NDNU to Bestow Honorary Doctorate to San Francisco Arts Icon
Donald Pippin, Artistic Director of Pocket Opera
Belmont, CA, March 6, 2007 — Notre Dame de Namur University will bestow an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Donald Pippin, San Francisco arts icon and artistic director of Pocket Opera this May.
Pippin’s long and illustrious career in music began more than 50 years ago. Born in North Carolina and educated at Harvard University, he began his career as a pianist at Balanchine’s School for American Ballet in New York City. He moved to San Francisco in 1952 and ever since he’s been a distinguished icon in the local arts scene. Perhaps his best known role is as the artistic director of Pocket Opera where he celebrates his 30th anniversary this year.
He has spent the majority of his artistic life translating more than 80 operas into English, making them understandable and accessible for all to enjoy. Mr. Pippin began presenting the great operas in his own unique style at the Old Spaghetti Factory in North Beach more than 30 years ago. He translates each of the operas into English, occasionally narrating the stories himself. His approach to opera is to present the story in the clearest manner possible. He has said that there is “a whole category of opera where, if you don’t know the story on the way to the theater, you won’t know it on the way home, either.” Using accomplished vocalists, a small chamber orchestra, and minimal costumes and props, the company offers opera of the highest quality.
The NDNU/Pocket Opera partnership began in 2004 with a joint production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” combining accomplished student apprentice artists with a Pocket Opera professional cast. Productions since include The Merry Widow, Genevieve (the premiere of Donald Pippin’s English setting of this Offenbach rarity), and “The Tales of Hoffmann,” performed at the NDNU Theater in Belmont, the Florence Gould at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, the Montgomery Theater in San Jose, and the Napa Opera House.
“The NDNU/Pocket Opera relationship has offered our students an extraordinary, unique opportunity to “learn by doing,” working as apprentices in a professional environment, with professional expectations,” said Debra Lambert, Chair of NDNU’s Department of Music & Vocal Arts. “Some of our professional singers have worked with Donald over a period of 20 years—he has been an exceptional mentor, colleague, and friend to us all, professionals and students alike.”
This year also celebrates the beginning of the NDNU/Pocket Opera Apprentice program, a three-tier program under the umbrella of NDNU’s Department of Music and Vocal Arts. The program will offer scholarship assistance to accepted students for performance in NDNU/Pocket productions. Students will be accepted by audition to the NDNU Music & Vocal Arts programs at the Workshop, Apprentice, and Artist levels of the company.
The University’s commencement exercises will be held on Saturday, May 5 at 10:30 a.m. For more information regarding this press release, call NDNU’s Director of Communications, Richard Rossi at (650) 508-3585.