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.


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

Read the rest of this entry »


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

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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.


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