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CWU Department of Music
Phone: (509) 963-1216
Fax: (509) 963-1239
music@cwu.edu

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! 

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!

  • Current Opera Production

    The CWU Opera Ensemble’s production of The Gondoliersby Gilbert and Sullivan opened on April 4th in the Morgan Middle School Performing Arts Center Auditorium. The Gondoliers was be directed by Gayla Blaisdell and performed in collaboration with the CWU Chamber Orchestra directed by Nikolas Caoile.

    The Gondoliers, or, The King of Baratariais a light-hearted English operetta by the ever- popular creative team of Gilbert and Sullivan. Premiered in 1891, it continues to delight audiences with a colorful plot about a young bride who has been betrothed to the heir to the throne of Barataria as an infant. However, the heir has been raised in anonymity and two young Gondoliers, recently married to their sweethearts, are taken to the Court to determine which will become King. The mistaken identities and complicated relationship twists are further entangled because the young bride has fallen in love with a different man. The Gondoliersfeatures a wonderful ensemble of Gondoliers and Contadine singing and dancing in playful musical numbers, young lovers spinning out tuneful solos and duets and the Duke, Duchess and The Grand Inquisitor providing superb comedic episodes. It truly has something for everyone! 

    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
    • "The Gondoliers" 2019 Blaisdell/Blaisdell dirs.
    • "Opera is for Everyone One Acts" 2018 Blaisdell/Blaisdell dirs.
    • "The Magic Flute" 2017 Blaisdell/Blaisdell dirs.
    • "Bartered Brides, Merry Wives and Old Maids Opera Scenes" 2016
    • "The Marriage of Figaro" 2015 Blaisdell/Blaisdell dirs.
    • “Opera Scenes from Here and There” 2014 Blaisdell/Blaisdell dirs.
    • "Die Fledermaus" (Strauss) 2013 Blaisdell/Caoile dirs.
    • "A Night At The Opera" 2012 Blaisdell/Blaisdell, dirs.
    • "A Little Night Music" (Sandheim) 2011 Blaisdell/Caoile, dirs.
    • “The Tender Land”  (Copland)  2010   Blaisdell/Caoile, dirs.
    • “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.
    • “Idomenio” (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.