Michael Ching (born September 29, 1958) is an American composer, conductor, and music administrator. A prolific and eclectic composer, he is best known nationally as the composer of innovative operas, including his a cappella adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (2011). His other major operas include Buoso's Ghost (1996), Corps of Discovery (2003), Slaying the Dragon (2012), Speed Dating Tonight! (2013), and Alice Ryley (2015). He has written the librettos of many of his own operas, and has done so for all of his operas composed after 2012.
He is on the board of directors of the National Opera Association.
Michael Ching was born in 1958 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Before he was one year old his family left Honolulu, and he grew up in New Orleans and Saint Paul, Minnesota. His father was an accomplished amateur pianist and a college professor in theater and speech. Ching later recalled, "He played everything from Chopin to Dave Brubeck transcriptions. He wanted to go into music but his family discouraged him."
Ching started piano at the age of six and was quite skilled at it, at one point considering a career as a concert pianist. In addition, he studied flute, violin, and oboe, mostly for the sake of composition. He started composing as a child, and by the time he reached high school he had studied composition at Interlochen and also had private composition instruction.
He attended Duke University on a composition scholarship, studying with Robert Ward and Iain Hamilton. He graduated in 1980, and his senior project was a one-act opera retelling a vampire story set in New Orleans, which received a small performance at Duke.
Ching began his career as a National Opera Institute apprentice 1980–1981 at the Houston Grand Opera Studio, where he was involved in the company's productions and continued his composition studies with composer Carlisle Floyd. From 1981 to 1985 he held increasingly responsible positions at the Greater Miami Opera/Florida Grand Opera. He subsequently held conductor and executive director positions at venues including Texas Opera Theatre, Chautauqua Opera, and Triangle Music Theater.
In 1989 he was appointed Assistant to the General Director of Virginia Opera. He was subsequently the company's Associate Artistic Director from 1991 through mid-1992.
In 1992 Ching joined Opera Memphis as Artistic Director, a position he held through 2010. He was the opera's General Director for most of those years as well.
He left Opera Memphis for Iowa in the spring of 2010 when his wife Barbara, a university professor and a native Iowan, was named chair of the English department at Iowa State University. He told the Memphis Daily News, "Barbara and I always had a plan that I would be able to stay home and write and she would be the one carrying the economic ball. The time was right and the job came through."
In addition to being a freelance composer and conductor, Ching is also Chairman of the Douglas Moore Fund for American Opera, which supports emerging opera creators. He was Music Director of Nickel City Opera in Buffalo, New York, from 2012 to 2017, and he has been Music Director of Amarillo Opera in Amarillo, Texas, since September 2016.
In 2019 he was elected to the board of directors of the National
== Names which are links in this box and below
refer to my interviews elsewhere on my website. BD
Richard Wargo has been heralded
by The Philadelphia Enquirer as "A fresh new voice in American opera"
and by Opera News as "a born opera composer." He has been granted
residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative
Arts, and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in County Monaghan in Ireland, where
he worked on Ballymore, his adaptation of the play Lovers
by the Irish playwright Brian Friel.
Bohmler’s works have been performed by the Silicon Valley Symphony, California Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic, Billings Symphony, Utah Festival Opera Orchestra, and International Symphony; by European orchestras including the Milan Symphony, Orchestra Haydn, Belgian Radio Symphony, and Danish Radio Symphony; and at major music festivals, including the Aspen Music Festival, Banff Centre for the Arts, SUMUTE in Finland and Opera in the Alps in Australia.
Bohmler’s long-standing relationship with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra has yielded a harp concerto, concerti for harpsichord and strings called Pentimento and Chiaroscuro, and Saints and Sinners for orchestra, mezzo and baritone, written for Robert Orth. Bohmler’s collaboration with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra has also fostered his work as a pianist; he recorded the world premiere of Michael Ching’s Piano Concerto, written for him, for the orchestra’s first commercial album.
Other recent projects include The Haunting of Winchester, a new musical to open the San Jose Repertory Theatre’s 25th anniversary season; The Quiltmaker’s Gift, commissioned by the Phoenix Theatre and now enjoying its 25th production; and Sacagawea, a musical based on the Lewis and Clark story and supported by a National Endowment for the Arts grant.
Bohmler’s musical Enter the Guardsman won the grand prize in the International Musical of the Year competition in Denmark and was nominated for Best Musical at the Olivier Awards for its Sam Mendez production in London’s West End. Also produced off-Broadway,Guardsman was recognized by American Theatre Magazine as the Most Produced New Musical in regional theaters in the 2001/02 season.
His Gunmetal Blues was produced off-Broadway and in London, in addition to over 200 productions in the United States, Canada, and Japan, including the Laguna Playhouse, which released a commercial recording. Other music for the stage includes incidental music for four Shakespeare productions at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada, and a pantomime, Gretel and Hansel, for Shakespeare Santa Cruz.
His large-scale musical Mountain Days premiered at the Concord Pavilion with the California Symphony, where it has been recorded and has received six subsequent productions as an annual summer event. Other operas include The Tale of the Nutcracker, commissioned by Opera San Jose, and The Achilles Heel, which was commissioned by Houston Grand Opera for the Houston Grand Opera Studio and won first prize in the 1995 National Opera Association Competition.
Other prizes include awards from ASCAP, Dramatist Guild, and BMI, and grants from Meet the Composer and the National Endowment for the Arts. His works are published by Theatrical Rights Worldwide, Samuel French, Dramatic Publishing, and Santa Barbara Music Publishing, and have been recorded by Centaur, Original Cast, BMS, and Navona Records.
© 2000 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded in Chicago on March 31, 2000. Portions were broadcast on WNIB five days later. This transcription was made in 2023, and posted on this website at that time. My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here. To read my thoughts on editing these interviews for print, as well as a few other interesting observations, click here.
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Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.