Honors from The American Prize continue to roll in for Lawrence University’s Opera Theatre program.

Kristin Roach, assistant professor of opera, has won the 2023 American Prize in Conducting in the Opera and Music Theater Division. The national award comes for her work conducting four 2022 performances of Lawrence's Suor Angelica.

Kristin Roach
Kristin Roach

It was Lawrence’s first full, in-person opera production following the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. That, Roach said, added to the moment as two talented casts presented a double billing of one-acts, Suor Angelica and Curlew River.

“There was high energy and a lot of emotions,” Roach said.

Roach’s American Prize honor comes on the heels of Director of Opera Studies Copeland Woodruff being selected as a 2023 Honored Artist of The American Prize earlier this summer—a nod to "sustained excellence" over multiple years. 

Lawrence’s opera program also was selected as a semifinalist in the Collegiate Opera Performance Division for two Opera Theatre productions, Suor Angelica/Curlew River and The Nefarious, Immoral, but Highly Profitable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare, and Woodruff was named a semifinalist for the Charles Nelson Reilly Prize for Stage Directors.

Combine technique-building workshops with productions to hone your skills as a singing actor.

The American Prize annually hands out awards of excellence in the performing arts among nonprofit arts organizations and schools across the country.

“As much as it’s nice to win prizes, that’s not why we do what we do,” Roach said. “I really appreciate the growth that happens with our students—the singers, the players, the people behind the scenes. Opera is a giant team sport. And it’s really gratifying to know that what we’re doing here at Lawrence is on the level of what’s being done by the best programs all over the country. I find that really rewarding, and it’s a wonderful gift we can give to our students, who will be going on to whatever the next phase of their careers might be. I love that they can take this award-winning experience with them.”

A champion of contemporary opera, Roach joined the Lawrence faculty in 2020, drawn in part by the opportunity to work with Woodruff.

“I’m so grateful for the program he’s built and the work that he does,” she said.

The latest American Prize honor is a testament to the talent level and commitment among Lawrence students. The production of Suor Angelica involved not only cast members and the behind-the-scenes crews but also 26 members of the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra.

“That was certainly a highlight for me,” Roach said.

Each opera production spans two terms. The work begins in Fall Term with the cast and crew working on the music, story, costumes, and staging. Come Winter Term, it moves into the theater and the production begins to come to life.

Lawrence’s Opera Theatre program has had a history of success with The American Prize. In 2017-18, two Lawrence productions tied for first place: The Beggar’s Opera and Hydrogen Jukebox; and Woodruff won the first Charles Nelson Reilly Prize in Stage Directing. In 2018-19, Count Ory won a Special Judges’ Citation.