Tazewell Thompson Named Director of Opera Studies at Manhattan School of Music

By Logan Martell
(Credit: Fabian Obispo)

The Manhattan School of Music has announced that opera and theatre director Tazewell Thompson has been named as their Director of Opera Studies, effective immediately.

He will be responsible for developing the artistic vision of the program, teaching and directing the students in the Senior Opera Theatre program, and shaping performance opportunities for graduate students.

As a director, Thompson has worked on productions in the United States, Europe, Africa, Japan, and Canada; and with companies such as Glimmerglass, New York City Opera, Teatro Real, La Scala, L’Opera Bastille, and San Francisco Opera.

His recent opera, “Blue,” which he wrote with composer Jeanine Tesori, won the 2020 MCANNA Award for “Best New Opera in North America.” His production of Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” which was broadcast on PBS’ “Live from Lincoln Center” series, was nominated for an EMMY Award in the categories of “Best Director” and “Best Production: Classical Music.”

“I pledged myself a long time ago to help in repairing the world through what I am capable of giving and sharing from the best part of me,” Thompson wrote in a press release. “I dedicate myself to behave in a manner that honors those who have sacrificed so much, including their lives, so I may have the opportunity to lead and serve concurrently. I urge MSM to take full advantage of my fervent need and deeply felt responsibility to give back to the two professions I love and respect so much: opera and teaching.”

Thompson replaces Dona Vaughn, who had served for two decades. Vaughn had come under fire after a confrontation during a Zoom meeting over a question regarding the racist overtones of “Das Land des Lachelns,” an opera she had presented. As a result, a petition was formed calling for her removal. Over 1,800 people signed the petition.

The Manhattan School of Music made no mention of Vaughn in its press release announcing Thompson’s appointment.