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10 August 2020

Tazewell Thompson Named Director of Opera Studies at Manhattan School of Music

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MANHATTAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC announced today that it has named opera and theater director, librettist, actor and educator Tazewell Thompson as the school’s director of Opera Studies, effective immediately. 

Thompson will join the school’s Vocal Arts division, where his work will reportedly involve establishing new curricular and artistic opportunities that will “sharpen [students’] artistic preparation and readiness to enter a profession that has been profoundly changed by current and recent events,” read a statement issued by MSM. Additionally Thompson will both shape performance opportunities for MSM’s graduate voice students as well as teach and direct the senior opera theatre program. 

MSM's prestigious voice department, which draws young singers from the United States and more than forty other countries, counts among its alumni numerous acclaimed singers, including Susan Graham, J’Nai Bridges, Soloman Howard, Nicholas Phan, Sol Jin, Dolora Zajick, Shuler Hensley, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Dawn Upshaw, Simon O’Neill, Yunpeng Wang, and Lauren Flanigan.

“I’m honored and delighted to have been chosen as Director of Opera Studies at Manhattan School of Music, a storied institution focusing a profound sense of soulful enrichment through the art of music,” Thompson said in a statement released today by the school. “Teaching is the most noble of professions, and I look forward with excitement to joining a distinguished roster of MSM colleagues in collaborative contribution, expanding for students the varied possibilities of a career in opera.” 

Born and raised in Harlem, Thompson has directed more than 150 opera and theater productions, including thirty world and U.S. premieres at international and American opera houses and theaters including Glimmerglass, New York City Opera, Madrid’s Teatro Real, Teatro Alla Scala, the Bastille and San Francisco Opera. As a librettist, Thompson, along with composer Jeanine Tesori, wrote the opera Blue, which this year received the Music Critics Association of North America's Award for Best New OperaBlue is scheduled to receive future performances at Washington National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Minnesota Opera and the Mostly Mozart Festival. Thompson's production of Porgy and Bess was broadcast on PBS’s Live from Lincoln Center and received Emmy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Classical Music Production. Thompson’s 2002 play about activist Ida B. Wells, Constant Star, has received sixteen national productions has won nine Barrymore Awards, five NAACP Awards and three Carbonell Awards. Thompson wrote and directed Mary T & Lizzy K, about Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley, which was commissioned and produced at Arena Stage in 2013 and was won the Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award. Thompson is the author of Jam & Spice: The Music of Kurt Weill and has contributed to Our War, a collection of short plays. He also wrote and directed Jubilee, an a cappella musical about the Fisk Jubilee Singers, which had its world premiere in spring 2019 at Arena Stage. He currently has play commissions from Lincoln Center Theater, South Coast Rep and People’s Light theater company, as well as a song-cycle commission for Seattle Opera.

“We are delighted that Tazewell will be joining MSM to lead the School’s Opera Studies program,” said James Gandre, Manhattan School of Music’s president “His wide-ranging artistic experience and unique perspective on the art form will not only contribute to the program’s artistic continuity but will also add an important leadership role in defining a new vision for opera at MSM.” 

“I pledged myself a long time ago to help in repairing the world through what I am capable of giving and sharing from the best part of me,” said Thompson. “I dedicate myself to behave in a manner that honors those who have sacrificed so much, including their lives, so I may have the opportunity to lead and serve concurrently. I urge MSM to take full advantage of my fervent need and deeply felt responsibility to give back to the two professions I love and respect so much: opera and teaching.” spacer 

More information can be found at Manhattan School of Music

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