A Night at the Opera

Nichole Learman, Journalist

Mezzo-soprano Rachel Wood and pianist MyungHee Chung perform “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” from Carmen at the Department of Music “A Night at the Opera” fundraiser for student scholarships Mar. 2.

The UW-Whitewater Department of Music sang for scholarships in “A Night at the Opera” Tuesday, Mar. 2. 

The department featured both voice and piano faculty performing opera works from their favorite composers such as Handel, Mozart, Wagner Strauss and more. Voices included professors Brian Leeper, Jessica Schwefel, Adam Shelton and Rachel Wood with MyungHee Chung on the piano. 

“Although the COVID-19 pandemic has forced artists to reimagine the performance experience, we are excited to continue to share our art with the Whitewater community and beyond,” said Wood. “Even without the staging, the costumes, or the live audience, the glorious music and powerful stories stand on their own, and we have the opportunity to present them in a completely unique way. Most importantly, though, we are doing so safely: all of the performances were recorded in real time in separate spaces using low-latency technology.” 

Dr. Wood sings mezzo-soprano and has appeared in performances of opera, concert and recital across the United States, Canada, Italy and the Netherlands. An honorable mention is her performance of the title role in “The Rape of Lucretia.” She also performed as Dame Doleful in the Canadian premier of “Too Many Sopranos.”

Professor of Music Myunghee Chung

Wood is not the only faculty member with some impressive moments in her career. Brian Leeper became a part of the UW-Whitewater music faculty in 2004 and sings as a baritone. Leeper currently teaches Studio Voice, the Meistersingers Choir and directs the Opera Workshop. Leeper has performed over 20 major opera roles including his most recent solo appearances as Brahms Deutsches Requiem, Elijah, The Creation and more. 

 Tenor Adam Shelton is not only a singer, but is also a teacher and director transplanted from Tennessee. Shelton has been in productions with Madison Opera, Music Theatre of Madison, Four Seasons Theatre and Des Moines Metro Opera, among others. 

Dr. Jessica Schwefel sings mezzo soprano and has performed in over 30 operatic productions with Madison Opera, Opera for the Young, Fresco Opera Theatre, UW Opera, Music By The Lake, and many others. She also participated in the Florentine recordings of “Elmer Gantry” and “Rio de Sangre” which earned three Grammy Awards in 2012 and 2013. 

Pianist Dr. Chung is also well traveled, having performed throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Asia. She has been a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Portland Symphony Orchestra, New Philharmonic Orchestra and Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. She is a recipient of numerous national and international awards including first prize at the 1977 William Kapell Maryland International Piano Competition, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Young Performer’s Competition, Portland Symphony Orchestra Competition and The Juilliard Concerto Competition.

Assistant Professor of Music Rachel Wood

“Faculty performers Wood, Leeper, Shelton, Schwefel and Chung have an impressive list of credits to their name,” said College of Arts & Communication Director of Marketing and Events Audra Lange. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has made situations less than ideal for these performers, however, they were able to rise above the adversity and collaborate their talents with the help of a program called Soundjack. 

“Soundjack is a low-latency audio platform that allows musicians to collaborate in real-time over the internet. Unlike other popular online platforms such as Zoom, Soundjack reduces the latency to an imperceptible amount. UW-Whitewater faculty use Soundjack to safely teach applied lessons, hold rehearsals, and to collaborate on recordings and performances like this one,” said Wood. 

This new program has not only helped the Department of Music here at Whitewater, but has also aided the Department of Theatre and Dance for their production of “Antigone” that will be released later in March.

To watch the Music Mosaics Concert “A Night at the Opera” visit the College of Arts & Communication YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcnXzaEHojQ