NDNU and Donald Pippin’s Pocket Opera Create New Training Program for Aspiring Singers and Actors

Belmont, CA, January 15, 2008 — Donald Pippin’s Pocket Opera of San Francisco and Notre Dame de Namur University are proud to announce “Pocket Opera at Notre Dame,” a structured performance, training, and academic program for young singers, music directors, and vocal coach/accompanists.

Pocket Opera and NDNU have been partners in opera productions and training since 2004, with their first joint production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The collaboration has since grown, including productions of The Tales of Hoffmann, The Merry Widow, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry Mollicone’s one act operas, Emperor Norton and Starbird, and the world premiere of Pippin’s new English setting of Offenbach’s Genevieve. 2008 productions include: Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld (February/March) and La Bohème (July).

“NDNU is greatly honored in this opportunity for our students to participate, in ever deepening levels, with Donald Pippin and the Pocket Opera,” said NDNU Provost, Judith Maxwell Greig. “Pippin’s POND takes our collaboration with the community in new and exciting directions.”

Indeed, the tiered program includes the “Pocket Opera Studio,” an apprentice vocal performance program for graduate students on the brink of a career, and the “Pippin Opera Workshop,” a training opportunity for undergraduate and less experienced vocalists. NDNU students rehearse and perform in a true apprenticeship with Pocket Opera’s professionals on the NDNU campus, at the Florence Gould Theatre in San Francisco and at the historic Napa Valley Opera House. Young singers provide performance and dance skills to the company, and receive academic credit for their work as part of their curriculum for graduation. NDNU provides additional creative support to Pocket Opera with stage directors, music director/pianists, and costume design from the faculty, and stage management and crew assistance from qualified students.

“Our mutual mission is to present opera that communicates to contemporary audiences, to provide professional level training, apprenticeship, and performing opportunities for young singing actors, and to develop new audiences for opera through community outreach and education,” said Debra Lambert, NDNU’s Chair of the Department of Music and Vocal Arts.

Pocket Opera was born 30 years ago at the Old Spaghetti Factory in North Beach, San Francisco, presenting the great operas in its own unique style. Donald Pippin has translated approximately 80 operas into English, presenting each 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.” Mr. Pippin’s translations bring the works to life, and Pocket Opera has been presenting his translations to the Bay Area since 1978. Using accomplished vocalists, a small chamber orchestra, and minimal costumes and props, the company offers accessible opera of the highest quality for contemporary audiences.

The NDNU Voice and Opera faculty is made up of Pocket Opera veteran performers and young artists who understand the mission and accomplishment of Pocket Opera. Company Founder and Artistic Director Donald Pippin serves as advisor and mentor. Voice/Opera faculty: Marcelle Dronkers, soprano; Debra Lambert, mezzo; Lee Strawn, baritone; Eric Morris, tenor; Justin Taylor Nixon, tenor; and Patricia Urbano, soprano. Stage and music-directors who have contributed to the company since 2004: Henry Mollicone (Associate Music Director, The Tales of Hoffmann; Music Director, Starbird, Emperor Norton, Amahl and the Night Visitors), Greg Fritsch (Stage Director; Starbird, Emperor Norton, Amahl and the Night Visitors), Clint Cancio (Associate Music Director, The Merry Wives of Windsor), Dr. Lois Musmann (Associate Music Director, Genevieve, The Merry Widow, The Magic Flute, The Merry Wives of Windsor). Sean Bart will make his debut with the company as Associate Music Director for Orpheus in the Underworld in spring 2008. Katherine Irvine Mills has been resident costumer for the joint productions since 2006.


Students may audition throughout the year, but will have the best opportunity for scholarship assistance by attending the formal auditions in early February. Accepted singers will audition again in early fall for roles in the upcoming season.

Auditions for fall 2008 will be held on February 2nd. Additional appointments will be made as needed. Formal application to NDNU can be made online: www.ndnu.edu. To schedule an audition for undergraduate or graduate admission and/or scholarship, call (650) 508-3429, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., weekdays. For further information visit www.ndnu.edu or pocketopera.org.