Renowned opera singer to teach Opera Scenes course at MC

Renowned opera singer to teach Opera Scenes course at MC

Dec. 18, 2012
Contact: Chloe Kennedy, News and New Media Writer

American mezzo-soprano Delores Bowen Ziegler ’73 has performed in operas around the world, but it was at Maryville College where she discovered her gift for singing opera.

After performing in most of the major European and American opera houses, followed by a successful career in academia, she is returning to her alma mater to share her gift with Maryville College music students.

The Maryville College Opera Scenes course will give students the opportunity to study under Ziegler, as well as MC alumna Melanie Kohn Day ‘75, during the College’s January Term semester.

Auditions were held on campus in September, and 15 students were selected.

Ziegler, a professor of vocal performance at the University of Maryland School of Music, and Day, an assistant professor and director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Opera, will spend the month of January at MC as resident artists to work one-on-one with students to master their assigned operatic scenes. (Day accompanied Ziegler during her senior recital at Maryville College in 1973.)

During the course, students will prepare for a performance, which will include scenes from the following operas: “Don Giovanni,” “The Elixir of Love,” “Die Fledermaus,” “The Mikado,” “The Marriage of Figaro,” “The Pirates of Penzance” and “The Secret Marriage.” “An Evening of Opera Scenes” will be held at 7 p.m. on Fri., Feb. 1 in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Harold and Jean Lambert Recital Hall, and a reception will follow. Tickets are free, although they are limited. They will be available in the Clayton Center Box Office beginning on Jan. 7.

The idea for the Opera Scenes course originated in May, when Ziegler was on campus to deliver the Commencement address to the Maryville College Class of 2012. She talked to MC Coordinator of Choral Music Stacey Wilner about the experiences she had as a student at the College during the 1970s.

“We discussed how influential the former Alcoa Foundation Affiliate Artist program was in her development as a singer,” Wilner said. “Since that program no longer exists, we pondered ways to give current students a similar experience. After some discussion, we came up with an outline of a J-Term course that would mirror her college scenes experience.”

The Maryville College administration was very excited about the idea, she said, and with the support of the College and various MC alumni, she decided to move forward with the project.

“It is a bit surreal to believe we pulled it all together and are now a month away from making that evening's conversation a reality,” Wilner said.

Due to the challenge of producing an hour-long stage program in just one month, the students will have a rigorous rehearsal schedule.

“Most of the students have been working diligently, for they are to arrive on Jan. 6 with their music memorized,” Wilner said.

For the first week, they will rehearse from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. In addition to staging, vocal coaching sessions, choreography and other musical essentials, the students will be responsible for researching the history of each opera, the scenes and the characters involved.

Local musician Jerry Hurst, a community member who has a degree in vocal performance and has many years of experience in opera, has offered to serve as production manager and will train the students to work as production assistants for each other's scenes. He has also arranged for a workshop on make up and hair by Susan and Jason Herera, who work with the Knoxville Opera.

“The students will certainly learn all the different angles of the history and production of this art form,” Wilner said.

Wilner said that the purpose of the course is to expose the students to “an in-depth operatic experience with experienced professionals.”

“This type of experience will challenge the students to a new level, deepening their musicianship and broadening their musical horizons. There is no doubt that they will be forever changed by this opportunity."

Maryville College junior Seth Tinsley ‘14, a vocal performance major with an emphasis in opera, said he hopes to gain experience and connections through the Opera Scenes course.

“I know that working with musicians of such well-respected and well-known stature will assist me immensely in applying for graduate programs, and even after I receive my graduate degrees,” said Tinsley, who is from Knoxville. After graduation, Tinsley plans to attend graduate school to study vocal performance with an emphasis in pedagogy. He then plans to pursue a doctor of music degree or doctoral work in opera production or pedagogy.

“Delores Ziegler is one of the great sopranos of our time, and it is an incredible honor to get to work with her on such a personal basis. Melanie Day is also a musician of high regard, and we are so excited to have them both back at Maryville.”

Tinsley first had a chance to “dip his toes into the world of opera” in 2009, when he studied opera in Novafeltria, Italy.

“That experience assisted me in an immensely important way,” he said. “In turn, it really allowed me great credentials on my resume for Maryville College. The scenes program with Delores and Melanie will do the same thing that Italy did for me, and I could not be happier that the school is supporting this marvelous opportunity for its students.”

During her Commencement address, Ziegler shared a story of how a former MC professor, the late Victor Schoen, passed on to her a life-changing gift.

Schoen, who taught Ziegler music theory, was also an “avid opera fan,” she told the crowd, and he invited students to his home every Saturday to listen to the Metropolitan Opera Radio Broadcasts.

“Victor Schoen’s passion for the voice and opera in particular, was so contagious that one couldn’t help but be infected by it,” she said. “He developed an Interim topic that culminated in a trip to New York City to experience the art form live at the Metropolitan Opera. For me, this week was life altering. It grabbed me by the throat, so to speak, and I was hooked. I couldn’t stop singing and began to pursue the study of opera performance.”

Being willing to share her gift with others opened the world to her and allowed her to experience different cultures, learn new languages, meet interesting people and surround herself with “glorious, divine music,” said Ziegler, who also received the College’s honorary doctor of music during the ceremony.

After earning her bachelor’s degree at Maryville College, Ziegler, a native of Decatur, Ga., earned a master of music degree from the University of Tennessee. In 1978, she made her operatic stage debut in Knoxville as Verdi’s Flora.

Heralded as “the mezzo we have been waiting for” by Martin Bernheimer in the Los Angeles Times, Ziegler saw her career take off in the early 1980s. She made her European operatic debut in Bonn, Germany, in 1981 as Dorabella, the mezzo-soprano role in Mozart’s Così fan tutte. A year later, she performed at the Cologne (Germany) Opera for the first time, and in 1984, she performed in the United Kingdom and Italy.

With a repertoire that extends from bel canto to verismo, this MC alumna has appeared in the world's greatest opera houses, including Vienna’s Staatsoper, Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, Paris’ L'Opéra Bastille, Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper. Other European appearances have included the Salzburg Festival, the Florence May Festival, the Glyndebourne Festival and the Athens Festival. In South America, she has performed at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and at the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro.

Stateside, Ziegler has appeared with virtually every important opera company, including the Metropolitan Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the San Francisco Opera.

An acclaimed interpreter of bel canto mezzo roles, she has the honor of being the first singer in operatic history to sing Romeo in Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi at the Bolshoi in Moscow, at the San Francisco Opera and in Japan. In another milestone, Ziegler is the most recorded Dorabella in operatic history, first on two audio recordings (one with Bernard Haitink on EMI and another on Teldec with Nikolaus Harnoncourt), and in a videodisc of the La Scala production with Riccardo Muti and in a film of Così directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle.

After graduating from Maryville College, Day earned two master of music degrees from Boston University: one in piano and one in vocal coaching and accompanying. She also received a diploma from the Franz-Schubert Institute in Austria.

From 1980 until 1982, she served as a member of the faculty of Boston University’s opera and voice departments. During that time, she was a coach and chorus master for the Boston Concert Opera Company and coach for the Tanglewood Music Festival.

She was the founder, pianist and coordinator of the Lyric Arts Ensemble, a professional vocal quartet that performed for two seasons in residence at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. She was the music director of the James River Opera Company for five years.

She has performed in Carnegie Recital Hall, the Athenaeum in Boston, the National Cathedral and the French Embassy. In 1992, the Costa Rican Cultural Center invited Day to perform concerts and teach master classes throughout Costa Rica. As a 1994 U.S. Artistic Ambassador, Day completed a five-week concert tour of South America with soprano Lisa Edwards-Burrs. In 1997, Day was a staff coach-accompanist for the International Institute of Vocal Arts in Italy. After six years as the principal coach for Operafestival di Roma in Italy, she was named artistic director of the program in 2005 and held the position until 2011.

She has been invited to present master classes in Virginia, Indiana, New Hampshire and Rome.

In addition to serving as director of VCU’s Opera, Day is an instructor for History of the Art Song, instructor for voice master classes and a private applied instructor in vocal coaching. Many of her former students are now singing in opera houses all over the world.

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2016 semester is 1,197.