Contemporary OperaContemporary Opera

The Last American Hammer

Milcom Negley, a one-man militia, rages against the tyranny of federal overreach. A conspiracy theorist, Milcom believes an obscure, would-be Thirteenth amendment negates the authority of our government. The only major source of employment in town—a hammer manufacturer—has shuttered, and Milcom is armed with “the last American hammer” to roll off the plant’s line. He is hunkered down in a rural museum with curator Tink Enraught and FBI Agent Reyes.


$50 General Admission

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About the Venue

Digital Playbill

Pre-Performance Talk

Composer & Librettist

Peter Hilliard & Matt Boresi | Composer & Librettist

Peter Hilliard (ASCAP) and Matt Boresi are writers of operas, musicals, art song, and choral work favoring themes of contemporary life.

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This season, Peter and Matt are developing a new musical comedy about the opera industry for the University of Illinois and Nathan and Julie Gunn’s Shot in the Dark Productions (“Met the Musical”), a baritone monodrama about e-mail scams for Washington DC’s UrbanArias (“Inbox Zero”), and recently had their song cycle for mezzo about community conflicts premiered on Albany Records and wherever you stream your music (“Notes from a Town Meeting” on Sequina Dubose’s “Blurred Lines – 21st Century Hyrbrid Vocal Works”).  Their comic holiday carols (“A Christmas Carol & Bob & Ted & Alice”)  premiered as part of the Decameron Opera Coalition’s “Doc the Halls” streaming winter film, and their song cycle for soprano, “Dead Mall Ballads” about the life (and death) cycle of the American shopping mall was recently performed by Jennifer Aylmer at Lyric Fest, Philadelphia.

Hilliard and Boresi’s other work includes the chamber operas“Blue Viola”, “The FIlthy Habit”, “Don Imbroglio”, an upcoming musical for Lyric Theatre @ Illinois,  the song cycles “Buyer Beware” (tenor), and “Farmball Songs” (baritone), and the puppet operas “Verdi by Vegetables” and “The Harmony Jar”. They are co-founders of the award-winning Decameron Opera Coalition, a network of independent opera companies creating new work and a national conversation about the future of opera and music theatre.

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Production Team

Austin McWilliams | Conductor

Austin McWilliams is a conductor and countertenor who specializes in contemporary vocal music.

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He strives to present compelling, intriguing art that is directly relevant to the communities in which it is performed. Austin is the Associate Conductor and Education Director at Opera Grand Rapids, where he acts as both chorus master and head of the contemporary opera series. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Choral Studies at Western Michigan University, where he conducts the university operas and teaches several courses. He is the choir director at Fountain Street Church, a non-denominational, non-creedal institution that serves as a venue for heterodox speakers and ideologies, and is a faculty member at Missouri Scholars Academy, an annual, month-long governor’s school for gifted high school juniors in his native state. Favorite projects include Stinney: An American Execution (Frances Pollock), a world premiere opera about 14-year-old black boy George Stinney Jr. who was wrongfully convicted and executed in 1944; Our Trudy (Anna Pidgorna), a world premiere opera about the life of a small-town Kansas art teacher; and Of Rage and Remembrance (John Corigliano), a choral recital on HIV/AIDS awareness. Austin holds degrees in choral conducting and computer engineering.

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Cara Consilvio | Stage Director

Cara Consilvio is a director and producer of opera, theater, and film with extensive experience in dance and choreography whose inventive, kinetic, and evocative productions are in great demand.

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Professional credits include engagements with Houston Grand Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Portland Opera, Tulsa Opera, American Opera Projects, and Opera Saratoga.

Cara returns to Opera Grand Rapids where she previously directed productions of Scalia/Ginsburg, Penny, and Second Nature.

In 2022, Cara directed Glory Denied for Opera Naples, the world premiere of I Give You my Home for Guerilla Opera and The Sound of Music for Charlottesville Opera.  In 2021, Cara directed Scalia/Ginsburg for Chautauqua Opera, and the world premiere of Our Trudy for the Ad Astra Music Festival.  In January of 2021, Cara directed Bernadette’s Cozy Book Nook; a world premiere opera film for Fort Worth Opera, composed by Joe Illick with a libretto by Mark Campbell.

In 2020, Cara directed Scalia/Ginsburg for Opera Carolina, and the world premieres of The Leader and Kassandra for Opera in the Heights. She also wrote, directed and produced For the Love of Friends; a music-theater play produced at The West End Theatre in NYC. Other stage directing engagements include new productions of Philip Glass’ Hydrogen Jukebox at Chautauqua Opera, of which the press said, “It is hard to imagine an interpretation of this work which would be more effective.” Other opera directing highlights include new productions An American Dream at Anchorage Opera, Il Trovatore for Opera in the Heights, The Threepenny Opera for Syracuse Opera, Suor Angelica and Glory Denied at Tri-Cities Opera, and The Elixir of Love for Piedmont Opera, which was praised for its “visually appealing, genuinely funny…expert comic timing.”

As a teacher and guest director, Cara has taught at The Boston University Opera Institute and directed productions for Loyola University at New Orleans, UC San Diego, Depauw University and The Hartt School of Music. Cara brings her extensive performance background and training as a dancer, actor, and singer to her work. She earned a BA in Dramatic Art and Dance from UC Berkeley. She pursued advanced acting training with the American Conservatory Theater and Williamstown Theater Festival and completed three years of post-baccalaureate studies in vocal performance at SUNY Fredonia

Cara is a co-founder of Hup! Productions. Her feature film directing debut, a  documentary called For the Love of Friends, is currently playing in the Festival circuit and recently was named Best Documentary Feature at Out South. Her other film directing projects include narrative short films C.I.T., and Dry. Cara is executive producer and co-story writer of the horror comedy feature film Camp Wedding, which is distributed by Gravitas Pictures. She has also produced and directed many tribute videos, promotional videos, and behind the scenes mini-docs for the NEA Opera Honors, the NEA Jazz Masters videos, OPERA America, and the American Composers Orchestra.

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Evan Carlson | Lighting Designer

Evan Carlson is a Grand Rapids based Lighting Designer and Assistant Professor of Lighting Design at Western Michigan University.

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Evan received his Undergraduate Degree from Western Michigan University and Masters Degree from University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. Evan has worked in collaboration with Cincinnati Opera, Contemporary American Theatre Festival, Cincinnati Ballet, Kentucky Opera, and City Gospel Mission.

This is Evan’s first production with Opera Grand Rapids and is excited to bring his design work and collaboration to the team. As a Lighting Designer, Evan is fascinated with the role lighting plays in every production and its connection between Story, Actor, and Audience.

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Erica Monroe | Costume Designer

Erica Monroe received her undergraduate degree in Literature from Calvin University and her masters degree in Speech Language Pathology from Grand Valley University.

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She attended Kootenay School of the Arts in British Columbia for coursework in pattern drafting, tailoring, and advanced garment detailing. She has worked for The House Theater Company and The Albany Park Theatre Project in Chicago, Illinois. She managed the costume shop at Calvin University here in Grand Rapids, teaching sewing skills and theater production to students. She has assisted as costume coordinator and head of wardrobe at OGR during productions of Cosi fan Tutti, Don Giovanni, Turandot and The Pirates of Penzance and designer of their world premiere production of Stinney: An American Execution.

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Aynsley Douglas | Wig & Makeup Designer

Aynsley has been with Opera Grand Rapids since The Magic Flute in 2018.

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This is the forth production Aynsley has designed with OGR, along with Penny, 2021, Stinney, An American Execution, 2022 and The Pirates of Penzance, 2022. Aynsley also serves as the Wigs Swing on the first national tour of Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations and is the Wigs Supervisor on the national tour of My Fair Lady.

Aynsley is a hairstylist based out of Hairacy Downtown in Grand Rapids where they specialize in curly hair and gender-affirming styling. When they’re not backstage or in the salon, she works restoring her historic home with her fiancée, and takes her cat for walks.

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Tina Gorter | Rehearsal Pianist

Tina Gorter, collaborative pianist, has served as a collaborative pianist at Western Michigan University since 2006.

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There, she collaborates with vocal ensembles, faculty members, guest artists, and numerous students for performances. In addition to her position at WMU, she performs on the concert stage as the pianist for Opera Grand Rapids, Ad Astra Music Festival, Southwest Michigan Vocal Festival, and frequently appears with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra as a guest pianist.

Aside from her work as a performer, she is a dedicated educator who coaches young pianists, instrumentalists, and singers. She has served as a vocal coach and music director for the opera scenes program at Interlochen Center for the Arts Camp as well as vocalists at the collegiate level. As a piano instructor, she teaches solo piano and collaborative piano at Gilmore Piano Camp and has served on faculty teaching Beginning Piano and as a chamber music coach at SEMINAR, WMU’s high school summer music camp. She is the Collaborative Outreach Coordinator for Fontana Chamber Arts focusing on building the collaborative piano community and the tools needed in the chamber music profession. She is also an active clinician for Collaborative Piano workshops that are designed to develop collaborative skills.

She is currently pursuing a DMA in Collaborative Piano at Michigan State University. She holds a Master of Music degree in Piano Performance with an emphasis in Collaborative Performance from Western Michigan University and a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Montana.

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Mark Willoughby | Technical Director

Mark has been working as a Technical Director and Production Manager for over 25 years.

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Having lived in NYC for many of those years, he’s worked on productions that ranged from commercial ventures at Madison Square Garden, on Broadway, and Off-Broadway. Mark has worked with Hudson Scenic Studios building for TV, Vegas productions and museum exhibitions. After leaving the big apple he was TD for the theatre department at the University of Houston for 2 years, then moved north to TD for MSU’s Department of Theatre and the College of Music’s Opera program for 10 years. After retiring from academic life, he spends time freelancing as a TD, carpenter, rigger, and loader, but mostly enjoys fine woodworking

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Brian James Myer | Milcom Negley

Baritone Brian James Myer has been praised as an artist of “both voice and character to make him stand out in the crowd” (Sarasota Observer).

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In the spring of 2021, Mr. Myer returned to New York City Opera as Alberto in their workshop of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Gordon/Korie) and in 2022, he reprised the role in the opera’s world premiere (a recording of the opera will also take place in 2023). Later in 2022, he joined the roster of The Metropolitan Opera as the cover of Marcellus/Player 4 in Brett Dean’s Hamlet, made his Opera Delaware and Baltimore Concert Opera debuts as the title character in Il barbiere di Siviglia and joined the Bard Symphony Orchestra as Second Nazarene in Salome. Upcoming engagements include Mr. Myer making his debut with Berkshire Opera Festival debut as Masetto in Don Giovanni, covering Morbio in Strauss’ Die Schweigsame Frau with Bard Summerscape, joining Brooklyn Art Song Society for selections by Ivor Gurney and Gerald Finzi, returning to Opera Orlando as Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, rejoining Opera Las Vegas as David Miller in Approaching Ali, joining Symphony San Jose as the baritone soloist inCarmina Burana, and debuting the role of Count Almaviva with Tri-Cities Opera and Syracuse Opera.

In the summer of 2020, Mr. Myer was slated to make his Hartford Symphony debut as the bass soloist in Beethoven No .9, a debut with Festival Opera as Moralès/Le Dancaïre in Carmen, and a debut with the Berkshire Opera Festival as Masetto in Don Giovanni (COVID19 – postponed until Summer 2022). During the 2020-2021 season, Mr. Myer was scheduled to make his European debut with Opera North in the world premiere of Iain Bell’s Jack the Ripper(COVID19), joined Atlanta Opera as Figaro in their bi-lingual production of Il barbiere di Siviglia, as Dancairo in Carmen and covered the role of Mr. Peachum in The Threepenny Opera, made his New York Festival of Song debut in their NYFOS Next series, and curated a solo recital with Opera Las Vegas. In the winter of 2020, Mr. Myer made a company debut at Knoxville Opera, reprising the role of Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette, his Asian debut with the Jakarta Symphony Orchestra, and another company debut with Opera on the James, reprising the role of Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia (COVID19).

In the fall of 2019, Mr. Myer made role debuts as Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus at Opera San José and Guglielmo in Così fan tutte with Syracuse Opera. Earlier in 2019, Mr. Myer debuted with New York City Opera as Young Erich in Ted Rosenthal’s jazz opera, Dear Erich, returned to Opera Orlando to sing Fiorello and Bert (formally known as Berta) in their new production of The Barber of Seville, made his MESS (Mise-en-scène Studios) debut as the baritone soloist in the Brahms Neue Liebeslieder Waltzes, returned to Opera Las Vegas as Leo Stein in Ricky Ian Gordon’s 27and rejoined New York City Opera as Carlos in the world premiere of Stonewall, written by Iain Bell and Mark Campbell.

In 2018, Mr. Myer made debuts with Hawaii Symphony as baritone soloist in Carmina Burana, Henderson Symphony as Maximilian in Candide, American Lyric Theater on their InsightALT: Opera in Eden concert at Merkin Hall, the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice as Moralès and Le Dancaïre in Carmen, and finally the Grand Teton Music Festival as Snowboy and Big Deal in West Side Story under the baton of Donald Runnicles. He also returned to Opera Las Vegas return as Dandini in La Cenerentola and Hawaii Opera Theater as Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette.

Mr. Myer’s 2017 activity included his debut with Opera Naples as Papageno in The Magic Flute, his debut with Hawaii Opera Theater as Le Dancaïre in Carmen, a return to Opera Orlando as Schaunard in La bohème, and a return to OSJ as the Minister in Alma Deutscher’s Cinderella (US premiere).

During the 2016–2017 season Mr. Myer was engaged as a Resident Artist with Opera San José, performing Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Ponchel in the West Coast premiere of Kevin Puts’ Silent Night, and Schaunard in La bohème. Previous roles with Opera San José include Angelotti in Tosca, Papageno and Second Priest in Die Zauberflöte, Masetto in Don Giovanni, and the roles of Alessandro/Enrico and Gino Carella in the world premiere production of Mark Weiser’s Where Angels Fear to Tread. For his interpretation of the tragic character of Gino, Mr. Myer was hailed as “a name to look for in the future” (San José Metblogs). Additional engagements include Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia with Florida Grand Opera; Silvio in Pagliacci with Sarasota Opera; Le Dancaïre in Carmen, Yamadori in Madama Butterfly, and Masetto in Don Giovanni with Opera Las Vegas; and the Marchese in La traviata, Pish-Tush in The Mikado, Yakusidé in Madama Butterfly, and Albert in The Ballad of Baby Doe with Chautauqua Opera.

On the concert stage, Mr. Myer has appeared as soloist in Mozart’s Requiem and Coronation Mass, Milhaud’s Cantate de Psaumes, Bach’s Magnificat and Christmas Oratorio, Rutter’s Mass of the Children, and Brahms’ Liebeslieder Walzer in venues across North America. He has recently made his Opera Orlando debut as part of their Opera in the Park summer concert series, performing as a member of “The Three Baritones” to sold-out audiences. The group has since released a new album entitled “Christmas Around the World”. Mr. Myer’s achievements and recognitions on the vocal competition circuit include two encouragement awards from Chautauqua Opera, first place prizes in the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competitions in both Ohio and his native Nevada, and the Albert Rees Davis Scholarship from the Singers Club of Cleveland.

As a staunch advocate of music education, Mr. Myer has participated in outreach programs with the Palm Springs Opera Guild and Chautauqua Opera. He holds Bachelor degrees in Music Education and Romance Languages from University of Nevada Las Vegas and a Master’s degree in Vocal Performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music.

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Alyssa Toepfer | Tink Enraught

Alyssa Toepfer has been praised as a soprano with “unbridled dexterity” (Kansas City Star) and a “marvelous, soaring tone” (KC Metropolis).

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Recent engagements include Jean Binnicker in the world premiere of Stinney: An American Execution with Opera GrandRapids, soprano soloist in Benjamin Boyle’s Cantata No. 1 with the Midwest Chamber Ensemble, and Mariane (Tartuffe) with Landlocked Opera. Other recent performances include Musetta (La bohème) with Opera180, Littler Daughter (Proving Up) with the Ad Astra Music Festival, and Dora in the world premiere of Our Trudy, also with the Ad Astra Music Festival.

In 2014, Ms. Toepfer earned international acclaim in her first pants role as Jemmy in Wichita Grand Opera’s production of Guillaume Tell. Opera News called her “a convincing Jemmy both musically and dramatically” while a reviewer fromthe German Rossini Society praised her as “a superb Jemmy… she acted as well as she sang.”

Additional roles include Gretel (Hӓnsel und Gretel) with Opera Omaha, Pamina (Die Zauberflöte) with The SouthDakota Symphony, Zerlina (Don Giovanni) with Lawrence Opera Theatre, Adele (Die Fledermaus) with Opera South Dakota, Wanda (The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein) with Wichita Grand Opera, Princess/#1 in Conrad Susa’s Transformations with Kansas City Civic Opera, Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi) with Opera South Dakota, Adina (l’Elisir d’amore) and Fiordiligi (Cosi fan tutte), both with UMKC Opera, Norina (Don Pasquale), and Mabel (Pirates of Penzance).

Her concert soloist engagements include Mozart’s Requiem, Poulenc’s Gloria, Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, Handel’sMessiah, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, and Vivaldi’s Gloria. As a choral musician, she sings with The Missouri ChoralArtists, Spire Chamber Ensemble, Prometheus, and the Grammy award-winning Kansas City Chorale.

Alyssa was a district winner in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Born and raised in Sioux Falls, SD, shecompleted a Bachelor of Arts in Music at Augustana University and a Master of Music in Voice at The University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance.

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Amanda Lynn Bottoms | Dee Dee Reyes

Mezzo-soprano Amanda Lynn Bottoms has been heralded for her “superb vocal and dramatic chops” by Opera News, with “stunning vocal beauty and absolute sincerity of expression” in Chicago Classical Review.

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Bottoms will return to the Santa Fe Opera this summer to cover Carmen followed by her mainstage debut with LA Opera as the Mother in Omar and Mahler Symphony No. 3 with the Akron Symphony. For the 2022/2023 season, she will also star as Charlie Tyler in the Dayton Opera world premiere of Finding Wright, debut as Leocasta in Giustino with Long Beach Opera and Girlfriend #3 in Blue at Pittsburgh Opera, and perform Third Lady (The Magic Flute) with the Buffalo Philharmonic. A beloved guest artist with the New York Festival of Song led by Steven Blier, Bottoms will collaborate with the institution for several performances, including their return to live performance “And…We’re Back”.

Praised by the New York Times as “commanding with captivating texture”, and Opera News for “luxurious full tone and interpretive intensity”, Bottoms was a featured Apprentice Artist in 2021 with Santa Fe Opera covering Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Fillipyevna in Eugene Onegin, Ino in The Lord of Cries, and singing Carmen in the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Showcase. To much acclaim, Bottoms headlined the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago Fall 2021 recital series – the opening performance, Songs of the New World, was named one of Chicago Classical Review’s ‘Best of 2021’ alongside the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the final recital The Songs We Carried, received honorable mention.

Bottoms is an alumna of the Cafritz Young Artist Program at the Washington National Opera where her mainstage work included roles in the Maurice Sendak production of The Magic Flute, Menotti’s The Consul, and the world premiere of Admissions in the Washington National Opera AOI program. Bottoms had a “dramatically and vocally glamorous” debut (Parterre Box) in the Opera Philadelphia O19 Festival, as Smeraldina in Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges, and continued featured work with the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago, New York Festival of Song, and Philadelphia Chamber Music Society Emerging Voices recital series.

Prominent debuts include Paquette in Candide with Philadelphia Orchestra and maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Mahler Symphony No.2 with the UCLA Symphony, Mercedes in Carmen with the Buffalo Philharmonic, Songfest with the Juilliard Symphony Orchestra, Richard Danielpour’s The Passion of Yeshua, Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, The Brothers Balliett’s Fifty Trillion Molecular Geniuses at Carnegie Hall, originating the role of Frances in the world premiere of The Flood with Opera Columbus, de Falla’s El Amor Brujo with Lansing Symphony Orchestra and Anita in Bernstein’s West Side Story with the NHK Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo under the baton of maestro Paavo Järvi.

Bottoms has received recognition and awards from prestigious international competitions including the George London Foundation, Loren L. Zachary Society, Operalia, Gerda Lissner, Opera Index, and the Metropolitan Opera National Council Regionals. Bottoms holds a Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School where she was a coveted Kovner Fellow, and a Certificate of Professional Studies in Opera from the Curtis Institute of Music.

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