Over three decades at Curtis, Mikael Eliasen has built an unparalleled training program for vocal artists. Coming to Curtis in 1986 as a vocal coach, he took charge of the vocal studies department in 1988 and immediately set the Curtis Opera Theatre at the center of the curriculum. The program’s wealth of performance opportunities and unique characteristics have had a lasting influence on the careers of 30 years’ worth of graduates, who now sing on prominent stages around the world. In the words of Curtis president Roberto Roberto Díaz, "We cannot thank Mikael enough for everything that he has done here, and for the legacy that he leaves behind."
On May 5, Mikael performed alongside colleagues, friends, and former students in Field Concert Hall in a celebration of his tenure at Curtis. Registration for this recital has passed.
Read more about Mikael's impact on his many students and colleagues in Overtones, and explore additional tributes and photos from his time at Curtis below.
Over thirty years, Mr. Eliasen oversaw around 100 productions—explore photos from some of his most memorable and meaningful productions.
Each year, Curtis Opera Theatre is included among our Season Selections, highlighting notable performances from the previous season. Enjoy selections from 2018's Mahagonny/Medium and 2017's Doctor Atomic.
Hear Mikael perform alongside students and faculty on the Student Recital Series.
It’s a bit difficult to put into words all that Mikael has meant to me. I guess the big thing is that he understood me. I came into the audition, and he saw past my inexperience, my long frumpy skirt, and my bad Italian to the musical soul inside, itching to have the tools and opportunities to match my intentions. It is very special to be one of the people that Mikael took a risk on, and to be a product of this amazing school where Mikael ensured that all the tools and opportunities were handed to me with trust and expectation of success. He chose roles for me which I often thought at the time were either too little or too big, too easy or too hard, but now looking back were exactly the right roles at the right time. I learned to trust him implicitly—his repertoire suggestions were not only based on my voice, but on my personality, on my strengths, and sometimes to create a new strength from a weakness. He ran his program like a professional opera company, which gave me experience unlike any other school in the world, and prepared all Curtis voice and opera students better than anywhere else. Mikael’s program showed me the work of being a singer: coaching daily, working with directors, conductors, honing my languages, learning the skill of auditioning, singing weekly for him and my fellow students, truly learning by DOING. Mikael has many gifts, and is a profound musician himself. I have gained so much by working with him and talking with him over the course of the twelve years I have known him. But I will always be most grateful for his ears and imagination which were wide open for potential and artistry. He has been a gift in my life, and has changed the course of it completely. Thank you, Mikael, for all you have done for Curtis, and for me.
I found not only my voice but my passion through the stellar guidance of Mikael Eliasen and the Curtis opera department. His love and dedication to the art of singing was distilled into the singers at Curtis. Mikael created a program where we could truly find what was unique about our talents and how to fine tune those talents with many opportunities to sing leading roles in world-class productions with an incredible orchestral accompaniment. The opera department was staffed by world-class musicians and directors creating an atmosphere that was truly inspiring. We are all forever indebted to our experience at Curtis and feel blessed to have been part of Mikael Eliasen‘s dream.
I count myself incredibly fortunate to have had Mikael as my vocal coach for four years at Curtis, right from my first weeks as a voice undergrad. Mikael worked with you and related to you as an “adult”—as a musician and as a colleague. He did not only share his ideas: he knew how to empower you to explore your own way to express your thoughts and feelings, channelled through the particular vocal genre involved. He provided countless singers with “their own voice” and his approach continues to shape my own teaching. Thank you so much, Mikael!!
All musicians of Mikael's caliber are expected to have a great ear, but precious few share his vision. His creativity, talent, and confident artistic leadership are in plain sight to all who cross his path--but his own eye is a subtler and more rarified gift, and under it countless young artists have closed that elusive and agonizing gap between who they are as singers and who they are, at all. Mikael's insight—and his patience to let others discover it in their own way—is something to which all musicians, all educators, all people should aspire. I am deeply grateful to have witnessed his vision and generosity, and to have been on the receiving end of it as a musician and as a friend.
More stories, tributes, and photos of Mr. Eliasen’s friends, colleagues, and students are in the latest edition of Overtones.
Make a tribute gift
Consider making a gift in honor of Mikael Eliasen’s three decades at Curtis. Your gift will support the next generation of musicians and vocal performers.