VCU Opera

Founded in 1950 by L. Wayne Batty, VCU Opera has been directed by Melanie Kohn Day since 1983. In 2008, Dr. Kenneth Wood joined the VCU Voice faculty and assumed duties as Co-Director/Stage Director.

VCU Opera has the longest running tradition of annual full-scale productions in the state of Virginia.  We produce fully staged opera scenes programs in the fall, as well as a gala evening of arias and several performances in area public schools. Each year there is a fully-staged production of opera scenes and arias as well as a full-scale production featuring scenery and costumes presented in collaboration with the VCU Symphony. VCU Opera is proud of its ongoing relationship with both Virginia Opera and Lyric Opera of Virginia, which includes regular field trips, workshops and master classes with staff and artists.

VCU Opera won 2nd place in the 2011 National Opera Association’s video competition for our very first submission – HANSEL & GRETEL!  VCU Opera won 1st place in 2012 for “The Old Maid & the Thief” and VCU Opera was selected to perform/compete at the 2013 National Opera Association’s Convention – Scenes Competition and placed 3rd.

With a significant emphasis on the holistic training of the complete “singer-actor,” VCU Opera has prepared numerous students for scholarships to: the Manhattan School of Music; Peabody Conservatory; Eastman School of Music; New England Conservatory; Northwestern University; The Curtis Institute of Music; The University of Maryland; Boston University and Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Five VCU Opera graduates have been selected for positions with the Virginia Opera Emerging Artists Program, and many have been selected for young artist programs with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Santa Fe Opera, Wolftrap Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Operafestival di Roma, AIMS-Graz, Brevard Music Festival, Lake George Opera, Pittsburgh Opera and Sarasota Opera.

We are especially proud of the many VCU Opera alumni who enjoy active careers performing in major international opera houses. VCU Opera offers an outstanding and intensive undergraduate opera training experience. Our students have ample opportunities to perform for Guest Artists in master classes in addition to bi-annual fully staged productions.

Recent Productions

VCU Opera offers fully staged productions APPROPRIATELY cast for undergraduate singers and presents them in collaboration with the VCU Symphony with costumes and scenery in ‘period’ style.

  • “A Little Night Music” – Stephen Sondheim
  • “Tartuffe” – Kirke Mechem
  • “The Secret Marriage” – Domenico Cimarosa
  • “Die Fledermaus” – Johann Strauss
  • “Suor Angelica” – Giacomo Puccini
  • “Gianni Schicchi” – Giacomo Puccini
  • “Dialogues of the Carmelites” – Francis Poulenc
  • “The Marriage of Figaro” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • “La Cenerentola” – Gioacchino Possini
  • “Tales of Hoffmann” – Jacques Offenbach
  • “Old Maid and the Thief” – Gian Carlo Menotti
  • “The Merry Widow” – Franz Lehàr
  • “Little Red Riding Hood” – Seymour Barab
  • “The Impresario” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • “Così fan tutte” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • “The Mikado” – Gilbert and Sullivan
  • “Hansel and Gretel”– Engelbert Humperdinck
  • “Amelia Goes to the Ball” – Gian Carlo Menotti
  • “The Magic Flute” –  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • “The Pirates of Penzance” – Gilbert & Sullivan
  • “La Cambiale di Matrimonio” – Gioachino Rossini

Topics of Study

In addition to conducting full-scale opera productions, VCU Opera strives to train students in all aspects of the genre. The following are among the variety of subjects addressed in the program:

  • Production/Role Study
  • Aria study
  • Stage and special-effects makeup
  • Stage combat
  • Techniques for auditions and competitions
  • Creating a character
  • Résumé and headshot preparation
  • Dramatic improvisation
  • Recitative workshops
  • “Great Voices of the Past” workshops
  • Period movement
  • Technical theatre training
  • Monologue preparation
  • Guest Artist Masterclasses and Workshops
  • Up close backstage at the Virginia Opera field trips

Guest Artists

  • Thomas Moser – VCU alumnus, Vienna Staatsoper
  • Fabiana Bravo – auspices of Virginia Opera
  • Barbara Dever – Metropolitan Opera, auspices of Virginia Opera
  • Maestro Peter Mark – former artistic director, Virginia Opera and Lyric Opera of Virginia
  • Maestro Dan Saunders – conductor, Metropolitan Opera
  • Maestro Joseph Walsh – former associate artistic director, Virginia Opera and Artistic Director, Lyric Opera of Virginia
  • Thomas Truhitte – auspices of Virginia Opera
  • Matthew Burns – VCU alumnus and house bass-baritone, New York City Opera
  • Pamela Armstrong – VCU alumna, Metropolitan Opera and New York City Opera
  • Shirley Verrett – world-renowned artist
  • Nico Castel – world-renowned artist and principal diction coach and character tenor, Metropolitan Opera
  • Peter Atherton, Ph.D. – director of Opera Studies, Chapman University (Los Angeles) and Operafestival di Roma
  • Karen Knight – resident artist and guest director, Sight and Sound Millenium Theatre
  • Glenn Winters, Ph.D. – Education Outreach Director, Virginia Opera
  • Richard Harrell – Juilliard Opera Center, San Francisco Opera, director of opera at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music
  • Chris Burnside – Chair, VCU Department of Dance and international choreographer
  • Professor Emeritus Elizabeth Weiss Hopper, VCU Department of Theatre, Chair of Costume and Makeup
  • Arlene Shrut – internationally acclaimed coach-accompanist
  • Elizabeth Vrenios  –  nationally acclaimed soprano and stage director
  • Martin Hurt – prominent opera and Broadway singer and NYC pedagogue
  • Albert Sherman –  internationally known stage director for many opera companies
  • Andrew Chugg –  Director of Artistic Administration, Virginia Opera
  • Dorothy Danner –  acclaimed Broadway actress and opera stage director
  • Delores Ziegler – world-renowned mezzo-soprano


Graduates of VCU Opera program are enjoying successful careers singing in such opera houses as:

  • Avignon Opera, France
  • Baltimore Opera
  • Brevard Music Festival
  • Bologna Opera, Italy
  • Bordeaux Opera, France
  • Boston Lyric Opera
  • Chautauqua Opera
  • Chicago Lyric Opera
  • Chinese National Opera
  • Geneva Opera, Switzerland
  • Glimmerglass Opera
  • Glyndebourne Opera, England
  • Houston Grand Opera
  • Lake George Opera
  • La Monnaie, Brussels
  • Lausanne Opera, Switzerland
  • Los Angeles Opera
  • Marseille Opera, France
  • The Metropolitan Opera
  • Neue Opernbühne, Berlin
  • New Orleans Opera
  • New York City Opera
  • Operafestival di Roma, Italy
  • Opera Pacific
  • Palm Beach Opera
  • Paris Opera: Opera Bastille and Palais Garnier
  • Pegasus Opera, Portugal
  • Pittsburgh Opera
  • Portland Opera
  • Sarasota Opera
  • Scottish National Opera
  • Spoleto Festival
  • St. Louis Opera Theatre
  • Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris
  • Teatro di Regio, Italy
  • Toulouse Opera, France
  • Tri-cities Opera
  • Utah Opera
  • Vienna Staatsoper
  • Virginia Opera
  • Wolf Trap Opera