Opera at Western

Western Illinois University Opera Theatre

Western Illinois University’s Opera program is open to all students campus wide. It is particularly designed to give voice students the opportunity to study, explore and perform a variety of works within the operatic and classical musical theatre canons. WIUOT provides a safe collaborative space for students to refine their singing and acting skills.

Course Offerings

  • Fall Semester: Opera Workshop
  • Spring Semester: Opera Production (audition required)



Dr. Penelope Shumate

Director, WIU Opera Theatre
Associate Professor, Voice
Browne Hall Studio G
Western Illinois University
Macomb, IL 61455

Praised by The New York Times for her singing with “bell-like clarity and surpassing sweetness,” and complimented by the New York Concert Review for “her sparkling coloratura perfection” and “beautiful, flexible, dramatic voice,” Penelope Shumate has performed numerous soloist engagements at Carnegie Hall and also David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City. She can be heard as the soprano soloist on the April 2020 release of Messiah Refreshed, an album recorded at Abbey Roads Studios in London with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Rice University's Shepherd School of Music Chair and Professor of Composition and Theory, Dr. Anthony Brandt, engaged her to create the title role in his new opera, Kassandra, in the world premiere at Opera in the Heights in Houston, Texas this past February 2020. She will also perform the title role for the upcoming album recording of the opera.

A versatile singer and actress, she has appeared with professional companies across the country in opera roles, oratorios, recitals, and concerts. Her opera roles include Violetta in La Traviata, the title role in Acis and Galatea, Hanna in The Merry Widow, Musetta in La Bohème, Fiordiligi in Così Fan Tutte, Adele in Die Fledermaus, Laurie in The Tender Land , Josephine in H.M.S. Pinafore, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Micaëla in Carmen, Esmeralda in The Bartered Bride, Lisa in La Sonnambula, Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Belinda in Dido and Aeneas, Miss Silverpeal in The Impressario, Papagena in Die Zauberflöte, High Priestess in Aïda, Dew Fairy in Hansel and Gretel, and the Shepherd Boy in Tannhäuser. In concert, she has performed excerpts of Gilda in Rigoletto, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Juliette in Roméo et Juliette, and Cunegonde in Candide. She has appeared with Des Moines Metro Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Opera Roanoke, Utah Festival Opera, Muddy River Opera, Opera in the Heights, Opera Saratoga, Charlottesville Opera, Baltimore Opera, Baltimore Concert Opera, Annapolis Opera, Opera on the James, Duluth Festival Opera, Philadelphia Concert Opera, and the Jacksonville Lyric Opera, among others.

Audition Information

Opera auditions occur each fall semester for the spring production.

2020-2021 WIUOT Season

Guest Speakers

  • Lisette Oropesa - Soprano (Metropolitan Opera, Wiener Staatsoper, LA Opera, Opéra National de Paris)
  • Christopher Job - Baritone (Metropolitan Opera, LA Opera, New York Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic)
  • Chauncey Packer - Tenor (Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, San Francisco Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Nashville Opera)
  • Ryan Darensbourg - Baritone (Mobile Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Nashville Opera Company, Utah Festival Opera)
  • Dean Anthony - Director (Knoxville Opera, Amarillo Opera, Shreveport Opera Opera Tampa, Opera Omaha and the Brevard Music Center's Janiec Opera)
  • Robert Frankenberry - Tenor, Pianist, Coach, Actor, and Conductor. (Pittsburgh Festival Opera Young Artist Program Director)

Spring 2021 - "Opera in the Park" - A concert of favorite arias and duets from Operas and Operettas in beautiful Chandler Park in Macomb.


Fall 2020 - "Aria Extravaganza" - A virtual concert of Opera and Musical Theatre Arias


Past WIUOT Seasons

  • 2019-2020
    Fall Showcase, December 5, 2019
    Spring Opera Double Bill: May 1-2, 2020,
    performances canceled due to COVID-19
    • VENUS AND ADONIS by John Blow 
    • DER BEKEHRTE TRUNKENBOLD ("The Converted Drunkard") by Christoph Willibald Gluck
  • 2018-2019Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
  • 2017-2018Hansel and Gretel (Humperdinck)
  • 2016-2017The Old Maid and the Thief (Menotti) and The Devil and Daniel Webster (Moore)
  • 2015-2016: Iolanthe (Gilbert & Sullivan)
  • 2014-2015Dido and Aeneas (Purcell) and The Impresario (Mozart)
  • 2013-2014: Die Fledermaus (J. Strauss)
  • 2012-2013The Pirates of Penzance (Gilbert & Sullivan)
  • 2011-2012: The Medium (Menotti); The Phantom of the Opera (Lloyd-Webber) Scholarship Concert
  • 2010-2011: The Telephone (Menotti) and Gianni Schicchi (Puccini)
  • 2009-2010Amahl and the Night Visitors (Menotti)
  • 2008-2009: Trouble in Tahiti (Bernstein) and Gallantry (Moore)

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