Three Events to Celebrate Opening of Opera in the Ozarks Archives

From left: Joel Burcham, Rocio Behler and David Malis
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From left: Joel Burcham, Rocio Behler and David Malis

The University Libraries, the Department of Music and the Opera in the Ozarks are partnering to host a three-part series of events Wednesday, Feb. 28, and Thursday, March 1, to celebrate the opening of the Opera in the Ozarks archives. Events will include a voice master class, a drop-in viewing of the archives, and a concert of opera arias and other vocal music. All events are free and open to the public.

On Wednesday afternoon from 2-4 in the Fine Arts Center's Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall, Joel Burcham, associate professor of voice at the University of Oklahoma, will lead a voice master class with four students from U of A Opera Theatre program, directed by assistant professor David Malis. This event, which is free and open to the public, will be an opportunity for singers and non-singers alike to learn some vocal techniques. Who knows who might be the next Pavarotti or Callas? The audience will have an opportunity to ask about careers in opera and music, research in the opera archives, opportunities for outreach and instruction with the Special Collections department, and the Opera in the Ozarks summer music workshops. A reception will follow.

On Thursday morning from 8:30 to noon, the public is invited to delve into the Opera in the Ozarks archives and share stories of opera and other music experiences at OIO and elsewhere. James Swiggart, general director emeritus of Opera in the Ozarks, will be on hand to describe how the Opera in the Ozarks workshop setting on "Magic Mountain" west of Eureka Springs has evolved over the 68 years of its existence. The archives are located in the Special Collections department on the first floor of Mullins Library.

On Thursday afternoon from 1-4 in the Faulkner Performing Arts Center, a free concert, open to the public, will feature Burcham, Malis and five students in the U of A Opera Theatre program. Burcham will begin the program with seven songs from Robert Schumann's Dichterlieder. The rest of the program will feature arias from Bizet's Carmen and Les Pêcheurs de Perles, Puccini's Tosca, Gounod's Romeo et Juliette, Verdi's Rigoletto and Simon Boccanegra, Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe and Wagner's Tannhäuser. A reception will follow.

About the Artists

Joel Burcham was born and raised in Nashville, Illinois. He holds a bachelor's degree from Southern Illinois University, a Master of Arts degree in voice performance from the University of Arkansas and a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Wisconsin. He is an alumnus of the Opera in the Ozarks program. He received the Central City Opera's Young Artist award, was a finalist in the Lyric Opera of Chicago's American Artists Competition, and was also a finalist for the Upper Midwest Region at the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Burcham made his professional operatic debut with his portrayal of Lindoro in L'Italiana in Algeri with Central City Opera. Other operatic highlights include Alfredo in La Traviata at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Opera Theater, and at Music by the Lake, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin; the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto for Opera Fort Collins; Martin in Copland's Tenderland with Madison Opera; Pang in Turandot for Madison Opera and Opera Omaha; Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly with Knoxville Opera; Rodolfo in Puccini's La Bohème with Opera Fort Collins; and Spoletta in Tosca for Madison Opera. 

Burcham is known for his dominant stage presence as demonstrated through sensitive acting and "effortless command of his voice," which has been further described by Chris Shull of the Wichita Eagle as a tenor voice of "clarion tone and operatic power."

David Malis, director of UA Music Opera Theatre and assistant professor of voice, began his operatic career with the San Francisco Opera, debuting as Papageno in Die Zauberflöte. During his 12 seasons as a leading baritone at the Metropolitan Opera, Malis sang Belcore in L'elisir d'amore, Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus, Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Harlekin in Ariadne auf Naxos, Marcello and Schaunard in La Bohème, Ned Keene in Peter Grimes, and Papageno in Die Zauberflöte. Malis is the first American to win the prestigious Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. 

Recent engagements include the title role in Verdi's Falstaff with Atlanta Opera; the title role in Donizetti's Don Pasquale in Lucca, Italy; Germont in La Traviata with Arizona Opera; and as Kurwenal in a recording of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.

As a vocal teacher and coach, Malis has taught at the Opera Theater of Lucca, Italy, with the Oberlin in Italy program; Lingua e canto in Sant'Angelo in Vado, Italy; the University of Miami in Salzburg program; ICon Arts in Sibiu, Romania, and in Rome; and the Greek Opera Studio on the island of Syros, Greece. 

Malis created the Opera Program for the Crested Butte Music Festival and directed opera for 12 years for the Festival de Musique de Saint-Barthélemy. He has served as a judge for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and other competitions. He is a student and protégé of Italian basso Italo Tajo and Tuscan maestro Lorenzo Malfatti.

Rocio Paulina Behler will be the pianist for the concert. Originally from Yucatan, Mexico, Behler obtained a Bachelor of Music in piano performance, a Bachelor of Arts, and a Master of Arts in German literature and culture from the University of Arkansas. She has performed as a soloist in Mexico, Germany and the United States. In 2008, Behler received the Yamaha Piano Teacher Certificate and a scholarship from the Universität Mozarteum to study with Peter Lang in Salzburg, Austria. In 2009, she won the Stella Boyle Smith Piano Scholarship to study with pianist Jura Margulis at the University of Arkansas.

About Special Collections: The Special Collections department was created in 1967 to encourage research and writing on the history and culture of Arkansas and the surrounding region. Its mission is to acquire, preserve, and provide access to historical manuscripts, archives, maps, photographs, and published materials to support scholarly investigation of the state, its customs and people, and its cultural, physical, and political climate. Special Collections include manuscripts and archives, the Arkansas Collection, rare books and special libraries, photographs, broadsides, and maps.


Janet Parsch, librarian
University Libraries

Kelsey Lovewell Lippard, public relations coordinator
University Libraries


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