Susan Gonzalez as Director
The Hunter Opera Theater
Talented singers and musicians come to Hunter because the college offers comprehensive training in all aspects of music as well as an invaluable liberal arts degree. The Hunter Opera Theater provides something rarely found at similar institutions, the opportunity to build a production from the ground up, to sing on a stage before a discerning public, and to work with students and faculty in an experience that will surely be an unforgettable moment in a student’s academic life.
Hunter Opera is committed to involving students in opera not just as performers but as an audience as well. Working within a superb liberal arts institution with a first-rate department of music gives the program a unique opportunity to engage students in the production through courses devoted to all areas of opera production. The college’s location on Manhattan’s Upper East Side also provides the program with a unique opportunity to take advantage of a primary NYC location. We believe that the Hunter Opera Theater will play an active role in New York City’s cultural life.
In the 1940s and 50s, the Hunter College Opera Workshop was an important part of the cultural and educational life of New York City. Many of the singers who participated in the program went on to significant careers in the field of opera and musical theatre. Among its alumni were Martina Arroyo, John Reardon, Evelyn Lear, and Donald Gramm. In the 1960s, like a number of other institutions, the workshop fell victim to the budgetary crises of the university and the city and presented its last production, Robert Ward’s The Crucible.
It is with this history and tradition in mind that the Department of Music decided to stage an opera in May of 2007. Under the guidance of Susan Gonzalez, the number of students in the vocal program had grown considerably. These singers, many of them extremely talented, would graduate without ever performing in a staged opera. The first production of the newly formed Hunter Opera Theater consisted to two one-act operas, fully staged and accompanied by an orchestra in the prestigious Kaye Playhouse.
Our mission is to give every student an opportunity to work on stage in some capacity as singers or stage assistants. Hunter Opera Theater is a format for living composers to live out loud. We are looking for great new works and rarely performed works to showcase in a fully staged production to be presented at the Kaye Playhouse, located on the Hunter College campus. The Kaye Playhouse is a beautiful centrally located union theatre that seats 575 and is a perfect venue for young singers. It is professionally run and gives our undergraduates and graduate students a standard that raises the bar as a performance experience for the students involved.
We take great pride in offering undergraduate singers an opportunity to perform onstage in leading and supporting roles and offstage in the roles of assistants to the director, props management, sets and costumes. They perform alongside the Hunter graduate vocal performance majors and guest artists from the CUNY Graduate Center and are offered equal opportunities from the beginning of their studies in voice at Hunter. This is not typical of most conservatories and opera productions at the collegiate level and is yet another reason that our program is the perfect choice for young singers looking to hone their performance skills.