UNCG Magazine

At the Met

Perfomance of “La Boheme” at the Met

Life on opera’s grandest stage is a whirlwind.

“Carmen,” “Verdi,” “Tosca,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Turandot,” “Macbeth,” “Madame Butterfly,” and more classic operas are all performed every other year, as well as works by contemporary composers. The Met re-opened in September 2021, with strict COVID-19 protocols in place, but with all the gusto and artistic strength it’s known for. Several UNCG Opera alumni are among the 75 full-time performers, and several others join the chorus on a contract basis.

“We’ve got balls in the air. We’re really juggling constantly,” says Lynn Taylor MM ’78, who has sung with the Met for 24 years, including 20 as a full-time performer. She recently sang in “Don Carlo,” “The Magic Flute,” “Eurydice,” “Cendrillion,” and many other productions.

Lynn Taylor ’78 MM, Chris Dumont ’90, Liz Brooks Wentworth ’99, l-r, full-time, permanent members of the Met.

“I think I was born to sing. And at UNCG, I got the start in opera that I was looking for.”

–Lynn Taylor ’78 MM

“It’s different every season,” she explains. “Usually, we’re performing about three to four operas all at the same time, and also rehearsing two or three others. During the day, we’re working on music, singing for three hours – or the staging. And for big shows, three days of costumes, wigs, and makeup, and that’s not even into final dress.” 

Lynn remembers working with faculty members Bill McIver and Richard Cox at UNCG and singing in “The Marriage of Figaro,” which was her first full-length opera. She says her time at UNCG helped her get her first big gig as an opera singer, in the National Opera Company, which was based in Raleigh. “I think I was born to sing, and it just suits my temperament,” she says. “And at UNCG, I got the start in opera that I was looking for.” 

That start led to a tremendous career. Lynn traveled to Japan four times with the Met and toured as a Met solo artist. 

“We were so happy to be back,” she says about the September 2021 return to the stage. “It’s been hard, because we have been masked, totally masked backstage, in the dressing room, and up until the moment we walk on stage. So that’s been a hardship – the strict protocols for us and for the audience. But we know that that’s what’s kept the Met open, and we’re just so happy to be back.”

Liz Brooks Wentworth ’99 is in her ninth season at the Met, with more than 1,100 performances. She finds that the exhausting schedule has been worth it, for herself and what she gives to an audience. 

“Opera is a way to escape, a way to experience things you may not have access to in real life. And I love the physical part of singing. It’s doing something good for your soul. The world needs art and beauty and fear and passion – all of that is within those two hours.” 

As a student, Liz worked with Holley as well as Charles Lyman, and she says that mentorship as the reason she is where she is today. 

“At UNCG you are going to find great teachers. You are going to find top quality productions to be involved with. You are going to come across warm people who want to help you and want to connect with you. You will get one-on-one attention. When you want to figure out if this is the path for you, everything at UNCG is poised to help you and point you in the right direction.”

And the alumni connections also remain. During the Met’s closure, Liz participated in a virtual 40-singer project written and directed by Rhiannon Giddens. “I Can’t Cry No More” was recorded from each of the singers’ homes individually.

“It brought us a sense of community at the time,” she said. “Singing alone is really hard, but when it was created and put together, it was really beautiful.”

Charles Williamson ’10 will soon begin his third season at the Met, including serving as a principal cover in “Porgy and Bess.”

“Definitely a roller coaster of a time,” he says about being a new Met performer. “It’s a time when you take your cover assignments really seriously because of coronavirus and testing protocols being an added factor.”

“Coming to UNCG was a turnkey moment for me.”

–Charles Williamson, Metropolitan Opera.
Shown here with Audra McDonald, Broadway star.

Because he’s a contractor, he continues performing at other opera houses as well, such as in “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” at the Lyric in Chicago, and was also in Greensboro Opera’s “Porgy and Bess,” along with fellow Met performer Lindell Carter.

“It was nice to come into the space and just be around old friends, but also make new ones,” said Charles. With David Holley as the producer and the other professors in the show, it felt like a full circle moment. It also felt like it was a return for the company and a return for us as artists.”

SING OUT, SPARTANS! 

In 2019, David Blalock ’09 moved into the principal role in “Turandot” at the Met and has been performing there since the re-opening in fall 2021. Kevin Gardner ’00 appeared in the Metropolitan Opera’s “Porgy and Bess” with Williamson and Carter. Melinda Whittington ’09 MM recently sang with the Met in “Macbeth” and “Akhnaten.” And many others have graced the Met’s stage, from Joel Sorensen ’92, who has been there for more than 20 years, to Nicholas Tamagna ’04, who made his Met debut in 2020.

BEHIND THE SCENES

Louisa Muller ’05 MM has been a stage director at the world’s best opera houses, including the Met. At UNCG, her assistantship under Holley allowed her to serve as a stage manager, organize tours to local schools, teach voice lessons, and direct her own projects. “All those diverse experiences gave me the confidence to send my résumé to almost every opera company in the country before I graduated,” she said. “And that led to me finding an internship at the Houston Grand Opera, and then just a few seasons later, to joining the directing staff of the Met.”

WANT TO SEE MET SHOWS LIVE ON THE BIG SCREEN?

Thanks to a Spartan, you can. Sidney Dixon Weberndörfer ’09 is media production coordinator for the Met’s HD broadcasts on Saturday afternoons, bringing live opera perfor-mances to movie theaters throughout the U.S. and internationally. She also helps provide streaming access to more than 700 past productions.

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