“Inspiring and groundbreaking” AS ONE heads toward record number of productions

November 18, 2016
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The Seattle Times called longtime AOP baritone Jorell Williams and mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven “passionate, powerful performers” in Seattle Opera’s new production.

Seattle Opera opened their run of As One last Friday in the iconic Washington Hall and the glowing reviews followed immediately after continuing a string of positive attention on the hit chamber opera by composer Laura Kaminsky and librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed that was commissioned and premiered by American Opera Projects. As One depicts the experiences of its sole transgender protagonist, Hannah, as she endeavors to resolve the discord between her Self and the outside world.

“No opera, to my knowledge, has told the story of a trans person as either a central or subsidiary character, but novelty alone wouldn’t be enough to carry As One had not that story been framed with such expert and thoughtful craft.” – Gavin Borchert of Seattle Weekly

Gavin Borchert of Seattle Weekly calls As One “a gift… to opera companies hoping to reach untapped audiences who may be more drawn by an examination of here-and-now issues than by vengeful gods or scheming soubrettes” and its immense popularity backs up that statement.

In a time where it is rare for a new opera to ever get a second production, Seattle Opera’s As One is the sixth production of the opera including AOP’s 2014 world premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Three new productions have already been announced for 2017 at Pittsburgh Opera, Opera Colorado, and Long Beach Opera. (And we’ll have more to tell you about very soon!) According to the national service organization OPERA America, by the end of 2017, As One will have received more new productions in the three years since its premiere than any other contemporary American opera.

“The opera’s success is due in part to the talent at the heart of the playbill,” posits Rich Smith of Seattle publication The Stranger. “Another part of the show’s success might be due to its portability.”

Smith made the painful, but honest, assessment that As One is “an evening of heart-rending/heart-lifting opera that will make you think you actually like opera.”

Longtime AOP baritone Jorell Williams (Hannah before) and mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven (Hannah after) comprised As One’s first-ever African-American cast in Seattle Opera’s production. Melinda Bargreen of the Seattle Times called them “passionate, powerful performers” and stated, “Laura Kaminsky’s mainly minimalist score, performed brilliantly by the Saint Helens String Quartet, chugs busily along, with some beautiful lyrical moments.”

“The 2014 chamber opera “As One” has a power all its own. It is the power of intimate revelation, a close encounter in a small gem of a hall where the two singing actors are so near that they can almost touch the audience. And they do touch the audience — with the emotional impact of an affecting story about a child born into the wrong body. …the finale is as uplifting as any operatic ending could be.” – Melinda Bargreen of the Seattle Times

Gavin Borchert of Seattle Weekly says, “composer Laura Kaminsky seems to have made every possible right choice to maximize the impact of Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed’s libretto” which he praised for its somberness, pathos, horror, and wit.

As One, both inspiring and groundbreaking, innovative yet relatable, is built to travel, and deserves to.” – Gavin Borchert of Seattle Weekly

The final Seattle Opera performance will be held this Saturday. At least for now, we hope.

“Don’t miss it.” – City Arts Online (Seattle)

 

Press Clippings for Seattle Opera production of AS ONE:

November 16, 2016 – SEATTLE WEEKLY
Opera profile: “From Seattle Opera, A Trans Person’s Path to Self-Reconciliation”

November 14, 2016 – CITY ARTS ONLINE (SEATTLE)
Opera review: “Seattle Opera’s ‘As One'”

November 12, 2016 – THE SEATTLE TIMES
Opera profile: “‘As One’ tells a transgender story with power, passion”

November 11, 2016 – THE STRANGER (SEATTLE)
Opera profile: “As One Transcends the Trump Blues”

November 7, 2016 – KUOW 94.9 FM (SEATTLE)
Opera profile: “Introducing trans identity to the Seattle Opera”


American Opera Projects to Hire Director of Development

October 17, 2016

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American Opera Projects (AOP), a Brooklyn-based organization that has developed and presented new works of opera across the country for over 25 years, is currently expanding its full time staff, adding a Director of Development beginning in January 2017.

The Director of Development will provide fundraising leadership for AOP. S/he will be a key member of the company’s senior leadership team working alongside the AOP staff and board to develop, implement, and oversee all fundraising and development activities of the organization.

At this critical juncture in AOP’s history, in which the organization’s operating budget has more than doubled in the past two years with the premieres of critically-lauded and commercially successful new operas such as As One and Hagoromo (BAM Next Wave Festival), the Director of Development will continue to stimulate that financial growth by deepening the fundraising capacity of AOP at all levels, from individual contributions and board development, to foundation and government support. The new Director of Development will serve the organization moving forward as a full time member of the senior leadership team. A complete job description and details for interested applicants can be found on AOP’s website at www.aopopera.org/jobopportunities/developmentdirector.

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) and the upcoming 2017 co-production with Nashville Opera of Robert Paterson’s Three Way (Nashville Opera, BAM Fisher). 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’ Paul’s Case at UrbanArias (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), and the upcoming The Summer King by Daniel Sonenberg at Pittsburgh Opera (2017).

American Opera Projects is an equal opportunity employer (EOE) and considers all candidates for employment regardless of race, color, sex, age, national origin, creed, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or political affiliation.

AOP is an IRS recognized 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, and is a member of OPERA America, Fort Greene Association, the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Alliance, the New York Opera Alliance, and Alliance of Resident Theatres/ New York (A.R.T./NY).


Composer and AOP Founding Board Member Richard Peaslee (1963-2016)

October 11, 2016
Composer Richard Peaslee

Composer Richard Peaslee

Composer and American Opera Projects founding board member Richard “Dick” Peaslee passed away on August 20 at his home in Seattle, WA at the age of 86, due to complications from MS. An award winning composer, Dick’s honors include The American Academy of Arts and Letters Marc Blitzstein Award, an Obie, a Villager Award, and fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. He earned degrees from Yale University and The Juilliard School, and his teachers included Nadia Boulanger and William Russo.

AOP premiered his opera Sir Gawain the Green Knight in October 2001 at TADA!, and has performed his songs on concert programs. Dick donated the piano AOP uses at its Fort Greene home base; because of his generosity thousands of people have enjoyed music at our South Oxford Space. On October 16th, there will be a celebration of his life in Seattle, and another in New York at a later date to be announced.

AOP General Director Charles Jarden writes, “Dick was a huge influence on me and others about the way AOP still operates, especially our workshopping process. Dick was an advocate for libretto development ahead of music being written and the work’s stage-worthiness being addressed by the creative team. I was lucky enough to visit Dick and Dixie in Seattle and was touched because of the enormous mutual respect and love, which lit up that couple’s life…two artists (Dixie is a painter) in an inspiring close relationship.”

Link to his obituary

Link to Ardea Arts production of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

AOP Photo Gallery: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, 2001 World Premiere:

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AOP takes Hagoromo on Tour – First Stop: The Pocantico Center

September 2, 2016

American Opera Project’s premier of Hagoromo at the BAM Harvey Theatre last year was a major success that “seamlessly integrated the worlds of experimental music, dance, theatre, opera, puppetry and fashion into a rich, sober whole” (Financial Times.) This month AOP takes the praised, multi-genre opera to Tarrytown, NY to perform a 50-minute fully-staged excerpt at The Pocantico Center-Kykuit House. Even those who were lucky enough to catch the sold-out premiere will have surprises in store since the excerpts will contain some new dances and puppetry ideas.

The performance will take place at 3:30pm on Saturday, September 24th on the lawn of the Kykuit House, which has been the home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. It will follow a two-week residency at which the creative team will be reimagining sections of the work in preparation for a projected national tour in the 2017-18 season. Both the performance and residency are made possible through the generous support of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

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Hagoromo is a multidisciplinary work inspired by one of the masterpieces of Japanese Noh drama about the fateful encounter between a fallen angel and a poor fisherman, performed by former New York City Ballet principal dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto. Director David Michalek’s thoroughly contemporary vision is a bold experiment in hybrid forms: a chamber opera composed by Nathan Daviss and librettist Brendan Pelsue, with dance choreographed by David Neumann, puppetry by Chris M. Green performed by puppeteers Ren Carrillo, Tristan Farmer, Catherine Gowl, Leah Hoffman, Rowan Magee, and Erin Orr, dramaturgy by Norman Frisch, and costumes created by the celebrated Belgian designer Dries Van Noten. The work also includes recorded music from the 2015 World Premiere production at the BAM Fisher featuring contralto Katalin Károlyi and tenor Peter Tantsits, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

Tickets to the Sep. 24th performance are limited and available at AOP’s Events Page. Rain date is Sunday, September 25.

Hagoromo Whelan and Soto

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


AOP takes operas to space, asylums, and a human uterus in “Six Scenes”

August 18, 2016

SINGERS TO PERFORM SCENES FROM NEW OPERAS BY EMERGING COMPOSERS & LIBRETTISTS CREATED IN AOP FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM “COMPOSERS & THE VOICE”

BROOKLYN, NY, August 16, 2016— This fall, contemporary opera producer AMERICAN OPERA PROJECTS (AOP) will present COMPOSERS & THE VOICE: SIX SCENES 2016, a concert of opera scenes from ten artists emerging in the world of contemporary opera. Audiences will get a first look at six wildly different new works that range from imagining moments in the lives of famous people such as Sigmund Freud and Mabel Dodge Luhan or events taking place in a spaceship, an asylum, and a uterus. The 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, were chosen by AOP to spend a year creating new works in its bi-annual fellowship program Composers & the Voice (C&V).

The performances will be held on Friday, September 30 at 8:00pm at South Oxford Space (138 S. Oxford St.) in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the home of AOP, and on Sunday, October 2 at 2:30pm at the National Opera Center (330 7th Ave, 7th floor) in Manhattan. Tickets range from $10-$25 general admission and are available at www.aopopera.org.

20160514-DSC_3230xBass Jonathan Woody performs during the May  2016 Composers & the Voice songs concert First Glimpse at South Oxford Space with music director Kelly Horsted on piano. Photo: Steven Pisano.

Six Scenes 2016 will be performed by the AOP Resident Ensemble of Singers: coloratura soprano Tookah Sapper (Manhattan School of Music), lyric soprano Jennifer Goode Cooper (NYCO, Glimmerglass), mezzo-soprano Caitlin McKechney (Opera Memphis, Florida Grand Opera), tenor Blake Friedman (BAM, St. Petersburg Opera), baritone Kyle Guglielmo (Sarasota Opera), and bass Jonathan Woody (BAM, Apollo’s Fire). Each of the scenes were composed specifically for the singers’ voices, after months of study and experimentation during the C&V program. Supporting on piano will be C&V Music Directors Mila Henry, Kelly Horsted, and Charity Wicks.

Previous Six Scenes concerts have given audiences their first look at operas that went on to fully-produced world premieres including Gregory Spears’ Paul’s Case (UrbanArias and Prototype Festival), Jack Perla’s Love/Hate (ODC/San Francisco Opera 2012), and the upcoming Three Way by Robert Paterson (Nashville Opera 2017) and The Summer King by Daniel Sonenberg (Pittsburgh Opera 2017).

Following the performances, one of the scenes will be selected to receive a staged reading at Manhattan School of Music in Spring 2017 as part of their annual New American Opera Previews series From Page to Stage.

20150928-DSC_7711Composers & the Voice Fellows, 2015-16; l. to r.: Matthew Barnson, Emily Roller, Edward Einhorn, Mark Sonnenblick, Marc LeMay, Duncan McFarlane, Sky Macklay, Cecilia Livingston, Carlos R. Carrillo, Nell Shaw Cohen; Photo by Steven Pisano

ABOUT COMPOSERS & THE VOICE

Created and led by Steven Osgood (General and Artistic Director of Chautauqua Opera and former Artistic Director of AOP), Composers & the Voice gives composers and librettists experience working collaboratively with singers on writing for the voice and contemporary opera stage. American Opera Projects selects composers and librettists bi-annually for the fellowships, made possible in part by generous awards from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The Victor Herbert Foundation. Participants meet in closed sessions from September to April to present and discuss new works composed specifically for the individual voices of the Resident Ensemble with additional training in acting, improv, and libretto study.

In addition to the workshop sessions, C&V fellows benefit from one-on-one mentoring from Ricky Ian Gordon, Daron Hagen, Michael Korie, David T. Little, Missy Mazzoli, Tobias Picker, Gene Scheer, Stephen Schwartz, and Royce Vavrek. Each of these distinguished artists review their C&V fellow’s work, offer feedback, and participate in C&V discussions.

Since launching in 2002, C&V has fostered the development of 54 composers & librettists including composers Stefan Weisman (The Scarlet Ibis, PROTOTYPE Festival, 2015), Hannah Lash (Aspen Music Festival), Aleksandra Vrebalov (Mileva, Serbian National Theater), Vivian Fung (2013 Juno Award “Classical Composition of the Year”) and librettist Sara Cooper (The Memory Play, off-Broadway). A complete list of alumni can be found at www.aopopera.org/composers_voice.

VIEW THE COMPLETE “SIX SCENES” PRESS RELEASE WITH LISTINGS INFO AND BIOS


“Powerful”, “engrossing” Paradise Interrupted garners raves at Lincoln Center Festival

August 5, 2016

The AOP-developed opera Paradise Interrupted wowed audience and press during its New York City premiere at the Lincoln Center Festival in July. 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.

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“Paradise Interrupted,” with, from left, Yi Li, Qian Yi and Joo Won Kang, at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College. Credit: Stephanie Berger for The New York Times

 

Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times praised the production, calling it “”powerful… engrossing…. [Qian Yi] was superb.” He gave particular praise to Huang Ruo’s “integrated, richly detailed score” stating that opera was “so alluring and powerful due largely to the inventive and personal music of its composer, Huang Ruo.”

Alina Cohen at The New York Observer found Paradise Interrupted “”a thrill to watch … a living, vivid variation of one of humanity’s oldest stories … infuses an old form with contemporary ideas and technology” while WQXR’s Operavore said, “[Huang Ruo is] a thrillingly inventive composer … [Jennifer Wen Ma’s production] fit the libretto’s parable beautifully … Qian Yi [is] a charismatic marvel.”

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The Chinese singer Qian Yi in “Paradise Interrupted,” directed and designed by Jennifer Wen Ma, composed by Huang Ruo and presented as part of the Lincoln Center Festival. Credit: Stephanie Berger for The New York Times

The New York Classical Review called the work “dreamily poetic … part of what makes Paradise Interrupted so compelling is the ways in which it surprises … powerfully communicative thanks to its superb realization, beginning with the score. Huang Ruo’s writing…lands with dramatic force, powered by the depth of its imagination … Qian Yi[‘s] gestures, presence, and characterization were mesmerizing.”

“Mesmerizing, Tantalizing,” raved Broadway World. “Shows off the composer at his most alluring … Designer Ma’s physical vision was stunning … Qian Yi [is] totally enthralling in every part of her performance.”

Paradise Interrupted had its world premiere in 2014 at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, SC. The production is scheduled to travel to Singapore in August, and then to Taiwan.


UrbanArias to feature AOP operas LUCY and THE BLIND in upcoming season

July 27, 2016

UrbanArias, the bold and exciting presenter of contemporary opera in the Washington D.C. area, has announced productions of two AOP operas as part of their 2016-17 seasonLucy: A Memory Opera, by composer John Glover and librettist Kelley Rourke, and The Blind, director John La Bouchardière‘s immersive production of composer Lera Auerbach‘s a cappella opera. Under the leadership of founder Robert Wood, UrbanArias’ has been fulfilling its mission “to expose DC-area audiences to engaging, accessible, entertaining operas, and to provide a venue at which both established and emerging composers can present their shorter works” since its creation in 2011.

“…in Kelley Rourke’s and John Glover’s haunting new chamber opera… ‘Lucy’ becomes a potent exploration of the divide between human and animal.” – Milwaukee Mag

Developed by AOP First Chance in early workshopsLucy: A Memory Opera is a multi-media work of music-theater for baritone and chamber ensemble in one 70-minute act that tells the story of psychologist Maurice Temerlin who, along with his wife Jane, adopted a day-old chimpanzee in the sixties. Naming her Lucy, their intention was to raise her “as much as possible as though she were a human being”. Lucy learns to dress herself, eat with silverware, make tea for guests, look at magazines, communicate through sign language and enjoy cocktails. As Temerlin struggles to hold on to memories of a happy, albeit unconventional, family life, documentation from the experiment challenges him to come to terms with the project’s ultimate consequences.

Upon its premiere by Milwaukee Opera Theater in 2014 (which also commissioned the opera), On Milwaukee called the opera “an incredible triumph” and “absolutely mesmerizing.” UrbanArias will present the East Coast premiere of Lucy on April 1, 2, 7 and 8, 2017 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.

AOP First Chance Workshop Performance of Lucy: December 10, 2010 at the Greene Space at WNYC

“Adventurous, eerie and thoroughly engaging” – The New York Times on the 2013 world premiere of THE BLIND.

At a lonely clearing in a wood, a group of blind people await the return of a priest who led them there in order to enable them to enjoy the last rays of the sun before the beginning of winter. Only the sound of the nearby sea can be heard. The longer they wait, the more restless the blind people become; in their desperation they realize that they are helpless and cannot move from their place. Their fear escalates to naked terror when they make a morbid discovery.

Premiered by AOP and Lincoln Center Festival in 2013, director John La Bouchardière’s reimagining of composer Lera Auerbach’s a cappella opera immerses the audience in the story by blindfolding them and placing them amongst the protagonists. Denying all the power to see and situating the voices within the audience, the performance unfolds in a shifting surround-sound world, in which non-visual senses are heightened as the smells of the forest, the feeling of sea breezes, the cold falling snow and Auerbach’s music enfold them. UrbanArias will present The Blind on June 3, 4, 9, 10 and 11, 2017 at Signature Theatre.

AOP/Lincoln Center Festival 2013 World Premiere of The Blind at  Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse.

The two operas in the upcoming season will continue AOP’s close presenting partnership with UrbanArias, following last year’s new production of AOP’s As One the world premiere of the AOP-developed She After, and their 2012 world premiere of the AOP-developed Paul’s Case, a production that made its NYC premiere at the PROTOTYPE Festival in 2014. In addition to Lucy and The Blind, UrbanArias 2016-17 season includes Michael Nyman’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat in October.


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