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School of Music

Faculty and Staff

Ellen Douglas Schlaefer

Title: Professor / Director of Opera at USC
Director of Opera Studies and Musical Theatre
School of Music
Phone: 803-777-0058

School of Music Room 309


Opera at USC
Opera for Kids



Since her appointment in 2004, Ellen Douglas Schlaefer has staged over 50 productions for Opera at USC and established the Carolina Opera Experience, a summer day camp for children. She received her BA from Davidson College and MFA (stage directing) from The Catholic University of America.

Professional directing credits include Tosca for The Dallas Opera, The Little Prince for Houston Grand Opera, Dead Man Walking for Kentucky Opera, ll Barbiere di Siviglia for Brott Opera, Hamilton, Ontario, CA, Faust for The Washington Opera (Washington National Opera); La Bohème and Don Giovanni (Lyric Opera of Kansas City); Scott Joplin and Treemonisha, The Magic Flute, Don Pasquale and La Traviata (Opera Memphis); Le Nozze di Figaro, Carmen, La Bohème (Green Mountain Opera Festival, Vt.); Le Nozze di Figaro (Opera on the James) La Bohème and Romeo et Juliette (the National Symphony Orchestra/Wolf Trap Opera; The Little Prince (Houston Grand Opera, Tulsa Opera- Zambello production); Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Aida, Salome, Norma, Il Tabarro, Romeo et Juliette, The Ballad of Baby Doe, Die Fledermaus, Tosca (The Connecticut Opera); The Magic Flute (Houston Ebony Opera); La Bohème (Michigan Opera Theatre, Opera Carolina, Connecticut Opera, Augusta Opera, Quisisana Productions); Porgy & Bess (Opera Illinois, Connecticut Opera); La Traviata (Cleveland Opera, Connecticut Opera); Rigoletto (Opera Carolina, Piedmont Opera); Madama Butterfly (Artpark & Co., Connecticut Opera, Houston Ebony Opera Guild); Lucia di Lammermoor (Orlando Opera); Fidelio (Cleveland Opera); I Pagliacci (Eugene Opera, Connecticut Opera). Other operas staged include La Dolorosa, The Face on the Barroom Floor, Luisa Fernanda, and Bastien & Bastienne (Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Tour); Amahl & the Night Visitors, Gianni Schicchi (Dayton Opera); Brundibar (Tulsa Opera); The Medium (Augusta Opera); The Telephone (Augusta Opera, Dayton Opera); Le Ville, Edgar, Martha, Linda di Chamounix, La Pietra del Paragon and The Toy Shop (Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia), L’Elisir d’amore (Shenandoah University) and Love makes the World Go Round (Opera on the James).

Additional directing projects include the dramas I Am My Own Wife, In The Next Room or the vibrator play, Doubt-a parable, The Goat or Who is Sylvia (Trustus Theatre) Master Class, Grace & Glorie, You Can't Take it With You and The Sister Rosensweig (Workshop Theatre of SC) Comedy of Errors (University of Dallas); musicals She Loves Me (Coastal Carolina University); A Chorus Line, South Pacific, Oklahoma, The Merry Widow and The King & I (Artpark, Lewiston, N.Y.) and Sweeney Todd for The Princeton Festival (Princeton, N.J.) and Workshop Theatre of SC, Most Happy Fella (Quisisana Productions, ME)

Schlaefer served as production stage manager for The Santa Fe Opera from 1987 until 2000 and for the Washington Opera 1986 to 1994. Additional stage-managing credits include productions with Opera Company of Philadelphia, San Diego Opera, Seattle Opera, Opera Omaha, Opera Pacific and the Merry Go Round Playhouse. She has been the tour manager for the Kennedy Center Imagination Festival and production stage manager for the World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail, Colo.

Early in her career, Schlaefer assisted directors Francesca Zambello, Gian Carlo Menotti, Julius Rudel, Sonja Frissell, Ann-Margret Pettersson, Ted Pappas, Michael Ehrman, Baayork Lee and Roman Terleckyj on productions with The Washington Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, Opera Colorado, Central City Opera, Charleston Symphony, The Israel Festival (Jerusalem, Israel), Teatro Comunale di Modena (Italy), Spoleto Festival (Melbourne, Australia) and New York Harlem Productions (Munich, Germany).

Schlaefer is the Founder and General Director of FBN Productions, Inc., Opera for Kids, a professional touring company established in 1994 performing operas in schools, libraries and other venues throughout the Southeast.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.