Baylor Opera Theatre Production Wins at National Opera Competition

Production of “Monsieur et Madame Denis” caps off award-winning year for Baylor Opera

December 6, 2023
A character in the opera Monsieur et Madame Denis winks at the audience

Baylor Opera Theatre's production of "Monsieur et Madame Denis" from April 21, 2023. (Courtesy Baylor School of Music)

Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-709-5959
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WACO, Texas (Dec. 6, 2023) – Baylor Opera Theatre’s production of “Monsieur et Madame Denis” was one of three first-place winners among 87 applicants in the National Opera Association’s 2022-23 Opera Production Competition Division I category, marking the fifth national competition in which Baylor Opera has placed this year.

One of the award-winning ensembles in the Baylor University School of Music, Baylor Opera Theatre tied for first place in the NOA competition with Shenandoah Conservatory’s “Hydrogen Jukebox” and SUNY Potsdam and Crane School of Music’s “The Enchanted Pig.” This latest creative arts recognition for Baylor School of Music aligns with the fourth foundational pillar in the University’s Illuminate strategic plan – nationally recognized programs in human performance in the arts.

“Our Baylor Opera Theatre students are passionate about their craft and the work and dedication that it takes to mount a high-level production, and it is my great fortune to have the opportunity to work with them on a daily basis,” said Jen Stephenson, D.M.A., assistant clinical professor and director of Baylor Opera Theatre, who served as the production’s stage director and producer. “It is a tremendous honor to receive this national recognition for our production of M. et Mme Denis, and I am so thrilled that the students can see firsthand that when they dedicate their hearts and minds to a pursuit, they can make art worthy of national attention. Opera is thrilling and timeless, and our students’ enthusiasm about their involvement in Baylor Opera Theatre’s activities is proof of that. The future is bright for Opera.”

“I love that our large performing opportunities at Baylor, like opera, are populated by musicians from all our disciplines. Performance majors, educators, worship leaders - they all bring their best music-making to us, informing and enriching one another,” said Kathleen Kelly, M.M., assistant professor of vocal coaching and faculty with Baylor Opera Theatre. “To have the results stemming from this intentional atmosphere recognized on a national level is extremely gratifying – it says so much not only about the talent, but the vision and commitment of our remarkable student community.”

Baylor Opera students performing Monsieur et Madame Denis
Baylor Opera Theatre’s production of “Monsieur et Madame Denis,” performed April 21, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Baylor School of Music)

“Monsieur et Madame Denis” premiered in Paris on Jan. 11, 1862, and enjoyed popular success, being taken on a European tour within the year of its debut. The chaconne, sung by Lucile, became very popular on its own and was frequently inserted into other shows as a stand-alone “showpiece waltz.”

The opera tells the story of Gaston, who has kidnapped Lucile, his beloved one, from boarding school and wants to marry her with the blessing of Monsieur and Madame Denis. However, they are away from home. While Nanette prepares a bite to eat for the two runaways, it turns out the “abduction” of Lucile has been discovered. Suddenly, a soldier knocks at the door. Gaston and Lucile disguise themselves as Monsieur and Madame Denis as officer Bellerose enters, threatening to cart the two young lovers off to prison.

Their disguises are almost successful until Gaston, a little too agile for an elderly man, reveals to Bellerose that they are, in fact, the missing lovers. Bellerose leaves but returns suddenly with more soldiers and arrests Gaston and Lucile. However, they manage to put their pursuers out of action with the help of the witty Nanette and a good measure of wine and singing. Lucile sings the chaconne, and the exhausted soldiers are tied up with curtains and rope. The soldiers admit defeat as the real Monsieur and Madame Denis arrive home, and everyone sings of the beauty of young love.

Baylor Opera’s cast and crew of “Monsieur et Madame Denis,” performed April 21, 2023, were:

  • Bellerose: Davian Raggio
  • Nanette: Rebecca Walsh
  • Gaston: Giselle Bautista
  • Lucile: Natalia Leslie
  • Chorus: Kate Bishop, McKenzie Comeaux, Alan Hollinger, Ricky Johnson, Ellie McBride, Troy McDonald, Emily Pace, Micah Perry and Evan Welliver.
  • Piano: Yu-Chien Huang, Jieun Jeong
  • Stage Director and Producer: Jen Stephenson
  • Assistant Stage Director: Riley Winterton
  • Music Preparation: Kathleen Kelly
  • Conductors: Rebekah Lambert, Stephan Gomez, Elliot Weeks
  • Set and Costume Design: Jen Stephenson
  • Light Design: Micah Perry
  • Poster Design: Mikaela Pace
  • Supertitles: Kate Bishop
  • Dialogue translation and adaptation: Jen Stephenson

Judges for the NOA Opera Production Competition are opera professionals and educators, including artists who have worked at the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, LA Opera, San Diego Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Bregenzer Festspiele, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Oper Stuttgart, Washington National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Israeli Opera, Royal Danish Opera and Zürich Opera, among others.

Earlier this week, Baylor Opera Theatre’s production of ”The Tender Land” received third-place honors in the college/university division of The American Prize in Opera Performance. In January, Baylor Opera Theatre competed in the live final round of the Robert Hansen Collegiate Opera Scenes Competition at the National Opera Association's national conference in Houston, placing as finalists of the Musical Theatre division, and winning first place in the competition's graduate opera division (Division II).

“Baylor Opera Theater is an essential part of the musical experience and professional preparedness we offer to our undergraduate and graduate singers," said Jamie Van Eyck, D.M.A., associate professor of voice and director of the vocal studies division in the Baylor School of Music. "Students learn invaluable professional skills through Baylor Opera Theatre, and the experience is even more impactful when the singers and opera faculty are featured and honored in national competitions and events, like this.”

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Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


Celebrating more than 100 years of musical excellence, the Baylor University School of Music provides transformational experiences that prepare students for careers in music. Students thrive in a Christian environment characterized by a nurturing resident faculty, an unwavering pursuit of musical excellence, a global perspective, dedication to service and devotion to faith. They investigate the rich musical and cultural heritage of the past, develop superior musical skills and knowledge in the present, and explore and create new modes of musical expression for the future. While preparing for future leadership roles, students join with School of Music faculty in enhancing the quality of community life, enriching the larger culture and making Baylor a place in which heart, mind and soul coalesce. Baylor’s School of Music is a member of the National Association of Schools of Music and the Texas Association of Music Schools. Degree programs include bachelor’s and master’s degrees in performance, music education and academic majors, as well as doctoral degrees in church music. Degrees leading to the Bachelor of Music Education conform to certification requirements of the Texas Education Agency. Visit the School of Music website to learn more.