Voice and Opera

Degrees Available

Bachelor of Music in Performance • Master of Music in Performance • Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance

  • For more information on degrees, ensembles, summer session, study abroad, and complete curricular handbooks, visit our Academics Page.
  • To apply to the Bienen School of Music, visit our Admission Page.

Voice and Opera at the Bienen School of Music

The voice and opera program at Northwestern University has a long and illustrious history. Today, program alumni fill the ranks of opera houses and university faculties worldwide. Recent graduates include Met Grand Finals Winner Paul Corona, (BM06), Tucker Foundation Grant Winner Amanda Majeski, (BM06), and Met Finalist and San Francisco Opera Merola participant, Matt Hanscom (BM05, MM07).

Madison singing

The voice and opera faculty collaborates to offer students a variety of course offerings that promote a strong technical and pedagogical foundation. Students receive weekly vocal instruction and, in addition, upperclassmen participate in weekly musical preparation sessions with the coaching staff. 

Students have access to a number of performing opportunities including opera, recital, vocal solo class, master classes, and studio classes. All students are welcome to audition for the operas, two of which are fully staged, subtitled, and accompanied by full orchestra. The thriving music scene in downtown Chicago, only twelve miles from campus, offers many other performance possibilities.

The Bienen School of Music offers a number of special programs. Undergraduates may pursue dual degrees or double majors (music plus an outside field) or an ad hoc (self-designed) major. The faculty encourages and supports students interested in these opportunities.

Doctor of Musical Arts

Applicants to the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in Voice Performance must hold a Master’s degree in a music field. Competitive applicants will have a resume that includes professional solo, concert, or operatic performance engagements outside of an academic setting, and will have the desire to actively pursue career options that advance instruction, performance practice and advocacy in the field of classical vocal arts. Final doctoral projects and recitals seek to contribute original knowledge to the field, and candidates who are invited to the final round will be asked to discuss preliminary ideas for original research. Those whose career objective is to teach voice at the collegiate level are expected to have experience in private instruction, and should be prepared to discuss their strengths and objectives for success in a competitive job market.

The DMA degree in Voice Performance is designed to maximize the resources of the Bienen School of Music, Northwestern University, and the City of Chicago. This streamlined program requires only two years of resident doctoral coursework in our new state of the art lakeside facility, the Ryan Center for Musical Arts, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. All admitted doctoral candidates receive a full tuition scholarship during resident coursework, plus the offer of a work stipend for those who seek experience in teaching applied lessons, undergraduate practicum, or working with the Bienen School Voice Lab. Upon completion of their coursework, candidates can maintain full-time student status but are not required to remain in residence, which allows them to pursue professional careers while finishing up their final DMA projects and recitals.

In addition to weekly applied voice lessons, students also have the option to work with one of our professional coaches each week during residency. DMA candidates can choose from courses in Vocal Repertory, Vocal Pedagogy, Phonetics and Diction, Vocal Chamber Music, and Opera Workshop. Additional courses offered in the Bienen School of Music include such topics as Bel Canto Opera, Music and Film, The Lied, Europop, Sound Design for New Media, Technology-Based Performance, Recording Techniques, Comparative Literature in Opera, and many more. Graduate students also have access to take approved courses at Northwestern University, in such areas as Linguistics, Cultural Studies, Communication Sciences, Economics of Non-Profit Organizations, Integrated Marketing, Creative Enterprises, and Sound Design.  

Should you have questions about the voice and opera program, please feel free to contact any faculty member or the Office of Music Admission and Financial Aid.

2017-2018 Operas

Fall 2017 Moments of Mortality: Three One-Act Operas
Riders to the Sea (Ralph Vaughan Williams) 
Le pauvre matelot (Darius Milhaud)
Savitri (Gustav Holst) 
Winter 2018 Don Giovanni (Mozart)
Spring 2018 Theodora (Handel) 

Past Operas

Dialogues of the Carmelites

2016-2017 Operas

  • Later the Same Evening (John Musto) [Fall 2016]
  • Dialogues of the Carmelites (Francis Poulenc) [Winter 2017]
  • The Tender Land (Aaron Copland) [Spring 2017]


2015-2016 Operas

  • American Dreams: Three One-Act Operas [Fall 2015]
    The Face on the Barroom Floor (Henry Mollicone)
    A Hand of Bridge (Samuel Barber)
    Trouble in Tahiti (Leonard Bernstein)
  • Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart) [Winter 2016]
  • Susannah (Carlisle Floyd) [Spring 2016]

Dead Man Walking

2014-2015 Operas

  • Mozart Magic: The Impresario and Scenes from Great Mozart Operas [Fall 2014]
  • Dead Man Walking (Jake Heggie) [Winter 2015]
  • Ruddigore (or The Witch's Curse) (Gilbert and Sullivan) [Spring 2015]

Cosi at Northwestern

2013-2014 Operas

  • Sounds and Sweet Airs: Scenes from Shakespeare [Fall 2013]
  • Little Women (Mark Adamo) [Winter 2014]
  • Cosi fan tutte (Mozart) [Spring 2014]

L’incoronazione di Poppea

2012-2013 Operas

  • Bastianello (John Musto) and Lucrezia (William Bolcom) [Fall 2012]
  • The Grapes of Wrath (Ricky Ian Gordon) [Winter 2013]
  • L’incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea) (Claudio Monteverdi) [Spring 2013]

Tichio Vocal Master Class Series

Through the Robert M. and Maya L. Tichio Vocal Master Class Series, established in 2014, students have worked directly with master clinicians such as Renée Fleming, Eric Owens, and Frederica von Stade. Master classes will be announced throughout the academic year.

Bienen School of Music master class

2017-2018 Master Classes

2016-2017 Master Classes

  • Isabel Leonard (November 8, 2016)
  • Matthew Polenzani (January 18, 2017)
  • Jake Heggie (April 20, 2017)

2015-2016 Master Classes

  • Lawrence Brownlee (October 29, 2015)
  • Susanna Phillips (March 7, 2016)
  • Marilyn Horne (April 5, 2015)
  • Matthew Polenzani (April 30, 2016) 

2014-2015 Master Classes

  • Renée Fleming (October 27, 2014)
  • Eric Owens (February 2, 2015)
  • Frederica von Stade (May 2, 2015)


The following videos are from our Davee Media Library:

Le nozze di Figaro

Video: Le nozze di Figaro (February 2016)
Northwestern University Opera Theater presents Mozart’s classic comic tale of love, intrigue, morals, and mischief –  directed by Michael M. Ehrman.

Video: Vocal Master Class by Renée Fleming (August 2009)
Renée Fleming Master ClassRenée Fleming coaches Bienen School singers Ashleigh Semkiw (soprano), Jessica Best (mezzo-soprano), John Eric Rutherford (tenor), and Nikolas Wenzel (bass).

Video: Vocal Master Class by Joyce DiDonato (March 2014)
Joyce DiDantoJoyce DiDonato presents a master class featuring Bienen School of Music voice students Kelsey Park (mezzo-soprano) and Ethan Simpson (baritone) performing music by Mozart and Strauss.

Other Performing Outlets

  • Musical theater productions
  • Vocal solo class
  • Studio classes
  • Concerto competition
  • Oratorio and concert repertoire with various choral, orchestral, and other instrumental organizations who perform frequently
  • Freshman Musicale, organized by the freshman class

Campus Visits

To learn more about voice and opera at Northwestern, please schedule a campus visit. Visitors may sit in on voice and opera classes, lessons with various voice teachers and vocal coaches, opera and choral rehearsals, and weekly vocal solo class.


Request information from the Bienen School of Music.