Eugene Opera Academy: Review of 2016-17 Season


This year’s Academy started off with a bang.  We first met with students on September 29, 2016, to get oriented, register, and prepare for upcoming events surrounding the Eugene Opera’s first production, Berlioz’ Much Ado About Nothing.

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After that meeting, students had the opportunity to attend two related public events: a film presentation of Kenneth Branagh’s version of the Shakespeare play at the Eugene Public Library, and then a lecture-demo by Sparky Roberts and her Fools Haven Company.

On October 15, the students attended the first rehearsal of Berlioz’ opera, when Mark Beudert introduced the chorus and principals to each other and started staging.


The students were visibly shocked at the strength of these 3 leads’ voices!!

The following week, Mark presented a public lecture about the opera, to which students were invited.

Then, on October 26, the students attended the dress rehearsal in the Soreng Theatre.   First, they visited the backstage area of the Hult Center with Academy Chair & chorister, Barbara Myrick.

Then, they talked with Amy Adams, Director of Education and Community Engagement, before the dress rehearsal about what they were going to see…

…after which they watched the dress rehearsal. A few days later, all this preparation culminated in the Academy attending the light-hearted performance of Berlioz’ Much Ado about Nothing (Béatrice et Bénédict).

On November 15, the Academy met to prepare for the next production called “Opera Trio, which was an evening of single acts from Aïda by Giuseppe Verdi, Dialogues of the Carmelites by Francis Poulenc, and Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss.

After a couple of public events preparing them for “Opera Trio,” they attended several staging rehearsals to see how the show was put together and to have roundtable sessions with the artists, who shared their stories of how they got into opera as a career.

Students also saw the orchestra rehearsal and talked with Music Director Andrew Bisantz.

One student, Ananda Burke, had a surprise when the entire opera chorus and cast sang “Happy Birthday” to her in multiple-part harmony!

Finally, dress rehearsal was preceded by a backstage tour of the Silva stage, given by Amy Adams.

At a de-brief session after attending the “Trio” performance, students were disappointed to learn that the opera was suspending the rest of the season! They were especially looking forward to West Side Story. They had many ideas to help the opera and didn’t want to quit, so the Education Committee arranged for two more opera events to attend: UO Opera Ensemble’s production of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, and the Metropolitan Opera live-in HD streaming of Verdi’s La Traviata at Cinemark.

Finally, the year was capped off with four students presenting projects and awarding of their certificates. For the first time, this was a public event. Ananda Burke, Aharon Melloul and Owen McCoy all performed solos related to opera, and Isabel Renich presented a staged version of a Trio from an opera she is writing, involving other Academy students and Annie Huie as director.

All projects were well-prepared and it was exciting to see the culmination of this unusual year!

Eugene Opera Academy: Review of 2015-16 Season

The Eugene Opera Academy (EOA) had a great and busy season in 2015-16, with events preceding each of the four productions.

October 19, 2015: We started with a meeting to learn how the Academy works and to get registered.

Barb Myrick with the Academy

We were happily surprised when Mark Beudert came in with cast member Laura Wayte, who shared some insights into her upcoming role as the Governess in Turn of the Screw.

Mark Beudert with the Academy

This was followed by the first of the Ambassadors’ Listen Now! lectures, on Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, given by Dr. Vincent Centeno.

With this introduction, the Academy of 10 students attended the matinee performance on November 1 of Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw.

December 3: The Academy re-convened to prepare for the production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor with a lecture given by Bereniece Jones-Centeno.

December 5: Students had a view of the chorus preparation as they met in a roundtable with Chorus Master Greg Sojka, Chorus Manager Colleen Gaskill, Rehearsal Pianist Sandy Holder, and Chorus Representative to the Board, Chris Lamb.

Chorus roundtable

We learned a lot about how much the rehearsal pianist has to anticipate the conductors to keep the rehearsals going!

December 14: Ananda Burke had a one-on-one with Lucia lead soprano, Leah Partridge.

Soprano Leah Partridge with Academy student

December 20: Students had a roundtable discussion with Stage Director David Lefkowich and Music Director Andrew Bisantz at the final floor run before moving into the Hult Center.

Andrew Bisantz and David Lefkowich

December 27: Students watched and listened to the orchestra rehearse with Andrew.

Tympani player at rehearsal

December 29: Final dress rehearsal night started with Bereniece Jones-Centeno and Mark Beudert giving a tour of the backstage…

Backstage tour with Mark Beudert


Props backstage

stage left ropes…

Backstage ropes

the pit…

Academy students visit the pit

and, among other things, Lucia’s wedding dress!

Wedding dress of Lucia di Lammermoor

January 3, 2016: the Matinee performance of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor!

January 10: The Academy got together for a much-needed debrief and pizza party. At this time, we also looked ahead.

Academy pizza party

February 13, 2016: The first session in preparation for Eugene Onegin. How does the chorus prepare for a Russian opera? EOA students came to an intense rehearsal working on the Russian language with Olga Aynvarg, our Russian langue specialist, and Associate Chorus Master Gustavo Castro.

Gustavo Castro and Olga Aynvarg

February 22: Listen Now! lecture was given by Ann Schafer, who explored the musical themes of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, with the fabulous help of David Gustafson, tenor, and Sandy Holder, piano.

David Gustafson at a Listen Now! event

February 25: Roundtable with the production team. Molly Clevidence, Stage Manager, shared her job while on her dinner break…

Stage Manager Molly Clevidence

Caitlyn Tendick takes care of Hair and Makeup…

Caitlyn Tendick talking with Academy students

and Scott King is the Production Manager…

Production Manager Scott King with Academy students

Then, the students stayed for a staging rehearsal.

Chorus rehearsal

March 3: roundtable with the artists and a staging rehearsal. Here, Jake Gardner (Prince Gremin) and Christopher Cano (Chorus master and rehearsal accompanist) talked with the Academy students.

Pianist Chris Cano and Baritone Jake Gardner with the Academy

Stage Director David Lefkowich works here with Jill Gardner (Tatiana).

Director David Lefkowich and soprano Jill Gardner

Students were enchanted with David’s dog, Max:

David Lefkowich with his dog Max

March 5: Just two days later, we had a fabulous roundtable with Choreographer Antonio Anacan…

Choreographer Antonio Anacan

who worked with David on integrating the dancers into the production.

Dancers at rehearsal

March 9: On backstage tour we saw props with Sarah Beudert and Molly Clevidence preparing the show…

Backstage with the props

and then took a photo with the chorus!

Chorus and Academy

April 28: In preparation for the final production of Mark Adamo’s Little Women, Dr. Terry McQuilkin gave a lecture on the music, and Brooke Cagno sang an aria from the show.

May 1: Was a big day. Three Academy students gave fabulous presentations:

Isabel Renich continued the opera plot she presented last year by singing a duet she composed, with her mother accompanying and singing the tenor part. Isabel was awarded the Gaskill Family Scholarship of $500 towards her college education.

Isabel Renich sings

Wesley Coleman is also working on an opera and presented his opening aria complete with orchestral accompaniment, via computer technology. He was awarded $150 towards composition lessons with a local composer.

Wesley Coleman presented an aria he composed

Ananda Burke did her presentation on how a certain method of acting can be used in opera staging, and then sang in the master class led by Mark Beudert. She was awarded coaching lessons with Mark Beudert and Andrew Bisantz.

Ananda Burke sings

Each participant also received a Certificate of Participation from Eugene Opera and got to meet the cast for Little Women.

May 13: students were led in a backstage tour of the Soreng Theater by Mark Beudert and Amy Adams and attended the final dress rehearsal of Little Women.

May 15: The Matinee performance of Little Women was the final event of the season, at which the student awards were announced.

This year’s Academy was small but powerful. Those who attended were very excited with all they learned about the amazingly complex task of putting together an opera production. In a debrief, they were asked if it was too much to attend events for all four operas, and they were unanimous in saying that it was a great experience and that they wanted to do all four productions next year!

Our thanks to the Education Committee (Joyce Leader, Richard Long, Al Villanueva, and Phyllis Villec), Scott King, Mark Beudert, Bereniece Jones-Centano, Amy Adams, and all who helped this experience to happen for Academy students!

Special thanks to Richard Long for the photos!

Eugene Opera Academy: Review of 2014-15 Season


The 2014-15 Eugene Opera Academy just finished its season which included 18 events to see how opera moves from conception to the stage.

We started off with a session which introduced interested students and their families to the entire season, and learned the plot of the first opera, Donizetti’s Elixir of Love.

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This was followed by sessions wherein students met the local production assistants: Stage Manager Erin Empey, Office Assistant Grace Ho and Assistant Conductor Zeke Fetrow.


Next, we attended an early chorus rehearsal and talked with Chorus Manager Colleen Gaskill and Chorus Master John Jantzi.


Once staging rehearsals started, we met with Music Director Andrew Bisantz, Stage Director Patrick Hansen, and had a roundtable meeting with the principal artists.

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We saw an early staging rehearsal and the Final Floor Run in the rehearsal space and marveled at the progress in such a short time. Marco and Angela were hysterically funny!

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Once in the Hult Center, we watched part of the orchestra rehearsal…

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Then we visited the Props table, dressing room…


and fly rail.

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This was all topped off by seeing the Matinee performance, and debriefing at a pizza party.

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After a month off, we prepared for Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Once again, we first met the locals. This time, we met with Costumer Jeanette de Jong and Makeup/Hair Stylist Sarah Clifford.


We stayed for the chorus rehearsal and were surprised that the choristers were already memorizing the opening/closing scenes of the opera, and were exciting to hear!

Next, we attended several community lectures/concerts/exhibits relating to the opera and Sondheim.

After staging rehearsals started, we met with Stage Director Bill Fabris and had a fabulous roundtable discussion with the artists and stayed to watch them in action in rehearsal.

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Pianist Nathalie, John, Conductor Adam Turner, Bill and Erin’s team:

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A Master Class was held before one rehearsal, in which Mark Beudert worked with two academy members, Ananda Burke and Harley Emery.

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Finally, at the Hult Center, we were treated to a backstage tour and Final Dress rehearsal of Sweeney Todd, topped off a few days later by seeing the matinee performance.


Our final session was a potluck with three Academy participants giving presentations:

  • Krishara Combs gave a compelling analysis of Sweeney Todd, using a visually stunning Powerpoint.
  • Isabel Renich read her original plot for an opera, complete with couples in conflicting situations, using visual characters to help us follow the plot.
  • Ananda Burke performed Johanna’s challenging aria “Green Finch & Linnet Bird” and stunned us with her lovely voice and clear diction.

After much deliberation the Education Committee decided Isabel Renich will be the recipient of a $500 scholarship to be applied when she attends college.


The participants were very excited about the events of the year and looking forward to doing it again next year. When asked if they wanted to go to events for the expanded season of 4 operas, they replied with a resounding “yes!”

We hope to see all of them, and additional recruits for the 2015-16 season ready to soak up the atmosphere of being inside the opera!!


–Eugene Opera Education Committee (Barbara Myrick, Joyce Leader, Richard Long, Tony Meyer, Phyllis Villec, Colleen Gaskill)

 The next class of participants, for the 2015-16 season, will be selected in October 2015.

To learn more, contact Eugene Opera or call us at 541-485-3985.