AOP receives OPERA America Innovation Grant to expand training programs

June 6, 2017

AOP is proud to announce that it has been awarded an Innovation Grant to expand its composer-librettist training curriculum to academic music-theater programs, serving as a potential model for other schools and conservatories.

AOP’s training curriculum was pioneered with the creation of Composers & the Voice in 2002. Conceived by C&V’s current Artistic Director Steven Osgood, AOP’s in-house training program will enter its ninth season in Fall 2017. C&V brings together emerging opera composers and librettists and professional opera singers in private workshops to learn the craft of writing for the operatic voice and stage. The curriculum was adapted by C&V composer alum Randall Eng in partnership with AOP in 2015 to create the Advanced Opera Lab for students in the NYU/Tisch Graduate Musical Theater Program. The Innovation grant will continue this trajectory by supporting the codification of a curriculum for schools and conservatories that rarely provide opportunities for learning composition for the voice. In addition, the grant will support the creation of six new site-specific works on the theme of “New York Stories” that will emerge out of the partnerships between AOP and these institutions.

AOP was one of 27 opera companies around the nation to receive Innovation grant awards from the organization. Launched last fall, OPERA America’s Innovation Grants support exceptional projects that have the capacity to strengthen the field’s most important areas of practice, including artistic vitality, audience experience, organizational effectiveness and community connections. These grants invest up to $1.5 million annually in OPERA America’s Professional Company Members, enabling organizations of all sizes to increase their commitment to experimentation and innovation, as well as contribute to field-wide learning.

“Thanks to the tremendous generosity of the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, our member companies receive support to pursue new thinking and experimentation — to expand the boundaries of their current practices and adapt to an ever-changing field,” stated Marc A. Scorca, president and CEO of OPERA America in the press release. “These grants benefit not only the recipients but the entire art form: Through the lessons gleaned from the funded initiatives, companies throughout North America will be able to borrow and adapt good ideas, spreading the learning field-wide.”

NYU/AOP Opera Lab Cast, Creators, Designers, and Instructors at the May 14 performances of their opera scenes. International House, NYC. Photo by Steven Pisano.

NYU/AOP Opera Lab “Final Round”. International House, NYC. Photo by Steven Pisano.

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AOP Composer-in-Residence Laura Kaminsky receives gold medal of honor from the President of Poland

May 9, 2016

NEW YORK – On Wednesday, May 4th, our beloved Composer-in-Residence Laura Kaminsky was decorated with the Złoty Krzyż Zasługi (Gold Cross of Merit) of the Republic of Poland, one of the highest civilian medals awarded by the President, for her innovative presentations of Polish music in the U.S. over the past decade.

Laura’s love of—and knowledge about—20th century Polish music began in 1996 when she served as director of the European Mozart Academy, and spent a year touring around Poland and other neighboring countries in Central and Eastern Europe, presenting chamber music concerts to widely diverse audiences, reaching small villagers and leading diplomats alike. Years later, as the director of Symphony Space, Laura partnered with Ania Perzanowska, the director of music programming at the Polish Cultural Institute to incorporate music by Polish composers and performances by Polish musicians into Symphony Space programming over a period of 7 years.

In her acceptance speech before those gathered at the Polish Consulate, Laura spoke excitedly of plans to continue her work with the Institute in the future. “And now, a new conversation has begun with the Polish Cultural Institute and American Opera Projects, where I serve as Composer-in-Residence, about continuing this practice of sharing Polish musical culture here in the U.S., and hopefully, in reciprocity, to bring our contemporary American music to Poland. For me, bringing people together across cultures to share their art is among the best ways to bridge barriers, forge new understandings, and, simply, to make the world a better place. It is ennobling and humbling at the same time, and the work I have been permitted to do in collaboration with my colleagues from Poland has been enormously gratifying work that I have done.” Referring to the ceramic cup purchased as a keepsake during her transformative trip to Poland in 96’, Laura concluded by saying, “The beauty of my little hand painted Polish coffee cup lifts me every day – it is truly as simple as that– the beauty of art in a cup, or a poem, or a song, or a string quartet – from one culture to the next. It makes the world a better place.”


Stephen Schwartz – a mentor for artists, a leader for the arts

June 4, 2015

b_Stephen_Schwartz01Stephen Schwartz, composer of Wicked, Pippin, Godspell, and the AOP-developed opera Séance on a Wet Afternoon, will receive a 2015 Isabelle Stevenson award at the Tony Awards this Saturday, June 7th, for his outstanding commitment to emerging artists.  Each year, the award is given out to “an individual from the theatre community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations, regardless of whether such organizations relate to the theatre.”

“Stephen’s successes span far beyond the Broadway stage through his commitment to fostering the next generation of musical theatre actors, lyricists and composers. We are thrilled to celebrate his countless triumphs with this honor,” said Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of The Broadway League, and Heather Hitchens, President of the American Theatre Wing, in a statement.

AOP can certainly attest to Stephen’s incredible generosity, especially in his tireless support of young artists. In addition to his work with ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop, ASCAP Foundation and as President of the Dramatists Guild, for the past eight years, Stephen has donated his time and wisdom as a mentor for AOP’s Composers & the Voice Series, helping such young composers as Gregory Spears (Paul’s Case, Fellow Travelers) and Zachary Redler (The Memory Show, Susan Smith) during and after their fellowships in the AOP training program.

Gregory Spears, C&V 2007-08

“Working with Stephen Schwartz while writing music as part of AOP’s Composers and the Voice program was a thrilling experience. Having such a dramaturgically-minded composer to consult with proved invaluable as I was learning to write operatic scenes that communicate a story clearly. His dictum to “simplify and clarify” is something I think about every day as a composer, whether writing a melody, voicing a chord, or pacing a scene. His music and his generosity of spirit are inspiring.”

Zachary Redler, C&V 2011-13

“Stephen Schwartz and his work has made a profound impact on who I am as a composer and a musician.  Not only have I been playing his work since elementary school, but his mentorship during the 2011-13 Composers and the Voice program helped put the world into which I was entering in perspective.  As a composer coming from an orchestral background but practically a primarily musical theatre world of experience, his insight into how best to enter the operatic world proved invaluable. Not only did he offer advice on our operatic work, but he took time out of his extremely busy schedule to read, listen to and comment on one of Sara and my new musicals as well.  He is a true mentor and I am so grateful of his talents and stewardship for which he is receiving this special Tony.”

Steven Osgood, Artistic Director of Composers & the Voice and conductor of Séance on a Wet Afternoon at New York City Opera, confirmed, “Stephen Schwartz has been a beloved mentor for AOP’s Composers and the Voice Fellowship program.  He is honest, generous with his ideas and opinions, self-less, and remarkably articulate in defining the craft that goes into creating new music theater.  Through his approach to work he provides an invaluable model for today’s emerging composers and librettists.  I can think of no-one more deserving of the Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award, and congratulate him heartily.”

The 2015 Tony Awards will be broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City, on Sunday, June 7th, 2015 (8:00 – 11:00 p.m. ET/PT time delay) on the CBS Television Network, live from the Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Photo:  American Opera Projects 25th ANNIVERSARY GALA HONORING STEPHEN SCHWARTZ; OPERA SINGS BROADWAY SINGS OPERA Gala event photographed: Monday, May 12, 2014 6:30 pm Hors d'oeuvres Performance at 8:00 pm The Players Club 16 Gramercy Park South New York City Photograph: © 2014 Richard Termine PHOTO CREDIT - Richard Termine

Stephen Schwartz (center) with AOP composers, singers, and staff at AOP’s 25th Anniversary Gala, including Gregory Spears and Zach Redler (standing, far right). PHOTO CREDIT – Richard Termine

Photo:  American Opera Projects 25th ANNIVERSARY GALA HONORING STEPHEN SCHWARTZ; OPERA SINGS BROADWAY SINGS OPERA Gala event photographed: Monday, May 12, 2014 6:30 pm Hors d'oeuvres Performance at 8:00 pm The Players Club 16 Gramercy Park South New York City Photograph: © 2014 Richard Termine PHOTO CREDIT - Richard Termine

Soprano and AOP board member Sarah Moulton-Faux, Stephen Schwartz, composer Douglas Cuomo, and composer Gregory Spears at AOP’s 25th Anniversary Gala in 2014. PHOTO CREDIT – Richard Termine

 


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

February 10, 2015

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


AMERICAN OPERA PROJECTS RECEIVES MAJOR GRANT FROM THE ANDREW W. MELLON FOUNDATION TO SUPPORT ARTISTIC INITIATIVES

September 10, 2014

BROOKLYN, NY, September 10, 2014 – American Opera Projects (AOP) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a major grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  The $200,000 grant, active through December 2016, will support artistic initiatives by AOP: the Composers & the Voice and First Chance programs. The primary focus of Composers & the Voice is to give composers and librettists extensive experience working collaboratively with singers on writing for the voice and contemporary opera stage. The First Chance program allows composers and librettists to hear their work, in part or in full, for the first time before an audience, and helps to develop new works for future performances by opera companies. By helping fund these and other upcoming American Opera Projects programs, the Mellon Foundation has ensured that AOP can continue to offer opportunities and insights to rising composers, librettists, and presenting institutions. AOP General Director Charles Jarden states, “we are grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for this generous grant as it allows AOP to move forward with boldness and innovation. Our goal is to keep contemporary American opera vibrant.”

The seventh cycle of the Composers & the Voice (C&V) program will conclude this month with Six Scenes, a concert of opera scenes created in the program by this year’s fellows. Performances will be held on Friday, September 12 and Sunday, September 14 at 7:30 PM, at South Oxford Space in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, home of AOP.  Manhattan School of Music and UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music opera directors will be on hand to select scenes for further development at their respective conservatories.

Fellows from the seventh season of Composers & the Voice in a workshop session. Brooklyn, NY. Photo by Ted Gorodetzky

Fellows from the seventh season of Composers & the Voice in a workshop session. Brooklyn, NY. Photo by Ted Gorodetzky

In addition to the Mellon Foundation grant, AOP has recently received 2014-15 season general operating grants from New Music USA and the Amphion Foundation. New Music USA has contributed to AOP through the Cary New Music Performance Fund, which seeks out organizations that “demonstrate excellence in innovative new music programming and/or performances consisting primarily of new music by living composers, improvisers, sound artists or singer/songwriters working in any style or genre.” In addition, the Amphion Foundation has provided a grant to AOP reserved for those organizations with a “history of substantial commitment to contemporary concert music at a high level of excellence.” AOP Composer-in-Residence Laura Kaminsky notes that: “the commitment that all three of these organizations have made to AOP is critical, timely, and exciting. We are looking forward to shepherding the development of much exciting new music as a result.”

Since its founding in 1988, AOP has been 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. Throughout its existence AOP has striven to bring compelling and innovative opera to New York City and the United States, and with the help of these grants, that mission will continue.


Three AOP Composers Awarded Competitive Grant for Female Composers

April 3, 2014

OPERA America has announced the first round of recipients of its new program, Opera Grants for Female Composers. From among the 112 eligible applicants, an independent adjudication panel selected eight composers, including three AOP composers Laura Kaminsky, Sheila Silver, and Composers & the Voice alumna Kristin Kuster.

AOP-OPERA-America-Female-ComposersComposers Sheila Silver, Laura Kaminsky, and Kristin Kuster

The recipients have each been awarded $12,500 to support the development of their compositions which are listed below.

Anna Clyne: As Sudden Shut
Michelle DiBucci: Charlotte Salomon: Der Tod und die Malerin (Death and the Painter)
Laura Kaminsky: As One
Kristin Kuster: Old Presque Isle
Anne LeBaron: Psyche & Delia
Fang Man: Golden Lily
Sheila Silver: A Thousand Splendid Suns
Luna Pearl Woolf: THE PILLAR

AOP is currently developing Laura Kaminsky’s As One, scheduled to premiere at BAM in September 2014. Sheila Silver’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, based on the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini, will begin development at AOP in the 2014-15 season.

OPERA America has awarded nearly $13 million over 25 years to Professional Company Members in support of new American operas, but fewer than 5 percent of the organization’s grants supporting repertoire development have been awarded to works by female composers. 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.

Opera Grants for Female Composers, made possible through the generosity of The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, is a two-year project. In this first year, Discovery Grants identify, support and help develop the work of female composers writing for the operatic medium, raising their visibility and promoting awareness of their compositions. In addition to financial assistance, grant recipients will be introduced to leaders in the field through a feature in Opera America Magazine, and at future New Works Forum meetings and annual conferences. Supported works will be considered for presentation as part of the New Works Forum in January 2015 and New Works Samplers at future annual conferences. The second year of the Opera Grants for Female Composers program will focus on Commissioning Grants. These awards will help support the commissioning and production of works by talented women. Details for this segment of the program will be announced later in 2014. The independent adjudication panelists for the Discovery Grant cycle included vocal coach-consultant Susan Ashbaker, composer Douglas Cuomo, director Robin Guarino, composer David T. Little, mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer, and composer/librettist Gene Scheer.

(from the press release)


AOP C&V Alums: Proving that “music career” is not an oxymoron

March 27, 2014

Perla. Vrebalov. Redler & Cooper. Karlsson.

What do these five names all have in common? (Well, besides making great names for law firms, super-spies, or swanky bars.)

Answer: They all participated in AOP’s Composers & the Voice! Our C&V artists are everywhere, utilizing the irreplaceable skills they learned during C&V’s one-year intensive in how to write for the operatic voice.

To name a few (or rather, several):

Jack Perla’s (C&V ‘07-08) new opera Jonah and the Whale premiered at LA Opera this past weekend, and this Friday Alexandra Vrebalov (C&V ’02-03) kicks off Kronos Quartet’s 40th Anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall.

C&V alums Mikael Karlsson, Sara Cooper, and Zach Redler failed to win any medals at Sochi this year and will have to be satisfied with their music prizes.

C&V alums Mikael Karlsson, Sara Cooper, and Zach Redler failed to win any medals at Sochi this year and will have to be satisfied with their music prizes.

Zach Redler and Sara Cooper were awarded the 2014 Jonathan Larson Grant while their fellow C&V ‘11-12 alum Mikael Karlsson picked up the Wladimir and Rhoda Lakond Prize from The American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Rounding out C&V ’11-12 is Ronnie Reshef, who won the Yardena Alotin Composition Competition for her 2010 piece Suicide (after Grosz), and Robert Paterson, whose robot-opera The Companion is debuting at Roulette this April…not to be confused with Rachel Peters’ baguette-opera Companionship, which just finished at the Manhattan School of Music, and has a reading at the John Duffy Composers Institute this May. Ronnie and Rob also turn up at Fort Worth Opera’s Frontiers festival with two C&V-developed works, also in May.

An early AOP workshop of The Summer King, held on a sidewalk in Brooklyn. Daniel Sonenberg's opera has its concert premiere in May.

An early AOP workshop of The Summer King, held on a sidewalk in Brooklyn. Daniel Sonenberg’s opera has its concert premiere in May. Indoors, even! Progress!

And in case your May isn’t busy enough, Daniel Sonenberg’s (C&V ’02-03) The Summer King gets its world premiere at Portland Ovations. In late April, Hannah Lash’s (C&V ’05-06) This Ease premieres with the LA Chamber Orchestra.

Last month, Andrew Staniland (C&V ’07-08) won the 2014 Harry Freedman Recording Award. In the past year, Gregory Spears’s (C&V ’07-08) opera Paul’s Case has had three different runs (Pittsburgh Opera, PROTOTYPE, and Urban Arias). Stefan Weisman’s (C&V ’03-04) family opera The Scarlet Ibis is slated for PROTOTYPE 2015.

The latest group of composers who will be filling up your concert calendar. Photo by Ted Gorodetzky.

The latest group of composers who will be filling up your concert calendar. Photo by Ted Gorodetzky.

From this year’s class of super-composers, Gity Razaz was awarded the 2013 Jerome Fund Prize for her concert length vocal piece Abraham in Flames/Elegies of the Earth, which will be presented by VisionIntoArt at The Stone this May. Guy Barash released his debut album Facts About Water on innova recordings. Joseph Rubinstein will have select choral pieces available through See-A-Dot Music Publishing in the coming months.

Not to mention that Jason Kim (C&V ’13-14 librettist) was hired to write for HBO’s Girls, and Daniel Felsenfeld (C&V ’06-07) has worked with everyone from writers Robert Coover, Will Eno, and Wesley Stace to hip-hoppers Jay-Z and The Roots…with those trail-blazing ladies Nora and Alice thrown in there for good measure.

This is just a fraction of our alums’ successes. And that’s not even counting the dozens of operas and concerts that our Resident Singers appear in every month! (Trust us, that would be one crazy calendar.)

This is the future of new music. You heard it here first, and here’s where you can hear it next.


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