Skip to main content

I Hear American Singing: Adventures in American Opera

Sponsored by the Victor Marcus Chair in Opera Studies

American Opera?  Some might be surprised to learn there even is such a thing.  Others are already big fans.  American opera composers followed European models at first, but by the early 20th Century they began striking out in many new directions, giving home-grown opera a distinctly new character. Their deliberate tunefulness and dramatic directness often earned critical ridicule for their supposed lack of European modernism and dissonant compositional daring.  But the growing canon of distinguished American operas has now earned the loyal appreciation of devoted audiences unphased by the scorn of academia or the snobbery of critics.

Using video illustrations, San Francisco Opera’s Dramaturg Emeritus Kip Cranna will take us on a journey through the multifarious world of American opera, exploring the ground-breaking, distinctly American work of composers like John Philip Sousa, Scott Joplin, George Gershwin, and Virgin Thomson.  We’ll look at masterful mid-century operas by Gian Carlo Menotti, Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, and Carlisle Floyd.  We’ll sample repertoire-enriching works by Stewart Wallace, Mark Adamo, and André Previn. We’ll give special attention to the three most frequently performed living American opera composers: Philip Glass and the Bay Area’s own John Adams and Jake Heggie.  And we’ll check out other figures on the vibrant contemporary scene including Jennifer Higdon, Laura Kaminsky, Missy Mazzoli, Kevin Puts, Ricky Ian Gordon, Mason Bates, and Terence Blanchard.  The fertile fields of American opera beckon us to new discoveries, and you are invited to join in the journey. 

Kip Cranna

Kip Cranna is Dramaturg Emeritus of San Francisco Opera, where he served on the staff for 40 years. He earned his Ph.D. in musicology at Stanford University. He has taught at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and writes and lectures frequently on opera. He is on the faculty at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (OLLI) at Dominican University and U.C. Berkeley. He has managed the commissioning of many new operas by composers such as Philip Glass, John Adams, André Previn, Jake Heggie, and others. For many years he was Program Editor and Lecturer for the Carmel Bach Festival. In 2008 he was awarded the San Francisco Opera Medal, the company’s highest honor, and in 2012 his work was honored with the Bernard Osher Cultural Award for distinguished efforts by an individual to bring excellence to a cultural institution.



Enrollment Closed
Cranna, Kip
Meeting Time
Thursday AM
Meeting Rooms
316 left of 400 max
Lessons Of Course