Sons and Daughters - Buchholz back in Iowa for two shows

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Elkader native Teresa Buchholz is back in Iowa rehearsing for a Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre production. The mezzo soprano makes her home in New York.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


A Central graduate who has earned a place on some of New York City’s biggest stages is back in Iowa this week preparing for a much smaller role than she’s accustomed to. 

Teresa Buchholz, daughter of Roger and Betty Buchholz, Elkader, will perform January 13 and 15 in a Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre production of Cavalleria Rusticana, a one-act love story set in small Sicilian village.

“The role I’m singing is pivotal to the story, but I don’t actually have a lot of stage time,” she said. “So if you go, keep a sharp eye out and don’t doze off. You might miss me.”

Obviously, Teresa wasn’t drawn to the production by the size of the part. Instead, she took it because it’s given her a chance to spend time in Iowa with family and also has provided an opportunity to work with Cedar Rapids Opera, a group she hopes will invite her to return.

“I knew some of the other cast members and wanted to work with them as well, and it just happened to fall into an open spot in my calendar,” Teresa explained.

It’s hard to imagine Teresa having too many open dates. In addition to being a sought-after mezzo soprano with an impressive (and still growing) repertoire, she teaches part-time at Bard College in upstate New York. Her husband, conductor James Bagwell, is a full-time professor there, as well.

Music has always been a big part of Teresa’s life. The 1987 Central graduate was a member of the school chorus and played in four different bands—concert, marching, Dixie and jazz. She took piano and voice lessons, and had bit parts in several Opera House productions. Her first audience members were her parents and her three sisters: Ericka Shaw, Beth Houlihan and Sandra Balk.

Teresa did her undergraduate work at the University of Northern Iowa. She is also a graduate of Indiana University and the Yale University opera program.

“When I started college at UNI, I didn’t think I’d ever have a large enough voice for opera,” Teresa said, “but after looking at some of the Mozart roles, I thought it could be a possibility. I knew I liked to sing and wanted to do it professionally but I thought initially that I would be more of an ‘art song singer’ (singing classical songs). Opera became a possibility only within my second or third year of college, and as my voice grew (opera) became more a part of my repertoire.”

Reluctant to point to anything as a “big break,” Teresa has worked consistently since winning a prestigious apprenticeship with the Santa Fe Opera during her graduate school days.

“It definitely set me on a path to bigger and better things,” she continued. “But over the years, I’ve just taken whatever came my way. Sometimes it’s a concert at Carnegie Hall and sometimes it’s something with a small opera company working with people I like. I haven’t sung at the Met (New York’s famed Metropolitan Opera House) or had some sort of big splash like that. But I have been happy for whatever opportunities came my way, which has meant singing at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and then sometimes in a church basement or small theater in a small town.”

Because her work requires frequent travel—Teresa has performed across the U.S. and as far away as Israel and Austria—juggling performing, family life and teaching responsibilities can be challenging. There are times when she works several days, even weeks, without break. She credits her small town, Midwestern upbringing with giving her a work ethic and no-nonsense approach to life that’s made her flexible and adaptable. 

“I’ve found that I’m able to tackle new challenges and take things in stride due to the sort of can-do upbringing I had, which is different than purely having supportive parents,” Teresa said. “I was taught how to take care of myself and be self-reliant.”

Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci will be presented by Cedar Rapids Opera at the Paramount Theatre, Cedar Rapids, January 13, at 7:30 p.m. and January 15 at 2 p.m. Ticket information is available online at

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