Nine leading opera creators to mentor Composers & the Voice fellows

November 20, 2015

C&V Chairs

BROOKLYN, NY – AOP (American Opera Projects) announces the nine “Artistic Chairs” who will provide one-on-one guidance to the Fellows of the 2015-16 Composers & the Voice training program.  Professional artists of high repute from the worlds of opera and musical theatre, the selected Chairs for the eighth season of Composers & the Voice are composers Ricky Ian Gordon (27, A Coffin in Egypt), Daron Hagen (Amelia, Shining Brow), Tobias Picker (American Tragedy, Dolores Claiborne), David T. Little (Dog Days, Soldier Songs) and Missy Mazzoli (Song from the Uproar, Vespers for a new Dark Age), librettists Michael Korie (Harvey Milk, Hopper’s Wife), Gene Scheer (An American Tragedy, Moby Dick), Royce Vavrek (JFK, Dog Days) and composer-librettist Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Séance on a Wet Afternoon).

The Composers & the Voice workshop series is a competitive biannual fellowship offered to composers, librettists, and composer/librettist teams that provides experience writing for the voice and opera stage. Created and led by Composers & the Voice Artistic Director Steven Osgood, the two-year fellowship includes a year of working with the company’s Resident Ensemble of Singers and Artistic Team followed by a year of continued promotion and development through AOP and its strategic partnerships. Since launching in 2002, C&V has fostered the development of 44 composers & librettists.

With each new group of fellows, sponsorships are named in honor of mentors and their support of Composers & the Voice. During the workshop session these “Composer & the Voice Chairs” make themselves available to our fellows for one-on-one discussions and feedback. Past chairs have included composers Mark Adamo, John Corigliano, Tan Dun, Jake Heggie, Lee Hoiby, Libby Larsen, John Musto, Richard Peaslee, Kaija Saariaho, and librettist Mark Campbell.

Librettist Mark Campbell (The Manchurian Candidate, Silent Night) gives a lecture to the 2015-16 C&V fellows. Photo by Steven Pisano for AOP.

Librettist Mark Campbell (The Manchurian Candidate, Silent Night) gives a lecture to the 2015-16 C&V fellows. Photo by Steven Pisano for AOP.

The composers and librettists selected for the eighth season began their year-long fellowship starting in September working closely with the company’s Resident Ensemble of Singers, an artistic team of music directors, guest composers, and instructors in drama and improvisation. All sessions are held in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, home of AOP. More information on this season’s participants can be found at www.aopopera.org/composers_voice.

Composers & the Voice is made possible in part by a generous multi-year award from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Victor Herbert Foundation sponsors one fellowship as The Victor Herbert Foundation Composers & The Voice Chair, created in memory of longtime opera supporter Lois C. Schwartz.


Gordon RickyRicky Ian Gordon (b. 1956 in Oceanside, NY) studied piano, composition and acting, at Carnegie Mellon University. After moving to New York City, he quickly emerged as a leading writer of vocal music that spans art song, opera, and musical theater. A highly prolific composer, Ricki Ian Gordon’s recent catalog includes Morning Star (2014, libretto by William Hoffman, Cincinnati Opera), 27 (2014, libretto by Royce Vavrek, Opera Theatre of St. Louis), A Coffin In Egypt (2014, libretto by Leonard Foglia, Houston Grand Opera, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and Opera Philadelphia), Rappahannock County (2011, libretto by Mark Campbell, Harrison Opera House), Sycamore Trees (2010, libretto by composer), and The Grapes of Wrath (2007 and 2010, libretto by Michael Korie, 2007, Minnesota Opera, 2010, The American Symphony Orchestra). Additional works: Green Sneakers (2008, libretto by the composer, Miami String Quartet), Orpheus and Euridice (2005), My Life with Albertine (2003), Night Flight To San Francisco and Antarctica (2000) from Tony Kushner’s Angels In America, Dream True (1999), States Of Independence (1992), The Tibetan Book of the Dead (1996), Only Heaven (1995). Upcoming and recent projects include the opera Intimate Apparel with Playwright, Lynn Nottage as a commissions from New York’s Metropolitan Opera, and an opera based on Giorgio Bassani’s novel, The Garden of the Finzi Continis with librettist Michael Korie. http://rickyiangordon.com


 

Hagen DarenDuring the course of his thirty-five years on the scene, Daron Hagen has become one of the most comprehensively experienced and knowledgeable theater composers of our time. Of his eleven regularly-revived operas, he has co-written all of the treatments, co-written several of the libretti, written the book and lyrics for his own commercial musical, stage directed several, conducted the cast recordings and premières of several, coached them all from the piano, and supervised set and lighting teams executing his designs. He has extensive experience playing in opera and musical theater pit orchestras, from the regional bus-and-truck level to Broadway; he’s served as a copyist, proofreader, arranger, and editor on Broadway, ghost-written film scores, and executed electro-acoustic soundscapes for integration into his own theatrical scores. He has served as a dramaturgical consultant for a dozen major operatic projects. Hagen has composed new works for the New York Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony and Opera, National Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Houston Symphony, and Buffalo Philharmonic. Collaborators include Nathan Gunn, Kate Lindsey, Robert Orth, Stephen Wadsworth, Leonard Bernstein, Robert Spano, JoAnn Falletta, Gary Graffman, Jaime Laredo, and Gerard Schwarz in premieres at the Louvre, Royal Albert Hall, and the Ullens Center (Beijing). He graduated Curtis and Juilliard. http://daronhagen.com


 

KORIE MichaelMichael Korie is a Tony-nominated American lyricist and librettist. Writing for musical theater, he created the lyrics to composer Scott Frankel’s music for Grey Gardens, Far From Heaven, Doll, Happiness, and Meet Mister Future. Their scores have been nominated for Tony and Drama Desk Awards, received The Outer Critics Circle Award, and have been produced on Broadway, Playwrights Horizons, Lincoln Center Theater, throughout the USA, in Europe and South America. In winter of 2016, Grey Gardens will make its London premiere. For opera, Korie adapted John Steinbeck’s novel for the libretto to The Grapes of Wrath, composer Ricky Ian Gordon, and created the original librettos to operas with composer Stewart Wallace including Harvey Milk, Hopper’s Wife, Where’s Dick?, and Kabbalah. His opera works have been produced at San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Minnesota Opera, New York City Opera, BAM Next Wave Festival, Carnegie Hall, and Disney Los Angeles Symphony Hall. Concert works include Gay Century Songbook with composer Larry Grossman at Carnegie Hall, and Positions 1956 with Composers & the Voice alumni composer Conrad Cummings at The Knitting Factory and Urban Arias. Korie’s lyrics have received the Edward Kleban Prize, Jonathan Larson Award, and the ASCAP Richard Rodgers Award. http://michaelkorie.com


 

Little David TDavid T. Little is “one of the most imaginative young composers” on the scene (The New Yorker) with “a knack for overturning musical conventions” (The New York Times). His operas Soldier Songs (PROTOTYPE) and Dog Days (Peak Performances/Beth Morrison Projects) have been widely acclaimed, “prov(ing) beyond any doubt that opera has both a relevant present and a bright future” (NYTimes). Recent/upcoming works include the grand opera JFK with Royce Vavrek (Fort Worth Opera/ALT), a new opera commissioned by the MET Opera/Lincoln Center Theater new works program, the music-theatre work Artaud in the Black Lodge (Beth Morrison Projects), AGENCY (Kronos), CHARM (Baltimore Symphony / Marin Alsop), Haunt of Last Nightfall (Third Coast Percussion), Hellhound (Maya Beiser), and new works for the London Sinfonietta, The Crossing/ICE, and eighth blackbird/The Kennedy Center. His music has been heard at LA Opera, Carnegie Hall, Park Avenue Armory, Bang On a Can Marathon, BAM, and Holland Festival, and 2015-16 brings performances at Atlanta Opera, LA Philharmonic, NYFOS, PROTOTYPE, Theater-Bielefeld, Theater-Schwerin, and more. Educated at Princeton and the University of Michigan, Little is co-founder of the New Music Bake Sale, serves on the Composition Faculty at Mannes-The New School, and is Composer-in-Residence with Opera Philadelphia, Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group. The founding artistic director of the ensemble Newspeak, his music can be heard on New Amsterdam and Innova labels. He is published by Boosey & Hawkes. www.davidtlittle.com


 

Mazzoli MissyRecently deemed “one of the more consistently inventive, surprising composers now working in New York” (New York Times) and “Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart” (Time Out New York), Missy Mazzoli has had her music performed globally by the Kronos Quartet, eighth blackbird, New York City Opera, the Minnesota Orchestra and many others. She is Composer-in-Residence with Opera Philadelphia, Gotham Chamber Opera and Music Theatre-Group, and in 2011-2012 was composer-in-residence with the Albany Symphony. In February 2012 Beth Morrison Projects presented Song from the Uproar, Missy’s first multimedia chamber opera, which had a sold-out run at venerable New York venue The Kitchen. The Wall Street Journal called this work “both powerful and new”, and the New York Times claimed that “in the electric surge of Ms. Mazzoli’s score you felt the joy, risk and limitless potential of free spirits unbound.” Recent months included the premiere of an extended work for her ensemble Victoire and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche, commissioned by Carnegie Hall, and new works performed by pianist Emanuel Ax, Kronos Quartet, the LA Philharmonic and the Detroit Symphony. With librettist Royce Vavrek, Missy is currently working on an operatic adaptation of Breaking the Waves, a 1996 film by Lars von Trier. Breaking the Waves will premiere at Opera Philadelphia in 2016. Missy recently joined the faculty at Mannes College of Music, and her works are published by G. Schirmer. http://missymazzoli.com


 

picker tobias

Tobias Picker, called “our finest composer for the lyric stage” (The Wall Street Journal), has composed works in all genres including five operas to date. Picker’s operas have been commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera, (Emmeline), The LA Opera, (Fantastic Mr. Fox), The Dallas Opera, (Thérèse Raquin), San Francisco Opera (Dolores Claiborne), and The Metropolitan Opera (An American Tragedy). His operas have gone on to be produced by New York City Opera, San Diego Opera, L’Opera de Montreal, Chicago Opera Theater, Covent Garden, Opera Holland Park, English Touring Opera and many other distinguished companies. In addition, Picker has composed numerous concert works, commissioned and performed by the greatest orchestras, ensembles and concert artists of our time, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, L’Orchestre de Paris, Munich Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Opéra de Montréal, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Vienna RSO, and Zurich Tonahalle, among others. His concert works include three symphonies, four piano concertos as well as concertos for violin, viola, cello, and oboe, and numerous other compositions. Mr. Picker has received numerous awards and prizes, including a Charles Ives Scholarship and Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2012. http://tobiaspicker.com


 

Scheer, GeneGene Scheer’s work is noted for its scope and versatility. With the composer Jake Heggie he has collaborated on a number of different projects, including the critically acclaimed 2010 Dallas Opera world premiere, Moby-Dick, starring Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab; Three Decembers (Houston Grand Opera), which starred Frederica von Stade; and the lyric drama To Hell and Back (Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra), which featured Patti LuPone. Other works by Scheer and Heggie include Camille Claudel: Into the fire, a song cycle premiered by Joyce di Donato and the Alexander String Quartet. Mr. Scheer worked as librettist with Tobias Picker on An American Tragedy, which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 2005. Their first opera, Thérèse Raquin, written for the Dallas Opera in 2001, was cited by Opera News as one of the ten best recordings of 2002.  Other recent collaborations include the lyrics for Wynton Marsalis’s It Never Goes Away, featured in Mr. Marsalis’s work Congo Square.  With the composer Steven Stucky, Mr. Scheer wrote the oratorio August 4, 1964. The work, recently nominated for a Grammy, was premiered by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 2008 and last season was performed by the orchestra, with Japp von Sweeden conducting, at Carnegie Hall. Also a composer in his own right, Mr. Scheer has written a number of songs for singers such as Renée Fleming, Sylvia McNair, Stephanie Blythe, Jennifer Larmore, Denyce Graves, and Nathan Gunn.  http://genescheer.com


Schwartz_Stephen_Schwartz01New York City native Stephen Schwartz has been a major force in the American Musical Theater since the early 1970’s, when he had three hit shows running on Broadway: Godspell (recipient of two Grammy Awards), Pippin, and The Magic Show. Schwartz went on to write the music and lyrics for The Baker’s Wife and contributed four songs to a musical version of Studs Terkel’s Working. More recently, he composed lyrics and music to the long-running Broadway smash, Wicked, which brought him another Grammy. Schwartz has become one of the best-known creators of animated film music, contributing Academy Award-winning lyrics to Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Pocahontas, and writing both the music and lyrics for DreamWorks’ Prince of Egypt which included the Academy Award-winning song, “When You Believe.” The song score of the 2007 film, Enchanted, contained three Oscar-nominated songs by Schwartz and composer Alan Menken. Among Schwartz’s best-known songs are “Corner of the Sky,” “Just Around the Riverbend,” “Colors of the Wind,” “Defying Gravity” and “Popular.” His first opera, Séance on a Wet Afternoon, was developed by American Opera Projects in its Frist Chance program. It premiered at Opera Santa Barbara in the fall of 2009 and was later produced by New York City Opera. http://stephenschwartz.com


 

Vavrek Royce

Royce Vavrek is a Brooklyn-based writer of opera, musical theater, and concert works.  His notable lyrics/libretti include Dog Days, Am I Born and Vinkensport, or the Finch Opera with David T. Little; 27 with Ricky Ian Gordon; Song from the Uproar with Missy Mazzoli; O Columbia with Gregory Spears; Strip Mall with Matt Marks; Yoani and The Hubble Cantata with Paola Prestini; Violations with Hannah Lash; and The Hunger Art and Maren of Vardø with Jeff Myers.  Upcoming projects include Stoned Prince with Hannah Lash for American Opera Projects; JFK with David T. Little for Fort Worth Opera/American Lyric Theater; Angel’s Bone with Du Yun for the Prototype Festival; Midwestern Gothic with Joshua Schmidt for Signature Theatre, Virginia; The Wild Beast of the Bungalow with Rachel Peters for Center for Contemporary Opera; Knoxville: Summer of 2015 with Ellen Reid for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Epistle with Julian Wachner for VisionIntoArt; The House Without a Christmas Tree with Ricky Ian Gordon for Houston Grand Opera and Breaking the Waves, an adaptation of the film by Lars von Trier, with Missy Mazzoli for Opera Philadelphia/Beth Morrison Projects. Royce is Co-Artistic Director with soprano Lauren Worsham of the opera-theater company The Coterie, and an alum of the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University (Montreal), the Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program at NYU, and American Lyric Theater’s Composer Librettist Development Program.


ABOUT THE PRODUCER

Founded in 1988, American Opera Projects is at the forefront of the contemporary opera movement, commissioning, developing, presenting, and producing opera and music theatre projects, collaborating with young, rising, and established artists, and engaging audiences in unique and transformative theatrical experiences. AOP has produced over 30 world premieres, including the Nathan Davis/Brendan Pelsue dance chamber opera Hagoromo starring Wendy Whelan (BAM, 2015), Kaminsky/Reed/Campbell’s As One (BAM, 2014), Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (Irondale Center, 2014), and Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (co-production with Lincoln Center Festival, 2013). Other notable premieres include Kimper/Persons’ Patience & Sarah (1998), Weisman/Rabinowitz’s Darkling (2006), Lee Hoiby’s This is the Rill Speaking (2008), and Phil Kline’s Out Cold, also at BAM (2012). AOP-developed operas that premiered with co-producers include Stefan Weisman’s The Scarlet Ibis at PROTOTYPE Festival (2015), Gregory Spears’s Paul’s Case at Urban Arias (2013) and PROTOTYPE Festival and Pittsburgh Opera (2014), Jack Perla’s Love/Hate at ODC Theater with San Francisco Opera (2012), 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 Opera Parallèle (2015).  www.aopopera.org

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Hagoromo curtain call raises over $1,000 for Dancers Responding to AIDS

November 20, 2015

Following the curtain call of AOP’s Hagoromo on November 6th, company member Jock Soto gave a heartfelt speech about the charity Dancers Responding to AIDS (DRA) and its mission. In just one night, attendees of Hagoromo gave almost $1,500 dollars to DRA.

Hagoromo bows

Dancers Responding to AIDS is a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS which has raised over $250 million since 1988. Broadway Cares utilizes the entertainment industry network to awards grants to social service programs and promote awareness, understanding, and public support for programs benefiting people with AIDS. Organizations supported by Broadway Cares includes Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic, 118 Food Service and Meal Delivery Programs, and 41 AIDS Service and Advocacy Organizations.

Founded in 1991, DRA was started by former Paul Taylor Dance Company members Denise Roberts Hurlin and Hernandez Cortez. This chapter was established for dancers who wished to support Broadway Cares.

Hagoromo’s sold-out world premiere run at the BAM Harvey concluded on November 8.


“Magic” chamber dance opera Hagoromo premieres in sold-out run at BAM

November 19, 2015
Hagoromo world premiere

Photo by Mark Stephen Kornbluth for AOP.

American Opera Project’s high-profile production Hagoromo combined dazzling new-opera, dance, puppetry, and fashion, for its sold-out World Premiere run this November at the BAM Harvey Theatre as part of BAM’s 2015 Next Wave Festival. In this dance-opera, an angel’s cloak falls to earth where a fisherman claims it. The angel performs her heavenly dance to reclaim her cloak and return to the heavens.

The multi-genre collaboration began after flutist Claire Chase, director of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) which appeared in Hagoromo, asked David Michalek to choreograph her solo recital.  “Then she suggested that they try something bigger. The germ of an idea was born,” Marina Harss explained in The New York Times. The music for Hagoromo was composed by ICE member Nathan Davis, with a libretto by Brendan Pelsue, commissioned by AOP. The vocalists for the new-opera were Katalin Karolyi, singing for the angel, and Peter Tantsits, who was the voice of the fisherman. The Brooklyn Youth Chorus was also featured in the ensemble, aiding plot development and commentary.

Apollinaire Scherr commended David Michalek‘s work in the Financial Times writing he “…has seamlessly integrated the worlds of experimental music, dance, theatre, opera, puppetry and fashion into a rich, sober whole.” David Michalek, known for his beautiful film work, bravely made his directing debut with the multi-genre Hagoromo, in collaboration with Bessie-award winning choreographer David Neumann.

Two of their performers were prior New York City ballet stars Wendy Whelan, and Jock Soto. Christina Pandolfi for Broadway World hailed Hagoromo “[A] multi-medium artistic portrait” which demonstrated “the sheer excellence of Whelan and Soto’s capacity for movement.”  Wendy Whelan‘s final heavenly dance cast a spell on the audience, with Alastair Macaulay with The New York Times elating “[Whelan] tips her torso strangely sideways, opens her palms quietly to the audience, or turns her head to regard Mr. Soto, we feel her magic.”

Wendy dancing

Photograph by Ioulex for The New Yorker

Two stars making their debut on the BAM Harvey Stage were the puppets which accompanied Wendy Whelan‘s final, spell-binding, dance. They seemed almost human to Andrew Blackmore-Dobbyn who wrote a review for Bachtrack. “The puppets “seemed to carry something essential of [Whelan’s] spirit when they moved with her synchronously. The power of those two puppets was such that I quickly forgot about the three black-clad and veiled operators that were required to make each of them dance.”

Arts Journal‘s Deborah Jowitt praised the creative team that “have together created moments of considerable beauty and imagination” including the “wonderfully effective” puppeteers and the “impressive” music of Nathan Davis that carried the dance of the “sensual” Soto and Whelan who “enters as smoothly as quiet water, extending one long leg and beautifully arched foot in a way that recalls Balanchine’s wish that a dancer should make her legs as flexible as an elephant’s trunk.”

“The results of this unusual collaboration were visually arresting, musically adventurous, dramatically taut, and choreographically appealing,” exclaimed Alexandra Ivanoff for the international news outlet Today’s Zaman. “Michalek’s clever use of stylistic features borrowed from the Noh theatre tradition matched up with Davis’ imaginative and programmatic palette of live sounds, both accompanimental and soloistic, generated the tricky energy flow needed to animate an essentially slow-motion visual life.” Ivanoff went on to praise soloists Tantsits and Karolyi who “employed their freakishly wide vocal ranges with both power and supreme subtlety throughout. The 20 girls of the youth chorus were astounding in their execution of a difficult score.”

Whelan and Soto dance in costumes by Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten. Photo by Mark Stephen Kornbluth for AOP.

Whelan and Soto dance in costumes by Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten. Photo by Mark Stephen Kornbluth for AOP.

Although the costumes were relatively simple, it was important that the angel’s cloak be as beautiful as possible. Vogue writer Kate Guadagnino observed “Naturally, a work whose plot hinges on an article of clothing also required an adept costume designer, and Michalek asked none other than Dries Van Noten.” The cloak was indeed heavenly. The gold, transparent, reflective material was all at once powerful, and luxurious.

Just as the fisherman gets a glimpse of heaven, so is the audience touched by an ethereal production. George Grella writes for NY Classical Review, “It’s a multimedia work that eschews the commonplace of video. Everything is live: music, dance, singing, narration, and puppetry. When all the elements are working at the same, high level, Hagoromo is magic, but there are also prosaic details and stretches that keep it earth-bound.”


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