Nine leading opera creators to mentor Composers & the Voice fellows

November 20, 2015

C&V Chairs

BROOKLYN, NY – AOP (American Opera Projects) announces the nine “Artistic Chairs” who will provide one-on-one guidance to the Fellows of the 2015-16 Composers & the Voice training program.  Professional artists of high repute from the worlds of opera and musical theatre, the selected Chairs for the eighth season of Composers & the Voice are composers Ricky Ian Gordon (27, A Coffin in Egypt), Daron Hagen (Amelia, Shining Brow), Tobias Picker (American Tragedy, Dolores Claiborne), David T. Little (Dog Days, Soldier Songs) and Missy Mazzoli (Song from the Uproar, Vespers for a new Dark Age), librettists Michael Korie (Harvey Milk, Hopper’s Wife), Gene Scheer (An American Tragedy, Moby Dick), Royce Vavrek (JFK, Dog Days) and composer-librettist Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Séance on a Wet Afternoon).

The Composers & the Voice workshop series is a competitive biannual fellowship offered to composers, librettists, and composer/librettist teams that provides experience writing for the voice and opera stage. Created and led by Composers & the Voice Artistic Director Steven Osgood, the two-year fellowship includes a year of working with the company’s Resident Ensemble of Singers and Artistic Team followed by a year of continued promotion and development through AOP and its strategic partnerships. Since launching in 2002, C&V has fostered the development of 44 composers & librettists.

With each new group of fellows, sponsorships are named in honor of mentors and their support of Composers & the Voice. During the workshop session these “Composer & the Voice Chairs” make themselves available to our fellows for one-on-one discussions and feedback. Past chairs have included composers Mark Adamo, John Corigliano, Tan Dun, Jake Heggie, Lee Hoiby, Libby Larsen, John Musto, Richard Peaslee, Kaija Saariaho, and librettist Mark Campbell.

Librettist Mark Campbell (The Manchurian Candidate, Silent Night) gives a lecture to the 2015-16 C&V fellows. Photo by Steven Pisano for AOP.

Librettist Mark Campbell (The Manchurian Candidate, Silent Night) gives a lecture to the 2015-16 C&V fellows. Photo by Steven Pisano for AOP.

The composers and librettists selected for the eighth season began their year-long fellowship starting in September working closely with the company’s Resident Ensemble of Singers, an artistic team of music directors, guest composers, and instructors in drama and improvisation. All sessions are held in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, home of AOP. More information on this season’s participants can be found at

Composers & the Voice is made possible in part by a generous multi-year award from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Victor Herbert Foundation sponsors one fellowship as The Victor Herbert Foundation Composers & The Voice Chair, created in memory of longtime opera supporter Lois C. Schwartz.

Gordon RickyRicky Ian Gordon (b. 1956 in Oceanside, NY) studied piano, composition and acting, at Carnegie Mellon University. After moving to New York City, he quickly emerged as a leading writer of vocal music that spans art song, opera, and musical theater. A highly prolific composer, Ricki Ian Gordon’s recent catalog includes Morning Star (2014, libretto by William Hoffman, Cincinnati Opera), 27 (2014, libretto by Royce Vavrek, Opera Theatre of St. Louis), A Coffin In Egypt (2014, libretto by Leonard Foglia, Houston Grand Opera, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and Opera Philadelphia), Rappahannock County (2011, libretto by Mark Campbell, Harrison Opera House), Sycamore Trees (2010, libretto by composer), and The Grapes of Wrath (2007 and 2010, libretto by Michael Korie, 2007, Minnesota Opera, 2010, The American Symphony Orchestra). Additional works: Green Sneakers (2008, libretto by the composer, Miami String Quartet), Orpheus and Euridice (2005), My Life with Albertine (2003), Night Flight To San Francisco and Antarctica (2000) from Tony Kushner’s Angels In America, Dream True (1999), States Of Independence (1992), The Tibetan Book of the Dead (1996), Only Heaven (1995). Upcoming and recent projects include the opera Intimate Apparel with Playwright, Lynn Nottage as a commissions from New York’s Metropolitan Opera, and an opera based on Giorgio Bassani’s novel, The Garden of the Finzi Continis with librettist Michael Korie.


Hagen DarenDuring the course of his thirty-five years on the scene, Daron Hagen has become one of the most comprehensively experienced and knowledgeable theater composers of our time. Of his eleven regularly-revived operas, he has co-written all of the treatments, co-written several of the libretti, written the book and lyrics for his own commercial musical, stage directed several, conducted the cast recordings and premières of several, coached them all from the piano, and supervised set and lighting teams executing his designs. He has extensive experience playing in opera and musical theater pit orchestras, from the regional bus-and-truck level to Broadway; he’s served as a copyist, proofreader, arranger, and editor on Broadway, ghost-written film scores, and executed electro-acoustic soundscapes for integration into his own theatrical scores. He has served as a dramaturgical consultant for a dozen major operatic projects. Hagen has composed new works for the New York Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony and Opera, National Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Houston Symphony, and Buffalo Philharmonic. Collaborators include Nathan Gunn, Kate Lindsey, Robert Orth, Stephen Wadsworth, Leonard Bernstein, Robert Spano, JoAnn Falletta, Gary Graffman, Jaime Laredo, and Gerard Schwarz in premieres at the Louvre, Royal Albert Hall, and the Ullens Center (Beijing). He graduated Curtis and Juilliard.


KORIE MichaelMichael Korie is a Tony-nominated American lyricist and librettist. Writing for musical theater, he created the lyrics to composer Scott Frankel’s music for Grey Gardens, Far From Heaven, Doll, Happiness, and Meet Mister Future. Their scores have been nominated for Tony and Drama Desk Awards, received The Outer Critics Circle Award, and have been produced on Broadway, Playwrights Horizons, Lincoln Center Theater, throughout the USA, in Europe and South America. In winter of 2016, Grey Gardens will make its London premiere. For opera, Korie adapted John Steinbeck’s novel for the libretto to The Grapes of Wrath, composer Ricky Ian Gordon, and created the original librettos to operas with composer Stewart Wallace including Harvey Milk, Hopper’s Wife, Where’s Dick?, and Kabbalah. His opera works have been produced at San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Minnesota Opera, New York City Opera, BAM Next Wave Festival, Carnegie Hall, and Disney Los Angeles Symphony Hall. Concert works include Gay Century Songbook with composer Larry Grossman at Carnegie Hall, and Positions 1956 with Composers & the Voice alumni composer Conrad Cummings at The Knitting Factory and Urban Arias. Korie’s lyrics have received the Edward Kleban Prize, Jonathan Larson Award, and the ASCAP Richard Rodgers Award.


Little David TDavid T. Little is “one of the most imaginative young composers” on the scene (The New Yorker) with “a knack for overturning musical conventions” (The New York Times). His operas Soldier Songs (PROTOTYPE) and Dog Days (Peak Performances/Beth Morrison Projects) have been widely acclaimed, “prov(ing) beyond any doubt that opera has both a relevant present and a bright future” (NYTimes). Recent/upcoming works include the grand opera JFK with Royce Vavrek (Fort Worth Opera/ALT), a new opera commissioned by the MET Opera/Lincoln Center Theater new works program, the music-theatre work Artaud in the Black Lodge (Beth Morrison Projects), AGENCY (Kronos), CHARM (Baltimore Symphony / Marin Alsop), Haunt of Last Nightfall (Third Coast Percussion), Hellhound (Maya Beiser), and new works for the London Sinfonietta, The Crossing/ICE, and eighth blackbird/The Kennedy Center. His music has been heard at LA Opera, Carnegie Hall, Park Avenue Armory, Bang On a Can Marathon, BAM, and Holland Festival, and 2015-16 brings performances at Atlanta Opera, LA Philharmonic, NYFOS, PROTOTYPE, Theater-Bielefeld, Theater-Schwerin, and more. Educated at Princeton and the University of Michigan, Little is co-founder of the New Music Bake Sale, serves on the Composition Faculty at Mannes-The New School, and is Composer-in-Residence with Opera Philadelphia, Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group. The founding artistic director of the ensemble Newspeak, his music can be heard on New Amsterdam and Innova labels. He is published by Boosey & Hawkes.


Mazzoli MissyRecently deemed “one of the more consistently inventive, surprising composers now working in New York” (New York Times) and “Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart” (Time Out New York), Missy Mazzoli has had her music performed globally by the Kronos Quartet, eighth blackbird, New York City Opera, the Minnesota Orchestra and many others. She is Composer-in-Residence with Opera Philadelphia, Gotham Chamber Opera and Music Theatre-Group, and in 2011-2012 was composer-in-residence with the Albany Symphony. In February 2012 Beth Morrison Projects presented Song from the Uproar, Missy’s first multimedia chamber opera, which had a sold-out run at venerable New York venue The Kitchen. The Wall Street Journal called this work “both powerful and new”, and the New York Times claimed that “in the electric surge of Ms. Mazzoli’s score you felt the joy, risk and limitless potential of free spirits unbound.” Recent months included the premiere of an extended work for her ensemble Victoire and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche, commissioned by Carnegie Hall, and new works performed by pianist Emanuel Ax, Kronos Quartet, the LA Philharmonic and the Detroit Symphony. With librettist Royce Vavrek, Missy is currently working on an operatic adaptation of Breaking the Waves, a 1996 film by Lars von Trier. Breaking the Waves will premiere at Opera Philadelphia in 2016. Missy recently joined the faculty at Mannes College of Music, and her works are published by G. Schirmer.


picker tobias

Tobias Picker, called “our finest composer for the lyric stage” (The Wall Street Journal), has composed works in all genres including five operas to date. Picker’s operas have been commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera, (Emmeline), The LA Opera, (Fantastic Mr. Fox), The Dallas Opera, (Thérèse Raquin), San Francisco Opera (Dolores Claiborne), and The Metropolitan Opera (An American Tragedy). His operas have gone on to be produced by New York City Opera, San Diego Opera, L’Opera de Montreal, Chicago Opera Theater, Covent Garden, Opera Holland Park, English Touring Opera and many other distinguished companies. In addition, Picker has composed numerous concert works, commissioned and performed by the greatest orchestras, ensembles and concert artists of our time, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, L’Orchestre de Paris, Munich Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Opéra de Montréal, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Vienna RSO, and Zurich Tonahalle, among others. His concert works include three symphonies, four piano concertos as well as concertos for violin, viola, cello, and oboe, and numerous other compositions. Mr. Picker has received numerous awards and prizes, including a Charles Ives Scholarship and Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2012.


Scheer, GeneGene Scheer’s work is noted for its scope and versatility. With the composer Jake Heggie he has collaborated on a number of different projects, including the critically acclaimed 2010 Dallas Opera world premiere, Moby-Dick, starring Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab; Three Decembers (Houston Grand Opera), which starred Frederica von Stade; and the lyric drama To Hell and Back (Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra), which featured Patti LuPone. Other works by Scheer and Heggie include Camille Claudel: Into the fire, a song cycle premiered by Joyce di Donato and the Alexander String Quartet. Mr. Scheer worked as librettist with Tobias Picker on An American Tragedy, which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 2005. Their first opera, Thérèse Raquin, written for the Dallas Opera in 2001, was cited by Opera News as one of the ten best recordings of 2002.  Other recent collaborations include the lyrics for Wynton Marsalis’s It Never Goes Away, featured in Mr. Marsalis’s work Congo Square.  With the composer Steven Stucky, Mr. Scheer wrote the oratorio August 4, 1964. The work, recently nominated for a Grammy, was premiered by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 2008 and last season was performed by the orchestra, with Japp von Sweeden conducting, at Carnegie Hall. Also a composer in his own right, Mr. Scheer has written a number of songs for singers such as Renée Fleming, Sylvia McNair, Stephanie Blythe, Jennifer Larmore, Denyce Graves, and Nathan Gunn.

Schwartz_Stephen_Schwartz01New York City native Stephen Schwartz has been a major force in the American Musical Theater since the early 1970’s, when he had three hit shows running on Broadway: Godspell (recipient of two Grammy Awards), Pippin, and The Magic Show. Schwartz went on to write the music and lyrics for The Baker’s Wife and contributed four songs to a musical version of Studs Terkel’s Working. More recently, he composed lyrics and music to the long-running Broadway smash, Wicked, which brought him another Grammy. Schwartz has become one of the best-known creators of animated film music, contributing Academy Award-winning lyrics to Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Pocahontas, and writing both the music and lyrics for DreamWorks’ Prince of Egypt which included the Academy Award-winning song, “When You Believe.” The song score of the 2007 film, Enchanted, contained three Oscar-nominated songs by Schwartz and composer Alan Menken. Among Schwartz’s best-known songs are “Corner of the Sky,” “Just Around the Riverbend,” “Colors of the Wind,” “Defying Gravity” and “Popular.” His first opera, Séance on a Wet Afternoon, was developed by American Opera Projects in its Frist Chance program. It premiered at Opera Santa Barbara in the fall of 2009 and was later produced by New York City Opera.


Vavrek Royce

Royce Vavrek is a Brooklyn-based writer of opera, musical theater, and concert works.  His notable lyrics/libretti include Dog Days, Am I Born and Vinkensport, or the Finch Opera with David T. Little; 27 with Ricky Ian Gordon; Song from the Uproar with Missy Mazzoli; O Columbia with Gregory Spears; Strip Mall with Matt Marks; Yoani and The Hubble Cantata with Paola Prestini; Violations with Hannah Lash; and The Hunger Art and Maren of Vardø with Jeff Myers.  Upcoming projects include Stoned Prince with Hannah Lash for American Opera Projects; JFK with David T. Little for Fort Worth Opera/American Lyric Theater; Angel’s Bone with Du Yun for the Prototype Festival; Midwestern Gothic with Joshua Schmidt for Signature Theatre, Virginia; The Wild Beast of the Bungalow with Rachel Peters for Center for Contemporary Opera; Knoxville: Summer of 2015 with Ellen Reid for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Epistle with Julian Wachner for VisionIntoArt; The House Without a Christmas Tree with Ricky Ian Gordon for Houston Grand Opera and Breaking the Waves, an adaptation of the film by Lars von Trier, with Missy Mazzoli for Opera Philadelphia/Beth Morrison Projects. Royce is Co-Artistic Director with soprano Lauren Worsham of the opera-theater company The Coterie, and an alum of the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University (Montreal), the Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program at NYU, and American Lyric Theater’s Composer Librettist Development Program.


Founded in 1988, American Opera Projects is at the forefront of the contemporary opera movement, commissioning, developing, presenting, and producing opera and music theatre projects, collaborating with young, rising, and established artists, and engaging audiences in unique and transformative theatrical experiences. AOP has produced over 30 world premieres, including the Nathan Davis/Brendan Pelsue dance chamber opera Hagoromo starring Wendy Whelan (BAM, 2015), Kaminsky/Reed/Campbell’s As One (BAM, 2014), Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (Irondale Center, 2014), and Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (co-production with Lincoln Center Festival, 2013). Other notable premieres include Kimper/Persons’ Patience & Sarah (1998), Weisman/Rabinowitz’s Darkling (2006), Lee Hoiby’s This is the Rill Speaking (2008), and Phil Kline’s Out Cold, also at BAM (2012). AOP-developed operas that premiered with co-producers include Stefan Weisman’s The Scarlet Ibis at PROTOTYPE Festival (2015), Gregory Spears’s Paul’s Case at Urban Arias (2013) and PROTOTYPE Festival and Pittsburgh Opera (2014), Jack Perla’s Love/Hate at ODC Theater with San Francisco Opera (2012), Stephen Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon at New York City Opera (2011), Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at London’s Royal Opera House (2011) and Opera Parallèle (2015).

Hagoromo curtain call raises over $1,000 for Dancers Responding to AIDS

November 20, 2015

Following the curtain call of AOP’s Hagoromo on November 6th, company member Jock Soto gave a heartfelt speech about the charity Dancers Responding to AIDS (DRA) and its mission. In just one night, attendees of Hagoromo gave almost $1,500 dollars to DRA.

Hagoromo bows

Dancers Responding to AIDS is a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS which has raised over $250 million since 1988. Broadway Cares utilizes the entertainment industry network to awards grants to social service programs and promote awareness, understanding, and public support for programs benefiting people with AIDS. Organizations supported by Broadway Cares includes Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic, 118 Food Service and Meal Delivery Programs, and 41 AIDS Service and Advocacy Organizations.

Founded in 1991, DRA was started by former Paul Taylor Dance Company members Denise Roberts Hurlin and Hernandez Cortez. This chapter was established for dancers who wished to support Broadway Cares.

Hagoromo’s sold-out world premiere run at the BAM Harvey concluded on November 8.

“Magic” chamber dance opera Hagoromo premieres in sold-out run at BAM

November 19, 2015
Hagoromo world premiere

Photo by Mark Stephen Kornbluth for AOP.

American Opera Project’s high-profile production Hagoromo combined dazzling new-opera, dance, puppetry, and fashion, for its sold-out World Premiere run this November at the BAM Harvey Theatre as part of BAM’s 2015 Next Wave Festival. In this dance-opera, an angel’s cloak falls to earth where a fisherman claims it. The angel performs her heavenly dance to reclaim her cloak and return to the heavens.

The multi-genre collaboration began after flutist Claire Chase, director of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) which appeared in Hagoromo, asked David Michalek to choreograph her solo recital.  “Then she suggested that they try something bigger. The germ of an idea was born,” Marina Harss explained in The New York Times. The music for Hagoromo was composed by ICE member Nathan Davis, with a libretto by Brendan Pelsue, commissioned by AOP. The vocalists for the new-opera were Katalin Karolyi, singing for the angel, and Peter Tantsits, who was the voice of the fisherman. The Brooklyn Youth Chorus was also featured in the ensemble, aiding plot development and commentary.

Apollinaire Scherr commended David Michalek‘s work in the Financial Times writing he “…has seamlessly integrated the worlds of experimental music, dance, theatre, opera, puppetry and fashion into a rich, sober whole.” David Michalek, known for his beautiful film work, bravely made his directing debut with the multi-genre Hagoromo, in collaboration with Bessie-award winning choreographer David Neumann.

Two of their performers were prior New York City ballet stars Wendy Whelan, and Jock Soto. Christina Pandolfi for Broadway World hailed Hagoromo “[A] multi-medium artistic portrait” which demonstrated “the sheer excellence of Whelan and Soto’s capacity for movement.”  Wendy Whelan‘s final heavenly dance cast a spell on the audience, with Alastair Macaulay with The New York Times elating “[Whelan] tips her torso strangely sideways, opens her palms quietly to the audience, or turns her head to regard Mr. Soto, we feel her magic.”

Wendy dancing

Photograph by Ioulex for The New Yorker

Two stars making their debut on the BAM Harvey Stage were the puppets which accompanied Wendy Whelan‘s final, spell-binding, dance. They seemed almost human to Andrew Blackmore-Dobbyn who wrote a review for Bachtrack. “The puppets “seemed to carry something essential of [Whelan’s] spirit when they moved with her synchronously. The power of those two puppets was such that I quickly forgot about the three black-clad and veiled operators that were required to make each of them dance.”

Arts Journal‘s Deborah Jowitt praised the creative team that “have together created moments of considerable beauty and imagination” including the “wonderfully effective” puppeteers and the “impressive” music of Nathan Davis that carried the dance of the “sensual” Soto and Whelan who “enters as smoothly as quiet water, extending one long leg and beautifully arched foot in a way that recalls Balanchine’s wish that a dancer should make her legs as flexible as an elephant’s trunk.”

“The results of this unusual collaboration were visually arresting, musically adventurous, dramatically taut, and choreographically appealing,” exclaimed Alexandra Ivanoff for the international news outlet Today’s Zaman. “Michalek’s clever use of stylistic features borrowed from the Noh theatre tradition matched up with Davis’ imaginative and programmatic palette of live sounds, both accompanimental and soloistic, generated the tricky energy flow needed to animate an essentially slow-motion visual life.” Ivanoff went on to praise soloists Tantsits and Karolyi who “employed their freakishly wide vocal ranges with both power and supreme subtlety throughout. The 20 girls of the youth chorus were astounding in their execution of a difficult score.”

Whelan and Soto dance in costumes by Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten. Photo by Mark Stephen Kornbluth for AOP.

Whelan and Soto dance in costumes by Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten. Photo by Mark Stephen Kornbluth for AOP.

Although the costumes were relatively simple, it was important that the angel’s cloak be as beautiful as possible. Vogue writer Kate Guadagnino observed “Naturally, a work whose plot hinges on an article of clothing also required an adept costume designer, and Michalek asked none other than Dries Van Noten.” The cloak was indeed heavenly. The gold, transparent, reflective material was all at once powerful, and luxurious.

Just as the fisherman gets a glimpse of heaven, so is the audience touched by an ethereal production. George Grella writes for NY Classical Review, “It’s a multimedia work that eschews the commonplace of video. Everything is live: music, dance, singing, narration, and puppetry. When all the elements are working at the same, high level, Hagoromo is magic, but there are also prosaic details and stretches that keep it earth-bound.”

“Opera has come a long way, baby” with the D.C. premiere of AS ONE

October 23, 2015
As One Luis Alejandro Orozco Ashley Cutright by C. Stanely Photography 1

Luis Alejandro Orozco and Ashley Cutright in As One from UrbanArias (Photo: C. Stanley Photography)

“The opening scene of the opera As One, produced by UrbanArias, beautifully establishes a work that is both universal and timely in its experience and a metaphor for the fluidity of identity of a male and female in one body.” Susan Galbraith writes in her review for DC Theater Scene.

As One, a monodrama for two singers, illustrates the struggle of the transgender protagonist Hannah as she battles with the mismatch of how she feels and how her body appears. Composer Laura Kaminsky, librettists Mark Campbell and filmmaker-librettist Kimberly Reed created an opera which delves deep into ones definition of self with great simplicity in production and instrumentation. As One was developed and produced by American Opera Projects who have also been instrumental in getting As One performed in California and D.C. UrbanArias held performances of As One on October 3, 4, 9 and 10 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington DC. The production was led by director Octavio Cardenas, and conductor and head of UrbanArias, Robert Wood.

Anne Midgette, reviewer for Washington Post, praised the production’s subject matter “…a thoughtful and substantial piece as well as that rarest of operatic commodities – a story that lends itself to dramatization in music.” The DC Theater Scene review, written by Susan Galbraith, states “The complexity of human experience is powerfully evoked in a way only opera can with the dense layering of music, words, stage pictures, and, in this case, film.” Galbraith was also enamored with the production writing “The set design by Adam Crinson was quite beautiful and used the Sprenger space …. to great advantage.” DC Metro Theater Arts reviewer John Stolthberg commends the production, writing “its simplicity – 4 musicians, two singers – was for me a source of its success as theater” while Susan Galbraith wrote As One “…reveled in giving voice to shared human experiences…”

As One Luis Alejandro Orozco Ashley Cutright by C. Stanely Photography 2

Luis Alejandro Orozco and Ashley Cutright in As One from UrbanArias (Photo: C. Stanley Photography)

Reviews agreed Kaminsky’s music painted the text and Hannah’s internal emotions. Anne Midgette compliments Kaminsky’s text setting saying she “…writes well for the voice, and the diction was exemplary, so you didn’t miss a word.” Stolthberg remarks on how the vocal line helps remove the usual gender binary in vocal music, “As One models…a multi-octave aural word within which ones pitch when one sings…need have no either/or, it need have only the glory of song.” The DC Metro Theater Arts review goes on to describe the vocal lines as “…a singular self whose lyrical introspections, contrapuntal exchanges, inter-knit vocal lines, and overlapping ranges become a pulsing metaphor for the multidimensional universe of human sexedness.” and reflects on “…rare moments when they [Hannah Before and Hannah After] sing exactly [the] same note – literally as one – effect is sublime.”

In addition to great vocal writing, Midgette notices how Laura Kaminsky’s orchestral writing reflects Hannah’s journey, “…Kaminsky’s effective, direct music – evoking now fiddling and Americana; now, through halting dissonances, the pain of a difficult place in the rod; now, thro
ugh the juxtaposition of plucked violin and singing cello, the exploration of two voices merging into a single identity.”

The opera clearly benefited from the wonderful performances by Luis Alejandro Orozco (Hannah Before) and Ashley Cutright (Hannah After). Stothberg praises them in his review saying they “Orozco and Cutright play…the very same self, learning to love themself, and they do so with such exquisite subtlety that I was blown away.” Galbraith was also struck with the singers “Both singers possess powerful voices and sing and move with extraordinary expression and poetic interactions…these two performers might well have been taken as dancers in their fluidity. they are endlessly watchable…”

It is a rare production which contains model composition, direction, and beautiful acting and singing. Galbraith finishers her review “As One charters new territory in theme and content of ‘what makes an opera’. It is a fascinating and promising chamber work and deserves serious attention.”

Read more about the opera at AOP’s As One page.

Washington Post review by Anne Midgette

DC Theatre Scene review by Susan Galbraith

DC Metro Theater Arts review by John Stolthberg

Kick-off party for Composers & the Voice and Opera Genesis fellows held at South Oxford Space.

September 14, 2015

On September 9th, the American Opera Projects family joined At AOP’s Brooklyn home at South Oxford Space to celebrate the beginning of the latest cycle of Composers & the Voice. The new composers, librettists for the 2015-2017 C & V season were in attendance along with various alumni from past seasons.

Charles Jarden, the General Director of AOP opened the evening and Steven Osgood, the Artistic Director of Composers & The Voice, acknowledged new and veteran C&V participants. Composers & the Voice offers two-year fellowships for
composers and librettists which combines education with project development and performances.

Performance at C&V Kickoff

Baritone Jorell Williams singing Commuter’s Request by Rachel Peters

One of the biggest highlights of the evening was the announcement of the Genesis Fellowship Program and The Hermitage Artist Retreat. Composer Mikael Karlsson and librettist and visual designer Elle Kunnos de Voss will be the first two artists to attend. The two artists will be developing their opera The Echo Drift while in Florida. The Echo Drift is being developed by AOP to be produced in collaboration with HERE and Beth Morrison Projects.

The Hermitage Artist Retreat

Co-librettist/designer Elle Kunnos de Voss and composer Mikael Karlsson

The night was a booming success, a great introduction for the new composers, a celebration of past compositions and composers, and a great start to a new chapter in American Opera Projects‘ long standing tradition in fostering and encouraging new music.

Charles Jarden believes “this new partnership with the Hermitage allows us to further support some of our most successful C&V fellows once they
have completed the program. The time they will be granted to develop their work at The Hermitage will enable these creative teams to prepare their works for full-scale production. In the current climate, there is much energy surrounding the development of new opera, but not always enough time for the creative process to unfold; the Genesis Fellowships directly address this, and we are all eager to see the work that results.”

Performance given at C&V Kickoff

Soprano Amy Shoremount-Obra performs “A Terrible Thing” from Echo Drift by Elle Kunnos de Voss and Mikael Karlsson

More information about The Opera Genesis Fellowship program in collaboration with The Hermitage Artist Retreat can be found here.
Additional photos from the evening can be found here.

The Wanton Sublime hailed as emotionally captivating and beautifully written

September 4, 2015

The Wanton Sublime, composed by Tarik O’Regan with a libretto by American poet Anna Rabinowitz, focuses on the character of the Virgin Mary as she grapples with the terror of being chosen for a divine purpose. Originally developed in NYC with American Opera Projects, it was just performed at the Grimeborn Festival in East London. Hai Ting Chinn was the star in this one woman opera, conducted by Andrew Griffiths, who lead the Orpheus Sinfonia, and directed by Robert Shaw. A strong, well-rounded production, The Wanton Sublime gives a new voice to a classic figure through powerful text, beautiful melodic lines, a simple production, and atypical instrumentation.

Hai-Ting Chinn in The Wanton Sublime (Grimeborn - Arcola Theatre) © Robert Workman

Hai-Ting Chinn in The Wanton Sublime (Grimeborn – Arcola Theatre)
© Robert Workman

Tim Ashley, writing for The Guardian, applauded the “…bluesy rebelliousness and Monteverdian lyricism…” of Tarik O’Regan’s music in The Wanton Sublime, citing a beautiful moment in which the Virgin Mary is torn between her fear and her faith as “…Chinn sings against a playback of her own voice singing sacred texts…”. Rupert Christiansen of The Telegraph was also impressed by O’Regan’s music, praising its unfaltering heartbeat and melody “…weaving a richly melismatic vocal line into a strikingly coloured orchestral score delicately enhanced by electronic effects. Never sterile or mechanical it seems to have a living organic pulse.”

The What’sOnStage review  by Mark Valencia complemented the music and the characterization of the Virgin Mary calling the opera “…musically rich…and also philosophically absorbing.” Valencia appreciates how Rabinowitz presents Mary as”…a strong young woman who questions, challenges and even defies the God who has slated her to be the mother of Christ.” Tim Ashley (The Guardian) also enjoyed the emotional depth of the opera, “The underlying point, integral to much mystic literature, is that divine intervention has the bewildering potential to shatter lives and identities.” Edward Bhesania’s review for The Stage compliments Rabinowitz’s and O’Regan’s creative partnership as Mary’s character “…begins with incredulity and disdain before finally reaching acceptance, by which point both music and text have attained a more sublime tone.” The EveningStandard review, written by Barry Millington, also applauds their collaboration, stating “…Rabinowitz’s text explores the nervous longings of an idealised iconic figure, complemented by Tarik O’Regan’s inventive and attractive score…”

Hai-Ting Chinn in The Wanton Sublime (Grimeborn - Arcola Theatre) © Robert Workman

Hai-Ting Chinn in The Wanton Sublime (Grimeborn – Arcola Theatre)
© Robert Workman

Valencia (What’sOnStage) also describes the minimalist staging by Robert Shaw “…commendably simple staging presents her as a power dressed young professional who changes midway through into simpler clothes that better assert her individuality. It’s a subtle transition, and beautifully judged.” Edward Bhesania (The Stage) complimented the instrumentation which “…uses a 9 piece band (including electric guitar and rums to underpin the journey of the Virgin Mary figure stripped of her iconic symbolism and grappling in today’s world of her unasked-for role.”

AOP began developing the monodrama in 2009 and co-produced its premiere at Roulette in Brooklyn in 2014. AOP had previously worked with Tarik O’Regan on his first opera Heart of Darkness and with Anna Rabinowitz on Darkling, another operatic adaptation of a book of her poetry. Darkling, music by Stefan Weisman, was commissioned and developed by AOP.

AOP Awards Fellowships to Ten Composers And Librettists For Free Training In Opera Composition

July 22, 2015


Contact: Matt Gray, AOP Producing Director, 718-398-4024,
Press material is available at:

July 21, 2015




BROOKLYN, NY – AOP (American Opera Projects) and Composers & the Voice Artistic Director Steven Osgood have selected six composers and four librettists to receive fellowships for its upcoming eighth cycle of Composers & the Voice. The 2015-2017 season will include composers Matthew Barnson, Carlos R. Carrillo, Nell Shaw Cohen, Marc LeMay, Cecilia Livingston, and Sky Macklay and librettists Edward Einhorn, Duncan McFarlane, Emily Roller, and Mark Sonnenblick. The primary focus of Composers & the Voice is to give emerging composers and librettists experience working collaboratively with singers on writing for the voice and contemporary opera stage.

The two-year fellowships, made possible through a generous grant by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, include a year of working with the company’s Resident Ensemble of Singers and Artistic Team at AOP’s home base in Fort Greene, Brooklyn followed by a year of continued promotion and development through AOP and its strategic partnerships.

Comprised of one each of the basic operatic/vocal categories, the singers for the upcoming C&V season will be coloratura soprano Tookah Sapper, lyric soprano Jennifer Goode Cooper, mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert, tenor Blake Friedman, baritone Michael Weyandt and bass-baritone Jonathan Woody. The Resident Ensemble will be joined by returning Music Directors Mila Henry, Kelly Horsted, and Charity Wicks to collaborate on creating new material by the composer and librettist fellows.


The Composers & the Voice workshop sessions between September 2015 and April 2016, include composition of solo works for the six voice types. In addition, over 45 hours of “Skill-Building Sessions” for composers and librettists will provide an in-depth and firsthand knowledge of how singers build characters, act in scenes and sing text. These will include acting courses by director Pat Diamond (Wolf Trap, The Aspen Music Festival), theatrical improvisation led by Terry Greiss (co-founder and Executive Director, Irondale Ensemble Project), and a new extended course in libretto development designed by librettist Mark Campbell (Silent Night, The Manchurian Candidate, As One).

“I can think of no better forum for a composer with a passion for learning the traditions of so-called progressive American opera theater than AOP’s program,” said opera composer and guest C&V instructor Daron Hagen.

Past “Composer Chairs,” sponsorships named in honor of mentors and their support of Composers & the Voice, have included composers John Corigliano, Daron Hagen, Jake Heggie, Lee Hoiby, Libby Larsen, John Musto, Tobias Picker, Kaija Saariaho, Tan Dun and composer-librettist Stephen Schwartz.

At the end of the workshop sessions, AOP will present the results of the participants’ work in public performances – First Glimpse, a concert of songs in Spring 2016, and Six Scenes, an evening of short opera scenes in Fall 2016.


Following the Six Scenes performances, Composers & the Voice enters its second year of its two-year cycle and focuses on the development and further promotion of the Fellows’ C&V-created works. This includes potential workshops and presentations in AOP “First Chance” opera development program as well as concert series that have included partnerships with Opera Memphis, Phoenix Concerts, Opera on Tap, and Two Sides Sounding, to name a few.

Select C&V operas-in-progress will receive staged readings in 2017 through a twelve-year AOP partnership with The Manhattan School of Music ( and a new affiliation with The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music ( These readings using student performers provide continued development of C&V projects while serving to introduce contemporary opera to students.

The second year of the cycle will also include a new partnership with The Hermitage Artist Retreat ( that nurtures creativity in mid-career writers, painters, poets, playwrights, composers, translators, sculptors, and artists. A C&V Fellow (or Fellowship team) will be selected to receive a 6-week residency to continue opera development at the Hermitage’s Florida estate. AOP artists who have been in residence at The Hermitage include Laura Kaminsky (As One), Mark Campbell (As One), Phil Kline (Out Cold), Lera Auerbach (The Blind), and Huang Ruo (Paradise interrupted).


“I can think of no better forum for a composer with a passion for learning the traditions of so-called progressive American opera theater than AOP’s program,” said opera composer and guest C&V instructor Daron Hagen.

Since launching in 2002, C&V has fostered the development of 44 composers & librettists including Stefan Weisman (The Scarlet Ibis, PROTOTYPE Festival, 2015), Hannah Lash (Aspen Music Festival), Aleksandra Vrebalov (Mileva, Serbian National Theater), and Vivian Fung (2013 Juno Award “Classical Composition of the Year”). Alumni works that went through AOP’s opera development program and continued to a world premiere include Paul’s Case (UrbanArias 2013, Gregory Spears), and Love/Hate (ODC/San Francisco Opera 2012, Jack Perla). A complete list of alumni can be found at

“Composer Chairs,” sponsorships named in honor of mentors and their support of Composers & the Voice, have included composers John Corigliano, Daron Hagen, Jake Heggie, Lee Hoiby, Libby Larsen, John Musto, Tobias Picker, Kaija Saariaho, Tan Dun and composer-librettist Stephen Schwartz.

AOP Composers & the Voice Fellows have received grants and honors from the following organizations: Aaron Copland Fund for Music, ASCAP, BMI, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Music Center, the American Composers Forum, OPERA America, the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer, the Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund, the Fulbright Foundation, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Douglas Moore Fellowship, Tapestry New Opera Works, the Frederick Loewe Foundation, New Dramatists, and the Martha Baird Rockefeller Foundation.


The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation continues its support of AOP’s Composers & the Voice program through 2016 as part of a multi-year grant award, which also covers artistic personnel and other program activities. The Victor Herbert Foundation will sponsor one fellow’s expenses for travel and costs of preparing and producing scenes with The Victor Herbert Foundation Composers & the Voice Chair, created in memory of longtime opera supporter and former AOP board member, Lois C. Schwartz.



Matthew Barnson is the composer of numerous works for orchestras, choirs, string quartets, voices, chamber ensembles, dancers, and computers.  An assistant professor of composition at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, he has received fellowships, commissions, and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Barlow Endowment, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been performed at Carnegie Hall, the Museum of Modern Art, the Kennedy Center, the Aldeburgh Festival, the Royal Academy of Music, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, ISCM World Music Days, MATA, Wigmore Hall, Aspen, the San Francisco War Memorial and other venues throughout the United States and Europe. His album of string quartets, Sibyl Tones, was released on Tzadik in 2014. He lives in New York.

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, composer Carlos R. Carrillo is the recipient of numerous awards including the Bearns Prize, the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, BMI and ASCAP awards. He has been commissioned by Music and the Anthology for the Da Capo Chamber Players, the New York Youth Symphony, Concert Artists Guild and the Pennsylvania Music Teachers Association. Dr. Carrillo holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music (BM), Yale University (MM) and the University of Pennsylvania (PhD). He is Assistant Professor of Composition-Theory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Nell Shaw Cohen’s lyrically expressive, visually evocative music has been performed by The JACK Quartet, WordSong, and members of The Chelsea Symphony and A Far Cry. In 2014, Cohen served as NYU Symphony Composer-in-Residence and her monodrama The Coming of Spring received a workshop staging at Provincetown Playhouse in NYC. A multidisciplinary artist, she frequently integrates her music with video and installations for web & mobile. Cohen has collaborated with The Peabody Essex Museum and Parrish Art Museum to present her music inspired by art. As founder of composers’ network and publication, she advocates for music that engages with nature and place. Cohen (b. 1988), M.M. New York University, B.M. New England Conservatory, has studied with Herschel Garfein, Michael Gandolfi, Missy Mazzoli, and Julia Wolfe.

Marc LeMay is a composer based in Philadelphia, where he is a Doctoral Fellow in Composition at the University of Pennsylvania. Marc’s career as a composer has spanned a variety of media, from works for solo instruments and chamber ensembles to pieces for singers, choir, orchestra, and electroacoustic forces. A frequent collaborator, he has also written extensively for dance, theatre, film, art installations, and interactive media. His wide-ranging interests include philosophy, pop culture, words, maps, ritual, spirituality, and social issues; these interests continue to inform and influence his music. Upcoming projects will focus on works for the opera stage.

Cecilia Livingston is known across Canada and the US for intensely dramatic chamber and vocal music, Cecilia Livingston explores memory, place, childhood, and solitude in a lush yet spare musical language that reveals the strange made familiar and the familiar made strange. A 2014 Composition Fellow at Bang On a Can’s Summer Music Festival, her music has been heard at the 21C Music Festival, World Choral Games (Latvia), Eastman’s Women In Music Festival, Vancouver International Song Institute, Scotia Festival of Music, ACDA’s Summer Choral Composers Forum, Tapestry Opera’s Composer-Librettist Laboratory, Canadian Contemporary Music Workshop, and on tour in Canada with The Bicycle Opera Project. She lives in Toronto.

Sky Macklay is a composer, oboist, and multimedia artist originally from Minnesota and now based in NYC. Her recent projects include a piece for Spektral Quartet’s Comic Cadences album (Many Many Cadences), a sonic and kinetic installation of harmonica-playing inflatable sculptures (Harmonibots), and new works for ICE and the New York Virtuoso Singers. Her orchestral piece, Dissolving Bands, was commissioned by the Lexington (MA) Symphony and was the winner of the 2013 Leo Kaplan award from ASCAP. Sky is pursuing her DMA in composition at Columbia University and is on the faculty of The Walden School Young Musicians Program.


Edward Einhorn is a director, playwright, librettist, and novelist. Among his work: plays about neurology; adaptations of sci-fi novels; translations of plays written in French, Czech, and ancient Greek; puppet theater; modern Oz novels; explorations of economic theory; autobiographical found text explorations; midrashim on Jewish cultural icons; and picture books about math. Recently, he has worked at HERE, La MaMa, 3LD Art & Technology Center, The New Ohio, St. Ann’s Warehouse, the Walter Bruno Theater at Lincoln Center, The Brick, and the Czech Embassy. The New York Times has called his work “exquisitely ingenious”, “dramatically shrewd,” and “almost unbearably funny”.

Duncan McFarlane studies and teaches satire, writes lyrics and libretti as asked, and denies that brevity’s wit’s soul.

Emily Roller is the librettist for Esther and Teach for A While, which received readings in the 2015 Thesis Reading Series at NYU. She is also the author of The Alloway Files (New Stein Publishing House),Hookers, Flankers, and Locks (Bare Knuckles Press), and many short pieces for the page and the stage. She is a graduate of Yale, the MA in Writing program at Johns Hopkins, and the Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program at NYU Tisch. She lives in Brooklyn and blogs at

Mark Sonnenblick writes words and music. As playwright, lyricist, and/or composer: Independents (“Best Production” FringeNYC, NYTimes “Critics’ Pick”), Ship Show (Yale Institute for Music Theatre), Stompcat in Lawndale (Ars Nova), Wheel of Misfortune (Denver Center for the Performing Arts), Rodman in North Korea (Houghton Lyric Theater), and Bunkerville (Yale DRAMAT). Mark has been a composer fellow at the John Duffy Institute (Virginia Arts Festival), a member of the Johnny Mercer Songwriting Project, and a finalist for the Kleban Prize. Currently, Mark is a Dramatists Guild fellow and a librettist for the Kennedy Center’s American Opera Initiative.

Bios of C&V singers and music directors available at


At the forefront of the contemporary opera movement for over 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 25 world premieres, most recently Kaminsky/Reed/Campbell’s As One (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. Other notable premieres include Kimper/Persons’ Patience & Sarah (1998), Weisman/Rabinowitz’s Darkling (2006), Lee Hoiby’s This Is the Rill Speaking (2008), and Phil Kline’s Out Cold (2012) at BAM. AOP-developed operas that premiered with co-producers:  Gregory Spears’s Paul’s Case at UrbanArias (2013) and PROTOtype Festival (Jan 2014), Kamran Ince’s Judgment of Midas at Milwaukee Opera Theatre (2013), Jack Perla’s Love/Hate at ODC Theater with San Francisco Opera (2012), Stephen Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon at New York City Opera (2011), Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at London’s Royal Opera House (2011) and Opera Parallèle (2015, San Francisco), Jorge Martín’s Before Night Falls at Fort Worth Opera (2010), Huang Ruo’s Paradise Interrupted at Spoleto Festival USA (2015).

UPCOMING in 2015: Hagoromo at BAM 2015 Next Wave Festival, As One at West Edge Opera (Berkeley, CA) and UrbanArias (Arlington, VA).


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