About "It's a Wonderful Life"

Perhaps one of the most timeless American Stories of all time, "It's a Wonderful Life"  premiered on the big screen in December of 1948 and instantly became a holiday tradition and staple for the American people. The story tells of George Bailey, a family man, selfless human and proprietor of a small town Banking Company and his journey in discovering the love and warmth that surrounds him.

Houston Grand Opera has commissioned this work for their 2016-17 season. They have chosen CU NOW Professional to workshop the opera before rehearsals begin this fall. This exciting opportunity allows students the chance to learn new music and be involved in the intense workshop process with composer Jake Heggie and the entire artistic team before it is presented in December.

Artist Biographies

michael aniolekMichael Aniolek, Angel

A native of upstate New York, tenor Michael Aniolek has always been interested and involved in contemporary music. While studying at Boston University, he performed with the Boston University Singers in the Times Arrow new music festival in 2013 and participated in Ketty Nez’s new opera scenes workshop in 2015. Aniolek is a master's candidate and a student of Matthew Chellis at CU-Boulder.





christina adamsChristina Adams, Angel

A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Christina G. Adams finds delight in new opera. She received an Encouragement Award from the Metropolitan National Council Auditions in 2014 and has since performed several principal roles with CU’s Eklund Opera Program, including the title role in Rossini’s "La Cenerentola" and Blanche de la Force in Poulenc’s "Dialogues of the Carmelites" during the 2015-16 academic year.





Zachary Begley, Angel

Zachary Begley is a recent graduate from CU-Boulder's College of Music. Begley has worked at the First United Methodist Church of Boulder as a soloist and chorus section leader for three years, and has played various roles in several previous Eklund Opera Program productions. Begley would like to thank CU NOW and the College of Music for this opportunity.

josh devaneJoshua Devane, Mr.Gowers/Mr.Potter

A specialist in contemporary opera and song literature, baritone Joshua DeVane makes his second appearance with CU NOW. He has also appeared as the Pilot in Portman's "The Little Prince," David Smith in Zachary Redler's "A Song for Susan Smith," Professor Bhaer in Adamo's "Little Women," John Proctor in Ward's "The Crucible" and Owen Hart in Heggie's "Dead Man Walking."





neila getzNeila Getz, Clara

Neila Getz is a native of Montana who grew up in the Bitterroot Valley. She received her Bachelor's of Music from the University of Montana in 2013 and is currently working towards her master’s degree in Vocal Performance at CU-Boulder. Past roles include Madame Lidoine in Poulenc’s “Dialogues of the Carmelites,” Covering Violetta in Verdi’s “La Traviata,” Rosalinda in Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus” and Fiordiligi in Mozart’s “Così fan tutte.” When she isn’t singing Getz enjoys country dancing, brass playing and cats.     





max hosmerMax Hosmer, George Bailey

Emerging tenor Max Hosmer has been hailed as “scene-stealing” and "genuinely chill-inducing" in the Daily Camera. His work with modern opera includes the world premieres of Calvin O’Keefe in Libby Larsen’s "A Wrinkle in Time," Bev Russell in Zach Redler's "A Song for Susan Smith" and Lefty Calibrini in Lori Laitman’s "Ludlow" with CU NOW.





aaron jenkinsAaron Jenkins, Uncle Billy

This is Aaron Jenkins’ second summer working with CU NOW. Jenkins worked in the CFI program last year and excited to be working with Jake Heggie in CU NOW Pro. Jenkins recently finished his Bachelor's of Music in Vocal Performance under Jennifer Bird.






sophie ledinghamSophie Ledingham, Angel

Soprano Sophie Malia Ledingham is a rising senior at the College of Music. She has appeared in several Eklund Opera productions including "La Boheme," "Pirates of Penzance" and recently "Dialogues of the Carmelites." She is currently studying with Jennifer Bird.






malcolm ulbrichMalcolm Ulbrick, Harry Bailey

Ulbrick recently debuted with Boulder Opera Company as the title role in their spring production of "Don Giovanni." He received his master's in vocal performance from CU-Boulder in 2014, where he studied with Patrick Mason. This summer he will sing Riolobo in "Florencia in los Amazonas" as a visiting artist with Emerald City Opera in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.





sara lin yoderSara Lin Yoder, Mary Bailey

Sara Lin Yoder is a soprano from Oskaloosa, Iowa, finding her niche in early and new music. She played the role of Susan in "A Song for Susan Smith" during the 2015 season of CU NOW. Sara Lin will finish her master's degree from CU-Boulder in May of 2016 and move to New York City to pursue a career in music.






Guest Artists

jake heggieJake Heggie, Composer

Jake Heggie is the American composer of the operas "Dead Man Walking" (libretto by Terrence McNally), "Moby-Dick" (libretto by Gene Scheer), "Great Scott" (McNally), "Three Decembers" (Scheer), "To Hell and Back" (Scheer), "Out of Darkness" (Scheer), "At the Statue of Venus" (McNally) and "The Radio Hour: A Choral Opera" (Scheer). He is currently at work on "It’s A Wonderful Life," with librettist Gene Scheer. The work is set to have its premiere December 2, 2016 at the Houston Grand Opera, conducted by Patrick Summers and directed by Leonard Foglia. Heggie has also composed more than 250 art songs, as well as concerti, chamber music, choral and orchestral works, including his recent "Ahab Symphony."

The operas—most created with the distinguished writers Terrence McNally and Gene Scheer—have been produced on five continents. "Dead Man Walking" has received nearly 50 productions worldwide since its San Francisco Opera premiere in 2000 and has been recorded live twice (Erato Records in 2001 and Virgin Classics in 2011). In addition to major productions throughout the U.S., "Dead Man Walking" has been seen in Dresden, Vienna, Sydney, Adelaide, Calgary, Montreal, Cape Town, Dublin, Copenhagen and Malmo. "Moby-Dick" has received seven international productions since its 2010 premiere at The Dallas Opera. It was telecast as part of Great Performances’ 40th anniversary season and that production from the San Francisco Opera was released on DVD (EuroArts). "Moby-Dick" received its east coast premiere at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. It is also the subject of a book by Robert Wallace, titled Heggie & Scheer’s "'Moby-Dick'—A Grand opera for the 21st Century" (UNT Press).

Heggie was recently awarded the prestigious Eddie Medora King prize from the UT Austin Butler School of Music. A Guggenheim Fellow, he served for three years as a mentor for Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative. He is also a frequent guest artist and master teacher at universities and conservatories, including Boston University, Bucknell, Cornell, The Royal Conservatory in Toronto, University of Northern Iowa, University of North Texas, University of Colorado, USC’s Thornton School, Vanderbilt University, and at festivals such as SongFest at the Colburn School, Ravinia Festival and VISI in Vancouver.

Jake Heggie frequently collaborates as composer and pianist with some of the world’s most loved singers, including sopranos Kiri Te Kanawa, Renée Fleming, Ailyn Pérez, Talise Trevigne and Caitlin Lynch; mezzo-sopranos Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Frederica von Stade, Jamie Barton, Catherine Cook and Sasha Cooke; Broadway stars Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald; tenors William Burden, Stephen Costello and Jay Hunter Morris; baritones Nathan Gunn, Morgan Smith, Bryn Terfel, Michael Mayes and Robert Orth. Directors who have championed his work include Leonard Foglia, Joe Mantello and Jack O’Brien. All of Heggie’s major opera premieres have been led by Patrick Summers; he has also worked closely with conductors John DeMain, Joseph Mechavich and Nicole Paiement.

Recent premieres have included "Great Scott" at The Dallas Opera, starring Joyce DiDonato, Ailyn Pérez, Frederica von Stade and Anthony Roth Costanzo—recorded live for Warner Classics; "The Work at Hand: Symphonic Songs" for mezzo Jamie Barton and cellist Anne Martindale Williams (Carnegie Hall and the Pittsburgh Symphony); "Iconic Legacies: First Ladies at the Smithsonian," a song cycle for mezzo Susan Graham (Vocal Arts DC at the Kennedy Center); and "Stop This Day and Night With Me" for The King’s Singers, the 2015 Brock Commission for the American Choral Directors Association Conference.

Jake Heggie lives in San Francisco with his husband, Curt Branom.

Gene Scheer, Librettist

Scheer’s work is noted for its scope and versatility. With the composer Jake Heggie, he has collaborated on many projects, including the critically acclaimed 2010 Dallas Opera world premiere, "Moby-Dick," starring Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab; "Three Decembers" (Houston Grand Opera), which starred Frederica von Stade; and the lyric drama "To Hell and Back" (Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra), which featured Patti LuPone. Other works by Scheer and Heggie include "Camille Claudel: Into the fire," a song cycle premiered by Joyce di Donato and the Alexander String Quartet.

Scheer worked as librettist with Tobias Picker on "An American Tragedy," which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 2005. Their first opera, "Thérèse Raquin," written for the Dallas Opera in 2001, was cited by Opera News as one of the ten best recordings of 2002. Other collaborations include the lyrics for Wynton Marsalis’s "It Never Goes Away," featured in Marsalis’s work "Congo Square." With the composer Steven Stucky, Scheer wrote the oratorio "August 4, 1964," for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, which was nominated for a Grammy and performed at Carnegie Hall.

At the Dallas Opera earlier this year, Scheer collaborated with Joby Talbot on the opera "Everest," based on interviews from survivors of the 1996 Everest expedition. "Cold Mountain," Scheer’s most recent work with the composer Jennifer Higdon, premiered this summer at the Santa Fe Opera. It opened on the east coast in early 2016 at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.

Scheer is currently working with Jake Heggie on an operatic adaptation of "It’s a Wonderful Life" for the Houston Grand Opera set to open in December 2016. Also a composer in his own right, Scheer has written a number of songs for singers such as Renée Fleming, Sylvia McNair, Stephanie Blythe, Jennifer Larmore, Denyce Graves and Nathan Gunn. The distinguished documentary filmmaker Ken Burns prominently featured Scheer’s song “American Anthem” (as sung by Norah Jones) in his Emmy Award-winning World War II documentary for PBS titled "The War."

Leonard Foglia, Stage Director

Patrick Summers, Conductor