Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Kate traveled to Vienna as a 2021-2022 Fulbright Austria grantee, prior to which she was a 2021 Apprentice Artist with Des Moines Metro Opera. In past IU productions, she performed as Susanna in “Le Nozze di Figaro” and Atlanta in Handel's “Serse.” Kate is passionate about opera outreach and has performed for local school children with Reimagining Opera for Kids. At the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, she has twice been awarded the Opera Omaha Guild Award and in 2020 was an Encouragement Award winner.
Q: What led to your passion for opera music? Do you recall the first opera you attended or heard? When did it occur to you that this could be a career?
A: At the Franz-Schubert-Institut in Baden bei Wien, Elly Ameling told me that we do not choose music; it chooses us, it touches us, and we are gifted with a voice and an imagination to share it with others. I’m grateful that music has always been at the center of my life. I find meaning and purpose in singing, expressing, and storytelling. From the start, my parents have been unwavering in their support and encouragement of my musical pursuits. My dad especially fostered my love of singing and has performed in our local community. Sometimes over dinner growing up, when my dad wanted to add a bit of levity through music, he would sing an announcement: "And now, everyone must sing opera!" For the next few minutes, we would all do our best impressions of opera singers, singing things like, "Pass the salt." I have many cherished memories of singing with my dad.
My first-ever role was Cinderella in a third-grade musical. From then on, I was always singing as a soloist, in choirs, and in small ensembles. In high school, I began performing in musicals within my community and realized it was something for which I had a natural aptitude. I began voice lessons and was introduced to classical repertoire.
I believe the first opera I attended was “La Traviata” at Opera Omaha. Though my early roots were perhaps more in musical theater, when the time came to apply for college, I knew that I wanted to pursue classical singing at the highest level possible. I began studying and performing opera and art song and fell in love with it. I’ve been privileged to learn from incredible teachers and mentors. As both a performer and audience member, I remain in constant awe of the power of music to move and inspire. The storytelling aspect of opera is a big draw for me. We connect through stories. It’s a joy to bring roles to life through the medium of opera.
Q: What led you to study at the Jacobs School of Music?
A: I connected with IU JSOM Professor Kevin Murphy while at SongFest in the summer of 2018. I was inspired by our musical coachings and master classes together during the summer program. At the same time, I was preparing to apply to graduate schools. He recommended that I take a lesson with his wife, Heidi Grant Murphy — a renowned soprano and professor at Jacobs. She graciously agreed to meet with me for a sample lesson, and we hit it off. The biggest factor for me in attending Jacobs was being able to study with Heidi and Kevin. Further, I held the school in high regard — IU Jacobs Opera & Ballet Theater is world class (boasting six fully staged productions per year), the faculty are exceptional, and the students are passionate and driven. I knew this was an environment in which I would grow and thrive.
Q: What will you miss about the campus/the school/Bloomington when you move on? What are your favorite places for outdoor walks?
A: I’m not exactly sure when I will be departing IU and Bloomington. When that time comes, I know I’ll most miss frequently interacting with the wonderful faculty and my peers, with whom I have forged deep connections and shared cherished musical collaborations. I will miss performing in Ford Recital Hall and on the MAC stage; singing in Professor Walter Huff’s opera chorus and receiving one of his infamous cookies at the end of each opera production; studying in the Cook Music Library; the beautiful campus, with its historic architecture and beautiful nature; the list goes on!
There are so many great places to walk in Bloomington! On campus, I enjoy walking around any of the woodsy areas. Over my lunch break I often follow the stream behind the Lilly Library, passing over foot bridges and taking in the trees, and then will loop around the Showalter Fountain. Off campus, I love walking the Allen-Covenanter Greenway that leads up to Bryan Park. Another favorite walking path is the Jackson Creek Trail.
Q: Can you describe the process of getting into Anne Frank’s headspace, and how you connect with her? What do you hope this performance sparks for audiences, and why is her story so important?
A: The first thing I did when I received my opera score in mid-November was carefully read through the entire work from start to finish, taking in everything on the page — all spoken and sung text, stage directions, and any other notes within the score. After familiarizing myself with the composer and librettist’s vision for their operatic adaptation of Anne Frank’s story, I dove into further role and musical preparations. Throughout music and staging rehearsals, I have been guided by input from conductor Arthur Fagen and composer Shulamit Ran, and by the clear vision of stage director Crystal Manich and dramaturg Cori Ellison.
In December, our Anne Frank cast took a trip to the Illinois Holocaust Museum, which was deeply moving. We met with Ruth Gilbert, a living survivor of the Holocaust. At the museum, I bought The Definitive Edition of Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl.” Reading the diary has been a primary way I have gotten into Anne Frank’s headspace. The Definitive Edition also provided insight-giving historical information about members of the Secret Annex and their helpers. Another crucial help in my preparing this role has been the Anne Frank Fonds website, which shares history, personal information, photos, and interviews. Through the Anne Frank House website, I took a virtual tour of the Secret Annex.
It is an honor to be entrusted with portraying Anne Frank in this operatic premiere. I strive to do Anne’s story justice with my work in this production. I hope to do my humble part in paying remembrance to her story and immense legacy through my work in this opera. Preparing this opera has been one of the most challenging (and most meaningful and purposeful!) things I’ve done to date. Anne Frank’s passion, strength, and sense of purpose have been sources of inspiration. In addition to connecting with those qualities, I relate to Anne’s various coming-of-age experiences. I share her love of nature.
Amidst the heartbreaking, senseless tragedy and atrocity of the Holocaust, the opera has moments of joy, family bonding and tensions, young romance, and self-discovery. The opera puts us in the shoes of Anne and the other members of the Annex, connecting us to their full humanity. I hope this production brings poignancy to the tremendous loss of Anne Frank and millions of other lives at the hands of Nazi persecution and genocide. Anne’s diary and story have forever changed the world. I hope this production inspires us all to remember and vow “never again” to the atrocities of the Holocaust, to honor the legacy and stories of all those lost, and to stand up to anti-Semitism, othering and stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination.
Q: What’s next for you? How will you stay connected to Jacobs?
A: That is still open-ended for me! I do have a soon to-be-announced summer opera engagement, so that’s next. Regardless of where my path will lead, I plan to stay connected to my IU community through the multitude of social media platforms, the JSOM Office of Entrepreneurship and Career Development, and the Jacobs Alumni Association.