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  • As One performers on stage

Opera at USC presents "As One" in limited virtual run until December 21

Read a message from the Director and follow the link

A chamber opera for two voices and String Quartet
Music & Concept by Laura Kaminsky
Libretto by Mark Campbell & Kimberly Reed
Film Projections by Kimberly Reed

See it here until December 21!

A Message from Ellen Douglas Schlaefer

In the opening number of the musical A Chorus Line the director, Zach, calls out the steps for the auditioners, “…back, step, pivot, step, walk, walk, walk…”. I can’t think of a better way to describe the last 8 months, can you? It’s been a journey, but one the music students at the University of South Carolina have undertaken with determination and poise.  We were extremely fortunate to make all the scheduled performances and closed our production of Carousel on March 1. So many performing arts programs – academic, professional and amateur – had to end abruptly, with no idea when or if their stages would be home to music, dance, theatre and, yes, opera. The April 2020 Lanny and Sidney Palmer One Act series was cancelled, and the students finished the semester online, uncertain of the future.

But there is one thing that is certain and that is the collaborative and resilient spirit that is embodied in opera. I knew we were going to do something in the fall, but the “what” haunted my waking and sleeping hours for months until that old showbiz adage worked its way to the forefront –THE SHOW MUST GO ON. But how?  We were fortunate to have had a few rehearsals with Dr. Lynn Kompass for As One last spring and producing it was the logical path to follow. The New Sounds Quartet coached by Dr. Ari Streisfeld had also been working on this most poignant and timely opera. Please take a look at the article written for this program by Dr. Kunio Hara. This piece has been performed all over the world and has become the most performed new opera in North America since its premiere in 2014. Find a moment to visit the website for a comprehensive history of the piece, its creators and resources. I’d like to thank Bill Holab Music, publisher, for his patience and understanding as we had to “back, step, pivot…”.

Still the news continued to be bleak as the summer wore on. Singers, trained to project their voices, were thought to be potentially “super spreaders” and stringent protocols were set in place by the School of Music. Thirty minutes of singing had to be followed by 30 minutes to clear the space. And even if you could rehearse, where would you put it on and who would see it? Across the country performing artists were coming up with creative ways to utilize technology. We’ve all zoomed, teamed, facetimed, our way through these months, but was it the best way for our students perform? Fortunately for Opera at USC, Nate Terracio, Director of the Koger Center, had space available and Dr. Tayloe Harding, Dean of the School of Music gave us the go ahead, and so we decided to video tape our production.     

We rehearsed – via Zoom- for many weeks. Computers and phones were set up in the opera room and 040 became a TV studio. Neil Casey led the singers – Tessa Morris and Greg Pipkin, while I tuned in from my dining office. Resident costumer, Alexis Doktor worked her magic. Recent graduates of the School of Music, Melissa Starkweather and Maddie Johnston had been slated to stage manage the piece in April and were able to join us this fall. New opera grad assistants, James Allen and Katie Gatch suddenly became camera operators!

With the help of audio guru, Jeff Francis, our intrepid technical director, Michael LaRoche, resident light designer Julie Duro and the Koger Center’s Steve Borders, Scott Rickenbaker, Ariel Guinn, we made it to the stage. What a new and unique experience for us all. As you can see, a lot of names are mentioned. And that’s because opera is, at the core, a collaboration and when the chips were down, everyone came together and made this video. We’ve all learned so much working on this opera. It is, as Opera News reported, “A piece that haunts and challenges its audience with questions about identity, authenticity, compassion and the human desire for self-love and peace.”

Finally, I can’t help but think about Sidney Palmer, who gives his name to our one act series. As noted on his passing in 2016, Sidney was a pioneer in producing the performing arts for television. In 1979 he joined South Carolina ETV Network as Executive Director for National Programming. It was there that he produced operas, such as The Consul, Vanessa, and Willie Stark for the Great Performances series, and Pilobolus and The Paul Taylor Dance Company for the Dance in America series. Mr. Palmer was producer and director for the first series of The Great American Short Story for PBS and the American producer of Cosi fan tutte at Glyndebourne. He was producer and director of the world’s first live satellite-interconnect, Christmas Around the World; in which programming originated simultaneously in seven countries on four continents and was seen live as a single program in over 30 countries throughout the world.

In today’s world, we’ll continue to find new ways to produce this 500-year-old art form. Enjoy. And keep an eye out for what we do next. Stay safe.     

Ellen Douglas Schlaefer
Director of Opera Studies


Hannah before: Greg Pipkin (MM Opera Theatre)
Hannah after: Tessa Morris (MM performance)

University of South Carolina New Sounds String Quartet

Coach: Dr. Ari Streisfeld
Violin I: Kai-Yi Zhang
Violin II: Emilio Alverson
Viola: Calvin Green
Cello: Alberto Pelisier Lopez

Camera Operators

Katie Gatch (MM Opera Theatre)
James Allen (MM Performance)


Melissa Starkweather (MM Opera Theatre, graduated May 2020)
Maddie Johnston (BM Vocal Performance, graduated May 2020)


S. Andrews Photography

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