Northwestern University School of Music Opera Program

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The Northwestern University School of Music Opera Program is one of the most prestigious in the country. We offer a wide range of opera performances each year, from classic to contemporary. Our students have the opportunity to work with some of the most renowned opera singers, directors, and conductors in the business.


The Northwestern University School of Music Opera Program is one of the most prestigious opera programs in the United States. The program offers a unique combination of vocal, musical, and dramatic training that prepares students for a career in opera. The program also provides opportunities for students to participate in productions, both in the opera house and in the studio.

History of the program

The history of the Northwestern University School of Music Opera Program is a long and storied one, dating back to the early days of the university itself. Founded in 1855, Northwestern was one of the first American universities to offer opera as part of its curriculum. In the late 19th century, under the direction of renowned composer and music professor John Philip Sousa, the program staged some of the most popular operas of the day, including Gioachino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” and Giuseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto.”

Today, under the leadership of Maestro Alan Stone, Northwestern’s Opera Program is one of the most highly respected in the country. Stone has led the program since 1977, and during his tenure has overseen more than 100 productions, most notably a critically acclaimed staging of Richard Wagner’s “Ring” cycle in 1987. The program remains committed to presenting both classic and contemporary operas for audiences of all ages.

Notable alumni

Since its establishment in 1893, the Opera Program at Northwestern University’s School of Music has become a renowned destination for operatic study. Located in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, the program provides its students with a wealth of opportunities to develop their operatic craft.

The program has produced many notable alumni, including sopranos Renee Fleming and Patricia Racette, tenors Ben Heppner and Lawrence Brownlee, baritones Thomas Hampson and Nathan Gunn, bass-baritone Eric Owens, and mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves.

The program today


The curriculum for the opera program at Northwestern University School of Music is very comprehensive. It includes six major areas of study: opera history and dramatic context, vocal technique, stagecraft, diction and repertory, acting, and musicianship. In addition to these areas of study, students must also complete a number of other requirements, such as private vocal coaching, performance juries, and significant ensemble work.


The opera program at Northwestern University School of Music is led by faculty members who are passionate about their art and committed to teaching the next generation of performers. Each member of the faculty brings a unique perspective to the program, and together they provide a wealth of knowledge and experience for their students.

The faculty members are all highly accomplished performers in their own right, and many have appeared on the world’s biggest stages. They bring this wealth of experience to their work with students, helping them to hone their skills and prepare for successful careers in opera.

In addition to their performance experience, the faculty members also have a deep understanding of the business side of opera. They can provide valuable insights into the audition process,contract negotiation, and marketing oneself as an opera singer.

The Northwestern University School of Music opera program is proud to have such a talented and experienced faculty leading our students into the future of opera.

Opportunities for students

In addition to taking part in mainstage operas, Northwestern University Opera Studies students may audition for and be cast in smaller-scale productions, participate in master classes taught by world-renowned teaching artists, take part in competitions and recitals, and much more.

The opportunities available to Opera Studies students at Northwestern are vast and varied. Below are just some of the ways in which our students have been involved in recent years:

Mainstage Operas:
-Our students have sung roles and understudied roles in major operatic works such as Tosca, Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro, Madama Butterfly, The Barber of Seville, La Bohème, and many others.

Small-Scale Productions:
-Northwestern University Opera Studies students have performed in fully staged productions of works such as Suor Angelica, The Telephone, Hansel and Gretel, Amahl and the Night Visitors, The Impresario, La serva padrona, Trouble in Tahiti, The Medium, The Old Maid and the Thief, and others.

Competitions and Recitals:
-Students have the opportunity to compete for cash prizes and other awards in competitions such as the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Competition, the Chicago District Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (MONC), the Gerda Lissner Lieder Competition (New York), the McKay/Smith Young Artist Competition (Atlanta), among others.

Why study opera at Northwestern?

The Northwestern University School of Music Opera Program is one of the most prestigious and well-respected programs in the country. Located in Evanston, Illinois, the program offers students a chance to study under some of the most talented and experienced faculty in the industry. The program provides a well-rounded education in Opera, equipping students with the skills and knowledge they need to pursue a career in the field. In addition to a strong education, the program also offers students the opportunity to perform in a professional setting, giving them the experience they need to succeed in the industry.

Chicago location

One of the many advantages of the School of Music’s opera program is its location in Chicago, one of the most vibrant artistic communities in the world. Students have opportunities to see world-class opera at Lyric Opera of Chicago and other professional companies, to participate in professional productions as part of their training, and to study with some of the most respected voice teachers and vocal coaches in the country.

Renowned faculty

Northwestern University’s School of Music opera program has a faculty of acclaimed artists and scholars who have contributed significantly to the field of opera. The opera faculty actively engage in research and writing on the art form, while also pursuing careers as performers, directors, and stage managers. They are committed to working with our students to develop them into well-rounded opera professionals.

Tyler White is an Associate Professor of Opera Studies and Voice. He is a member of the Northwestern University vocal faculty and serves as the director of Northwestern University’s Opera Theater program. His research interests include bel canto opera, critical race theory, and performance studies.

Kristin Lewis is a Professor of Voice and the Chair of the Vocal Arts Department at Northwestern University’s School of Music. She has sung leading roles with many of the world’s most prestigious opera companies, including The Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, English National Opera, Canadian Opera Company,Glimmerglass Festival, and Santa Fe Opera.

Opportunities for performance and collaboration

In the Opera Program at Northwestern University’s School of Music, students have ample opportunities to perform and collaborate with their peers. Students in the program work together to stage full-length operas, giving them experience in all aspects of opera production. From auditions to stage management, students learn what it takes to produce an opera from start to finish. In addition to working on operas, students also have the opportunity to perform in a variety of other venues on campus and around Chicago. Opera at Northwestern provides students with a well-rounded education in all aspects of the art form, preparing them for careers in opera or related fields.


The Northwestern University School of Music Opera Program provides a well-rounded curriculum that helps students develop their skills in acting, singing, and stagecraft. The program offers a variety of performance opportunities, including mainstage productions, student-run projects, and workshops with professional opera companies. The program’s faculty is composed of highly experienced opera professionals who are dedicated to providing a supportive and nurturing environment for their students.

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