Michael Shell

Michael Shell's "visionary" and "masterful storytelling" (Opera News) is steadily leading him to be one of the most sought after directors in the United States.   His "thoughtful and detailed score study" (Opera Today) is shown in character development and relationships onstage as well as the complete visual world he creates.   

Shell has directed productions for Atlanta Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Opera Omaha, Opera San Jose, Opera Tampa, Opera North, Virginia Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Wexford Festival Opera, and Opera Theatre of St. Louis. He made his international directing debut at the Wexford Festival Opera in 2010 with a production of “Winners,” by American composer Richard Wargo and returned the next fall to direct Double Trouble – Trouble in Tahiti & The Telephone.  He has written and directed three cabarets, including All About Love and The Glamorous Life - A group therapy session for Opera Singers, both for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. 

Shell holds a BM and MM in Music/Vocal Performance from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.  He was a Corbett Scholar at The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, as well as studying Acting and Scene Study on a school awarded scholarship at the internationally renowned H.B. Studios in NYC.   He has been a guest faculty member at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Florida State University and Webster University,St. Louis, teaching Opera Workshop and directing Undergraduate Opera Workshop performances.  In addition he has been guest director at The A.J.Fletcher Opera Institute, Oklahoma University and is a frequent guest director at Indiana University.

Upcoming Engagements

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Virginia Opera, 2018

West Side Story, Indiana University Opera Theater, 2018 

The Barber of Seville,  Lyric Opera of Kansas City, 2018

Hansel and Gretel, Indiana University Opera Theater, 2018

Silent Night, (New Production created for Opera San Jose - 2017), Arizona Opera, 2019                               

H.M.S. Pinafore - Indiana University, 2014

Anne Midgette praises "Barber" at Virginia Opera:

"I often complain that opera today has lost its sense of fun, but it was certainly there in Michael Shell's production, which set the action in a colorful, circus-like Seville around the 1960's, and managed to be actually funny without resorting (I'm looking at you, supposedly humorous Metropolitan Opera production) to tired shtick."

"Audiences, though, feed on the staples, the "La Bohemes" and "Carmens" that critics often don't attend but that are sometimes the highlights of the season for regular operagoers.  Would that they were all done as well as this lovely "Barber." - Anne Midegtte, The Washington Post

Check out the entire review by clicking HERE.

Reviews for the West Coast Premier of "Silent Night," at Opera San Jose praised by Opera Today and others:

"Certainly, substantial credit must go to director Michael Shell for having mastered all of the inherent staging challenges as he unlocked the profound riches of the piece that composer

Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell have crafted. Mr. Shell was well partnered in his pursuit by a design team operating at the top of its game." - James Sohre, Opera Today

Check out the entire review by clicking HERE.

For additional press for "Silent Night" please click HERE.  

More praise for "Barber" at Virginia Opera:

"Virginia Opera’s new production of Gioachino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” which opened Friday at the Harrison Opera House, has it all: truly gorgeous singing, John Baril’s crisp conducting, Michael Shell’s inventive direction and, not least, laughs galore. Shell also pulls off something rarely seen: The love story between Count Almaviva and Rosina is in perfect balance with the sly machinations of the title character." - The Virginian-Pilot

Check out the entire review by clicking HERE.

“...this,'Barber of Seville' is a perfect example of how to update and breathe new life into a beloved classic.  Virginia Opera is ambitious here, going for over-the-top entertainment while never underserving or disrespecting the beauty and majesty of the opera itself. From the sublime to the ridiculous, it all works. The show is beyond memorable. It’s unforgettable." - Richmond Times Dispatch

Check out the entire review by clicking HERE.

"So effective and maybe even brilliantly devised was this "Barber" that the Virginia Opera should not chance another outing for "Barber" for many, many years, because this one will live in memory for a long, long time. This was buffa at its bravura best." - The Virginia Gazette

Check out the entire review by clicking HERE.

Reviews for "A Little Night Music" at Piedmont Opera:

"This production comes close to perfection, even down to the graceful folding of picnic blankets. No detail eludes Shell’s keen eye, and the result is a glorious evening of musical theater."

Check out the entire review by clicking HERE.

Reviews for "BARBER" at Opera Omaha:  

OPERA NEWS REVIEW - "Barber" at Opera Omaha:

“OPERA OMAHA's fifty-eighth season opened on October 14 with Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia in a staging by Michael Shell that was hilariously delightful with every random turn.”

Check out the entire review by clicking HERE.

"Comic Romp starts Opera Season with much glee!"   Check out the entire review by clicking HERE.

"Barber of Seville brings a sense of fun to Opera Omaha."  Check out the entire review by clicking HERE.



"Director Michael Shell’s intriguing staging brilliantly made use of Kaneko’s grid design by staging angular movement patterns representing the characters being “trapped in a prison of their own making,” and then as the opera progressed, relaxing the movement as if the characters were “finding their way out — Freedom.”  Check out the entire review by clicking HERE.


"...Opera Theatre St. Louis has completely reimagined a work of the traditional standard repertoire and made it something clever and golden without sacrificing any of the tenderness, passion and chicanery laid out by Rossini."   Check out the entire review from ELEVEN Magazine by clicking HERE.

"The production was fresh, full of zany twists and turns. Beaumarchais would have approved... the orchestra was thrillingly dynamic and in highest form. "   Check out the entire review from Intermission Magazine by clicking HERE. 

"This story is given an even more refreshing interpretation by director Shell, who says in his program notes that he was inspired by the fantasy films of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar."  Check out the entire review from Ladue News by clicking HERE.  

"From the performances to the set design, Opera Theatre made a masterpiece of Rossini’s opera buffa."  Check out the entire review from St. Louis Magazine by clicking HERE. 

"Stage director Michael Shell, conductor Ryan McAdams, and the cast of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis' "Barber of Seville" can all congratulate themselves on a job well done. Kelley Rourke's translation/adaptation of the original libretto and Mr. Shell's visual concepts take a few liberties as they move the action up to (roughly) the mid-1960s, but I felt that none of them violated the intentions of either the original opera or, for that matter, the Beaumarchais play that started it all. The result it a loopy, slightly surreal, and highly engaging take this comic opera classic."  Check out the entire review from KDHX by clicking HERE. 

"Visionary director Michael Shell has upped the entertainment quotient by immersing the entire work in pop culture influenced by Oscar-winning director Pedro Almodovar (”All About My Mother,” “Talk to Her”), who rose to prominence during Spain’s cultural renaissance post-Franco. And it’s fantastic."  Check out the entire review from BND HERE