USD MM Graduate Performs with Regional Opera Companies

Photo of Dana Carlson. Dana Carlson will cover the part of Flora in Britten’s “The Turn of the Screw" as a studio artist in residence at the Red River Lyric Opera.

VERMILLION, S.D. – Dana Carlson, a 2017 University of South Dakota master’s graduate in vocal performance, will continue her opera career this summer at the Fresco Opera Theatre in Madison Wisconsin, and as a studio artist at the Red River Lyric Opera in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Carlson, from Somerset, Wisconsin, was inspired to pursue a career in vocal performance after attending an opera with her grandmother.

“I was prepared for this terrible experience,” said Carlson. “But we saw an opera filled with mistaken identities, disguises, and witty conversation, all in a well timed and brilliant comedy. I absolutely loved it.”

After performing in musicals in high school and at outreach programs hosted by the Minnesota Opera, Carlson studied vocal performance and choral music education at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point before attending USD.

“My experience at USD was fantastic. The faculty here are incredible,” said Carlson. “They are supportive, caring and encouraging to their students. I have never seen so many professors go out of their way to cultivate such a positive learning environment.”

At the Fresco Opera Theatre, Carlson will play Stephanie, the mean girl, in a 1980’s adaptation of “The Ugly Duckling.” The show will perform five times from June 10-25 in Madison, Wisconsin, and the surrounding area.

As a studio artist at the Red River Lyric Opera, Carlson will cover the part of Flora in Britten’s “The Turn of the Screw.” She will also get the opportunity to continue to learn and network with current and past performers.

“The main goal of this program is to help singers improve in all areas of performance, to provide a place to network as a growing professional and to help singers move into larger and more competitive companies and positions,” said Carlson.

Tracelyn Gesteland, associate professor of voice and opera at USD, credited Carlson’s worth ethic for her success.

“Dana has worked extremely hard and has taken every opportunity to perform and learn during her two years at USD,” said Gesteland. “She is a fine young artist and I am confident that she has a bright future ahead.”

“I first started taking voice lessons as a freshman in high school and it has been an eleven year journey so far,” said Carlson. “I am looking forward to continuing to grow and learn.”


USD's College of Fine Arts encourages students to pursue their chosen professional field in art, music or theater through their study with nationally recognized faculty who are working professionals. Students learn and grow to be professional fine artists with great job potential anywhere in the country. The college offers opportunities for additional real-world experiences through work with guest artists, study tours abroad and opportunities at the National Music Museum and the University Art Galleries on the Vermillion campus and the Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State Park. The college brings more than 80 guests artists to campus annually to work with students.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Michael Ewald
USD News