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.


Martín’s Before Night Falls Released on Amazon

September 24, 2010

Fort Worth Opera announced yesterday that their recording of Jorge Martín’s opera Before Night Falls, which was given its world premiere at FWO this past spring, will be released on Amazon.com on October 1st.  American Opera Projects was lucky enough to have given the opera its first concert reading of scenes from Act I back in 2004, when they were presented as part of the Dance Theater Workshop here in New York, and again in 2005, at the Clark Studio Theatre at Lincoln Center (during the Third Annual Cuban Arts Festival).

Before Night Falls traces the life of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, beginning with his early years growing up in poverty in Cuba, to his emigration to the US in 1980, to his last decade suffering from AIDS.  Based on his famous memoir, the opera follows his trials and tribulations as a political prisoner forced to smuggle his manuscripts abroad for publication.

Joshua Rosenblum of Opera News raved in his May 2010 article,

“Martín’s opera…bursts with restless passion and sustains a dark undertone of anxiety throughout. The composer skillfully draws on numerous influences, including suave Cuban dance rhythms, which are sometimes overt but more often dextrously embedded within the colorful orchestral texture. In addition, one is reminded variously of Mahler, Shostakovich, Ravel, Villa-Lobos and even Varèse…but Martín has the skill and individuality to synthesize these strands into a coherent and dramatically potent tapestry. Best of all, his melodies almost always blossom and sing, even in the extended recitative-style dialogue.” To continue reading, click here.

Interested in pre-ordering?  Purchase Before Night Falls on Amazon.


Anne Midgette blogs about current state of American opera

July 8, 2010

Anne Midgette, well-known blogger and columnist for The Washington Post, has recently completed a two-part exposé on the state of American opera today.  Citing numerous recent productions across the country, including AOP-developed projects Democracy and Before Night Falls, Midgette described the myriad changes the opera world appears to be undergoing.

American opera is at a crossroads. A production of a new work at a large house costs millions of dollars — hundreds of thousands in commissioning fees alone. It’s a lot to spend on something geared toward the tastes of a narrow target audience, for which there is no mass demand, at a time of shrinking budgets. … The continuing spate of new works shows that the field is at least poking at the idea of creativity, and audiences, however gingerly, are starting to go along with it. The field’s next challenge is to find better ways to reward the good.

– Anne Midgette, “Is Anybody Listening?”, The Washington Post

AOP takes pride in being at the forefront of this movement towards new American opera. To read the full blogs, start with part one, “Is anybody listening? American opera faces crossroads as audiences for performing arts slide”, then proceed to part two, “New American operas are going the way of smaller venues, on smaller scales”.

Certainly a lot of food for thought. Enjoy!


More Praise for “Before Night Falls”

June 29, 2010
Jarden, Koch and Koch at Fort Worth

Charles Jarden, Executive Director of AOP, with Gloria Koch (daughter of the late Dolores Koch, co-librettist of Before Night Falls and friend of Reinaldo Arenas) and her daughter.

A full month after it’s world premiere with Fort Worth Opera, Before Night Falls, a new opera by Jorge Martín, is still receiving rave reviews. Before Night Falls tells the compelling story of gay Cuban counterrevolutionary Reinaldo Arenas and his struggles as a political dissident and homosexual in both Cuba and America.

“Vibrant, musically substantive, and very touching… One of the most admirable American operas of recent years.”

– David Shengold, Gay City News

Read full review…

“Although Martín’s score is eclectic, it is not annoyingly pastiche-like. It is nicely shape-shifting. And it all coheres. The orchestration often has a beautiful sheen: transparent but not thin or barren. And I will tell you something extraordinary: Before Night Falls is full of arias, duets, trios, and choruses. There are real, unabashed melodies and tunes. That is old-fashioned; indeed, it is well-nigh counterrevolutionary.”

– Jay Nordlinger, National Review

Read full review…

“…powerfully moving.”

– Anne Midgette, Washington Post

Read full review…

Make sure to check out AOP’s earlier blog post about the Fort Worth performance of Before Night Falls here.


“Top-flight production” of Before Night Falls has world premiere in TX

June 1, 2010

Foreground, from left: Javier Abreu as Pepe and Wes Mason as Reinaldo Arenas. Photo by Robert Hart for TheaterJones.com.

Jorge Martín’s new opera Before Night Falls, presented by Fort Worth Opera, premiered in the Bass Performance Hall last Saturday evening, May 29th and is quickly becoming the talk of the opera world. The press and blogosphere have chimed as well about the AOP-developed opera, saying:

“Martín’s Before Night Falls succeeds musically and as work of theater…Martín has imbued his score with many lovely moments that evoke the Latin rhythms of Cuba and the musical atmosphere, such as popular songs and film scores, of the various eras he invokes. He does this deftly while still sounding fresh and original… Unlike many cotemporary composers, Martín has a gift for melody and he isn’t afraid to use it.”

– Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, theaterjones.com

Read full review…

“…a top-flight production.”

– Chris Shull, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

Read full review…

“…a daring departure from tradition.”

– Olin Chism, artandseek.net

Read full review…

“This work is infused with magnificent Cuban-style music that truly reflects the time as well as gives a feel for the heritage.”

– Alan Savada, Opera-L

Read full review…

“…ultimately romantic, intensely emotional… Before Night Falls displays several aspects that predict long-term success.”

– Wayne Lee Gay, D Magazine

Read full review…

Before Night Falls, based on the novel with the same name by Reinaldo Arenas, tracks the harsh life of a political dissident and gay man in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. The production, directed by David Gately and with stirring and provocative projections by designers Peter Nigrini, featured Wes Mason and Jonathan Blalock. AOP helped develop the work in a series of workshops in 2005.


Opera Chic: Before Night Falls one of the top 5 to see

April 7, 2010
Before Night Falls

Before Night Falls

The upcoming world premiere of Jorge Martín‘s opera Before Night Falls continues be all the buzz for the Spring opera season. Just last month the AOP-developed opera was called a “must-see” event by Travel and Leisure and now the notorious Opera Chic has told W magazine that it is her pick for one of “the top five productions that will be in American and European opera houses from now to the beginning of summer.”

Everything’s better in Texas, especially an opera spin-off of Reinaldo Arenas’s autobiography Before Night Falls.

We couldn’t agree more. Find out the rest of her list here…


Before Night Falls is a “must-see” event of 2010

March 9, 2010

Travel & LeisureDo you enjoy travel? How about leisure? Then why not hop on a plane for Fort Worth in May and kick back to a world premiere of the AOP-developed opera Before Night Falls which was just chosen by Travel and Leisure magazine as a “must-see” event in 2010? (yeesh, that was corny. sorry.)

The Fort Worth Opera (fwopera.org) presents Cuban American composer Jorge Martín’s Before Night Falls (May 29–June 6), which features young baritone Wes Mason as the gay dissident and poet Reinaldo Arenas in Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

Check out the rest of Travel and Leisure‘s list of 2010 events not to be missed events…


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