Does opera scare you?

No need - in fact, the Taos Opera Institute is working hard to change all that

By Ariana Kramer
Posted 6/5/19

Taos Opera Institute's 12th season is here. And, if the very idea of listening to opera still sends shivers up your spine, that's probably because you haven't had a chance to get up …

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Does opera scare you?

No need - in fact, the Taos Opera Institute is working hard to change all that


Taos Opera Institute's 12th season is here. And, if the very idea of listening to opera still sends shivers up your spine, that's probably because you haven't had a chance to get up close and personal with it. This month, you will get your chance.

Twenty-five vocal students and four professional singers come to Taos to study and perform this June. The Taos community is treated to 18 vocal concerts throughout the month -- most of them free to attend -- and two additional concerts set to take place in Santa Fe and Los Alamos.

In 2007, Mary Jane Johnson and Linda Poetschke formed Taos Opera Institute (TOI) as a four-week, intensive summer program for emerging vocal students. Their integrative approach combines a focus on technique, physical well-being and artistry. Each week, the students work with a different faculty-coach team to perfect their performance of an aria in one of four languages. They rotate through the faculty over the course of the month-long program. Guest faculty provide lessons on the business of opera, media, branding and marketing, performance psychology and dramatic interpretation.

This week, TOI singers will present two concerts in Taos. On Friday (June 7) at 5 p.m. they perform at the Edelweiss Lodge, 106 Sutton Place in Taos Ski Valley. On Saturday (June 8) at 5 p.m. they perform at First Presbyterian Church, 215 Paseo del Pueblo Norte in Taos. Both concerts are free. The TOI singers concerts are two hours in length with a program of operatic arias in different languages.

In addition, Cantos de Taos, the outreach quartet of the Taos Opera Institute comprised of four young professionals, will be performing three concerts in Taos and one in Los Alamos. Cantos de Taos also doesn't focus only on opera. They sing a variety of gospel, Broadway, classical, opera, jazz and folk music from Kenya. Concerts are one hour in length.

On Saturday (June 8) at 4 p.m. Cantos de Taos performs at The Taos Inn, 125 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. On Sunday (June 9) at 1 p.m. the quartet performs at the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House, 227 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos. Then, on Tuesday (June 11) at 6 p.m., Cantos de Taos performs at Fuller Lodge Art Center, 2132 Central Avenue in Los Alamos.

Both Johnson and Poetschke are excited about this year's Cantos de Taos quartet. Each year they invite four young vocal professionals to come to Taos to perform in the outreach quartet. This year, they invited three sisters: singing triplets Mary, Maggy and Marta Moipei, along with tenor Darius Thomas.

The Moipei Triplets are originally from Nairobi, Kenya, and recently graduated as music students from St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas. In 2002, they competed in the Kenya Music Festivals with their youngest sister, Seraphine. The sisters won first place for four years in a row. At the age of 12, the sisters were appointed Kenya's first UNICEF child ambassadors. Their international work has taken them to Tanzania, Uganda, Canada, Venezuela, China and the United States. A few of their special engagements have been singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" to thousands of NBA fans at a Spurs Playoff game, performing for the president of Kenya at the Rockefeller Center and singing "Let it Snow" with the San Antonio Symphony's Holiday Pops concert. ​

Thomas was the tenor-in-residence for Nashville Opera through its Mary Ragland Emerging Artists program, performing in "The Cradle Will Rock" and "The Tales of Hoffmann." He has sung with the Knoxville Opera, University of Tennessee and Janiec Opera Company. This upcoming season, he will perform as a young artist with the Fort Worth Opera, then with the Knoxville Opera in the role of Romeo for its touring production of "Romeo and Juliet."

Thomas "was with us last year, and he was such a hit," TOI's Poetschke said. "People loved him. He has a fabulous personality. Because he's very accomplished in a lot of different styles we thought he would match these girls. They're a strong trio and they have to have someone strong to match them, and we thought he would do that."

Asked how the TOI program has evolved over the years, Johnson said, "We keep doing better and better. We are full every year. We have fabulous faculty. And, we change it up a little bit every year."

Poetschke agreed. She said one of this year's changes is that instead of having an end-of-the-year gala, they are having a student showcase. It will be an informal celebration of all the students' have learned.

"The title and the outlay of the program will change from previous years," Poetschke said. "I think the word 'gala' in the past has given the idea that it's formal and you have to dress up and we want the showcase to be much more informal because Taos is very informal," added Johnson.

The TOI Festival Showcase is scheduled for June 29, 7 p.m. at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Tickets are $25 and can be reserved at (575) 758-2052.

This year's performances also include a Broadway night at KTAOS Solar Center on June 18 and a special concert by tenor Eric Barry at the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House on June 20. A full schedule can be found at


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