Nando Schellen’s favorite part of directing opera is connecting audiences to the music. He has directed more than 30 operas throughout the United States and Canada and five in Europe and is heading into his seventh year as director of Opera Theater for Northern Arizona University.
“NAU is a great place for opera,” Schellen said. “The department is just the right size for paying personal attention to students and the Ardrey Auditorium stage is deep enough for producing operas the way they should be staged.”
Schellen came to NAU full time in 2000 after having participated in summer theater workshops. Originally from the Netherlands, he is fluent in Dutch, German, English and French. He is a published music and opera critic and analyst who believes all operas should be performed in the language they were written in and admits that “supertitles” (translated text on a screen during performances) are uniting audiences with opera’s compelling story lines.
Schellen has united many operas and musicals with NAU audiences, including Sondheim’s Into the Woods and A Little Night Music; Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, La Voix Humaine and The Telephone,Die Zauberflöte and Le Nozze di Figar; Harvey Schmidt’s The Fantasticks; Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas; Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi; Schoenberg’s Erwartung; Strauss’ Die Fledermaus and Viktor Ullman’s Der Kaiser von Atlantis. He is currently directing Mozart’s Don Giovanni for April 6, 8 and 9 performances.
Audiences first got to know Schellen’s work when he left his family’s international trade business to become the managing director of the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam. Ten years later he became the associate general director of the opera and stayed for another eight years. Schellen was president of the renowned Netherlands Wind Ensemble for almost 20 years and worked on a host of other musical performances throughout Europe and Canada before coming to the United States in 1992.
In 1992, Schellen was appointed general and artistic director of the Indianapolis Opera. After four years of critical successes in Indianapolis, he followed his heart and opera companies that attracted him. From 1995 to 2000, Schellen directed operas for the Arizona Opera, for the Pamiro Opera in Wisconsin, the New Orleans Opera, the Nevada Opera and the International Donau Opera in Bulgaria, which toured through Europe for one year. He conducted opera workshops in Northern Italy for Oberlin College, called Oberlin at Casalmaggiore, an international summer school.
At NAU, Schellen also teaches Opera History and Literature and Movement and Acting for Singers. “The NAU students I have had the opportunity to work with here are extremely talented and enthusiastic,” he said.