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Graduate Performance Diploma in Opera

The Graduate Performance Diploma [GPD] in Opera is intended as a high-level pre-professional training program for singers who already have some professional experience behind them or who are clearly about to enter the profession. It offers a somewhat different operatic experience from that of other graduate students in several respects:

  • Opera GPD students get an individual coaching with the Opera faculty weekly, in addition to their regular voice lesson;
  • Both recitals in the Opera GPD may take the form of complete roles sung in opera performances with orchestra;
  • GPD students are required to perform in opera each semester, whether a role in a major production as above, or participation in a workshop or outreach production (see production opportunities), an operatic recital, or an internship with a professional company; and
  • The Opera faculty guarantees suitable assignments each semester, so that the above requirements can be met.

Because of the high demands on time and resources which such a program implies, no more than sixstudents may be in the program at any one time, and the admission process is therefore highly selective. The course requirements for this two-year program are shown in the following table:

Voice Instruction (3 credits/semester) 12
Opera Coaching (1 credit/semester) 4
Recital (major role in opera performance) 2
Recital (major role or approved alternative) 2
Ensembles (opera participation in non-recital semesters) 4
Professional studies 8

There is some flexibility in this, in that each program is tailored to the needs of the particular student. With the permission of the department, a limited amount of professional activity outside the school may substitute for some of the above requirements, although Peabody performances must be given priority. A reasonable amount of coursework which is directly required for the student’s professional development may also be taken (sometimes on an audit basis) without additional fee. This includes language study and certain acting and performance-technique courses offered by the Opera Department.

Certificate in Opera Performance

Although opera is an important career path for singers, not everybody who sings professionally will make a career primarily in opera, and not everybody who comes to Peabody will choose or be able to undergo the extensive combination of study and experience — beyond the ordinary voice degrees — necessary to make this possible. The Peabody Opera Theatre Program exists on two levels. It provides basic instruction and a limited amount of experience in opera for singers who lack exposure, or are not at a stage where specialization would be meaningful. Its main focus, however, is to work extensively with that small group of students (in any program) who are judged to have the talent and who show the willingness to make the commitment necessary for an opera career. These students, about 40 percent of the total voice population, will be working towards a Certificate in Opera Performance, as a separate qualification over and above the voice degree or degrees.

What are the qualities we aim to cultivate in the singers who graduate with this certificate? In practical terms, we aim to train working professionals, who are respected above all for their artistry and flexibility. In addition to being well-trained singers with a sound command of languages, such people should be:

  1. artists who are intelligent musicians, flexible interpreters, and responsible professionals;
  2. singing actors for whom the two media are intrinsically connected, and who approach music-drama as a living thing, reflecting real personalities and contemporary life;
  3. educated musicians, with a firm foundation in the history and structure of music, a knowledge of opera conventions and styles, and a working familiarity with the main languages in which opera is performed;
  4. performers who respond to a wide variety of audiences, and who can cultivate performance opportunities on their own;
  5. singers who have focused their talents and presentational skills to compete effectively in professional auditions.

To qualify for the Certificate in Opera Performance, we expect students to have accomplished the items on the check-list below:

  1. Basic training in stage movement and acting, equivalent to our Movement for the Stage and Acting for Opera courses.
  2. At least one year of upper-level acting and/or performance training, equivalent to our Dramatic Text or Opera Styles and Traditions courses.
  3. At least one role in an Opera Theatre production, and preferably more.
  4. Additional performance experience in a variety of Opera Workshop or Chamber Opera repertoire such as standard opera scenes, baroque opera, contemporary opera, musical theater, and/or outreach work, with the following specific requirements:
    • experience in contemporary music, whether through Opera Etudes or one of the many other operatic premieres performed at Peabody
    • experience in performance media in which the relationship between singers and audience is not confined by the footlights model; examples would include cabaret and run-out shows.
  5. At least one semester of Professional Coaching in Opera.
  6. One project in which the student is required to set up his or her own professional engagement, and document it.
  7. Experience as a chorus member in at least one major production, and backstage work in at least one of the major production areas, both in order to develop that understanding of the relationship of the parts to the whole which is essential to true professionalism.

It is not necessary for all these items to have been completed at Peabody. Some may be credited from the student’s prior experience; some may be handled elsewhere (for example through summer programs or work with local companies). Nor is it necessary for the entire check-list to be completed within the confines of a single degree. Although outstanding undergraduates who show strong operatic potential may complete the list within their four years of study, it is much more difficult for a MM or GPD student to do so unless they have had extensive prior experience. It is not unusual, however, for graduate students with serious professional interest in opera to stay in a GPD program for at least one year beyond the MM requirement, in which case the completion of the requirements for the Certificate should be little problem. The curriculum of the specific and highly-selective GPD in Opera is designed to mirror the items on this check-list, and students will not be accepted to that program who do not have the background necessary for them to complete it within two years.

Students may be invited to enter the Certificate program at any stage of their time at Peabody. Graduate applicants may occasionally be accepted on the basis of their entrance auditions. Typically, however, the invitation comes as a result of the diagnostic auditions which are held each September for all students interested in opera. Students who were not in the program originally may nonetheless be accepted in a subsequent year. Acceptance into the Certificate program involves a strong commitment on the part of the student, and the signing of a contract agreeing to abide by certain guidelines on availability. In return, the students in the program will be given professional mentoring by the faculty of the department, and first priority in casting for the appropriate productions. Indeed, the repertoire will be chosen largely on the basis of providing these students with the number and range of experiences which we feel they need to compete effectively in the professional opera field.