Proving Up

Proving Up

Missy Mazzoli, Composer
Royce Vavrek, librettist

University Opera Theatre & University Symphony Orchestra

Premieres Wednesday, December 16 at 8:00 PM EST

Recorded in November 2020 | Power Center for the Performing Arts

Proving Up program

Based on the short story by Karen Russell, Proving Up is an intimate and haunting look at the perils of the American Dream. Set in Nebraska in the 1870s at the height of the push west, a family of homesteaders struggles to meet the daunting requirements of the Homestead Act as they try “proving up” on their land claim. This atmospheric new chamber opera from composer Missy Mazzoli features a sparse cast and orchestra, and was selected as one of The New York Times’ Best Classical Music of 2018 selections.

Proving Up was originally co-commissioned by Washington National Opera, Opera Omaha, and Miller Theatre at Columbia University. It premiered on January 18, 2018 at the American Opera Initiative Festival under the direction of Alison Mortiz, performed by the Washington National Opera.

This performance was filmed live in the Power Center over two nights in November, with all performers adhering to University of Michigan COVID-19 safety guidelines–including masks for the vocalists. Proving Up will premiere on the SMTD YouTube channel on Wednesday, December 16 at 8:00 PM, where it will be available for a one-month run. Proving Up is sung in English with an approximate run time of 80 minutes.


Miles Zegner: Diego Roberts Buceta
Mr. Johannes “Pa” Zegner: Jacob Surzyn
Mrs. Johannes “Ma” Zegner: Taylor Adams
Zegner Daughter, Little: Hailey Cohen
Zegner Daughter, Taller: Aria Minasian
The Sodbuster: Paul Leland Hill
Peter Zegner/The Sodbuster COVER: Timothy Zajdela
Miles Zegner COVER: Tyrese Byrd
Mrs. Johannes “Ma” Zegner COVER: Anna Hart

Music Performers

University Symphony Orchestra
Flute: Jordan Smith
Clarinet: Nathan Rodriquez
Bassoon: Bryce Richardson
Horn: Sam Himes
Trumpet: Keenan Bakowski
Percussion: Reed Puleo
Harp: Beth Henson
Piano/Harpsichord: Chao Gao
Violin 1: Isabella Amador
Violin 2: Allison Taylor
Viola: Stuart Carlson
Cello: Katsuaki Arakawa
Double Bass: Colin Taber

Artistic Staff

Director: Abbigail Coté , UM Faculty
Maestro: Kirk Severtson, UM Faculty
Asst. Conductor: Tal Benatar
Asst. Director: Amelia Baumann
Diction: Timothy Cheek, UM Faculty
Musical Coaches: Chao Gao, Natalie Sherer
Scenic Designer: Henry Pedersen
Scenic Design Advisor: Kevin Judge, UM Faculty
Lighting Designer: Harrison Hoffert
Lighting Design Advisor: Rob Murphy, UM Faculty
Costumer Designer: Peri Macinic
Costume Design Advisor: Christianne Myers, UM Faculty
Sound Designer: Roger Arnett, UM Staff
Sound Design Advisor: Henry Reynolds, UM Faculty
Production Stage Manager: Alexandra Wolfthal
Stage Management Advisor: Nancy Uffner, UM Faculty

Video Production

Jamison Eisele, Sly Pup Production
David Newton, Sly Pup Production
Presented with Permission.