Pittsburgh Opera announces AOP operas ‘The Summer King’ and ‘As One’ for their 2016/17 season

February 26, 2016

THE SUMMER KING by Daniel Sonenberg • World Premiere: April 29, May 2, 5 & 7, 2017
AS ONE by Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell, and Kimberly Reed • Pennsylvania Premiere: February 18, 21, 24 & 26, 2017

Pittsburgh Opera has announced it will mount the staged World Premiere of The Summer King in April 2017, with a cast to include mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves and previous AOP artists Kenneth Kellogg and Jasmine Muhammad, direction by Sam Helfrich, and with Pittsburgh Opera Music Director Antony Walker conducting. In addition, AOP’s critically-acclaimed chamber opera As One will make its Pennsylvania debut as part of Pittsburgh Opera’s 2016-17 season.

The Summer King, has been developed with AOP since composer Daniel Sonenberg participated in the first iteration of AOP’s training fellowship program Composers and the Voice in 2003. It was followed by AOP First Chance workshop performances in Brooklyn, at the Manhattan School of Music, and at the University of Southern Maine (USM), where Dan is currently Associate Professor and Resident Composer. The opera received its world premiere in concert form in Portland, Maine in May 2014, in a production sponsored by Portland Ovations, USM and American Opera Projects.

Pittsburgh Opera writes “The very first world premiere in [our] distinguished 78 year history hits close to home. The Summer King tells the story of baseball legend Josh Gibson story. Josh went from the sandlots of Pittsburgh’s North Side to the pinnacle of greatness in the Negro Leagues, before ultimately being enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.” The opera skillfully portrays the complex inner conflict Gibson faced when the free-living, home-run king was asked to risk his respect to be an activist for integration. Tragically, Gibson died just months before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

“Watching an opera grow from an idea in a Composers & the Voice session to a fully staged World Premiere at a house like Pittsburgh is a heart-warming experience for AOP,” said AOP Producing Director. “We are thrilled we could be there every step of the way. We knew from the beginning that this was a very special story, one truly worthy of operatic treatment. We performed scenes on the sidewalks of Brooklyn and crowds couldn’t help but be drawn in. We know that this story can reach new audiences that would never think opera tells stories relevant to their lives. And we know Pittsburgh Opera feels the same.”

"The Summer King"

The Summer King was commissioned by Portland Ovations, with development by American Opera Projects, and deeply appreciated continuing support for the Pittsburgh Opera world premiere from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Summer King has received major support from American Opera Projects, the National Endowment for the Arts, Bob Crewe Foundation, Maine Arts Commission and University of Southern Maine. The Summer King received its first public presentation as a concert performance on May 8, 2014 at Merrill Auditorium, Portland, Maine under the auspices of Portland Ovations in collaboration with the University of Southern Maine.

RELATED READING: “In its 78th season, a world premiere for Pittsburgh Opera” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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AS ONE

AOP’s As One continues to sweep the country following performances in San Francisco, Washington DC, Utah, and the AOP World Premiere in Brooklyn. Pittsburgh Opera will present the critically acclaimed opera by composer Laura Kaminsky and co-librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed as part of its Second Stage series in February 2017 and will star Pittsburgh Opera’s Resident Artists. In As One, a mezzo-soprano and a baritone depict the experiences of its sole transgender protagonist, Hannah, as she endeavors to resolve the discord between herself and the outside world.

AS ONE photo 3 by Ken Howard for AOP

Commissioned and developed by American Opera Projects, As One received generous funding in its creation from OPERA America’s Opera Discovery Grants for Female Composers Program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Art Works, Dr. Coco Lazaroff, Lynn Loacker and Judith O. Rubin.

As One will also be presented by Opera Colorado in the 2016-17 season and will be featured in Montreal at OPERA America’s annual opera conference as part of its New Works Forum in May 2016.

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Fort Greene Park to be commemorated in student operas in new AOP and NYU Tisch partnership

February 19, 2016

Randall Eng, composer and Assistant Arts Professor at Tisch’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program

By the end of this spring, one of New York City’s most historic and vibrant neighborhoods will be commemorated in song. And not just one song, but an entire series of new operas. This spring, students in the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (GMTWP) at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts will learn the ins and outs of opera writing when Brooklyn’s American Opera Projects (AOP) partners with the esteemed arts school for a new “Opera Writing Workshop.”  Led by composer Randall Eng, the workshop is an advanced class for composers and librettists of GMTWP at Tisch who will collaborate with an ensemble of eight professional opera singers and two music directors to create short operas under the mentorship of AOP, an opera company in Fort Greene that has developed and premiered contemporary operas for over 25 years.

For the inaugural workshop, AOP and Eng have assigned the students to create operas inspired by the Brooklyn neighborhood Fort Greene and the historic Fort Greene Park, the latter of which has been home to a graveyard of Revolutionary War soldiers as well as a source of inspiration for writers Richard Wright and Marianne Moore and filmmaker Spike Lee. In addition to the musical team, AOP will provide the students with special access to staff from NYC Parks and Fort Greene Park Conservancy.  NYU associate professor and opera director Sam Helfrich will direct the AOP workshop singers in the site-specific scenes being created with the participation of his design students in Tisch’s Design for Stage and Film Department. The operas will be performed in conjunction with American Opera Projects at GMTWP’s Black Box Theatre on May 7, 2016 and in Fort Greene Park itself on May 8, 2016.

AOP General Director Charles Jarden stated, “In this partnership with NYU, AOP is broadening our mission to help mentor creators of opera and music theater work by attracting grad students at one of the best schools in the country.  This project is a great complement to one of our core programs, Composers & the Voice and Randall Eng is one of the alums of that program, which makes the partnership especially valuable and gratifying for us.  We are deeply grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and to the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs for on-going generous support.”

As of February 1st there are twenty-five (25) students enrolled in the class.

Crowds gather in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn’s first park and subject for NYU’s Opera Writing Workshop composers.


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