Mary Jane Claassen, mezzo-soprano, is noted for her warm, rich tone, versatile style, and magnetic stage presence. She makes her home on the operatic stage, the musical theater stage, oratorio and concert stage, and in worship settings as a mezzo-soprano. She is also an accomplished pianist, coaching and accompanying singers primarily as well as playing for instrumentalists, ensembles and shows.
A dynamic and engaging performer, Mary Jane Claassen has sung for Opera Memphis in multiple productions and outreach events, include singing the role of Zulma in The Italian Girl in Algiers. Recently, she work-shopped the role of Mother/Medical examiner for Opera Memphis’s commissioned opera Pretty Little Room by Robert Patterson. She has appeared on stage for various other companies including Theatre Memphis, Opera Omaha, Des Moines Metro Opera and appeared in Revival Theatre’s production of Sunday in the Park with George in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and in the same musical as a guest artist for the University of Iowa Theatre Department. She appeared as the leading lady Marguerite St. Just in Scarlett Pimpernel with City Circle Acting Company and performed the role of Kate in Pirates of Penzance for Quad Cities Opera. She is looking forward to finally singing Suzuki in Madame Butterfly with the same company (two years later than planned due to covid) and is excited to try her hand at Shakespeare this summer in Riverside Theatre’s production of A Winter’s Tale.
As a concert soloist, she has sung with Rhodes Mastersingers and the Memphis Symphony in Bach’s B Minor Mass, and a regional premier of Jennifer Higdon’s Ruminations featured on a PBS special “Articulate”. She was privileged to sing in a dynamic live film score showing of Joan of Arc with the composer George Sarah. A few other major works include Bach’s Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, Handel’s Messiah, and a performance of Haydn’s Harmonie Messe at Carnegie Hall.
Church music and music education is also an integral part of her career, having been noted as an educator who possesses the agility and ability to teach anything. She has taught the very young to the very old in various settings for more than seventeen years including private voice and piano, early childhood music, children’s and adult church music ensembles, musicals and workshops, secondary vocal music, and as an adjunct musical theatre voice professor at the University of Memphis and an adjunct professor of voice at Kirkwood Community College. She is now the Director of Music Ministries at First United Methodist Church in downtown Iowa City and maintains a private voice studio.
She received her Bachelor of Music in K-12 music education from Simpson College in Indianola, IA where she also performed in numerous opera productions and assistant directed two operas under the esteemed late Dr. Robert L. Larsen. She was awarded best female musician of her class and graduated summa cum laude. Her Master of Music degree in vocal performance was then completed at University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Ms. Claassen has become in a sense a “renaissance woman of music”, at home as a singer/performer, teacher, pianist, and conductor. Having lived in Omaha, Dallas, and Memphis in the last ten years, she now makes her home in Iowa City with her two boys and her partner Adam Knight.
To view CV, click claassen curriculum vitae 6.7.21