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Opera Theatre
University of Mississippi
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  • About UM Opera Theatre

    The University of Mississippi Opera Theatre provides comprehensive training for the next generation of singing-actors. Performers receive developmental training in movement, interpretation, stagecraft, audition preparation, and learn how to work with conductors, coaches, directors, and colleagues to prepare for careers on the stage. UM Opera Theatre produces quality, award-winning productions of operas, operettas, and musicals in many languages and styles, spanning the Baroque to contemporary, and including well-loved classics and new works alike, e.g., The Light in the Piazza, Albert Herring, L’Enfant et les Sortilèges, La finta giardiniera, L’elisir d’amore, and several works by Gilbert & Sullivan. UM Opera Theatre is strongly committed to collaborations with contemporary opera composers, having premiered the chamber orchestration of Linda Lister’s State of Grace (2018) to great acclaim, and enjoys regular partnerships within the Oxford community and beyond.

    Director of Opera: Dr. Bonita Bunt

    Music Director: Prof. Amanda Johnston


    New Director of UM Opera Theatre, Dr. Bonita Bunt

    Soprano, director, and educator Bonita Bunt is comfortable on or off stage in the operatic, musical theatre, or concert genres. Since earning her doctorate in music in 2017 from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Dr. Bunt has been involved in over 35 productions in the Las Vegas Valley as performer, director, assistant director, and stage manager. She has portrayed Edith in Vegas City Opera’s award nominated hit at Super Summer Theatre, The Pirates of Penzance, the Queen of the Night and 2nd Spirit in Vegas City Opera’s The Princess and the Magic Flute, a reduced version of Mozart’s opera aimed at young audiences, and the Notary in Gianni Schicchi. She has also performed in concert with Opera Las Vegas including the program Who’s Afraid of Opera which reached over 1400 Clark County students, Opera Uncorked, and Holiday on Broadway. Other favorite roles include Zerbinetta, Tytania, and Giannetta in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore.

    Recent directing projects include the celebrated family holiday classics Amahl and the Night Visitors and the micro-opera A Hand of Bridge by Samuel Barber paired with its contemporary sequel Avow by Mark Adamo for The University of Alabama Opera Theatre. She enjoyed great success directing Hansel and Gretel for Opera Las Vegas in 2018, revived in 2019, as well as a production of Britten’s Noah’s Flood which toured area churches. One of her favorite creative projects was a site specific opera performance of Don Giovanni for the Barrick Museum at UNLV, specifically designed to incorporate the current exhibit which she hosted as narrator/museum tour guide. She was assistant director for Opera Las Vegas’ west coast premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s 27 and Vegas City Opera’s Gianni Schicchi, both collaborations with Vegas Theatre Company. She also co-directed the west coast premiere of Sasha Cohen’s Cooperstown, A Jazz Opera in 9 Innings for Opera Las Vegas’s Living Composers Series.

    Dr. Bunt was honored to be the Stage Directing Intern for Red River Lyric Opera during the summer of 2017, directing the one-act opera Beauty and the Beast by Vittorio Giannini, and serving as assistant stage director and stage manager for La bohème and assistant stage manager for Turn of the Screw and Alcina. In the summer of 2015 she worked as the Senior Stage Directing Intern at the acclaimed Druid City Opera Workshop at the University of Alabama where she directed scenes from Manon, Falstaff, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and West Side Story. Dr. Bunt has directed opera scenes at UNLV and the University of Northern Colorado, cabaret performances for First Coast Opera, and plays at Flagler College, as well as serving as assistant director for UNLV’s productions of Don Giovanni, La bohème, Le nozze di Figaro, and Trial by Jury, and was guest director for the new work No Guarantees, a romantic robot comedy by Cynthia Wong. Her most acclaimed solo project is the creation of a singable English translation of Ambroise Thomas’s french opera-lyrique Hamlet, using original Shakespeare texts as inspiration. The reduced, non-traditional Hamlet premiered at UNLV on May 6, 2017 as part of UNLV Opera’s sponsored Hamlet Festival. Dr. Bunt directed the premiere of Hamlet in English as the culmination of the week-long series of lectures and performances.

    She received her Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance from Jacksonville University in Florida and her masters and doctorate from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Dr. Bunt recently completed a graduate certificate in Vocology, and is pursuing licensure through the Association for Body Mapping Education. Dr. Bunt is an active educator presenting at conferences and studios and is a member of the National Association for Body Mapping Educators, the National Opera Association, and the National Association of Teachers of Singing. Academic interests include movement for singers, somatic education, vocal pedagogy and health, and contemporary and underperformed opera and art song.


    Guest Music Director and Vocal Coach, Michael Shannon

    Born in London, Ontario, Canada, Michael Shannon has embarked on a diverse and fulfilling career as a pianist, vocal coach, and conductor. With a deep love for opera and an insatiable curiosity for new musical experiences, Shannon has been fortunate to contribute his talents to various projects and organizations.

    Since 2013, Shannon has been a dedicated member of the Canadian Opera Company’s music staff. As répétiteur, vocal coach, and continuo player, he has actively participated in over twenty productions, including the role of Head Coach for the world premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s opera “Hadrian,” starring Thomas Hampson and Karita Mattila.

    In addition to his work with established repertoire, Shannon has developed a passion for new and living opera. Collaborating with Tapestry Opera in Toronto has been an enriching journey for him. Notable highlights include “Bandits in the Valley,” (Roark/Tepperman) “Forbidden,” (Mansouri/St-Bernard) a unique blending of traditional opera, Persian classical music, spoken word, and hip hop. Most recently, he participated in “Tap:Ex Augmented Opera,” (Roark/Wong) a groundbreaking exploration of virtual reality technology in storytelling.

    Shannon‘s desire to nurture emerging talent has led him to serve as a vocal coach for various esteemed institutions such as Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Highlands Opera Studio, the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance, and Prague Summer Nights. He has also had the privilege of sharing his knowledge and passion for opera with students at McGill University, Western University, University of British Columbia, the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, Calgary Opera, the Atelier lyrique de l’opéra de Montréal, the Orford Music Festival, and Prague Summer Nights. These collaborations have provided him with the opportunity to inspire and guide aspiring musicians, a fulfilling aspect of his musical journey.

    Early in his career, Shannon had the privilege of joining the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio and the San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program. These experiences played a crucial role in shaping his artistic perspective, refining his musical abilities, and broadening his horizons.

    Shannon is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Collaborative Piano at Arizona State University, receiving instruction in piano with Dr. Andrew Campbell and Dr. Miki Aoki, voice with Dr. Stephanie Weiss, and conducting with Prof. Brian DeMaris. Alongside his studies, he serves as an Artist-in-Residence at Mirabella ASU, an intergenerational retirement community where he resides. In this role, Shannon programs musical experiences for the residents, fostering a connection and sharing the joy of music with the community.


    Vocal Music at UM Music requires an entrance audition for majors, minors, undergraduate students, and graduate students.