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National Opera Association competition gives WCSU performance first-place ranking: WCSU spring production of ‘Hansel and Gretel’ wins national honors

image of Christine Manalo, of Watertown, as Gretel, and Olivia Conforti, of Naugatuck, as Hansel
Christine Manalo, of Watertown, as Gretel, and Olivia Conforti, of Naugatuck, as Hansel.

DANBURY, CONN. — The Western Connecticut State University Opera spring 2018 production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” has received first-place honors in the 2017-18 Opera Production Competition sponsored by the National Opera Association.

The WCSU “Hansel and Gretel” production directed by Professor of Music Dr. Margaret Astrup achieved a first-place tie in Division I with the University of Missouri at St. Louis. This year’s NOA competition attracted 78 applicants for full opera productions at universities, colleges and young artist training institutions across the United States. Twenty-four judges drawn from academic music programs and from professional opera companies nationwide determined prize winners in eight competition divisions based on cast age, budget size, type of musical accompaniment and other factors.

Suzanne Ramo, co-chair of the NOA competition committee, observed that judges “commented on how exciting it was to see so much talent and creativity on display, and those who work outside of academia remarked especially that the future of our art form is in good hands.” Ramo noted that WCSU and other higher education institutions participating in the competition also benefited in “getting feedback not only from their colleagues at other schools, but from singers, directors and producers actively working in the professional world that many students aspire to join.”

The NOA, founded in 1955, seeks to fulfill its mission statement objectives “to promote a greater appreciation of opera and musical theatre, to enhance pedagogy and performing activities, and to increase performance opportunities by supporting projects that improve the scope and quality of opera.” NOA-sponsored competitions in various aspects of collegiate opera presentations are designed to promote all aspects of the art form from scene design, voice and composition to production, Ramo said.

The WCSU production featured Olivia Conforti, of Naugatuck, as Hansel and Christine Manalo, of Watertown, as Gretel. Other performers included Dan Satter, of Trumbull; Nicole Salamon, of Greenwich; Sergio Mandujano, of Norwalk; Amy Cerbie, of Meriden; and Callie Sorrento, of Carmel, New York.

“Winning the National Opera Association Opera Production Competition is a great achievement for our student cast and all who worked towards creating this opera production,” Astrup remarked. “It is also a great honor. WCSU Opera has been steadily growing during the past 20 years, and for our school to be recognized with this competitive national award validates all that we put into it.

“I am extremely honored to have been able to work with these talented students, a wonderful creative production team, and gifted music colleagues,” she said. “With opera, so many diverse elements must come together — and when they do, it is magic!



Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.