John’s directing style developed over a richly artistic 22-year period in Tel Aviv, Israel, as a result of dealing with the unique challenges of shoe string production budgets with an evolving and revolving group of talented young singers, a musical director and a pianist.

The process always began with intense collaboration with the musical director and the singers to create a dynamic working environment and plot a course. Next, a few stage props were sprinkled on a starkly blank stage, make-shift costumes were assembled, and then, with some scenic elements and limited lighting, the drama unfolded

Tales of Hoffmann, IVAI
Tales of Hoffmann, IVAI
Tales of Hoffmann, IVAI

As the International Vocal Arts Institute grew and matured into the important young artist training program it is today, there was more support for production values. But John had already found that he could create musically and visually stimulating performances by capitalizing on the talent, the people and the resources at hand.

Tales of Hoffmann (2004)
International Vocal Arts Institute, Tel Aviv

Director + Set design + Costumes: John Norris
Light: Ari Remez

In 1988 John directed and co-produced his first opera in Munich; Haydn’s Isola dissabbiata. This opportunity led him to many other creative ventures, one of which was a dance/theater piece created for a private acting school based on Rilke’s Sonneten an Orpheus.

The financial strain of producing projects privately in Europe led John back to the States where he was engaged by the Metropolitan Opera Young Artist’s Program. And in 2002 he returned to Germany to direct City of Angels at the Bavarian Theater Academy.

City of Angles (2003)

Bayerische Theaterakademie August Everding
im Prinzregententheater

Director: John Norris
Set design: Thomas Pekny
Costumes: Roswitha Egger
Light: Benjamin Schmidt

In 1997 John began serving as the Chairman of the Opera Department and the Camerata at the Mannes School of Music. There, he directed and produced new productions of Die Zauberflöte, i Capuleti e I Montecchi and Ned Rorem’s Three Sisters; his production of Three Sisters was made into a film for a biography of Ned’s life work.

Rigoletto, Academy of Vocal Arts
Rigoletto, Academy of Vocal Arts

In neighboring Philadelphia, John directed productions of Elisir d’amore and La Rondine at Curtis School and Rigolettoand Die Fledermaus at the Academy of Vocal Arts. In 1998 he had the honor of putting together a critically acclaimed new production of Dominick Argento’s Postcard from Morocco at the Manhattan School of Music.

The Magic Flute, Connecticut Opera Company
The Magic Flute, Connecticut Opera Company

Upon returning to North America, John started directing regionally between 1993-2002. Starting with Carmen at the Memphis Opera Company he went on to direct much of the standard repertoire throughout the US and Canada, including La Boheme and Lucia di Lammermoor (Fort Worth Opera Company), Don Giovanni and Die Zauberflöte (Connecticut Opera), Il barbiere di Siviglia and La fille du Regiment (Edmonton Opera), and Werther (Chautauqua Opera).