Wendy Whelan, ICE Ensemble lead AOP World Premiere at BAM

May 21, 2015

AOP returns to the Brooklyn Academy of Music this November with the world premiere of Hagoromo, a multidisciplinary work of dance-chamber opera inspired by one of the masterpieces of Japanese Noh drama. Reuniting former NYCB principal dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto, Hagoromo is conceived and directed by contemporary artist David Michalek (Slow Dancing) and will feature contralto Katalin Károlyi and tenor Peter Tantsits, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

Dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto star in the world premiere of HAGOROMO. Photo by David Michalek.

Dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto star in the world premiere of HAGOROMO. Photo by David Michalek.

 

The ancient tale of Hagoromo involves a desolate island and the fateful encounter between a poor fisherman (Soto) and a fallen angel (Whelan). A thoroughly contemporary vision, this retelling is a bold experiment in hybrid forms: a chamber opera composed by Nathan Davis and librettist Brendan Pelsue, with dance choreographed by David Neumann, puppetry by Chris M. Green, dramaturgy by Norman Frisch, and costumes created by the celebrated Belgian designer Dries Van Noten.

Hagoromo premieres at BAM’s Harvey Theater (651 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY 11217) Nov 5—7 at 7:30pm and Nov 8 at 3pm as part of BAM’s 2015 Next Wave Festival. This will be AOP’s first show in the Harvey and third world premiere at BAM, following Phil Kline’s Out Cold (2012) and Kaminsky/Campbell/Reed’s As One (2014), both of which performed at BAM’s Fisher Center.

www.bam.org/dance/2015/hagoromo
www.operaprojects.org/hagoromo


DAVID MICHALEK (director, conception)
David Michalek’s work ranges from photography, video/sound and light installations and live performance to site-specific works of public art. His concentration has been closely tied to his interest in the contemporary person, which he explores through the use of relational aesthetics, performance techniques, storytelling, movement, and gesture. His work in video has been focused on capturing marginal moments —carefully staged — that develop density with minimal action through the interplay of image, sound, and most importantly, time. Exploring notions of durational and rhythmic time (as opposed to the referential time used in cinema) in both form and content, his works engages in intimate yet open narratives. His work has been shown nationally and internationally with recent art exhibitions or performances at the Brooklyn Museum, the LA Music Center, The Louvre, The Cleveland Museum, Covent Garden, Harvard University, Sadler’s Wells, Trafalgar Square, Opera Bastille, Venice Biennale, Yale University, The Kitchen, Tanz Im August, WOMAdelaide, Lincoln Center and the Edinburgh Festival. David Michalek is a visiting faculty member at Yale Divinity School, where he lectures on religion and the arts. www.davidmichalek.net

NATHAN DAVIS (composer)
Nathan Davis “writes music that deals deftly and poetically with timbre and sonority” (NYTimes). Lincoln Center inaugurated the TullyScope Festival with the premiere of Nathan’s landmark work Bells and presented other premieres at the Mostly Mozart Festival. Commissioned by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Calder Quartet, Yarn/Wire, La Jolla Symphony Chorus, Steven Schick, Donaueschinger Musiktage, and the Ojai Festival (with sound sculptor Trimpin), Nathan’s music has been performed at NYC’s Carnegie Hall, Park Avenue Armory, Miller Theatre, LPR, Roulette, in a portrait concert at Spoleto USA, and internationally at Darmstadt, Helsinki Musica Nova, Aspekte Salzburg, and Acht Brücken Köln. He has received awards from Meet The Composer, Fromm Foundation, Copland Fund, Jerome Foundation, American Music Center, and MATA. With Phyllis Chen he scored Sylvia Milo’s acclaimed monodrama The Other Mozart. CDs of his music include The Bright and Hollow Sky, one of TimeOut NY’s top 5 classical albums of 2011. http://www.nathandavis.com

WENDY WHELAN (dancer, The Angel)
“America’s greatest contemporary ballerina.” ~ The New York Times
Wendy Whelan was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, where at the age of three she began taking dance classes with Virginia Wooton, a local teacher. In 1981 she received a scholarship to the summer course at the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet and a year later she moved to New York to become a full¬time student there. She was invited to become a member of the New York City Ballet corps de ballet in 1986 and was promoted to principal dancer in 1991. Whelan has performed a wide spectrum of the Balanchine repertory and worked closely with Jerome Robbins on many of his ballets. She has originated featured roles in 13 ballets for Christopher Wheeldon, as well as in the ballets of William Forsythe, Alexei Ratmansky, Wayne McGregor, Jorma Elo, Shen Wei, Jerome Robbins and Twyla Tharp. In 2007, Whelan was nominated for an Olivier Award and a Critics Circle Award for her performances with Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. She received the 2007 Dance Magazine Award, and in 2009 was given a Doctorate of Arts, honoris causa, from Bellarmine University. In 2011, she was honored with both The Jerome Robbins Award and a Bessie Award for her Sustained Achievement in Performance. In 2013, she premiered her first original production called Restless Creature at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Restless Creature has since toured to London and is currently on a 2015 tour across the US. Whelan was recently appointed an Artistic Associate at New York’s City Center. She resides in New York City with her husband, the artist David Michalek.

JOCK SOTO (dancer, Hakuryo)
Jock Soto, who is half Navajo Indian and half Puerto Rican, was born in New Mexico and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Mr. Soto’s extensive repertory at New York City Ballet included principal roles in numerous works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Peter Martins. He also inspired the creation of roles in many new ballets, including Peter Martins’s A Schubertiad (1984), Ecstatic Orange (1987), Fearful Symmetries (1990), Jazz(Six Syncopated Movements) (1993), Sinfonia (1993), and Morgen (2001); Christopher Wheeldon’s Slavonic Dances (1997), Mercurial Maoeuvres (2000), Polyphonia (2001), Morphoses (2002), Liturgy (2003), Shambards (2004), and After the Rain (2005); and Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s Chiaroscuro (1994). After an acclaimed 24-year performing career, he retired from dancing in June 2005. Mr. Soto returned to the stage in May 2007 to originate the role of Lord Capulet in Peter Martins’s new production of Romeo + Juliet for New York City Ballet. Mr. Soto’s life is the subject of a new documentary by filmmaker Gwendolen Cates, Water Flowing Together, that explores Mr. Soto’s roots and documents the final years of his performing career with New York City Ballet. He has been a member of the School of American Ballet’s faculty since 1996.

THE INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY ENSEMBLE (ICE)
The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), described by the New York Times as “one of the most accomplished and adventurous groups in new music,” is dedicated to reshaping the way music is created and experienced. With a modular makeup of 35 leading instrumentalists, performing in forces ranging from solos to large ensembles, ICE functions as performer, presenter, and educator, advancing the music of our time by developing innovative new works and new strategies for audience engagement. ICE redefines concert music as it brings together new work and new listeners in the 21st century.

DAVID NEUMANN (choreographer)
As artistic director of Advanced Beginner Group, Neumann’s work has been presented in New York at PS 122, Dance Theater Workshop, Central Park Summer Stage, Celebrate Brooklyn, Symphony Space, The Whitney at Altria, The Kitchen, and New York Live Arts. David Neumann and Advanced Beginner Group have received four Bessie Awards, several grants including Creative Capital, BUILD, Rockefeller and MAP funds. In recent years, Neumann has been awarded a 2011 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award for Dance, a 2013 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Choreography and a 2014 MacDowell Fellowship. He was recently awarded a 2014 NDP Production Grant. More recently, Neumann directed Geoff Sobelle’s ‘Object Lesson’ at BAM and choreographed Soho Rep’s Obie Award winning production of An Octoroon.

CHRIS M. GREEN (puppetry)
Chris M. Green is a Brooklyn-based designer, performer, composer, and director. His theatrical, sound, and installation works have been presented over the past 18 years in venues including Lincoln Center, New York City Center, National Geographic Museum, La Jolla Playhouse, St. Anne’s Warehouse, Goethe Institute (Delhi), Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Teatro del Lago (Chile) among others. His Brooklyn-based design studio Chris Green Kinetics has received awards from the American Association of Museums, Themed Entertainment Association, and AIA. Recent honors include Creative Capital Award (2009), MacDowell Fellowship (2012), and LMCC Process Space residency (2013). Currently, Green is developing his new play ‘American Weather’ through the HERE Resident Artist and Dream Music Programs with support from the Jim Henson Foundation. Along with wife Erin K. Orr, Green teaches an intensive performance workshop called ‘The Language of Things’ both nationally and internationally. He is honored to be on Hagoromo’s creative team.

DRIES VAN NOTEN (costumes)
Dries Van Noten sells his Men’s, Women’s and Accessories collections all over the world. In addition to his boutiques in Antwerp, Paris, Singapore, Kuwait, Hong Kong and Tokyo, Dries Van Noten works in partnership with some four hundred boutiques in cities such as New York, London, Milan, Berlin, and Moscow. In 2009, Dries was awarded Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in Paris; the Flemish Chamber of Commerce (VOKA) inducted him into the Galerie des Eminents; the Flemish Royal Academy of Belgium gifted him with the Gold Medal (“Gouden Penning”), and the Couture Council of the Museum at FIT in New-York honoured him with the “Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion”. In 2014 the work of Dries Van Noten, was featured at the musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. “Inspirations” is the very first exhibition devoted to the artist’s work. In November 2014, Dries Van Noten was appointed president of the jury of the 7th edition of the “A Shaded View on Fashion Film” Festival (ASVOFF). In 2015, the “Inspirations” exhibition moved to Antwerp’s MoMu. This is an evolution in content and expression of the exhibition in Paris devoted to the designer’s work.www.driesvannoten.be


US premiere of Heart of Darkness has sold-out run in San Francisco

May 4, 2015

On May 2, Opera Parallèle presented the US premiere of the AOP-developed opera Heart of Darkness at San Francisco’s trendy industrial Z-space. The new production by Brian Staufenbiel featuring designs by artist Matt Kish and conducted by Nicole Paiement sold out each of its four performances.

Composed by Grammy-nominated Tarik O’Regan, using a libretto by Tom Phillips, the opera is based on the novel by Joseph Conrad, and explores the excesses and depravities of European colonialism in the African Congo. AOP, in conjuction with OperaGenesis, started developing the opera in 2006. In 2011 critics raved for the sold-out world premiere at London’s Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio.  At last it has arrived to the US and is gathering more critical acclaim:

From San Francisco Chronicle:

“the kaleidoscopic inventiveness of O’Regan’s score”

“In O’Regan’s music — dexterously conducted by Artistic Director Nicole Paiement and sung by a splendid cast — the rich feints and ambiguities of Conrad’s tale find sonorous expression. A veil of uncertainty often settles over the music, thanks to shifting instrumental textures and a harmonic palette that seems inclined to change direction at a moment’s notice, like a rising mist off the water.”

From Bachtrack:

“O’Regan’s fine music was complemented by the Opera Parallèle’s thoughtful production and a superb set of musicians under Nicole Paiement’s magical baton.” [4 out of 5 stars]

From San Francisco Classical Voice:

“[Heart of Darkness’s] brevity and eloquence, as well as the small forces it requires, make it a natural for adventurous opera companies everywhere. … O’Regan creates a continuously shifting musical tapestry and many gorgeous effects. His orchestration is exceptionally beautiful [and] consistently inventive.”

From San Jose Mercury News:

“[Composer Tarik O’Regan], often compared to Benjamin Britten, employs a beguiling neo-tonal palette, and this score offered plenty of evidence of his skill at writing for orchestra.”

Shawnette Sulker and Philip Skinner in Opera Parallèle’s U.S. premiere of Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at Z Space. Photo: Steve DiBartolomeo

Listen to composer Tarik O’Regan on San Francisco public radio discuss the opera’s new production and the importance of AOP’s development process. (Interview begins at 6:00.)


AS ONE librettist takes NY Times through a day in the life of a transgender person

May 4, 2015

As One co-librettist and transgender filmmaker Kimberly Reed has created a video for The New York Times showing a day in her life – specifically April 7, when the AOP-commissioned opera opened at Utah State University. In the video, Reed shows glimpses of the various ways she has introduced the quotidian stories of transgender individuals – through documentaries, news interviews, spoken word performances, and now the critically-praised opera As One.

Reed explains, “It’s not unusual for me to be the first transgender person someone has known. I’m happy to be in that position, because the best way to dispel misunderstanding and increase empathy for The Other is to simply get to know someone. … For this video essay, I wanted to let you get to know a real, live trans person. I decided to record the day leading up to the premiere of an opera, As One, for which I created a film and co-wrote the libretto.”

View the video:

As One premiered in September 2014 in a production by AOP at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Fisher Center. The production toured to the Caine College of the Arts at Utah State University in April 2015. A new production of As One by West Edge Opera will open in July 2015.


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