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Juggling Classes, Epics and Divas

Zimmerman carefully balances directing opera at the Met with teaching at Northwestern

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May 10, 2010 | by Wendy Leopold
Northwestern's Mary Zimmerman is at the center of activity during rehearsals of "Armida" at New York's Metropolitan Opera. Zimmerman is directing Renee Fleming and a large cast of tenors in the seldom produced Rossini opera. The opera at the Met runs through May 15. (Copyright: Chad Batka) 

EVANSTON, Ill. --- In an article titled "Juggling Essays, Epics and Divas," a New York Times reporter recently noted Mary Zimmerman's ability to balance a full-time academic career at Northwestern University with a nonstop career as a director.

Zimmerman, professor of performance studies, has been working at New York's Metropolitan Opera, where she is directing renowned soprano Renée Fleming and a star-studded cast in Rossini's seldom performed "Armida." The opera runs at the Met through May 15.

"Show business professionals tend to regard stage-struck academics with a certain distrust," but such is not the case with Tony Award-winning Zimmerman, wrote reporter Matthew Gurewitsch.

While all this is hardly news to Zimmerman's colleagues and students at Northwestern, it brought smiles to the faces of many at the School of Communication where Zimmerman teaches and has earned three degrees.

The New York Times article noted that, at 49, Zimmerman could still pass for a graduate student. "I've never not been in school," she told the reporter, adding that only two days before she had turned in her winter quarter class grades.

"Armida" is Zimmerman's third Met production to be shown internationally in the Metropolitan's HD broadcast series. In the Chicago area, opera enthusiasts and Zimmerman fans can view "Armida" in HD Wednesday, May 19, at AMC movie theatres in Chicago, Lombard, South Barrington and Warrenville. Check theatres for details.

 To view a trailer of the opera or listen to audio, visit the Metropolitan Opera site at http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/season/production.aspx?id=10450. To read the April 11 New York Times article on Zimmerman, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/arts/music/11zimmerman.html?pagewanted=all.