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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Three new operas developed by American Opera Projects to premiere in early 2017

January 18, 2017

American Opera Projects (AOP) in New York is currently developing twenty-one new operas with three to premiere in 2017 in multiple locations across the US:

THREE WAY – a sex comedy opera
Premieres January 27 – 29 @ Nashville Opera and June 15-18 @ Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Developed in AOP’s Composers & the Voice and First Chance programs
With music by Robert Paterson (The Whole Truth) and a libretto by David Cote (The Scarlet Ibis), Three Way is a new opera on the present and future of sex and love. In three playful one-acts, average heroes explore the worlds of android lovers, BDSM and multiple partners in their searches for the emotional connections that are ever-elusive in today’s romantic world. Sexy, funny and a little bit shocking, Three Way combines complex but melodic music with witty humor and personal drama creating an Il trittico for the Tinder generation. Nashville Opera and AOP will present the world premiere of Three Way January 27-29, 2017 at The Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville, TN and June 15-18, 2017 at BAM Fisher in Brooklyn, NY in a production directed by John Hoomes and conducted by Dean Williamson. It will feature performances by singers Courtney Ruckman, Samuel Levine, Danielle Pastin, Jordan Rutter, Wes Mason, Melisa Bonetti, Matthew Treviño, and Eliza Bonet with the Nashville Opera Orchestra (January) and the American Modern Ensemble (June performances). Three Way is sung in English with projected English titles, and contains adult language and situations intended for mature audiences. Tickets for the January world premiere are on sale at www.nashvilleopera.org.

THE SUMMER KING – life of Negro League baseball star, Josh Gibson
Premieres April 29-May 7 @ Pittsburgh Opera
Developed in AOP’s Composers & the Voice and First Chance programs
The very first world premiere in Pittsburgh Opera’s distinguished 78-year history, The Summer King tells the story of baseball legend Josh Gibson who 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. With music by Daniel Sonenberg and libretto by Daniel Sonenberg and Daniel Nester, and additional lyrics by Mark Campbell, Pittsburgh Opera will present the world premiere at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center for the Performing Arts. Alfred Walker and Denyce Graves lead a cast directed by Sam Helfrich and conducted by Antony Walker. The Summer King was commissioned by Portland Ovations. For tickets and details see www.pittsburghopera.org/show/the-summer-king.

INDEPENDENCE EVE – 100 years of racial tension and relations in the US
Premieres June 3 – 11, Signature Theatre, Arlington, VA
Developed in AOP’s Composers & the Voice and First Chance programs
Washington D.C.’s UrbanArias and AOP present the world premiere of Independence Eve, a new chamber opera in three scenes by composer Sidney Marquez Boquiren and librettist Daniel Neer that explores the troubled journey of race relations in America. Comprised of three unrelated scenes, each of which take place on July 3 in an unspecified American city, Independence Eve focuses on the stories of three black males (each played by baritone Jorell Williams), and three white males (each played by tenor Brandon Snook), who struggle with identity and acceptance amidst race issues that span one hundred years of the American experience. Independence Eve is the fifth AOP-developed opera presented by UrbanArias following the world premieres of She, After, and Paul’s Case, last season’s As One, and this spring’s Lucy. UrbanArias Artistic Director Robert Wood conducts the world premiere that runs June 3-11, 2017 at Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA. Complete info can be found at www.urbanarias.org.

AS ONE – story of transgender self-discovery also presented across US: This spring will also feature new productions of the chamber opera As One at Pittsburgh Opera (Feb 18-26), Opera Colorado (March 2-4), and Long Beach Opera (May 13-21), making a total of nine new productions since AOP commissioned, developed and premiered the work at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2014. The opera for mezzo-soprano, baritone and string quartet by composer Laura Kaminsky, librettist Mark Campbell and librettist/ filmmaker Kimberly Reed, depicts the experiences of its sole transgender protagonist, Hannah, as she endeavors to resolve the discord between herself and the outside world.

ABOUT AMERICAN OPERA PROJECTS www.aopopera.org
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) and the upcoming 2017 co-production with Nashville Opera of Robert Paterson’s Three Way (Nashville Opera, BAM Fisher). AOP develops new operas through two programs made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and other generous donors that train emerging artists, and provide resources, workshop and production opportunities:

First Chance: First Chance 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. Through question and answer sessions, First Chance allows audience members to provide input while artists discover their own unique voices. AOP then works on attracting presenting partners to produce a fully-staged world premiere including BAM, Lincoln Center Festival, and UrbanArias (in the DC metro area). www.aopopera.org/firstchance.html

Composers & the Voice: Created and led by Steven Osgood (General and Artistic Director of Chautauqua Opera and former Artistic Director of AOP), the Composers & the Voice fellowship training program provides composers and librettists experience working collaboratively with singers on writing for the voice and contemporary opera stage. AOP will begin its ninth season in Fall 2017, with applications made available on its website on March 15. Since launching in 2002, C&V has fostered the development of 54 composers & librettists. A complete list of alumni can be found at www.aopopera.org/composers_voice.

American Opera Projects
138 S. Oxford St. Ste. 3-D, Brooklyn, NY 11217 • 718.398.4024 • aoperaprojects.org


Composer and AOP Founding Board Member Richard Peaslee (1936-2016)

October 11, 2016
Composer Richard Peaslee

Composer Richard Peaslee

Composer and American Opera Projects founding board member Richard “Dick” Peaslee passed away on August 20 at his home in Seattle, WA at the age of 86, due to complications from MS. An award winning composer, Dick’s honors include The American Academy of Arts and Letters Marc Blitzstein Award, an Obie, a Villager Award, and fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. He earned degrees from Yale University and The Juilliard School, and his teachers included Nadia Boulanger and William Russo.

AOP premiered his opera Sir Gawain the Green Knight in October 2001 at TADA!, and has performed his songs on concert programs. Dick donated the piano AOP uses at its Fort Greene home base; because of his generosity thousands of people have enjoyed music at our South Oxford Space. On October 16th, there will be a celebration of his life in Seattle, and another in New York at a later date to be announced.

AOP General Director Charles Jarden writes, “Dick was a huge influence on me and others about the way AOP still operates, especially our workshopping process. Dick was an advocate for libretto development ahead of music being written and the work’s stage-worthiness being addressed by the creative team. I was lucky enough to visit Dick and Dixie in Seattle and was touched because of the enormous mutual respect and love, which lit up that couple’s life…two artists (Dixie is a painter) in an inspiring close relationship.”

Link to his obituary

Link to Ardea Arts production of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

AOP Photo Gallery: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, 2001 World Premiere:

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js


UrbanArias to feature AOP operas LUCY and THE BLIND in upcoming season

July 27, 2016

UrbanArias, the bold and exciting presenter of contemporary opera in the Washington D.C. area, has announced productions of two AOP operas as part of their 2016-17 seasonLucy: A Memory Opera, by composer John Glover and librettist Kelley Rourke, and The Blind, director John La Bouchardière‘s immersive production of composer Lera Auerbach‘s a cappella opera. Under the leadership of founder Robert Wood, UrbanArias’ has been fulfilling its mission “to expose DC-area audiences to engaging, accessible, entertaining operas, and to provide a venue at which both established and emerging composers can present their shorter works” since its creation in 2011.

“…in Kelley Rourke’s and John Glover’s haunting new chamber opera… ‘Lucy’ becomes a potent exploration of the divide between human and animal.” – Milwaukee Mag

Developed by AOP First Chance in early workshopsLucy: A Memory Opera is a multi-media work of music-theater for baritone and chamber ensemble in one 70-minute act that tells the story of psychologist Maurice Temerlin who, along with his wife Jane, adopted a day-old chimpanzee in the sixties. Naming her Lucy, their intention was to raise her “as much as possible as though she were a human being”. Lucy learns to dress herself, eat with silverware, make tea for guests, look at magazines, communicate through sign language and enjoy cocktails. As Temerlin struggles to hold on to memories of a happy, albeit unconventional, family life, documentation from the experiment challenges him to come to terms with the project’s ultimate consequences.

Upon its premiere by Milwaukee Opera Theater in 2014 (which also commissioned the opera), On Milwaukee called the opera “an incredible triumph” and “absolutely mesmerizing.” UrbanArias will present the East Coast premiere of Lucy on April 1, 2, 7 and 8, 2017 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.

AOP First Chance Workshop Performance of Lucy: December 10, 2010 at the Greene Space at WNYC

“Adventurous, eerie and thoroughly engaging” – The New York Times on the 2013 world premiere of THE BLIND.

At a lonely clearing in a wood, a group of blind people await the return of a priest who led them there in order to enable them to enjoy the last rays of the sun before the beginning of winter. Only the sound of the nearby sea can be heard. The longer they wait, the more restless the blind people become; in their desperation they realize that they are helpless and cannot move from their place. Their fear escalates to naked terror when they make a morbid discovery.

Premiered by AOP and Lincoln Center Festival in 2013, director John La Bouchardière’s reimagining of composer Lera Auerbach’s a cappella opera immerses the audience in the story by blindfolding them and placing them amongst the protagonists. Denying all the power to see and situating the voices within the audience, the performance unfolds in a shifting surround-sound world, in which non-visual senses are heightened as the smells of the forest, the feeling of sea breezes, the cold falling snow and Auerbach’s music enfold them. UrbanArias will present The Blind on June 3, 4, 9, 10 and 11, 2017 at Signature Theatre.

AOP/Lincoln Center Festival 2013 World Premiere of The Blind at  Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse.

The two operas in the upcoming season will continue AOP’s close presenting partnership with UrbanArias, following last year’s new production of AOP’s As One the world premiere of the AOP-developed She After, and their 2012 world premiere of the AOP-developed Paul’s Case, a production that made its NYC premiere at the PROTOTYPE Festival in 2014. In addition to Lucy and The Blind, UrbanArias 2016-17 season includes Michael Nyman’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat in October.


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

SK video still 2

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.


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.


Lemuel Wade (1974-2014)

January 5, 2015

Lemuel WadeAll of us here at AOP are mourning the passing of talented artist and dear friend Lemuel Wade who lost his sudden battle with cancer on December 22. Lem directed the sold-out AOP hit Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom, which premiered in February 2014 in Brooklyn. Along with Tubman, Lem’s AOP projects included the concert version of Daniel Sonenberg’s The Summer King in Portland, Maine, Companionship and Dreaming of Wonderland at Manhattan School of Music, and numerous in-house workshops. He was laid to rest among family and friends in his native Chicago.

We are humbly moved that Lem’s family has selected AOP as one of the 3 charities for those interested in making contributions in Lem’s memory.


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