“For things to remain the same everything must change” is the theme woven into two AOP operas-in-development, As One and The Leopard, commissioned during AOP’s 25th year creating a new opera repertory. The operas will be developed in AOP’s First Chance program, which is funded, in part, by a generous multi-year award from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
As One is an original music theater work to be created by composer Laura Kaminsky, librettist Mark Campbell, and filmmaker Kimberly Reed. The chronicles of a transgender person as she emerges into harmony with herself and the world around her are portrayed with compassion, candor, and humor. The Leopard, an opera based on the twentieth-century novel by Guiseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, and famously filmed by Luchino Visconti, is brought to life by composer Michael Dellaira and poet/librettist J.D. McClatchy. While its narrative unfolds in Sicily during the “Risorgimento,” the story is driven by the forces Love and Death, summed up in the novel’s confounding theme: “for things to remain the same everything must change.”
As One’s composer, Kaminsky, received a award from New York State Council of the Arts for As One, commissioned to be part of AOP’s on-going Operatic Monodrama series. The work is being written expressly for acclaimed singers mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and baritone Kelly Markgraf, who will share the role of the protagonist. They will be joined by the renowned Miró Quartet. An interactive film will be created by Kimberly Reed that serves as the production’s background. Workshops will begin in 2014 with in-house and public workshop performances at AOP’s home base, as well as at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Fisher Building in Fort Greene. 2015 project activity will include collaborations with two other opera companies; UrbanArias in Arlington, VA; and West Edge Opera in Berkeley, CA; two Conservatories of Music, U of Texas and SUNY Purchase, and one presenting institution, BAM.
The Leopard received a generous $125,000 grant from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation for commissioning and project development. The story of The Leopard is as relevant today as it would have been a thousand years ago, and as it will be a thousand years hence. The opera will be in two acts, scored for orchestra and a cast of approximately 15 singers.
As One and The Leopard will enter AOP’s First Chance program where composers and librettists hear their work in part or in full for the first time before an audience with live singers and accompaniment. Through question and answer sessions and collecting feedback, First Chance allows the participation of audience members to help hone and revise new works while artists discover their own voices.
AOP has produced over 20 world premiere operas and many began in First Chance, including the recent co-production of Lera Auerbach’s The Blind with Lincoln Center and Norway’s Trondheim Chamber Music festivals; Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at The Royal Opera House (London) and Jack Perla’s Love/Hate at San Francisco Opera Center’s Adler Fellows program. Upcoming: Gregory Spears and AOP-developed Paul’s Case premiered at UrbanArias in 2013 will be seen at HERE Arts Center in NYC and Pittsburgh Opera in 2014, and Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom, at Schomburg Library and Irondale Ensemble,
Mark Campbell was recently profiled in Opera News as one of twenty-five artists “poised…to become major forces in opera in the coming decade.” In his ten years as a librettist, Mark has written nine operas and collaborated with such notable composers as Mark Adamo, Lembit Beecher, William Bolcom, Ricky Ian Gordon, Jake Heggie, John Musto, Paul Moravec, Richard Peaslee and Kevin Puts. A Letter from E. 11th Street was the first commission from AOP. That double monodrama, with music by Martin Hennessey, recently won the Pellicotti Opera Competitino Prize. Mark’s most recent work, Silent Night, which he wrote with composer Kevin Puts for Minnesota Opera, received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music. Other successful operas include: Volpone, Later the Same Evening, Bastianello/Lucrezia, and Rappahannock County. As a lyricist, Mark penned the lyrics for Songs from an Unmade Bed, a theatrical song cycle with music by 18 composers. Other musicals for which he has written lyrics include: The Audience, Chang & Eng, and Splendora. Other awards: first recipient of the Kleban Foundation Award for Lyricist, two Richard Rodgers Awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a New York Foundation for the Arts Playwriting Fellowship, three Drama Desk Award nominations, a Rockefeller Foundation Award, and a Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Award. www.markcampbellwords.com
Michael Dellaira is the composer of three operas. His first, Chéri, initially developed at AOP on a libretto by Susan Yankowitz, was produced by The Actors Studio and directed by Tony-Award winner Carlin Glynn. From 2006-2010 Michael was composer-in-residence with the Center for Contemporary Opera, which co-commissioned The Secret Agent, his first collaboration with J.D. McClatchy. The Death of Webern, also on a libretto by McClatchy, was commissioned by The Pocket Opera Players and will premiere in October, 2013. His monodrama Maud was awarded First Prize from the American Society of University Composers. Dellaira has been a recipient of an ASCAP Morton Gould Award, a Fulbright Fellowship, two residencies at The Composers Conference, grants from the American Music Center, Cary Trust, Ford Foundation, Mellon Foundation, New Jersey Arts Council and a Jerome Foundation commission from the American Composers Forum. www.michaeldellaira.com
Laura Kaminsky is a composer with “an ear for the new and interesting” whose works are “colorful and harmonically sharp-edged” (The New York Times) and whose “musical language is compounded of hymns, blues, and gestures not unlike those of Shostakovich” (inTune). Kaminsky has received commissions, fellowships, and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Koussevitzky Music Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, Aaron Copland Fund, Chamber Music America, American Music Center, USArtists International, CEC ArtsLink International Partnerships, Kenan Institute for the Arts, Artist Trust, and Meet the Composer, among others. She has received four ASCAP-Chamber Music America Awards for Adventuresome Programming and is the recipient of the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage 2010 Chopin Award. She has been a fellow at artists’ communities including the Hermitage Artist Retreat Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Centrum Foundation, Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She is Artistic Director of Symphony Space in New York City and is on the faculty at the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College/SUNY. www.laurakaminsky.com
J. D. McClatchy, librettist, is the author of eight books of poems, most recently Plundered Hearts: New and Selected Poems (Knopf). He was also written three collections of essays, including American Writers at Home (2004), and edited dozens of other books. He teaches at Yale, is editor of The Yale Review, and has served as President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His first opera libretto was for William Schuman’s A Question of Taste, which premiered in 1989. He subsequently wrote libretti for Francis Thorne’s Mario and the Magician (1994), Bruce Saylor’s Orpheus Descending (1994), Tobias Picker’s Emmeline (1996), Lorin Maazel’s 1984 (with Thomas Meehan, 2005), Lowell Liebermann’s Miss Lonelyhearts (2006), Ned Rorem’s Our Town (2006), and Elliot Goldenthal’s Grendel (with Julie Taymor, 2006), Michael Dellaira’s The Secret Agent (2011), Bernard Rands’s Vincent (2011), Daron Hagen’s Little Nemo in Slumberland (2012), Martin Bresnick’s My Friend’s Story (2013), Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne (2013), Michael Dellaira’s The Death of Webern (2013), and Jeanine Tesori’s The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me (2013). His work has been performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, La Scala, the Kennedy Center, San Francisco Opera, and other leading opera stages around the world.
Kimberly Reed is a filmmaker living in New York City. Her work has been featured on media outlets such as the Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, NPR, Details magazine, and The Moth Radio Hour. Her work has made her one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” a New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) fellow, and has led to multiple fellowships at the Yaddo Artists’ Community and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Kimberly Reed directed and produced Prodigal Sons, a “whiplash doc that heralds an exciting talent.” Prodigal Sons, a co-production with BBC Storyville and Sundance Channel, premiered at the prestigious Telluride Film Festival. The film has gone on to be shown around the globe in theaters, at over a hundred film festivals, and on worldwide television. The film landed on multiple Best of the Year lists and garnered 14 Audience and Jury awards, including the esteemed International Film Critics’ FIPRESCI Prize. Ms. Reed was recognized as Towleroad’s “Best LGBT Character of the Film Year,” The Advocate’s “Five to Watch,” and OUT Magazine’s “Out 100.” She was also the producer/editor/writer for Paul Goodman Changed My Life, released theatrically by Zeitgeist Films. Kim is a proud GLSEN and NewFest board member, a Queer/Art/Film mentor, a summa cum laude graduate of UC Berkeley, and a Montana native.