Opera News spotlights century-long partnership between CCM and Cincinnati Opera
The ties to CCM date back to Cincinnati Opera’s origins at the Cincinnati Zoo
The latest issue of Opera News magazine explores Cincinnati Opera’s century-long history, which includes the opera company’s longstanding ties to CCM.
Established as the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in 1867, CCM served as Greater Cincinnati’s original arts incubator by attracting top musical talent to the Queen City near the dawn of the 20th century. CCM established its first opera department under the direction of American composer and conductor Ralph Lyford in 1917. Three years later, Lyford founded the Summer Zoo Opera at the Cincinnati Zoological Gardens, which eventually evolved into the Cincinnati Opera of today.
CCM students have continued to make their way to Cincinnati Opera, singing in the chorus or entering the young-artist program and taking on supporting roles, before making significant careers in other opera houses.
The ties between Cincinnati Opera and CCM have remained strong in the decades that followed. Opera News contributor Joe Law writes, “Since that first season, CCM students have continued to make their way to Cincinnati Opera, singing in the chorus or entering the young-artist program and taking on supporting roles, before making significant careers in other opera houses. Similarly, established singers who have appeared with the company, such as John Alexander and Italo Tajo, have become CCM faculty.” CCM faculty members have also frequently served as performers, designers, technicians, directors and conductors on numerous Cincinnati Opera productions.
For an effort still in its first decade, it is an enviable track record.
Cincinnati Opera and CCM have also taken a leading role in the industry through Opera Fusion: New Works, a dynamic partnership between the two organizations that offers composer/librettist teams the opportunity to workshop an opera during a 10-day residency in Cincinnati. Led by co-artistic directors Evans Mirageas, Artistic Director of Cincinnati Opera, and Robin Guarino, CCM Professor of Opera, the program’s workshopped titles include Terence Blanchard and Michael Cristofer’s Champion, Rufus Wainwright and Daniel MacIvor’s Hadrian, Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally’s Great Scott, and Gregory Spears and Greg Pierce’s Fellow Travelers, amongst others. The Opera News story suggests, “For an effort still in its first decade, it is an enviable track record.”
The longstanding partnership between Cincinnati Opera and CCM even expanded to other parts of the University of Cincinnati last summer. Cincinnati Opera’s 2019 summer season included the world premiere of the opera “Blind Injustice,” a collaboration with CCM, UC’s Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) and the Young Professionals Choral Collective. Based on casework by the OIP and the book “Blind Injustice” by UC law professor and OIP Director Mark Godsey, the highly acclaimed opera was directed by Guarino and featured several current and former CCM students in the cast.
Currently the largest-circulation classical-music magazine in North America, Opera News began publication in May 1936. It is the only magazine in the U.S. that covers opera nationally every month, and CCM faculty and alumni are regularly featured within its pages.
About CCM Opera
The Department of Opera at CCM boasts one of the most comprehensive training programs for opera singers, coaches and directors in the United States. Students at CCM work with some of the most renowned teachers and artists active in opera today.
CCM students frequently advance to the final rounds of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, which is widely considered to be the nation’s most prestigious vocal competition. In 2019, soprano Elena Villalón (BM Voice, ’19) was named a Grand Finals Winner at the competition while she was still finishing her undergraduate degree at CCM. CCM’s other recent Grand Finals Winners include Jessica Faselt (MM Voice, ’16) in 2018, Amanda Woodbury (MM Voice, ’12) and Yi Li (AD Opera, ’13) in 2014 and Thomas Richards (MM Voice, ’13) in 2013. At least two CCM singers advanced to the Upper Midwest Regional Auditions in this year’s Met National Council Auditions: artist diploma students Amber Monroe and Teresa Perrotta.
CCM singers also recently won awards in other prestigious national competitions. Jessica Faselt won a $10,000 award and Alisa Jordheim (DMA Voice, '15; MM Voice,' 10) won a $1,000 Encouragement award at the 2020 George London Foundation Awards Competition for young American and Canadian opera singers. Jasmine Habersham (AD Opera, 2015; MM Voice, 2013) won the silver medal in the 2020 American Traditions Vocal Competition. Edward Nelson (BM Voice, 2011; MM Voice, 2013) won first prize at the 2020 Glyndebourne Opera Cup. Perrotta also advanced to the finals of the 2020 Lotte Lenya Competition.
In addition, CCM Opera productions have received some of the National Opera Association Production Competition’s highest honors throughout the years, taking home six of the 18 non-professional prizes awarded in 2010 and four prizes in 2011.
CCM Opera graduates have performed on the stages of the world’s greatest opera companies, including Cincinnati Opera, Metropolitan Opera (New York), Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Royal Opera (London), La Scala (Italy) and more.
Featured image at top: A photograph of Cincinnati Music Hall in spring. Photo/Philip Groshong.