Sarah Shafer (Opera ’14) and Mikael Eliasen

A Philadelphia favorite, Curtis alumna Sarah Shafer collaborates with Mikael Eliasen, artistic director of the Curtis Opera Theatre, in an intimate song recital. Widely admired for her “intensely expressive interpretations” (New York Times) in venues from Glyndebourne to Marlboro to Carnegie Hall, this luminous lyric soprano is a sought-after artist in opera and chamber settings. Enter her special world of song and poetry—with some surprises on the side.


BARBER           Hermit Songs, Op. 29
MESSIAEN       Poèmes pour Mi
MOZART         “Bella mia fiamma,” K. 528


Sarah Shafer, soprano
Mikael Eliasen, piano

The Curtis Presents season is sponsored by Blank Rome LLP.



Praised by the New York Times for her “luminous voice” and “intensely expressive interpretations,” soprano Sarah Shafer is quickly emerging as a sought-after artist on both the operatic and concert stage. The 2017–18 season sees her debut with the Metropolitan Opera singing Azema in Semiramide, and her debuts with the Malmö and Utah symphony orchestras.

Ms. Shafer recently sang Zerlina in Don Giovanni and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte at San Francisco Opera, where she earlier created leading roles in Marco Tutino’s Two Women and Nolan Gasser’s The Secret Garden. She has appeared in major roles with Opera Philadelphia (L’elisir d’amore, Ainadamar) and Tulsa Opera (The Pearl Fishers); and as Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro with Glyndebourne Opera and at the BBC Proms. Her concert work includes appearances with the Philadelphia Orchestra; the Omaha, Nashville, and San Antonio symphony orchestras; the Lexington and Louisiana philharmonic orchestras; the New York Youth Symphony; the Sejong Soloists; the Voices of Ascension; and the New York Choral Society.

An avid recitalist and chamber musician, Ms. Shafer enjoys an active collaboration with legendary pianist Richard Goode, including performances at Carnegie Hall and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. She was a resident artist at the Marlboro Music Festival for five summers, working with Richard Goode, Mitsuko Uchida, Benita Valente, Sir Thomas Allen, and Martin Isepp

Ms. Shafer holds degrees in voice and opera from the Curtis Institute of Music, where her credits for Curtis Opera Theatre include over 20 roles, including Pamina (Die Zauberflöte), Almirena (Rinaldo), Giulietta (I Capuleti e i Montecchi), Elizabeth Zimmer (Elegy for Young Lovers), Ilia (Idomeneo), Rosina (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Sofia (Il signor Bruschino), Mélisande (Impressions of Pelléas), and Sister Constance (Dialogues of the Carmelites).

Danish-born coach and accompanist Mikael Eliasen received his early training in Copenhagen, Montreal, and Vienna. He has collaborated with numerous singers in recital worldwide, including Robert Merrill, Tom Krause, John Shirley-Quirk, Elly Ameling, Edith Mathis, Florence Quivar, Mira Zakai, Sarah Walker, Joan Patenaude-Yarnell, and Curtis alumni Theodor Uppman, Michael Schade, and Rinat Shaham.

Mr. Eliasen has given master classes at Aix-en-Provence, the Shanghai Conservatory, Tchaikovsky Conservatory (Moscow), Jerusalem Music Center, and National Opera of Prague. He has a long association with the young-artist programs at the Royal Danish Opera and the Opera Studio of Amsterdam. In the United States, he works regularly at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, LA Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera; and is artistic advisor to Opera Philadelphia. He has recorded for Albany Records, CBC, Hilversum Radio, Polish State Radio, Kol Israel, Irish Radio and Television, London Records, MHS, and Supraphon.

Mr. Eliasen was music director of the San Francisco Opera Center from 1994 to 1996 and artistic director of the European Center for Opera and Vocal Art in Belgium from 1984 to 1994. For twenty summers he has taught at the Chautauqua Institution. In 2013 he was appointed artistic adviser to Opera Philadelphia. Each summer he leads the Mikael Eliasen Voice Program as part of Curtis Summerfest.

Mr. Eliasen joined the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music in 1986 and became the head of the department in 1988.


Sarah Shafer Through the Years

Sarah Shafer entered Curtis in 2006, graduating with a voice degree in 2010, and a master's degree in opera in 2014. During that time, Sarah appeared in over a dozen productions with Curtis Opera Theatre. In celebration of her upcoming return to Curtis for our Curtis Presents series, take a look back at some of Sarah's roles over the years.


The Audition

In her first season at Curtis, Sarah took part in The Audition, a collection of arias and scenes presented as an opera company’s casting call. Staged in Curtis’s “black box” opera studio, The Audition depicted an experience that was fresh in the memory of many of the students participating.



Ainadamar, or Fountain of Tears, presented in 2007 in collaboration with Opera Philadelphia and the Kimmel Center, continued a Curtis Opera tradition of producing new works; Osvaldo Golijov’s opera had premiered just four years earlier. Like all Curtis Opera Theatre students, Sarah sang in the chorus, as here, when not cast in lead or supporting roles.


Impressions of Pelléas

Nearly a decade before this season’s production of Pelléas, Sarah took her turn as the mysterious Mélisande—the role demands subtle acting in addition to beautiful singing, as Mélisande’s true intentions are hidden from the other characters, and even from the audience.


The Barber of Seville

In Spring 2010, Sarah starred as the young heroine Rosina in The Barber of Seville, the masterpiece of comic opera. Here, she listens from the balcony as the poor student Lindoro (later revealed to be a nobleman in disguise) attempts to win her over with a serenade.


Il Signor Bruschino

Fall 2010 saw the Curtis Opera Theatre presenting another Rossini comedy, Il Signor Bruschino. Sarah sang the role of Sofia, a young woman whose guardian, Gaudenzio (Brandon Cedel), has promised her hand in marriage to a friend. Sofia would prefer to marry her lover Florville, though, and after a series of comedic capers, Sofia and Florville convince their friends and family to support their marriage.


Elegy for Young Lovers

Henze’s eerie drama Elegy for Young Lovers centers on a self-indulgent poet who manipulates the people around him to provide inspiration for his work. When his muse Elizabeth (Sarah Shafer) becomes smitten with a young traveler (Joshua Stewart), the poet allows the two lovers to leave the remote mountain inn where they reside—omitting to warn them of the approach of a deadly snowstorm.


I Capuleti e i Montecchi

The star-crossed lovers of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi draw inspiration from the same Italian tale that inspired Shakespeare’s masterpiece Romeo and Juliet. While there are some notable differences between the play and the opera, the plight of Sarah’s Giulietta and Nian Wang’s Romeo follows the familiar, tragic course of the famous love story.


Curtis Symphony Orchestra

Reprising a familiar theme, Sarah joined the Curtis Symphony Orchestra as soloist in fall 2012—Sarah returned to the role of Juliet, while tenor Christopher Tiesi sang Romeo in a concert presentation of the duet from Tchaikovsky’s unfinished version of the tragic tale.



Handel’s Rinaldo takes the form of an epic tale about the First Crusade: In an effort to defeat the Crusader hero Rinaldo, the antagonizing Saracens kidnap his lover Almirena. Here, Sarah sings Almirena’s most famous aria, "Lascia ch'io pianga," (“Let me cry”) as she hopes for Rinaldo to rescue her from captivity.


Dialogues of the Carmelites

In 2014, Sarah’s final role as a Curtis student came in Poulenc’s tragedy, Dialogues of the Carmelites. Sarah played the role of Sister Constance (left), a young novice who befriends a newcomer to the monastery, Sister Blanche (Rachel Sterrenberg) amidst the upheaval and violence of the French Revolution.