The Pirates of Penzance
Principal Roles (alphabetical)
Michael Callahan (Major-General)
Michael Callahan, baritenor, is a performer, music director, stage director, writer, voice teacher and composer. You can often find him barefoot wandering the Quad Cities or at Bethel Wesley United Methodist Church, Moline (where EVERYONE is welcome) where he is music director. He also directs the Chordbusters, their little brother organization “The VLQ,” and can be caught singing with his own acapella quartet “3 to Blame.” Michael’s recent adventures include the comic strip “Espresso Yourself” on Facebook, the musical “Aaron Power,” and the play “Winning in Jeremy,” a 2019 Quad City Playwright Festival-winning script. He performs regularly with “It’s a Mystery” and does whatever Genesius Guild will let him do. Michael is happy to talk to you about the highlights and lowlights of his 30-year career and welcomes invitations to coffee. If you are buying, he will happily sign on to your project as well. A lifelong fan of Gilbert and Sullivan he will be singing many of these and other songs of their oeuvre to his chickens, bunnies, dog, cats and amazingly supportive family for many years to come
Mary Jane Claassen (Kate)
Mary Jane Claassen, noted for her warm, rich tone, magnetic stage presence, and versatile style has most recently sung the operatic role of Zulma in the The Italian Girl in Algiers with Opera Memphis and appeared frequently with the company. She has appeared on stage for various other companies including Theatre Memphis, Opera Omaha, Des Moines Metro Opera and, after recently relocating to eastern Iowa, appeared in Revival Theatre’s fall production of Sunday in the Park with George and in the same musical as a guest artist for the University of Iowa Theatre Department. In May, she appeared as the leading lady Marguerite St. Just in Scarlett Pimpernel with City Circle Acting Company.
As a concert soloist, she has sung with Rhodes Mastersingers and the Memphis Symphony in Bach’s B Minor Mass and a regional premier of Jennifer Higdon’s Ruminations featured on a PBS special “Articulate”. Some other major works include Bach’s Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, Handel’s Messiah, and a performance of Haydn’s Harmonie Messe at Carnegie Hall. To learn more visit maryjaneclaassen.com. She is thrilled to be making her Quad Cities Opera debut this summer with her favorite operetta and thanks the company for the opportunity and experience!
Shelley Cooper (Edith)
Shelley is thrilled to be making her Opera Quad Cities debut! Shelley is currently the Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL Shelley has performed all over the world for a number of companies such as Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Monroe Symphony, Chicago Summer Opera, Orlando Repertory Theatre, Shawnee Summer Theatre, Redhouse Arts Center, Bangkok Theatre Festival, Simbiose Produções in São Paulo, Brazil and the Venetian in Macau, China. Most noted performances are “Johanna" in Sweeney Todd starring Tony-Award Winning Actress Faith Prince, “Nellie” in South Pacific,“Cinderella” in Into the Woods, “Helena” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “Ariel” in The Little Mermaid, "Armida" in Rinaldo, and the Soprano soloist in Handel's Messiah with Bangkok International Orchestra. Her original one-woman show, La Divina: The Last Interview of Maria Callas has been performed on three continents.
Shelley is also an accomplished director and choreographer in the community, having directed The Drowsy Chaperone (Augustana College), Big River (Mississippi Bend Players), Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens (Augustana College), and How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Augustana College). This July, Shelley will be directing/choreographing the musical Dames at Sea with the Mississippi Bend Players and this August she will be singing "Donna Elvira" in Don Giovanni for The Modern Opera Studio in Lanciano, Italy.
Diana Eiler (Ruth)
Diana Eiler is making her Opera Quad Cities debut. She is a graduate of Heidelberg College, a N.A.T.S. Great Lakes Regional winner, Jessye Norman Award recipient, and Friedrich Schorr Opera Star Search semi-finalist. Oratorio solos: Handel's Messiah, Vivaldi's Gloria, Mendelssohn's Elijah; Fort Wayne Bach Collegium B Minor Mass, Saint John Passion, Saint Matthew Passion; Madison Symphony Chorus Rutter's Gloria, Mozart's Missa in F Major, Kodaly's Missa Brevis. Stage and concert: Toledo Opera, Findlay Light Opera, Pulse Opera House, Opera for the Young, Fresco Opera Theatre, Opera on Tap Milwaukee
Jeremy Gussin (Pirate King)
Raised in Iowa City, Iowa, Jeremy Gussin recently completed doctorate coursework studying under Andreas Poulimenos at Indiana University. Opera highlights have included roles in Menotti’s The Last Savage, Verdi’s Falstaff, Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, and Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas. He made his professional debut as the Imperial Commissioner in Madama Butterfly with Utah Festival Opera, and recently performed as the Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte with the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra.
As a four-year member of the IU Singing Hoosiers, he arranged their opener for the Australia Tour in 2014 and directed small ensembles for 3 years while completing his M.M. in Voice. He has served as panelist and arranger at the National ACDA Conference and the North Central ACDA conference, respectively. A multi-faceted musician, his professional activities include work as a session singer with Aire Born Studios (Zionsville, IN), arrangements for collegiate and high school a cappella choirs, accompanying, and teaching private voice. Interest areas include low-voice repertoire in Contemporary Musical Theatre and exploring how elements of various diverse musical pursuits and styles can be paired together in aiding the development of a vocal musician. Jeremy, a 2008 Bill Riley State Fair Talent Search Champion, is grateful to have an opportunity to perform close to home.
Allison Holmes-Bendixen (Mabel)
Allison Holmes-Bendixen is an artist, educator, opera lover, musical theatre enthusiast, and self-described vocal pedagogy nerd. An active performer and educator, she has presented research, recitals, and masterclasses throughout the United States and Europe. Recently Allison performed as a soprano soloist in Handel’s Messiah with Opera Quad Cities and served on the directing teams for Gilbert & Sullivan’s Trial by Jury (Kirkwood 2019) and Andrew Lippa’s Big Fish (Kirkwood 2018). Previous performing credits include leading roles in productions of Candide (Cunegonde), La Bohème (Musetta), Hansel and Gretel (Gretel), The Tender Land (Laurie), The Marriage Contract (Fanny), The Impresario (Madame Goldentrill), Don Giovanni (Donna Elvira), and The Magic Flute (Queen of the Night).
Allison earned a Ph.D. in Vocal Pedagogy from the University of Iowa in 2013 and is a member of the voice faculties at Kirkwood Community College and Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where she teaches Applied Voice, Voice Performance Seminar, Music Appreciation, and Opera Workshop. An Iowa native, she is thrilled to be performing with Opera Quad Cities!
Jon Schrader (Samuel)
Baritone Jon Schrader has performed all around the Quad City region and the Midwest. He has been seen in operas, musicals and operetta, specializing in Gilbert and Sullivan. Some of his favorite opera roles include Shaunard in La Boheme and Tonio and Silvio in I Pagliacci. He joins Opera Quad Cities once again this year after having performed Count Almaviva in Marriage of Figaro in 2018. Some of his favorite musical roles include Barnaby Blatherskite in Babes in Toyland, Luther Billis in South Pacific and Daddy Warbucks in Annie.Jon’s Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire includes Ko-Ko in The Mikado, Major-General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance, the Captain in H.M.S. Pinafore and Usher in Trial by Jury. Jon met his wife, Rochelle, in their production of Libby Larson’s Barnam’s Bird. They have two wonderful sons, Caleb and David.
James Thompson (Frederic)
James Thompson, tenor, is the Director of the Music Department in the Simon Estes School of Fine Arts at Des Moines Area Community College. In addition to his administrative duties, Dr. Thompson directs the Concert and Chamber Choirs, teaches applied piano and voice, and teaches Music Appreciation.
Dr. Thompson remains active as a performer of opera, operetta, oratorio, and solo repertoire. Recent credits include Tony in West Side Story, Basilio in Le Nozze di Figaro, Alfred in Die Fledermaus, Tamino in The Magic Flute, Roméo in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, and Alfredo in La Traviata. In concert, Dr. Thompson recently performed as the tenor soloist in Händel’s Messiah, Bach Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (BWV 140), Mozart Missa Brevis in D (K. 194), and Haydn Paukenmesse.
Dr. Thompson’s academic research is rooted in vocal pedagogy. He is interested in using the bel canto repertoire as a foundation for vocal training, and is particularly interested inestablishing pedagogical connections between the art song and operatic repertoire of Vincenzo Bellini — this topic served as the basis for his doctoral thesis. He remains in demand as a clinician, adjudicator, and guest conductor for various regional events.
Dr. Thompson lives in Ankeny with wife Maria, and daughters Lindsey and Claire.
Doctor of Musical Arts, University of Iowa (2013)
Master of Music, Boston University (2008)
Bachelor of Music, Cornell College (2005)
Michelle Crouch (Stage Director)
Born and raised on the Canadian prairies, Michelle Crouch studied music from a very young age, and pursued both piano and voice in college. She performs a wide range of oratorio, opera, and both solo and chamber vocal music, from Medieval to contemporary. She loves the sheer diversity of vocal expression available to singers, something she seeks to pass on to her students.
Her primary research interest is musical literacy, particularly for singers, whose musicianship skills tend to lag behind instrumentalists in general music education. She is at work on a hopefully helpful book on the subject.
Upon completing her doctoral degree in voice at the University of Iowa, she joined the faculty at Augustana College in the fall of 2010, where in addition to her voice studio and musicianship teaching, she also directs OperX Ensemble, the eclectic musical storytelling program at Augustana. Productions have included John Biggs’ Ernest Worthing, Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land, Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, and The Old Maid and the Thief, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Riders to the Sea, and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.
Nathan Windt (Music Director)
As Director of Choral Activities and head of the vocal division at St. Ambrose University, Dr. Nathan Windt brings professional choral and solo singing experience with leading professional choirs in the United States, including the Chicago Symphony Chorus. His operatic roles include Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro, Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus, Prince Yamadori in Madame Butterfly, the title role in Gianni Schicchi, Grandpa in The Tender Land, Bob in The Old Maid and the Thief, and Sciarrone in Tosca. He is also a frequent recitalist, with an enthusiasm for German and English art song.
An accomplished conductor of opera, Dr. Windt has conducted a variety of operatic styles and epochs, including Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Cavalli’s L’Egisto, and Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortileges, the latter receiving First Place in Class IV of the National Opera Association Competition for Best Production of the Year (2007). This is the second season in which he has conducted for Opera Quad Cities; he conducted last summer’s production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.