Ken Cazan

Chair, Vocal Arts and Opera; Resident Stage Director, USC Thornton Opera

Associate Professor

  • Program:
    Vocal Arts and Opera
  • Division:
    Classical Performance and Composition
  • Expertise:
    Stage Directing


Ken Cazan is Chair of Vocal Arts and Opera and Resident Stage Director at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music where he has taught since 2004. Since beginning his directing career in 1984, he has directed more than 150 productions of operas, musical theater, and plays. His work has been seen in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Mexico.

Recent career highlights include directing WEST SIDE STORY as the inaugural production for the new Kilden Theater complex in Kristiansand, Norway. Also recently, he directed Philip Glass’ rarely seen FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER in a co-production with the Long Beach Opera and Chicago Opera Theater, as well as a new production of Ned Rorem’s OUR TOWN for the Central City Opera where his work is frequently seen. Other career highlights include the American Opera house premiere of Britten’s rarely seen GLORIANA and the American premieres of Handel’s AGRIPPINA and Mozart’s MIDRIDATE, RE DI PONTO. He also directed LA BOHEME, conducted by Leonard Bernstein and recorded by Deutsche Grammaphon and RAI in Rome, Italy. The television broadcast was seen worldwide and has been repeated often.Other productions seen on television are FAUST and LA TRAVIATA for PBS, and PAGLIACCI, FAUST, SUOR ANGELICA, and WERTHER for the CBC in Canada. He also directed the world premiere and all subsequent performances of Lowell Liebermann’s and JD McClatchy’s MISS LONELYHEARTS which was commissioned for and performed by the Juilliard School in commemoration of their 100th anniversary. Mr. Cazan also directed a production of the Gershwin’s LADY BE GOOD! for the Teatro la Fenice in Venice, Italy which marked the first time an Italian opera house had created a new production of an American musical.Upcoming work includes Jake Heggie’s DEAD MAN WALKING and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s THE SOUND OF MUSIC both for the Central City Opera, as well as a collaboration with renowned maestro James Conlon of Britten’s THE PRODIGAL SON, in commemoration of the centenary of the composer’s birth which will be performed at the First Congregational Church in Los Angeles, CA. In 2016, Mr. Cazan will direct the 60th anniversary production of Douglas Moore’s THE BALLAD OF BABY DOE for the Central City Opera, where the work originated. The production will star renowned American soprano Anna Christy. Cazan will also be acting as host and lead panel discussions for the LA presentations of the Metropolitan Opera’s broadcasts of Verdi’s FALSTAFF and Tchaikovsky’s EUGENE ONEGIN.

Ken Cazan has also written the book and lyrics for PRODIGY, a musical about the life of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, with composer Billy Pace, which was performed at the Los Angeles Festival of New American Musicals. Currently, he has been commissioned to complete the in-progress opera FRAU SCHINDLER (working title) about the life of Emilie Schindler, wife of the well-known Oskar on which Cazan is writing the libretto, collaborating with composer Thomas Morse. The premiere will be at a major German opera house in the 2016-17 season. Mr. Cazan will also be the Stage Director.

Video Interviews with Ken Cazan

How to Enter the World of Opera
Being a Custodian of the Opera Tradition
The Appeal of Opera
Ken Cazan on Hans Werner Henze's "The English Cat"

Professional experience

Honors, Awards & Competitions:

Outstanding Director Award, San Francisco Opera Merola Opera Program, 1982

Outstanding Alumnus, Kent State University, 2008

Music Festivals:

Teatro la Fenice, Venice, Italy

Santa Fe Opera

Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Rome, Italy

Canadian Opera Company, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Seattle Opera

Academic degrees

  • BFA, Acting/Directing/Dance, Syracuse University, 1979

Other academic experience:

Faculty, University of Michigan, 1989-92

Acting Teacher, Metropolitan Opera Young Artists Development Program, 1987

Master Classes, Ohio State University, University of Nebraska/Omaha, Manhattan School of Music, University of Toronto, CSU Long Beach

Guest Stage Director: Juilliard School, Academy of Vocal Arts, Curtis Institute of Music, Indiana University, Manhattan School of Music

Studied with:

Arthur Storch, Edward Greer, Phillip Robb, Daniel Krempel