Dr. Kristin Kenning moved to Birmingham from Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she worked as a freelance stage director and performer. As Director of Opera at Samford, Kenning is passionate about teaching acting to young singers through opera workshop and opera productions. Recent Samford Opera productions include Into the Woods, Lucinda y las Flores de la Nochebuena, the premiere of The Ghosts of Gatsby, The Marriage of Figaro, On The Town, Amahl and the Night Visitors, The Pirates of Penzance, Hansel and Gretel, and Trouble in Tahiti. Samford Opera Workshop competes in the National Opera Association's Collegiate Scenes Competition – winning 1st place in 2020 (Cleveland) and 2018 (New Orleans), and winning 2nd place or placing as finalists in five other recent competition cycles.
As a freelance stage director, productions include Il matrimonio segreto for Mobile Opera; The Pirates of Penzance for Opera Birmingham; The Ghosts of Gatsby for Seagle Music Colony; Naughty Marietta, The Desert Song, and Die Fledermaus for the Birmingham Music Club; Mlle. Modiste and The Vagabond King for Minnesota's Skylark Opera, The Match Girl’s Gift on the Minnesota Centennial Showboat, and the premiere of The Ladysmith Story at the Red Eye Theater in Minneapolis. She has directed shows for many theatres and festivals in Minneapolis, including: Theatre Unbound, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Minnesota Fringe Festival, Artsmosis, and the Minneapolis Short Film Festival. She is a champion of new work and is invited to direct often for the Atlanta Opera’s 24-Hour Opera Project – winning the competition in 2013 with composer Evan Mack’s Beach and Moan and in 2016 with composer Liam Wade's The Stranger the Better.
Samford commissioned and premiered the new American opera The Ghosts of Gatsby in the fall of 2018 about the lives of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The opera, composed by Evan Mack to text by Joshua McGuire, then went on tour in Alabama, and was presented at the Opera America New Works Forum in New York City in January of 2019 in collaboration with Opera Birmingham and Seagle Music Colony. The Ghosts of Gatsby won the National Opera Association’s Dominick Argento Chamber Competition in January of 2019, and Samford University’s production of the work came in second place in the Opera Production Competition.
Kenning previously taught voice at Luther College, Iowa, and opera workshop at the University of Minnesota. As a vocalist, she has a diverse background of experience performing in musical theatre, opera, jazz, church, and concert settings. She has performed throughout the US and in Europe and South Africa. Her voice teachers include Elizabeth Mannion and Jane Giering DeHaan. Kenning’s own voice students have gone on to great success as musical theatre and operatic performers, as church musicians, and as teachers. Graduating seniors have been accepted at competitive graduate programs across the country – including Eastman, Royal Academy of Music, Guildhall, Indiana University, Boston Conservatory, and Peabody Conservatory.
Degrees and Certifications
- Bachelor of Music, Western Michigan University
- Master of Music, University of Minnesota
- Doctor of Musical Arts, University of Minnesota
- Musical Theatre
Awards and Honors
- International Research Grant, Poland, University of Minnesota
- American Finalist at the International Czech Music Competition
- Honorable Mention at Metropolitan Opera Auditions, Minneapolis, MN
- First Place in Thursday Musical Advanced Voice Competition, Saint Paul, MN
- Presidential Scholar in Music, Western Michigan University
- Presser Music Award, Western Michigan University
- Downbeat Awards, Gold Company, Western Michigan University
- First Place, Robert Schumann Choral Competition, Zwickau, Germany