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June 6, 2018

Nathaniel Sullivan, Yoojin Lee, and Jordan Rutter in “A Drop in the Ocean” Photo by Steven Pisano Photography

If you had a chance to see the Dinner Party Operas recently presented by AOP, the Brooklyn Museum, and NYU Tisch’s Opera Writing Workshop, we hope you are! (And if you didn’t, all of the operas are available on AOP’s YouTube page in their entirety here!)

The two performances were the culmination of the 2017-2018 session of the NYU Tisch Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program’s Opera Lab. Collectively they featured eleven short operas written and composed by NYU graduate students and performed by AOP’s professional opera singers Keith Browning, Alexa Jarvis, Kathryn Krasovec, Yoojin Lee, Nicole Mitchell, Jordan Rutter, Nathaniel Sullivan, and Amelia Watkins, who additionally acted as mentors through the duration of the program. The operas themselves were inspired by The Dinner Party, an installation of feminist artwork by Judy Chicago currently housed at Brooklyn Museum.

The Dinner Party, an important icon of 1970s feminist art and a milestone in twentieth-century art, is presented as the centerpiece around which the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art is organized. The Dinner Party comprises a massive ceremonial banquet, arranged on a triangular table with a total of thirty-nine place settings, each commemorating an important woman from history. The settings consist of embroidered runners, gold chalices and utensils, and china-painted porcelain plates with raised central motifs that are based on vulvar and butterfly forms and rendered in styles appropriate to the individual women being honored. The names of another 999 women are inscribed in gold on the white tile floor below the triangular table. This permanent installation is enhanced by rotating Herstory Gallery exhibitions relating to the 1,038 women honored at the table.

Judy Chicago (American, born 1939). The Dinner Party, 1974–79. Ceramic, porcelain, textile, 576 × 576 in. (1463 × 1463 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. (Photo: Donald Woodman)

Some students chose to interpret the mythos of these women literally, while others reimagined their lives or simply drew inspiration. The historic pieces included “Master” in which Emily Dickinson reckons with the life of her poetry in the aftermath of her death. It featured music by Jacinth Greywoode and libretto by Deepali Gupta. In “A Drop in the Ocean” (music by Bryan Blaskie and libretto by Christine Claudel Filimonova), Christine de Pizan, the first women to earn a living wage as a writer, interviewed for her first job after the death of her husband. Spencer Robelen and Seth Christenfeld’s “An Unbroken Line” took place in Egypt, 1458 BC when the pharaoh Hatshepsut, in the twilight of her reign, is beset by palace intrigue orchestrated by her sister and carried out by her heir. “Waiting for the Rain” built from the legacy of Hildegard von Bingen, a medieval nun, composer, scientist, and prophetess, with music by Kevin Cummines and a libretto by Clara Luthas. “Judith and Holofernes” (music by Mehmet Salih Yildirim and libretto by Lily Dwoskin) depicted the Biblical heroine, Judith, and her slaughter of the infamous General Holofernes.

Other operas took a more varied approach, some reinventing the mythos of the women and some using them in a contemporary context. “Petronilla” (Music by Kent Jeong-Eun Kim and libretto by Zach Childers) imagined a scene between Lady Alice and her maid Petronilla de Meath, the first Irish woman to be burned at the stake for witchcraft during the Middle Ages, as a playful comedy; “Ár n-Athair” (music by Benedict Braxton-Smith and libretto by Nick Stephens) also took on the subject of a woman accused of witchcraft, this time revolving around the alliance between Goodwife “Goody” Ann Glover and a pirate when they are both imprisoned by the powerful Cotton Mather; “President Joan (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Sandwiches)” retold the myth of Pope Joan, but set it in the farce that is modern U.S. politics. Music by Boram Han and libretto by Cal Silberstein; The Byzantine Empress Theodora helped a young modern professional stuck in a dead-end job surrounded by misogynistic co-workers in the opera with music by Minhui Lee and libretto by Benji Goldsmith; “Women’s Work (Music by Benji Goldsmith and libretto by Seth Christenfeld) also featured a modern setting for its story of an artist forced to reckon with her white privilege after a black friend confronts her over her work – a scultural bust of Sojourner Truth. And Avery and Ainsley took The Dinner Party as a whole for inspiration, exploring not one of the women represented, but the piece itself and its perceived role in the surreal opera by Jonathan Fadner and Scott R. Ritter.

Alexa Jarvis, Amelia Watkins, and Nicole Mitchell in “President Joan (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Sandwiches)” Photo by Matt Gray.

The operas were split between two performances. The full house at the Wednesday, May 23 performance at NYU Tisch’s Black Box Theatre saw six operas with music direction by Mila Henry, directed by students from The New School, and designed by students from the NYU Tisch Department of Design. On Sunday, May 27 at the Brooklyn Museum the remaining five operas were presented under the stage direction of Luke Leonard and music direction of James Lowe to an equally large audience who were able to then visit the installation after the performance.

The Opera Lab was led by Professors Randall Eng of Tisch’s Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program and Sam Helfrich of the Tisch Department of Design, in partnership with American Opera Projects.

The Dinner Party Operas

More about NYU Tisch:

For over 50 years, the NYU Tisch School of the Arts has drawn on the vast artistic and cultural resources of New York City and New York University to create an extraordinary training ground for the individual artist and scholar of the arts. Today, students learn their craft in a spirited, risk-taking environment that combines the professional training of a conservatory with the liberal arts education of a premier global university with campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, and 11 academic centers around the world. Learn more at www.tisch.nyu.edu.

More about Brooklyn Museum:

The Brooklyn Museum presents important art in eye-opening ways, and has long been at the forefront of engagement with underserved and younger audiences, from its widely popular Target First Saturdays program and creative reinstallations of its permanent collection, to its pioneering online presence and inventive use of technology in reimagining the visitor experience. A driving force behind the massive growth and energy of the Borough of Brooklyn and of its diverse cultural community, the Brooklyn Museum annually welcomes more than half a million visitors who represent one of New York’s most diverse museum-going audiences.

With roots dating back to 1823, the Brooklyn Museum is one of the oldest and largest museums in the United States, with a collection representing nearly every culture, ranging from some of the most important ancient Egyptian works in the nation; to the arts of the Pacific Islands, Asia, Africa, and the Islamic world; to American and European art; to international contemporary work. The Brooklyn Museum is home to the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, the only facility of its kind in the country. For more information, visit www.brooklynmuseum.org

 

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NYU Tisch, the Brooklyn Museum, and American Opera Projects to present 11 Mini-Operas based on Judy Chicago’s iconic feminist artwork The Dinner Party

May 8, 2018

Judy Chicago (American, born 1939). The Dinner Party, 1974–79. Ceramic, porcelain, textile, 576 × 576 in. (1463 × 1463 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. (Photo: Donald Woodman)

The Dinner Party Operas
Short operas inspired by Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party
A collaboration between NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, American Opera Projects, and the Brooklyn Museum

Wednesday, May 23 | 7:30 PM – Program A
GMTWP Black Box Theatre, NYU Tisch
715 Broadway, 2nd Floor, NY, NY 10003

Sunday, May 27 | 2:00 PM – Program B
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium at the Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11238

 

February 28, 2017

NEW YORK, NY – The Dinner Party Operas, a showcase of eleven original mini-operas inspired by Judy Chicago’s iconic feminist installation The Dinner Party, a multi-media work housed in the Brooklyn Museum, will be presented this May in New York City by the NYU Tisch Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (GMTWP), the Brooklyn Museum, the NYU Tisch Department of Design for Stage & Film and American Opera Projects (AOP). Six of the operas will be performed on Wednesday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m. at NYU Tisch’s GMTWP Black Box Theatre, located in Manhattan at 715 Broadway, between Washington and Waverly places, on the second floor. The remaining five operas will be performed on Sunday, May 27 at 2:00 p.m. at the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium at the Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11238. Each under 15-minutes long, the operas were written and composed by students in the NYU Tisch GMTWP Opera Lab and will be performed by professional opera singers with piano accompaniment. The Dinner Party Operas is free with advance registration (May 23) or museum admission (May 27) and open to the public. To reserve tickets for the May 23 performance at NYU, email tisch.ipa@nyu.edu. Complete info at www.aopopera.org.

The Dinner Party Operas is the most recent production of Tisch GMTWP’s Opera Lab program, through which students write, compose, develop, and design original operas performed by professional opera singers. Opera Lab was started in 2015 by GMTWP professor Randall Eng with Design Dept. professor Sam Helfrich, and is open to both students and alumni. In previous years, the program’s mini-operas were created on the subjects of Brooklyn’s historic Fort Greene Park and New York City’s International House, which houses and supports international students and entrepreneurs from around the world.

The Dinner Party, an important icon of 1970s feminist art and a milestone in twentieth-century art, is presented as the centerpiece around which the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art is organized. The Dinner Party comprises a massive ceremonial banquet, arranged on a triangular table with a total of thirty-nine place settings, each commemorating an important woman from history. The settings consist of embroidered runners, gold chalices and utensils, and china-painted porcelain plates with raised central motifs that are based on vulvar and butterfly forms and rendered in styles appropriate to the individual women being honored. The names of another 999 women are inscribed in gold on the white tile floor below the triangular table. This permanent installation is enhanced by rotating Herstory Gallery exhibitions relating to the 1,038 women honored at the table. The pharaoh Hatshepsut; the medieval nun, composer, scientist, and prophetess Hildegard von Bingen; and writer Emily Dickinson are just three of the famous women from Judy Chicago’s art installation who serve as muses for this year’s operas.

“The Dinner Party contains a multitude of stories, and was created in part to encourage viewers to investigate those stories,” said Eng. “In these operas, the students have done exactly that, as they transform the visual and historic into music and theatre. Some of the operas celebrate moments in the lives of specific women, while others confront the work as a whole, and it’s been a joy to see the range of operatic responses—from comic farce to meditative reflection to heightened tragedy to impassioned critique.”

In addition to Profs. Eng and Helfrich, NYU Tisch’s GMTWP Opera Lab is led by Music Directors Mila Henry and James Lowe, who will provide piano accompaniment for the performances. Stage directors and designers from the NYU Tisch Graduate Department of Design for Stage and Film will stage the works in Program A under the guidance of Prof. Helfrich. Luke Leonard will direct the Program B operas.

Read the rest of this entry »


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

April 12, 2018

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

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

Final Round

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

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


Librettist and poet J.D. McClatchy dies at 72

April 12, 2018

Librettist and poet J. D. McClatchy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

January 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

January 26, 2018

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

Blythe Gaissert as Walker Loats in The Echo Drift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

December 19, 2017

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Chautauqua Opera Company

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

About American Opera Projects

At the forefront of the contemporary opera movement for a quarter-century, AOP creates, develops and presents opera and music theatre projects collaborating with young, rising and established artists in the field. AOP has been a producer on over 30 world premieres, including Kaminsky/Reed/Campbell’s As One (BAM 2014), Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (Lincoln Center Festival 2013), Davis/Pelsue’s Hagoromo (BAM 2015 Next Wave Festival), a dance opera starring Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto, and Paterson/Cote’s Three Way (Nashville Opera and BAM 2017).  www.aopopera.org

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

 

 


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