January 18, 2024

MSM Opera Theatre productions are recognized with two top awards in the National Opera Association’s Opera Production Competition

MSM Opera Theatre’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen won first place in one of eight divisions of the 2022–2023 National Opera Association’s Opera Production Competition Awards, and its production of La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’isola d’Alcina placed second in another.

The MSM Opera Theatre productions were produced by the MSM Vocal Arts program, led by MSM Dean of Vocal Arts Carleen Graham, and were part of 87 entries in the 2023 National Opera Association‘s Opera Production Competition.

The divisions in the competition were determined by undergraduate and graduate level, as well as by size of budget. Each production was adjudicated blindly with the judges unaware of the name of the institution or of the creative teams.

Scroll down to learn about the productions!


The National Opera Association was founded in 1955, under the auspices of the National Music Council chartered by the US Congress.

The National Opera Association promotes excellence in opera education and pedagogy through its support of a diverse community of opera educators and professionals. The organization’s stated goals are to “seek to promote a greater appreciation of opera and music theatre, to enhance pedagogy and performing activities, and to increase performance opportunities by supporting projects that improve the scope and quality of opera.”

NOA sponsors numerous competitions on an annual or biannual basis.

1st Place in Division VIII Graduate Division

The Cunning Little Vixen 

Music and Libretto by Leoš Janáček

Kirk Severtson, Conductor
Dennis Whitehead Darling, Director
Felicity Stiverson, Choreographer
Brian Ruggaber, Scenic Designer
Jen Gillette, Costume Designer
Driscoll Otto, Lighting Designer
Loryn Pretorius, Wig, Hair, and Makeup Designer

Comments from the adjudicator: 

I was extremely impressed with the musical preparation and comfort shown be these young artists. This is very difficult repertoire and not easily grasped. The attention to detail was tremendous so I commend all involved. 

Cleaver concept and beautifully executed on many levels. Wonderful Ensemble work in the space. Engaged and connected. Performers all felt very comfortable embracing the repertoire. Bravo to the dance elements!  

I could understand every word. The staging matched the music with an aesthetic fluency that was delightful and engaging. I believed the characters. The costumes, sets, lights, and props worked together beautifully to create a magical effect… This is a production worth being proud of. Congratulations! 

A beautiful production, beautifully staged and beautifully sung. The orchestra supported the stage very well, the singers all were clear and focused in the work, the choreography and costuming of the non-human characters was excellent, the lighting was sensitively done and well executed.

Photos from The Cunning Little Vixen

Photography by Brian Hatton

2nd Place in Division VII

La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’isola d’Alcina

Music by Francesca Caccini
Libretto by Ferdinando Saracinelli

Jorge Parodi, Conductor
James Blaszko, Director
Rodrigo Hernandez Martinez, Scenic Coordinator
Paige Seber, Lighting Designer
Christopher Metzger, Costume Designer

Comments from the adjudicator: 

Good work with the long recitatives from this musical style. The musical moments were well sung and committed. 

Oh this orchestra – simply marvelous (and what a great experience for your students/audience). Really interesting space and use of it. Trio is really well done – musically in sync and such calm ownership of the stage. Ornaments throughout are artful and well-executed. Really a Stellar cast of singing actors and movers. Costume details are quite nice. Tremendous commitment from your actors. Very engaging – especially in this intimate space. 

Brilliantly creative and so well-executed! This production is thoughtful, balanced, and full of thought-provoking choices. Thank you for bringing such a strong vision to this piece – and infusing early music with a well-chosen contemporary narrative. Congratulations!

Photos from the production

Photography by Steven Pisano

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