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Jacobs School of Music

Alain Barker
Jacobs School of Music

Last modified: Friday, December 2, 2011

New book, 'C. David Higgins: Tribute to a Master,' celebrates IU Jacobs School of Music professor

Dec. 2, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In celebration of the extraordinary career of C. David Higgins, chair of the Indiana University Opera Studies Department and principal designer for IU Opera Theater, the IU Jacobs School of Music announces its publication of C. David Higgins: Tribute to a Master.

Higgins is retiring this month after more than 40 years of working as a master scenic artist at the school.

The 40-page, full-color book -- featuring more than 50 images, including some of his most beautiful designs -- was written by Marianne Williams Tobias, author, pianist and resident musicologist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, with Timothy Stebbins, director of production for IU Opera and Ballet Theater.

"The Jacobs School of Music is forever grateful to David Higgins for four decades of unsurpassed artistry," Jacobs Dean Gwyn Richards said. "Our students, faculty, staff and audiences have had an unparalleled opportunity to benefit from his genius and will do so for many years to come. We'd also like to thank Marianne Tobias and Tim Stebbins for their invaluable contributions to making this tribute to a master possible."

Tobias first met Higgins during her research for Opera for All Seasons: 60 Years of Indiana University Opera Theater, which she also authored.

"I felt very honored when I was asked to write the story of this phenomenal person and talent," Tobias said. "Timothy Stebbins was an extraordinary resource, companion and friend, and I share any credit for this with him. My most satisfying moment of the project was when he told me that I had done a good job because I knew he was the one who knew best."

"I was very honored to work with Marianne because she was a wonderful collaborator and very giving of her time and insights," Stebbins said. "Of course, I was grateful to Dean Richards for being given the opportunity to honor in such a wonderful way a man whose brilliant artistry I've been allowed to be a part of for 20 years."

"There is something very tender and fragile when dealing with someone's life," said Tobias, whose philanthropic generosity made the book possible. "David is someone who has followed his standards consistently, and that can't be said about many people. His story would fill an encyclopedia. Working on this book was truly one of the best experiences of my life. As a musician, we say bravissimo, and that is what David deserves for everything."

Both Tobias and Higgins will be available to sign copies of the book Saturday night, Dec. 3, during intermission of The Nutcracker at the Musical Arts Center. It will also be available in Marketplace there during select events, as well as at Marketplace in the Music Practice Building, 1124 E. Third St. and online at

Watch a video of Higgins talking about IU Opera Theater at

Read an IUMusic magazine article about Higgins at

About C. David Higgins

C. David Higgins

Print-Quality Photo

Born in Bloomington, Ind., and raised not two blocks from campus, C. David Higgins started his theatrical studies at IU intent on becoming an actor/dancer before he discovered his love for scenic design.

He studied with the famous C. Mario Cristini and became proficient in the Romantic-Realist style of scenic design and painting. After earning his master's degree, he joined the staff of Indiana University Opera Theater and has worked there as master scenic artist since the Musical Arts Center opened in 1971.

He was appointed to the faculty in 1976 and now serves as chair of the Opera Studies Department and principal designer for Opera Theater, where he designs both scenery and costumes for major new productions.

His design credits throughout the United States include the San Antonio Festival, Memphis Opera, Norfolk Opera, Louisville Opera, Detroit Symphony, Canton Ballet and Sarasota Ballet, as well as many other venues.

His Indiana University productions have been seen throughout North America as rentals by major regional opera companies. His many international credits include the Icelandic National Theater; Ballet San Juan de Puerto Rico; Korean National Opera; Seoul City Opera; Korean National Ballet; Dorset Opera (England); Teatro la Paz de Belem, Brazil; and the Teatro National de São Paulo, Brazil.

He has designed the scenery for the world premiere of Our Town (Ned Rorem), the American premieres of Jeppe (Sandström) and The Devils of Loudun (Penderecki) and the collegiate premieres of Nixon in China (Adams) and The Ghosts of Versailles (Corigliano) as well as many other operas and ballets.

Opera News magazine has referred to Higgins, known for his Italianate painting style, as one of the finest American scenic artists today.