AOP receives OPERA America Innovation grant to expand composer and librettist training programs

April 12, 2018

American Opera Projects is pleased to announce that it has received one of the twenty OPERA America Innovation grants awarded this cycle. The grants are given to OPERA America’s Professional Company Members to support “exceptional projects that have the capacity to strengthen the field’s most important areas of practice, including artistic vitality, audience experience, organizational effectiveness and community connections.” With this grant AOP will continue to extend our training program for emerging composers and librettists into conservatories and universities to teach students the mechanics and artistry of creating new operas.

This grant is for the second phase in continuing to develop our training program for music theater graduate students. In collaboration with AOP’s Composers & the Voice alum and NYU Tisch program professor Randall Eng, AOP created the “Opera Writing Workshop,” a streamlined version of C&V tailored for the music theater graduate students of the Tisch School of the Arts. With the help of the Innovation Grant, AOP will create a curriculum that can be replicated at other music schools that includes mentoring with by renowned composers and creating site specific performances for new, diverse audiences.

Final Round

NYU/AOP Opera Writing Workshop “Final Round”. International House, NYC, May 13, 2017. Photo by Steven Pisano.

Funded generously by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, the OPERA America Innovation Grants project was launched in 2016 with the intent to enable organizations within the OPERA America community to increase their commitment experimentation, innovation, and contribute to fieldwide learning. This cycle of grants will help fund a variety of innovations in the field, including fusing technology with live opera performance, partnerships with arts and non-arts organizations, as well as career-development programs, such as AOP’s. The Innovation Grants program additionally provides infrastructure as well as administrative and technical support.

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Librettist and poet J.D. McClatchy dies at 72

April 12, 2018

Librettist and poet J. D. McClatchy

AOP mourns the passing of poet and librettist J. D. McClatchy, known to his friends as ‘Sandy,’ who died on Tuesday in his Manhattan apartment after battling cancer. One of McClatchy’s final librettos was an adaptation of internationally acclaimed 1958 novel Il Gattopardo by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa into The Leopard, an opera currently in development at AOP with music by Michael Dellaira. It was Dellaira’s third collaboration with McClatchy following The Secret Agent (2011) and The Death of Webern (2013).

“It was a privilege and a pleasure to have worked with Sandy for the past twelve years, during which time we wrote three operas together,” Dellaira told AOP. “We had just finished putting the finishing touches on our last, The Leopard, which Sandy called his “crowning achievement.” Sandy McClatchy was a man of words, always the right words, not just for his brilliant libretti, poems, and translations, but ready, and I mean instantly ready, to encourage – or console – his many friends.  I’m lucky to have been one of them.”

J. D. McClatchy on libretto writing: “Poetry was a good preparation, because it is as much an art of leaving things out as of putting things in. That search for the perfect word or the balanced line comes in handy when you are working in a form that demands a great deal of concision, and where you have to turn over the emotional argument to the music.”

McClatchy was well known and respected in the opera community for his librettos for Our Town, composed by Ned Rorem and based on Thornton Wilder’s play, Miss Lonelyhearts, composed by Lowell Liebermann and based on the Nathanael West novel; Orpheus Descending, by Bruce Saylor, based on Tennessee Williams’s play; and Dolores Claiborne, by Tobias Picker, based on the Stephen King novel.

J. D. McClatchy speaks to the standing room only audience about his career and the writing of The Leopard. Poets House – November 8, 2014.

In 2014, audiences packed the event space at Poetry House in Manhattan to hear McClatchy speak about his craft. The AOP produced event was to be followed by the first public libretto reading of The Leopard, but had to be cancelled after an upstairs bathroom flooded and began seeping down into the room as McClatchy spoke. As the slow drip from the ceiling caused the audience to squeeze in even tighter to stay dry, McClatchy did all he could to keep the show going until the fire department arrived and forced the building to evacuate. As the guests and artists were ushered outside, McClatchy was disappointed that the crowd missed out on hearing his libretto read, but mused, “At first I thought it was a sign from God. Apparently it was just a bowel movement. Ah well. They deserve equal thanks for inspiring great art as well.”

The Leopard has been commissioned by and is currently in development at American Opera Projects, made possible, in part, through generous funding by The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation and The Paul Underwood Charitable Trust.

Staged Piano Vocal Reading of scenes from The Leopard at Manhattan School of Music. March 13, 2016. Photo by Steven Pisano.


AS ONE Surpasses Turandot and The Barber of Seville to Become 14th Most Produced Opera in the U.S. and Canada in 2016-17

January 30, 2018

A few of the many Hannahs from As One, clockwise from top left: AOP World Premiere (Brooklyn, NY), UrbanArias (Arlington, VA), West Edge Opera (San Francisco, CA), Pittsburgh Opera, International Opera Projects (Berlin, Germany), Seattle Opera.

Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell, and Kimberly Reed’s chamber opera As One was the 14th most-performed opera in the United States and Canada in the 2016-2017 season according to the Winter 2018 issue of OPERA America magazine and the only opera in the top 25 written this century.

The Top 25 in 2016-17 were:
1. Carmen
2. Madama Butterfly
3. Die Zauberflöte
4. Le Nozze di Figaro
5. Don Giovanni
6. La Traviata
7. Tosca
8. Eugen Onegin
9. Rigoletto
10. Roméo et Juliette
11. Aida
12. La Boheme
13. Lucia di Lammermoor
14. As One
15. My Fair Lady
16. Die Entführung aus dem Serail
17. Turandot
18. Don Pasquale
19. Falstaff
20. Hansel und Gretel
21. Norma
22. Sweeney Todd
23: Dead Man Walking
24: Oklahoma!
25: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

In As One, a mezzo-soprano and a baritone depict the experiences of its sole transgender protagonist, Hannah, as she endeavors to resolve the discord between herself and the outside world.

As One was commissioned, developed, and premiered by American Opera Projects at BAM Fisher Center in Brooklyn, NY in September, 2014, and has already been performed by over 15 different opera companies throughout the United States and beyond.

New productions of As One were performed this month at Lyric Opera Kansas City, Hawaii Opera Theatre, and Boston Opera Collaborative. It will next be seen at Anchorage Opera Feb. 9-11, 2018.

More info:
https://www.asoneopera.com/
http://www.aopopera.org/AsOne/


“Startling,” “gripping” THE ECHO DRIFT finishes “virtuoso” run at Prototype Festival

January 26, 2018

On January 20, the world premiere of THE ECHO DRIFT, with music by Mikael Karlsson, libretto by Elle Kunnos de Voss & Kathryn Walat, directed by Mallory Catlett and conducted by Nicholas DeMaison completed its six-performance run at Baruch Performing Arts Center in New York City as part of the 2018 Prototype Festival. Mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert starred as a convicted murderer trapped in a timeless prison and is unexpectedly befriended by a moth (actor John Kelly) with an offer of a perceived way to freedom. The experimental chamber opera, performed by members of ICE Ensemble and enhanced by electronic soundscape and animation, was enthusiastically received by both audiences and critics alike.

Blythe Gaissert as Walker Loats in The Echo Drift

“a startling science fiction conceit kickstarted the gripping one-act The Echo Drift. In this world premiere work, an inmate in a futuristic prison gets a visit from a talking moth that tries to persuade her than she can escape by rejecting her conventional sense of time and space. Everything about this presentation was virtuoso, from the psychedelic snarls and slithers in composer Mikael Karlsson’s orchestra writing to the sly, ironic whispers of actor John Kelly as the Moth. But the heart of the piece was the bravura singing of Blythe Gaissert as the panicky prisoner, her smoky mezzo biting into the wide-ranging and relentless vocal part with the violent abandon of a starving shark.” – The Observer

Stark and intricate, propulsive and a little film-noir, “The Echo Drift” is most exciting when it is fast and cacophonous, nearly overwhelming the senses.” – The New York Times

a totally original and stunning, immersive piece… with a scintillating score composed by Mikael Karlsson, and a brilliant environmental production by Elle Kunnos de Voss in their first collaboration. … Gaissert is wonderful as Loats, giving herself over totally to the fantasy world that the creators have presented to her, more than holding her own vocally in the powerful and audacious orchestral setting–by turns jazzy, acoustic, electronic, melodic, atonal, soothing, blasting–that the composer has devised.” – Broadway World

“seventy immersive minutes of six-channel surround sound and projected animations … The score was modest, absorbing, and lush …  For a story about a convicted murderer in solitary confinement, The Echo Drift is surprisingly accessible and apolitical. … Gaissert and Kelly fully embraced the sophisticated score and meta set, and The Echo Drift balanced an immersive multidimensional experience with a refreshing affirmation of human solidarity.” – I Care If You Listen

“Nicholas DeMaison conducted with unwavering clarity, helped by seven superb musicians from the International Contemporary Ensemble. Levy Lorenzo’s electronics wizardry—effectively an eighth instrument—creates unusually vivid textures, such as the complex, machine-like chords repeated near the end, tolling like otherworldly bells. … It is hard to sufficiently praise soprano Blythe Gaissert as Loats, singing tirelessly over the course of the opera’s 70 minutes.” – Musical America

“The Echo Drift struck an admirable balance between evocative score and creative composition, and is easily worthy of a pure listen without the staging. Karlsson’s subtle but crucial electronic elements were particularly noteworthy, threading through the live performers with magnetic textures… singers and musicians alike made this small chamber opera a grand production.” – Seen and Heard International

In a tension-filled final day, Gaissert took ill and made the difficult decision not to perform. Her cover Kathryn Krasovec stepped in with only a few hours of rehearsal under her belt and gave a powerful performance that captivated the audience on the opera’s final night.

The Echo Drift was commissioned, developed and produced by Beth Morrison Projects, HERE, and American Opera Projects. The Echo Drift was originally developed by Mikael Karlsson and Elle Kunnos de Voss in a full-length workshop presented by the Embassy of Sweden in Washington DC in 2014. Additional development was provided through the Opera Genesis Fellowship, a residency at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, made in partnership with American Opera Projects.


AOP alum George Lam named Chautauqua Opera Company’s newest Composer-in-Residence

December 19, 2017

Chautauqua Opera Company appoints AOP alumnus, George Lam, as its new Composer-in-Residence.

 

American Opera Projects and Chautauqua Opera are proud to announce George Lam as the upcoming composer-in-residence for Chautauqua Opera’s 2018 season. This is our third year of a multi-year collaboration with Chautauqua Opera that invites one alumnus from AOP’s Composers & the Voice Fellowship program to Chautauqua Institution for the summer and includes three commissions which are premiered by Chautauqua Opera each season.

To learn more about the Composer-in-Residence program and this year’s composer, please visit http://chq.org/opera-about/composer-in-residence-program.

In July/August 2016, American Opera Projects and Chautauqua Opera launched a multi-year Composer-in-Residence initiative. Each summer one alumni of AOP’s Composers & the Voice Fellowship will be invited to be in residence for Chautauqua Opera’s entire 8-week season. The Composer-in-Residence will be a prominent public face for the Chautauqua Opera, speaking passionately about the company’s season, and exploring the role of a composer in today’s society.

AOP will commission three pieces from the Composer-in-Residence– 2 for voice and piano, and 1 for voice and orchestra– which will be premiered during Chautauqua Opera’s season, by members of its Young Artist Program, and then be presented in AOP’s subsequent New York City season. With texts drawn from and inspired by lecturers and speakers at the Chautauqua Institution, these new works will first appear on the “Artsongs in the Afternoon” recital series and the Opera Highlights concert with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra.

“When an audience knows the creator, they become immediately invested in his or her creations,” Steven Osgood said. “This is the kind of relationship I see being forged throughout the opera community nationwide, and I look forward to sharing it with CHQ.

 

About the Chautauqua Opera Company

Founded in 1929, The Chautauqua Opera Company is North America’s oldest continuously operating summer opera company and 4th oldest opera company after the Metropolitan Opera, Cincinnati Opera and San Francisco Opera. The Chautauqua Opera Company offers more than 40 operatic events each season, including fully staged productions in Chautauqua Institution’s 4000-seat Amphitheater and in the historic 1,300-seat Norton Hall, Concerts with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, weekly recitals, Music Theater Revues, Opera Scenes programs, and operatic revues for young audiences. Chautauqua Opera productions feature internationally recognized guest artists as well as promising young singers from our Young Artist Program.

About American Opera Projects

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 been a producer on over 30 world premieres, including Kaminsky/Reed/Campbell’s As One (BAM 2014), Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (Lincoln Center Festival 2013), Davis/Pelsue’s Hagoromo (BAM 2015 Next Wave Festival), a dance opera starring Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto, and Paterson/Cote’s Three Way (Nashville Opera and BAM 2017).  www.aopopera.org

AOP Contact: Matt Gray, AOP Producing Director, 718-398-4024, mgray@operaprojects.org

 

 


Hermitage Artist Retreat and American Opera Projects award Opera Genesis fellowships for 2017-18 season

November 16, 2017

 

The second Opera Genesis Fellowships to composer Joseph Rubinstein and librettist Jason Kim will support the creation of a new opera “Legendary”

Composer Joseph N. Rubinstein and librettist Jason Kim at a 2015 American Opera Projects workshop of their opera Legendary. Photo by Steven Pisano.

The Hermitage Artist Retreat in Englewood, FL and New York City’s American Opera Projects (AOP) announce the second Opera Genesis Fellowships to composer Joseph N. Rubinstein and librettist Jason Kim.

The award includes a six-week Hermitage residency, in which these two artists will work on their new opera Legendary, about the drag balls of the 1980s in New York City. The Opera Genesis Fellowship awards are presented annually to artists who have completed training in AOP’s Composer & the Voice (C&V) training program which helps to develop contemporary American opera.

The first fellowships were awarded to the creative team of Mikael Karlsson and co-librettist and visual designer Elle Kunnos de Voss along with co-librettist Kathryn Walat. Their opera, The Echo Drift, on which they worked during their time at the Hermitage, will premiere at the Prototype Festival in January at Baruch Performing Arts Center, New York City.

Hermitage Executive Director Bruce E. Rodgers remarked that “seeing the program come into being with the announcement of the first recipients was very exciting. We exist to inspire and assist artists in the creation of new work. AOP takes it to the next level so that the work can be presented to the public. We are now seeing the fruition of the first fellowship with the world premiere of The Echo Drift, and are eagerly looking forward to welcoming Joe and Jason.”

Charles Jarden, General Director of American Opera Projects, noted, “seeing how much the development of The Echo Drift benefited from the creators’ time at the Hermitage makes me eager to see what new ideas will be sparked when Joe and Jason find their way there this coming year. With so much faith in these two creative artists, AOP is now in the early stages of negotiation about where Legendary will be brought to its full production in an upcoming season.”

American Opera Projects’ Composers & the Voice is a two-year fellowship for composers and librettists which provides experience working collaboratively with singers on writing for the voice and opera stage. This free training 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. Launched in 2002, C&V has fostered the development of sixty-three composers & librettists. Alumni works that went through AOP’s opera development program and continued to a world premiere include Love/Hate (ODC/San Francisco Opera 2012, Jack Perla), Paul’s Case (UrbanArias 2013, Gregory Spears), and The Scarlet Ibis (Prototype 2015, Stefan Weisman). AOP’s C&V program is generously supported by a multi-year award from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

 

ABOUT THE NEW FELLOWS

Joseph N. Rubinstein grew up in Newport News, VA and currently lives in New York City. Joseph’s music is often concerned with dramatic narrative and character, and has been presented by Fort Worth Opera Festival, The Manhattan School of Music Opera Theater, Triad: The Boston Choral Collective, American Opera Projects, The Holy Cross Chamber Singers, The Secret Opera, bass-baritone Matthew Burns at the Spoleto Festival USA, Boston Metro Opera, C4, the Society for New Music, and the Young New Yorker’s Chorus, among others. Recent performances include scenes from Legendary in a 2017 workshop by American Opera Projects, scenes from Legendary on Fort Worth Opera Festival’s 2016 “Frontiers” program, the premiere of “Birthday Song” on Sparks and Wiry Cries inaugural songSLAM, and a new choral work as part of Novi Cantori’s 2017 Composers Forum.  In 2016, he was a fellow in New Dramatists’ Composer-Librettist Studio.  Select works are published by See-A-Dot Music and recorded on 4Tay Records.  He studied music at Columbia University (BA) and The Juilliard School (MM).

Jason Kim is a Korean-born dramatist based in New York City. His immersive musical KPOP recently completed a critically acclaimed sold-out run at Ars Nova Theater. His play The Model American opened the Nikos Stage at the 2017 Williamstown Theatre Festival. His work has been presented at Ma-Yi, Keen Company, Naked Angels, The Flea, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington National Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Manhattan School of Music, Spoleto Festival, Opera America, and others. He is an IFP—Marcie Bloom Fellow in Film, a Screenwriters Colony Fellow, a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow for New Americans, and a Librettist Fellow in American Opera Project’s Composers & The Voice. He is a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab and Ars Nova’s Uncharted. He is currently LCT3’s Resident Writer. In television, he has written for HBO’s Girls and Fox’s Gracepoint and has adapted The Middlesteins for Showtime. He is also a Consulting Producer for Love on Netflix. BA Columbia University, MFA New School for Drama. www.waytooserious.com

About the Hermitage Artist Retreat

The Hermitage is a not-for-profit artist retreat located at 6660 Manasota Key Road in Englewood, FL.  It invites accomplished painters, sculptors, writers, playwrights, poets, composers and other artists from all over the world for residencies on its beachfront historic campus. Artists are asked to contribute two services to the community during their stay and as a result, Hermitage artists touch thousands of Gulf Coast community residents with unique and inspiring programs each year. In addition, the Hermitage awards and administers the prestigious Greenfield Prize, an annual $30,000 commission for a new work of art, rotating among three disciplines: visual art, music and drama. The Hermitage also partners with the Aspen Music Festival and School to award the annual Hermitage Prize to a composition student during the Festival. For more information about The Hermitage Artist Retreat, call 941-475-2098 or visit the website at www.HermitageArtistRetreat.org.

About American Opera Projects

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 been a producer on over 30 world premieres, including Kaminsky/Reed/Campbell’s As One (BAM 2014), Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (Lincoln Center Festival 2013), Davis/Pelsue’s Hagoromo (BAM 2015 Next Wave Festival), a dance opera starring Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto, and Paterson/Cote’s Three Way (Nashville Opera and BAM 2017).  www.aopopera.org

AOP Contact: Matt Gray, AOP Producing Director, 718-398-4024, mgray@operaprojects.org

Hermitage Contact: Lisa Rubinstein, lisa@LDRcreative.com or 941-587-3396

Press material is available at: http://aopopera.org/press

 

 


Announcing the winners of the 2017-19 Composers & the Voice fellowships!

July 20, 2017

AOP (American Opera Projects) and Composers & the Voice Artistic Director Steven Osgood have selected six composers and three librettists to receive fellowships for its upcoming ninth season of Composers & the Voice. The 2017-2019 season will train, and present new works from, composers Matthew Browne, Scott Ordway, Frances Pollock, Pamela Stein LyndeAmber Vistein, and Alex Weiser and librettists Laura Barati, Kim Davies, and Sokunthary Svay. 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 philosophy of Composers & the Voice since its beginning has been that by immersing composers and librettists in hands-on work with skilled singers and music directors, we empower them to create groundbreaking works that are true to each of their artistic languages,” says Osgood.  “Composers rarely have the opportunity to work with opera singers during their training, and C&V was designed to address this void. I could not be prouder of the commissions and premieres that have flowed to the alumni of C&V.”

The fellows were chosen from an extensive pool of applicants by a panel made up of C&V and AOP staff and professional artists that included Osgood, AOP General Director Charles Jarden, AOP Producing Director/C&V Head of Drama Matt Gray, C&V Head of Music Mila Henry, librettist Sara Cooper, singer Amy van Roekel, and composers Conrad Cummings, Jeremy Gill, Jennifer Griffith, Laura Kaminsky, Kristin Kuster, and Gregory Spears.

The Composers & the Voice fellowships include a year of working with the company’s Resident Ensemble of Singers and Artistic Team, over 45 hours of “Skill-Building Sessions” of acting courses with director Mary Birnbaum (Die Zauberflöte at Juilliard), theatrical improvisation led by Terry Greiss (Co-Founder, Ensemble Actor, Executive Director of Irondale Ensemble Project), and libretto development with Libretto Writing Instructor Mark Campbell (Silent Night, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, As One), and two public concerts of new works. This is followed by a year of continued promotion and development through AOP and its strategic partnerships.

Composers Ricky Ian Gordon (27, The Grapes of Wrath), David T. Little (Dog Days, JFK), Missy Mazzoli (Breaking the Waves, Songs From the Uproar), Tobias Picker (An American Tragedy, Emmeline), Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell), and Gregory Spears (Fellow Travelers, Paul’s Case), and librettists Gene Scheer (Cold Mountain, Moby Dick) and Royce Vavrek (Dog Days, JFK) will serve as the upcoming season’s “Artistic Chairs,” each of whom are assigned a fellow, providing one-on-one artistic advice and career guidance.

Support for AOP’s Composers & the Voice program is provided in part by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Bios of C&V fellows, singers, instructors, and music directors available at www.aopopera.org/composers_voice/2017-19.html

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