Likely last opera for Dana School of Music

Yun (left) and Walker (right) are preparing for the opera. Photo by Gunnhildur Baldursdottir / The Jambar

By Gunnhildur Baldursdottir / The Jambar

Dana School of Music’s upcoming spring opera, “Little Women,” might be its last performance at Youngstown State University, as its program director has accepted Voluntary Separation and Retirement Packages and is leaving YSU after this semester.

Misook Yun has been a voice and opera professor at Dana for 25 years, and she took over the opera program in 2015. While she is soon starting a new chapter to focus on other personal projects, Yun said she expected to teach for at least five more years at YSU.

“At first, I wasn’t sure whether I would be taking that buyout or not. I decided that — ‘what if this is my last day, my last month or my last semester? What if this is my last chance to be with my students?’ I want to be proud, and I want [the students] to know there’s no limit to what they can do because we have quite talented students,” Yun said.

The university announced in January it would sunset six degrees and possibly cut retrench 13 faculty members. However, no faculty cuts were made as 12 faculty members accepted VSRPs and would be compensated 80% of their salary as severance for the following year. 

Erika Walker, a vocal performance graduate student, plays the character Josephine in “Little Women.” Walker said she believes the opera program might not continue without Yun.

“We’ll still do opera scenes, but it will not be anything of this scale, maybe ever again,” Walker said. “That makes this opera more important, and it makes us all really motivated to do a great job thinking that it may be the last one that Dana School of Music will do. But it’s also sort of heartbreaking to think that this may not continue.”

This will be the first time in years the Dana School of Music performs an opera in Ford Theater of Bliss Hall and collaborates with an orchestra. “Little Women” will showcase 33 student performers and take place at 7:30 p.m on April 26. and 2 p.m. on April 28.

The opera, written by American composer Mark Adamo, is an adaptation of the novel “Little Women,” which was written in 1868 by Luisa May Alcott. It follows the coming of age story of the four March sisters — Margaret, Josephine, Elizabeth and Amy.

Yun said what inspired the choice of “Little Women” was the high number of female students in the program and its opportunities of featuring a wide variety of voices.

“Most importantly we had to think about who we could feature. We thought Erica Walker would be perfect to perform Jo, and she kind of leads the whole opera, and with her, so many wonderful sopranos are featured,” Yun said. “Even though it’s quite challenging, it’s a good opera for us.”

Susan Foster, a part-time voice instructor and the opera’s stage director, said the audience can expect an emotional experience and beautiful music.

“Anyone who has ever read the book ‘Little Women’ knows about the story they know about the four sisters,” Foster said. “But this composer really focused on the conflict of change, and how time passes and things change. I think everyone can recognize something of themselves in this opera.”

Walker said the preparation for the show was extensive for students.

“All of us work very hard. We have rehearsal for roughly 12 hours a week,” Walker said. “We’ve been working on this since January. So, quite a lot of hours have been put into this by everyone — not to mention all the work that’s done outside of just class time.”

“Little Women” is the second opera Foster has directed. She said this piece is more complex because of the large cast and multiple story locations.

“Some of [the scenes] are in the United States like New York, but others in Paris or London. So, trying to set up all those locations all on one stage was challenging. We had to be really creative with the stage and how we were going to make all those things look separate, but all in one piece,” Foster said.

Tickets for “Little Women” are free for students with a YSU ID and $15 for non students. They can be purchased on

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