US premiere of Heart of Darkness has sold-out run in San Francisco

May 4, 2015

On May 2, Opera Parallèle presented the US premiere of the AOP-developed opera Heart of Darkness at San Francisco’s trendy industrial Z-space. The new production by Brian Staufenbiel featuring designs by artist Matt Kish and conducted by Nicole Paiement sold out each of its four performances.

Composed by Grammy-nominated Tarik O’Regan, using a libretto by Tom Phillips, the opera is based on the novel by Joseph Conrad, and explores the excesses and depravities of European colonialism in the African Congo. AOP, in conjuction with OperaGenesis, started developing the opera in 2006. In 2011 critics raved for the sold-out world premiere at London’s Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio.  At last it has arrived to the US and is gathering more critical acclaim:

From San Francisco Chronicle:

“the kaleidoscopic inventiveness of O’Regan’s score”

“In O’Regan’s music — dexterously conducted by Artistic Director Nicole Paiement and sung by a splendid cast — the rich feints and ambiguities of Conrad’s tale find sonorous expression. A veil of uncertainty often settles over the music, thanks to shifting instrumental textures and a harmonic palette that seems inclined to change direction at a moment’s notice, like a rising mist off the water.”

From Bachtrack:

“O’Regan’s fine music was complemented by the Opera Parallèle’s thoughtful production and a superb set of musicians under Nicole Paiement’s magical baton.” [4 out of 5 stars]

From San Francisco Classical Voice:

“[Heart of Darkness’s] brevity and eloquence, as well as the small forces it requires, make it a natural for adventurous opera companies everywhere. … O’Regan creates a continuously shifting musical tapestry and many gorgeous effects. His orchestration is exceptionally beautiful [and] consistently inventive.”

From San Jose Mercury News:

“[Composer Tarik O’Regan], often compared to Benjamin Britten, employs a beguiling neo-tonal palette, and this score offered plenty of evidence of his skill at writing for orchestra.”

Shawnette Sulker and Philip Skinner in Opera Parallèle’s U.S. premiere of Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at Z Space. Photo: Steve DiBartolomeo

Listen to composer Tarik O’Regan on San Francisco public radio discuss the opera’s new production and the importance of AOP’s development process. (Interview begins at 6:00.)

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AOP PRODUCTIONS REACH NEW STAGES

September 25, 2014

American Opera Projects is pleased to announce that several of its recent productions will be produced on stages around the country. Lera Auerbach’s The Blind, Tarik O’Regan and Tom Phillips’ Heart of Darkness, and Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell, and Kimberly Reed’s As One are each being performed in the coming months.

 9354607718_b214f9f0b6_zCast and Crew of The Blind At Lincoln Center Festival, 2013. Photo by Matt Gray

Composer Lera Auerbach‘s The Blind  will be presented by Central City Opera in their Summer 2015 Festival. The production was created and directed by John La Bouchardière and first produced by AOP in collaboration with Lincoln Center in 2013. This unusual a cappella opera for 12 singers is transformed into a unique theatrical experience by La Bouchardière’s unconventional production, which requires that the audience be blindfolded so that they must enter the world of the characters. “It’s not the characters who are blind,” said composer Lera Auerbach in a New York Times interview about the one-act opera, “The message is that we are the blind.  With all our means of communication we see each other less and connect to each other less.  We have less understanding and compassion for other people…” Adapted from an 1890 play by Maurice Maeterlinck, the story is about a dozen blind people who are taken by their priest on an outing.  When the elderly priest suddenly dies, they are stranded on an island left helpless and scared. The group realizes that they never really knew the priest as a person as they stumble upon his cold, dead body.  A Russian- American composer, Lera Auerbach wrote The Blind in 1994 while she was a student at Colorado’s Aspen Music Festival.

Alan Oke (Marlow), centre, in Heart Of Darkness by Tarik O'Regan

Royal Opera House Production of Heart of Darkness, London, 2011. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

Composer Tarik O’Regan‘s Heart of Darkness  will receive it’s U.S. premiere in San Francisco’s Z space by Opera Parallèle early May 2015. The opera was developed by AOP for several years, starting in 2006, and received it’s world premiere in London in collaboration with with Opera East, OperaGenesis and the Royal Opera House in the Linbury Studio Theater of the Royal Opera House in 2011. Adapted from the novella by Joseph Conrad by librettist Tom Phillips, Heart of Darkness is a powerful opera that portrays the greedy world of ivory smugglers in Central Africa as narrated by the central character, Marlow. In this new production, the plot unfolds through a series of short, fast-paced scenes that gradually increase in tension, as Marlow’s tale approaches its climax. O’Regan grew up in London, where he was born in 1978, spending some of his childhood in Morocco and Algeria. His music, recorded on over 25 albums and nominated for two GRAMMY’S®, is published exclusively by Novello & Co./G. Schirmer, Inc.

AS ONE photo 4 by Ken Howard for AOP

Kelly Markgraf, Sasha Cooke, and members of the Fry Street Quartet, BAM, 2014. Photo by Ken Howard

Finally, AOP’s recent production of As One will tour to the Caine College of the Arts, part of Utah State University in Logan, Utah. After its September production and premiere at BAM, the critical response has been overwhelmingly positive with critics declaring it “a piece that haunts and challenges” (Opera News), “artistically distinguished, socially important” (WQXR), and “satisfying in an entertaining and delicately moving way” (NY Observer). In the chamber opera by composer Laura Kaminsky, librettist Mark Campbell and librettist/filmmaker Kimberly Reed, a mezzo-soprano and a baritone depict the experiences of its sole transgender protagonist, Hannah, as she endeavors to resolve the discord between her self and the outside world. The work featured performances by Sasha Cooke, Kelly Markgraf, and The Fry Street Quartet, stage direction by Ken Cazan, and music direction by Steven Osgood.


Heart of Darkness orchestral suite premieres in London

March 29, 2013
Tarik O'Regan

Tarik O’Regan

When Heart of Darkness (developed by AOP) premièred at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studios in 2011 it met with great acclaim for its ‘music of startling beauty’ (The Observer) and ‘a magical and haunting sound-world’ (The Telegraph).

Composer Tarik O’Regan has now developed Suite from Heart of Darkness for orchestra and narrator. Tom Phillips, the original librettist, has worked closely from Joseph Conrad’s novella to create the text.

The London première of Suite from Heart of Darkness will be held at Cadogan Hall on Tuesday 23rd April at 7.30pm. The concert is part of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s Resident Season, will be conducted by Nicholas Collon and narrated by Sam West. Seats can be reserved here.

Go on Tarik’s website for more detail.


Heart of Darkness Nominated for SBSA Award

April 5, 2012

Heart of Darkness world premiere logo

The World Premiere of Tarik O’Regan’s one-act opera Heart of Darkness (with libretto by Tom Phillips, based on the novella by Joseph Conrad) was nominated for a South Bank Sky Arts Award* this past week, “one of the world’s most coveted arts awards…celebrating the best of British culture and achievement.”  The ceremony will be held at The Dorchester (London) on May 1, 2012, hosted by English broadcaster and author Melvyn Bragg.

Heart of Darkness was first developed by AOP from 2006-08, before beginning preparations for its World Premiere at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre in November 2011, co-produced by Opera East and the Royal Opera House.

For additional information, read the press articles from Chester Novello, Genesis Foundation, and The Bookseller.

*(Can’t find it on the nominee list?  Scroll down to the “Literature” heading and look at the last line; the “Opera” heading was accidentally listed in the middle.)


O’Regan/Phillips open their “Heart” to praise at London premiere

November 11, 2011

"Superb": Alan Oke, right, as Marlow, with the "splendid" Sipho Fubesi, front left, in Tarik O'Regan's The Heart of Darkness. Photograph: Tristram Kenton

The maiden voyage into Heart of Darkness is complete! On November 1, the AOP-developed chamber opera from Tarik O’Regan and Tom Phillips premiered at London’s Royal Opera House in a co-production by ROH2 and Opera East. AOP Artistic Director Charles Jarden, Managing Director and Board President Bob Lee and several members of the AOP Board were there at the Linbury Studio Theater to see the creators take their bows with so much joy and pride that they barely noticed that they were up to their ankles in the set’s water-filled stage.

“This is a show that any opera company in the world would have been proud to present,” said Mr. Lee. “It’s been incredible to watch it grow through our public development process, from libretto to premiere. AOP does really provide something to opera audiences that they can’t get anywhere else – witnessing the creation of a work of art from beginning to end.”

Across the pond here at the AOP office, we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of positive response from audience and critics alike. Stephen Pritchard from The Guardian/Observer UK  in particular gave an incredible rave:

Workshopped by OperaGenesis and American Opera Projects, it was developed by Opera East and ROH2 ready for its triumphant world premiere last week – 75 minutes of intense, sinister storytelling, combining crystal-clear narrative with complex ideas about idealism and self-delusion… Underpinning all this is a score of concise originality. Restless, leaping woodwind propel the narrative through the murky waters of the Congo, while interesting combinations of sonorities – double bass and classical guitar, for instance – trickle and bubble through the music… Concision is nowhere more evident than in Tom Phillips’s gloriously spare libretto. Drawn entirely from Conrad’s own writing, it hacks through the dense jungle of the author’s prose and elevates it to the status of the finest poetry.

Jeanne Whalen of The Wall Street Journal said, “’Heart of Darkness’ is very good … The English-language libretto by Tom Phillips is beautiful. … If you think of opera as an often bloated, over-wrought art form with hammy plots and acting, you would do well to try this one. It is elegant, moving, and, at just 75 minutes, short enough to allow time for dinner afterward.” And Claire Seymour from Opera Today said that Tarik O’Regan’s “fluent melodic idiom…skillfully evoked place and ambience with precision and impact.” And finally we can’t help but repeat that “preliminary development work with American Opera Projects and ROH 2’s OperaGenesis, reaped dividends for the finished article as jointly presented by Opera East Productions and ROH2.” Nice to know we’re doing it right.

Read The Genesis Foundation’s digest of press reviews for HEART OF DARKNESS.


Oh Sleep, Why Dost Thou Lie to Me?

January 26, 2011

In AOP composer Tarik O’Regan’s (Heart of Darkness, The Wanton Sublime) latest piece “The Night’s Untruth,” for choir, brass, and organ, the answer is simple: sleep is “a parallel, possibly dystopian, existence to the one in our waking hours.”

Whoa.  No wonder my dreams are crazy.  But that’s for another blog post…

The piece, which was shortlisted for this year’s British Composer Awards and voted by Time Out: London as one of the Best of the Year 2010: Classical Concerts in London, “explores the theme of sleep as a metaphor, with death, love, fear, ecstasy, isolation, dreaming and rest all providing textual ‘variations on the theme’, drawing on poems across the centuries by Keats, Shakespeare, Samuel Daniel and Hart Crane.”  Attendees of the John Armitage Memorial (JAM) trust’s 10th anniversary concert last March got to experience this dream-like piece in person when they heard it via the BBC Singers (directed by Nicholas Cleobury), Onyx Brass and organist Stephen Disley.  Clearly music critic Jonathan Lennie was entranced as well, since it was this concert that made his Top 5 listing for the Time Out: London review.

“The Night’s Untruth” has also been jointly commissioned by JAM and the American choir Vocal Essense to give its US premiere under director Philip Brunelle during the 2010-11 season.

Sleep well, fair readers.  Tarik O’Regan certainly is.


You Will Meet A Tall, Dark Librettist…

December 2, 2010

…named Tom Phillips, and you will buy his new iPad app.

Not convinced?  Well, look no further than A Humument, one of the latest additions to the iPad collection based on Phillips’ infamous fine art book of the same name.

(More on the librettist part later.)

Considered to be a “seminal classic of postmodern art,” the multi-talented British artist created the hard copy of A Humument in 1966 when he decided to find a second-hand book for exactly three pence and physically alter each page through collage techniques in order to create an entirely new version.  The lucky original (which was found in a South London junk shop) was an 1892 obscurity by W. H. Mallock entitled A Human Document, and the first edition of the transformed version was published in 1973 as A Humument.  A Human Document = A Hum(an Doc)ument = A Humument.

Developed by Phillips and John Bowring, the iPad version features 367 full color pages and a new interactive feature, The Oracle (cue spooky music).  Similar to I Ching, the ancient Chinese Book of Changes, The Oracle randomly selects two pages of A Humument to act as a guide for life, luck, and…love?  Only The Oracle knows.

Oh, and by the way, in addition to being a well-known artist, Mr. Phillips also wrote the libretto for AOP’s First Chance opera-in-development Heart of Darkness, a new opera composed by Tarik O’Regan and based on the novella by Joseph Conrad.  Which will have its world premiere at the Linbury Studio Theater in 2011.  Talk about multi-tasking.  And multi-talented.


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