions.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence student musicians win national opera competition

Seven Lawrence University students wowed a judging panel of professionals with an eight-minute scene from Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” to earn first-place honors in the recent Collegiate Opera Scenes Competition.

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Lawrence students were all smiles after winning the Collegiate Opera Scenes Competition. Showing off their first-place plaque are (front row, l. to r.) Katie Mueller, Kayla Siembieda and director of opera studies Copeland Woodruff. Back row (l. to r.): Mitchell Kasprzyk, Derrick Hahn (accompanist), Jackson Rosenberry, Josh Eidem and Paul Gutmann.

Held Jan. 7 at the Conrad Hotel in downtown Indianapolis, Ind., the competition was part of a national joint convention of the National Opera Association and the National Association of Teachers of Singing.

Six singers, all seniors — Josh Eidem, Paul Gutmann, Mitchell Kasprzyk, Katie Mueller, Jackson Rosenberry and Kayla Siembieda —  and junior Derrick Hahn as accompanist on piano, performed the Act III sextet from “Figaro” in front of an audience of more than 300 that included directors, educators and international artists, among them legendary operatic stars George Shirley, Esther Hinds, Thomas Young, and Donnie Ray Albert.

“The convention and competition was a wonderful opportunity for our students to step outside their bubble and see where they stand in relation to their peers,” said Copeland Woodruff, director of opera studies at Lawrence. “It also afforded them the opportunity to perform for and meet opera professionals, colleagues and educators, who helped them understand what a tightly knit community the opera world is. They received valuable feedback and audience response, including that from well-respected, graduate school educators with their eyes on potential students.

“And,” Woodruff added, “it helped us showcase what amazing talent we have here at Lawrence.”

Selected on the basis of a submitted video, Lawrence was one of just five finalists chosen to perform in Division I of the competition. Lawrence competed against performers from DePauw University, Kennesaw State University, Michigan State University and Sam Houston State University.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.        

Expressions of Acceptance: Micro-opera event celebrates community unity

As part of his first production at Lawrence University last spring, Copeland Woodruff, the college’s new director of opera studies, surveyed his audience, asking them to share instances of feeling unwelcomed or as an outsider.

He was so moved by the outpouring of responses he received, he knew he had to do something to further address some of the experiences that were shared.

Micro-opera_newsblogThat “something” became the  collaborative project “Expressions of Acceptance” that will feature more than 40 Lawrence student singers, including 30 from the Improvisational Group of Lawrence University (IGLU), and instrumentalists simultaneously performing 13 “micro-operas” — each about 5-8 minutes in length — in the lobby of the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in downtown Appleton. Every nook and cranny of the four-story lobby will be utilized for performances, including stairwells, seating areas, the bars and even the elevator.

The performance, Monday, Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m., will be preceded by a walk through downtown Appleton by organizers and community partners starting at 7 p.m. in front of the Lawrence Memorial Chapel and ending at the PAC. Anyone is welcome to participate in the walk, which is designed to embrace community and celebrate Appleton.

Following the performances, the audience will meet the cast and creative team and spend time together digesting the experience with community leaders in the Kimberly-Clark theatre.

“I was so excited and inspired by the audiences’ need to reach out and tell their stories last spring, that I knew that we had to continue the dialogue,” said Woodruff, director of opera studies and associate professor of music. “We are all strangers, even to ourselves sometimes. When we recognize that, it gives us courage to reach out to another soul, who is also a stranger.”

“Expressions of Acceptance” grew out of Woodruff’s production of Aaron Copland’s “The Tender Land” last February, an opera written during the Senator Joseph McCarthy trials that explores themes of “the stranger among us” as well as “the stranger within.”

“I hope through this event we can find ways to reach out and connect with others regardless
of any perceived difference, either in others or ourselves and be open
to the miraculous, healing qualities that each of us possesses.”

— Copeland Woodruff

A collaboration between Lawrence’s student organization GLOW and Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities (CDFC), Riverview Gardens and COTS, the campus and local organizations hosted pre-show and post-show events. Each audience member was asked to complete a four-question survey that asked them to describe a time in their life when they felt like an outsider, why it’s common for people to be wary of strangers or newcomers, what can be done to help people feel welcome and accepted and what obstacles do newcomers to Lawrence or the Fox Cities face that might prevent them from enjoying all that the community can offer.

“I would like for us not only to celebrate our differences, but to find the common threads we all share: we all want to love, be loved, be accepted for who we are, and be allowed to grow with regard to our varied experiences,” said Woodruff. “I hope through this event we can find ways to reach out and connect with others regardless of any perceived difference, either in others or ourselves and be open to the miraculous, healing qualities that each of us possesses. We are so much more than what appears at first glance, or second glance, or one-thousandth glance.”

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Copeland Woodruff

While Copeland has produced and directed walk-through events before coming to Lawrence, “the level of integrated involvement with so many different community and university organizations is a first for me.”

The Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region is a co-sponsor of the “Expressions of Acceptance” project, supporting it with a $2,500 grant.

In addition to the partners who worked with Woodruff on “The Tender Land,” additional community collaborators assisting with the “Expressions of Acceptance” production are Kathy Flores, the diversity and inclusion coordinator for the city of Appleton, African Heritage, Inc., INCLUDE, Casa Hispana, E.S.T.H.E.R., Goodwill, and CODA.

“It has been a life-changing experience for me working together with Matt Turner, Margaret Paek and the IGLU students,” said Woodruff, who earned first-place honors in the prestigious National Opera Association’s Best Opera Production Competition, Division V last year for the  fifth time in the past eight years. “Many of the students didn’t know each other until this project and to see them learn from each other is mind-blowing. Watching them work together, reaching across many performance-practice boundaries to swim in the scary deep end of the improvisation and post-modern theatre pool has been a landmark in my career as an artist and an educator.”

“Getting out and working with the community has helped this outsider feel more a part of the conversation in Appleton and the surrounding area,” Woodruff added. “Finding similar and differing opinions and points of view, learning and growing from them, that’s what the human experience is for me.”

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

New Lawrence opera director makes debut with Copland’s “The Tender Land”

American composer Aaron Copland‘s classic folk opera “The Tender Land” comes to the stage of Stansbury Theatre Feb. 19-22 in a collaborative production of Lawrence University’s theatre, music and opera studies programs.

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Junior Mitchell Kasprzyk (left) portrays the drifter Top and senior Stephanie Popik portrays Laurie Moss in Lawrence’s production of Aaron Copland’s “The Tender Land.” Photo by Nathan B. Lawrence

Curtain times for performances Feb. 19-20-21 are 7:30 p.m. with a Sunday, Feb. 22 matinee at 3 p.m. Tickets, at $15 for adults and $8 for seniors and students, are available through the Lawrence University Box Office, 920-832-6749. The three-act performance runs approximately two hours with no intermission.

Well known for its soaring melodies, “The Tender Land” brings the Depression-era American Midwest to life. With Copland’s music and a libretto written by his romantic partner Erik Johns under the pseudonym Horace Everett, the story explores themes of the stranger among us and the stranger within. Under Copland’s sweeping, yet intimate score, characters dance between their own inner and outer worlds.

The story is told through the eyes of Laurie Moss, the eldest daughter of a Dust Bowl-era 1930s farming family, who feels unconnected to both her family and community. The arrival of two drifters turns Laurie’s thoughts to the freedom of the road and its possibilities. Smitten with one drifter, she plans to leave home with him, only to have him depart without her. Laurie soon realizes it was the dream of abandoning the farm and starting life on her own terms with which she was really in love, not the drifter.

The production is the Lawrence debut of award-winning opera director Copeland Woodruff, who was appointed the college’s first director of opera studies last spring. He joined the faculty in September. In November, Woodruff earned first-place honors in the prestigious National Opera Association’s Best Opera Production Competition for the fifth time in the past eight years. He was recognized for his 2014 production of Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” with University of Memphis Opera.

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Copeland Woodruff

Working with his team of set, lighting and costume designers, Woodruff said of the production “we’ve tried to create a world that allows a framework of the Midwestern farm, but leaves room for magical realism.”

The set incorporates the use of a large, opaque, translucent quilt, which serves as a surface for projections. Other elements of the set are skeletal/suggestive that function in different ways, including as projection surfaces.

“The use of the set and projections to create an interior life for the characters will help support the feelings of freedom that live nascent in Laurie: moments when she is alone, when she is feeling connected, and the final moments before her departure from this community.”

The opera will be performed with a split cast, with seniors Graycie Gardner and Stephanie Popik sharing the roles of Laurie Moss.  Seniors Kirsten O’Donnell and Melina Jaharis sing the role of Ma Moss, while junior Charlie Aldrich and 2010 Lawrence graduate Justin Berkowitz portray drifter Martin, Laurie’s love interest.

Dirk Durossette served as the production’s scenic designer. Barry Steele designed the lighting and projection while Karin Kopischke was the show’s costume designer.

The orchestra will be led by guest conductor Katherine Kilburn with music direction by associate professor of music Bonnie Koestner.

Prior to each performance, several area agencies who deal with marginalized and disenfranchised members of the Appleton and Lawrence communities will staff tables in the lobby of the Music-Drama Center to interacting with audience member as a way of setting a tone of how the stranger among us is perceived.

Following each performance, there will be a talk-back sessions led by representatives of Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities with the audience to facilitate discussions on moving from an “us-them” paradigm to a more inclusive “us” mentality.

“We hope to open up Lawrence’s doors to community members who well may have never been on our campus,” said Woodruff.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

 

Opera Director Copeland Woodruff Wins National “Best Production” Award

A preview of things to come?

While Copeland Woodruf, Lawrence University’s new director of opera studies, has yet to stage his first production here, he’s still garnering national recognition from his previous appointment as co-director of opera studies at the University of Memphis.

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Copeland Woodruff

For the fifth time in the past eight years, Woodruff, who began his first year at Lawrence this fall, has earned first-place honors in the prestigious National Opera Association’s Best Opera Production Competition, Division V for 2013-14. He was recognized for his production of Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” with University of Memphis Opera.

“With this award, Copeland once again shows he is an opera director of the first order,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory of music. “We are so excited to have him at Lawrence. Although he is just finishing up his very first term, his creative talents, artistic vision, and passion for teaching are already making a big impact on our students.”

The NOA’s annual competition encourages and rewards creative, high-quality productions in small professional opera companies and opera training programs, including academic institutions and music conservatories.

Other recent competition winners in Division 5 include some of the country’s premier music programs, including the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Temple University, University of Houston and the University of North Texas.

Copeland, who had directed more than 90 opera productions in his career, spent six years at the University of Memphis, where he won three of his five best opera production awards. In addition to this year’s, he previously was honored for his Memphis productions of Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” (2008) and Mozart’s “Idomeneo” (2011).

He also was cited by the National Opera Association for his American collegiate premiere of Jacques Offenbach’s “Les contes d’Hoffmann” (2006) with Temple University Opera and the controversial American premiere of Obermueller & Gilbert’s “Dreimaldrei gleich unendlich” (2010) in the professional division with the Boston-based opera company Juventas New Music Ensemble.

Woodruff attended the University of South Carolina, where he earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in vocal performance. He also earned a master’s degree in stage directing for opera from Indiana University.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

 

Multimillion Dollar Gifts Enable Lawrence University to Establish Two New Endowed Professorships

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Amy Abugo Ongiri

Deep-seated appreciation for film and opera has led a pair of Lawrence University alumni and an anonymous donor to establish new endowed professorships at the college. Lawrence requires a minimum of $2.5 million to establish an endowed professorship.

Tom Hurvis, and his wife, Julie, 1960 and 1961 Lawrence graduates, respectively, and the Caerus Foundation, Inc., have established the Jill Beck Professorship in Film Studies in recognition of Lawrence’s 15th president, her service to Lawrence, their love of film and their conviction that student participation in film studies has an important role in a liberal arts education.

In 2011, a $5 million gift from the Hurvises enabled Lawrence to establish the Hurvis Center for Interdisciplinary Film Studies, a facility dedicated to the integration of film production into the Lawrence curriculum.

Motivated by a desire to encourage participation in music and arts at Lawrence, an anonymous donor made a gift to enhance the college’s capacity to provide learning and performance opportunities for students in opera studies while increasing multifaceted collaboration within the curriculum by establishing the endowed director of opera studies position. The Lawrence conservatory, with the support of the theatre arts department, has annually staged an opera production since 1961.

In conjunction with the newly created professorships, Lawrence President Mark Burstein announced the appointment of Amy Abugo Ongiri, currently an associate professor of English at the University of Florida, as the Jill Beck Professor and Director of Film Studies and J. Copeland Woodruff, assistant professor and co-director of opera studies at the University of Memphis, as Director of Opera Studies.

Both Ongri and Woodruff join the faculty with the rank of associate professor. Ongiri’s appointment includes tenure.

“One of the many strengths that a Lawrence education develops is the ability to link a student’s own talent and creativity with performance and presentation, a skill one needs to succeed in the world today,” said Burstein in announcing the appointments. “The addition of Amy Abugo Ongiri and J. Copeland Woodruff significantly enhances our capability in this area both for students interested in film studies and in the conservatory and also in the larger Lawrence student body.

“I want to thank Julie and Tom Hurvis and anonymous members of the Lawrence community for making these two important appointments to our faculty possible,” Burstein added.

Award-winning Educator

Ongiri joined the University of Florida faculty in 2003 after four years at the University of California-Riverside. In 2006, she was recognized with both UF’s Teacher  of the Year Award and  College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Teacher of the Year Award.

Her scholarship interests focus on African American literature and culture, film studies, cultural studies, and gender and sexuality studies. She is the author of nearly 20 published journal articles, three dozen conference papers and the 2009 book, “Spectacular Blackness: The Cultural Politics of the Black Power Movement and the Search for a Black Aesthetic.” She spent 2005 in Dakar, Senegal on a National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar in African film.

She is a member of the editorial board of the journals American Literature and Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies and serves as a reviewer for the Journal  of African American History and the Journal of American History.

At Florida, Ongiri has taught courses ranging from the history of film and African cinema in a world cinema context to an introduction to Asian American film and video.

Ongiri earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Bryn Mawr College, a master’s degree from the University of Texas and a Ph.D. from Cornell University.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have Amy Ongiri as the first director of film studies,” said Brent Peterson, professor of German, chair of Lawrence’s film studies program and a member of the search committee. “She is an accomplished scholar and dedicated teacher; someone who is there for every last one of her students at a large public university. She will be a terrific asset for Lawrence students. She is also exactly the right person to put together an expanded curriculum for film studies and to shape the program in film making.”

“Amazingly Creative, Innovative”

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J. Copeland Woodruff

Woodruff has taught at the University of Memphis since 2008. He previously has held teaching appointments at The Julliard School, Oberlin College, Temple and Yale universities as well as the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and Germany’s Universität Bamberg. He also has served as a guest instructor with La Musica Lirica in Italy, the Festival of International Opera of the Americas in Brazil and at Bejing University.

He has directed more than 90 opera productions, including the 2013 world premiere of “Raise the Red Lantern” at the Tianqiao Theatre in Bejing, one of three productions in China he has directed. Since 2006, Woodruff has earned four first-place National Opera Association Best Opera Production Awards and was recognized in 2013 with the University of Memphis’ Dean’s Creative Achievement Award.

Woodruff has enjoyed an extended relationship with Boston’s Guerilla Opera, serving as stage director of a new production of “Heart of a Dog” and earning Second Prize in the 2012 American Prize in Opera Performance competition, professional division.

“It is with great excitement that we welcome Copeland Woodruff to Lawrence,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory of music. “Besides being an amazingly creative, innovative and well-respected opera director and educator, he is also passionate about  the liberal arts and cross-disciplinary collaboration. In short, he will absolutely flourish at Lawrence. We are entering an exciting new era for opera studies at Lawrence and I can’t wait to see how all the possibilities unfold.”

Woodruff attended the University of South Carolina, where he earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in vocal performance and also completed extensive master’s level coursework in theatrical design. He earned a master’s degree in stage directing for opera from Indiana University.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.