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School of Music


Opera at USC Past Master Classes

Frederick Burchinal, Met Opera and University of Georgia
Renowned international baritone Frederick Burchinal, with a twenty two year presence at the Metropolitan Opera since his debut as Macbeth in 1988, was named the first recipient of the Wyatt and Margaret Anderson Professorship in the Arts at the University of Georgia's Hugh Hodgson School of Music in 2006. Burchinal's performances at the Metropolitan Opera have included the title roles in Macbeth, Simon Boccanegra, Nabucco, and Rigoletto plus Iago in Otello, Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana, Tonio in Pagliacci, Amonasro in Aida, Gerard in Andrea Chenier, Golaud in Pelleas et Melisande, and Baron Scarpia in Tosca. Burchinal has shared the stage with some of opera's greatest names including Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Ben Heppner, Anna Netrebko, Maria Guilighina, Joan Sutherland, June Anderson, and with conductors James Levine, James Conlon, Placido Domingo, Julius Rudel, Maurizio Arena, Thomas Schippers, and Leonard Bernstein.

Katherine Ciesinski, Eastman School of Music

The New York Times has called Katherine Ciesinski “a singer of rare communicative presence, and a musician of discrimination and intelligence.” This accomplished American mezzo-soprano pursues a fully integrated career, exploring the world of today’s composers as well as the established classics of the lyric stage. Major operatic credits include three Metropolitan Opera productions: Judith (Bluebeard’s Castle) and Nicklausse (Les Contes d’Hoffmann) and most recently Comtesse de Coigny (Andrea Chenier); Cassandre (Les Troyens) at Covent Garden and Adalgisa (Norma) with Scottish Opera; Laura (La Gioconda), Waltraute (Ring cycle), and Dulcinée (Don Quichotte) with San Francisco Opera; Octavian (Der Rosenkavalier) and Hansel (Hansel und Gretel) with Dallas Opera; Kabanicha (Katya Kabanova), Mère Marie (Carmélites), Adelaide (Arabella), Marcellina (Le Nozze di Figaro), and Cornelia (Giulio Cesare) with Houston Grand Opera; Xerxes (title role), Diana (La Calisto), Herodias (Salome), Ottavia (L’Incoronazione di Poppea),and Countess Geschwitz in the American premiere of the completed three act version of Lulu with Santa Fe Opera. World premieres of Mark Adamo’s Little Women (Houston), Dominick Argento’s The Aspern Papers (Dallas), Maurice Ohana’s La Celestine (title role, Paris Opera), Girolamo Arrigo’s Il Ritorno di Casanova (Geneva), Param Vir’s Snatched by the Gods (Amsterdam and Munich) have been critically acclaimed, as have her Giulietta in Brussels, Brangäne in Toronto, Judith in Frankfurt and Stuttgart, Eboli in Madrid and La Favorite in Paris.

Kristine Ciesinski, Florida State University

Ms. Ciesinski’s career has encompassed more than three decades of performing many of the great operatic heroines. She has become identified with roles such as Katerina in Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at La Scala, and the Paris Opera and Frankfurt Operas; the title role of Salome in eighteen productions including the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Semperoper in Dresden, English National Opera in London, Bellas Artes in Mexico City, Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa, and the San Diego, Bremen, and Baltimore Operas; Marie in Wozzeck in Frankfurt, Bonn, Hamburg, London, Buenos Aires, Amsterdam, and the Spoleto Festival in Italy; Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s Macbeth at the Festival de Vichy, London-ENO, and the English National Opera tour to Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater and the Marinsky Theater in St. Petersburg; Emilia Marty in Janacek’s Makropoulos Case at the Glyndebourne Festival, La Monnaie in Brussels, the Staatsoper in Hamburg, Maastricht, and the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam, as well as the heroines in Bluebeard’s Castle and Erwartung in Leipzig, Basel and Tokyo.  Ms. Ciesinski has collaborated with renowned conductors Sir Simon Rattle, Leonard Bernstein, Lorin Maazel, Sir Mark Elder, Emmanuel Vuillaume, Donald Runnicles, Sir Charles Mackerras, Peter Schneider, Lorin Maazel, Sir Alexander Gibson, and Sir Andrew Davis. Her stage and film performances include directors such as Werner Schroeter, Günter Krämer, Peter Stein, Martin Kusej, Peter Konwitschny, Peter Mussbach, Nicholas Muni, Krzysztof Zanussi, Christoph Marthaler, David Pountney, and Francesca Zambello.

Katherine Cowdrick, Eastman School of Music
Opera News has described Kathryn Cowdrick as an artist who brightly infused every scene with her singing, dazzling fioratura, and her sexy, warm, comedienne personality, a remark which seems to convey the essence of this charismatic mezzo-soprano.

Mary Dunleavy
Soprano Mary Dunleavy continues to receive critical and popular acclaim for her performances with many of the world's leading opera houses and orchestras. Her gallery of operatic heroines is led by her signature role, Violetta in La traviata, seen thus far in over 65 performances in venues including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Beijing's National Centre for the Performing Arts, Glimmerglass Opera, New York City Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest, and others.

Ashley Putnam, Manhattan School of Music
After winning first prize in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 1973, internationally renowned soprano Ashley Putnam went on to a career which encompassed an extraordinary repertoire ranging from bel canto to the leading soprano roles of Mozart and Strauss that later became her signature. She performed to great acclaim in major opera houses all over the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, Vienna Statsoper, Berlin Statsoper, Teatro Colon; the opera companies of Geneva, Zurich, Frankfurt, Strasbourg, Glyndebourne, Nice, Lyon, Cologne, and the Netherlands; San Francisco Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera, New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, San Diego Opera, Seattle Opera, and all of the important regional companies in the United States.

Dr. Dean Southern, Cleveland Institute of Music
In addition to performing and teaching, Dr. Southern is a columnist for Classical Singer magazine. The magazine has also published his articles, "Practicing 101: Ten Tips for Making the Most of Your Time Between Lessons" and the three-part series "Distant Voices: Listening to Singers of the Past." His presentation by the same name is a multimedia guided tour through the first half-century of recorded vocal history and is a feature of his visits to colleges, universities and arts organizations across the country.

Frederica von Stade
Recognized as one of the most beloved musical figures of our time, Frederica von Stade has enriched the world of classical music for three decades with her appearances in opera, concert, and recital. The mezzo-soprano is well known to audiences around the world through her numerous featured appearances on television including several PBS specials and "Live from Lincoln Center" telecasts. She has made over sixty recordings with every major label, including complete operas, aria albums, symphonic works, solo recital programs, and popular crossover albums. Her recordings have garnered six Grammy nominations, two Grand Prix du Disc awards, the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, Italy's Premio della Critica Discografica, and "Best of the Year" citations by Stereo Review and Opera News.

Indra Thomas
Of Indra Thomas’ performance as Imogene in Il Pirata at the Caramoor Festival, The New York Times wrote: “The mad scene was a triumph, especially its reflective first half in which Ms. Thomas’ affinity for long-spun, slow melodic phrases was impressive. The audience awarded her a tremendous ovation.” Considered one of the foremost Aidas in the world today, Ms. Thomas sang this role at the Chorégies, d’Orange in a performance that was televised throughout France during the summer of 2011.

Leonardo Vordoni
Originally from Trieste, Italy, the fast-rising conductor Leonardo Vordoni studied conducting at the Accademia Pescarese with Gilberto Serembe, and earned a diploma in opera conducting at Bologna’s Reale Accademia Filarmonica. Mr Vordoni’s last season includes Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Houston Grand Opera and Lucia di Lammermoor at Minnesota Opera. Future engagements include returns to the Canadian Opera Company and the Green Mountain Opera as well as a debut with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Mr. Vordoni’s past season featured three of Puccini’s greatest works: La Bohème with Santa Fe Opera and Utah Opera, Tosca at Opera on the James, and Turandot at Portland Opera. He made an important debut with the Canadian Opera Company with La Cenerentola.