Resident Ensemble of Singers selected for AOP training program Composers & the Voice

June 16, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

RESIDENT ENSEMBLE OF SINGERS SELECTED
FOR AOP TRAINING PROGRAM

SIX SINGERS TO ASSIST COMPOSERS, LIBRETTISTS
IN UPCOMING SEASON OF “COMPOSERS & THE VOICE”

BROOKLYN, NY – AOP (American Opera Projects) announces the six singers who will become its Resident Ensemble for the upcoming eighth season of its Composers & the Voice training program. Comprised of one each of the basic operatic/vocal categories, the singers for the 2015-16 season will be Coloratura Soprano Tookah Sapper, Lyric Soprano Jennifer Goode Cooper, Mezzo-Soprano Blythe Gaissert, Tenor Blake Friedman, Baritone Michael Weyandt and Bass Jonathan Woody. The singers will spend a year working collaboratively with composers and librettists who have received fellowships to develop skills for writing for the voice and contemporary opera stage. The Resident Ensemble was selected by Composers & the Voice Artistic Director Steven Osgood based on their superior technical and musical skills, as well as their commitment to developing and performing new works.

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. Singers will each explain how their particular voice works throughout its range, addressing issues of tessitura, negotiating the passagio, demands for vowel modification, and how these affect their performance of text.

In closed workshops from September 2015-April 2016, the singers will rotate among each composer, giving demonstrations of proper vocal technique and writing, as well as performing short works.  This will culminate with First Glimpse, a public concert of songs on May 20 & 21, 2016, in which the singers will perform the composer’s revised and final versions.  Finally, on September 23 & 25, 2016, the AOP Resident Ensemble will perform Six Scenes, an evening of short opera scenes created by the composer-librettist fellows.

Previous singers from the Composers & the Voice program have gone on to perform with some of the leading companies and festivals in America, including Matthew Worth (Doubt, Minnesota Opera, 2013 and Eugene Onegin, Chautauqua Opera, 2015), Keith Jameson (Billy Budd, Metropolitan Opera, 2012 and Capriccio, Lyric Opera of Chicago, 2014), Caroline Worra (Orphee, Pittsburgh Opera, 2014 and Lizzie Borden, Boston Lyric Opera, 2013)  and Rebecca Ringle (Die Walküre, Metropolitan Opera, 2013, and Dido and Aeneas, Opera Memphis, 2015).

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation continues its support of AOP’s Composers & the Voice program through 2016 as part of a two hundred thousand ($200,000) multi-year grant award, which also covers artistic personnel and other program activities.

More information about the 2015-16 Composers & the Voice Series can be found at www.operaprojects.org/composers_voice.

BIOS

RESIDENT SINGERS

sapper---headshotTookah Sapper (soprano), from Oklahoma City, is a second-year Master’s degree candidate at Manhattan School of Music studying with Joan Patenaude-Yarnell. She graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma last year with a BM in vocal performance and a minor in collaborative piano. Last November, she performed as a soloist in the Mozart C Minor Mass at Manhattan School of Music. UCO credits include L’Elisir d’amore (Adina), The Messiah (Soloist), Dido and Aeneas (Belinda), Gallantry (Lola), and Gianni Schicci (Nella). Summer program credits include The Maid of Orleans (Solo Angel) with Russian Opera Workshop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Pirates of Penzance (Mabel) and Le nozze di Figaro (Barbarina) with Opera in the Ozarks in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

good cooper---headshotJennifer Goode Cooper is a “lustrous soprano” (Wall Street Journal) with “steely eyed ferocity” (NY Times) who “fills the theater with her soaring soprano voice” (Variety).  Last season, she joined Mark Delavan as Blitch to sing the title role in Floyd’s Susannah with Toledo Opera, and premiered Nathaniel Stookey’s Ivonne at Opera Memphis, which she reprised at this year’s New Works Sampler at the Opera America Conference at Wolf Trap.  Other career highlights:   Miss Jessel in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw (New York City Opera), Titania/Hippolyta in the first known a cappella opera, Michael Ching’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Opera Memphis), Musetta in Baz Luhrmann’s acclaimed Broadway and LA productions of La Bohème, Backup singer for Patti Lupone, Weekly Hip-Hopera singer with celebrity DJ’s Ed lover and Dr. Dre (NY’s Power 105.1). Jennifer was a 2013 Arts Envoy of the US Embassy (to Mozambique), and a 2014 recipient of a Professional Development Grant from the Weill Foundation. www.jennifergoodecooper.com

gaissert---headshotBlythe Gaissert (mezzo-soprano) In the 2014-15 season Ms. Gaissert performed with the Composers & the Voice Series at AOP and covered the world premiere of Hannah After in As One as well as performing the West Coast premiere in Utah. The season also included Mahler’s Ruckert Lieder, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and the Mozart Requiem, as well as readings of new operas by Martin Hennessey and Alden Terry.   In 2013 Ms. Gaissert continued her relationship with the Metropolitan Opera covering Siegrune in Die Walküre and worked on the staged premiere of John Adams The Gospel According to the Other Mary with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  She also created the role of Zellah in Matthew Harris’ opera The Mark of Cain with Chelsea Opera, sang her first Verdi Requiem with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, and a program of Copland, Ravel and de Falla with the Sarasota Orchestra. Ms. Gaissert made her Carnegie Hall debut as the Alto soloist in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and Mozart’s Solemn Vespers. She was the 1st place winner in the National Opera Associations Artist Awards, 2nd Prize Winner of the New York Oratorio Society’s Solo Competition, and National Semi-Finalist and Alternate to the Finals in the NATSAA competition. Upcoming performances include The Whole Truth by Robert Patterson and Mark Campbell with the American Modern Ensemble and a recital with the Phoenix Concert Series.

blake headshotBlake Friedman (tenor), also known as “The Operatic Jack Black” (Tampa Bay Times) currently lives in New York City. The “fresh lyric tenor” (OperaNews Online) with a “silken and strong” (Tampa Bay Times) voice has wowed audiences with his “world class”, (Theatre is Easy) “powerful vocals” (Eye on Dance) and “climactic high notes”. (Q on Stage) Recent performances include: the “elusive object of attraction” (Critical Dance) in Eve Wolf’s operatic drama Tchaikovsky: None but the Lonely Heart (BAM Fisher), Il Conte Almaviva in Barbiere di Siviglia and Pang in Turandot (St. Petersburg Opera), Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi, Rodolfo in La Boheme, and The Governor in Candide (Ash Lawn Opera), Nemorino in L’Elisir D’amore (New Rochelle Opera), and Alfredo in La Traviata (Long Island Opera).  Equally at home on the concert stage, Mr. Friedman has performed as soloist at Avery Fisher Hall and The Walter Bruno Auditorium at Lincoln Center. Other companies Mr. Friedman has worked with include Bel Canto at Caramoor, Ensemble for the Romantic Century, Ensemble ACWJ, Mid America Productions, and The Castleton Festival.

weyandt---headshotMichael Weyandt (baritone) continues to engage audiences with his “virile, ardent” singing and “notable characterizations” in an increasingly diverse repertoire. He has performed under conductors such as James Levine (Guglielmo in Cosi fan tutte, Masetto in Don Giovanni) and Lorin Maazel (Junius in The Rape of Lucretia, Marco in Gianni Schicchi), and his repertoire spans from the hero Fernando in Handel’s first opera, Almira, to standard repertoire, most recently Marcello and Schaunard in La Boheme, to contemporary works, such as the Muse in Clint Borzoni’s When Adonis Calls, Pete Dayton in Olga Neuwirth’s adaptation of David Lynch’s film Lost Highway, and the Reciter in Eight Songs for a Mad King.

woody---headshotJonathan Woody (bass-baritone) is a sought-after performer of new and early music in New York and across the United States. Equally comfortable as soloist and ensemble member, Jonathan is a member of the Grammy®-nominated Choir of Trinity Wall Street, where he has earned praise as “charismatic” and “riveting” from the New York Times for his solo work. Recent highlights include the premiere of Ted Hearne’s The Source at Brooklyn Academy of Music, a nationwide tour of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 with Apollo’s Fire, the 2014 Oregon Bach Festival Vocal Fellowship, and solo engagements with the Washington Chorus, San Diego Bach Collegium, Nashville Symphony, Pegasus Early Music, New Amsterdam Presents, and Spire Chamber Ensemble. He has also shared the stage in recent months with Opera Lafayette, Green Mountain Project, TENET, and the Handel & Haydn Society, and looks forward to upcoming performances with New York Polyphony and New York Baroque Incorporated. Jonathan can be heard on recordings under the labels Musica Omnia, Acis Productions, Naxos & the Wolf Trap Opera Company. He holds degrees from the University of Maryland, College Park, and McGill University and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.

MUSIC DIRECTORS

henry---headshotMila Henry 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 served as AOP’s Resident Music Director from 2010-2014 (including C&V 2011-13 and 2013-15), and has collaborated on both workshops and world premieres with American Lyric Theater, Beth Morrison Projects (BMP), 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); The Difficulty of Crossing a Field (BMP, Cantaloupe Music release 2015); Day of Wrath (New York Musical Theatre Festival); As One and 2014 Obie Award Winner The World is Round (BAM). A native of the Philadelphia area, she lives in Brooklyn. milahenry.com

Horsted, Kelly hsPianist Kelly Horsted, a native of Sioux City, Iowa, enjoys an active career in NYC as an accompanist, music director and vocal coach specializing in new opera, art song, and role preparation. An enthusiast of new music, Kelly begins a fourth season as a co-music director for the Composers and the Voice series at American Opera Projects in Fall 2013. Kelly’s other AOP projects have included Sheila Silver’s Beauty Intolerable, Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness, Paula Kimper’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey as well as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, by Hershel Garfein, directed by Mark Morris. Kelly prepared the cast of Patience and Sarah for Lincoln Center Festival premiere. Kelly has collaborated with Center for Contemporary Opera’s Atelier Series, Chelsea Opera, Remarkable Theater Brigade, Opera Company of Brooklyn, Urban Arias, New Jersey Opera Theater, Friends and Enemies of New Music and at NYU’s Tisch Graduate Musical Theater Program. Kelly has taught at Hunter College, Mannes College of Music, and Operaworks. Kelly is currently a faculty member at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, CT. KellyHorsted.com

charity-headshot thumbCharity Wicks, a pianist and music director who is highly lauded for her versatility, is at ease with a wide range of repertoire, from solo works and chamber music, to contemporary opera and musical theater. She is delighted to return as a music director for AOP’s Composers & the Voice program! Wicks has been involved with many AOP projects, including the world premiere of the opera The Summer King by former C&V composer Daniel Sonenberg, Semmelweis by Ray Lustig, The Golden Gate by Conrad Cummings, as well as the workshops of Stephen Schwartz’s opera Séance on a Wet Afternoon, for which she was also the associate conductor for the world premiere. Wicks has also worked on several Broadway musicals, including WICKED, VIOLET, BIG FISH, NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT, IN THE HEIGHTS and SPRING AWAKENING. She holds a BM and MM from Temple University, and a DMA from The Manhattan School of Music.

C&V ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

osgood, stevenDuring his tenure as Artistic Director of American Opera Projects (2001 to 2008), Steven Osgood created Composers & the Voice, and conducted the world premieres of Paula Kimper and Wende Persons’ Patience & Sarah at the Lincoln Center Festival, and Janice Hamer and Mary Azrael’s Lost Childhood at the International Vocal Arts Institute (Tel Aviv). He has also conducted premieres by Jonathan Sheffer (Blood on the Dining Room Floor), Tan Dun (Peony Pavilion), Xenakis (Oresteia), Missy Mazzoli (Song from the Uproar), Mohammed Fairouz (Sumeida’s Song), and Daron Hagen (Little Nemo in Slumberland). He has served on the Music Staff of the Metropolitan Opera since 2006.  Recent productions include Opera Memphis’ Midtown Opera Festival, Hawaii Opera Theater’s Tosca, and Chautauqua Opera’s Peter Grimes. srosgood.com

Press contact: Matt Gray, AOP Producing Director, email: mgray@operaprojects.org, phone: 718-398-4024
Press material is available at: http://www.operaprojects.org/press

June 15, 2015


New Partnership to Give AOP Composers & Librettists Residency in Florida

June 8, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The Hermitage Artist Retreat in Englewood, FL and AOP have formed a partnership that will result in a six-week residency to be called Opera Genesis Fellowships. This newly created program allows for a composer and a librettist from AOP’s Composer & the Voice (C&V) training program to be invited to continue the development of a contemporary American opera at the Hermitage’s inspiring Gulf Coast campus. The first team will be selected in 2016.

“The Hermitage was created as a place for mid-career artists to come and work on new art,” explained Bruce E. Rodgers, executive director. “We have 10 acres of beachfront property on the Gulf of Mexico and serve four to five invited artists of all disciplines at any one time. It’s a quiet, peaceful and inspiring setting. Many new operas have already been written and composed here. We know this new partnership with AOP’s C&V program will produce more exciting work that will eventually be enjoyed in opera venues throughout the country.”

Bass-baritone Matthew Worth works with composer Andreia Pinto- Correia during a 2013 C&V workshop. Photo by Ted Gorodetzky

Bass-baritone Matthew Worth works with composer Andreia Pinto- Correia during a 2013 C&V workshop in Brooklyn, NY. Photo by Ted Gorodetzky

American Opera Projects’ Composers & the Voice is a two-year fellowship for composers and librettists that 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.

The Hermitage Artist Retreat (http://hermitageartistretreat.org) nurtures creativity in mid-career writers, painters, poets, playwrights, composers, translators, sculptors, and artists. Even before the partnership, the two organizations had many artists in common. Some of AOP’s artists who have been in residence at The Hermitage are Laura Kaminsky (As One), Mark Campbell (As One), Phil Kline (Out Cold), Lera Auerbach (The Blind), and Huang Ruo (Paradise Interrupted).

Our artists live and work in — and are inspired by — five "Old Florida" buildings that have been lovingly restored into living space and studio space. Fifteen miles of Gulf of Mexico beach .

The Hermitage Artist Retreat provides artists living and studio space in five “Old Florida” buildings along fifteen miles of Gulf of Mexico beach.

Since launching in 2002, C&V has fostered the development of 44 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).

The cast of the 2013 World Premiere of Paul's Case presented by Urban Arias. The opera began development during composer Gregory Spears' fellowship in AOP's Composers & the Voice program.

The cast of the 2013 World Premiere of Paul’s Case presented by Urban Arias. The opera began development during composer Gregory Spears’ fellowship in AOP’s Composers & the Voice program.

“AOP and C&V Artistic Director Steven Osgood created the Composers & the Voice program with the vision of teaching to emerging composers & librettists the fundamentals of writing an opera,” stated AOP Producing Director Matt Gray. “We are thrilled that the partnership with The Hermitage Artists Retreat furthers that vision by providing a creative place for those artists to convert their knowledge into the operas themselves – operas that will become the core of a new, modern repertoire.”

PRESS CONTACTS:

Hermitage Contact: Lisa Rubinstein, lisa@LDRcreative.com or 941-373-3803

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


Stephen Schwartz – a mentor for artists, a leader for the arts

June 4, 2015

b_Stephen_Schwartz01Stephen Schwartz, composer of Wicked, Pippin, Godspell, and the AOP-developed opera Séance on a Wet Afternoon, will receive a 2015 Isabelle Stevenson award at the Tony Awards this Saturday, June 7th, for his outstanding commitment to emerging artists.  Each year, the award is given out to “an individual from the theatre community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations, regardless of whether such organizations relate to the theatre.”

“Stephen’s successes span far beyond the Broadway stage through his commitment to fostering the next generation of musical theatre actors, lyricists and composers. We are thrilled to celebrate his countless triumphs with this honor,” said Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of The Broadway League, and Heather Hitchens, President of the American Theatre Wing, in a statement.

AOP can certainly attest to Stephen’s incredible generosity, especially in his tireless support of young artists. In addition to his work with ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop, ASCAP Foundation and as President of the Dramatists Guild, for the past eight years, Stephen has donated his time and wisdom as a mentor for AOP’s Composers & the Voice Series, helping such young composers as Gregory Spears (Paul’s Case, Fellow Travelers) and Zachary Redler (The Memory Show, Susan Smith) during and after their fellowships in the AOP training program.

Gregory Spears, C&V 2007-08

“Working with Stephen Schwartz while writing music as part of AOP’s Composers and the Voice program was a thrilling experience. Having such a dramaturgically-minded composer to consult with proved invaluable as I was learning to write operatic scenes that communicate a story clearly. His dictum to “simplify and clarify” is something I think about every day as a composer, whether writing a melody, voicing a chord, or pacing a scene. His music and his generosity of spirit are inspiring.”

Zachary Redler, C&V 2011-13

“Stephen Schwartz and his work has made a profound impact on who I am as a composer and a musician.  Not only have I been playing his work since elementary school, but his mentorship during the 2011-13 Composers and the Voice program helped put the world into which I was entering in perspective.  As a composer coming from an orchestral background but practically a primarily musical theatre world of experience, his insight into how best to enter the operatic world proved invaluable. Not only did he offer advice on our operatic work, but he took time out of his extremely busy schedule to read, listen to and comment on one of Sara and my new musicals as well.  He is a true mentor and I am so grateful of his talents and stewardship for which he is receiving this special Tony.”

Steven Osgood, Artistic Director of Composers & the Voice and conductor of Séance on a Wet Afternoon at New York City Opera, confirmed, “Stephen Schwartz has been a beloved mentor for AOP’s Composers and the Voice Fellowship program.  He is honest, generous with his ideas and opinions, self-less, and remarkably articulate in defining the craft that goes into creating new music theater.  Through his approach to work he provides an invaluable model for today’s emerging composers and librettists.  I can think of no-one more deserving of the Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award, and congratulate him heartily.”

The 2015 Tony Awards will be broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City, on Sunday, June 7th, 2015 (8:00 – 11:00 p.m. ET/PT time delay) on the CBS Television Network, live from the Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Photo:  American Opera Projects 25th ANNIVERSARY GALA HONORING STEPHEN SCHWARTZ; OPERA SINGS BROADWAY SINGS OPERA Gala event photographed: Monday, May 12, 2014 6:30 pm Hors d'oeuvres Performance at 8:00 pm The Players Club 16 Gramercy Park South New York City Photograph: © 2014 Richard Termine PHOTO CREDIT - Richard Termine

Stephen Schwartz (center) with AOP composers, singers, and staff at AOP’s 25th Anniversary Gala, including Gregory Spears and Zach Redler (standing, far right). PHOTO CREDIT – Richard Termine

Photo:  American Opera Projects 25th ANNIVERSARY GALA HONORING STEPHEN SCHWARTZ; OPERA SINGS BROADWAY SINGS OPERA Gala event photographed: Monday, May 12, 2014 6:30 pm Hors d'oeuvres Performance at 8:00 pm The Players Club 16 Gramercy Park South New York City Photograph: © 2014 Richard Termine PHOTO CREDIT - Richard Termine

Soprano and AOP board member Sarah Moulton-Faux, Stephen Schwartz, composer Douglas Cuomo, and composer Gregory Spears at AOP’s 25th Anniversary Gala in 2014. PHOTO CREDIT – Richard Termine

 


“Mesmerizing”, “marvelous” Paradise Interrupted premieres at Spoleto Festival

June 1, 2015

The AOP-developed opera Paradise Interrupted received favorable press when it premiered at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, SC this past  week.  Drawing inspiration from the legend of Adam and Eve, as well as the Chinese story of The Peony Pavilion, Paradise Interrupted combines strong visual and aural effects, to tell the moving story of a woman’s journey towards self-realization.  Combining composer Huang Ruo (Dr. Sun Yat-sen), visual artist Jennifer Wen Ma (opening and closing ceremonies of Olympics Beijing 2008), and singer Qian Yi (Peony Pavilion), this riveting production has critics raving about a new genre of opera: installation opera.

Paradise Interrupted picture

Adam Parker of the Charleston Post and Courier praised the production, calling it “an original work that beautifully blends Eastern and Western styles and presents five fine singers with remarkable stamina and expression.” He also states: “had there been no music at all, just the staging, this would have been a marvelous, immersive experience. But there was music, fascinating music, lyrical, often rhythmic music.”

At the Spoleto Journal, Jerry Bowles, raved about Jennifer Wen Ma’s stunning visual effects: “Set against an ever changing backdrop of abstract digital images that reflect the singer’s mood shifts, the garden that greets the audience of Paradise Interrupted is an assemblage of laser-cut paper painted with black ink that is unfolded, accordian-like, and closed up again by the performers throughout the drama. The effect is that the garden appears to move in response to the singers’ voices.”

Heidi Waleson of the Wall Street Journal says that” composer Huang Ruo and the artist Jennifer Wen Ma “have gloriously fused Western and Chinese idioms, modernity and tradition, to create a mesmerizing new work that is part opera, part dynamic art installation.”  She also compliments that”Mr. Huang’s music for The Woman takes off from the melismatic, pitch-bending, slightly nasal kunqu vocal style, and makes it even more haunting and melodic.”

At Charleston City Paper, Elizabeth Pandolfi raves that it “…is a courageous, unique, and complicated piece of theater.”  She also goes on to compliment the opera’s success in blending traditional Chinese singing and stories with Western musical elements: “The orchestra, consisting of both Western and Chinese instruments, was exceptional, and together Qian and the four male singers — she sang in the Chinese operatic style, and the men in the Western style — created a surreal, otherworldly sound that completely embodied the dream-like world the Woman was wandering through”

Read the Q&A with singer Qian Yi.

Read the profile on the complex technical design of Paradise Interrupted.

 


Wendy Whelan, ICE Ensemble lead AOP World Premiere at BAM

May 21, 2015

AOP returns to the Brooklyn Academy of Music this November with the world premiere of Hagoromo, a multidisciplinary work of dance-chamber opera inspired by one of the masterpieces of Japanese Noh drama. Reuniting former NYCB principal dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto, Hagoromo is conceived and directed by contemporary artist David Michalek (Slow Dancing) and will feature contralto Katalin Károlyi and tenor Peter Tantsits, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

Dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto star in the world premiere of HAGOROMO. Photo by David Michalek.

Dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto star in the world premiere of HAGOROMO. Photo by David Michalek.

 

The ancient tale of Hagoromo involves a desolate island and the fateful encounter between a poor fisherman (Soto) and a fallen angel (Whelan). A thoroughly contemporary vision, this retelling is a bold experiment in hybrid forms: a chamber opera composed by Nathan Davis and librettist Brendan Pelsue, with dance choreographed by David Neumann, puppetry by Chris M. Green, dramaturgy by Norman Frisch, and costumes created by the celebrated Belgian designer Dries Van Noten.

Hagoromo premieres at BAM’s Harvey Theater (651 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY 11217) Nov 5—7 at 7:30pm and Nov 8 at 3pm as part of BAM’s 2015 Next Wave Festival. This will be AOP’s first show in the Harvey and third world premiere at BAM, following Phil Kline’s Out Cold (2012) and Kaminsky/Campbell/Reed’s As One (2014), both of which performed at BAM’s Fisher Center.

www.bam.org/dance/2015/hagoromo
www.operaprojects.org/hagoromo


DAVID MICHALEK (director, conception)
David Michalek’s work ranges from photography, video/sound and light installations and live performance to site-specific works of public art. His concentration has been closely tied to his interest in the contemporary person, which he explores through the use of relational aesthetics, performance techniques, storytelling, movement, and gesture. His work in video has been focused on capturing marginal moments —carefully staged — that develop density with minimal action through the interplay of image, sound, and most importantly, time. Exploring notions of durational and rhythmic time (as opposed to the referential time used in cinema) in both form and content, his works engages in intimate yet open narratives. His work has been shown nationally and internationally with recent art exhibitions or performances at the Brooklyn Museum, the LA Music Center, The Louvre, The Cleveland Museum, Covent Garden, Harvard University, Sadler’s Wells, Trafalgar Square, Opera Bastille, Venice Biennale, Yale University, The Kitchen, Tanz Im August, WOMAdelaide, Lincoln Center and the Edinburgh Festival. David Michalek is a visiting faculty member at Yale Divinity School, where he lectures on religion and the arts. www.davidmichalek.net

NATHAN DAVIS (composer)
Nathan Davis “writes music that deals deftly and poetically with timbre and sonority” (NYTimes). Lincoln Center inaugurated the TullyScope Festival with the premiere of Nathan’s landmark work Bells and presented other premieres at the Mostly Mozart Festival. Commissioned by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Calder Quartet, Yarn/Wire, La Jolla Symphony Chorus, Steven Schick, Donaueschinger Musiktage, and the Ojai Festival (with sound sculptor Trimpin), Nathan’s music has been performed at NYC’s Carnegie Hall, Park Avenue Armory, Miller Theatre, LPR, Roulette, in a portrait concert at Spoleto USA, and internationally at Darmstadt, Helsinki Musica Nova, Aspekte Salzburg, and Acht Brücken Köln. He has received awards from Meet The Composer, Fromm Foundation, Copland Fund, Jerome Foundation, American Music Center, and MATA. With Phyllis Chen he scored Sylvia Milo’s acclaimed monodrama The Other Mozart. CDs of his music include The Bright and Hollow Sky, one of TimeOut NY’s top 5 classical albums of 2011. http://www.nathandavis.com

WENDY WHELAN (dancer, The Angel)
“America’s greatest contemporary ballerina.” ~ The New York Times
Wendy Whelan was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, where at the age of three she began taking dance classes with Virginia Wooton, a local teacher. In 1981 she received a scholarship to the summer course at the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet and a year later she moved to New York to become a full¬time student there. She was invited to become a member of the New York City Ballet corps de ballet in 1986 and was promoted to principal dancer in 1991. Whelan has performed a wide spectrum of the Balanchine repertory and worked closely with Jerome Robbins on many of his ballets. She has originated featured roles in 13 ballets for Christopher Wheeldon, as well as in the ballets of William Forsythe, Alexei Ratmansky, Wayne McGregor, Jorma Elo, Shen Wei, Jerome Robbins and Twyla Tharp. In 2007, Whelan was nominated for an Olivier Award and a Critics Circle Award for her performances with Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. She received the 2007 Dance Magazine Award, and in 2009 was given a Doctorate of Arts, honoris causa, from Bellarmine University. In 2011, she was honored with both The Jerome Robbins Award and a Bessie Award for her Sustained Achievement in Performance. In 2013, she premiered her first original production called Restless Creature at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Restless Creature has since toured to London and is currently on a 2015 tour across the US. Whelan was recently appointed an Artistic Associate at New York’s City Center. She resides in New York City with her husband, the artist David Michalek.

JOCK SOTO (dancer, Hakuryo)
Jock Soto, who is half Navajo Indian and half Puerto Rican, was born in New Mexico and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Mr. Soto’s extensive repertory at New York City Ballet included principal roles in numerous works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Peter Martins. He also inspired the creation of roles in many new ballets, including Peter Martins’s A Schubertiad (1984), Ecstatic Orange (1987), Fearful Symmetries (1990), Jazz(Six Syncopated Movements) (1993), Sinfonia (1993), and Morgen (2001); Christopher Wheeldon’s Slavonic Dances (1997), Mercurial Maoeuvres (2000), Polyphonia (2001), Morphoses (2002), Liturgy (2003), Shambards (2004), and After the Rain (2005); and Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s Chiaroscuro (1994). After an acclaimed 24-year performing career, he retired from dancing in June 2005. Mr. Soto returned to the stage in May 2007 to originate the role of Lord Capulet in Peter Martins’s new production of Romeo + Juliet for New York City Ballet. Mr. Soto’s life is the subject of a new documentary by filmmaker Gwendolen Cates, Water Flowing Together, that explores Mr. Soto’s roots and documents the final years of his performing career with New York City Ballet. He has been a member of the School of American Ballet’s faculty since 1996.

THE INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY ENSEMBLE (ICE)
The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), described by the New York Times as “one of the most accomplished and adventurous groups in new music,” is dedicated to reshaping the way music is created and experienced. With a modular makeup of 35 leading instrumentalists, performing in forces ranging from solos to large ensembles, ICE functions as performer, presenter, and educator, advancing the music of our time by developing innovative new works and new strategies for audience engagement. ICE redefines concert music as it brings together new work and new listeners in the 21st century.

DAVID NEUMANN (choreographer)
As artistic director of Advanced Beginner Group, Neumann’s work has been presented in New York at PS 122, Dance Theater Workshop, Central Park Summer Stage, Celebrate Brooklyn, Symphony Space, The Whitney at Altria, The Kitchen, and New York Live Arts. David Neumann and Advanced Beginner Group have received four Bessie Awards, several grants including Creative Capital, BUILD, Rockefeller and MAP funds. In recent years, Neumann has been awarded a 2011 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award for Dance, a 2013 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Choreography and a 2014 MacDowell Fellowship. He was recently awarded a 2014 NDP Production Grant. More recently, Neumann directed Geoff Sobelle’s ‘Object Lesson’ at BAM and choreographed Soho Rep’s Obie Award winning production of An Octoroon.

CHRIS M. GREEN (puppetry)
Chris M. Green is a Brooklyn-based designer, performer, composer, and director. His theatrical, sound, and installation works have been presented over the past 18 years in venues including Lincoln Center, New York City Center, National Geographic Museum, La Jolla Playhouse, St. Anne’s Warehouse, Goethe Institute (Delhi), Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Teatro del Lago (Chile) among others. His Brooklyn-based design studio Chris Green Kinetics has received awards from the American Association of Museums, Themed Entertainment Association, and AIA. Recent honors include Creative Capital Award (2009), MacDowell Fellowship (2012), and LMCC Process Space residency (2013). Currently, Green is developing his new play ‘American Weather’ through the HERE Resident Artist and Dream Music Programs with support from the Jim Henson Foundation. Along with wife Erin K. Orr, Green teaches an intensive performance workshop called ‘The Language of Things’ both nationally and internationally. He is honored to be on Hagoromo’s creative team.

DRIES VAN NOTEN (costumes)
Dries Van Noten sells his Men’s, Women’s and Accessories collections all over the world. In addition to his boutiques in Antwerp, Paris, Singapore, Kuwait, Hong Kong and Tokyo, Dries Van Noten works in partnership with some four hundred boutiques in cities such as New York, London, Milan, Berlin, and Moscow. In 2009, Dries was awarded Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in Paris; the Flemish Chamber of Commerce (VOKA) inducted him into the Galerie des Eminents; the Flemish Royal Academy of Belgium gifted him with the Gold Medal (“Gouden Penning”), and the Couture Council of the Museum at FIT in New-York honoured him with the “Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion”. In 2014 the work of Dries Van Noten, was featured at the musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. “Inspirations” is the very first exhibition devoted to the artist’s work. In November 2014, Dries Van Noten was appointed president of the jury of the 7th edition of the “A Shaded View on Fashion Film” Festival (ASVOFF). In 2015, the “Inspirations” exhibition moved to Antwerp’s MoMu. This is an evolution in content and expression of the exhibition in Paris devoted to the designer’s work.www.driesvannoten.be


US premiere of Heart of Darkness has sold-out run in San Francisco

May 4, 2015

On May 2, Opera Parallèle presented the US premiere of the AOP-developed opera Heart of Darkness at San Francisco’s trendy industrial Z-space. The new production by Brian Staufenbiel featuring designs by artist Matt Kish and conducted by Nicole Paiement sold out each of its four performances.

Composed by Grammy-nominated Tarik O’Regan, using a libretto by Tom Phillips, the opera is based on the novel by Joseph Conrad, and explores the excesses and depravities of European colonialism in the African Congo. AOP, in conjuction with OperaGenesis, started developing the opera in 2006. In 2011 critics raved for the sold-out world premiere at London’s Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio.  At last it has arrived to the US and is gathering more critical acclaim:

From San Francisco Chronicle:

“the kaleidoscopic inventiveness of O’Regan’s score”

“In O’Regan’s music — dexterously conducted by Artistic Director Nicole Paiement and sung by a splendid cast — the rich feints and ambiguities of Conrad’s tale find sonorous expression. A veil of uncertainty often settles over the music, thanks to shifting instrumental textures and a harmonic palette that seems inclined to change direction at a moment’s notice, like a rising mist off the water.”

From Bachtrack:

“O’Regan’s fine music was complemented by the Opera Parallèle’s thoughtful production and a superb set of musicians under Nicole Paiement’s magical baton.” [4 out of 5 stars]

From San Francisco Classical Voice:

“[Heart of Darkness’s] brevity and eloquence, as well as the small forces it requires, make it a natural for adventurous opera companies everywhere. … O’Regan creates a continuously shifting musical tapestry and many gorgeous effects. His orchestration is exceptionally beautiful [and] consistently inventive.”

From San Jose Mercury News:

“[Composer Tarik O’Regan], often compared to Benjamin Britten, employs a beguiling neo-tonal palette, and this score offered plenty of evidence of his skill at writing for orchestra.”

Shawnette Sulker and Philip Skinner in Opera Parallèle’s U.S. premiere of Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at Z Space. Photo: Steve DiBartolomeo

Listen to composer Tarik O’Regan on San Francisco public radio discuss the opera’s new production and the importance of AOP’s development process. (Interview begins at 6:00.)


AS ONE librettist takes NY Times through a day in the life of a transgender person

May 4, 2015

As One co-librettist and transgender filmmaker Kimberly Reed has created a video for The New York Times showing a day in her life – specifically April 7, when the AOP-commissioned opera opened at Utah State University. In the video, Reed shows glimpses of the various ways she has introduced the quotidian stories of transgender individuals – through documentaries, news interviews, spoken word performances, and now the critically-praised opera As One.

Reed explains, “It’s not unusual for me to be the first transgender person someone has known. I’m happy to be in that position, because the best way to dispel misunderstanding and increase empathy for The Other is to simply get to know someone. … For this video essay, I wanted to let you get to know a real, live trans person. I decided to record the day leading up to the premiere of an opera, As One, for which I created a film and co-wrote the libretto.”

View the video:

As One premiered in September 2014 in a production by AOP at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Fisher Center. The production toured to the Caine College of the Arts at Utah State University in April 2015. A new production of As One by West Edge Opera will open in July 2015.


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