Dr. Christine Holley is equally at home on stage or screen or behind the scenes as a director and choreographer in opera, musical theater, or children’s theater. She has sung leading roles and has been a principal dancer in both opera and musical theater. In addition, she has modeled professionally and has appeared in print and television ads for Jean Nate, Toyota, Nissan, Technos Waltham, as well as movies, Juwanna Mann and Phthalo Blues. However, music was in her bones, having been a dancer as well as a singer while growing up in Texas.
In fact, Holley’s first experience in opera was as a principal dancer in La Traviata at Texas Tech University. While there, she performed both in the theater department productions and the music department productions. After her sophomore year at Tech, she had an opportunity to go to Tokyo, Japan, where she attended Sophia University, taught English conversation classes, and modeled professionally.
Returning to the U.S., Holley earned Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Music in Vocal Performance degrees from West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M) and then went on to earn a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Holley continued to sing leading roles in both musical theater (Oklahoma!, The Boyfriend,1776!) and opera and operetta (Der Rosenkavalier, Don Giovanni, Hansel and Gretel, H.M.S. Pinafore, The Impressario, A Hand of Bridge).
While singing with the Des Moines Metro Opera Apprentice program, she met composer Lee Hoiby, whose opera The Tempest was to be premiered there the following year. Hoiby told Ms. Holley that he had written a one-woman comic monodrama, The Italian Lesson, for the comedienne, Jean Stapleton (who had been in many Broadway musicals before gaining fame in All in the Family). He subsequently sent the score of The Italian Lesson to Ms. Holley, who fell in love with it because of its combination of lyrical singing and the way it incorporated the comedic timing of the original work by the world-renowned monologist, Ruth Draper. In preparation to perform the role herself, Holley interviewed Hoiby in depth, and later, Jean Stapleton. Holley ultimately wrote her dissertation on The Italian Lesson and performed it at Opera in the Ozarks, the University of Texas, and the University of Southern Mississippi.
Dr. Holley has been recognized as a “marvelously talented” singer, actress, and dancer by critics, audiences, and colleagues alike. Regarding her role as Mrs. Clancy in The Italian Lesson, Daniel Beckwith, conductor for the Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago, said, “Every characterization [was] well-thought out,” her ideas were “fresh and imaginative,” she had “spontaneous delivery” and she was “a true feast for the audience.” Tenor and acclaimed opera director Carroll Freeman said that she was “thoroughly convincing in her interactions to a parade of imaginary visitors and distractions.” About her performance as Zerlina in Don Giovanni, The Austin-American Statesman wrote that she had a “silky, smooth voice…. One can hardly imagine a more lovely or desirable target.” Gemze di Lappe, choreographer for the Broadway revival of Oklahoma!, incorporated more dance into the Holley’s performance of Laurie in Oklahoma! She praised Holley as “One of the best Laurie’s I’ve ever worked with.”
Dr. Holley used her theatrical talents as Assistant Director and Vocal Coach for Opera in the Ozarks. Among the operas she worked on were Madame Butterfly, La Boheme, Carmen, La Cenerentola, The Dialogues of the Carmelites, The Merry Widow, The Crucible, Hansel and Gretel, The Old Maid and the Thief, and The Medium. She also did scenes from Die Zauberflote, Der Rosenkavalier, Pearl Fishers, The Ballad of Baby Doe, L’Incoronatione di Poppea, Falstaff, and Don Giovanni.
As a dancer, Dr. Christine Holley had taken part in many workshops with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Twila Tharp, and Ballet West. Coaches and directors she has studied or worked with include Colin Graham, Daniel Beckwith, Ted Taylor, Micha Hendel, Henry Holt and Buck Ross. Throughout her career, she attended or took part in workshops on opera and vocal literature by Martin Esepp, Elizabeth Schwartzkopf, Marilyn Horne, Gerard Husch, Flora Wend, Justino Diaz, Alan Titus, and Harold Heiberg.
Dr. Holley taught Music Appreciation, Applied Voice, and Allied Arts at The University of Texas at Austin, the University of Southern Mississippi, Southwestern University, William Carey University, and Pearl River Community College. Her deep love of learning and educating children led Dr. Holley to open a Kindermusik studio, in addition to a private voice studio, while teaching choir and general music as a Music Specialist for the Guilford County Schools in Greensboro, North Carolina, and later at the Adams County Five Star Schools in Thornton, Colorado. She earned her Orff Levels I and II from the University of Northern Colorado. She singlehandedly initiated and coordinated the first Adams County Five Star Elementary Honor Choir, which she coordinated for the next six years before retiring from public school teaching to pursue new avenues of education.