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  January 22, 2002

Metropolitan Opera Debuts
Partnership With Fine Arts School
By Allison Thompson

T he Metropolitan Opera and UConn recently announced a new academic partnership that will provide music and drama students with unrivaled access to the world's most prestigious opera company. Under the terms of the pilot program, students from the School of Fine Arts will have unprecedented access to the behind-the-scenes world of the Met.

The overall objective of the Metropolitan Opera-University of Connecticut collaboration, which is the first in-depth partnership involving the Met's artistic and production areas and an institution of higher learning, is to improve the quality of opera instruction in the United States. The project encompasses multiple activities, including production internships and auditing of rehearsals.

A First for the Met
"We're opening a new window in the educational arena," says Joseph Volpe, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera. "This is the first time we've participated in a university program of this scope, and we are looking forward to working with the University of Connecticut as our partner in this pioneering and unique undertaking."

Raymond and Beverly Sackler, philanthropists and generous supporters of a range of UConn programs, were instrumental in forging the partnership.

"We are delighted to participate with the Metropolitan Opera in this innovative program," says President Philip E. Austin. "We are tremendously grateful to Raymond Sackler for his help in making this partnership a reality. This is one in a long list of areas in which Raymond and Beverly Sackler have enhanced Connecticut's flagship public university, and we are tremendously grateful for their support."

"It is gratifying to bring together two outstanding institutions that I care deeply about, especially when unique benefits will be derived by both partners," says Raymond Sackler.

UConn's opera program has long been considered one of the country's strongest, attracting high-quality faculty and students. Last year, when David G. Woods, dean of the School of Fine Arts, met with Raymond Sackler, an avid supporter of both UConn and the Met, Sackler suggested that he bring representatives of the two entities together to discuss establishing a mutually beneficial partnership.

"Raymond Sackler is the cornerstone of this partnership," says Woods. "Through his efforts and financial support, two of his 'loves' - the Met and the University of Connecticut - are forming a relationship through which both will be enhanced."

A Wealth of Opportunities
During the academic year, UConn students involved in the collaboration will visit the Met to observe stage rehearsals and preparatory work that will allow them to witness the development of a production on stage. Key guest and house production staff will meet with students to answer questions and explain the focus of specific productions.

Timothy Noble, a baritone who has performed with opera companies around the world, made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1988 and has performed with the company numerous times. Currently a professor of voice at the Indiana University School of Music, Noble says the partnership between the Met and the University of Connecticut is a one-of-a-kind collaboration.

"To see how the premier opera company in North America operates is an incredible opportunity for the young people in UConn's fine arts program," Noble says. "They will see how it works at the highest level."

UConn's opera program has long drawn students from around the world, many of whom have gone on to successful careers in opera. Current and former students are excited about the school's new partnership and predict it will create a wealth of opportunities for future music graduates.

Albert Lee, who received his bachelor's degree in music from UConn in 1998, is now performing with opera companies around the country.

"My undergraduate years at UConn were four of the most wonderful years of my life, thanks in part to the individual attention, basic music knowledge, and wealth of performance opportunities I received," Lee says. "This partnership will give students a firsthand look at the rehearsal process of a major opera company and will cement UConn's place as one of the best fine arts institutions in the country."

Under the terms of the program, John Froelich, a first-year graduate student in lighting design, will be an intern at the Met this semester. After working in the areas of lighting design, costume design, scenery and production management until May, he will choose one area of concentration and will return to the Met in August to work in that area. Froelich, who has a bachelor's degree in lighting and sound design and has worked in the field, says the internship will provide him with valuable experience.

"This is going to mean a tremendous amount to me," he says. "Having the Metropolitan Opera behind your name is not something anyone in my profession can ignore."

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