It was a homecoming, of sorts, for Jillian Flexner (MBA ’16), when she returned to campus in April for the New York City premiere of Bound, a one-act chamber opera, at the Baruch Performing Arts Center. The opera was presented by Fresh Squeezed Opera, an organization founded by Flexner in 2013.
“We created Fresh Squeezed to showcase new composers,” says Flexner. “There are a lot of companies out there that do new music, but they typically tap into their existing network and people connected to the industry. What about those who aren’t already connected? At Fresh Squeezed, we put out open calls for scores and open auditions – you don’t have to be an alum of a certain college or program to have your music performed with us.”
The open calls result in groundbreaking operas like Bound, which tells the true story of Diane Tran, a high school student arrested for truancy in Houston, TX, because she chose to miss school in order to work various jobs to support her refugee family.
“The opera looks at perspectives on the American dream,” Flexner explains, “and how Americans feel about – and, really, their expectations of – immigrants.”
Flexner’s passion for opera developed as an undergraduate in college. She studied abroad in Vienna and took advantage of inexpensive tickets to attend opera shows twice a week, and she quickly developed a deep love for what Wagner called “Gesamtkunstwerk.”
“The term means, ‘All Art,’” says Flexner, “because opera is a combination of narrative, drama, music, costumes, sets – everything.”
After graduating from undergraduate in 2011 – the tail end of the economic recession – Flexner enrolled in the Zicklin School of Business’s MBA program, thinking she might try accounting. Instead, she discovered the Entrepreneurship program and used her classes to help develop Fresh Squeezed Opera.
“Entrepreneurship at Baruch is so interesting because you can take classes from different programs – I even took some classes at the Marxe School of Public Affairs,” Flexner notes. “The professors were amazingly supportive of me actually creating Fresh Squeezed as a student, and they helped me with business models and strategies. It was a great experience.”
Check out all of Fresh Squeezed Opera’s upcoming shows.