Memphis Opera & Song Academy
THE UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS
Rudi E.Scheidt School of Music
Founded and directed by
Prof. Susan Owen-Leinert & Michael Leinert © 2007
Prof. Susan Owen-Leinert
A retrospective glance at MOSA 2008
The Memphis Opera & Song Academy
2008, directed and founded in 2007 by Prof. Susan Owen-Leinert and
German stage director Michael Leinert,
was again a great success.
20 participating singers artists from 14 different states,
Canada and Germany delighted an audience
in the final concert on May 31, 2008 in Harris Concert Hall. This varied program of staged operatic scenes,
arias and German Lieder concluded the two week workshop for opera singers at The University of Memphis,
Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music.
The program with the title "The Merry wives of Memphis"
presented scenes from Beethoven's "Fidelio",
Verdi's "Falstaff", Nicolai's "Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor", arias from two operas by Louis Spohr and
Reinhard Keiser, excerpts from Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte",
the Terzett from "Der Freischütz", the final scene of
by Richard Wagner, a "Happy birthday, Giacomo - Medley" for Giacomo Puccini, among others.
The intensive two week program was designed by the Leinerts
to instruct and inspire opera singers
on the verge of international careers.
The couple’s extensive experience in the opera houses of Europe, mainly in Germany, was shared with the young singers.
The music faculty for the program included Maestro Mark Ensley, Director of the Opera Program at the University of Memphis,
Dr. Victor Asunción, Professor of Piano and Coordinator of the Collaborative Pianist Program at the University of Memphis and
Marcie Richardson, a long experienced pianist and vocal coach.
MOSA Director Michael Leinert
The Memphis Opera & Song Academy
is unique in its diversity: Master classes for opera and German Lieder - including a workshop "The art form Meldodrama",
Opera Workshops with more than 24 different scenes, Audition and German language training,
complete courses about the opera business, theatre system
and living in Europe as an opera singer, as well as Seminars about
opera history and current stage practices in Europe.
Many of the participants of the
Academy remain in personal contact, requesting further career guidance in
to expressing their appreciation of the competent professional artistic program with its precise organization.
"Get Your European Audition Legs"
by Diane Dietz in Classical Singer / Jan.2008 about the
When it comes to summer
programs for opera singers, one of the gems of the Midwest is the
Memphis Opera and Song Academy (MOSA), founded and directed by Susan Owen-Leinert
(professor at the University of Memphis and international dramatic soprano)
and Michael Leinert (German general manager and artistic director).
I was teaching at a small liberal arts college in Illinois when a flyer came across my desk.
I had been looking for a summer program, and this one caught my attention.
What intrigued me most was that the directors of the program were genuine,
experienced performers and directors of European opera stages (including Berlin,
Munich, Dresden, Kassel, Hamburg, Bremen, Düsseldorf, Bologna, Trieste, and Vienna).
In addition, the program promised practical information to help singers navigate the
chaos of pursuing an international performing career on their own. I called for an
audition and got the last one available.
The audition process was quick and painless. I sang the requested two contrasting
pieces (one in German) with the help of MOSA pianist and coach Marcie Richardson.
Before singing for the directors, I enjoyed the luxury of rehearsing with Richardson–s
omething that in my experience rarely happens.
Staff members worked at making the singers feel at ease and comfortable with
heir MOSA experience. The audition culminated with a closed interview with the directors
to help them better understand my future goals and purpose in auditioning for MOSA. I
soon discovered that not everyone attending the program had aspirations of pursuing
an operatic career in Europe. Of the 18 aspiring performers who attended (ages 20 to 40 and over),
some came specifically to work with American dramatic soprano Susan Owen-Leinert.
Some wanted to try the University of Memphis on for size.
Others were there as a stepping-stone in their young, developing careers.
All of us were there to learn and explore our own professional possibilities.
Within two weeks of the audition, I had received all of the music I
was expected to prepare. It was clear that careful consideration had gone into
determining what repertoire each individual should sing.
I personally felt very comfortable with my assignments.
They were interesting and challenging, ranging in style from Monteverdi to
Richard Strauss. It never appeared in print, but the expectation of having the
four to five scenes learned and polished was implied. The scenes ranged in variety,
from “L’Orfeo” to Die Zauberflöte to Die Walküre to West Side Story. In addition,
each participant was expected to prepare Lieder for a special masterclass on song interpretation.
We were also encouraged to bring additional repertoire,
should we find time for extra coachings. All of this was included for a very
reasonable price: a $750 tuition fee for two full weeks of fully staged scenes,
coachings, masterclasses, seminars, handouts, a demo CD recording, advice, and direction.
On May 20, within a month of receiving the materials, we all gathered from our diverse corners:
Virginia, Texas, New York, Arizona, Tennessee, Illinois, and Japan, for starters.
Housing was optional and included a comfortable room in a nearby residence hall
with private bedrooms and shared bathrooms. Breakfast was included in the price of the room
(about $300 for two weeks), but only on weekdays, excluding the Memorial Day holiday.
For lunch and dinner we were on our own, and those of us with cars were happy
to offer rides to those without transportation. Food options were within walking distance,
however, only a couple of blocks from campus.
Daily life at MOSA found all the participants meeting for the menagerie of scene rehearsals
in the morning and the afternoon. With the help of Mark Ensley, director of the opera program
at the University of Memphis; Dr. Victor Asunción, professor of piano and coordinator
of the Collaborative Pianist program at the University of Memphis; and Marcie Richardson,
pianist and vocal coach, we were in well-qualified hands.
A guest faculty member from Hamburg, Germany joined us on the third day.
Maestro Klaus Dieter Jung is a vocal coach and music director of the Chamber Opera in Hamburg.
He, along with Susan Owen-Leinert and Michael Leinert, provided the first-hand knowledge
I was looking for in a summer opera program.
After a daily break for lunch and dinner, we all gathered again in the evenings
for seminars of interesting and useful information on the theater system in Europe,
contract negotiation, opera history, current stage practices in Europe, German vocabulary
for the stage, audition preparation, and practical advice for living and working in Europe.
The days and evenings were so packed with helpful tools and tidbits,
it was clear that this summer program represented money well-spent.
To conclude our experience, all participants performed in a free concert of scenes, arias,
and Lieder for the opera lovers of Memphis. We performed for a nearly full house
at the Harris Concert Hall in the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music on the
University of Memphis campus. It was a rewarding experience to show the
ruits of our labor from the previous two intensive weeks. For me,
it felt as if we were a company of singers who had worked together for months,
preparing our roles for the big opening night. The performance was a success,
and shortly afterward, we learned that MOSA would return for another summer session.
(MOSA 2008 is scheduled for May 18-June 1.)
Following the after-concert party and a good night’s sleep,
the program ended with one more session of closing comments from the directors.
We received certificates for our successful participation and said our goodbyes.
As we all went our separate ways, I wondered when our paths might cross again
in this all-too-small world of singers, and I pondered who might use the tools we gained
over the last two weeks to pursue a career like the one Susan Owen-Leinert has enjoyed.
Fast-forward to Oct. 12, 2007
Here I am, sitting at the kitchen table of a friend’s apartment in what used to be East Berlin.
Germany is a beautiful place, and it’s brimming with history, culture, and musical possibilities.
After several years of teaching, I’ve made the giant leap to pursue an operatic career.
With an open mind and a driven purpose in your heart (plus well-prepared arias,
a trunk full of contacts, and a little bit of luck), this experience can be quite thrilling.
Thanks to my notebook of contacts and information from MOSA,
I used the summer to correspond with several agencies and opera houses for auditions.
Now that I’m here in Germany, my first audition is next week with the Hamburg Chamber Opera.
Everyone asks to hear something in German, of course, but also the other standard languages—
and don’t forget operetta and musical theatre. It’s quite popular here, and I’ve been asked
to share something of lighter fare at nearly every appointment. Armed with my CV,
list of repertoire, headshot, CD, and letters of recommendation (including those from the
directors of MOSA), I feel confident in my preparation. Now all I need is some experience
auditioning for the German system to complete my goal: a contract with a German opera company.
October 17, 2007, Hamburg
For my first audition experience in Germany, I was lucky enough to sing for the Hamburg Kammeroper
(Chamber Opera). I arrived by train from Berlin at noon on the day of the audition.
(Hamburg is only a two-hour train ride on the intercity express, so it was a comfortable
distance without having to arrive the day before, sparing me the expense of lodging.)
The opera house was a short walk from the train station, and after a brief warmup and rehearsal
with the provided pianist, I was ready to go. The audition was in the house; t
he owners/managers of the house and MOSA’s music director, Klaus Jung, observed.
I introduced myself in my best German and then sang two selections,
“Ach, ich fühl’s” from Die Zauberflöte and “Quando men vo” from La bohème.
The listeners seemed receptive to my performance, and afterward,
asked me to return for a second audition. Wow! My first German audition experience,
and I’m asked for a callback! How exciting!
After a few more days in Berlin, seeing the sights and meeting up with fellow
opera singers for advice over coffee or brunch, I head down to Munich for a
couple of weeks to pursue audition possibilities in Germany’s southern region.
Already, I have auditions lined up with two agencies in Munich.
Then I’m off to the western side for auditions in Köln and Düsseldorf.
It’s a carefully planned itinerary but not necessarily in any geographical order.
If you find yourself in this position, I highly recommend getting a Eurail pass
before you leave the United States, or that you apply for a BahnCard once you arrive in Germany.
I did the latter, and for 200 Euros up front, I can get 50 percent off all second-class tickets.
With all of the traveling I’ll do, it’s a great deal, plus it’s good for a year,
so I figured it was good to be optimistic about my future.
In my experience, the uncharted territory of pursuing a career as an opera singer
is loaded with confidence and insecurities, adventure and homesickness, and meticulous
planning and flexibility. It cannot be clearly defined.
The Memphis Opera and Song Academy was very helpful to me on a practical level.
Nothing could ever completely prepare me, however, for this new experience.
Yes, countless singers from countless places all over the globe have traveled this path,
but it’s brand new to me. Thanks to MOSA, I have many valuable tools to get possibilities rolling.
For more information, see http://operasongacademy.memphis.edu.
Diane Dietz is a lyric soprano from Highland, Ill. After studying at Illinois College
and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Diane served as a voice instructor a
t various colleges and universities in the St. Louis area. A first-generation college student,
Diane is off on another family first: to become a successful professional opera singer. Y
ou can read her blog of European experiences at www.dianedietzsings.com.
Selected comments from the participants
Memphis Opera & Song Academy 2008
"I wanted to thank you again for an extremely productive,
educational and inspirational two weeks.
I learned a lot of useful things that I plan to keep with me for a long time."
"It is rare to work with world-class artists that care so
much about helping out potential artists.
I feel that my performance went to another level because every one of you was patient
and put me at ease. I hope that you are planning to hold the academy next summer
so I can recommend the program to my friends."
"I just wanted to thank you for all
the opportunities and encouragement you gave me.
I think I had gotten to a point where I had lost my love for singing….thank you for helping me find my voice again."
Margarita Roco, Irving, TX
"I can’t thank you and Michael enough
– my teacher, my coaches and my friends
who have watched my career development, all noticed a huge difference in my performance
and confidence level when I returned from MOSA. You all managed to give me a level of validation
that I really needed, and which fueled my performance capabilities!"
Susan Sevier, Washington, DC
"I learned so much musically and
dramatically. It was wonderful to work
with such experienced and professional stage director and opera singer.
Thanks also to the fantastic vocal coaches!"
Gregory Wascoe, Rexburg, ID
"Thank you so much for this wonderful
Emily Gibson, Ithaca, NY
"It was a pleasure to work with
everyone at MOSA.
Thank you for giving me a copy of "From the Treasure Chest of German Lied".
I have enjoyed listening to this CD immensely."
Nanette McGuiness, Berkeley, CA
"I thought that you and Michael did
an amazing job of organization,
repertoire choices, scheduling, administration, dealing with divas, etc.
I’d love to be a part of next year’s MOSA.
Maestro Mark Ensley, Co-Director of Opera Studies
Area Coordinator, Opera and Vocal Coaching
More information? Questions about
selected programs, weekend - lectures and more?
Mail to: email@example.com
Prof. Susan Owen-Leinert
The University of Memphis, TN
Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music
Two Opera Artists