From Rummage to the Met: Elizabeth Bachman '74

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Elizabeth Bachman '74 is turning out a new generation of opera stars

Elizabeth Bachman ’74

As a Catlin Gabel lifer, theater-crazy Elizabeth Bachman worked in every school production she could. What she didn’t foresee is that she would get her first theater job in New York, as a stage manager, because they needed someone who could drive a truck—and her experience driving the Rummage truck landed her the position. That job began Elizabeth’s rise into her career as a noted opera director, and now as founder and artistic director of an innovative opera school in the Alps.

Elizabeth directed opera productions worldwide for many years, from Japan and Argentina to the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where she directed luminaries that include Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo. She directed more than 50 operas in more than 30 opera companies. But she has changed her focus in the past few years: “I look to move on to something larger where I can give back what I’ve been given and teach the next generation,” she says. “For many years I have taught opera singers to act, while I was directing, tutoring, and visiting at universities. The next logical step was creating a company and teaching.”

Today Elizabeth realizes those dreams each summer near beautiful Innsbruck, Austria, at her Tyrolean Opera Program (www.topopera.com). Each year she and her staff teach 20 students—from Canada, the U.S., Germany, and Austria—about singing, acting, movement, languages, and the business of having a career in the arts. Her plans include expanding TOP to lead it toward financial sustainability, with ideas such as a festival, a concert and workshop tour program, and the establishment of TOP as a tourist destination: “Everyone likes food, music, and nature. In the Tirol, hiking is very civilized. Each beer is just an hour’s walk from the last one. It’s like Lake Tahoe—but with better pastry!”

Opera has satisfied many of Elizabeth’s passions, including lifelong learning (she does continual research for operas), and languages (she learned to love them at Catlin Gabel and now speaks and does business in English, German, Italian, French, and Spanish). She thanks her Catlin Gabel education for awakening those passions and developing those skills, and she strives to provide the same kind of transformational educational experience for her students. “My philosophy of teaching opera singers is that you have to learn the tools of the craft—singing, acting, movement, languages—because they all come together on stage,” says Elizabeth. “Then you can forget them, open yourself to the muse, and let the art come through.”