Così fan tutte, Director
KURT-ALEXANDER ZELLER began performing in opera, musical theatre, and oratorio in his native Pacific Northwest at age eight. Since then, he has performed throughout the United States, Spain, and Austria, and has appeared on German television, winning acclaim for his memorable characterizations as a singing actor. Among his favorite roles are Don Anchise il Podestà in La finta giardiniera and Monostatos in The Magic Flute by Mozart, Eumete in Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Filippo in Haydn's L'infedeltà delusa, The Minstrel in Once Upon a Mattress, Tschang-Ling in the American premiere of Alexander Zemlinsky's opera Der Kreidekreis in Cincinnati, and many roles in the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan, Johann Strauss, and Franz Lehár. His other performance activities have included a tour of Austria in a revue of the music of Kurt Weill, performing weekly “operatic soap operas” on the streets of Portland, Oregon, under a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and two seasons in the company of the Tony® Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Dr. Zeller is in demand as an oratorio soloist and recitalist and has appeared as a concert soloist for the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, New Trinity Baroque, the Terra Nova Consort, the Portland and Salem (OR) Chamber Orchestras, the Southern Crescent Symphony, and many other symphonies and concert series.
He also has served as stage director of Rogue Opera's productions of La Cenerentola, The Barber of Seville, and Don Pasquale and recently staged a program of sacred opera scenes for the Sacred in Opera Initiative of the National Opera Association at its 2013 national conference in Portland, Oregon. His 2009 staging of Britten’s Noye’s Fludde at Clayton State University, in partnership with schools in the Clayton County Public Schools, was profiled by Opera America’s Education Talk as an example of excellence in opera education and community outreach.
Dr. Zeller is Director of Opera and Vocal Studies and Coordinator of the Division of Music at Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia, and is active throughout the country as a vocal adjudicator and clinician. He has given presentations and workshops for the National Association of Teachers of Singing, the International Congress of Voice Teachers, the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, and Early Music America. Dr. Zeller trained at the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, where he became the first undergraduate in that institution's history to earn concurrent degrees in Theatre and in Music. His graduate studies were at the College-Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati, where he was awarded the MM in Voice Performance and a DMA in Voice Performance with cognate studies in Opera Directing and Musicology. He has done further study at the Early Music Institute of Indiana University, the 1995 National Association of Teachers of Singing Internship Program at Florida State University, and the Seattle Academy of Baroque Opera.
DR. TAMARA WATSON HARPER
The Marriage of Figaro, Director | Madame Butterfly, Director | The Elixir of Love, Director
Highly-regarded as a performer and much sought-after as a stage director, Dr. Tamara Watson Harper has held faculty positions at Angelo State University, Georgia Southern University, Georgia Perimeter College, and Reinhardt University, where she will be Associate Professor of Voice and Opera beginning in Fall 2012.
A lyric soprano, she has performed the title roles in Mozart’s THE MAGIC FLUTE, Massenet's CENDRILLON and Poulenc’s LES MAMELLES DE TIRÉSIAS, Anna I in THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS by Kurt Weill, Gretel in HANSEL UND GRETEL and Elle in LA VOIX HUMAINE, as well as making numerous concert appearances throughout the United States.
Recent directing credits include Peach State Opera’s CARMEN AND FRIENDS and ELIXIR OF LOVE, assistant director for Atlanta Opera’s recent production of LA BOHEME and, in her cinema debut, she staged the opera vignettes seen in Tyler Perry’s FOR COLORED GIRLS.
University directing credits include productions of THE MAGIC FLUTE, COSÌ FAN TUTTE, LE NOZZE DI FIGARO, L’ELISIR D’AMORE, THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, HMS PINAFORE, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, and THE DESERT SONG. She has served, in addition, as musical director/conductor for productions of CABARET and THE FANTASTICKS, and as choreographer for numerous others. She has been assistant director in two, important summer-abroad music festivals in Italy: Oberlin in Italy (Urbania) and, under the auspices of the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, at the Opera Festival of Lucca.
After receiving the Bachelor of Music degree at the Ohio State University, she earned the first of two graduate degrees at the Boston Conservatory of Music (Master of Music), followed by the School of Music at Florida State University, where she received her doctorate. Additional vocal studies were at the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria and at the Opera Festival of Lucca. She makes her home in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, Steven, and their son, Dean.
At age twenty-nine, as the youngest general director of an opera company in the United States, Michael McConnell began a ten-year creative and administrative association with Lyric Opera Cleveland as its Executive Director. During his tenure the Company achieved national prominence for its innovative profile in opera and music theater. He and the Company came to international attention during the 1993-94 season for the commission and subsequent production of MRS DALLOWAY, an opera by Libby Larsen and Bonnie Grice based upon the Virginia Woolf novel. Long-praised by local audiences and critics for his strong insights and keen theatricality, McConnell reaped additional praise for MRS DALLOWAY in OPERA NEWS and THE VILLAGE VOICE for work of “strong focus” and “theatrical urgency.” “The work made its intimate, probing points thanks to Michael McConnell’s urgent production,” wrote OPERA (UK).
A North Carolina native, he received his musical training as a pianist at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), where he was a student of the renowned Olga Conus. He was an honors graduate in musicology, later studying opera styles and production with Italo Tajo and Roger Brunyate.
In addition to much work in the standard repertory, his professional directing credits include numerous productions of lesser-known and world premiere pieces: Berlioz’s BEATRICE & BENEDICT, Agatha Christie’s BLACK COFFEE, Cavalli’s CALLISTO, Gershwin’s GIRL CRAZY; Monteverdi’s THE CORONATION OF POPPEA and THE RETURN OF ULYSSES, Larry Baker’s HAYDN’S HEAD, Milhaud’s LES MALHEURS d’ORPHÉE, Stravinsky’s THE RAKE’S PROGRESS, Weill’s THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS and Britten’s THE TURN OF THE SCREW. Mr. McConnell’s work has been successfully mounted by Skylight Opera Theatre, Opera Festival of New Jersey, Opera Memphis, Dayton Opera, Knoxville Opera, Opera Grand Rapids, Opera San José, The Mississippi Opera, The City Musick, Rochester Opera Theatre and Pittsburgh Opera Theater. He directed educational programs and tours for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, The Cleveland Orchestra, Opera Memphis and the Cincinnati Opera.
Other directing credits include highly-acclaimed, new productions of Donizetti’s L’ELISIR D’AMORE for The Lake George Opera Festival and Puccini’s MANON LESCAUT for Opera Memphis, Mozart’s DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE for Opera San José and CANDIDE for Dayton Opera; THE RAKE’S PROGRESS and THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE for Florida State Opera and SUSANNAH for Baldwin-Wallace College’s Conservatory of Music; also Handel’s AGRIPPINA and Luciano Chailly’s PROCEDURA PENALE for Opera Theatre of Lucca; LA SONNAMBULA and DON GIOVANNI for the Oberlin Opera Theater in Urbania, Italy. Recent production highlights include TOSCA and CARMEN for the Dayton Opera, TOSCA for Opera Memphis, ALBERT HERRING for Baldwin-Wallace College’s Conservatory of Music and L’ELISIR D’AMORE for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where he is Director of UT Opera Theatre and Visiting Associate Professor of Opera.
He began his career on the production staffs of the Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and the Cincinnati Opera, assisting such stage directors as Colin Graham, Lou Galterio, Frank Corsaro, James deBlasis and Gian Carlo Menotti. Teaching credits include the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, Baldwin-Wallace College’s Conservatory of Music, The Cleveland Institute of Music (Director of Opera from 1991-1995), and an associate professorship in opera at Florida State University’s College of Music where he was instrumental in a major reorganization of the opera department resulting in capacity enrollment, increased ticket sales and placement among the top five university opera programs in the United States as ranked by US NEWS & WORLD REPORT in its prestigious survey. He joined the directing staff of the Georgia State University School of Music’s Harrower Opera Workshop during the summer of 2010.
Michael McConnell is the recipient of a Cleveland Critic’s Award (1981--THE MIKADO) and Northern Ohio LIVE Award of Achievement Nominations for his production of THE TURN OF THE SCREW (1989), for Lyric Opera’s Mozart Cycle (1991) and for Lyric Opera’s 20th Anniversary Season (1993). He has regularly served as adjudicator for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, has been a frequent panelist for the Opera/Music Theater Program of The National Endowment for the Arts, and has served on the Board of Directors of OPERA America. His master classes and lectures have been heard at The Cleveland Orchestra, Kent State University, University of Akron, Georgia Southern University, Opera San José, Wright State University and University of Memphis. As a music journalist, he has written numerous articles and reviews for OPERA NEWS, THE MUSIC JOURNAL, NORTHERN OHIO LIVE and THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. He is also a contributor to OPERA America’s guides to the young, professional singer. He has created supertitles for productions of FALSTAFF, DON GIOVANNI, MADAMA BUTTERFLY, L’ELISIR D’AMORE, DIE ENTFÜHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL, COSÌ FAN TUTTE, HÄNSEL UND GRETEL, DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE (also new English dialogue) and ORFEO ED EURIDICE among others for the Dayton Opera, Opera San José, Opera Memphis, Mercury Opera Rochester, Opera Festival of New Jersey, Florida State Opera and the University of Memphis. *****
FALSTAFF The jolly performance of Falstaff, which opened last Saturday, was staged and directed by Michael McConnell with wit and taste.
Verdi’s seamless blend of music and text, though, was just this production’s starting point. So thoroughly theatrical was McConnell’s conception that the action became inextricable from the visuals . . . The singers’ delivery matched McConnell’s own supertitle translations to wonderful effect.
L’ELISIR D’AMORE Michael McConnell’s production in the small theater seemed to flaunt the youth of the performers (who), radiant, attractive and energized . . . overflowed with vitality, bel canto skill and appeal.