Student Body Pens Open Letter Against Upcoming ‘Parsifal’ At IU Jacobs School Of Music Opera Theater

By David Salazar

It was revealed recently that Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Opera would be putting on Wagner’s “Parsifal” as part of its upcoming season.

The Institution noted that it regularly performed the work between 1949 and 1976 and that this was a revival of a major tradition. The institution also revealed that it would feature star tenor Chris Lysack, who is an alumnus of Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater.

However, the news was reportedly not met with great enthusiasm from the student body, many of whom worried about this development taking away opportunities from them.

OperaWire was told, by a member of the student body that requested to be left anonymous, that the student body had authored an open letter expressing their “dismay” and “displeasure” and even calling the Jacob School’s decision “antithetical.”

The letter has been be reproduced below in full. It was dated April 5, 2019.

To The IUOBT Staff and To Whom This May Concern,

It has come to the attention of the undergraduate student population that for the 2019-2020 season, IUOBT has made the decision to present an abridged season, reducing the total number of productions staged from the standard six operas down to four. Additionally, it has been rumored that the abridged four-production schedule may be a permanent change to the performance practice of the Jacobs School of Music. Regardless of the internal and external factors driving this decision, the students would like to express their disappointment with the upcoming production schedule. It is our belief that this decision is not only detrimental to our education, but may also jeopardize the future of the Jacobs School of Music as a premier opera training program.

 Every year, more than 200 singers attend the Jacobs School of Music to study classical voice and opera. As the world of opera becomes increasingly competitive, a deciding factor in employment has become a specialized education focusing on practical skills and experience. A critical skill for the modern opera industry is acting experience; at the time of drafting, Jacobs only offers one specialized acting class for opera students and no acting requirement for any degree program within the voice department. Practical acting experience for students only comes from workshops and opera productions. By reducing the opera season, and thus, participation in the opera program, students will be missing the primary acting education that they receive at the Jacobs School.

 The student body has expressed reservations regarding the choice of operas for the 2019-2020 season. In addition to the reduction of productions presented, IUOBT has elected to present Parsifal, an opera which is not suited for student voices. The Jacobs School of Music is first and foremost an educational institution, not a professional opera company. One of the goals of the voice program is to give students experiential education in opera; therefore, the decision to hire out the principal roles for a production and deny students the opportunity to learn a role seems antithetical to the goals of the Jacobs School of Music. 

Thus far, the Jacobs School of Music has held the reputation of providing students with unparalleled opera training. This reputation has arisen from the rigor and opportunities that the opera curriculum has provided in the past. In the 1980s, the Jacobs School of Music staged eight productions every year: six during the calendar year and two during the summer. The number of productions alone, not to mention the quality of each production, has set the Jacobs School apart from other performing arts schools. Now, almost forty years later, with a reduced season of four productions and no acting requirements, students risk being left woefully unprepared for a career in opera. For years, students have chosen to attend the Jacobs School because of the sheer amount of productions and opportunities available. The choice to truncate the opera season will deter talented students who would otherwise attend the university. Not only might this incur a massive loss of talent for the school, but it will also result in a loss of income from the tuition funds of potential students, and gross audience viewership. IUOBT could devalue the Jacobs School of Music degree and render students far less employable. This could result in a loss of alumni support, donations, and endowments in the future.

The Jacobs School of Music is an educational institution whose number one priority should be the students. By presenting an abridged opera season for future years to come, IUOBT is grossly disenfranchising the student body and the institution itself. We, the undergraduate student population of the Jacobs School of Music, implore IUOBT to put the students first.


The Undergraduate Student Population of the Jacobs School of Music