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This year Opera Outreach presents a new production!  We are presenting The Hiding Tree by Edward Barnes, which is loosely based on an ancient folktale from the islands of Micronesia. A hungry monster crawls out of the sea and is set on devouring all of the people on a small island. Two sisters escape its clutches, and work together to defeat it. This is a 35 minute opera for piano, 6 singers, and a narrator.

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For booking or more information, contact Opera Outreach Coordinator Abigail Head at

The Hiding Tree

The Hiding Tree, by Edward Barnes, is loosely based on an ancient folktale from the islands of Micronesia. A hungry monster crawls out of the sea and is set on devouring all of the people on a small island. Two sisters escape its clutches, and work together to defeat it. This 35 minute opera teaches children about solving problems for the greater good, that strength is not just physical, and the love survives everything.

The Hiding Tree creates an environment for children to become involved and enveloped in the world of opera. The audience is taken on a journey as two sisters face the tremendous challenges while learning from each other and growing as both as individuals and as siblings.

Our fully-staged, fully-costumed production features a new set set, and cast of seven upper-level students in voice. Peabody Opera Outreach will present the opera with keyboard and will prominently feature and encourage audience participation and involvement throughout the production. The Hiding Tree is appropriate for elementary school-aged children and anyone young at heart.

Educational materials are available upon request.



Composer: Englebert Humperdinck

The German composer, Engelbert Humperdinck, produced his first composition after receiving piano lessons when he was only 7. He wrote many pieces for the stage, but his chief reputation rests on his opera Hänsel und Gretel, which was produced at Weimar, 1893.

While in Berlin as head of composition at the Meister-Schule, Humperdinck began work on Hänsel und Gretel after his sister asked him to compose music for a play for her children in 1890. He first started to compose Hänsel und Gretel, based on the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, as a Singspiel consisting of a play with 16 songs and piano accompaniment. A few months later, he presented his fiancèe Hedwig Taxer with Hänsel und Gretel as an engagement present. Quickly realizing the work's potential, Engelbert Humperdinck instead decided to create a full-scale opera, and in January of 1891 he began working on a complete orchestration. Nearly three years later Richard Strauss - who dubbed it "a masterpiece of the highest quality… all of it original, new, and so authentically German" - conducted its premiere. With its highly original synthesis of Wagnerian techniques and traditional German folk songs, Hänsel und Gretel was an instant and overwhelming success. It was such a success that in 1923 it became the first complete opera ever to be broadcast on radio (from Covent Garden, London), and eight years later it was the first to be transmitted live from the Metropolitan Opera. Tragically, it was at about the same time that Humperdinck developed a hearing affliction and remained partially deaf for the rest of his life.
(Bio selections taken from

Director: Catrin Davies

Catrin Davies, director and mezzo soprano, has been an opera professional since 2001. Described by the Baltimore Sun as having “bright vocalism and flawless diction,” she has established herself as a presence on the operatic and concert stage. Born in Washington, DC, and possessing British citizenship, Ms. Davies has lived and performed in the United States, Canada, and the UK.

Ms. Davies believes that directing is a natural extension of performing, and pursued opportunities to explore that craft. In 2007, she started her directing career by assisting director Garnett Bruce in Peabody Opera’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann. That same year, she directed the Old Maid and the Thief for Harbor Opera at the Walters Art Museum, and assistant directed HMS Pinafore at the Young Victorian Theatre Company. After this auspicious beginning, she embarked on a successful regional career. Most recently, Ms. Davies returned to Summer Garden Opera to direct Il barbiere di Siviglia, following on from her success at that company with Faust. She was also selected to be a part of the inaugural class of the Directors' Studio at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, under the mentorship of Michael Kahn. Other recent highlights include: directing The Three Little Pigs, the educational outreach show for Opera Delaware, and assistant directing the world premiere of Bornfield's Camelot Requiem. At Lyric Opera Baltimore, she has directed Jake Heggie’s At the Statue of Venus, and has also directed two outreach programs. At Live Arts Maryland, she has directed South Pacific, Man of La Mancha, The Fantasticks, Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma, Secret Garden, and HMS Pinafore, the latter for which she received the following accolade from The Capital: “The staging and directing was handled absolutely brilliantly by Catrin Davies…”

In the academic realm, Ms. Davies is a guest director at the Peabody Conservatory, and has directed their educational outreach show for schools for the past 5 years. She has also been a guest director at Harford Community College, and an adjunct professor at both Peabody and Towson University, teaching and directing music students. She was also on faculty at the Road Scholar program (formerly Elderhostel), where she lectured on a variety of musical topics, particularly operetta. Ms. Davies holds an honors degree in history from McGill University, a Master's degree in Women's Studies from Oxford University, and graduate diplomas from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and the Peabody Conservatory.

Music Director: JoAnn Kulesza

JoAnn Kulesza is presently Musical Director of the Opera Theatre Program at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, MD. The Peabody Opera Theatre Program produces between six and ten performances a year, serving between 85 and 100 singers. With her years of experience in the professional world, she provides an important aspect of the aspiring professionals’ training. Well versed in Opera’s vast repertoire, she teaches classes in recitative, repertoire and works with collaborative pianists and conductors at the school.

A life-long lover of choral music, Kulesza worked with the renowned Margaret Hillis at the Chicago Symphony Chorus and as assistant to Chorus Master Philip Morehead at the Chicago Lyric Opera. She was chorus master for the Wolf Trap Opera Company for many years and prepared the chorus for Washington National Opera’s Romeo & Juliet in 2004, under Maestro Bertrand de Billy. She presently conducts the Arundel Vocal Arts Society, a chorus of 35-45 members, in two concerts annually, of a wide variety of repertoire; she is in her eighth year as Music Director of this ensemble. Kulesza’s vast experience also includes work with the Western Opera Theatre, Pittsburgh Opera Center, New York Chamber Ensemble, Washington Opera, Baltimore Opera, and Utah Festival Opera.

Since entering the conducting realm, Kulesza has conducted three world premieres and led as well as played continuo for productions of Mozart, Rossini, and Britten. She has worked with some of the most notable conductors in the field – Loren Maazel, George Manahan, Heinz Fricke, Stephen Lord, Margaret Hillis – and is in demand as a clinician and educator around the country. She made her Opera Omaha debut in February 2011, conducting and playing continuo for Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Omaha debut in February 2011, conducting and playing continuo for Mozart’s Don Giovanni. JoAnn also conducts for the Lowveld Chamber Music Association in Nelspruit, South Africa, having premiered there in 2014, returning in May of 2017 to conduct performance of Schubert's Mass in G and Mozart's Requiem. Conducting Carmen in June, 2018, will mark her third collaboration with this organization.

Kulesza earned a Bachelor of Music at Western Michigan University and a Master of Music at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

As One

As One, conceived by American composer Laura Kaminsky with libretto by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed, was commissioned and developed by the American Opera Projects to premiere in September 2014. As One is a coming of-age story that depicts the experiences of its sole transgender protagonist, Hannah, as she endeavors to resolve the discord between herself and the outside world. It explores the topics surrounding gender identity, acceptance, and the inequities that members of the LGBTQ+ community face.

Kaminsky’s piece explores Hannah’s story through her two genders, with her biological, male body being represented as “Hannah before” and her body as a transgender woman being represented as “Hannah after”. Through various short scenes these two sides portray the experiences and feelings of Hannah before, during and following her transition, showing Hannah as she struggles to discover her true gender identity. As Oneis categorized as a contemporary chamber opera and features two singers portraying the titular role of Hannah, a mezzo-soprano and a baritone, accompanied by string quartet. Peabody Opera Outreach has reduced the instrumentation for keyboard alone with creative direction by Samuel Mungo.

The U.S premiere of As One, commissioned, presented and produced by the American Opera Projects in association with the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York, received critical acclaim and is currently the most produced modern opera in America. The positive feedback received from critics and audiences alike has inspired the Peabody Institute to highlight and focus on this important topic and expand its audience through the Peabody Opera Outreach, in the hope to spread awareness on transgender issues and to give voice to those who may feel alone, isolated and lost in the process of discovering their true selves.

For booking or more information, contact Opera Outreach Coordinator Melanie Walker at

Hannah Before: TBA

Hannah After: TBA

Director: James Harp

Musical Director/Conductor: JoAnn Kulesza

Laura Kaminsky, Composer

Laura Kaminsky, “one of the top 35 female composers in classical music” (The Washington Post), frequently addresses issues including sustainability, war, and human rights in her work. “Full of fire as well as ice, (she writes) in an idiom that contrasts dissonance and violence with tonal beauty and meditative reflection. It is strong stuff.” (American Record Guide). With co-librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed she has created the most widely-produced contemporary opera in the U.S., As One (2014), Some Light Emerges (Houston Grand Opera 2017), and the forthcoming Today it Rains (Opera Parallèle/American Opera Projects 2019). Upcoming: A Piano Quintet for Ursula Oppens and the Cassatt String Quartet; and with Reed Postville, inspired by the unprecedented and devastating immigration raid there in 2008, for a consortium led by Santa Fe and San Francisco Operas. Head of composition as the Conservatory of Music/SUNY Purchase, she is composer-in-residence at American Opera Projects. More

James Harp, Director

James Harp is well known in the Baltimore area as a pianist, organist, stage director, singer, composer, lecturer, writer and conductor. He began his musical career at age 7 as a church soloist, and has concertized in Italy, France, Greece, Israel, the Bahamas, and extensively throughout his native Southern United States. Among his more unusual musical experiences include singing “My Old Kentucky Home” as a soloist on National Television at the 1981 Kentucky Derby, coaching Lily Tomlin in arias from AIDA for an Emmy-nominated “Homicide” segment, and nearly drowning after falling backwards into the Sea of Galilee while conducting madrigals.

James Harp is the Artistic Director of Maryland Opera, the Mid-Atlantic’s newest opera company and arts organization, where he is building a comprehensive and innovative opera and opera education/outreach program to serve the entire state of Maryland. He is also heavily involved in pursuing and nurturing partnerships and collaborations with arts organizations both locally and nationally in order to sustain the art forms of opera and music for perpetuity. He is also a judge for the regional and district Metropolitan Opera auditions.

He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the Peabody Conservatory of Music. He was the Artistic Administrator of the Baltimore Opera Company beginning in 1989 and was the Chorus Master since 1993. Since 1983 he has served as organist for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and since 1987 has been the Cantor (Organist/Choirmaster) for Baltimore’s historic St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, where he also serves as Artistic Director of the St. Cecilia Society Concert Series. He formerly served as Music Director of the Baltimore Men’s Chorus from 1989-1995 and was the accompanist for the Baltimore Symphony Chorus from 1982-1999. He is the Principal Accompanist and Chorus Master for Baltimore Concert Opera since spring of 2009. He also is a coach/accompanist with the Wagner Society of Washington, DC. He has been associated with the opera faculties at the Peabody Conservatory and the University of Maryland Opera Studio and will join the Morgan State University Music faculty in 2018 at an opera coach. In the 2017-18 academic year he was on the faculty at Towson University where he coached singers and directed a production of LE NOZZE DI FIGARO.

Knowledgeable in many areas of music, he has lectured extensively on opera in many venues, including the Towson Arts Festival, the Maryland Opera Society, the Biblical Archaeology Society, and the Joy of Opera Series. He is on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Continuing Education where he lectures on the repertoire of the Lyric Opera Baltimore. Successful as a writer of operatic children’s programs, he and his work PUPPETS & PAGLIACCI were featured on a PBS documentary. His reworking and staging of Puccini's GIANNI SCHICCHI, changed from Florence, Italy in 1299 to Florence, Alabama, in 1929 and retitled THE TALE OF JOHNNIE S. KICKEY, has been well received and performed in several regional opera companies and universities. He has served on several national advisory boards as a consultant and advocate for arts agencies.

He made his LOB mainstage stage director debut in 2013 in TOSCA, receiving significant critical and audience appreciation, continued with an outstanding production of MADAMA BUTTERFLY in fall of 2014. As a stage director he has directed many operas for Artscape, Baltimore’s summer festival of the arts, including THE MEDIUM, TOO MANY SOPRANOS, SLOW DUSK, and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. He has directed THE SORCERER, HMS PINAFORE, THE GONDOLIERS, IOLANTHE, THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD, and THE MIKADO with the Young Victorian Opera Company. He has also staged operas at Anne Arundel Community College, where his version of THE ELIXIR OF LOVE, transplanted to Tennessee during Prohibition, was well received, as well as his productions of THE MAGIC FLUTE, DON GIOVANNI, LA TRAVIATA and DIE FLEDERMAUS.

Sought after as an orchestral musician and accompanist, he has been featured as soloist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in works ranging from Saint-Saens ORGAN SYMPHONY to Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. He has appeared as continuo (harpsichord/organ) soloist with many local orchestral and choral groups, where his informed and histrionic realizations of baroque figured bass have won acclaim. Accompanist to many local singers, many of whom feature his own compositions, he has also accompanied such artists as Elizabeth Futral, Stephen Costello, Patricia Racette, Leontyne Price, Marilyn Horne, Sherrill Milnes, Licia Albanese, Anna Moffo, Chris Merritt, Lucine Amara, and Paul Plishka. His appearance with Miss Futral and Mr. Costello was part of the noted Vocal Arts Society of Washington DC series and took place at the Kennedy Center.

An aficionado of gardening, theology, genealogy and all things Victorian, he lives in the Bolton Hill neighborhood of Baltimore with his three gregarious pugs, Vera, Minnie Lee and Otto.

JoAnn Kulesza, Musical Director, Peabody Opera

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