The OperaWorks Ensemble was created in 1993 by Dr. Roma Prindle to provide stage experience for voice majors at Morehead State University. Immediately, this ensemble began touring eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio, taking opera into public schools and presenting it in ways that were easily accessible to audiences that had little or no familiarity with the genre. A new generation of audiences gained an appreciation and love for the magic of opera.
The success of OperaWorks quickly increased the quality and quantity of voice majors, and presented the opportunity to present more demanding and diverse works. Gian Carlo Menotti's beloved Christmas opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors became a community favorite. Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado delighted campus and tour audiences alike, as did the 2006 celebration of Mozart’s 250 birthday performances of The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute. The Department of Music’s biggest production came in 2003, when OperaWorks united with Department choruses for Georges Bizet's masterpiece, Carmen. In 2005, OperaWorks kicked off the annual Mountain Masters Festival in Harlan, KY with a performance of the Gilbert and Sullivan romp, Trial By Jury in the Harlan County Courthouse.
As part of a mission to preserve mountain heritage, Dr. Prindle created two new works. In 1998, OperaWorks premiered A Kentucky Mummer's Play, a winter holiday celebration of Celtic and Appalachian folk music, dance and ritual. A twelve-day tour presented the work to audiences in Ireland in December 2000. Prindle's springtime ritual celebration, Wild Mountain Thyme, was premiered in April of 2004. OperaWorks embarked on a second international tour in May 2004, presenting seven performances of Wild Mountain Thyme In England and Wales.
OperaWorks is now moving in a new direction. The ensemble is involved in residencies with regional public school audiences. A native of eastern Kentucky herself, Prindle is dedicated to serving students in the region. These residencies reinforce earlier work done by the ensemble, continuing to bring opera to underserved populations. They also serve to identify the region’s most talented students and get them on a career track for vocal performance.
Opera Fellowships and the eventual creation of a Young Artists Studio will provide the most promising voice students from this region and beyond with opportunities to work with world-class artists, and to gain professional experience in opera. Talented and motivated singers are sought to be a part of this exciting new emphasis, one of the most thrilling developments in our region. There are excellent opportunities in scholarships and assistantships.