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UW talent abounds at Tacoma Opera 

Submitted by Joanne De Pue on November 8, 2023 - 1:36pm
Carmen at Tacoma Opera
Carmen at Tacoma Opera (Photo courtesy Tacoma Opera)

Tacoma Opera’s recent production of Carmen may as well have been staged on the UW campus for all of the current and past students and faculty involved on stage, in the pit, and in a host of roles behind the scenes.

Credit for this proliferation of UW-connected personnel lies in no small part with the leadership of Limuel Forgey, Tacoma Opera’s general director and a doctoral voice student at the UW. Since his appointment at Tacoma Opera earlier this year, he has noticeably—and intentionally—extended the company’s practice of drawing on the pool of talent emerging from the UW’s voice and instrumental performance programs.

“My hope is to provide a direct avenue for UW School of Music students to showcase their talents and musical aptitude within the scope of Tacoma Opera and quality, professional work,” Forgey said recently.

Carmen’s director was Kelly Kitchens, the dynamic stage director of recent Opera Workshop productions at the UW (She was Forgey’s stage director in the UW’s 2021 production of Vinkenspört). Assistant director was Cee Adamson, a doctoral voice student who studies with Carrie Shaw. Voice Professor Thomas Harper, who is directing this season’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire, is Forgey’s primary voice teacher at the UW. Chorus director Elizabeth Mitchell is a master’s student in choral conducting, and the company’s principal conductor, Daren Weissfisch, is a doctoral student in orchestral conducting.

Carmen’s cast included School of Music alumnus Brendan Tuohy (’04 BM, Voice) as Don José, current choral conducting doctoral student Justin Birchell as Zuniga, alumnus Darrell J. Jordan (’20 DMA, Voice) as Moralès, and current graduate voice student Zachary Fitzgerald as El Remendado.

School of Music students in the opera’s chorus included Jinjing Qi, Cathy Oh, Raven Forgey, and Meliza Redulla. The production’s rehearsal accompanist was UW staff pianist Jieun Kim. Graduate percussion student Scott Farkas and undergraduate bassoonist Ryan Kapsandy performed in the orchestra.

Adding to the abundance of UW talent proliferating at Tacoma Opera this season, the company recently announced the establishment of the Phil and Linda Yates Legacy Program for Young Artists, with the inaugural slate of artists composed entirely of UW Voice alumni and current students: Will Schlott, Sarah Santos (’22, MM, Voice), Sophia Parker (’23 BM, Voice), Caitlin Hennessey (’23 MM, Voice), Sydney Belden, Mallory McCollum (DMA, Voice; ’23 MM, Voice), Zachary Rude (’23 MM, Voice), Oliver Callahan, and Kenneth Foster (’22 MM, Vocal Performance).

"In discussions with students during rehearsals and after the performances it was wonderful to hear from them how educational this true professional experience during the rehearsal period was,” Professor Harper said recently. "They were so exhilarated by this invaluable performance experience. I would like to thank Lim Forgey for making this all possible for our UW students!”

From Forgey’s perspective, it’s a winning collaboration. “From our young and emerging artists, to established musicians, Tacoma Opera is striving for the inclusion of every artist, and the promotion of regional musicians,” he said. “UW is a rich storehouse of wonderful artists, and we are thrilled to prove them with professional work and quality Grand Opera.”

Tacoma Opera's 2023-24 season continues in February with A Streetcar Named Desire (Thomas Harper, director) and in April with Tales of Hoffman (Kelly Kitchens, director). Details at Tacoma Opera's website.