The Enticement of Hollows & Shadows: MODEL LOVE Gets Up on Its Feet

September 17, 2011
Rosalie Sullivan

"wildirishrose99"

Greetings from the front lines! The premiere of David Jackson‘s song-cycle MODEL LOVE is a mere two weeks away. As you can imagine, we Model Lovers have been hard at work for some time preparing this piece for its debut at the Kaplan Penthouse on October 2nd. Much of that preparation was done in isolation: days and nights spent learning vocal lines, pulling apart texts, counting complex rhythms (insert this mezzo’s gratitude for the creators of the visual metronome who helped restore my ability to learn polyrhythms), and (in one instance earlier this week) memorizing a trio while on the elliptical machine at the gym! Last night was therefore a particularly gratifying moment, as the cast gathered for our first staging rehearsal.

“There is miracle in personality” sings our tenor, Jeremy Little, in the cycle’s opening number. It is a song about the mystery of attraction, an attempt to explain that unmistakable spark that arises in a moment and draws us inexorably to another person. Getting these songs up on their feet last night, I felt something of that magic: how satisfying it was to finally begin physicalizing together what had previously only existed as a collection of notes and words in my mind! Questions I’ve had for weeks began to be answered, as we three fumbled and found our way, putting flesh on Henry Normal’s heady texts and creating emotional connections for ourselves under the expert guidance of our director, Crystal Manich.

There was something of this sensation when we came together for our first musical run-through a few weeks ago: we all remarked how much easier the music became when we could hear and play off of each other. What pleasure there was in feeling the sound gel and savoring those delicious moments of dissonance that pepper David’s vocal writing! With each successive rehearsal, we add a new layer, the piece makes more sense, and I am increasingly excited to see where we will wind up.

Tomorrow we’re in for another treat as we sit in on the first orchestra rehearsal: so many new colors and textures to enjoy!  “The enticement of hollows and shadows” indeed … how lucky we are to go exploring in their depths!

More to come soon…

Rose


Composers and the Voice 2011/12 – Workshop Day 1

September 16, 2011

And they’re off!  Monday, September 12 was the first day of the Composers & the Voice 2011/12 Workshop Series, and it was a long invigorating day.  More on that below.  This blog post, and the ones that will follow more or less every 2 weeks, are intended to serve two purposes.  First, they will provide an ongoing forum for discussion and reflection by the 8 Composer and Librettist Fellows, as well as the Artistic Team— a place where ideas and questions that came up during the workshop session can be investigated further.  Second, these blog postings will provide the greater AOP family, and new opera enthusiasts everywhere, a glimpse into our workshop room.

The workshop day began at 3:00 with a quick orientation session, but then dove right into the fray with the first of our 9 Improvisation and Theater Games sessions, led by Terry Greiss of the Irondale Ensemble.  I first met Terry 23 years ago (yikes!) when I began a semester-long internship with Irondale– the final part of my undergrad degree at Drew University.  I ended up working with Irondale for close to 5 years, and so much of what I learned through my immersion in the company’s use of improv and theater games as tools for generating theatrical material, as well as building strong cooperative teams, continues to have a profound influence on my day to day work today.

In Monday’s 2-hour session Terry led us through the following games:

Terry Greiss

Instructor Terry Greiss leads an improv session while composer Sidney Marquez Boquiren and C&V Artistic Director Steven Osgood listen.

Zip Zap Zop

Mind Twist

Chair Tumble

One Word Story

One Word Fairy Tale

String of Pearls

Upside Down Drawing

One Word Letters/Scenes

Tell Me about the Time

My advice to the Composer/Librettist Fellows going into this course of Improv study was to dive in, play the games, and not to worry about how this all relates to the writing process.  It was great fun to sink into the high-energy full body challenge of Zip Zap Zop, and Mind Twist.  I found Chair Tumble to be an intriguing look at how difficult it is to TRULY risk falling down.  One Word Story, One Word Fairy Tales, and String of Pearls had our group of 10, who had just met an hour earlier, building stories together with the freedom to respond intuitively.  I think I was messing with the CD player when Terry was giving instructions to Upside Down Drawing.  While everyone else copied surprisingly skilled portraits of Igor Stravinsky, I was having a blast more or less coloring mine in.  Ah well….  One Word Letters/Scenes and Tell Me about the Time got us all out of our heads, and investigating a greater freedom of telling a story.

Soprano Andrea Arias-Martin sings

Soprano Andrea Arias-Martin sings for the 2011-12 composers & librettists.

After the dinner break we were joined by the Music Directors and Singers who we will be working with throughout the season.  Each of the singers had about 25 minutes to sing and dissect three arias that they feel are perfectly suited to their particular voice.  I love this session, and the look it gives into how each singer approaches singing, how difficult it can be to express in words this most elusive of physical acts, and how wonderfully these particular singers can articulate the process.  It is the crash-course part of Composers & the Voice, after which things relax a little as each composer gets to write for the singers one by one.  Once 10:00 rolled around, it was time for a glass or two of Riesling.

Next Session– September 26.  Just composers and librettists.  Improv 2, and Acting 1.


Funny, sexy MODEL LOVE to premiere at Lincoln Center w NORA by its side

September 16, 2011

J. David Jackson's MODEL LOVE premieres October 2. IMAGE: Erik and Julie, NYC, 2006, Photograph by Skye Parrott

On Sunday, October 2, 4pm and 7:30pm, American Opera Projects will present the world premiere of Model Love, a humorous staged song-cycle about contemporary relationships with jazz and rock elements by composer J. David Jackson based on texts by British comedian Henry Normal, and the one-act opera monodrama Nora, In the Great Outdoors, music by Daniel Felsenfeld and libretto by Will Eno, that continues the final scene of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House moments after Nora abandons her family. The event will be held at Lincoln Center’s Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse. Tickets are $25, $50 for VIP reserve seating, available at www.operaprojects.org.

“Fun, energetic and curious song cycle interested in M-M-W threesome. R U what I M looking 4?” Model Love is a 30-minute song cycle fusing contemporary art song with blues, jazz ,and rock set for three singers (mezzo-soprano Rosalie Sullivan, baritone Gregory Gerbrandt, and tenor Jeremy Little) chamber orchestra and rock band. Based on texts from Nude Modelling for the Afterlife by BAFTA award winning poet/comedian Henry Normal with music by J. David Jackson, Model Love mixes musical styles and genres in a way that humorously (and accurately) represents the variegated emotions and situations of contemporary love affairs. J. David Jackson conducts.

Nora, In the Great Outdoors

Kirsten Chambers will sing the title role in the Felsenfeld/Eno monodrama

Using an icy climate crossed with a fragile-yet-eruptive emotional state of mind as musical grist, Nora, In the Great Outdoors is a take on the ending of Ibsen’s seminal “A Doll’s House,” especially its famous final stage direction, the first collaboration between composer Daniel Felsenfeld and playwright Will Eno. The monodrama takes over immediately where Ibsen leaves off, when the heroine abandons her family, her marriage her security, and perhaps the most famous slammed door in the history of drama. Commissioned by American Opera Projects, Nora, In the Great Outdoors, is a monodrama for soprano and piano trio and will star Kirsten Chambers in the title role. Keith Chambers conducts.


Putting the Chambers in Chamber Opera

September 15, 2011

Soprano Kirsten Chambers slams the door for Nora on Oct 2 at the Kaplan Penthouse

AOP is happy to announce that soprano Kirsten Chambers will perform the role of Ibsen’s heroine Nora in the Felsenfeld-Eno monodrama, Nora, In the Great Outdoors on October 2 at Kaplan Penthouse, 4pm and 7:30pm. And she will be put through her dramatic paces by none other than her husband Keith Chambers who will conduct the performances. Seems Nora can never escape controlling husbands.

Using an icy climate crossed with a fragile-yet-eruptive emotional state of mind as musical grist, Nora, In the Great Outdoors is a take on the ending of Ibsen’s seminal “A Doll’s House,” especially its famous final stage direction, the first collaboration between composer Daniel Felsenfeld and playwright Will Eno. The monodrama takes over immediately where Ibsen leaves off, when the heroine abandons her family, her marriage her security, and perhaps the most famous slammed door in the history of drama. The work is commissioned by AOP as part of its Monodrama program.

A studio recording of Nora was held last month in Yonkers with Caroline Worra in the title role.


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