INSIDE Composers & the Voice – Session 4

October 31, 2013

Untitled

 Composers & the Voice – 2013-14 Librettist Fellows, Jason Kim

American Opera Project’s Composers & the Voice program has been well under way during what’s turning out to be a chilly New York fall.

At the fourth session, held on October 28th, the group began the evening with an improv workshop led by the fantastic Terry Greiss of the Irondale Ensemble. Terry guides us in fluid, relaxed, enjoyable improv sessions, and this one was no different. Our musical brains were immediately engaged when Terry asked us to pick a song that everybody would know and then to sing the song out loud while walking around the rehearsal space. The goal: have every single person sing the same song under three minutes’ time. After some failed attempts, including a botched rendition of America the Beautiful, we were able to settle into a lovely chorus of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

In addition to being sheer fun, the improv sessions help C&V think about performance three-dimensionally. Through improv, we are able to experience what it might feel like to be a performer and to think critically about space, tension, and interconnectedness.

The second half of the evening was dedicated to discussing a handful of topics related to our opera curriculum. For the past several weeks, we have been busy analyzing two scores: Puccini’s La Boheme and Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte. By mapping out each singer’s range, we are able to gather what Puccini and Mozart had in mind both musically and thematically. Why for instance does Marcello sing syllabically when Musetta sings melismatically at a very high register? In what ways does Despina’s role change when she is in disguise?

Despina’s disguise in the opera Cosi fan tutte (at 1:15:36)

Because we are writing for six different voice types – bass/baritone, baritone, tenor, mezzo, dramatic soprano, and lyric coloratura – investigating Puccini and Mozart has been tremendously clarifying in thinking about the various needs and expectations of each voice. Speaking of voice type, Steve Osgood, Artistic Director of AOP, directed us in a fun exercise: listing an array of adjectives that come to mind when thinking of each voice. Many patterns came to surface. Composers often write heroic roles for baritones while leaving the romantic parts to tenors. Coloraturas are often coquettish, young, and flighty whereas dramatic sopranos tend to play passionate, intense, powerful roles.

During the final stretch of the evening, the composers discussed their progress with the final projects. Needless to say, we have a very exciting slate shaping up for our fall 2014 concert! Hope to see you there!

Jason Kim, librettist
October 28, 2013


The Summer King, Judgment of Midas, and Paul’s Case to be featured in the Spring

October 29, 2013
The Summer King, Judgment of Midas, and Paul's Case

The Summer King, Judgment of Midas, and Paul’s Case

OPERA America will be presenting The Summer King and Judgment of Midas as part of their New Works Forum, a series of showcases of works-in-progress and recent premieres. Now in its third year, the New Works Forum will take place January 12-15, 2014 in the Audition Recital Hall at the National Opera Center in New York City. Panel discussions will accompany performances and explore the developmental process.

The Summer King (music by Daniel Sonenberg, libretto by Sonenberg & Daniel Nester) covers the legacy of Negro League baseball player Josh Gibson. Dubbed “the black Babe Ruth”, Gibson was the second Negro League player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The opera explores the racial tensions surrounding black-owned teams and delves into the stadium culture of the 1930s. The Summer King will have its world premiere with Portland Ovations in May 2014.

Judgment of Midas (music by Kamran Ince, libretto by Miriam Seidel) takes as its starting point a series of mythical musical contests said to have taken place on Mount Tmolus, Turkey. Witnessed by King Midas, the contests pit the gods Pan and Apollo against each other in a struggle between ‘street’ music and ‘high’ music. Judgment of Midas had its world premiere in Milwaukee with Present Music in April, 2013.

The 2014 New Works Forum has been scheduled to coincide with PROTOTYPE Festival, presented by HERE and Beth Morrison Projects. Paul’s Case (music by Gregory Spears, libretto by Spears and Kathryn Walat), will be among the works featured at PROTOTYPE. Originating from AOP’s Composers and the Voice program, the opera follows the story of Paul, a high school dandy living in turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh who runs away to revel in the luxuries of New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel.

Performances at the New Works Forum are only open to OPERA America members. Previous AOP operas featured at the forum include Heart of Darkness, The Golden Gate, and Wolf-in-Skins. PROTOTYPE Festival is open to the public.


AOP’s Charles Jarden talks to The Washington Post about the art of opera development

October 21, 2013
AOP General Director Charles Jarden, with composer and Phoenix Concerts Artistic Director Gilda Lyons, introduces an AOP 25th anniversary concert, October 2013.

AOP General Director Charles Jarden, with composer and Phoenix Concerts Artistic Director Gilda Lyons, introduces an AOP 25th anniversary concert, October 2013.

“Developing new opera is an art in itself” states last week’s Washington Post article, and of course AOP couldn’t agree more! For her October 16 article, veteran classical music journalist Anne Midgette highlighted AOP’s role in creating a new American repertory and interviewed General Director Charles Jarden about the importance of the workshop process.

“Opera is complex enough to take on layers, like a snowball,” Jarden says, “and developing workshops, and showing workshops, and having capable press look at workshops, is a way to make everything better and grow the buzz.”

For 25 years AOP audiences have been able to participate in the workshopping process with the artists and will continue to do so in the next few months with previews of our opera-in-development Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom at Harlem’s Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture on Dec. 9, among others. The results of our workshops can be seen and heard in the Washington area in November when UrbanArias presents two AOP-developed monodramas from composer Daniel Felsenfeld –  Nora, In the Great Outdoors (2011) and Alice in the Time of the Jabberwock.  “Nora” boasts an AOP-commissioned libretto by Will Eno and will be sung by dynamic soprano Emily Pulley.  The UrbanArias orchestra is led by Robert Wood and the stage director is Beth Greenberg (AOP’s Harriet Tubman). Also in the DC area, AOP-commissioned and developed Lost Childhood, (Hamer/Azrael) which was  staged at Tel Aviv’s International Vocal Arts Institute, will receive a non-staged orchestral concert including original AOP cast members Michael Hendrick and Chris Trakas, in their roles of Judah and Manfred, respectively, on November 9. COMPLETE ARTICLE: http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/developing-new-operas-is-an-art-in-itself/2013/10/16/f7849c26-3687-11e3-8a0e-4e2cf80831fc_story.html

“something I would never, could never do, in a more traditional concert setting”

October 2, 2013

Experimental performance artist Laurie Anderson takes us through her personal journey of The Blind (AOP’s co-production with Lincoln Center Festival 2013) in an interview with composer Lera Auerbach in this month’s Harper’s BAZAAR.

“After experiencing The Blind, I felt that my ears had been directly connected to my mind and that I had somehow heard the desperate and impossibly beautiful music of the bardo*.”

     *The bardo is a Buddhist concept about the sound of the interval between death and rebirth expressed in The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

To Read the Full Story: Lera Auberbach Interview on Opera The Blind – Harper’s BAZAAR 

Director John LaBouchardiere’s production of The Blind just recently wrapped up its first touring performances at the Trondheim Chamber Music Festival in Norway on September 25 & 26.


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