PRESS

 

ON THE MEROLA GRAND FINALE:

The program was staged with particular ingenuity by apprentice stage director Jennifer Williams, who in addition to a number of imaginative individual strokes — staging on Berlioz solo, for instance, as an old-time radio broadcast — hit upon the nice idea of bleeding one scene into the next to give the evening extra fluidity.
— Joshua Kosman / SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
 

ON AINADAMAR:

Director Jennifer Williams’ production smoothly segued between Xirgu’s dressing room, the performance of the play on stage, and flashbacks to Spain and Cuba. Against Alyiece Moretto’s unit set, Steven Covey’s projections of Picasso-like suggestions of suffering, the ravages of war and Xirgu and Lorca on and off stage were strikingly effective. Julia LaVault’s subtle lighting underscored moments of drama and joy. Patricia Hibbert’s costumes captured the theatrical ambience in varied tones and the war in bleak hues. In a striking climax to Williams’ pitch perfect staging, Nuria assumes the role of Pineda as Xirgu joins Lorca in death.
— Lawrence Budmen / SOUTH FLORIDA CLASSICAL REVIEW
A mesmerizing performance ... Not a moment was wasted in this production of Ainadamar. Director Jennifer Williams’ seamless transitions and fluid imagery beautifully paired with the sonic world of a musical composition combining electronic sounds and orchestra. Williams’ staging celebrated the fractal nature of the score, matching every angle with visceral meaning.
— Sarah Hutchings / THE MUSICAL TIMES
 

ON DARK SISTERS:

Williams’ spare staging cut to the heart of the drama, keeping the emphasis on Eliza’s dilemma and the wives’ faith.
— Lawrence Budmen / SOUTH FLORIDA CLASSICAL REVIEW
 

ON SUMEIDA’S SONG:

A revealing, complex depiction.
— Elizabeth Bloom / PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE
 
A strong production ... remarkable.
— Mark Kanny / PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
 

ON 27:

An imaginative staging ... delivered with verve and strong dramatic sensibility, and persuasive acting.
— Elizabeth Bloom / PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE
 
A winning new production.
— Mark Kanny / PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
 

ON A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM:

An audacious production ... Director Jennifer Williams has transferred Shakespeare’s romp in the woods to a post-apocalyptic landscape strewn with discarded remnants of the former civilization. Television monitors and Yee Eun Nam’s backdrop projection display the trees, flowers and global views that once were part of the milieu. In the tradition of Peter Brook’s famous Royal Shakespeare production of Shakespeare’s play, the singers playing mortals wear modern dress ... Williams’ vision shapes the many characters’ personalities with a distinctive touch and a sure sense of theatricality.
— Lawrence Budmen / SOUTH FLORIDA CLASSICAL REVIEW
 

ON LES CONTES D’HOFFMANN:

Jennifer Williams’ consistently imaginative production made a virtue of the theater’s small stage with characters entering through openings in the set ... Patricia Hibbert’s handsome and multihued costumes and Yuki Izumihara’s clever unit set were enhanced by Yee Eun Nam’s projections of Spalanzani’s machines, Hoffmann’s stolen image and Miracle’s sinister medical positions in the manner of a horror movie. The entire staging was imaginative, thoughtfully conceived and greatly entertaining.
— Lawrence Budmen / SOUTH FLORIDA CLASSICAL REVIEW
 
Extraordinariamente hermosa, con un gran despliegue de creatividad ... Pero sin duda, la clave para el éxito de esta producción tan bien estructurada fue la dirección escénica de Jennifer Williams. Sin duda una producción muy competitiva dentro su nivel de limitados recursos y que bien se mereció la larga ovación de pie.”

”Extraordinarily beautiful, with a great display of creativity ... Without a doubt, the key to success of this production was the stage direction of Jennifer Williams ... Undoubtedly a very competitive production within its limited resources and well deserved its standing ovation.
— Daniel Fernández / EL NUEVO HERALD
 

ON LA BOHÈME:

The youthful cast of Miami Music Festival’s production brought enthusiasm and dramatic aplomb to director Jennifer Williams’ inventive staging ... Williams’ imaginative production made an asset of the low-budget, bare bones sets ... The Bohemians’ horseplay exuded a real sense of fun. Mimì’s death was given grandly tragic dimension on the darkened stage.
— Lawrence Budmen / SOUTH FLORIDA CLASSICAL REVIEW
 
Billed as ‘a great introduction to new opera-goers,’ MMF’s staging of the accessible and emotionally driven drama is exactly that, having been given a modern twist ... The energetic direction of director Jennifer Williams occasionally left me reminded of Baz Luhrmann and the 1996 film ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ in that they are both hugely successful adaptations of a timeless masterpiece ... The cast, fresh-faced and youthful, was stupendous, creating a chemistry and cohesive atmosphere seen in those who have truly been friends for years, but is rarely seen onstage.
— Erin Dahlgren / EDGE MEDIA NETWORK
 

ON THE ST. MATTHEW PASSION:

The stage action was ingeniously interwoven with the music to give the Passion contemporary resonance.”

”The production gave the music a powerful new dimension .... The three-hour production flew by.”

”Extremely powerful, Brilliant, Monumental.
— Mary Ellyn Hutton / MUSIC IN CINCINNATI
 

ON VENUS + ADONIS:

The joyful aspect was largely created by Director Jennifer Williams’ favoring of frolic and fun. We had a wide smile throughout and were hit by a wave of sadness at the tragic ending ... The simple story has been decked out with some very amusing scenes, the best of which involves Cupid giving lessons on love to his students in a classroom setting. We don’t always enjoy the current trend for gilding Baroque operas with such fancies but in this case it worked extraordinarily well and we now consider ourself a fan of Ms. Williams.
— Meche Kroop / VOCE DI MECHE
 

ON BACKWARDS FROM WINTER:

All the parts that make up opera are unified on stage to create an enormously satisfying theatrical experience. Monodrama may mean one voice, and Backwards from Winter spoke as one.
— Susan Hall / BERKSHIRE FINE ARTS
 

ON ARIADNE AUF NAXOS:

The desire to liberate opera from their traditional settings can yield powerful and intriguing new productions from which we experience the music, story, and characters, perhaps even our world with refreshed clarity ... Austin Opera’s presentation of the Richard Strauss classic Ariadne auf Naxos is the latest ... Meticulously staged by Jennifer Williams.
— Robi Polgar / AUSTIN CHRONICLE
 

ON THE TURN OF THE SCREW:

Molding the way opera is experienced by taking every element of the production to the next level.
— MODERN SINGER MAGAZINE
 

ON COSÌ FAN TUTTE:

An admirable and ambitious production. Director Jennifer Williams is finding fresh ways to deliver opera, which the audience clearly loved.
— Susan Galbraith / DC THEATRE SCENE
 

ON UNE BELLE SOIRÉE:

Incredibly talented ... a funny and whimsical show.
— Natalie Bencivenga / PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE
 

ON AS TIME GOES BY:

As bubbly as champagne ... It’ll have folks talking for a long, long time.
— Jean Horne / PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
 

IN THE NEWS

 

BETH MORRISON PROJECTS: NEXT GENERATION STARS EMMA O'HALLORAN, MICHAEL LANCI, AND JENNIFER WILLIAMS

Even when the story and music are new, audiences often bring certain expectations and associations with opera more generally – and a world premiere can be an opportunity to upend those expectations. The power of new work is in its immediacy, and in directing a world premiere I want to find ways to harness that immediacy so that it resonates at every level of the performance. This often means looking to alternative modes of storytelling to find the expressive vocabulary that best serves the story. Immersive theater, site-specific performance, video design, Viewpoints, and circus are all techniques I have used in my past work. While the performance history of a new work begins with its premiere, a new work is still part of the fabric of performance history more broadly and allows both artists and audiences to enter an ongoing conversation about music theater’s history and to draw connections between different musical and dramatic traditions.
— OPERA SENSE / Feb. 2019

NEW CAMERATA OPERA PRESENTS HOLST'S SĀVITRI AND BLOW'S VENUS AND ADONIS

Though the operas reflect different historical moments and geographies,” adds director Jennifer Williams, “the themes of the fragility of life and the resilience of love tie them together. The stories are photonegatives of each other: Venus and Adonis reveals life to be a fragile artifice, and Sāvitri reveals death to be an illusion.” Williams plans to evoke these themes in an immersive production. Venus and Adonis will be performed as “modern-day court entertainment, where we see all the mechanics of theater, through a Baroque-meets-MTV lens.” Sāvitri poses some unique challenges in that Holst created his own adaptation of the episode from the Mahabharata. “It’s a very problematic approach to storytelling — which means we need to be thoughtful about how we engage with the adaptation and bring the story to life onstage. I want to make this story inclusive.
— BROADWAY WORLD / Oct 2018

Q & A: DIRECTOR JENNIFER WILLIAMS ON HER UNIQUE STYLE & THE FUTURE OF OPERA

In terms of bringing in new audiences, it’s critical now to shift the conversation away from making opera accessible towards making opera inclusive. Making an opera production “accessible” implies that new audience members lack the ability to grasp the story without a director simplifying it for them, and this is the very attitude that pushes potential audience members away. To my mind, an inclusive production is one that reflects and engages with the diverse perspectives present in our world. Such as better representation in casting and storytelling as well as meaningful engagement with global politics and cultural conversations. I want every person in the audience to feel connected with the characters and see a piece of themselves in the story being told. A director’s job is to distill drama to its most dynamic conflict, put the story in conversation with our world and leave the audience asking questions they were not asking before. That is the transformative power of opera: the possible encounters the impossible, challenging our assumptions about what our reality could be like. That is the gateway to change – empathy and imagination.
— OPERAWIRE / July 2018

TALKING WITH DIRECTORS: JENNIFER WILLIAMS

I am a storyteller who puts opera in conversation with our contemporary world. When I am preparing a new production, I begin with the questions: why this story; why now? My concept focuses in on a central conflict that resonates with our world today – abuses of power, gender politics, class conflict, for example. These conflicts are very much at the center of both new works and the standard repertoire; to my mind, it is a director’s job to illuminate them and start a conversation about them. In addition to that, what makes a story compelling is empathy. For a moment, an audience can experience the world through another’s eyes and experience emotions different from their own. Opera offers a uniquely intense experience of empathy because it allows an audience to connect with characters on many levels – experiencing the music, text and visual world all at once gives us access to many layers of meaning as well as an unparalleled depth of emotional experience. And in our modern world, empathy is becoming an increasingly revolutionary act.
— SCHMOPERA / June 2018

NEW WORK BY CCM PROFESSOR DOUGLAS KNEHANS PREMIERES AT NEW YORK OPERA FEST

Director Jennifer Williams says she brings a feminist perspective and an interest in new technology to the productions she directs. When she first came to opera, she didn’t like how women were nearly always victims, so she works to dig deeper into the music and underlying story elements to present women as empowered and in control of their own destinies.
— CCM VILLAGE NEWS / May 2018


DIRECTOR JENNIFER WILLIAMS ON BACKWARDS FROM WINTER, TECHNOLOGY IN OPERA, AND HER LOVE OF THE ART FORM

At first glance, the conflict is between the unnamed woman, who is the main character of the opera, and her lost spouse. I started digging deeper and took the world premiere production in a different direction. While the relationship is an important part of the story, it is her story – and the conflict is between this woman and her grief. Her own grief is her adversary, and I wanted to see her wrestle with it, try to excise it, come to terms with it onstage. In Douglas Knehans’ score, the electric cellist repeats fragments of her text the interludes, which follow each season like an echo, or like its shadow. It’s fascinating, beautiful and surreal. I see the electric cellist less as the literal embodiment of her deceased spouse and rather as the voice of her grief. I wanted to put the female lead and this central conflict between her and her grief at the forefront by bringing the audience into the world of her memory – in an immersive way.
— OPERA SENSE / Apr 2018

FULBRIGHTERS IN THE OPERATIC ARTS REIMAGINE THE GENRE FOR MODERN TIMES

The experience of working in the international scene enabled me to understand differences. I’m a better collaborator and a better colleague. In addition, it also pushed the boundaries of my imagination, as being in a place where opera is part of the zeitgeist, part of the language, and part of the culture helped me understand that art is truly a conversation.
— FULBRIGHT FOUNDATION / Feb 2018

DC PUBLIC OPERA: RECREATING THE OPERATIC EXPERIENCE

DC Public Opera is molding the way opera is experienced by taking every element of their production to the next level ... In addition to the site-specific aspect and updating the story to reflect our contemporary world, in each of these productions we explored the role of the audience in the story and how to include them in each scene. Immersive opera means the audience is completely integrated into the world of the opera. I collaborate with the artists in our design and rehearsal process to make the most immediate experience of opera possible.
— MODERN SINGER MAGAZINE / Jan 2017

DC PUBLIC OPERA'S THE TURN OF THE SCREW BRINGS GHOST STORIES TO LIFE

The intimacy of the space and the immersive approach allow for an immediate — and sometimes inescapable — experience of the story. The characters are only inches away from the audience — seated within them, appearing behind them and from unexpected corners. The Governess confides in the audience and brings them into her story. We can explore the ambiguity essential to Henry James’s story three-dimensionally in a way even the most intimate traditional theater cannot.
— OPERAROX! / Jan 2017

VOICE OF THE ARTS: STAGE DIRECTOR JENNIFER WILLIAMS TALKS TO WQED-FM'S JIM CUNNINGHAM ABOUT PITTSBURGH OPERA'S PRODUCTION OF 27

My design team and I were very interested in the idea of Gertrude Stein’s salon as a space that is a confluence of all of these artistic voices. It has been said that artists came to Gertrude Stein’s salon not merely to find themselves but to reinvent themselves as artists.
— VOICE OF THE ARTS - WQED-FM / Mar 2016

UP-AND-COMING STARS OF OPERA AT S.F. MEROLA

As for the future of opera, apprentice stage director Jennifer Williams says, ‘This is a very resilient art form.’
— THE EXAMINER / Aug 2012

A STAGED BACH'S PASSION AT ST. PETER IN CHAINS

I’ve tried to take a page from Bach’s book to make the story relevant and immediate for our audience ... Bach was really writing for a German-speaking audience that was wrestling with the relationship between individual faith and religious institutions. And I think that’s just as much a relevant concern for Cincinnati audiences in 2011.
— CINCINNATI ENQUIRER / Nov 2011