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Department of Music
Phone: (509) 963-1216
Fax: (509) 963-1239

Opera Ensemble

Opera is a vital part of the CWU Vocal Program, producing at least one operatic production each year. The CWU Opera provides a positive learning experience for music students in all aspects of stagecraft and performance culminating in an enjoyable offering of polished operatic entertainment for the Ellensburg community. Every other year, CWU produces a fully staged opera production in collaboration with the CWU Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Dr. Nikolas Caoile, providing invaluable experience to the singers on stage and the orchestral players in the pit. Recent productions include The Gondoliers, The Magic Flute and Le Nozze di Figaro. In the alternating years, students perform in a wide variety of opera scenes allowing students to focus on repertoire appropriate for their level, from beginner to advanced.

Opera is a synthetic culmination of many forms of artistic expression; a complete work, Der Gesamtkunstwerk to Wagner. During the rehearsal period for an opera production, the students explore a myriad of elements as they master the challenges of this unique art form on their way to becoming well-rounded and versatile performers. Operatic vocal repertoire is inherently demanding of the “soloist” requiring that each singer be completely secure with their own part while also depending on others. Operatic singing also asks young singers how to “balance” their voices with others while retaining the individual quality of their instruments; bridging the gap between solo recital singing and choral singing. Opera presents important challenges in the declamation of rapid speech-like patterns in Italian, German and French. Singing operatic recitative in any language requires skill and experience, even in English!

  • Current Opera Production

    On Saturday, April 15 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, April 16 at 2:00 pm, the CWU Opera Ensemble will present “L’Opera Italiana: An Evening of Opera Scenes from, about or inspired by Italy” in the McConnell Auditorium. The CWU Music Department is proud to present its brightest vocal talent in a wide array of operatic scenes fully staged and presented in English and Italian. The performances will feature scenes from the comic operas, Il matrimonio segreto by Cimarosa, Cosi fan tutte and Le Nozze di Figaro by Mozart, and L’elisir d’amore by Donizetti. The evening will span the operatic repertoire including a scene from the early Baroque opera, L’Orfeo by Monteverdi, Alcina by Handel, the famous “Belle nuit” scene from Les Contes d’Hoffmann by Offenbach (the only scene in French!), and scenes from Un ballo un mascara, La Traviata, and Un giorno di regno by Verdi, along with a less performed scene from La Gioconda by Ponchielli. Menotti’s Amelia Goes to the Ball and a lighthearted trio from The Most Happy Fella will represent American works and “The Italian Street Song” from the popular operetta, Naughty Marietta by Romberg launches the trip to bell’Italia!

    All ticket revenue goes to support this production and future CWU opera productions. If you are in a position to make a larger donation and would like more information about how to do so, please contact Dr. Gayla Blaisdell. Donations can be designated for future opera productions or Voice Area Scholarships. Your contributions support the CWU music students in everything they do and help us to maintain our spectacular programs.

Recent Awards:

  • 2017 2nd Place Winner in the Collegiate Opera Scenes
    Competition, Act I Part 2 from Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi
  • 2017 Finalist in the Collegiate Opera Scenes Competition,
    Act 1 Scene from The Old Maid and the Thief by Gian Carlo Menotti
  • 2012 2nd Place Category 2, Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini
  • 2012 Finalist in the Collegiate Opera Scenes Competition, Eugene Onegin Finale by Peter Tchaikovsky
  • 2011 2nd Place Category 2, A Little Night Music by Stephen Sondheim
  • 2010 1st Place, Category 1, The Tender Land by Aaron Copland

    Die Fledermaus imageIn addition to the annual opera production, CWU offers a variety of courses in operatic training, including Diction for Singers and Opera History. Students are given the opportunity to coach and work on operatic repertoire in private voice lessons as well as in Weekly Studio Classes with CWU faculty members. Singers often receive individual dramatic coaching in addition to their applied study. The annual Over-the-TOPera concert offers another unique performance opportunity for students to explore operatic repertoire. Master classes with visiting professionals from the around the country also help students perfect their performance skills.

Student interest in opera is supported by the SNATS Club, which provides financial support to the Opera Ensemble and a valuable performance opportunity at the popular Bella Notte event. SNATS also provides travel funding for vocal students to the annual Inland Empire NATS competition, subsidizes frequent student trips to see professional operas and shows outside of Ellensburg and sponsors vocal master classes and speakers.

Please contact Dr. Gayla Blaisdell with any questions and “LIKE” our CWU Opera Ensemble page on Facebook! We’d love to share the excitement of opera at CWU with you!

  • Past Opera Productions
    • "Orpheus in the Underworld" 2022 2022 Blaisdell, dir. with CWU Chamber Orchestra, Caoile, dir.
    • "Trial by Jury" 2021 Blaisdell, dir.
    • "The Gondoliers" 20192019 Blaisdell, dir. with CWU Chamber Orchestra, Caoile, dir.
    • "Opera is for Everyone One Acts" 2018 Blaisdell/Blaisdell dirs.
    • "The Magic Flute" 2017 Blaisdell/Blaisdell dirs. with CWU Chamber Orchestra, Hirsch, dir.
    • "Bartered Brides, Merry Wives and Old Maids Opera Scenes" 2016 Blaisdell/Blaisdell, dirs.
    • "The Marriage of Figaro" 2015 Blaisdell dir. with CWU Chamber Orchestra, Caoile, dir.
    • “Opera Scenes from Here and There” 2014 Blaisdell/Blaisdell dirs.
    • "Die Fledermaus" (Strauss) 2013 Blaisdell, dir. with CWU Orchestra, Caoile, dir.
    • "A Night At The Opera" 2012 Blaisdell/Blaisdell, dirs.
    • "A Little Night Music" (Sondheim) 2011 Blaisdell, dir. with CWU Orchestra, Caoile, dir.
    • “The Tender Land” (Copland) 2010 Blaisdell, dir. with CWU Chamber Orchestra, Caoile, dir.
    • “Summer Scenes Opera Workshop Performance” 2010 Blaisdell, dir.
    • “Mostly Mozart” 2009 Blaisdell, dir.
    • “Games of Life and Love” (An Evening of Opera Scenes) 2006 Reich/Miller, dirs.
    • “Amahl and the Night Visitors” (Menotti) 2006 Reich/Meyer, dirs.
    • “Dido and Aeneas” (Purcell) and “Meanwhile Back at Cinderella’s” (Billings) 2005 Reich/Meyer, dirs.
    • “Gianni Schicchi” (Puccini)/Hansel and Gretel, short version (Humperdinck) 2005 Reich/Meyers, dir.
    • “Viva l’Opera” 2004 Reich, dir.
    • “The Sledge Hats” An original opera by John Sanders, student composer, Sanders, dir. 2003
    • “Don Giovanni” (Mozart) 2002 Marra/Cobbs, dirs.
    • Killing Daddy” (Polishook) 2001 Polishook ,dir.
    • “Scenes from Operas” 2000, Marra/Sasnett, dirs.
    • Cosi fan Tutte” (Mozart) 1999 Marra/Cobbs, dirs.
    • “Trial by Jury” (Sullivan) Student project, Jaclyn Meline, dir.
    • “Seed of Sarah” (Polishook) 1998 Polishook, dir.
    • “Scenes from Favorite Operas” 1997 Marra/Torrey, dirs.
    • “Idomeneo” (Mozart) 1996, Torrey, dir.
    • “The Marriage Contract” (Rossini)/”Riders to the Sea” (Vaughan Williams) 1995 Torrey, dir.
    • “Dido and Aeneas” (Purcell) 1994 Torrey, dir.
    • “Gianni Schicchi” (Puccini)/”The Impresario” (Mozart) 1993 Marra, dir.
    • “The Magic Flute” (Mozart) 1992 Marra/Baldwin dirs.
    • “The Telephone” (Menotti)/”Family Farm” (Allen-Schmidt) 1991 Kevin Allen-Schmidt, dir. Student Project
    • “Opera Scenes” 1991, Marra, dir.
    • “Masque of Angels” (Argento) 1991, Boers, dir.
    • “Pirates of Penzance” (Sullivan) 1990 Nesselroad/Baldwin dirs.
    • “An Evening of Opera Scenes” 1989 Marra/Nesselroad, dirs.
    • “An Evening of Opera” 1986 Nesselroad, dir.
    • “An Evening of Music from the Opera” 1985 Nesselroad, dir.
    • “Die Fledermaus” ( J. Strauss) 1985 Nesselroad, dir.
    • “An Evening of Opera Scenes” 1984 Nesselroad, dir.
    • “West Side Story”/”Candide” (Bernstein) 1984 Nesselroad/Brummett, dirs.
    • “An Opera Matinee” 1983 tenor student, Kim Shockley
    • “Falstaff” (Verdi) 1983, Nesselroad, dir.
    • “The Crucible” (Ward) 1982 Nesselroad, dir.
    • “La Traviata” (Verdi) 1981 Nesselroad, dir.
    • “The Marriage of Figaro” (Mozart) 1980, Nesselroad, dir.
    • “Gianni Schicchi” (Puccini) 1979, Nesselroad, dir.
    • “Thin Rain” (DeMerchant)? 1977 DeMerchant, dir
    • “Madama Butterfly” (Puccini) 1976 DeMerchant, dir.
    • “Carmen” (Bizet) 1970 DeMerchant, dir.
    • “Three Penny Opera” (Menotti) 1967 DeMerchant, dir.
    • “Susanna” (Floyd) 1966 DeMerchant, dir.
    • “The Telephone” (Menotti) 1960 DeMerchant, dir.