I’ve served as dramaturg for repertoire as diverse as Massenet’s Thaïs, Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, J. Strauss Jr.’s Die Fledermaus, and R. Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (the directors included John Cox, Elijah Moshinsky, Chas Rader-Shieber, and Bruce Donnell). I also functioned as dramaturg for the recital of French music of the Belle Époque presented in Chicago in 2013 by Renée Fleming and Susan Graham.
With the individual operas, while preparing program articles and delivering lectures, I’ve undertaken all manner of research for the benefit of the artists and production team. For example, I assembled an extensive catalogue of material for Thaïs, covering the following:
- the original Thaïs novel by Anatole France;
- the saints on whom the libretto is based;
- the composer, librettist, and novelist;
- the opera’s locale;
- the opera’s original reviews from 1894;
- every extant recording of the opera;
- the opera’s entire performance history.
During rehearsals, I was asked to provide answers (which I did!) to such questions as “How did people cross themselves in 4th-century Alexandria?” and “What type of flower would Thaïs, a courtesan, throw at a man she was trying to seduce?”
In every project I’ve undertaken as dramaturg, I’ve been able to provide production teams with a diversity of information on the piece in question that I believe has been of considerable benefit to all concerned with the production.
Most recently I served in 2021 as dramaturg for a new opera, Embracing the Light, by New York-based coach William Hicks and tenor Carson Cook.
One of the most invigorating and deeply satisfying components of my professional life has been the projects I’ve undertaken in repertoire research. I’ve done this for artists at every level of the profession, from those of international renown (Renée Fleming, Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Ailyn Pérez, Ben Heppner, Matthew Polenzani) to members of young-artist programs and students in conservatories and universities.
I’ve undertaken this work in a hugely diverse repertoire, encompassing opera, operetta, musical theater, concert works, and recital literature.
I enjoy nothing more than recommending particular works to an artist that they embrace wholeheartedly and take into their active repertoire.
I’ve also been able to recommend repertoire in the process of leading master classes, which I have done at:
- DePaul University
- Baldwin-Wallace University Conservatory
- The Opera Training Institute of Chicago
Feature Articles, Program Notes, & reviews
I spend a substantial portion of my professional life as a writer. Whatever the assignment, I approach it with a combination of knowledge and passion that I hope illuminates the subject matter for any reader.
I have contributed a total of more than 200 feature articles for the companies where I have held permanent positions (Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Diego Opera, The Dallas Opera).
In addition, I have written for every other major American company, from the Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Opera to the Santa Fe, Houston, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Washington opera companies. and recently added my first European company to the list, Ireland’s Wexford Opera Festival. I also recently wrote for the first time for the program of The Juilliard School in New York. The repertoire I have covered runs the gamut from Baroque to contemporary.
I have also been a contributor to OPERA America’s publications and to non-operatic publications such as The Times (London) and BBC Music.
Recordings & Liner Notes
It’s been my privilege to have written liner notes for some of the most distinguished vocal recordings of recent years, with well over 20 releases to date. The labels include:
- Deutsche Grammophon
- EMI Classics
- Sony Classic
- Virgin Classics
- West Hill Radio Archives
Among the recordings for which I have contributed notes are:
- CD – Renée Fleming, “Verismo” (Grammy winner) – Decca
- CD – Danielle de Niese, “Handel Arias” – Decca
- CD – Joyce DiDonato, “Diva/Divo” (Grammy winner) – Virgin Classics
- CD – Cecilia Bartoli, “Sospiri” — Decca
- DVD – “Anna Netrebko at the Salzburg Festival” – Deutsche Grammophon
- CD – Juan Diego Flórez, “Arias for Rubini” – Decca
- CD – “Ben Heppner Sings Tosti” – Deutsche Grammophon
- CD – Victorio Grigolo, “The Romantic Hero” – Sony Classics
- CD – Norma and Manon, complete recordings with Beverly Sills (reissues) – Deutsche Grammophon
I began in surtitles as one of the first writers ever to create them for an American opera company. I also had the honor of creating the surtitles entry for The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. I have been commissioned to prepare new titles for many important American companies, including:
- Lyric Opera of Chicago
- The Dallas Opera
- Glimmerglass Opera (now The Glimmerglass Festival, where I founded the surtitles department)
- Washington National Opera
- Washington Concert Opera
I have written surtitle scripts for many prominent directors, among them Tim Albery, Rob Ashford, Robert Carsen, Mark Lamos, Jonathan Miller, and the late Wolfgang Weber.
Many of my nearly 50 titles scripts have been rented to other companies nationwide, including:
- Handel’s Alcina and Tamerlano
- Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea
- Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Die Zauberflöte
- Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice
- Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte
- Berlioz’s Les Troyens
- Massenet’s Werther
- Verdi’s Otello
- Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin
- Dvořák’s Rusalka
- Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier and Ariadne auf Naxos
- Puccini’s Tosca
- Argento’s The Aspern Papers (world premiere) and The Death of Valentino (world premiere)
I have prepared scripts not only for complete operas (repertoire in French, Italian, German, Czech, English) but also for a wide variety of operatic arias and ensembles, as well as recital repertoire.
Teaching, Coaching, & Lecturing
2021-22 will be my third consecutive year teaching the opera repertoire course of Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music. Each class session involves one hour of lecturing and an hour of coaching students.
In recent years I have undertaken extensive private coaching for operatic singers.
Throughout my career I’ve been a lecturer on all manner of operatic topics. It’s been my joy to speak before opera audiences of all ages, whether in opera houses, at other arts institutions, at opera guild gatherings, at corporate meetings, or in university opera programs.
Among my most recent speaking engagements have been presentations for:
- The Curtis Institute of Music
- San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program
- San Francisco Opera Guild
- The Art Institute of Chicago
- Lyric Opera of Chicago
- The Newberry Library
- Teatro Nuovo bel canto opera festival at SUNY Purchase
- Opera Festival of Chicago
- Opera Department of the University of Texas at Austin
I am the producer and host of “The Stradivarius of Singers: A Tribute to Leontyne Price,” a one-hour tribute to the great American soprano. In addition to my narration and musical excerpts from Miss Price’s discography, the program includes excerpts from interviews I conducted with several outstanding American singers: Renée Fleming, Sondra Radvanovsky, Adina Aaron, Denyce Graves, and Eric Owens. The program has been available to radio stations via PRX since February 2017, and has been played on more than 50 radio stations nationwide.
My eight years as live-broadcast co-host, commentator, and co-producer at Lyric Opera of Chicago gave me an audience nationally and (in syndicated broadcasts) internationally. Every task associated with the broadcasts – working on scripts, interviewing artists, and of course, the live co-hosting on the air – has been a joy for me. In addition to complete operas, I’ve done broadcasts of concerts and musicals.
Essential to my broadcasting work has been the writing and production of intermission features. These have included many 10-to-15-minute pieces highlighting important singers of past decades.
In 2018, following the death of the great German soprano Inge Borkh, I was invited to make my first appearance on BBC Radio, paying tribute to the late German soprano Inge Borkh for the program “Last Word.”
My media activities have also recently included an in-depth dialogue with baritone Thomas Hampson regarding tenor legend Enrico Caruso, undertaken for Hampson’s website; extensive comments on the artistry of another celebrated tenor, Giuseppe di Stefano, for the Decca label’s new box set commemorating the 100th anniversary of di Stefano’s birth; and a discussion on Puccini’s Il tabarro with conductor Emanuele Andrizzi, streamed by the Opera Festival of Chicago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAxKgFI1cfU
I have had great experiences as a judge for vocal competitions nationwide. I’ve been doing this kind of work for more than two decades, and I feel that I bring to it all the necessary tools as regards knowledge of the repertoire and the ability to assess not only the singer’s current skills, but what that singer’s potential is for the future.
Among the competitions that I’ve judged are:
- Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (since 1991 – both District and Regional level, 21 cities, many of them several times)
- Loren L. Zachary Competition
- Classical Singer National Competition
- National Association of Teachers of Singing (national competition)
- University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Corbett Scholarship Competition
- Northwestern University Concerto Competition
- Denver Opera Guild Competition
At San Diego Opera, I managed an education department that grew during my five-and-a-half-year tenure to being the second largest among American opera companies. By the conclusion of my five-and-a-half-year tenure, it operated with an annual budget of approximately $350,000, serving a county-wide audience of nearly 80,000.
I was responsible for artistic direction, planning, and management of thirteen education/outreach programs, e.g. touring ensembles (five productions per season), artist-in-residence, open-air concerts, artist roundtables, in-school residencies, various lecture series. I added seven new programs during my tenure. Among my responsibilities were:
- Hiring and supervising a full-time education associate, and more than 50 independent contractors per season: singers, accompanists, musicians, directors, designers, stage managers, composers and librettists.
- Coordinating activities of 150 volunteers.
At The Dallas Opera:
- I planned and managed all aspects of The Dallas Morning News G.B. Dealey Awards, a prestigious national vocal competition;
- I produced six Affiliate Artist residencies involving prominent young American opera singers.