THREE COMPOSERS & THE VOICE ALUMNI TO BE FEATURED IN FORT WORTH OPERA FRONTIERS SERIES

December 5, 2014

Conrad Cummings, Zachary Redler, and Clint Borzoni to Present Unpublished Operas

Fort Worth, TX—Three alumni of AOP’s long-running Composers & The Voice program – Conrad Cummings, Zachary Redler, and Clint Borzoni – will have their operas featured in Fort Worth Opera’s Frontiers Series, May 7-8, 2015 at the Kimbell Art Museum. Approaching its third year as part of the Fort Worth Opera Festival, Frontiers will present music from Borzoni’s When Adonis Calls, Redler’s Susan Smith (with a libretto by As One’s Mark Campbell), and Cummings’ The Golden Gate, which received development in both C&V and AOP’s First Chance programs.

The purpose of Fort Worth Opera’s Frontiers program is to give voice to unpublished 21st century operatic compositions. The showcase will be chaired by Fort Worth Opera General Director Darren K. Woods and a jury of composers, directors, conductors, producers, opera administrators, and community leaders.

This follows performances in previous years of works by C&V alumni Robert Paterson, Ronnie Reshef, and Daniel Sonenberg, each with operas that they developed in the AOP training program.

Conrad CummingsCONRAD CUMMINGS has composed operas (productions include “Eros and Psyche,” libretto by the composer, Oberlin Opera Theater; “Positions 1956,” libretto by Michael Korie, P.S. 122; “Photo-Op,” libretto by James Siena, La Mama with Ridge Theater; and “Tonkin,” libretto by the composer with Thomas Bird, Opera Delaware) music for orchestra (including New Jersey, Indianapolis, and Louisville Symphonies and the Brooklyn Philharmonic) and amplified chamber ensemble (at the Knitting Factory and P.S. 122). He trained at Yale, Stony Brook, and Columbia, did post-doc work at IRCAM in Paris, taught at Oberlin Conservatory for ten years where he directed the music and media program, moved to New York to run a kids’ interactive media company, and since 2003 teaches composition in the evening division at Juilliard.

Co-produced by AOP and with a libretto adapted from Vikram Seth’s best-selling novel in verse The Golden Gate, five twenty-somethings experience love, life, and loss in the magical and innocent San Francisco of the early 1980’s. John, handsome and successful, will discover too late the price of  his emotional detachment. He has just met Liz through a personals ad placed by his former college girlfriend Jan, a sculptor and punk rock drummer. Meanwhile, John’s best friend from college Phil, reeling from a divorce which has left him the sole single parent of a six-year-old, begins a passionate relationship with the Ed, Liz’s younger brother. Ed is bright, gorgeous, in search of a lover and mentor, and a profoundly conflicted devout Catholic. Couples come apart; new couples form, families are created, friendships are severed. A tragic death leads John, always the outsider, to the promise of a deeper connection and a warmer life.

T0F-uXArZach Redler is an award winning composer, pianist and copyist. Zach’s music has been performed at Lincoln Center, Merkin Hall, National Opera Center, Joe’s Pub and concert halls around the world and has been critically acclaimed by the New York Times, Variety and the Boston Globe. Ben Brantley of the New York Times said, Zach’s music “follows the patterns of minds grasping, often in vain, for clarity, conviction and lost time…it transcends the expected and achieves a haunting originality.” Zach spent 2011-13 in residence as a Van Lier fellow at American Opera Projects as part of their Composers and the Voice Program. For his work in music theatre with Sara Cooper, the American Theatre Wing awarded them with the 2014 Jonathan Larson Grant. In February, Zach’s Opera Memphis commission “Movin’ Up In The World” (libretto by Jerre Dye) as well as a set of his Walt Whitman Art Songs will be performed at the University of Missouri . Zach is on faculty at New York University teaching at Steinhardt and Tisch.  He is a member of ASCAP, Local 802 and a graduate of the Tisch Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. www.zachredler.com

With a libretto by Mark Campbell, Susan Smith is an opera in one act about the woman who drowned her two sons in South Carolina in 1994 and the nine days she perpetuated the lie that an African-American man had abducted them at gunpoint. Starting with the filicide and ending with the exposure of Ms. Smith’s guilt, the opera looks closely at the confluence of reasons that brought her to commit such a horrible act: the abuse she suffered as a child, the chaos in her marriage and recent rejection by a lover. By examining these reasons, Susan Smith does not endeavor to exonerate the eponymous woman who committed these crimes, but rather engender some sympathy for her.

photo-Clint_Borzoni1-241x300CLINT BORZONI’s music reflects his passion for lyricism and functional harmony. He has written over sixty pieces, including two full length operas, two one act operas, a piano concerto, percussion quartet, piece for orchestra, two string quartets, several works for chamber orchestra, and over forty art songs. He also wrote the music for the musical, My Life as a Bald Soprano which premiered in the June Havoc Theater during the 2008 Midtown International Theater Festival. Among Borzoni’s honors are the Morton Feldman Award, a Boston Metro Opera Festival Award, the Maurice Liberman music scholarship, operamission’s new cabaret song competition winner, and world premieres by the New York Youth Symphony and the Mannes School of Music’s Percussion Ensemble. He received a B.A. and M.A. in Music Composition from CUNY where he studied with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Del Tredici.

When Adonis Calls is a new opera with music by Clint Borzoni. The libretto was constructed by John de los Santos from the poems of Gavin Geoffrey Dillard. It tells the story of an accomplished author, called the Poet, who is struggling with writer’s block and isolation. He is contacted by an eager young fan, known as the Muse, who is interested in both an artistic and personal correspondence. At first reluctant, the Poet joins the Muse in a sensual game of literary discovery that leads the two into unexpected realms of unbridled eroticism. Through their poems, they unleash one another’s pasts, demons, and secret longings. Their harmonized writings culminate with a final meeting in the flesh that transcends beyond what either of them ever believed was possible when they first put pen to paper. When Adonis Calls is a striking new work that blends an exciting score of romantic lyricism with dance and a fresh perspective of operatic storytelling. The music and poetry guide the characters through a surreal journey filled with wit, lust, rage, and ultimately, love. When Adonis Calls utilizes an ensemble of two baritones, string quartet, percussionist, and two dancers. whenadoniscalls.com

 


NEW OPERA TACKLES RACISM IN AMERICA IN CONCERT PERFORMANCES THIS NOVEMBER

October 30, 2014

Independence Eve, currently in development at AOP, to be presented at Adelphi University and Brooklyn’s South Oxford Space

NEW YORK, NYAOP (American Opera Projects) and Adelphi University present Independence Eve, a new chamber opera in three scenes that explores the troubled journey of race relations in America. The concert performances will take place on Thursday, November 13 at 7:30PM at the Concert Hall of the Performing Arts Center at Adelphi University (1 South Ave, Garden City, NY 11530), with a second performance on Saturday, November 15 at 8PM in the Great Room at AOP’s South Oxford Space (138 S Oxford Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217). Composed by Sidney Marquez Boquiren with a libretto by Daniel Neer, the opera will include performances by baritone Jorell Williams, and tenor Brandon Snook. Damian Norfleet will act as stage director, while Mila Henry will provide music direction and piano.

Tickets for the Nov. 13 Adelphi performance will be $20 with discounts suitable for seniors, alumni and students. Tickets are on sale now and are available at http://aupac.adelphi.edu/. Tickets for the Nov. 15 South Oxford Space performance will be $20 and $15 for students and seniors and are available at www.operaprojects.org.

Currently in development at AOP, Independence Eve is comprised of three unrelated scenes, each of which take place on July 3 on a park bench in an unspecified American city, in the years 1963, 2013, and 2063. Each story focuses on the relationship between two men, one white and one black, who struggle with identity and acceptance. Independence Eve is a study of black and white America, offering commentary on the intricacies of race relations and the insidious and persistent stain of racism that has remained consistent throughout American history. The first scene of the opera, “Stop and Frisk,” has already received numerous community performances throughout Brooklyn, including this year’s BEAT festival. It has garnered attention from the press, including a recent Talk of the Town profile in The New Yorker.

Independence Eve is currently in development as part of the Brooklyn organization’s First Chance program that gives composers and librettists a first chance to hear their work performed before an audience. Development of the opera began during Mr. Boquiren’s fellowship in the 2011-12 season of AOP’s composer training program Composers & the Voice with both Mr. Williams and Mr. Snook creating their roles. Development of the opera is made possible, in part, through generous funding by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the New York Department of Cultural Affairs. AOP plans to present the world premiere of Independence Eve at park benches around New York City in June 2015.

ADDITIONAL PROJECT INFO AND PRESS MATERIALS AVAILABLE AT: www.operaprojects.org

Jorell Williams and Brandon Snook in Two Sides Sounding's 2014 presentation of the AOP-developed "Stop and Frisk"

Jorell Williams and Brandon Snook in Two Sides Sounding’s 2014 presentation of the AOP-developed “Stop and Frisk”

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

Sidney Marquez Boquiren is a composer-performer who grew up in the Philippines and Saudi Arabia but has spent most of his life in the United States. He collaborates with artists on various projects that include opera (Independence Eve with Daniel Neer); Biblical illumination (folia ligni for Spark and Echo Arts); and multi-media (The Gretel Project with Lauren K. Alleyne, Catherine Chung, and Tomiko Jones). As a pianist, he performs regularly with Rhymes With Opera and pulsoptional. -A MacDowell Fellow, Sidney is currently the Chair of the Department of Music at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, where he teaches music theory and composition. He is also a cantor and sings in the church choir of The Church of St. Francis Xavier in Manhattan.

Daniel Neer enjoys a diverse career as a singing actor and librettist. Recent projects include Bruce Bailey with Daniel Felsenfeld for the BEAT Festival, and BQE with Robinson McClellan for the Queens New Music Festival, (both commissioned by Two Sides Sounding). The opera Mercury Falling, with Chandler Carter, was presented at the Long Leaf Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina, and song set HAIKU-NYC with Ellen Mandel recently premiered at the BEAT Festival. Daniel’s auspicious collaboration with Sidney Boquiren began with the workshop of Odes to Earth and Air, a partnership continuing with Independence Eve in collaboration with American Opera Projects. Other recent premieres include two chamber works: The Good Doctor Windhager with Ronnie Reshef, and Summer, 1976 by Kim Sherman, both premiered by the lyricist and the Qube String Quartet in Columbus, Ohio. Baritone

Jorell Williams is from Brentwood, Long Island, but he was born in Brooklyn at Kings County Hospital. He had the honor of performing with the Chorale Le Chateau of New York in “A CELEBRATION OF AMERICA” in the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater on the occasion of the Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Praised by Opera News as having a “Solid vocal core” and the ABC News & Entertainment as “smooth-voiced”, Jorell Williams is pursuing a versatile performing career. Highlights of Jorell’s work include: Off-Broadway debut as The Villager with the New York City Center Encores! production of Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars, Captain Corcoran in HMS Pinafore (2011) and Fiesque in Maria di Rohan (2010) with the Caramoor International Music Festival, “The Muir” with the Mark Morris Dance Group, recording “Mr. President/Americana” with the Essential Voices USA for NPR, Maximilian in Candide with Coópera: Project Opera Manhattan, and appearing with the Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Opera Theatre’s collaborative workshop reading of Nico Muhly’s TWO BOYS (2011) and Michael Torke’s SENNA (2010). Mr. Williams is a graduate from the Manhattan School of Music, and earned his undergraduate degree at SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music. For more information, please visit: http://www.myspace.com/jorellwilliams

Tenor Brandon Snook has been praised by The New York Times for his “vocal freshness”, along with his “appealing and talented” nature, and has collaborated extensively with AOP, most notably being part of the 2011-12 Composers & the Voice Series. In addition to playing Little Bat in productions of Susannah in Tel Aviv, he premiered the role of Robert Johnson in Phil Kline and Jim Jarmusch’s opera Tesla in New York, Tony in the Off-Off Broadway production of Terrence McNally’s Master Class, and Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance in South Carolina. Additional mainstage credits include Cincinnati Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Des Moines Metro Opera, Sarasota Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and solo concert credits at Lincoln Center and Brooklyn Academy of Music. A native of Dallas, Texas, Brandon has voice degrees from the University of Kansas and the University of Michigan.

Damian Norfleet is a singer, actor, and director from New York City. His past collaborations with the American Opera Project include Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed, The Summer King, Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby, and We’ve Got Our Eye On You. Other past productions include Dreamgirls, Ragtime, Showboat, Cats, Henry V, The Festival of the Lion King, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Tommy, Equus, The Music Man, Kiss me, Kate; The Threepenny Opera, Makandal, Go West! (Village People Musical), Casanova, The Tenderland, Don Giovanni, Carmen, the new American opera Truth, the feature film Outliving Emily and the webseries Co-Operation.

Mila Henry is a New York-based pianist, coach, and music director who specializes in music theater projects and vocal chamber music, ranging from art song to cabaret, folk opera to indie musicals, standard repertoire to contemporary classics. She has collaborated with American Opera Projects, American Lyric Theater, Beth Morrison Projects, Center City Opera Theater, Gotham Chamber Opera, HERE, OPERA America, Opera on Tap, Ripe Time, VisionIntoArt, and Two Sides Sounding. Notable engagements include: The Blind (Lincoln Center Festival); Thumbprint and The Scarlet Ibis (PROTOTYPE); Smashed: The Carrie Nation Story (FringeNYC); The World is Round and As One (BAM Fisher); The Difficulty of Crossing a Field (Beth Morrison Projects). milahenry.com

ABOUT THE PRESENTERS: AOP‘s mission is to identify, develop and present new and innovative works of music-theatre by emerging and established artists and to engage our audiences in an immersive, transformative theatrical experience. At the forefront of the contemporary opera movement for a quarter-century, AOP creates, develops and presents opera and music theatre projects collaborating with young, rising and established artists in the field. AOP has produced over 30 world premieres, most recently Kaminsky/Reed/Campbell’s As One at BAM (2014), Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (2014), and Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (2013), a co-production with Lincoln Center Festival. AOP-developed operas that premiered with co-producers include Gregory Spears’s Paul’s Case at PROTOTYPE (2014), Stephen Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon at New York City Opera (2011), and Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at London’s Royal Opera House (2011). www.operaprojects.org

About Adelphi University: Adelphi is a world-class, modern university with excellent and highly relevant programs where students prepare for lives of active citizenship and professional careers. Through its schools and programs—College of Arts and Sciences, Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, Honors College, Robert B. Willumstad School of Business, Ruth S. Ammon School of Education, University College, College of Nursing and Public Health and the School of Social Work—the coeducational university offers undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as professional and educational programs for adults. Adelphi University currently enrolls nearly 8,000 students from 43 states and 45 foreign countries. With its main campus in Garden City and its centers in Manhattan, Suffolk County, and Poughkeepsie, the University, chartered in 1896, maintains a commitment to liberal studies, in tandem with rigorous professional preparation and active citizenship.


POET AND LIBRETTIST J. D. MCCLATCHY TO PREVIEW NEW OPERA IN AFTERNOON OF POETRY AND MUSIC

October 23, 2014

Afternoon at NYC’s Poets House to feature libretto reading and music performance from The Leopard, based on famous Italian novel

Leopard-1.1

NEW YORK, NY – AOP (American Opera Projects) and Poets House present a discussion with award-winning poet and librettist J. D. McClatchy followed by a reading of his latest opera libretto The Leopard, based on the acclaimed novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and directed by James Robinson. The discussion will be joined by The Leopard‘s composer Michael Dellaira and will feature a performance of music from the opera-in-development and a mid-event reception with the artists. The event will take place on Saturday, November 8 at 3 PM at Kray Hall in Poets House (10 River Terrace, New York, NY 10282 in Battery Park City). Tickets are $10, $7 for students and seniors, free to Poets House members and can be purchased at www.poetshouse.org.

Commissioned and in development by AOP, The Leopard is the third opera from librettist J. D. McClatchy and composer Michael Dellaira, following The Secret Agent (2011) and The Death of Webern (2013). In their latest opera, the Prince of Salina, known as The Leopard because of his commanding personality, faces a society in upheaval during Garibaldi’s 1860 invasion of Sicily, and is forced to choose between decay and progress, between the downfall of the nobility and the future of his family. The completed opera will be in two acts.

The Leopard has been commissioned by AOP and is currently in development as part pf the Brooklyn organization’s First Chance program that gives composers and librettists a first chance to hear their work performed before an audience. Development of the opera is made possible, in part, through generous funding by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation and the Paul Underwood Charitable Trust.

Based on the internationally acclaimed 1958 novel Il Gattopardo by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leopard was also adapted into the 1963 film classic by Luchino Visconti starring Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

J. D. McClatchy is the author of eight books of poems, most recently Plundered Hearts: New and Selected Poems (Knopf). He has written libretti for Francis Thorne’s Mario and the Magician (1994), Tobias Picker’s Emmeline (1996), Lorin Maazel’s 1984 (with Thomas Meehan, 2005), Lowell Liebermann’s Miss Lonelyhearts (2006), Ned Rorem’s Our Town (2006), Elliot Goldenthal’s Grendel (with Julie Taymor, 2006), Bernard Rands’s Vincent (2011), Daron Hagen’s Little Nemo in Slumberland (2012), Martin Bresnick’s My Friend’s Story (2013), and Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne (2013). His work has been performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, La Scala, the Kennedy Center, San Francisco Opera, and other leading opera stages around the world.

James Robinson is regarded as one of America’s most inventive and sought-after stage directors. Artistic Director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Robinson has staged productions for major opera companies, including New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Canadian Opera Company, San Francisco Opera, and Seattle Opera. Recent projects include the world premiere of Picker’s Dolores Claiborne for San Francisco Opera, the American premiere of Huang Ruo’s Dr. Sun Yat Sen for Santa Fe Opera and the world premiere of Champion.

Michael Dellaira is the composer of three operas. His first, Chéri, on a libretto by Susan Yankowitz, produced by The Actors Studio and directed by Tony-Award winner Carlin Glynn, was a finalist for the 2006 American Academy of Arts and Letters Richard Rodgers Award in Musical Theater. From 2006-2010 he was composer-in-residence with the Center for Contemporary Opera, which co-commissioned The Secret Agent, his first collaboration with J. D. McClatchy. The Death of Webern, also on a libretto by J.D. McClatchy, was commissioned by The Pocket Opera Players and premiered in October 2013.

ABOUT THE PRESENTERS

AOP‘s mission is to identify, develop and present new and innovative works of music theater by emerging and established artists and to engage our audiences in an immersive, transformative theatrical experience. At the forefront of the contemporary opera movement for a quarter-century, AOP creates, develops and presents opera and music theatre projects collaborating with young, rising and established artists in the field. AOP has produced over 30 world premieres, most recently Kaminsky/Reed/Campbell’s As One at BAM (2014), Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (2014), and Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (2013), a co-production with Lincoln Center Festival. AOP-developed operas that premiered with co-producers include Gregory Spears’s Paul’s Case at PROTOTYPE (2014), Stephen Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon at New York City Opera (2011), and Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at London’s Royal Opera House (2011). www.operaprojects.org

Poets House is a national 60,000-volume poetry library, literary center for adults and children, and exhibition space that invites poets and the public to step into the living tradition of poetry. Poets House – through its poetry resources, literary events, and archival and poetry-related visual art exhibitions – documents the wealth and diversity of modern poetry and stimulates public dialogue on issues related to poetry in culture. Founded in 1985 by two-time Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz and legendary arts administrator Elizabeth Kray, the library has created a home for all who read and write poetry. In 2009, Poets House moved into its permanent home, at 10 River Terrace in Battery Park City, on the banks of the Hudson River. For more information about these events and Poets House in general, visit poetshouse.org and join us on Facebook and Twitter.


“LEGENDARY” Opera Scene Chosen From AOP Composer Training Program For Staged Performance

October 23, 2014

MANHATTAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC WILL PRESENT MUSIC AT ANNUAL “PAGE TO STAGE” PROGRAM IN MARCH 2015

Following its appearance in AOP’s Composers & the Voice training program, scenes from an opera-in-progress Legendary, music by Joseph Rubinstein, libretto by Jason Kim, have been selected by the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) to receive a staged performance at the music conservatory’s Greenfield Hall next Spring.

In Legendary, famed drag performer Dee Legendary embarks on a passionate love affair with (police) Officer John, whose fascination with Dee takes an unexpected and dangerous turn. Inspired by a true story, Legendary is an opera about double lives and destructive desires set in the glory days of New York City’s underground drag culture.

Legendary was developed during Rubinstein and Kim’s 2013-14 fellowship in AOP’s long running Composers & the Voice program (C&V). Along with five other composers, they received training for nine months with professional composers, librettists, and singers on creating opera and writing for the voice. A scene from Legendary was first presented to the public in September’s C&V Six Scenes concert.

The first two scenes of Legendary will be presented in March by AOP First Chance, public presentations of operas-in-progress, as part of MSM’s annual Opera Index series “New American Opera Previews, From Page to Stage.” Legendary will be the 11th AOP-developed work to appear in Page to Stage at MSM. Previous C&V works at MSM have included Jack Perla’s Love Hate (2012 premiere, ODC Theater with San Francisco Opera), Gregory Spears’ Paul’s Case (World premiere, UrbanArias (2013) and PROTOtype Festival (Jan 2014)), and Daniel Sonenberg’s The Summer King (concert premiere, PortlandOvations, May 2014). Composers & the Voice holds a long-established partnership with The Manhattan School of Music, as well as a new affiliation with the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, as a way of introducing contemporary opera to students.

Kim and Rubinstein in a 2013 Composers & the Voice workshop session. Photo by Ted Gorodetzky.

Kim and Rubinstein in a 2013 Composers & the Voice workshop session. Photo by Ted Gorodetzky.


Monodrama LUCY: A MEMORY OPERA examines thin line between man and ape in Milwaukee World Premiere

October 9, 2014

After exciting collaborations with choreographers Dylan Crossman and Amber Sloan in Montreal and NYC earlier this fall, composer John Glover, librettist Kelley Rourke and director Erik Pearson will receive the world premiere of, Lucy: A Memory Opera  in November. Workshopped in 2010 by AOP at WNYC’s Greene Space, Lucy will receive it’s world premiere November 7-9, 2014, in Milwaukee, WI in a production by Milwaukee Opera Theater, who commissioned the work.

Inspired by true events, Lucy tells the story of psychologist Maurice Temerlin who, along with his wife Jane, adopted a day-old chimpanzee in the sixties. Naming her Lucy, their intention was to raise her “as much as possible as though she were a human being”. Lucy learned to dress herself, eat with silverware, make tea for guests, look at magazines, communicate through sign language and enjoy cocktails. As Temerlin struggles to hold on to memories of a happy, albeit unconventional, family life, documentation from the experiment challenges him to come to terms with the project’s ultimate consequences.

Unfolding in one 70-minute act, this intimate and confrontational one-man show is written for baritone Andrew Wilkowske, REDSHIFT Ensemble and pianist/music director Chris Zemliauskas. With a libretto from Kelley Rourke and projection designs and direction by Erik Pearson, Lucy promises to be a unique operatic experience.

Tickets to the Milwaukee world premiere are only $28 and may be purchased here.

Watch excerpts from the workshop performance at WNYC’s Greene Space, presented by American Opera Projects below:

Or watch an additional excerpt here

 


AOP PRODUCTIONS REACH NEW STAGES

September 25, 2014

American Opera Projects is pleased to announce that several of its recent productions will be produced on stages around the country. Lera Auerbach’s The Blind, Tarik O’Regan and Tom Phillips’ Heart of Darkness, and Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell, and Kimberly Reed’s As One are each being performed in the coming months.

 9354607718_b214f9f0b6_zCast and Crew of The Blind At Lincoln Center Festival, 2013. Photo by Matt Gray

Composer Lera Auerbach‘s The Blind  will be presented by Central City Opera in their Summer 2015 Festival. The production was created and directed by John La Bouchardière and first produced by AOP in collaboration with Lincoln Center in 2013. This unusual a cappella opera for 12 singers is transformed into a unique theatrical experience by La Bouchardière’s unconventional production, which requires that the audience be blindfolded so that they must enter the world of the characters. “It’s not the characters who are blind,” said composer Lera Auerbach in a New York Times interview about the one-act opera, “The message is that we are the blind.  With all our means of communication we see each other less and connect to each other less.  We have less understanding and compassion for other people…” Adapted from an 1890 play by Maurice Maeterlinck, the story is about a dozen blind people who are taken by their priest on an outing.  When the elderly priest suddenly dies, they are stranded on an island left helpless and scared. The group realizes that they never really knew the priest as a person as they stumble upon his cold, dead body.  A Russian- American composer, Lera Auerbach wrote The Blind in 1994 while she was a student at Colorado’s Aspen Music Festival.

Alan Oke (Marlow), centre, in Heart Of Darkness by Tarik O'Regan

Royal Opera House Production of Heart of Darkness, London, 2011. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

Composer Tarik O’Regan‘s Heart of Darkness  will receive it’s U.S. premiere in San Francisco’s Z space by Opera Parallèle early May 2015. The opera was developed by AOP for several years, starting in 2006, and received it’s world premiere in London in collaboration with with Opera East, OperaGenesis and the Royal Opera House in the Linbury Studio Theater of the Royal Opera House in 2011. Adapted from the novella by Joseph Conrad by librettist Tom Phillips, Heart of Darkness is a powerful opera that portrays the greedy world of ivory smugglers in Central Africa as narrated by the central character, Marlow. In this new production, the plot unfolds through a series of short, fast-paced scenes that gradually increase in tension, as Marlow’s tale approaches its climax. O’Regan grew up in London, where he was born in 1978, spending some of his childhood in Morocco and Algeria. His music, recorded on over 25 albums and nominated for two GRAMMY’S®, is published exclusively by Novello & Co./G. Schirmer, Inc.

AS ONE photo 4 by Ken Howard for AOP

Kelly Markgraf, Sasha Cooke, and members of the Fry Street Quartet, BAM, 2014. Photo by Ken Howard

Finally, AOP’s recent production of As One will tour to the Caine College of the Arts, part of Utah State University in Logan, Utah. After its September production and premiere at BAM, the critical response has been overwhelmingly positive with critics declaring it “a piece that haunts and challenges” (Opera News), “artistically distinguished, socially important” (WQXR), and “satisfying in an entertaining and delicately moving way” (NY Observer). In the chamber opera by composer Laura Kaminsky, librettist Mark Campbell and librettist/filmmaker Kimberly Reed, a mezzo-soprano and a baritone depict the experiences of its sole transgender protagonist, Hannah, as she endeavors to resolve the discord between her self and the outside world. The work featured performances by Sasha Cooke, Kelly Markgraf, and The Fry Street Quartet, stage direction by Ken Cazan, and music direction by Steven Osgood.


Critics speak “As One” in praise of latest AOP opera

September 19, 2014

“As One is everything that we hope for in contemporary opera: topical, poignant, daring, and beautifully written.”
New York Classical Review

Kelly Markgraf and Sasha Cooke in "As One"

Kelly Markgraf and Sasha Cooke in “As One”. Photo by Ken Cazan.

On September 7, AOP’s opera “As One” completed a sold-out three-performance run at BAM’s Fishman Theater and the critical response has been overwhelmingly positive with declaring it “a piece that haunts and challenges” (Opera News), “artistically distinguished, socially important” (WQXR), that “satisfies in an entertaining and delicately moving way” (NY Observer). In the chamber opera by composer Laura Kaminsky, librettist Mark Campbell and librettist/filmmaker Kimberly Reed, a mezzo-soprano (Sasha Cooke) and a baritone (Kelly Markgraf) depict the experiences of its sole transgender protagonist, Hannah, as she endeavors to resolve the discord between her self and the outside world. The work featured performances by The Fry Street Quartet, stage direction by Ken Cazan, and music direction by Steven Osgood. Here is a sampling of the praise it received:

From New York Classical Review:

“American Opera Projects has produced a number of significant new pieces in its twenty-five-plus years, and the company’s latest does not disappoint.”

“As One is a remarkable piece, dealing with difficult and sensitive subject matter (even in a progressive city like New York, the topic of gender dysphoria still feels somewhat taboo) but showing not a hint of animus. There is no preaching here, only honest, earnest depiction of an experience. Obviously, the idea of gender identity is central to the work, but this is not a piece about gender identity, per se. It is rather a piece about a human being, Hannah, and her journey, her doubt, her fear, and eventually her joy.”

“The piece itself is formidable on all fronts, starting with an unassuming but nonetheless powerful libretto by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed.”

“[Laura Kaminsky’s] remarkable score always seems to be in perfect harmony with the libretto.”

From Out.com:

AS ONE photo 1 by Ken Howard for AOP“The brilliance of As One is that the drama is (mostly) internal. With only one character, Hannah, that choice allows for a complex and nuanced portrayal of the coming out experience on stage.”

“The simplicity of their (Reed and Campbell’s) language gives the opera a stream-of-consciousness ease and accessibility. Voice is often a signifier of gender but the opera’s creators potently play with it here as a more symbolic marker of identity.”

“Composer Laura Kaminsky, who first conceived of the project (her first opera), has created a musical world that captures both the discordance of Hannah’s struggle and her growth toward personal harmony. Moments of playfulness, innocence and discovery…are tempered by moments of fear and loneliness. Kaminsky swirls all of these experiences together in layers of competing sounds and rhythms, revealing a complex emotional portrait of Hannah’s inner world.”

“The success and beauty of As One is that it reveals epic emotions within an intimate frame.”

From Opera News:

“The draw of As One, which has a libretto by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed, lies in its very human depiction of the internal and external issues faced by transgender individuals in the twenty-first century…(it is) a piece that haunts and challenges its audience with questions about identity, authenticity, compassion and the human desire for self-love and peace.”

“Ken Cazan’s production had the singers and the players of the Fry Street Quartet co-exist and interact in the same space, creating a world that was as fantastical and dreamlike as it was gritty and real.”

“Together (Kelly) Markgraf and (Sasha) Cooke—who are husband and wife in real life—created one character with their fully committed physical and emotional connection.”

AS ONE photo 5 by Ken Howard for AOP“Leading with eloquence and focus was Steven Osgood, a champion of modern American opera…Osgood maintained the delicate balance with ease and an ear for the musical and dramatic arc of this compelling journey.”

From David Patrick Stearns/WQXR:

“Artistically distinguished, socially important…says so much with relatively modest means.”

“In a subject with so many ways to go wrong, composer Laura Kaminsky and co-librettists Mark Campbell (best known for Silent Night) and Kimberly Reed (once a star quarterback in Montana but now a female filmmaker) elegantly zeroed in on pivotal moments in the inner life of a single character named Hannah.”

“Musically, Kaminsky’s dramatically charged music has a tonal ambiguity that allows each scene to go where it needs to, and in a clear dramatic trajectory.”

“Baritone Kelly Markgraf sang with a robust, full-bodied voice that drove home the exterior/interior contrast of being masculine on the outside but moving in more feminine ways in unguarded moments. Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke had some of the opera’s more ecstatic writing, since the feminine part of Hannah’s life has the greatest discoveries. Both singers, who happen to be husband and wife, sang with beauty, intelligence and superb English diction.”

“Stage director Ken Cazan maintained Brechtian dislocation by keeping the accompanying Fry Street Quartet in the center of the stage. The lack of comprehensive realism in the stage pictures let you stand outside the story and take it in more objectively to more fully process the events at hand.”

From James Jorden/The New York Observer:

“…satisfies in an entertaining and delicately moving way…”

“Mr. Campbell and Ms. Reed’s text is wonderfully tactful, never reaching for grandiose effects.”

“(Ms. Kaminsky’s) setting of text is masterful, so natural and unaffected that the projected titles were superfluous.”

AS ONE photo 2 by Ken Howard for AOP“This world premiere boasted a cast as close to perfection as I can imagine…Ken Cazan staged the piece with subtlety and tact. Ms. Reed directed film segments that were projected around and someone (sic) on the action, starting in faded black and white and gradually blooming into rich color for the “Norway” finale. David Martin Jacques’ intricate lighting design added visual interest…and Sara Jean Tosetti’s costumes, simple hoodies and jeans, posed intriguing questions about the nature of masculinity.”

From [Q]onstage:

“MAGNIFICENT. Our story was made on September 4 at BAM Fisher in the Fishman Space. Composer Laura Kaminsky’s latest work, “As One” stole an entire house full of hearts. A spare stage and few props placed the focus firmly on the music, right where it should be. (Mark) Campbell and (Kimberly) Reed’s libretto has humor, pathos and that most elusive of qualities—true emotion.”

“The multi-media film is projected on translucent material of various sizes and heights, hung in the back of the room. The diaphanous presence of images seemed like thought made flesh.”

“Baritone Kelly Markgraf plays “Hannah before” with gentility, great thoughtfulness and presence, while mezzo soprano Sasha Cooke plays “Hannah after,” as dazzling with character as with the beauty of her voice….this work requires a very particular set of mad skills—these are brilliant singers and accomplished actors both. When they sing together, they are limerance.”

“The Fry Quartet transcend their music.”

From The New York Times:

“Ms. Kaminsky has sensitive collaborators in Mark Campbell, who wrote the libretto for Kevin Puts’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Silent Night,” and Kimberly Reed, whose documentary, “Prodigal Sons,” traces her own transgender life.”

“The baritone Kelly Markraf sings “Hannah before” with power and clarity. With knowing wit and vocal lushness, the mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke plays “Hannah after.”

“In Ken Cazan’s sparse staging, backed by scene-setting projections from Ms. Reed, the drama powerfully coheres.”

From Parterre Box:

“Kaminsky knows how to write for the voice, permitting beautiful voices to demonstrate their beauties, hitting emotional chords.”

AS ONE photo 4 by Ken Howard for AOP

From the Wall Street Journal:

“The double casting ingeniously sets out the male/female bifurcation of personality, and the two singers, with their matched vocal timbres and expressivity, make it believable. So does Ken Cazan’s choreographed direction.”

From Voce di meche:

“(As One) held our interest from start to finish—words such as TRANScendent and TRANSformation kept popping into our brain…If you are fortunate enough to get a ticket, don’t be surprised if you walk out TRANSformed.”

“(Although) Mr. Markgraf’s physical and forceful baritone are completely masculine, his skillful interpretation allowed us to realize the woman within. Ms. Cooke’s gleaming mezzo and soft appearance was tinged at appropriate moments with the called-for masculine quality as she portrayed “Hannah after.” The roles could not have been better acted or sung.”

“A remarkable feature of the work is the way the various artists were called upon to cross artistic boundaries….the singers were called upon to dance…the superb conductor Steven Osgood was called up to lay down his baton and assume the role of a schoolteacher…the members of the Fry Street Quartet not only played Ms. Kaminsky’s music with consummate artistry but also participated in the drama just a bit.”

“Stage director Ken Cazan…created the magic of having us see in our mind’s eye what was not onstage.”

“(Ms. Kaminsky’s) writing for the string quartet was nothing short of thrilling…and there were some thrilling moments when Ms. Cooke and Mr. Markgraf sang in gorgeous harmony (symbolic!) and in unison (even more symbolic!).”

Find complete As One reviews, interviews, and profiles at www.operaprojects.org/AsOne#asone_press


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,974 other followers

%d bloggers like this: