Flashmob, Opera-Style: “Paul’s Case” around New York City

June 29, 2010
Paul's Case at Brooklyn Bridge Park

Thomas Wazelle (center, in bowler hat) and Dorian Balis (left, in vest) perform a scene from "Paul's Case" in Brooklyn Bridge Park

On June 21st, the first day of summer, AOP took part in Sing For Hope’s 2010 Make Music New York Festival, which placed upwards of 60 pianos in various locations around NYC. Making good use of pianos in the Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO, the Band Shell in Central Park, and Columbus Circle, AOP took the stage with a scene from Act II of Paul’s Case, by composer Gregory Spears and librettist Kathryn Walat. As bystanders looked on, Thomas Wazelle and Dorian Balis, accompanied by Scott Rednour and lead by Silas Huff, performed opera in period dress.

Here’s a brief account of the Columbus Circle piano by the New York Post. Check out the 3:34pm entry for AOP’s contribution to the day of music!

While the performers showcased Paul’s Case, AOP was busy with both still and video cameras, recording the entire process. Expect a compilation video soon! In the meantime, go here to learn more about Paul’s Case, or check out this blog post to learn about where else this up-and-coming new opera is being performed!

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More Praise for “Before Night Falls”

June 29, 2010
Jarden, Koch and Koch at Fort Worth

Charles Jarden, Executive Director of AOP, with Gloria Koch (daughter of the late Dolores Koch, co-librettist of Before Night Falls and friend of Reinaldo Arenas) and her daughter.

A full month after it’s world premiere with Fort Worth Opera, Before Night Falls, a new opera by Jorge Martín, is still receiving rave reviews. Before Night Falls tells the compelling story of gay Cuban counterrevolutionary Reinaldo Arenas and his struggles as a political dissident and homosexual in both Cuba and America.

“Vibrant, musically substantive, and very touching… One of the most admirable American operas of recent years.”

– David Shengold, Gay City News

Read full review…

“Although Martín’s score is eclectic, it is not annoyingly pastiche-like. It is nicely shape-shifting. And it all coheres. The orchestration often has a beautiful sheen: transparent but not thin or barren. And I will tell you something extraordinary: Before Night Falls is full of arias, duets, trios, and choruses. There are real, unabashed melodies and tunes. That is old-fashioned; indeed, it is well-nigh counterrevolutionary.”

– Jay Nordlinger, National Review

Read full review…

“…powerfully moving.”

– Anne Midgette, Washington Post

Read full review…

Make sure to check out AOP’s earlier blog post about the Fort Worth performance of Before Night Falls here.


“Enlightening” Performance of Paul’s Case in Los Angeles

June 29, 2010
Paul's Case in L.A.

The Opera America cast of Paul's Case, performing in L.A. on June 11th

AOP is pleased to announce the great success of the recent production of Paul’s Case, by composer Gregory Spears and Librettist Kathryn Walat, with Opera America’s New Works Sampler 2010! On Friday, June 11th, excerpts from Paul’s Case, featuring Hak Soo Kim in the title role, were performed alongside numerous other new operas at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

Robert E. Lee, President and Managing Director of AOP, traveled to California to be in the audience. “It was enlightening and encouraging to hear how well the piece came across with a new cast we’d never worked with before,” he said in an interview. “This fascinating new take on the opera was played in a more lyrical style. I’d been used to hearing its more angular, rhythmical elements, and so to hear such different facets of the piece was a pleasant surprise, and quite enjoyable. ”

“It was great to have received so many unsolicited comments of praise about the piece,” Lee continued, commenting on the public reception of the showcase.  “This is a very discerning crowd full of experienced professionals. So, it was especially heartening to hear that people liked the performance.”


Elzbieta Czyzewska, 1938-2010

June 18, 2010
Elzbieta Czyzewska headshot

Elzbieta Czyzewska, 1938-2010

AOP is truly heartbroken today to hear of the death of our friend Elzbieta, who our audiences will remember from the memorable characters she created and her seductive Eastern European purr in Darkling.

One of my fondest memories was being with her on the 2007 Darkling tour as she returned to Poland for the first time in many years, and over 35 years from when she was expelled from her country where she was a famous actress. We waited at a checkpoint in a stifling hot Cold War era bus as the guards collected our passports. Despite her fame they did not bat an eye, and no one seemed to notice her quiet sadness at the ignoble lack of fanfare. I had her stand up in the aisle of the bus and pose for a picture. She immediately turned into the coquettish young beauty that I think she always was in her heart, held her head high, and looked down seductively.  (You can see the picture below.)

We will miss her elegant, non-stop smoking, her vampiric dahhhling of a speaking voice, and her biting humor. Goodbye, sweet duchess.

– Matt Gray, AOP Producing Director

“In the 1960s Ms. Czyzewska was, quite simply,
the most popular actress in Poland, creating, in comic and dramatic roles, a consistent persona that was both fiercely feminine and fiercely independent.” – New York Times

Read the New York Times obit for Elzbieta.

Elzbieta in Poland 2007

Elzbieta returning to Poland in 2007. Photo by Matt Gray.


Opera News Spotlight: Keith Jameson

June 17, 2010

Photo by Dario Acosta

AOP is proud to announce that tenor Keith Jameson has just been featured in Opera News’ “Singer’s Diary” series! Keith has worked with AOP on numerous projects, including Composers and the Voice and, most recently, The Golden Gate.

“Jameson has taken his childhood love of music — coupled with a meteoric rise in the opera world — and returned to his hometown of Greenwood, South Carolina, to start a music festival that just celebrated its fourth season.”

– David Belcher, Opera News

Check out the full article here, and learn more about Keith at his website!


“Top-flight production” of Before Night Falls has world premiere in TX

June 1, 2010

Foreground, from left: Javier Abreu as Pepe and Wes Mason as Reinaldo Arenas. Photo by Robert Hart for TheaterJones.com.

Jorge Martín’s new opera Before Night Falls, presented by Fort Worth Opera, premiered in the Bass Performance Hall last Saturday evening, May 29th and is quickly becoming the talk of the opera world. The press and blogosphere have chimed as well about the AOP-developed opera, saying:

“Martín’s Before Night Falls succeeds musically and as work of theater…Martín has imbued his score with many lovely moments that evoke the Latin rhythms of Cuba and the musical atmosphere, such as popular songs and film scores, of the various eras he invokes. He does this deftly while still sounding fresh and original… Unlike many cotemporary composers, Martín has a gift for melody and he isn’t afraid to use it.”

– Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, theaterjones.com

Read full review…

“…a top-flight production.”

– Chris Shull, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

Read full review…

“…a daring departure from tradition.”

– Olin Chism, artandseek.net

Read full review…

“This work is infused with magnificent Cuban-style music that truly reflects the time as well as gives a feel for the heritage.”

– Alan Savada, Opera-L

Read full review…

“…ultimately romantic, intensely emotional… Before Night Falls displays several aspects that predict long-term success.”

– Wayne Lee Gay, D Magazine

Read full review…

Before Night Falls, based on the novel with the same name by Reinaldo Arenas, tracks the harsh life of a political dissident and gay man in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. The production, directed by David Gately and with stirring and provocative projections by designers Peter Nigrini, featured Wes Mason and Jonathan Blalock. AOP helped develop the work in a series of workshops in 2005.


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