AOP Receives OPERA America Grant to Commission New Opera About the Chinese Zodiac

Opera Grant for Female Composers awarded to double-bill by composer Wang Jie currently in development at AOP for 2017 premiere at Festival Opera

American Opera Projects (AOP) is proud to announce it is the recipient of an OPERA America Female Commissioning Grant in support of a new double bill chamber opera by composer Wang Jie currently titled To Kill That Bird. The two one act operas of To Kill That Bird are united by the theme of strong female artists contending against the oppressive bureaucracy of the Zodiac Animal overlords.

AOP will begin workshops of the opera in 2015 through its First Chance program, which allows composers and librettists to hear their work in part or in full for the first time before an audience, with live singers and accompaniment. The production is slated to debut in 2017 at Festival Opera in Walnut Creek, CA, to be conducted by Festival Opera’s longtime artistic director, Michael Morgan.

First premiered in concert at Carnegie Hall in 2010 where it was called “by turns whimsical, campy, tragic, haunting” by The New Criterion, the first half of To Kill That Bird, the 30-minute “From the Other Sky,” portrays the fable of how the thirteen animals of the Chinese Zodiac downsized to twelve. Experiencing human compassion for the first time, this thirteenth Zodiac Goddess loses her place in the heavens to share her musical powers with mankind. “From the Other Sky” was commissioned by American Composers Orchestra/Mr. Paul Underwood.

The 70-minute second bill “From the Land Fallen” tantalizes the audience with a tragic and haunting transgender love story. New York City in a parallel universe, the Zodiac Animals rules the human world headed by the Rat. As human rebellion erupts, a war widow finds her late husband’s spirit embodied in a deranged woman and falls in love with her.

OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers provide support for the development of new operas by women, both directly to individual composers and to opera companies producing their work, advancing the important objective to increase diversity across the field.  As part of this grant program made possible through the generosity of The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, AOP-sponsored composers Laura Kaminsky (As One) and Sheila Silver (A Thousand Splendid Suns) were each awarded in 2014 a Female Discovery grant, which supported the production of new opera by emerging female composers.

Composer Wang Jie

Composer Wang Jie

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

Part cartoon character, part virtuoso, musical whiz kid WANG JIE has spent the last decade nudging serious music and its concert audiences into spectacular frontiers. One day she spins a few notes into large symphonic forms, the next she calls grotesque Zodiac animals to the opera stage. She’ll even tempt comedy writer Paul Simms to help her coax belly laughs from an otherwise sedate Opera America audience with “Lord? Please Don’t Let Me Die in a Funny Way”. Her stylistic versatility is a rare trait in today’s composers. Most recently, her Symphony No. 2, commissioned and premiered by Detroit Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin was streamed live to a worldwide audience. The showcase of her tragic opera Nannan by New York City Opera’s VOX led to the production of her chamber opera Flown, commissioned and produced by Music-Theatre Group. Having won the Underwood Composers Commission, her concert opera “From the Other Sky” was the centerpiece of the American Composers Orchestra’s season opening concert at Carnegie Hall. Jie holds honors from ASCAP, American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, NYU, Opera America, among others. http://wangjiemusic.com

ANNE BABSON, a Coney Island poet recently transplanted to Mississippi, was nominated for a Pushcart for work in The Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal and Illya’s Honey. She has won awards from Columbia, Atlanta Review, Grasslands Review, and other reviews. Her work has been published in the US, in England, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and Turkey. She was included in a British anthology of the best working American poets today entitled Seeds of Fire (Smokestack Books, 2008) and is another British Anthology related to the current riots in England entitled Emergency Verse (Caparison Books, 2011). She has four chapbooks, over a hundred journal publications, including work recently featured in in Iowa Review, Barrow Street, Atlanta Review, and many others. She is featured on a compilation hip-hop CD–The Cornerstone (New Lew Music, 2007). She has read her work for national radio programs and has appeared on television in the United States and in Taiwan.

 

ABOUT THE PRESENTERS:

AOP (American Opera Projects, Inc.) is a driving force behind the revitalization of contemporary opera and musical theater in the United States through its exclusive devotion to creating, developing, and presenting new American opera and music theatre projects. AOP has produced over 25 world premieres, including Kaminsky/Campbell/Reed’s As One (2014) and Phil Kline’s Out Cold (2012) at BAM, and Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (2013), Nicholas Brooke’s Tone Test (2004), and Kimper/Persons’ Patience & Sarah (1998) at Lincoln Center Festival. Other notable premieres include Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (2014), Weisman/Rabinowitz’s Darkling (2006), and Lee Hoiby’s This is the Rill Speaking (2008). AOP-developed operas that premiered with co-producers: Weisman/Cote’s The Scarlet Ibis at PROTOTYPE Festival (2015), Gregory Spears’s Paul’s Case at Urban Arias (2013) and PROTOTYPE Festival (2014), Stephen Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon at New York City Opera (2011), Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at London’s Royal Opera House (2011), and Jorge Martín’s Before Night Falls at Fort Worth Opera (2010). UPCOMING in 2015: As One at Caine College of the Arts (Logan, UT) and West Edge Opera (Berkeley, CA); Heart Of Darkness at Opera Parallèle (San Francisco, CA); Paradise Interrupted at Spoleto Festival USA (Charleston, SC); The Blind at Central City Opera (Central City, Denver, Aspen and Boulder, CO). www.operaprojects.org

Founded in 1991, FESTIVAL OPERA has focused on developing innovative and creative productions of classic opera from the standard repertory, and has augmented that vision in recent years with rarely-heard productions, commissions, and new works, endeavoring to bridge to diverse members of the community with meaningful stories and music. As Festival Opera enters its 25th season, the company remains committed to bringing extraordinary opera to residents of San Francisco’s East Bay communities. In 2015, the company will stage the West coast premiere of Jack Perla’s River of Light in a double bill with Gustav Holst’s Savitri, as well as a main stage production of Ariadne auf Naxos, directed and conducted by maestro Michael Morgan, Festival Opera’s longtime artistic director. Festival Opera showcases emerging American artists, and presents fully-staged opera in Walnut Creek, California, at the Lesher Center for the Arts, chamber operas in smaller venues, and a free Opera in the Park in June in Walnut Creek’s Civic Park. www.festivalopera.org

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