About Chautauqua Opera
During his thirty-five year career as a stage director, administrator and teacher, Jay Lesenger has become known for intelligent, honest productions which are musically respectful and dramatically compelling.
Lesenger first came to public attention with his Lincoln Center debut when his production of ANNA BOLENA opened Beverly Sills' first season as General Director of the New York City Opera. He was soon re-engaged for productions of THE MAGIC FLUTE, DON GIOVANNI, and STREET SCENE. The breadth of repertoire represented by these early productions characterizes the range of repertoire that has become a signature element of Jay's almost 200 stagings, spanning from the Classical period through Bel Canto and to opera works by the most important composers of our time.
As General/Artistic Director and principal stage director of Chautauqua Opera since the 1995 season, he has introduced the Chautauqua audience to significant twentieth-century works including VANESSA (Barber), TWO WIDOWS (Smetana), and the American musicals A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC(Sondheim), SHE LOVES ME (Bock & Harnick), and ONCE UPON A MATTRESS (Rodgers & Barer). He also has produced for the first time at Chautauqua overlooked Italian rarities: MACBETH, STIFFELIO, and LUISA MILLER by Verdi, MARIA STUARDA by Donizetti, and Bellini's NORMA, as well as new productions of DON GIOVANNI, THE ELIXIR OF LOVE, FALSTAFF, GIANNI SCHICCHI/SISTER ANGELICA, HANSEL & GRETEL, IL TROVATORE, LA BOHEME, LA RONDINE, LA TRAVIATA, REGINA, SUSANNAH, TOSCA, THE BALLAD OF BABY DOE, THE TALES OF HOFFMANN, and WERTHER. His critically acclaimed production of Richard Strauss' ARIADNE AUF NAXOS has been produced by Atlanta, Chautauqua, Virginia and Milwaukee where it was telecast on PBS from the Florentine Opera.
Jay's reputation has led to important engagements in opera companies nationwide. His San Diego Opera directing debut was WERTHER, and he was re-engaged there for production of TURANDOT, LOHENGRIN, and ANNA BOLENA. For Opera Pacific, he directed CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA and I PAGLIACCI followed by SAMSON ET DALILAH, THE MAGIC FLUTE, BRUNDIBAR (Krasa) and DER ROSENKAVALIER. Pittsburgh Opera audiences enjoyed his productions of DON GIOVANNI and THE MAGIC FLUTE. His staging of THE MAGIC FLUTE was also seen in Detroit at Michigan Opera Theatre, as was his SAMSON ET DALILAH. Jay was invited by New Orleans opera to be part of the creative team which realized the world premiere of Thea Musgrave's opera based on the life of the Baroness Di Pontalbo. The opera was commissioned as part of the commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. For New Orleans, he also directed THE BALLAD OF BABY DOE, THE MAGIC FLUTE, LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, SALOME, and DIE WALKURE. BABY DOE and WALKURE garnered Best Opera Production awards for their respective seasons. His operetta and musical theater productions include THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, THE MERRY WIDOW, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, and Meredith Willson's THE MUSIC MAN.
Recent seasons have seen productions of LUISA MILLER, THE CRUCIBLE, and LUCREZIA BORGIA for Opera Boston. In addition, Jay has produced operas at Opera Carolina, Columbus Opera, Kentucky Opera, Knoxville Opera, Mobile Opera, Opera Grand Rapids, Opera Omaha, and Orlando Opera, among others.
Jay made his European debut directing Puccini's LA BOHEME for Opera Nordfjord in Eid, Norway. He has since returned to Norway for productions of THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO and EUGENE ONEGIN.
Jay holds a Masters degree from Indiana University and Bachelors of Music & Theater degree from Hofstra University. He is a nationally recognized teacher of acting for singers and for five years was an Associate Professor of Music at the University of Michigan/Ann Arbor, where he directed the School of Music Opera Theatre. For three years, Jay was a full professor and Director of Opera at Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music where his recent production of John Corigliano and William M. Hoffman's THE GHOSTS OF VERSAILLES was performed with the composer and librettist in attendance. In the spring of 2012 at the Manhattan School of Music, Jay directed the first major New York revival of THE GHOSTS OF VERSAILLES since its Metropolitan Opera premiere. He is also a frequent adjudicator for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and other vocal competitions.