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.


AOP Composer-in-Residence Laura Kaminsky receives gold medal of honor from the President of Poland

May 9, 2016

NEW YORK – On Wednesday, May 4th, our beloved Composer-in-Residence Laura Kaminsky was decorated with the Złoty Krzyż Zasługi (Gold Cross of Merit) of the Republic of Poland, one of the highest civilian medals awarded by the President, for her innovative presentations of Polish music in the U.S. over the past decade.

Laura’s love of—and knowledge about—20th century Polish music began in 1996 when she served as director of the European Mozart Academy, and spent a year touring around Poland and other neighboring countries in Central and Eastern Europe, presenting chamber music concerts to widely diverse audiences, reaching small villagers and leading diplomats alike. Years later, as the director of Symphony Space, Laura partnered with Ania Perzanowska, the director of music programming at the Polish Cultural Institute to incorporate music by Polish composers and performances by Polish musicians into Symphony Space programming over a period of 7 years.

In her acceptance speech before those gathered at the Polish Consulate, Laura spoke excitedly of plans to continue her work with the Institute in the future. “And now, a new conversation has begun with the Polish Cultural Institute and American Opera Projects, where I serve as Composer-in-Residence, about continuing this practice of sharing Polish musical culture here in the U.S., and hopefully, in reciprocity, to bring our contemporary American music to Poland. For me, bringing people together across cultures to share their art is among the best ways to bridge barriers, forge new understandings, and, simply, to make the world a better place. It is ennobling and humbling at the same time, and the work I have been permitted to do in collaboration with my colleagues from Poland has been enormously gratifying work that I have done.” Referring to the ceramic cup purchased as a keepsake during her transformative trip to Poland in 96’, Laura concluded by saying, “The beauty of my little hand painted Polish coffee cup lifts me every day – it is truly as simple as that– the beauty of art in a cup, or a poem, or a song, or a string quartet – from one culture to the next. It makes the world a better place.”


Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park the Subject of 12 Mini-operas by NYU Composers

April 22, 2016

“Park and Bark” to premiere in Fort Greene Park and NYU on May 7 and 8

A 2013 AOP concert in Fort Greene Park

A 2013 AOP concert in Fort Greene Park

NEW YORK – On May 7 and 8, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, American Opera Projects (AOP), and the Fort Greene Park Conservancy (FGPC) will present “Park and Bark,” twelve mini-operas written by students in Tisch’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (GMTWP) on the subject of Fort Greene Park, one of New York’s, and the nation’s, most historic and vibrant neighborhood parks. The operas, each under fifteen minutes, include dramatizations of the park’s large dog walking community, the remains of the Prison Ship Martyrs from the American Revolution, and a park gardener in a post-apocalyptic future. Six of the operas, staged by opera director, associate Arts Professor and Head of Dramaturgy in the Graduate Department of Design for Stage and Film Sam Helfrich (Glimmerglass, Virginia Opera, Boston Lyric), will be performed at NYU Tisch’s Black Box Theater (715 Broadway, 2nd Floor, NY 10003) on Saturday, May 7th at 2:00pm. The other six operas will be performed in an outdoor concert near the Visitors Center at Fort Greene Park on Sunday, May 8th at 4:00pm. All performances are free and open to the public. Seating for May 7 is limited and can be reserved at https://parkandbarkmay7.eventbrite.com. More information can be found at www.aopopera.org.

The operas will be performed by sopranos Kamala Sankaram (Prototype Festival), Deborah van Renterghem (Santa Fe Opera), and Amelia Watkins (Leipzig Gewandhaus), mezzo-soprano Sarah Heltzel (Seattle Opera), tenor Blake Friedman (Brooklyn Academy of Music), countertenor Eric Brenner (Prototype Festival), baritone Jorell Williams (Santa Fe Opera, Mark Morris Dance Group), and bass Sam Carl (Berlin Opera Academy, Edinburgh International Festival). Like Mozart, Handel, and Verdi, who often wrote roles for particular singers, the composers worked with the professional opera singers and music directors Kelly Horsted and Mila Henry on the development of the thirteen operas.

Students in the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (GMTWP) began learning the ins and outs of opera writing this spring when Brooklyn’s American Opera Projects (AOP) partnered with Tisch School of the Arts for a new “Opera Writing Workshop.”  Led by composer and faculty member Randall Eng, the workshop is an advanced class for composers and librettists of GMTWP at Tisch, as well as recent alumni, to collaborate with professional opera singers and music directors under the mentorship of AOP, an opera company in Fort Greene that has developed and premiered contemporary operas for over 25 years.

L to R: Randall Eng, Chandra McClelland, Tek Goo Kang, Brian Cavanagh-Strong, Ben Bonnema

L to R: Randall Eng, Chandra McClelland, Tek Goo Kang, Brian Cavanagh-Strong, Ben Bonnema

AOP General Director and Fort Greene Park Conservancy Chairman Charles Jarden, with park and conservancy staff, guided the thirteen composer/librettist teams’ research of Fort Greene Park in diverse subjects as park history, modern anecdotes, and neighborhood color.

“This process has been particularly helpful for anyone who has gone through school already and needs critical eyes on their work,” wrote Casey O’Neil, one of the workshop’s composers. “Randall and the guest instructors delivered terrific and specific feedback, which has helped make the works much stronger.”

Support for the workshop was provided by the Institute of Performing Arts, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and a multi-year award to AOP from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with the free performances made possible by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

L to R: Randall Eng, Mila Henry, Blake Friedman, Amelia Watkins, Sam Carl

L to R: Randall Eng, Mila Henry, Blake Friedman, Amelia Watkins, Sam Carl

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Pittsburgh Opera announces AOP operas ‘The Summer King’ and ‘As One’ for their 2016/17 season

February 26, 2016

THE SUMMER KING by Daniel Sonenberg • World Premiere: April 29, May 2, 5 & 7, 2017
AS ONE by Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell, and Kimberly Reed • Pennsylvania Premiere: February 18, 21, 24 & 26, 2017

Pittsburgh Opera has announced it will mount the staged World Premiere of The Summer King in April 2017, with a cast to include mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves and previous AOP artists Kenneth Kellogg and Jasmine Muhammad, direction by Sam Helfrich, and with Pittsburgh Opera Music Director Antony Walker conducting. In addition, AOP’s critically-acclaimed chamber opera As One will make its Pennsylvania debut as part of Pittsburgh Opera’s 2016-17 season.

The Summer King, has been developed with AOP since composer Daniel Sonenberg participated in the first iteration of AOP’s training fellowship program Composers and the Voice in 2003. It was followed by AOP First Chance workshop performances in Brooklyn, at the Manhattan School of Music, and at the University of Southern Maine (USM), where Dan is currently Associate Professor and Resident Composer. The opera received its world premiere in concert form in Portland, Maine in May 2014, in a production sponsored by Portland Ovations, USM and American Opera Projects.

Pittsburgh Opera writes “The very first world premiere in [our] distinguished 78 year history hits close to home. The Summer King tells the story of baseball legend Josh Gibson story. Josh went from the sandlots of Pittsburgh’s North Side to the pinnacle of greatness in the Negro Leagues, before ultimately being enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.” The opera skillfully portrays the complex inner conflict Gibson faced when the free-living, home-run king was asked to risk his respect to be an activist for integration. Tragically, Gibson died just months before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

“Watching an opera grow from an idea in a Composers & the Voice session to a fully staged World Premiere at a house like Pittsburgh is a heart-warming experience for AOP,” said AOP Producing Director. “We are thrilled we could be there every step of the way. We knew from the beginning that this was a very special story, one truly worthy of operatic treatment. We performed scenes on the sidewalks of Brooklyn and crowds couldn’t help but be drawn in. We know that this story can reach new audiences that would never think opera tells stories relevant to their lives. And we know Pittsburgh Opera feels the same.”

"The Summer King"

The Summer King was commissioned by Portland Ovations, with development by American Opera Projects, and deeply appreciated continuing support for the Pittsburgh Opera world premiere from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Summer King has received major support from American Opera Projects, the National Endowment for the Arts, Bob Crewe Foundation, Maine Arts Commission and University of Southern Maine. The Summer King received its first public presentation as a concert performance on May 8, 2014 at Merrill Auditorium, Portland, Maine under the auspices of Portland Ovations in collaboration with the University of Southern Maine.

RELATED READING: “In its 78th season, a world premiere for Pittsburgh Opera” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

SK video still 2

AS ONE

AOP’s As One continues to sweep the country following performances in San Francisco, Washington DC, Utah, and the AOP World Premiere in Brooklyn. Pittsburgh Opera will present the critically acclaimed opera by composer Laura Kaminsky and co-librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed as part of its Second Stage series in February 2017 and will star Pittsburgh Opera’s Resident Artists. 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 photo 3 by Ken Howard for AOP

Commissioned and developed by American Opera Projects, As One received generous funding in its creation from OPERA America’s Opera Discovery Grants for Female Composers Program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Art Works, Dr. Coco Lazaroff, Lynn Loacker and Judith O. Rubin.

As One will also be presented by Opera Colorado in the 2016-17 season and will be featured in Montreal at OPERA America’s annual opera conference as part of its New Works Forum in May 2016.


Fort Greene Park to be commemorated in student operas in new AOP and NYU Tisch partnership

February 19, 2016

Randall Eng, composer and Assistant Arts Professor at Tisch’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program

By the end of this spring, one of New York City’s most historic and vibrant neighborhoods will be commemorated in song. And not just one song, but an entire series of new operas. This spring, students in the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (GMTWP) at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts will learn the ins and outs of opera writing when Brooklyn’s American Opera Projects (AOP) partners with the esteemed arts school for a new “Opera Writing Workshop.”  Led by composer Randall Eng, the workshop is an advanced class for composers and librettists of GMTWP at Tisch who will collaborate with an ensemble of eight professional opera singers and two music directors to create short operas under the mentorship of AOP, an opera company in Fort Greene that has developed and premiered contemporary operas for over 25 years.

For the inaugural workshop, AOP and Eng have assigned the students to create operas inspired by the Brooklyn neighborhood Fort Greene and the historic Fort Greene Park, the latter of which has been home to a graveyard of Revolutionary War soldiers as well as a source of inspiration for writers Richard Wright and Marianne Moore and filmmaker Spike Lee. In addition to the musical team, AOP will provide the students with special access to staff from NYC Parks and Fort Greene Park Conservancy.  NYU associate professor and opera director Sam Helfrich will direct the AOP workshop singers in the site-specific scenes being created with the participation of his design students in Tisch’s Design for Stage and Film Department. The operas will be performed in conjunction with American Opera Projects at GMTWP’s Black Box Theatre on May 7, 2016 and in Fort Greene Park itself on May 8, 2016.

AOP General Director Charles Jarden stated, “In this partnership with NYU, AOP is broadening our mission to help mentor creators of opera and music theater work by attracting grad students at one of the best schools in the country.  This project is a great complement to one of our core programs, Composers & the Voice and Randall Eng is one of the alums of that program, which makes the partnership especially valuable and gratifying for us.  We are deeply grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and to the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs for on-going generous support.”

As of February 1st there are twenty-five (25) students enrolled in the class.

Crowds gather in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn’s first park and subject for NYU’s Opera Writing Workshop composers.


AOP in 2015 – an incredible year for new opera

December 30, 2015

AOP2015 banner2

In 2015, AOP projects made best of lists in its home city of New York, nationally, and internationally, by continuing our tradition of creating, developing and presenting opera and music theatre that define the field. These major new works were created through its innovative partnerships and the support of many individuals and organizations like the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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WORLD PREMIERES

THE SCARLET IBIS

“an outstanding new chamber opera … a moving, intense and dignified creation” – The New York Times

The year opened up with the highly lauded premiere of The Scarlet Ibis, a new opera from composer Stefan Weisman, who trained in AOP’s Composers & the Voice program before AOP developed and premiered his first opera Darkling in 2006. HERE and Beth Morrison Projects, in association with AOP, produced the world premiere in January 2015 as the centerpiece of their innovative PROTOTYPE Festival of new opera after a four year development process. Weisman and librettist David Cote adapted James Hurst’s poignant and tragic short story into a taut 90-minute opera about the unsentimental childhood relationship between Brother (in a nuanced performance by mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn) and his sickly younger sibling Doodle (elegantly portrayed by a tiny puppet with the voice of countertenor Eric Brenner). Singers Abigail Fischer, Keith Phares and Nicole Mitchell joined the American Modern Ensemble under the baton of the talented and prolific Steven Osgood. Mallory Catlett’s experimental storytelling brought the work to life to universal praise.

ibishttps://vimeo.com/111343103

PARADISE INTERRUPTED

“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.” – The Wall Street Journal

In May 2015, Spoleto Festival USA produced the world premiere of Paradise Interrupted, a new 90-minute installation opera in one act, conceived, designed, and directed by Jennifer Wen Ma with music by Huang Ruo and a libretto and performance by Qian Yi. Inspired by the Garden of Eden and the Chinese Kunqu opera Peony Pavilion, Paradise Interrupted follows a woman in search for an unattainable ideal, exploring a world that is activated by her singing voice. In order to have it ready for the premiere, the creators entered AOP’s First Chance development program, providing them with the tools and feedback to test the intricate show. A brief preview of Paradise Interrupted was held in March 2015 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Temple of Dendur, exciting audiences for its New York City premiere at the 2016 Lincoln Center Festival, to be co-produced by AOP.

paradisehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcT88epLiyM

“an original work that beautifully blends Eastern and Western styles and presents five fine singers with remarkable stamina and expression. … 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.” – Charleston Post and Courier

HAGOROMO

“seamlessly integrated the worlds of experimental music, dance, theatre, opera, puppetry and fashion into a rich, sober whole.” – Financial Times

In November, AOP premiered the largest production in our history when we returned to the Brooklyn Academy of Music for the third time with the dance chamber opera Hagoromo. The sold-out run at BAM’s 2015 Next Wave Festival added a performance to accommodate the mass of audiences eager to see this groundbreaking event.

Reuniting former New York City Ballet principal dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock SotoHagoromo is a multidisciplinary work inspired by one of the masterpieces of Japanese Noh drama, that featured contralto Katalin Károlyi and tenor Peter Tantsitsthe International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and Brooklyn Youth Chorus. 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. AOP partnered with the American Dance Institute in Rockville, MD in the development of this captivating new work.

Hagoromo ADI video still

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjbmxRatK2iOJOc-AADFmSytSlRHOP6Hx

 

NEW PRODUCTIONS

AS ONE

As One forces you to think, simultaneously challenging preconceptions and inspiring empathy.”  —The New York Times

As One made its West Coast premiere in a new production by West Edge Opera in July 2015 that received attention in the Washington Post’s year end wrap up of best new performances. Another new production premiered in the DC-metro area by UrbanArias in October 2015. The first major opera specifically about the transgender experience, AOP commissioned and premiered As One at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2014 amidst a national dialogue about transgender lives that was just beginning. As One was conceived and composed by Laura Kaminsky with a libretto by Mark Campbell (Silent Night, The Manchurian Candidate) and transgender filmmaker Kimberly Reed. As One is next slated for a production in Colorado in 2017.

as onehttps://vimeo.com/122028096

HEART OF DARKNESS

“All things considered, it’s something of a surprise that Tarik O’Regan’s opera Heart of Darkness took four years to reach the United States after its 2011 premiere at the Royal Opera’s Linbury Studio Theatre. Its brevity and eloquence, as well as the small forces it requires, make it a natural for adventurous opera companies everywhere.” – San Francisco Classical Voice

San Francisco’s Z Space saw the U.S. premiere of British composer Tarik O’Regan’s “elegant, moving” (The Wall Street Journal) debut opera Heart of Darkness. Artist Tom Phillips’ libretto combined with O’Regan’s “score of concise originality” (The Observer, UK) to transform Joseph Conrad’s classic novella of a mad ivory trader in colonial Africa “into a compellingly taut evening of music theatre” (Sunday Telegraph, UK). In May 2015, the 75-minute chamber opera, which premiered in London in 2011, received a new production created by conductor Nicole Paiement and director/designer Brian Staufenbiel and produced by their new music company Opera Parallèle (OP), in association with AOP. AOP began First Chance development of Heart of Darkness in 2006.

hearthttps://vimeo.com/128703881

“a powerful U.S. premiere… the kaleidoscopic inventiveness of O’Regan’s score uses a chamber ensemble and vivid vocal writing to conjure up the moral miasma of the African interior as Marlow encounters it” – San Francisco Chronicle

THE WANTON SUBLIME

“a tour de force… The Wanton Sublime is musically rich… and also philosophically absorbing.” – What’s On Stage

Inside Intelligence held the universally praised London premiere of The Wanton Sublime, a monodrama from Tarik O’Regan (Heart of Darkness) and Anna Rabinowitz (Darkling), commissioned by AOP. Presented at the Arcola Theatre as part of the Grimeborn Festival, it starred frequent AOP collaborator mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn as the Virgin Mary, who returned to the role she created at AOP’s 2014 premiere in Brooklyn. Andrew Griffiths conducted the Orpheus Sinfonia with staging by Robert Shaw. The Wanton Sublime explores the human and mythic aspects of the Virgin Mary as she struggles to retain her flesh and blood identity in the face of external forces intent on symbolizing her as the ideal woman.

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AOP FIRST CHANCE – WORKS IN DEVELOPMENT

Throughout its twenty-seven years, AOP has been known as a place for artists to call home as they create new operas and music theatre pieces. AOP’s First Chance program combines workshops and readings with institutional and artistic support allowing creators to try out new work, receive feedback, promote their project to potential presenters, and avoid alliterative sentences.

First Chance workshops were held for two operas-in-development at OPERA America’s National Opera Center in Manhattan. In Tesla, three iconoclastic artists – composer Phil Kline, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, and director Robert Wilson – create a theatrical “portrait” as visionary as its subject, the eccentric 19th century inventor Nikola Tesla. Presented in January 2015 as part of OPERA America’s New Works Forum, the showcase featured performances by Ryland Angel, James Harrington, Jacqueline Horner Kwiatek, Brandon Snook, Gregory Purnhagen, Kamala Sankaram, and American Contemporary Music Ensemble.

TESLA at OPERA America New Works Forum, Jan 14, 2015

TESLA at OPERA America New Works Forum, Jan 14, 2015

In June 2015, AOP returned to OPERA America to present scenes from A Thousand Splendid Suns, a two act opera with music by Sheila Silver and libretto by Stephen Kitsakos based on the bestselling novel by Khaled Hosseini. In a society where women are worse than second class citizens, A Thousand Splendid Suns tells the story of two oppressed women, one older, one younger, forced into marriage with the same brutal man. Silver’s music is infused with the color of raga based North Indian classical music, which is at the heart of the music of Afghanistan. Additional scenes will be presented in January 2016 at The Studios of Key West in Florida and in the New Opera Showcase, part of the OPERA America New Works Forum, OPERA America’s annual gathering of opera creators.

A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS at National Opera Center

A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS at National Opera Center

AOP brought one of its most topical new works to the Harlem School of the Arts in February 2015. Independence Eve is a new chamber opera in three scenes by composer Sidney Marquez Boquiren and librettist Daniel Neer that focuses on the stories of three black males (each played by baritone Jorell Williams), and three white males (each played by tenor Brandon Snook), who struggle with identity and acceptance amidst race issues that span one hundred years of the American experience. The staged workshop performances featured music direction and piano by Mila Henry.

Jorell Williams in INDEPENDENCE EVE workshop at Harlem School for the Arts

Jorell Williams in INDEPENDENCE EVE workshop at Harlem School for the Arts

Following their residency at The Hermitage Artist Retreat in Florida as the first recipients of The Opera Genesis Fellowships (more info below), composer Mikael Karlsson and designer Elle Kunnos de Voss heard a libretto reading of their opera-in-development The Echo Drift at HERE Arts Center in December. The 70-minute surrealist monodrama written for soprano Amy Shoremount-Obra will have its world premiere as part of the 2017 Prototype Festival in January 2017 in a co-production by American Opera Projects and PROTOTYPE directed by Mallory Catlett (The Scarlet Ibis).

Closing out the year, MATA, in collaboration with AOP First Chance, presented in December a suite from Greg Spears‘ elegant AOP-developed dance opera Wolf-in-Skins as part of MATA’s Radical Pairing – a mix of baroque and gallant-inspired works performed by New Vintage Baroque. Wolf-in-Skins is an evening-length dance-opera choreographed and directed by Christopher Williams inspired by ancient themes of the “mythic hero’s journey” found in medieval Welsh literature.

COMPOSERS & THE VOICE – ARTIST TRAINING FELLOWSHIPS

The seventh group of composers and librettists to receive fellowships for AOP training and mentoring program Composers & the Voice entered the second year of their two year cycle in the 2014-15 season. 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. C&V alumni featured in other AOP programming in 2015 included Stefan Weisman (The Scarlet Ibis) and Sidney Boquiren (Independence Eve), Mikael Karlsson (The Echo Drift), and Gregory Spears (Wolf-in-Skins).

Following its appearance in the 2014 C&V Six Scenes concert of opera scenes, Legendary, with music by Joseph Rubinstein and libretto by Jason Kim, became the 12th AOP opera-in-progress selected by Manhattan School of Music for the annual Opera Index series New American Opera Previews, From Page to Stage. The staged scenes featuring MSM singers were presented in March 2015 under the stage direction of Knud Adams with music direction by Scott Rednour, and with Q&As hosted by Midge Woolsey and librettist Mark Campbell. Inspired by a true story, Legendary is an opera about double lives and destructive desires set in the glory days of New York City’s underground drag culture.

legendaryhttps://vimeo.com/127211387

The seventh C&V season ended with a private launch party in June hosted by Meredith Monk and Joseph V. Melillo to announce a new partnership between AOP and the Hermitage Artist Retreat. The Opera Genesis Fellowships will invite select C&V alumni to continue the development of a contemporary American opera at the Hermitage’s inspiring Gulf Coast campus during a six-week residency. In September, Mikael Karlsson along with collaborator Elle Kunnos De Voss became the first recipients of the Fellowship, using the residency to develop their opera The Echo Drift (see above).

Elle Kunnos de Voss and Mikael Karlsson

Elle Kunnos de Voss and Mikael Karlsson at Opera Genesis Fellowships announcement.

AOP welcomed the eighth group of C&V fellows who began training in the Fall at South Oxford Space in Brooklyn. 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) were announced as the nine “Artistic Chairs” who will provide one-on-one guidance to the Fellows of the 2015-16 Composers & the Voice training program. Be sure to check out the results, when the ten fellows premiere songs written in the program at the First Glimpse concert in May 2016.

The C&V Fellows, 2015-17

The C&V Fellows, 2015-17

In July/August 2016, American Opera Projects and Chautauqua Opera will launch 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.

COMING IN 2016

2016 promises to be another exciting year in contemporary opera as AOP brings you dozens of exciting new workshops, concerts, and premieres including the New York premiere of Huang Ruo, Qian Yi, and Jennifer Wen Ma’s Paradise Interrupted at the 2016 Lincoln Center Festival in July, marking our fifth time at the prestigious festival!

AOP is developing several exciting new works and we will keep you up to date on these with informative notes and invitations to special events.   You will be the first to discover fascinating operatic adaptations of prize-winning books:  Michael Dellaira and J. D. McClatchy’s The Leopard and Sheila Silver and Stephen Kitsakos’s A Thousand Splendid Suns.  We also boast original work, including Robert Paterson and David Cote’s racy Three Way, slated for a Nashville Opera partnership; Hannah Lash and Royce Vavrek’s irreverent Stoned Prince in collaboration with The John Duffy Composers Institute, and Today It Rains, a new work by the As One team inspired by the life of Georgia O’Keeffe, with San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle.

In addition to the new opera programs with The Hermitage Artist Retreat and Chautauqua Opera mentioned above, AOP will soon announce details of our Dance Opera Initiative that will specifically foster highly choreographed operatic works under the guidance of Hagoromo director David Michalek.

Your support enables us to meet the public’s demand for new and innovative work. Our organization has almost doubled in size — both in terms of the projects it develops and presents, and in budget — in just over a year, and continued growth can only be sustained with your help. In a time when arts organizations are shrinking, folding, and are no longer able to serve the field, AOP is busting with vigor and activity. Please continue to be a part of this artistic family and make your tax-deductible contribution before the end of the year.

Please visit www.aopopera.org for news about all of the upcoming premieres, workshops, and artists to be featured in the 2015-16 season.


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 www.aopopera.org/composers_voice.

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. http://rickyiangordon.com


 

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. http://daronhagen.com


 

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. http://michaelkorie.com


 

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. www.davidtlittle.com


 

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. http://missymazzoli.com


 

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. http://tobiaspicker.com


 

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.  http://genescheer.com


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. http://stephenschwartz.com


 

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.


ABOUT THE PRODUCER

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).  www.aopopera.org


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