As part of our commitment to support emerging American works and talent, Opera Columbus will present Fellow Travelers. Set during the height of the McCarthy era in 1950s Washington, D.C., newly graduated Timothy Laughlin is passionate about joining the fight against communism. After a fortuitous encounter with suave and attractive State Department official Hawkins Fuller, Tim secures his first job and coincidentally his first love affair with a man. Fellow Travelers, based on the novel by Thomas Mallon, follows Tim as he battles his political convictions and forbidden love during the “lavender scare,” a witch hunt and mass firings of gay people from the United States government. Fellow Travelers has passion, secrecy, and betrayal — and just about everything you want in a new opera.
“One of the most accomplished New American Operas.”
– JOHN VON RHEIN for the Chicago Tribune
The opera’s intense storyline will be brought to life by performers of equal greatness. Don Giovanni’s remarkable Kelly Kuo will conduct and OPERA America Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Prize winner Bruno Baker will direct the stellar cast. Brian Vu will make his Opera Columbus debut as the fiery Timothy Laughlin, and beloved OC favorites Carl DuPont and Meghan Kasanders will star as Hawkins Fuller and Mary Johnson respectively. Original Production & Staging by Peter Rothstein for Minnesota Opera.
Fellow Travelers will be sung in English with English titles.
Fellow Travelers is not recommended for patrons under the age of 13.
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Described by The New York Times as having an “ample and pleasing tone,” tenor Brian Vu is an exciting performer recognized for his vocal and dramatic abilities. During the 2020-21 season, Mr. Vu made his tenor debut with the Atlanta Opera as Soldier in Der Kaiser von Atlantis and in a concert of Kurt Weill repertoire and joined Opera Omaha/LA Opera for their new recording of David Hertzberg’s The Rose Elfas The Beloved/Horus. He was also slated to return to the Metropolitan Opera to sing the Journalist in Lulu, and cover the Huntsman in Rusalka and Novice’s Friend in Billy Budd (COVID19). In the summer of 2021, Mr. Vu will be a fellow at the Ravinia Steans Music Institute and in the spring of 2022, he will make his Opera Columbus debut singing Timothy Laughlin in Fellow Travelers.
Mr. Vu has participated as an Apprentice with the Santa Fe Opera, Young Artist at the Glimmerglass Festival, Vocal Fellow in Marilyn Horne’s Music Academy of the West and is a former member of the Wolf Trap Opera Studio. He has received numerous accolades including being named the first place winner of the Lotte Lenya Competition, a Grand Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a recipient of the Sullivan Foundation Award, third prize in the Gerda Lissner Lieder competition, and a major prize winner in the Opera Index Competition, among others.
Mr. Vu holds a BA from UCLA and an MM and Artist Diploma from the Yale School of Music.
Carl DuPont is an artist, innovator and educator dedicated to Transformational Inclusion in the arts and Care of the Professional Voice. He has held center stage in performances at The Glimmerglass Festival, Opera Carolina, First Coast Opera, Toledo Opera, Opera Saratoga, Sarasota Opera, Cedar Rapids Opera, El Palacio de Bellas Artes, Opera Company of Brooklyn, The In Series, Carnegie Hall and Leipzig Opera. He has been invited to present research and recitals in Salzburg, Rome, Stockholm, New York, Portland, and Miami. This season Carl is excited to return to Opera Columbus in this production of Fellow Travelers after previously appearing here in productions of The Barber of Seville and Don Giovanni. Later he will debut with Bach in Baltimore in the title role of Elijah and in recital at The Kennedy Center.
A graduate of the Eastman School of Music, Indiana University, and the University of Miami, Carl currently serves as a voice professor at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University where he has developed a course on art song by African American composers, co-chairs the Culturally Inclusive Task Force, and serves on the Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee. He also creates and leads dynamic workshops in the private and public sector as a faculty member of the Johns Hopkins University Carey School of Business Executive Education team. His articles can be found in The Laryngoscope and Voice and Speech Review and he can be heard on the world premiere recording of the Caldara Mass in A Major, The Death of Webern, and his solo album of art songs by Black composers entitled The Reaction.
As CEO/founder of DuPont Consulting, LLC, he leverages his research, expertise, and compassion to design and implement strategic initiatives in diversity, equity, and inclusion. This includes training, programming, and talent acquisition within academic and performing arts institutions.
Soprano Meghan Kasanders has been hailed by Opera News as “a wonderfully promising, rich dramatic soprano”. She begins the 21/22 season with a debut at Opera Ithaca in Hansel and Gretel (Mother/Witch) and returns to Staatsoper Hannover for Hänsel und Gretel (Gertrud), Opera Columbus for Fellow Travelers (Mary Johnson), and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis for The Magic Flute (First Lady). On the concert stage she will debut with the Lubbock Symphony in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.
Last season she made debuts at Opera Columbus in Don Giovanni (Donna Anna) and Raylynmor Opera in Falstaff (Alice Ford) and returned to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis for Gianni Schicchi (Nella) and Des Moines Metro Opera as guest soloist in A Concert for Robert.
Meghan debuted the title role in Anna Bolena with Baltimore Concert Opera and made her European debut in Hänsel und Gretel (Gertrud) with Staatsoper Hannover. She made her Carnegie Hall debut singing in Bernstein’s Songfest with the Juilliard Orchestra under the direction of Marin Alsop and debuted at Opera Saratoga in their critically acclaimed production of The Consul (Magda). She also performed Sibelius’ Luonnotar, Barbara Hannigan conducting, in Alice Tully Hall (NYC) and Don Giovanni (Donna Anna) at The Juilliard School. Ms. Kasanders is a 2019 Grand Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and both the First Prize and Audience Choice Winner in Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition. She has also been recognized by the Gerda Lissner Foundation, the Opera Birmingham Vocal Competition (Second Prize and Audience Choice), and the Mildred Miller International Voice Competition, where she won first prize in 2017 as the youngest competitor.
Meghan’s training has included past resident artist apprenticeships with International Meistersinger Akademie (Neumarkt, Germany), Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Des Moines Metro Opera, Opera Saratoga, and Dolora Zajick’s Institute for Young Dramatic Voices. Ms. Kasanders holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Simpson College, a Master of Music degree from Rice University, and an Artist Diploma in Opera Studies from The Juilliard School, where she was the recipient of The Richard F. Gold Career Grant.
Calvin Griffin, a native of Columbus, Ohio, has been hailed as “outstanding” by Opera News and was commended for his “voluminous bass-baritone” by South Florida Classical Review. During the 2020/2021 season he returned to The Atlanta Opera for their acclaimed tent series in performances of Der Kaiser von Atlantis, and Carmen, made his Opera Theatre of St. Louis debut in their Outdoor Festival season, appearing in their “New Works, Bold Voices Lab” in the World Premieres of Laura Karpman and Taura Stinson’s On the Edge and The Tongue and the Lash by Damien Sneed and Karen Chilton, and returned to Wolf Trap Opera as Death in Gustav Holst’s Savitri. Other recent highlights include the title role in Le nozze di Figaro with both Florentine Opera and Florida Grand Opera, Handel’s Messiah with the Columbus, Richmond and Virginia Symphonies, Eddie in The Fix with Minnesota Opera, Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Gomez in L’heure espagnole with Wolf Trap Opera, and his Metropolitan Opera debut singing Brühlmann in Werther. The 2021/2022 season will see his return to the Metropolitan Opera and his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut in Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones, his return home to Opera Columbus as Tommy in Fellow Travelers, as well as concert appearances in both Columbus, Ohio and Sarasota, Florida.
Justin T. Swain, baritone, holds both the Master of Music in Vocal Performance and the Master of Arts in Vocal Pedagogy from The Ohio State University where he studied in the studios of both Dr. Scott McCoy and Dr. Robin Rice.
A Columbus native, Justin has been featured in the Columbus Italian Festival, in concert with Harmony Project Columbus, the New Albany Symphony Orchestra, the Denison University Wind Ensemble, with Opera Project Columbus, and has performed numerous times with Opera Columbus as a chorister, and on the main stage, as well as its Opera On The Edge production of La Bohème in which he performed the role of Marcello.
On the stage, Justin has performed the roles of Maximilian and Ship Captain in Leonard Bernstein’s Candide with the Ohio State University Opera Lyric Theatre, debuted the role of Aedeta in the first public performance of Cadman’s historic opera, Ramala: Land of Misty Water, and also the role of Maestro Spinelloccio with Opera Project Columbus. Additionally, he has performed two roles with Opera Columbus’ Education Outreach Program (Papageno & Mr. BigBad) and performed the role of Baron Duophol in Verdi’s La Traviata, in which he was noted by Columbus Underground magazine to be “a promising young talent.” Justin also served as a Teaching Artist for Opera Columbus directing and leading a youth choir on behalf of the organization (2018-2020).
In addition to his credits on stage, Justin is the Owner & Community Manager of Musicologie Lewis Center where in addition to teaching voice and piano, he mentors and provides opportunities for music educators to share their passion for music.
Venezuelan bass-baritone Miguel Pedroza recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Vocal Performance from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, studying under professor William McGraw and coaches Donna Loewy, Kathleen Kelly, and Marie-France Lefebvre. His engagements at the conservatory included Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (Sarastro), Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (Figaro), and Cavalli’s La Calisto (Sylvano). Prior to his time at the conservatory, Miguel received a Bachelor’s in Vocal Performance from the University of Houston. Miguel has been contracted with Cincinnati May Festival, Opera in the Ozarks, and Opera in the Heights, with appearances in Milhaud’s Le Pauvre Matelot (Son Beau-Père), Cimarosa’s Il Matrimonio Segreto (Geronimo), and Bizet’s Carmen (Zuniga). He has performed as a chorus member with Cincinnati Opera and Houston Grand Opera and as a soloist in concerts across the US, including Bach’s Magnificat and St. Matthew Passion, Schubert’s Mass in G minor, and Mozart’s Spatzenmesse.
Soprano, Adelaide Boedecker, has been described as “emotionally transparent and beguiling of tone” (The San Francisco Chronicle.) In the fall of 2021, Ms. Boedecker will return to Pittsburgh Opera to perform Pamina in “The Magic Flute” (postponed from Nov. 2020 to Nov. 2021, due to COVID-19). Just recently, in the spring of 2021, she covered the role of Frasquita in “Carmen” with Atlanta Opera and performed the role of Norina in “Don Pasquale” with Opera Las Vegas. Upcoming, in the Spring of 2022, Ms. Boedecker will be a featured soloist with the Choral Artists of Sarasota, will return to Opera Columbus to sing Miss Lightfoot and cover Mary Johnson in “Fellow Travelers”, and will make her Florida Grand Opera debut as Mary Johnson in “Fellow Travelers”.
During the 2019-2020 season, Ms. Boedecker joined the Steamboat Symphony Orchestra as the soprano soloist in Mozart’s Mass in C minor, the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and Capriccio Columbus as the soprano soloist in “Carmina Burana”, the Naples Philharmonic as the soprano soloist in Handel’s “Messiah”, and the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe for their New Year’s Eve Gala, where she performed Mozart’s Exsultate, “Jubilate”. During the spring of 2020, Ms. Boedecker returned to Sarasota Opera where she performed the role of Adina in “L’elisir d’amore” and was scheduled to return to Opera Las Vegas to reprise the role of Pamina in “Die Zauberflöte” (canceled due to COVID-19).
In 2018 she performed the role of Clorinda in “La Cenerentola” with Opera Las Vegas, and made her role debut as Susanna in “Le nozze di Figaro” with James Conlon and James Darrah, at Music Academy of the West. In the spring of 2019, Ms. Boedecker made her role debut as Pamina in “Die Zauberflöte” and covered the title role in Donizetti’s “Rita” with Sarasota Opera, she made her Opera Columbus debut in their Opera Swings Jazz concerts and returned to Santa Fe Opera to sing Meredian in Joe Illick and Andrea Walter’s “UnShakeable”. Past performance credits include Micaëla in “The Tragedy of Carmen” with Opera Birmingham, Yum-Yum in “The Mikado” with Performance Santa Fe, and Clorinda in “La Cenerentola” with both Syracuse Opera and El Paso Opera.
As a former resident artist with Pittsburgh Opera, Ms. Boedecker performed Alice B. Toklas in “27”, Marie in “La fille du regiment”, Frasquita in “Carmen”, Anna in “Nabucco”, Beth in “Little Women”, Mabrouka in “Sumeida’s Song”, and covered Despina in “Così fan tutte”. Ms. Boedecker spent two summers as an apprentice artist with the Santa Fe Opera and two summers with the Merola Opera Program. With Merola, role highlights include Stella in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and Despina in “Così fan tutte”. Santa Fe Opera performances include Ida in “Die Fledermaus”, Tessa in “Trinity”, Sarah in “Avastar”, and Chorus Soloist in the Grammy Winning “(R)evolution of Steve Jobs”. Additionally with Santa Fe, she covered the roles of Marie in “La fille du régiment”, Serpetta in “La finta giardiniera”, Lila/Laura in “Cold Mountain”, and Chrisann in “(R)evolution of Steve Jobs”. Competition highlights include winning the Santa Fe Opera Anna Case MacKay Award, the National Opera Association competition, scholarship division, and winning second place in the American Prize competition for professional singers.
Ms. Boedecker made her professional debut at age 17, as Barbarina, with the Sarasota Opera. She received her Bachelor of Music Degree in Vocal Performance from University of Florida, where she graduated summa cum laude, and received her Master of Music in Vocal Performance from the Eastman School of Music.
Praised for her “big, beautiful voice with an attractive edge and sparkle” soprano, Adia Evans is quickly establishing herself as an up-and-coming operatic talent. During her tenure in Knoxville, Evans has been featured as Adina in University of Tennessee Opera Theater (UTOT)’s production of L’elisir d’amore, Laetita in Old Maid and the Thief, Ms. Dara in An Embarrassing Position, and La Zia in Knoxville Opera’s production of Madama Butterfly. This year, Evans won Second Place and Audience Choice in the Harlem Opera Theater Vocal Competition and Fourth Place and Audience Choice in Opera Columbus’s Cooper-Bing Competition.
Evans holds a Bachelor of Music from University of Maryland College Park and a Master of Music from the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Evans is a proud alumna of the Baltimore School for the Arts. Devoted to social action and advocacy, Evans completed two terms as an AmeriCorps member in Washington DC, through Public Allies. She works in diversity and inclusion, volunteer engagement, education and arts administration when she is not on the stage.
Gregory Spears is a New York-based composer whose music has been called “astonishingly beautiful” (The New York Times), “coolly entrancing” (The New Yorker), and “some of the most beautifully unsettling music to appear in recent memory” (The Boston Globe). In recent seasons he has been commissioned by The Lyric Opera of Chicago, Cincinnati Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Seraphic Fire, The Crossing, Volti, BMI/Concert Artists Guild, Vocal Arts DC, New York Polyphony, The New York International Piano Competition, and the JACK Quartet among others. His latest opera, “Castor and Patience”, written with U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith was commissioned by Cincinnati Opera for their 100th Anniversary and is scheduled for premiere in 2022 (postponed from its original premiere date in 2020 due to COVID-19).
Spears’ opera, “Fellow Travelers”‘, written in collaboration with Greg Pierce, premiered at Cincinnati Opera in 2016 and was subsequently produced at the Prototype Festival (NYC), The Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Minnesota Opera, Madison Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, and Arizona Opera. It will be seen this season at Des Moines Metro Opera and Columbus Opera. It was hailed as “one of the most accomplished new operas I have seen in recent years” (Chicago Tribune) and an opera that “seems assured of lasting appeal” (The New York Times). The premiere was featured in The New York Times’ Best in Classical Music for 2016, and Cincinnati Opera released a commercial CD recording in 2017.
Spears’ first opera, “Paul’s Case”, written in collaboration with Kathryn Walat, was described as a “masterpiece” and a “gem” (New York Observer) with “ravishing music” (The New York Times). It was developed by American Opera Projects and premiered by Urban Arias in 2013. The opera was restaged at the Prototype Festival in New York, and presented in a new production by Pittsburgh Opera in 2014. “Paul’s Case” was released on National Sawdust’s record label featuring the original cast in 2019. Spears’ children’s opera “Jason and the Argonauts”, also written with Kathryn Walat, premiered in 2016 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and was subsequently performed for over 20,000 school children. An opera about space exploration, “O Columbia”, written with Royce Vavrek, premiered in 2015 at Houston Grand Opera.
Recent commissions include a new vocal work, “The Bitter Good”, commissioned by New York Polyphony — made possible by a 2016 Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program grant, as well as “The Tower and the Garden” for a consortium of choirs including The Crossing underwritten by the Ann Stookey Fund for New Music. Spears also recently completed a “Double Trumpet Concerto” for Concert Artists Guild and the soundtrack for the British feature film “Macbeth” (Kit Monkman, director) featuring 18th-century instruments. His “Requiem” was released by New Amsterdam records in 2011.
Other commissions have come from Bang on a Can, Five Boroughs Music Festival, OPERA America, poet Tracy K. Smith, Christopher Williams Dances, the Dalton School Orchestra, Houston Grand Opera, The New York Youth Symphony, pianist Marika Bournaki, the Present Music Ensemble, New Vintage Baroque, the Damask Ensemble, and the Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra. He has been an artist-in-residence at Yaddo, MacDowell, the Aaron Copland House, the Rauschenberg Residency at Captiva Island, and was a participant and later a composer mentor for The American Opera Project’s Composers and the Voice program. He holds degrees in composition from Eastman School of Music (BM), Yale School of Music (MM), and Princeton (PhD). He also studied as a Fulbright Scholar at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen with Hans Abrahamsen. He currently teaches composition and orchestration at Purchase College Conservatory (SUNY). His music is published by Schott Music and Schott PSNY.
Thomas Mallon (born November 2, 1951) is an American novelist, essayist, and critic. His novels are renowned for their attention to historical detail and context and for the author’s crisp wit and interest in the “bystanders” to larger historical events. He is the author of nine books of fiction, including Henry and Clara, Two Moons, Dewey Defeats Truman, Aurora 7, Bandbox, Fellow Travelers, Watergate, Finale, and most recently Landfall. He has also published nonfiction on plagiarism (Stolen Words), diaries (A Book of One’s Own), letters (Yours Ever) and the Kennedy assassination (Mrs. Paine’s Garage), as well as two volumes of essays (Rockets and Rodeos and In Fact).
Praised by the Cincinnati Enquirer as “a leader of exceptional musical gifts, who has a clear technique on the podium and an impressive rapport with audiences,” Maestro Kelly Kuo brings a dynamic versatility and nuance to a diverse repertoire, which includes nearly 100 operas and an expansive symphonic repertoire as well. Currently Artistic Director and Conductor of Oregon Mozart Players and Associate Artistic Director of American Lyric Theater, his recent engagements have included productions with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Opera Orlando, and the Janiec Opera Company of the Brevard Music Center, and concerts with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, Sunriver Music Festival, Reno Chamber Orchestra, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, and Ballet Fantastique.
In 2008, Maestro Kuo became the first conductor of Asian descent to lead a performance at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, making his company debut with Porgy and Bess. He has since returned to lead the Chicago premiere of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird and performances featuring artists of the Ryan Opera Center. Upcoming engagements include a return to Opera Columbus, his debut with the Olympia Symphony Orchestra, and leading workshops for American Lyric Theater.
An Oregon native and recipient of a Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistant Award for young conductors, Kuo continues to concertize as a keyboardist as the only pianist to have studied with two pupils of the Russian virtuoso Vladimir Horowitz.
Bruno Baker is a Latinx NYC based American/Brazilian multidisciplinary stage director. Mr. Baker has worked as an assistant director at The Atlanta Opera, Boston Lyric Opera and Madison Opera, as a stage manager at the Park Avenue Armory, and on the staging staff for Santa Fe Opera. Previous work on the staging staff includes Guerilla Opera, Boston Conservatory at Berklee, and LoftOpera. In the past year of the COVID-19 crisis, Mr. Baker associate directed a new filmed version of La bohème for Hong Kong-based opera company More Than Musical, co-produced with Opera Omaha and Tri-Cities opera. He spent a few months back home in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil developing an anthology of short operas, inspired by different Brazilian musical genres. He is a recipient of the 2021 OPERA America Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Prize.
Mary Shabatura is a Minneapolis-based lighting designer, artist, and theater technician.
She has worked with the Minnesota Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Theater Latté Da, Mixed Blood Theater, Trademark Theater, Utah Shakespeare Festival, The Moving Company, Dark & Stormy Productions, Teatro del Pueblo, Transatlantic Love Affair, SHAPESHIFT DANCE, the University of Minnesota, The Guthrie Theater, and many others.
*Opera Columbus debut
+Opera Columbus/Capital University Resident Artist