A Visit from Mezzo-Soprano Opera Star

Susanne Mentzer mentors MSU students through three-day residency.

Mezzo-Soporano Susanne Mentzer has sung many roles with the Metropolitan Opera.

Classrooms and hallways within the MSU College of Music resonated with the voices of opera as renowned vocal artist Susanne Mentzer visited campus for a three-day residency in mid-January.

Recognized as one of today’s foremost mezzo-sopranos, Mentzer conducted five master classes for vocal arts students and demonstrated technique and artistry through several performances. Her visit, say College administrators, represented an extraordinary opportunity for students to learn from the best-of-the-best, and strengthened connections for future residencies with top-level working artists.

“Students got tremendously excited when they heard they were going to work with a star,” says Professor of Voice and Vocal Arts Area Chair Richard Fracker. “But the real excitement came when she was here and they saw how really good she is. Susanne Mentzer is renowned international artist who has sung many roles at the Metropolitan Opera. To have such an accomplished talent spend several days with our students is an exceptional opportunity.”

Fracker says that Mentzer reached out to all students currently enrolled in the student in the vocal arts program—either through a master class or performance.

“No one was missed,” says Fracker. “It was a remarkable feat and about as successful as it gets.”

Mentzer has appeared with nearly all the major opera companies, orchestras, and festivals of North and South America, Europe, and Japan. Her visit to MSU resulted from her previous performances or professional collaborations with several College faculty members, including Fracker and Associate Professor of Voice Peter Lightfoot.

Professor of Voice and Director of the MSU Opera Theatre Melanie Helton had also rehearsed with Mentzer in the mid-1990s through a production with the Houston Grand Opera. The experience left Helton with a lasting impression of the young mezzo-soprano, so she was thrilled when Mentzer agreed to the short residency at MSU.

“Being exposed to an artist like Susanne is an invaluable experience that reinforces what we teach and gives students unique perspective,” says Helton. “It also gets the word out to the professional world about the level of singers we’re cultivating here at MSU.”

Jenna Washburn, an undergraduate and double major in vocal performance and music education, knew of Mentzer, having followed her career as a mezzo-soprano.

“I was really impressed by her,” says Washburn of her master class with Mentzer. “Not only is she an extremely talented singer, she is also very kind and an incredible teacher.”

Mentzer was equally taken by the abilities and artistry she encountered at MSU. She says she values the opportunity to mentor students since she occasionally doubted her own choice to study and pursue a career as a vocal artist. Most always, she says, it was the supportive teacher or coach who persuaded her to continue, and drove her to achieve her goals as a professional singer.

“I try to let them all know that they are each a work in progress, and that I have been where they are,” says Mentzer of the lessons she imparts through master classes. “I want them to understand that they are capable of much more than they thought and that they should never settle for less. You never know when someone will hear you and invest in you so always try to do your very best.”

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