There is no separate program in Opera at the undergraduate level; it is but one of the many opportunities open to Voice majors, along with solo recitals, early music, vocal chamber music, and choral performance. Nonetheless, the Opera Department aims to provide sufficient classes and smaller performance opportunities to enable undergraduate singers to discover whether they are suited to opera, and to give them a solid foundation on which to build if they wish to do so. The majority of Voice undergraduates, in fact, do considerably more Opera than the minimum number of classes and performances which their program requires.
Although our major productions are cast by auditions open to all, it is not usual for undergraduates to come to Peabody and be given roles in full productions during their first year or so. This is not simply a matter of seniority. Opera places demands on the singer which cannot be met unless he or she has a secure technique; the first priority, therefore, is for the student to work with the teacher to build firm vocal foundations. On the other hand, there are several opera classes which can teach necessary stage techniques without making great vocal demands. The normal course is for students to take Movement for the Stage in their first year and Acting for Opera in their second; the latter class also includes performance segments which gradually increase in scale. Underclassmen may volunteer to sing chorus in the major productions; they quite frequently get cast in one of the smaller productions described below; and of course it is always possible that they might happen to fill a particular need in a major production of the Opera Theatre.
The Opera Department mounts about 8 productions each year, for a combined total of around 40 performances. The various names—Opera Workshop, Opera Outreach, Chamber Opera, and Opera Theatre—may sound confusing; they differ mainly in the size of the accompanying forces (from piano solo to full orchestra) and in the proportion of the budget that is spent upon costumes and decor.
Undergraduates may expect to have at least three performance assignments, and very often more, during the course of their time in the program. Most of these are performances with piano, but we always try to cast everybody in at least one production with orchestra (Opera Theatre or Chamber Opera) before they graduate, if possible. Admittedly, these may not be major roles, but there will always be exceptions. Furthermore, all interested students get the possibility of taking part in at least one opera class each year. Assignments to most classes and all roles are made by means of Diagnostic Auditions held at the start of each year.
Undergraduates who develop an unusual aptitude for opera may apply to be accepted into the Opera Performance Certificate track in their junior year; check the link for further information.