Baritone / Director / Administrator  Philip  Kraus

Two Conversations with Bruce Duffie


Philip Kraus (born November 17, 1950) is an American operatic baritone and stage director known for his performances with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, starting in 1991, and for his co-founding of Light Opera Works, a professional light opera company in Chicago, in 1980.

Kraus was born in New York City where he received early musical training. As a child, he developed a keen interest in the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. In addition to singing, he also composed music and conducted choirs.

Kraus studied music education at Northwestern University and eventually earned a Doctor of Music in Applied Voice from that institution in 1986. He studied voice with tenor Walter Carringer, choral music with Margaret Hillis, and opera with Robert Gay, a disciple of Boris Goldovsky. He participated in the 1974 American premiere of Sir Michael Tippett's The Knot Garden at Northwestern, singing the role of Mangus.

==  A more detailed biography of Kraus [from his website] can be found at the bottom of this webpage.  
==  Photos of Kraus on this webpage also come from the artist's website.  
==  Names which are links in this box and below refer to my interviews elsewhere on my website.  BD  


Full disclosure, Philip Kraus and I have been friends for many years.  We first met in the early 1970s at Northwestern University, when we were pursuing graduate degrees.  We stayed in touch as we ventured out into the world, and as his company, Light Opera Works, was gaining traction, it pleased me to be able to promote their performances on WNIB, Classical 97.

During the many years of his career, he stayed mostly in and around Chicago, running his company, and giving performances with several other opera groups and orchestras, including Lyric Opera and the Chicago Symphony.

We got together for interviews twice.  First in mid-June of 1990, and again almost exactly five years later.  Portions were aired, and now, in 2024, I am happy to present both conversations in full.

Bruce Duffie:   This is the tenth anniversary season for Light Opera Works, and I’m talking with Philip Kraus who started the whole thing back in 1980, with your first performances in 1981.  [The full repertoire from the Kraus
years with the company is shown at right.]  Why did you start Light Opera Works?

Philip Kraus:   We did light opera at Northwestern University.  The managing director and I both were students there, and we were involved in a group called the Northwestern Gilbert & Sullivan Guild, which I am sorry to say I don’t think exists anymore, which is a sad commentary.  But we seemed to be very successful at it.  I’d staged two shows, and was in several other Gilbert & Sullivan operettas.  I’d always been a sort of Gilbert & Sullivan nut, and Bridget McDonough was the producer of the Guild at the time that I was directing.  A few years later, when we both got out of school, we got together at a restaurant with another student at Northwestern, who had been Bridget’s predecessor, and we said,
Let’s start Light Opera Works.

BD:   You just really wanted to continue the tradition of doing light opera?

Kraus:   Yes, basically!  I had recently been involved in the infamous Opera Midwest company, which had been founded a year or so before we were, and went out of business suddenly because of some improprieties.

BD:   Not improprieties with the company, but improprieties in getting money for the company!

Kraus:   Right, namely embezzlement.

BD:   It’s too bad.  People don’t seem to get caught doing lousy things, and then they do get caught doing something good.

Kraus:   We always figure that if you’re going to embezzle money, it might as well be for opera!  [Both laugh]

BD:   But Light Opera Works is completely on the up and up.

Kraus:   Right, right, right!  We were in no way related to Opera Midwest, but one of the reasons we founded the company is that they made it look easy.  Starting a company on the North Shore, where there’s a lot of money and a lot of lovers of the arts, shouldn’t be any problem.  Of course, Bridget and I learned the hard way that starting an opera company is a major nightmare.

BD:   But is it worth it in the end?

Kraus:   I certainly think it is.  We’re ten years old this year, and I have come through it with most of my sanity intact.  Bridget would probably say the same, although one never knows...  [More laughter]

BD:   Did you gravitate towards light opera because there was Lyric Opera, and the Chicago Opera Theater, and other companies doing heavy opera, so there was a crying need for light opera?

Kraus:   Exactly!  Chicago has always had a big tradition of grand opera.  The Chicago Opera Theater was founded to fill a gap of doing contemporary works that the Lyric didn’t want to do, and they also did operas which were more suitable for a smaller theater.  However, there was no light opera tradition on a professional level in Chicago.  Light operas were done by community groups, such as Gilbert & Sullivan societies that were part of universities, and the famous Savoyaires Group, which I actually directed for two years before I started Light Opera Works.  [Named for London
s famed Savoy Theatre, the Savoyaires were founded in 1964 by conductor Frank Miller (principal cellist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) and writer Lilias Circle. The groups charter was to bring the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas to audiences on Chicagos North Shore, a mission that was pursued with intense dedication. By 1980, with a production of The Grand Duke (directed by Philip Kraus), the Savoyaires became the first U.S. company known to have produced the entire 14-operetta cycle, and Miller the first to have conducted them all.]

BD:   Everything they did was good, but it wasn’t on a regular professional basis?

Kraus:   Right.  It was basically community theater, and very well done for community theater, but we felt that Chicago had the talent to support a company like this.  When you start an opera company, and you’re on a bare bones budget, as we were in those days, you can’t import famous talent from Europe or New York.

BD:   We have a lot of great talent here!

Kraus:   Right!  It’s to Chicago’s credit that this city is so arts-minded and full of artists that are working, that we’ve only had only to go out of town two or three times in our ten-year history to get an artist.

BD:   How many different works have you put on in your ten years?

Kraus:   I haven’t counted them all, but I think we are just about to do out twenty-sixth or twenty-seventh production, which will be the first show of our tenth season.  So we’ve done quite a few operettas.

BD:   All of them have been different works?

Kraus:   All different!  We have not repeated any works in our first ten years, and we’ve done a variety of pieces.  There are four major schools of light opera.  There’s the British School, which comprises Gilbert & Sullivan and Noël Coward.  There is the Austro-Hungarian School where you get Johann Strauss, Franz Lehár, Franz von Suppé, and Imre Kálmán.  Then there is the French School, which is Offenbach and Charles Lecoq.  There are even operettas by Emmanuel Chabrier and Renaldo Hahn.  Then there is the American School of light opera, which is the most familiar to our audiences here in Chicago.  That group includes Sigmund Romberg, Victor Herbert, and Rudolf Friml.  There’s not much of a light opera tradition in Italy. There is, of course, the famous opera buffa...

BD:   ...and the Commedia dell’Arte?

Kraus:   Yes, some comic operas, but they have been taken into the regular grand opera house.  So we’ve not done any of Rossini or Donizetti.  We did do Gianni Schicchi one year, and there is a big school of light opera in Spain, called the Zarzuela, but those we thought were relatively unfamiliar to American audiences, and therefore would not fit in our season.  In fact, there’s another opera company, The Opera Factory, which has sort of taken over that repertoire, and we’re very glad to see that.

BD:   Is there any competition amongst the groups, or is there a good rapport between them?

Kraus:   There’s a very good rapport among all the opera companies in this city because basically there is very little duplication of repertoire.  You’re not going to see Aïda at the Chicago Opera Theater, and you’re not going to see Die Csárdásfürstin at the Lyric.  Once in a while there’s a piece that we all may seem to do...

BD:   Die Fledermaus seems to be the the one common ground that every company could do and has done.

Kraus:   Right, exactly.  A few years ago, Lyric did a light opera season.  Once a year they got a grant from the city, and they did the the three really well-known operettas.  Those were The Merry Widow, Die Fledermaus, and The Mikado.  We’ve done all of those pieces in our first ten years, but we’ve also really branched out and done some of the more obscure operettas, which is my cup-of-tea and my joy, because I love exploring new territory.  It’s just the kind of person I am, and the kind of musician I am.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   When you look at the whole list of operettas, how do you select which ones you want to do?
Kraus:   The company goes through a very detailed process of selecting a season.  First of all, we select one piece from each school.  In other words, in a three-show season which we do, there will not be two American works, nor two French works.  There will always be one from at least three out of the four national schools.  The next thing that we decide on is one we call a ‘blockbuster’.  This will be a piece that will do very well at our box-office, and will make people want to buy subscriptions to the whole season.  Those are pieces like The Student Prince, Rose-Marie, Die Fledermaus, or The Mikado.  [Photo below-left shows Kraus as Pooh-Bah in The Mikado.]  Then usually each season we will have a work that is a little bit more obscure, and maybe something that people might even know, but has not received a Chicago performance in thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years.  Perhaps it is a piece that is really deserving a revival.
BD:   An unknown work by a big name?

Kraus:   Yes, it could be like that, or perhaps a very famous work by a big name that has not been done.  For our first season, we did Orpheus in the Underworld.  That is considered one of Offenbach’s greatest pieces, and we found out that it had not had a professional production in Chicago since 1884.

BD:   [Stating the ridiculous]  Not many people in your audience will remember that!

Kraus:   Nope!  [Laughter]  I hope not!  [Even more laughter]  As it happens, we did The Chocolate Soldier one year, and an elderly gentleman came up to me and said,
I saw The Chocolate Soldier in Warsaw in 1919, and your production was a lot better!  I asked him if he could remember the production that far back, and he said, I remember everything about that production in Warsaw,” and he insisted that ours was better.  The wonderful thing is that here is a company that is bringing back works to people who really remember them.  Light opera has a large nostalgia crowd, people that grew up with these works, and unfortunately they haven’t seen them in a long time.  Our popular music theaters have neglected these pieces, and that brings us to the fact that operetta is a very hard artform to bring off.

BD:   [With genuine surprise]  Harder than opera???

Kraus:   It’s harder than opera in some ways.  I can’t tell you that the light operas are easier to do than the hardest grand operas, where you have hundreds of people on stage, and a procession of elephants and camels as in Aïda, but it’s very difficult to get the performers and the right kinds of performing to do these works, because they are a hybrid form between grand opera and musical comedy.  You need singers that can act a lot better than you’d see in an international opera house, and you need singers that can do dialogue well, which is not always the case.  You also need singers and a chorus that can dance, and do fairly stylized stage movements.  It’s not like the party-scene of La Traviata where you just have to look like you’re enjoying a nice party.  The party scenes in Die Fledermaus have to be waltzed, and have various movements for the chorus, and that makes it difficult.  Having staged both grand and light operas for various companies in my career, I would say that light operas are much more difficult to stage.  They take much more time and more rehearsal because they are much more intricately choreographed and stylized.

BD:   There are more details?

Kraus:   Yes, there are a lot more details in them.  I could probably stage La Traviata in four rehearsals, whereas The Mikado would take me four weeks.

BD:   What does the audience expect of Light Opera Works?

Kraus:   I think our audience basically expects to have a very entertaining evening, and part of what we do is we have very colorful scenery, very colorful costumes.  We have a lot of dancing, and to use a Yiddish word, chutzpah [confidence and audacity].  [Both laugh]  It’s terribly enchanting.  A lot of people have come into our operettas not knowing if they’ll like it, and we usually hook them right away.  We’ve been lucky over the years.  We’ve had very good performers, and a wonderful selection of works, and in ten years we’ve really developed an audience that will come to basically whatever we do, because we are Light Opera Works as opposed to just a company that does The Mikado or The Merry Widow every once in a while.

BD:   They trust you to select things that they will enjoy?
Kraus:   Yes, but I still get complaints from various members of our audience.  There are factions.  A Gilbert & Sullivan lover will come up to me and ask to do more Gilbert & Sullivan.  They say they hate these pieces of Sigmund Romberg because they’re sappy, and they don’t enjoy them!  Then somebody else on the same evening will come up to me and ask to stop doing Gilbert & Sullivan.  They’d rather see all the Victor Herbert and Sigmund Romberg and Franz Léhar pieces, because they like the romantic style of operettas as opposed to the satiric.

BD:   So, what’s a director to do?  [Photo at right shows Kraus and Renée Fleming in Act I of La Traviata with the Los Angeles Opera.]

Kraus:   We give them a balanced diet!  It’s like being a nutritionist!  [More laughter]

BD:   Is operetta supposed to be something that’s good for you, like castor oil???  [Even more laughter]

Kraus:   No, I don’t think so, but like too much sugar, you can O.D. on operetta almost like anything else!

BD:   Is that why you only have three per year?

Kraus:   We have three per year because right now that’s about all our company can handle budget-wise, and all we can do with the limited staff that we have.  Light Opera Works is the third largest opera company in the state, but it’s quite a bit smaller than Lyric and COT at this point in terms of budget and staff.  But we’re growing, slowly but surely, and we’ve made a lot of progress in our first ten years.  We’ve survived!  That’s the big thing.

BD:   Were there times when you didn’t know if you would survive?

Kraus:   In each of the first five years. we got to the end of the year wondering whether we’d be around the next year.  We’ve managed to stay with it, and I’m very pleased with the progress of the company we’ve established.  We’ve really filled a very important niche in the cultural life of this city, and so we’re happy to still be around.  A lot of organizations that were founded the same year we were, in 1980 are gone.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   Can we assume that because you are Light Opera Works, you’re not going to get into musical comedy?

Kraus:   We do musicals that I consider to be worthy of an operatic treatment.  For example, we’ve done A Little Night Music.  As far as I’m concerned, that Sondheim work is really not a musical comedy.  It’s basically a Viennese operetta brought up to date.  In fact, we had the Deserée sing ‘Send in the Clowns’ an octave higher than written.  Glynis Johns sang it in a very low octave.  In our production, the whole piece took on this wonderful Schwarzkopf-ian quality, and was really absolutely luscious because the soprano had to float high As.  It really worked that way.  We’ve also done Candide of Leonard Bernstein, which really is an operetta, but a lot of people think of it as being musical comedy.  We just did a major revival last season of Lady in the Dark, the Kurt Weill piece, which is totally bizarre.  I wouldn’t call that an operetta or an opera, or a musical comedy.  It’s what a composer friend of mine, and one of my teachers at Northwestern, Alan Stout, called a stylistic mélange, like The Magic Flute.  It’s a mixture of about five or six different kinds of music theater.  So, we’ve taken the chances with those pieces, but you won’t find the standard musicals that Candlelight Dinner Playhouse and Mariott Lincolnshire do.  You won’t find us doing South Pacific, or Bye-Bye Birdie.  Those kinds of works really don’t need that much of an operatic treatment.  We don’t feel that we could do a good job of those pieces.  We do what no one else is doing.
BD:   Have you forced out any competition because they’re afraid to compete with you?

Kraus:   No, I don’t think so.  There is still the Gilbert & Sullivan Society, which is a professional group that only does Gilbert & Sullivan.  They perform in the north part of the city of Chicago.  But we’re pretty much the only opera company in the city that focuses on the French and also the Austro-Hungarian works.  What other company can you think of here that has done The Land of Smiles and Wiener Blut and Csárdásfürstin?  [Photo below-left shows the production of Wiener Blut.]  And lest your listeners [and now readers!] think that we do these pieces in the original language, we don’t!  All our productions are in English.

BD:   So it is The Gypsy Princess rather than Csárdásfürstin?

Kraus:   Right, and it’s something we’re very proud of.  We’ve filled a niche in the repertory.

BD:   Would you ever think about doing things in the original and using supertitles, like they do at the Lyric, or would you rather always do them in English?

Kraus:   I’m not a big fan of supertitles.  I think it diverts the audience’s attention from the main event, which is the play.  I know there is a big controversy about this, but being an ardent supporter of opera in English, or opera in the vernacular, I find supertitles to be a big cop-out.  It’s fine for the international opera houses, like Lyric or the Met or San Francisco, but for regional opera companies, like COT and St. Louis and Santa Fe, and our company for that matter, opera in English is the way to go.  Audiences really like going to opera and experiencing the piece in their own language.  I once heard a tape of Meistersinger in a British production in an English translation, and the whole opera took on a completely new meaning for me.  Before it had been just a long terse dialogue in German that was difficult to follow, and all of a sudden it became a piece of theater.  It was really a much more wonderful musical-dramatic experience for me.

BD:   We have the best of both worlds here.  We have the big international season at Lyric in the fall, and then we have the Chicago Opera Theater and Light Opera Works to do everything in English.
Kraus:   That’s the way to go.  One thing that’s happening in the United States, which is very nice, is that there is a tremendous growth of opera on the regional level.  As you well know, every small city in Germany has a lovely little opera house and an opera company, and they do all their operas in German.  A lot of my friends who are singers that went over to Germany have learned La Traviata and La Bohème in German.  They’ve learned Janáček in German, and they’ve even learned Porgy and Bess in German.  It’s wonderful that there’s a lot more opera starting up in the United States.  I was just named the resident stage director of The Pamiro Opera Company in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  I’m directing The Daughter of the Regiment there this year.  They’ve done a lot of lighter works up there, but the conductor was told by a lot of his friends that he’d never be able to start an opera company in Packer Land’!  [The Green Bay Packers are part of the National Football League.  Founded in 1919, they have the most wins of any NFL franchise, with thirteen league championships including four super bowl wins starting with the first two.]  Lo and behold, he’s now in his sixth season.  They do one performance of one opera a year, and they sell it out completely.

BD:   Should you try to get the Packers’ fans into the opera house?

Kraus:   I think you should!  Communities want a diverse cultural atmosphere, and football is part of our culture, too.  There’s a place for it, and also a place for opera.  They hire a group of singers from Chicago and New York.  They bring them in and put them up in a hotel.  They have to raise a lot of money because it’s expensive.  They have a two-week rehearsal period in which we stage the work.  They have scenery built there, and they get an orchestra from the community.  This is the way you get started in a city like Green Bay.  You do one production, and you get to the point where you’re selling it out, and then you do a second performance.  When that starts selling that out, maybe you add a second opera each year.

BD:   That’s what Lyric did.  They started in 1954, and did three or four productions with each one given two performances.

Kraus:   Right!  When we started Light Opera Works, we certainly were aware that you’ve got to be modest when you start.  You’ve got to be realistic.  We made a lot of mistakes our first season, and went very badly into debt.  We overspent, and we overpaid people... not that they weren’t worth it, but we just didn’t have the money.  Because of that we did go into debt, and we worked our last five years of existence eliminating that debt.  Now we’re almost down to zero.  It’s a risky business.  Opera is something that is totally non-for-profit.  You cannot make a profit at it.  There’s no opera company in the word that I know of, that makes a profit.  You’ve got to depend on government grants, foundation grants, and private and public support.  It’s not an easy business.

BD:   [With a wink[  If you can’t make a profit, why do opera?

Kraus:   [Smiles]  Because it’s the king of all the musical arts!  It’s the artform that is the most complex.  It combines orchestral music, singing, ballet, comedy, tragedy... you name it, it’s in opera, and there’s just something very wonderful about it when it all comes together, and there’s a big audience out there. The audience for opera is growing.  It’s just that in our time it’s become very expensive, and rightly so.  Our managing director is a theater major at Northwestern, and she has worked for many years in straight theaters with no orchestra expenses, no expenses for a corps de ballet, and she doesn’t have to pay royalties for translations, etc.  Opera is one of those things where until you get into it, you don’t realize just how costly it is.

BD:   If you were going to start out with Light Opera Works today, would you do it, knowing what you have learned during the last ten years?

Kraus:   No!  [Both laugh]  It’s been a lot of work, and there have been a lot of painful times and scary times, but there have also been a lot of joyous times.  But now that I’m older and wiser, I’d probably be able to do it with less pain, since I know what I went through.  [Pauses a moment, then continues]  My own career has become very diversified.  I’m a singer myself, and I do sing outside of my company.  I have a fairly decent concert career going right now.  I sing with a lot of orchestras around the country, and I’m managed by a professional concert management [Chicago Concert Artists].  That keeps me happy, because just stage directing would get very boring for me, and just singing would get very boring for me, and just teaching would get very boring for me.  So by combining these three things it keeps me on my toes.  [In a review of the Beethoven Symphony #9, a critic compared Kraus
voice favorably with that of John Shirley-Quirk.]
BD:   I’m glad it all reinvigorates you.

Kraus:   Yes!  I don’t get bored with any one of them because I mix up my whole year with all three of them, and it works out very nicely.
BD:   When you get an offer to sing something, how do you decide if you’ll accept it or turn it down?
Kraus:   First of all, it has to be at a time when I can do it, so usually they are when Light Opera Works is not in production.  Sometimes I can manipulate my rehearsal schedule so that I can go out of town for one or two days to sing a concert.  In fact, next week I’m going to be singing a Rogers & Hammerstein concert with the Milwaukee Symphony.  We’re about two weeks away from our production, so I’ve just manipulated my rehearsal schedule and it will work out fine, and will not affect the production at all.  But this is the kind of thing that an artist like myself has to do.
BD:   It doesn’t over-tax you?

Kraus:   No... well, sometimes it does, and I just have to be careful that I don’t over-book myself.  Last year, I made an appearance with the Chicago Opera Theater as the Vicar in Albert Herring.  The production was done in March and April, which are pretty easy months for me because there
s no Light Opera Works activity other than just getting our season ready.  [See my interview with the conductor of the Albert Herring production, Hal France.  For more about the Chicago Opera Theater, see my interviews with its Founder and Artistic Director, Alan Stone.]

BD:   Just administrative work?

Kraus:   Right.  As an artistic director, it’s important for me to go out to other cities, and show in my program bio that I am the artistic director of Light Opera Works.  It’s good for our company, and many other artistic directors of companies are also multi-faceted.  They are either artistic director of several opera companies, or they might be singers like myself that do both.  It’s very good for this kind of artistic cross-reference between various cities because it doesn’t keep you locked in your own little ivory tower.
 In January of this year I did Il Maestro di cappella, the one-man opera by Cimarosa, with Concertante di Chicago [review shown below].  It was a lot of fun.  In fact, they have rehired me, and I’m going to be doing the Rimsky-Korsakov opera Mozart and Salieri with them [shown in photo at left].

In his review in the Chicago Sun-Times, Robert C. Marsh said,
"Then came Cimarosa's Il maestro di cappella with Philip Kraus in a white 
wig and watered silk as the beleaguered maestro, and the orchestra ready
and eager to make his life miserable. Oh, those naughty basses! Oh,
those wicked woodwinds! Those horrid horns! This finely calculated
dramatic interlude, sung with exemplary diction in an excellent new
English translation, was a tour de force for all concerned. Kraus created
a comic character frustrated by an orchestra that would not play the way
he wished, yet eagerly grasping for any wisp of praise. It was musical
humor on a high plain."

BD:   Which part are you singing?

Kraus:   Salieri, because Mozart’s a tenor.  Then in late January, I was at the Southwest Michigan Symphony in St. Joseph doing an opera night.  That was just basically arias, quartets, and duets.  Then I went to the Dubuque Symphony and did Carmina Burana, and with the Omaha Symphony I did Messiah.  Then it was off to the Muskegon Symphony for Brahms’s German Requiem.  I do about ten concerts a year now, and some opera.  I did Gianni Schicchi at Chamber Opera Chicago [photo below-left], and
I’m also doing an opera night with the Milwaukee Symphony in July, singing such diverse things are ‘Largo al factotum’, [The Barber of Seville] ‘Di Provenza’ [La Traviata] and the final trio from Faust, where I’ll be Mephistopheles.  [To read more about Chamber Opera Chicago, including a photo of Kraus as Scarpia in Tosca, click HERE.]

BD:   [Surprised]  That
s not too low for you?

Kraus:   No, it’s not terribly low, and they just wanted to do it for the soprano and tenor.  So I’ll just put on my little bass hat, and pretend to be a bass.  I’ve been doing a lot of singing, and now I’ve started guest directing around the country.  I’m very happy with the way my career is going.  It’s not a heavy dosage of any of them.  I remember understudying Ko-Ko in The Mikado when Lyric did it, and Jim Billings had to be in town for seven weeks in a hotel.  He had virtually no friends in Chicago, and only lived to do his performances.  He was so lonely.  I went out with him a couple of nights just for a drink.  It’s a terribly difficult life for international singers, though they never admit it publicly.  Their problem is that they’re never at home.  I have my psyche together, and I have a happy love-life.  Things have been going fine for me, and I like what I’m doing.  I wouldn’t say making tremendous oodles of money doing it, but I’d rather be doing what I’m doing than having gone to New York, found a management, and be on the road thirty-six weeks a year.  I’m too much of a home guy.  I get a little traveling sprinkled around the year, and for those these gigs that I do with the orchestras, they treat you like royalty.  I like doing orchestra work a lot more than opera work only because it’s shorter, and I make more money.  It’s hard for me to be out of town for a month and a half to do an opera elsewhere, because then I get too out of contact with my own company.  So, it works out pretty well.  I still do a lot of singing in Chicago, and I’m recognized on the street.

BD:   Do you ever sing in Light Opera Works?

Kraus:   I do occasionally.  In the ten years, I’ve done about maybe four or five roles.  I did Gianni Schicchi, and I did Kálmán Zsupán in The Gypsy Baron.  I did King Paramount in Utopia Limited [shown in photo immediately below-right], I did Pooh-Bah in The Mikado, and last year I did two.  I had always wanted to do Russell Paxton in Lady in the Dark [shown in the second photo below-right], so that I planned to do that, and then all of a sudden, our baritone in Wiener Blut had to cancel two days before rehearsal started.  We spent about five days trying to replace him, and couldn’t find anybody to do it.  So I finally decided to just do it myself.
BD:   Its nice to have a resident artist who can step in!
Kraus:   Bridget used to say that we don’t need an understudy.  Kraus will just go on and sing their part.  I asked her what would happen if it’s a soprano, and she said I could probably pull that off!  [Both have a huge laugh]  That’s  all our audience needs... to see me in drag singing a soprano role!  [More laughter]

*     *     *     *     *
BD:   Many opera companies will commission new works.  Can you commission new light operas?

Kraus:   It’s possible, and it’s something that we’re going to explore in the future.  I certainly am of the opinion that not all the light operas that could be written, have been written.  Proof positive is A Little Night Music of Stephen Sondheim.  As far as I’m concerned, that is a modern light opera.  I’ve actually talked to several composers in the area about what they think about such a project, and every single one has expressed interest in it.  So, it would be an interesting prospect.  Some of the things that are being written for Broadway are in the light opera realm, and some are not.  It really depends on the piece.  Sweeney Todd, for example, is hardly a Broadway musical.  It’s not a light opera either, but it’s kind of a music-theater piece that Sondheim calls a
musical thriller’.  I would like to commission a composer and a librettist.  I’ve always thought that Ferenc Molnár’s play The Guardsman would make a terrific light opera, only because the second act takes place outside the balcony area of an opera house while a performance of Madam Butterfly is going on.  It would be a wonderful compositional challenge for a composer to meld the Puccini music with his own music.  So this is something that is a little pet project in the back of my head.  [In a similar vein, Buosos Ghost by Michael Ching is a sequel to Gianni Schicchi, and Kraus has played the title character in both works.]

BD:   You’ve been going for ten years.  Do you see Light Opera Works staying the same or changing in the next ten years?

Kraus:   I think that Light Opera Works is going to change in some ways.  We’d like to expand the number of performances of each work that we do.  In our June and August productions we do three only performances, and then our production which is right after Christmas and goes over into the New Year’s weekend
which is a very popular weekend for uswe have been doing anywhere from five to seven performances, because we’re able to sell them.  We always try to do our big ‘blockbuster’ during that period.  We had thought of expanding to a four-show season, doing four different light operas, but that is something which is not going to be possible until we’re able to increase our office staff.  Right now, at Light Opera Works, there are four people who are pretty much full-timea managing director, an artistic director, and two other employees that mix and match a lot of jobs, like production management, development, publicity, box-office manager, etc., and it’s a lot of work.  We’d like to get a separate person to be development director in the near future, and we’d like to get somebody that will do our PR and just concentrate on that.  So those are two goals of ours.

BD:   You see the company expanding and doing more?

Kraus:   Yes, trying to expand, and just increasing the budget for our artistic product.  We’ve been remarkably successful.  Light Opera Works is a company that can stretch a dollar further than you’d ever imagine!  When they see our productions, a lot of people come up to me and rave about the scenery.  I’ll ask them how much they think it cost us to get that scenery up on that stage, and they’ll give figures like $10,000 or $15,000 or $20,000, and it’s way under that!  So, I’m proud of the fact that we’ve been able to have as good-looking and as good-sounding productions as we do, on a pretty tight budget.  It’s had to be tight because we’ve been budgeting a surplus every year to get rid of that old debt.  We’ve actually been making a little profit every year to pay off debts from the first five seasons.  If we hadn’t started to do something about this, the company would have gone bankrupt.  Thank God we didn’t!  Bridget is a fabulous manager.  She’s very conscious of what we can and can’t do, and sticks by her guns.  I really appreciate that.  I sometimes don’t agree with her, and like any company we have our disagreements, but I have a lot of respect for her, and she’s one of the main reasons why the company has survived.

BD:   Now you’ve got this season planned, which is about to start.  Have you thought any further than that, or do you want to get through this season and then think about the next season?

Kraus:   This season we are doing The Gypsy Princess, which is the show that is just about to open.  That
ll be our first work of the Austro-Hungarian School.  We’ve done all Austrian ones up until now.  Then later this season we’ll be doing Princess Ida of Gilbert & Sullivan, and to close our tenth season we’ll be doing The New Moon of Sigmund Romberg.  For next season, and it is subject to change, but we’re looking at Bitter Sweet of Noël Coward, which would be our first Noël Coward operetta, Der Bettelstudent  [The Beggar Student] of Carl Millöcker, and either The Red Mill, or Babes in Toyland, or perhaps Mlle. Modiste of Victor Herbert.  Beyond that we don’t have major plans.  We try to plan our season about a year and a half in advance.

BD:   Do you ever have any problems casting these works?

Kraus:   No.  We have auditions every year, and we hear almost 250 singers.  There’s an awful lot of wonderful talent here.  Occasionally we’ve had to go out of town to get a baritone or a tenor.  There’s always a shortage of them, but we’ve been pretty lucky, and I’ve been generally very pleased with our casts.

BD:   I wish you lots of continued success.

Kraus:   Thank you.

We now move ahead just a few days short of five years later . . . . .

BD:   Light Opera Works is starting its fifteenth season.  Tell me about your adventures with the company.

Kraus:   Well, we’ve managed to survive.  We were founded in 1980, the year that Reagan took office, and that was the year a lot of funding for arts organizations dwindled.  In fact, a lot of organizations, artistic and otherwise, that were founded in those years, are defunct.  So we’ve survived the test of time.
BD:   [With a wink]  Is that due to your programming, or to your ingenious marketability?

Kraus:   I don’t know!  [Both have a huge laugh]  I think it’s due to a lot of things, including the quality of our productions.  Our audiences have been coming back for fifteen years, and so artistically we’ve been extremely successful.  However, we do have a good marketing program.  We try to make our shows palatable to a large array of different kinds of opera-goers and theater-goers.  The problem with operetta and light opera is that it really is in between a lot of niches, like opera and musical theater and musical comedy.

BD:   Are you going after a specific audience, or are you just going after whatever audience you can get to come to these pieces?

Kraus:   We’re going after a very general audience.  We like to attract the opera people, but there are going to be some opera-goers who are just going to find light opera not to their taste.  We also would like the people who go to musical theater and musicals to come to Light Opera Works, because that might be something they can expand on from what they have been attending already.  So, because we are in that continuum, we are almost forced to attract a wide-ranging audience.  There are people who come because of the nostalgia value.  They remember Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, or they attended these shows when they were younger, and haven’t had an opportunity to see them again in many years.

BD:   But you’re also getting the younger audiences?

Kraus:   We’d like to get a younger audience.  One of the reasons that we don’t is, as with all theaters and musical organizations, the ticket prices are a little bit stiff for young people.  Our top price is $45, which, compared to the Met, is pretty reasonable.  But when you’re talking about kids of college age, or young adults that are just starting out, that’s a little much.

BD:   However, you do have many tickets that are much less expensive.

Kraus:   Sure, we do, and as you go to the sides of the house and the balcony, we have very reasonable seats.

BD:   Are you able to sell out, or nearly sell out most of your shows?

Kraus:   Most of the time, yes.  The company has averaged about 95% sold for the last five or six years.  Part of the reason for that, I must admit, is that we only did three performances of a lot of our productions.  That’s going to change this year for the first time.  One of the things that happened was that Cahn Auditorium in Evanston, where we perform, was a 1,200-seat house.  Northwestern decided to renovate it, and one of the parts of the renovation was putting in sound and lighting booths in the back of the main level, so 200 seats were eliminated.  So, we decided that this year we were going to have to expand and do five performances of all our shows, plus extras at New Year when we do Die Fledermaus.  This is in order to make up the ticket income, because when you talk about three shows times 200, that’s 600 seats which are not getting sold anymore because they don’t exist.  That is a little a bit too big a purge into our budget.

BD:   And yet you will have two more services to pay all the artists.

Kraus:   Right, exactly.  But the advantage is that we’re going into two weekends.  We’re opening on a Saturday night instead of a Friday night, and we will have then a Sunday matinee.  Then we’ll have a Friday night, a Saturday night, and Sunday matinee.  One of the things we’re hoping for is that it will attract more people.  One of the disadvantages of Light Opera Works for a long time has been that word-of-mouth rarely helps us.  People come and see the shows, and if they love it and they tell their friends.  But by that time, it’s closed.

BD:   I trust you’re pleased with Cahn Auditorium even though it’s slightly smaller?

Kraus:   There’s no difference in the actual size of the auditorium in terms of the stage.  It’s just got fewer seats.  But we’re much happier with it because it’s been renovated.  There are new facilities, new rest rooms, new carpets, and nice wall fixtures.  Plus, it’s all been repainted.  We always felt that it was a fairly reasonable theater to be working in, but now it’s even better.
*     *     *     *     *

BD:   You
re starting this season with Gilbert & Sullivan.  This is a staple that flows through the history of Light Opera Works.

Kraus:   Gilbert & Sullivan is almost synonymous with light opera.  They put light opera on the map.  Gilbert & Sullivan is more popular among aficionados of light opera than practically any other composer.  
Curiously, Gilbert & Sullivan is more popular in the United States than it is in Great Britain!

BD:   I wonder why?

Kraus:   There’s a very good reason for it.  It’s because we like making fun of our highfalutin
British cousins.  [Both laugh]  We don’t have a Queen, we don’t have all that sort of pomp and circumstance, and we don’t have all that wonderful British stuffiness.  The whole culture of the United States, even from its founding, was much looser and much more relaxed.  But there’s something that tickles Americans when seeing a modern major general on stage, or a pirate king, or a group of pirates that never attacks a stronger party than itself, and always lets orphans go.  This is sort of pre-Monty Python type of British humor, which really amuses people in this country.  The British are always quite amazed at how many professional and amateur Gilbert & Sullivan groups there in the United States.  Plus, if you add all the college societies, it’s really quite something!

BD:   For a while, the D’Oyly Carte company in Britain was having real problems.

Kraus:   Right.  They let it close [in 1982].

BD:   Has it come back again?

Kraus:   It has, and it’s called the New D’Oyly Carte.  They have decided to be a little more adventurous with what they’re doing.  One of the charges that could have been leveled at the old D’Oyly Carte was its stodginess on tradition.  They were still staging the pieces the way they had been staged for all those years.

BD:   That was what they stood for.  Those were productions that everybody knew and enjoyed.

Kraus:   It was the Bayreuth [the theater that Wagner built for presentation of his works] of Gilbert & Sullivan but without all the different directors and the different artistic concepts that have gone through the different seasons.

After Gilberts death in 1911, the DOyly Carte company continued to produce productions of the operas in repertory until 1982. In 1911, Helen Carte hired J. M. Gordon as stage manager. Gordon, who was promoted to stage director in 1922, had been a member of the company and a stage manager under Gilbert's direction, and he fiercely preserved the company's performing traditions in exacting detail for 28 years. Except for Ruddigore, which underwent some cuts and received a new overture, very few changes were made to the text and music of the operas as Gilbert and Sullivan had produced them, and the company stayed true to Gilberts period settings. Even after Gordons death, many of Gilberts directorial concepts survived, both in the stage directions printed in the libretti, and as preserved in company prompt books. Original choreography was also maintained. Some of the companys staging became accepted as traditional by Gilbert and Sullivan fans, and many of these traditional stagings are still imitated today in productions by both amateur and professional companies.

BD:   You’ve been involved with Gilbert & Sullivan even before you founded Light Opera Works.  How is your idea of G&S changed over the last years, if at all?

Kraus:   It has a little bit.  I started with Gilbert & Sullivan when I was a child.  I went to camp, and one of the plays that we performed was The Mikado, and I just fell in love with this stuff.  Then, when I was in college, I was part of the Northwestern University Gilbert & Sullivan Guild.  In fact, Light Opera Works developed basically from that Guild.  Both the managing director, 
Bridget McDonough and myself were products of that student Guild.  I used to be a staunch traditionalist, albeit with a sense of theatrical savvy, and adding the kind of theatrical innovations of Harold Prince.  At Light Opera Works, we’ve never done Gilbert & Sullivan where people stand still.  We have a lot of dancing, a lot of movement, a lot of ideas.  We try to make the humor topical, which will be different from the British things that are no longer known.  We try to update them if we feel that it will help the joke, or we put a glossary in our program to let people know what all these terms originally meant.  One of the things that happened to me with Gilbert & Sullivan is that I’ve become a little freer in my old age with them. I like seeing concept productions.  I like seeing new ideas tried out.  Our director, Marc Verzatt, tends to view Gilbert & Sullivan from a whole new standpoint.  He doesn’t do anything strange to it, but he just looks at it freshly.  He doesn’t rely on all the old gags, or all the old bits.  He tries to find something new.  He did a production of Iolanthe for us two years ago.  It was really quite marvelous, and he is doing the same thing again.  It’s not the Linda Ronstadt rock version where all the daughters are zombies and the police are all hyper-active, but it’s not the DOyly Carte version either.  It’s not something where people are just doing all the stock gestures that you’ve seen a million times.  There’s something very fresh about it.  Gilbert & Sullivan always lends itself to all sorts of productions which are running rampant in the opera houses of the world.

BD:   You’ve been updating Gilbert
s words quite a bit, but I trust you haven’t tampered with Sullivans music.

Kraus:   No, we haven’t, and I don’t want to.  One of the reasons that these works are so wonderful is that Sullivan’s music is so perfectly wedded to Gilbert’s writing.  One of the worst things about the Joseph Papp New York production was that whoever re-orchestrated it must have been on drugs!  [Both laugh]  Using suspended cymbal all the time, and the snare drum in places in a love-song have no business being there.  We leave the music alone, and in fact, we are very proud that we try our darndest to stick to the original concept and orchestration of the composer.  Sometimes it’s hard, especially with the American works where there isn’t a lot of scholarship.  It was very difficult to get the Rudolf Friml originals to Rose-Marie.  You rent them from Tams-Witmark and you get what they send you, and if it wasn’t the original orchestrations of the Broadway production, you don’t get them.  But Gilbert & Sullivan, and Offenbach, and Strauss, and Léhar are available to us in authentic editions.  It’s so funny you bring that up, because a lot of people seem to turn their nose down on light opera, and one of the reasons is that it’s not very intellectual.

BD:   [With a wink]  It’s supposed to be fun???
Kraus:   I’m talking about authentic auditions here.  One of the curious things about Light Opera Works is it is fun, but we treat our literature with the same intellectual respect that the people of Music of the Baroque treat their literature, and the people at Chicago Opera Theater treat contemporary opera.  Just because it’s fun, and just because it’s light-hearted, doesn’t mean it doesn’t require scholarship.  You’d be surprised at the number of terrible spurious versions of these works that are out there.  I have to sift through those until I find what the composer actually wrote.  It takes quite a bit of a detective work.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   You’re embarking on your new season with three different light operas.  The first is The Pirates of Penzance.  [In the photo at right, Kraus is seen as the Major General in the Michigan Opera production.]
Kraus:   That is coming up very rapidly.  It is our revival for us.  We did Pirates way back in the early 1980s when the company was very young, so we’re returning to it.  It’s one of the standards of the literature among the popular Gilbert & Sullivan operettas.  It’s a marvelous topsy-turvy story of pirates and policemen, and lots of grand opera parody for the opera-lovers out there!  There are parodies of cadenzas and coloratura, and the composer has two of the sopranos singing staccato in thirds with the orchestra à la Donizetti.  So it’s a lot of fun, and we’re looking forward to it.  It will run for five performances.

BD:   What is your second production?

Kraus:   The second production is very interesting.  It is a joint production with Pegasus Players, which is a very fine theater company in the Chicago area, of The Golden Apple.  This is a music theater piece by Jerome Moross and John Treville Latouche.  Opera lovers will know John Latouche because he wrote the libretto for The Ballad of Baby Doe [composed by Douglas Moore], and helped write the libretto for Candide.  Moross is a very highly regarded American composer from Aaron Copland’s school of composition.  He’s written a large array of standard classical works, as well as the Frankie and Johnny ballet, which he is very famous for.  He’s also very famous for his movie scores, including The Big Country, which is a very famous western.  The Golden Apple is a marvelous satire of [Homer’s] The Iliad and The Odyssey.  It takes place in the turn of the century.  Helen of Troy is the town trollop.  It was premiered in 1954 on Broadway, and won the New York Critics’ Drama Circle Award for best musical that year.  It was ahead of its time, and if you listen to the score, it’s proto-Sondheim.  It is that heady in a sense, but it’s consistently delightful, which is a real treat.  One of the interesting things is that there’s no spoken dialogue.  It is entirely through-composed.  It’s got American folk music, Gilbert & Sullivan parody, Americana 
à la Aaron Copland, barbershop quartets, jazz pieces, lounge pieces, pieces that might remind you of waltzes and other Viennese pieces.  It’s a little bit of everything, and it is a really undeservedly neglected score.  Our director will be Dominic Missimi.

BD:   Then the third production will be Die Fledermaus?

Kraus:   Yes.  For New Year’s Eve we’re going to return to Die Fledermaus, which is the work of choice for that night’s entertainment.  We did a very fine production of it about ten years ago, and we are happy to revive this piece.  I’m going to be directing it, and we’ll be using a wonderful translation that I always use, which is by Ted and Deena Puffer of the Nevada Opera.  We have a wonderful cast of young professionals that are going to give it a lot of pizzazz and a lot of life, which you may not experience in some international opera houses these days.

[At that point, we re-iterated the exact dates and times of the performances, and gave the phone number for more information.]

BD:   Thanks so much for coming to the station again, and for all of the artistry you have presented over the years.

Kraus:   Thank you, Bruce.  It
s always a pleasure to see you.

Philip Kraus developed an early interest in the wonderful operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan in his youth. The interest was largely laid aside during his undergraduate years at Northwestern University until a close friend convinced him to audition for a role in the Northwestern Gilbert and Sullivan Guild production of The Gondoliers in 1972. Kraus was awarded the part of Don Alhambra del Bolero and his life would be forever changed in the process. Continuing into his Masters and Doctoral degrees, Kraus became an avid player and stage director in the Northwestern organization directing productions of Patience and Iolanthe and appearing in several others. It kindled an avid interest in operetta as an art form.

In the late 1970's it became clear to Kraus that operetta was suffering as an art form in the United States due mostly to the fact that it had been relegated to well meaning but often mercilessly amateur theatrical and musical societies. Operetta was not such a distant relative of opera itself and demanded the same kind of musical and production values that major and regional companies were lavishing on the standard repertoire. Since many of these companies rarely did operetta (or looked down upon it altogether), it seemed a logical course to start up a professional company devoted to the art form in the Chicago area, which at the time had no professional troupe devoted strictly to light opera.

In 1980 after finishing his Masters of Music at Northwestern and while in residence for his Doctorate, Kraus met with some Northwestern theater alumni at the The Third Rail restaurant in Evanston to discuss the possibility of forming a professional light opera company. The recent success of Opera Midwest, a new apera company on Chicago's north shore, had made the notion of actually founding a company look rather easy. Little did they know that Opera Midwest had mostly been funded with embezzled money and that in actuality, founding an opera company from virtually nothing was a rather difficult and in some ways, ludicrous task.

Kraus and his cohorts decided to form a board of directors and start the company with absolutely nothing in the bank. The name Light Opera Works was cooked up by Kraus. There was a desire not to regionalize the company with names that included Evanston, Chicago, or the North Shore. To raise money to start the company, friends and families were solicited and several benefits were planned. Curiously, the first full production of an opera done by the fledgling company was Pergolesi's intermezzo La Serva Padrona which was done in full costume and minimal sets at Monastero's Restaurant in 1980 conducted by the company's first music director Barnard Jones and featuring Kraus as Uberto, Nancy Ricker as Serpina and Robert Fitzgerald as Vespone in the three character work.

Thus the company began. With very little money in the bank, the new arts organization moved into a closet sized space in the then new Noyes Cultural Arts Center run by the City of Evanston. Further monies were raised, but certainly not enough to fund the first season. It was hoped that ticket sales would be brisk and that a private financial "angel" might be found. Undaunted, Kraus and his company moved forward regardless of the financial hurdles, announced a first season, produced a brochure, hired artists and production staff and then proceeded to lose alot of money!!!

The new professional company would start with two mainstage productions a year presented in Northwestern's Cahn Auditorium. By the the third season, this would be increased to three. Musical fidelity to the operetta genre was one of Kraus' main concerns and a full pit orchestra would have to be engaged to execute the composer's original orchestrations. The company would have gotten nowhere were it not for the many talented local vocal artists and musicians who agreed to perform with the company both as leads and in the chorus and orchestra for less than stellar fees.

Somehow, it all came together through the energy and self sacrifice of everone concerned.

During his years with Light Opera Works, from 1981 through 1999, Kraus oversaw 55 productions, stage directing 38 of them. His adventurous programing, research, and desire to bring the art form of operetta back to prominence and popularity were hallmarks of the early history of the company.

Before he left, Kraus had presented all the extant operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan. In addition he embarked on two important projects; an Offenbach cycle that saw 5 productions of the French master's masterpieces, and a Kurt Weill cycle of the composer's neglected American musical theater works.

During his tenure, the company presented the American stage premiere of Kalman's The Duchess of Chicago as well as Chicago premieres of Suppe's The Beautiful Galatea, Offenbach's The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein, Lehar's The Land of Smiles, Johann Strauss II's Wiener Blut, Kalman's The Gypsy Princess, Millöcker's The Beggar Student, and Moross' The Golden Apple. Additionally, he presided over a number of important revivals including Oscar Straus' The Chocolate Soldier and A Waltz Dream, Romberg's The Student Prince, The New Moon, and The Desert Song, Herbert's The Red Mill, Naughty Marietta, and Babes in Toyland, Coward's Bittersweet, and Weill's Lady in the Dark, Knickerbocker Holiday, and One Touch of Venus.

It was important to Kraus to present these works with the composer's original musical text and orchestration as well as staying as true as possible to the original story lines. The Offenbach pieces were presented in their original versions as opposed to the popular arrangements done in the mid-20th century for various opera companies. Kraus was also a stickler for clever, properly rhyming translations of the German and French works. When he couldn't find adequate translations that did justice to the original text, he made his own. Kraus created new translations of Orpheus and the Underworld and Gianni Schicchi for the company and collaborated with Gregory Opelka on new translations of The Chocolate Soldier, A Waltz Dream and The Duchess of Chicago.

Kraus also served as resident stage director for the Pamiro Opera in Green Bay from 1988 to 1996. Under his collaboration with conductor Miro Pansky, he directed productions of La Traviata, Madama Butterfly, Rigoletto, The Magic Flute, L'Italiana in Algeri, Die Fledermaus, The Merry Widow, The Daughter of the Regiment and the world premiere of Gordon Parmentier's The Lost Dauphin which received rave reviews and was videotaped by Wisconsin Public Television for broadcast. After leaving Light Opera Works, Philip began to focus on his singing career, appearing as soloist with numerous American orchestras. In 2006 he made his Los Angeles Opera debut in La Traviata opposite Renée Fleming and Elizabeth Futral. An invitation from the Chicago Cultural Center saw him produce and direct Poulenc's The Breasts of Tiresias in 2000 and Mozart's The Impresario in 2001 for which he did a new translation. He has been a guest at the Lyric Opera Cleveland where a recent production of Patience by Gilbert and Sullivan proved one of the most successful in the company's history. He was invited back in the summer of 2003 to direct The Mikado which was done in his 1986 Elizabethan concept.

Philip currently divides his time between performance and serving on the Opera faculty at Northwestern Universit

Mr. Kraus has been on the roster of the Lyric Opera of Chicago
since 1990 performing numerous roles including Dulcamara
in L'Elisir d'amore, Dr. Bartolo in The Barber of Seville,
Harashta in The Cunning Little Vixen, the Sacristan in Tosca,
Elder MacLean in Susannah by Carlisle Floyd, Antonio in The
Marriage of Figaro
Benoit/Alcindoro in La Boheme, Wolfsheim
in The Great Gatsby by J
ohn Harbison, Baron Duphol in
La Traviata
, Ratcliffe in Billy Budd, Abe Kaplan
in Street
, and the Mayor in Jenůfa, as well as featured roles in

The Gambler, Candide, The Bartered Bride, Tristan und
Isolde, and Andrea Chenier. Additionally he created the role
of southern Senator John Calhoun in the world premiere
Anthony Davis' Amistad at Lyric.

Mr. Kraus made his debut with the Minnesota Opera in 1995 in
the title role in Verdi's Rigoletto and made his Cleveland Opera
debut in 1994 as the Vicar in Albert Herring. Most recently he
joined the roster of the Los Angeles Opera repeating Duphol in
La Traviata opposite René Fleming and Elizabeth Futral.
The performance with Ms. Fleming will receive a Decca DVD release.
Additionally, he has performed Germont in Traviata and Alfio
in Cavalleria Rusticana with the Missouri Symphony, Scarpia in
Tosca with Chamber Opera Chicago and the Battle Creek Symphony,
the title role Gianni Schicchi in both the Puccini Opera and
Michael Ching's Buoso's Ghost at Chicago Opera Theater
and Taddeo in L'Italiana in Algeri with both the Hawaii Opera
Theater and the Pamiro Opera.

Comfortable in both the serious and comic repertoires, Mr.
Kraus has made a specialty of two title roles, Verdi's Falstaff
and Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, performing both roles on numerous
ocassions to enthusiastic reviews. No stranger to unusual repertoire,
Mr. Kraus performed Mangus in the American premiere of Sir
Michael Tippett's The Knot Garden and portrayed the tortured
Salieri in Rimsky Korsakov's Mozart and Salieri with Concertante
di Chicago and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.

Also comfortable in the Baroque repertoire, Mr.Kraus has made
yearly appearances with the Handel Week Festival singing solo
work in The Dettingen Te Deum, Esther, Judas Maccabaeus,
and the roles of Cosroe in Siroe and Varo in Ezio. Kraus has
also made a specialty of the Purcell masques appearing in
The Fairy Queen and King Arthur with Music of the Baroque.

Mr. Kraus is equally at home in the light opera and Broadway
repertoire. Considered a specialist in Gilbert and Sullivan,
Mr. Kraus received high accolades from the press for his
performances of Sir Joseph Porter in H.M.S. Pinafore at the
Cleveland Opera and Major General Stanley in The Pirates of
Penzance at Michigan Opera Theater. Also adept in the Viennese
repertory, Mr. Kraus has portrayed leading roles in The Gypsy
Baron, Weiner Blut, The Merry Widow, and One Night in Venice.
He scored a critical coup in 1989 with his acclaimed portrayal of
Russell Paxton in the first major revival of Kurt Weill's
Lady in the Dark at Light Opera Works. Mr. Kraus has also been
featured on numerous pops concerts with the Milwaukee
Symphony Orchestra featuring the music of Rodgers and
Hammerstein, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and Stephen Sondheim.

Solo engagements with conductor Margaret Hillis led to his
Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut in 1975 in Handel's Dettingen
Te Deum and Russell Woollen's In Martyrium Memoriam
after which Sir Georg Solti engaged him for Carnegie Hall
performances and recording of Fidelio. A frequent concert
artist, Mr. Kraus has appeared as soloist with the Cleveland
Orchestra, the Dallas, Milwaukee, Omaha, Colorado, Santa
Barbara, Richmond, Roanoke, Grant Park, South Bend,
Owensboro, Jacksonville, and Madison Symphonies, and the
Rochester and Fort Wayne Philharmonics under conductors
Erich Leinsdorf
, Eduardo Mata, Zdenek Macal, Leonard Slatkin
David Zinman
, Claudio Abbado, James Levine, James Paul,

Mark Elder, Anton Coppola, Gisele Ben-Dor, Eduard Tchivzhel

and Marin Alsop. His wide concert repertoire includes a quartet
of Requiems; the Verdi, Brahms, Faure and Mozart; Orff's
Carmina Burana, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Handel's
Messiah, Mendelssohn's Elijah, Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass,
Bach's B Minor Mass and Magnificat, Vaughan Williams'
The Sea Symphony and Shostokovitch's Fourteenth Symphony.

Mr. Kraus has also been a frequent guest of choral ensembles
including the Bel Canto Chorus of Milwaukee, Chicago's Apollo
Chorus, the Bach Festival of Winter Park, Music of the Baroque,
the Handel Week Festival and the Calvin College Oratorio Society.

Mr. Kraus holds three degrees including a Doctor of Music
from Northwestern University. He taught both in the voice and
opera programs at De Paul University. Additionally, he headed
the opera department at Roosevelt University. Mr. Kraus is also
a highly regarded stage director and composer. He founded
LightOpera Works in 1980, a professional company devoted to
operetta and was Artistic Director for 19 seasons. He also served
as resident stage director of Pamiro Opera from 1988 through

© 1990 & 1995 Bruce Duffie

These conversations were recorded in Chicago on June 11, 1990, and May 31, 1995.  Portions were broadcast on WNIB a few days later.  This transcription was made in 2024, 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.