COMPOSERS & THE VOICE: C&V alumni making news (and music, of course)

March 20, 2013

In addition to Mikael, Zach, and Sara’s music featured this weekend at OPERAtion Brooklyn, the alumni of Composers & the Voice continue to be featured in concerts and festivals, and gather awards, fellowships, and residencies. Here are just some of the recent highlights.


WINDOWS: Six monodramas combine for a new show from the composer-librettist team Zach Redler and Sara Cooper

March 6, 2013
Sara Cooper and Zach Redler. Photo by Isabelle Selby.

Sara Cooper and Zach Redler. Photo by Isabelle Selby.

Before their musical The Memory Show  debuts Off-Broadway in April, Zach Redler and Sara Cooper return to AOP with a work developed during the Composers & the Voice program. From a prostitute who is desperately in love with her pimp to a teenage father whose baby will just not stop crying, the six monodramas of Windows look at characters dealing with unrequited love.

The 40-minute show will be presented as part of OPERAtion Brooklyn on Saturday, March 23 with performances by Sumayya Ali, Amelia Watkins, Jeffrey Gavett, Justin Hopkins, Brittney Redler, and Etai BenShlomo and direction by Noah Himmelstein with Mila Henry on piano.

Windows is made possible in part by a generous multi-year award from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Zach Redler and Sara Cooper are supported by funding from The New York Community Trust Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund and Musical Arts Fund.


DECORATION: Versatile composer Mikael Karlsson to premiere and discuss scenes from his new opera

March 5, 2013
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Mikael Karlsson. Photo by Isabelle Selby

Few classical composers can state their music has sold over 8 million copies, but Mikael Karlsson, the composer of two scores from a hit video game franchise, can claim that distinction. He’ll tell you though that he gets just as much satisfaction, if not more, satisfaction from composing for dance, film, and opera.

AOP returns to the Manhattan School of Music for their annual Opera Index series with scenes from Decoration, a new opera by Mikael with a libretto by the composer and David Flodén. The enigmatic work concerns “pointlessness, science as faith, entropy, a room with zero dimensions, druggy visions, rabbits, “new flesh,” lies and oracles floating on top of oceans inside hospitals.” The performance on March 17 features singers Rebecca Ringle, Margreth Fredheim, Jason Cox and Raehann Bryce-Davis with stage direction by Caren France. Decoration comes to AOP’s series OPERAtion Brooklyn on March 23 in Brooklyn.

Decoration was developed in AOP’s Composers & the Voice program in 2011-2012. The March performances of Decoration are made possible in part with generous funding by The Victor Herbert Foundation in memory of Lois C. Schwartz. Artist bios and video samples can be found at: www.operaprojects.org/decoration

Read Mikael’s interview with IGN.com about bringing his avante-garde classical style to the video game Battlefield: Bad Company.


OPERAtion Brooklyn Takes a BEATing

August 24, 2012

This September, AOP (American Opera Projects) and Opera on Tap will present a new installment of their acclaimed series, “OPERAtion Brooklyn,” at the newly launched BEAT Festival. The festival, which aims to showcase Brooklyn’s most innovative and forward-thinking emerging artists in theater, dance and voice, will be held from September 12-23 with performances in venues throughout the borough. AOP and Opera on Tap will present progressive new works of opera in a casual setting on September 13th (Flatbush Reformed Church), 19th (Brooklyn Conservatory of Music), and 22nd (Irondale Center) at 7:30pm. “OPERAtion Brooklyn” will include the world premiere of Daniel Felsenfeld’s song cycle A Genuine Willingness to Help (Book 1), songs from One Ring Zero, and scenes from AOP’s series, Composers & the Voice. More information and tickets can be found at www.beatbrooklyn.com/opera/. The concerts will also be featured as part of the Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend Events.

Opera on Tap will present works for voice and chamber ensemble by resident Brooklyn composers Daniel Felsenfeld and the Brooklyn indie outfit One Ring Zero. The works will be conducted by Yoon Jae Lee, with Mila Henry on piano, and performances by sopranos Marcy Richardson, Delea Shand, and mezzo-soprano Kayleigh Butcher. The program will include a world premiere of Felsenfeld’s song cycle A Genuine Willingness to Help (Book I). Part of the composer’s “Author Project,” the work is comprised of songs set to varied and expressive texts by some of New York’s best young writers, including Jonathan Lethem, Fiona Maazel, and Rick Moody. Felsenfeld’s song cycle Raw Footage: Composer’s Cut (text from Robert Coover’s novel Lucky Pierre) will also be performed. In addition, the program will include four songs drawn from One Ring Zero’s album As Smart As We Are (The Author Project). These “mysterious pop songs,” arranged for piano and chamber ensemble by Michael Hearst and Joshua Camp, have been called “both haunting and entertaining” by The New Yorker and feature texts by Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and David Wondrich.

One Ring Zero

AOP will present two scenes rooted in contemporary conflicts – “Stop and Frisk” by composer Sidney Marquez Boquiren and librettist Daniel Neer and “Male Identity” by composer Zach Redler and librettist Sara Cooper – featuring performances by tenor Brandon Snook (Cincinnati Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Sarasota Opera) and baritone Jorell Williams (New York City Center Encores!, Caramoor International Music Festival, Ravinia Festival). Supporting on piano will be music directors Jeanne-Minette Cilliers and Mila Henry, with stage direction by Noah Himmelstein.

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Zach Redler and Sara Cooper at a Composers & the Voice workshop.

With their 30th birthdays on the horizon, three friends worry what kind of men they are becoming after three decades of pop culture consumption and father figure issues in the humorous “Male Identity.” In “Stop and Frisk, Joe and Sean, best friends and successful urban professionals, meet for an awkward lunch in the park and discuss the racial aftermath of Sean’s recent brush with police in a ‘Stop and Frisk’ search and investigation. “Stop and Frisk” is part of the opera-in-development Triptych in Grant Park.

The scenes were written as part of AOP’s free fellowship program Composers & the Voice (C&V) that provides composers and librettists experience working collaboratively with a group of singers on writing for the voice and the opera stage. In addition to the AOP training, distinguished composers Stephen Schwartz and Kaija Saariaho served as mentors to Zach & Sara and Sidney, respectively, in their official capacity as AOP Composer Chairs providing opportunities for discussion and one-on-one feedback.

Hailed as “a vital series” by TimeOut NY, “OPERAtion Brooklyn” is the partnership between Opera on Tap and American Opera Projects, two of Brooklyn’s most acclaimed producers of indie opera. The series aims to present the most daring of contemporary opera and song in a relaxed setting that encourages drinks and discussion as part of the new classical experience. Previously presented under the title Opera Grows in Brooklyn, the series premiered in March 2009 at Galapagos Art Space. The most recent collaboration, “Curioser & Curioser: An Opera-Burlesque Circus in Wonderland,” brought together the worlds of classical music and burlesque for a night of music and entertainment inspired by the tales of Alice in Wonderland. (www.operationbrooklyn.com)

The BEAT Festival aims to fill a void in Brooklyn’s performing arts community with a yearly fall festival showcasing the greatest works of Brooklyn’s finest performing artists. For its inaugural year, the BEAT festival has hand-picked the most innovative, forward-thinking of Brooklyn’s emerging artists including Lemon Andersen, Elevator Repair Service, Theater Group Dzieci, Creative Outlet Dance Theatre, Marshall Davis Jr., Ishmael “Ish” Islam, and many more all-star artists. “BEAT creates a platform to celebrate what is already here: extraordinary world-class performers who stand as the greatest innovators of the performing arts,” says festival artistic director Stephen Shelley. From September 12-23, artists will perform in venues throughout the borough.

For all BEAT performances, there will be general admission tickets available for $20, as well as tickets at the door that will be sold for a suggested donation of $20. For complete information and tickets visit www.beatbrooklyn.com .


AOP and OOT’s new mission (if you choose to accept it)

February 29, 2012

OPERAtion BrooklynOn March 25 & 26, 2012, American Opera Projects and Opera on Tap will give the go sign to their newest collaboration – OPERAtion Brooklyn. After 10 performances of their series Opera Grows in Brooklyn, AOP and OOT will return to Galapagos Art Space with this new series that presents “the most daring of contemporary opera and song in a relaxed, nightclub-style evening that encourage[s] drinks and discussion as part of the new classical experience. ”

“We were looking for a direction to take Opera Grows in Brooklyn in 2012,” says AOP Producing Director Matt Gray, who co-produces the event with OOT’s Artistic Director Anne Hiatt, “and after assessing the successes of that series, we realized we most enjoyed ourselves when we were producing bigger and bolder. So, we decided to do fewer shows during the year, but make those we do real can’t-miss events. To convey this commitment we felt a new name was in order, something that showed our passion and determination for presenting the best of Brooklyn’s contemporary opera scene.”

OPERAtion Brooklyn

David Del Tredici

David Del Tredici

OPERAtion Brooklyn will kick off with a two-evening festival of Alice in Wonderland-inspired works called Curiouser & Curiouser, featuring a performance by the composer most musically associated with Lewis Carroll – David Del Tredici. Celebrating his 75th birthday the week before, Del Tredici, practically a legend of New York’s contemporary classical scene, will play piano for a revival of his 1986 work for soprano and 10-piece orchestra Haddocks’ Eyes, based on a section of Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. Excerpts from the Alice-inspired operas Dreaming of Wonderland (Manly Romero, composer) and Wonderglass (Susan Botti, composer) will also take audiences down the operatic rabbit hole.

As if that weren’t enough,  “Curiouser & Curiouser” will feature intermezzos from a collection of New York’s top circus-burlesque artists in a two-part program entitled “Through the Peeping Glass.” Producer Rita MenWeep has put together a mixture of acrobats (Joshua Dean, Ben Franklin), contortionists (Miss Ekaterina), and burlesque stars (Jenny C’est Quoi, Tigger!Creamy Stevens) who will portray some of the most iconic characters in Wonderland in the most unexpected of ways.

Rita MenWeep as the Red Queen

Rita MenWeep as the Red Queen

How did burlesque and opera come together? “I’ve known Rita for years,” says Gray. “I was actually in a play where she did her first-ever burlesque act. After one of our Opera Grows in Brooklyn performances I was thrilled to find that the late-night act was her burlesque version of The Wizard of Oz. Seeing the crossover happen between our audiences, we both thought, ‘Man, it would be great to get these people together. They don’t know what they’re missing.”

American Opera Projects and Opera on Tap have been artists-in-residence at Galapagos Art Space since 2009. The venue, just off the waterfront in DUMBO, Brooklyn, has been a primary destination for both new music and burlesque since it was founded by Artistic Director Robert Elmes in 1995.

“What’s funny is that the fans of neo-classical/opera and the fans of neo-burlesque know that both genres are misunderstood as either too highbrow or too lowbrow, respectively,” says Opera on Tap’s Anne Ricci. “We hope to prove to the unfamiliars how wrong they are on both those counts. But we’re not middlebrow, either!” she laughingly adds.

Tickets for Curiouser & Curiouser are available at Galapagos’s website here. Complete OPERAtion Brooklyn program information is available at www.operationbrooklyn.com.

David Del Tredici Photo Credit: Paula Court

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