New LGBTQ Operas Coming Out in Hard Times

February 23, 2017
as-one-pittsburgh

Taylor Raven, left, and Brian Vu portray Hannah, the transgender heroine of As One at Pittsburgh Opera. Photo by Renee Rosensteel.

In light of recent news from Washington, American Opera Projects (AOP) announces that of its 31 new operas in development, four are on LGBTQ topics. For AOP, this is not new. In 1998, AOP premiered the first opera ever to focus on a lesbian relationship, Patience & Sarah, by composer Paula M. Kimper, and librettist Wende Persons, three years after Houston Grand Opera’s premiere of Harvey Milk composed by Stewart Wallace to a libretto by Michael Korie.

Upcoming LGBTQ operas are:

While AOP’s roster of LGBTQ operas is growing, clearly in our era there is still significant progress to be made. At the same time, these operas are being embraced across the US. As One, the first opera about a transgender person, by artistic team Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell, and Kimberly Reed is now one of the most performed new operas in America. Following AOP’s premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, As One has had productions in Seattle, Washington D.C., Berkeley, Logan, UT, Berlin, and just last week, Pittsburgh, where the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called it “pertinent and moving,” with upcoming shows in San Diego, Denver, New Orleans, Long Beach, Kansas City, and more.

As One forces you to think, simultaneously challenging preconceptions and inspiring empathy.” – The New York Times

Opera has unfortunately been late to embrace contemporary works, especially ones that address current events and lifestyles. But it is encouraging to see that more and more opera companies recognize the need to be an art form that reflects the stories of our time. In recent years, audiences have seen successful premieres of LGBTQ-themed operas such as Paul’s Case, Before Night Falls, and A Letter to East 11th Street – all having received development in AOP’s First Chance program – as well as Fellow Travelers, Three Decembers, Brokeback Mountain, Prince of Players, Champion, and Angels in America.

At a time when the Trump Administration has removed the Obama-era guidance allowing trans people to select school restrooms according to gender choice, AOP will continue to actively pursue works like these for development and production.

AOP’s most recent world premiere Three Way “explores sex without moralizing” (The East Nashvillian) depicting modern sexuality in three short, comic one acts. The co-production with Nashville Opera, where it had its well-received premiere in January, will come to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in June 2017.

I’m here for an opera that explains to straight people what being trans- or cis-gender is. Hopefully, we as the audience come to a deeper understanding with them. – Schmopera.com‘s review of Three Way’s world premiere in Nashville.

For us to empathize with the struggles of others there can be no art form where their stories are not told. Giving every minority – of race, gender, country, political view, you name it – an opportunity to tell their story may seem impossible, but it is still the ideal. More immediately, we hold as a goal that a proliferation of these stories will allow opera audiences to recognize that the conflicts and lives of every person are relatable. And that the discovery of those inherent, relatable truths of our unified humanity makes enlightening, and exciting, entertainment.

Bloggers: Matt Gray & Annie Troy

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Gender-fluid couple Kyle (Jordan Rutter) and Tyler (Melisa Bonetti), left, get eyed by another couple in Three Way. Photo by Anthony Popolo.


Art Opening for a New Opera

February 10, 2017
Thursday, February 9, 2017

Art Opening for a New Opera

Rebecca Allan, Orange Mesa/Medanales, 2016, acrylic on paper, 15 x 17 inches

Rebecca Allan, Orange Mesa/Medanales, 2016, acrylic on paper, 15 x 17 inches

Following a snow-bound day, a crowd of arts and opera enthusiasts gathered at Meredith Ward Fine Art at 44 East 74 Street for the opening of Rebecca Allan‘s solo show, Rain in the Arroyo. Sales of paintings will support Brooklyn’s American Opera Projects and San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle in launching Today It Rains, a new opera about artist Georgia O’Keeffe by the creative team Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed that also created the most frequently performed contemporary opera in America in the past two years, As One. American Opera Projects is currently developing 28 new operas by contemporary composers. The exhibition continues through February 11.

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Chautauqua Opera Company and AOP announce Gity Razaz as 2017 Composer-in-Residence

February 6, 2017

The Chautauqua Opera Company continues a multi-year collaboration with American Opera Projects’ prestigious Composers & the Voice Fellowship Program

Gity Razaz joins the company as the 2017 Composer-in-Residence, writing three commissions that will receive world premieres during the summer season

Composer Gity Razaz. Photo by Rahima Nasa.

Composer Gity Razaz. Photo by Rahima Nasa.

2017 marks the second year of a multi-year collaboration between the Chautauqua Opera Company and Brooklyn’s American Opera Projects (AOP). Each year the Chautauqua Opera Company will invite one alumnus of AOP’s prestigious Composers & the Voice Fellowship Program to join the company for the 8-week summer season.

“The operatic voice is probably the most complicated and multi-faceted instrument a composer can tackle, and throughout history the most successful operatic composers have been continually immersed in writing for and working with singers. It is with this model that Composers & the Voice was designed, offering a select few composers the chance to work hands-on with the same singers and music directors over a 12-month period. I am tremendously proud of the composers who have come through the program, and am delighted to now be able to bring them into the Chautauqua community as they build their operatic careers,” says Steven Osgood, General and Artistic director of the Chautauqua Opera Company. Osgood is also Artistic Director for the Composers & the Voice Fellowship program, which he created in 2003.

The Chautauqua Opera Company has named Gity Razaz as the 2017 Composer-in-Residence. Hailed by the New York Times as “ravishing and engulfing,” Ms. Razaz’s music ranges from concert solo pieces to large symphonic works. With an ear for intense melodies and expanding harmonic language, Ms. Razaz’s compositions are often dramatically charged; as described by John Corigliano: “…her Middle-Eastern roots have merged with her Western sensibilities to produce music that is both original and startling.“ Ms. Razaz’ upcoming projects include a 60-minute ballet score for Moscow Theatre Ballet, which is scheduled for a world premiere in Moscow in June 2017, as well as a work for classical guitar duo commissioned by Duo Noir(e). Born in Tehran, Ms. Razaz started her musical studies in piano at a young age and began composing intuitively at age nine.

“As a full-time composer accustomed to working in solitude hours on end, I have always yearned for creative opportunities that gather and nurture a community of artists,” says Ms. Razaz. “I believe that my music finds more strength, depth and intensity when I live within a vibrant ecosystem of artists with diverse creative backgrounds. I am thrilled to add my voice to Chautauqua’s musical community this summer.”

American Opera Projects will commission three new pieces from Ms. Razaz, each of which will be premiered as part of Chautauqua Opera’s 2017 season, by members of its Young Artist Program, and then be presented in AOP’s subsequent New York City season. With texts drawn from and inspired by lecturers and speakers at the Chautauqua Institution, these new works will first appear on Chautauqua Opera’s “Afternoon of Song” recital series and their Opera Highlights concert with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra.

Chautauqua Opera’s first Composer-in-Residence, Jeremy Gill, describes his experience at Chautauqua during the 2016 season: “Spending the summer on the beautiful grounds, working closely every day with the wonderful coaching staff and Young Artists there, helping with and observing the creation of multiple productions from the first rehearsal to final performance: these all offered me a complete picture of the loving labors that go into each performance. Naturally, writing for the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and Young Artists under Steve Osgood’s baton was a highlight of the summer, but even more was the warm reception my work received from the community that, by then, I had become a member of.”

For more information about Gity Razaz, please visit her website, GityRazaz.com
For more information about Jeremy Gill, please visit his website, JeremyTGill.com
For more information about Chautauqua Opera’s Composer-in-Residence program, please visit ciweb.org/composer-in-residence

More about The Composers & the Voice Fellowship Program:
The Composers & the Voice Fellowship Program is a two-year fellowship for composers and librettists that provides experience writing for the voice and opera stage, created and led by Artistic Director Steven Osgood. The 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 54 composers & librettists.

Recent and upcoming world premieres that began development in Composers & the Voice include Gregory Spears’ 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), Rob Paterson’s Three Way (Nashville Opera/BAM, 2017), Daniel Sonenberg’s The Summer King (Pittsburgh Opera, 2017), and Sidney Boquiren’s Independence Eve (Urban Arias, 2017).

The Composers & the Voice program is made possible in part by a generous multi-year award from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

More about American Opera Projects:
At the forefront of the contemporary opera movement for a quarter-century, American Opera Projects creates, develops and presents opera and music theatre projects collaborating with young, rising and established artists in the field. AOP has been a lead producer on over 30 world premieres; recent highlights include Kaminsky/Reed/Campbell’s As One (2014), Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (2013), and the dance opera Hagoromo at BAM 2015 Next Wave Festival. www.aopopera.org


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