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

 


Singers and Composers Honor Stephen Schwartz at 25th Anniversary Gala for American Opera Projects

May 13, 2014

Brooklyn’s AOP (American Opera Projects) celebrated its 25th anniversary of developing and producing opera and music theater on Monday, May 12 with a gala that honored Stephen Schwartz, composer and lyricist of Wicked, Pippin, and Godspell as well as the AOP-developed opera Séance on a Wet Afternoon. It was a hot night (and not just because the air-conditioning was on the fritz) as a packed house of composers, singers, producers and supporters of new music entertained by a concert of Mr. Schwartz’s music performed by a mix of opera and Broadway stars including Lauren Flanigan, Anthony Roth Costanzo, and Betsy Wolfe. AOP-produced composers Daniel Felsenfeld (Nora, In the Great Outdoors), Zachary Redler (Jonathan Larson Award, The Memory Show), and Gregory Spears (Paul’s Case) were among those who spoke about their connection to AOP and the influence of Mr. Schwartz on their lives. The event was held at the landmark theater club The Players in New York City and raised funds to support the not-for-profit AOP and its mission.

Check out photos from the evening in the gallery below and here.


Flanigan and Malfitano: A “Family” Reunion

June 29, 2011

A “family” show of sorts (but not one for the kiddies), The Family Room is Thomas Pasatieri’s terrifying new one-act opera that marks the first collaboration between American Opera Projects and Opera New Jersey.  The libretto was written by Daphne Malfitano and stars the legendary sopranos Lauren Flanigan and Catherine Malfitano, with stage direction by Scott Schwartz.  Chris Cooley assists on piano.

We find two nameless women living in a windowless studio.
They speak of dinner parties and relatives,
of husbands and love and a child named Georgie,
but their only company are ominous sounds from above.

There is life up there, but we are stuck as they are,
beneath it, in The Family Room.

from L-R: Lauren Flanigan, Thomas Pasatieri, Catherine Malfitano, Daphne Malfitano, and Chris Cooley

Since its initial readings in 2009, The Family Room has indeed been a close-knit process between creators and performers.  Written specifically for these two leading singing actresses, the opera marks the first time that Lauren Flanigan and Catherine Malfitano have performed together since the premiere of William Bolcom’s The Wedding in 2004, and also the first time that librettist Daphne Malfitano has worked on a project with her mother.  Previous projects composed for both sopranos by Pasatieri include Frau Margot and Monologues for Ms. Flanigan and Washington Square and The Seagull for Ms. Malfitano.  Similarly, Ms. Flanigan and director Scott Schwartz recently collaborated on NYCO’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon.  Not to mention that pianist Chris Cooley, who assisted on AOP’s initial readings of Séance, has been involved since the The Family Room’s beginning stages.

The latest installment of our First Chance Series, American Opera Projects co-presents The Family Room with Opera New Jersey, an idea that was dreamed up between AOP General Director Charles Jarden and ONJ General Director Richard Russell as an opportunity for the two companies to create a new partnership.  With a powerhouse cast and a creative team such as these, this is one family gathering you’re not likely to forget.

The Family Room

Saturday, July 23 at 2pm
Sunday, July 24 at 7pm

The Berlind Theater
McCarter Theatre Center
Princeton, NJ. 

Talk-backs with the creators and cast to follow each performance.

For tickets and more information, please  visit www.operaprojects.org.


“Séance” Selections in Southampton

August 18, 2010

This past weekend, a very special kind of gathering took place in Southampton. At the house of David H. Koch and his wife, Julia, composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz and soprano Lauren Flanigan performed selections from Schwartz’s new opera, Séance on a Wet Afternoon. The event was held to hype the opera, which had its beginnings with AOP, and which will open in the David H. Koch Theater at New York City Opera in 2011.

You can read more about the evening on the Wall Street Journal’s website, here.


NYCO holds a Séance in 2011

March 11, 2010
Seance at Orensanz 2008

AOP's Seance workshop, Nov 2008. (l to r: Michael Zegarski, Matthew Curran, Lauren Flanigan, John Kimberling, Hila Plitmann. Photo by Michael Chadwick (c)2008)

It was just announced this week that New York City Opera will close their 2010-11 season with the AOP-developed Stephen Schwartz opera Séance on a Wet Afternoon.  Our audiences got a chance to see several workshops of Séance in 2008, and now they’ll have a chance to see how it all finally came together when it has its fully staged NYC premiere on April 19, 2011.  NYCO star Lauren Flanigan, who appeared in each of the AOP workshops, will return to the role of Myra, the psychic medium who hatches a nefarious kidnapping plot in order to boost her reputation.

NYCO will also produce Strauss’ Intermezzo, Bernstein’s A Quiet Place, and will bring back Jonathan Miller‘s production of Donizetti’s Elixer of Love. (A bit of trivia: Jonathan Miller hosted an AOP libretto workshop of Heart of Darkness and Semmelweis in November 2008 just before AOP’s workshop of Séance in the Lower East Side’s Orensanz Theater.)

From NYCO’s press release:

“With this season, we take another step forward on an exciting journey for New York City Opera,” stated George Steel. “I’m thrilled that we have three new productions, that we’re presenting four premieres of works by American composers—all of them New Yorkers—and that we’re exploring new programming possibilities, both with our triple bill of mini-operas and with the new concert series. Most of all, I love the incredible range of compositional styles this season: from the transparent simplicity of Donizetti to the opulent middle-period Richard Strauss to the blend of the popular and classical worlds in Bernstein and Stephen Schwartz—all this topped off by the delicious trio of Schoenberg, Feldman and Zorn. This is what City Opera was made to do, and what makes City Opera unique.”

See more about NYCO’s premiere of Séance on a Wet Afternoon and the rest of the 2010-11 season here.

Other upcoming premieres of AOP-developed projects include Before Night Falls at Fort Worth Opera this May and Heart of Darkness at the Royal Opera House in 2011.


AOP attends Seance premiere; Reviews are in!

October 7, 2009
Lauren Flanigan as Myra conjures the dead in the premiere of Seance on a Wet Afternoon. Photo: David Bazemore for The Santa Barbara Independent

Lauren Flanigan as Myra conjures the dead in the premiere of Seance on a Wet Afternoon. Photo: David Bazemore for The Santa Barbara Independent

AOP Board President Robert E. Lee III and Company Manager Matt Gray were on hand for the gala premiere of Stephen Schwartz‘s first opera Seance on a Wet Afternoon at Opera Santa Barbara. AOP artistic partner and star soprano Lauren Flanigan battled through a head cold and delivered a seemingly effortless bravura performance in the role of Myra, a psychic medium who convinces her husband to participate in a kidnapping scheme that will bring them fame and fortune.

The premiere also featured frequent AOP singers Caroline Worra and Michael Marcotte. Charity Wicks was the assistant conductor to Maestro Valery Ryvkin. A commission by Opera Santa Barbara and produced by Michael Jackowitz, AOP had developed the project since its first workshop in 2008 that was held at South Oxford Space in Brooklyn and the Rose Studio in Lincoln Center with additional public workshops at the Angel Orensanz Theater in the Lower East Side.

And the reviews have started pouring in!

“…terrifically involving and entertaining, sure to excite the interest of opera impresarios (and maybe even legit ones) seeking new audiences for a rigorous art form.”
– Variety
Read full review…

“Stephen Schwartz and Opera Santa Barbara have pulled off the season’s first major coup with this world premiere of what is likely to be among the most talked-about new operas of the decade. Boldly beautiful in its conception and staging, Séance on a Wet Afternoon takes audiences on a wild, suspenseful, and at times even hilarious ride to the limits of tragedy.”
– The Santa Barbara Independent
Read full review…

““Séance” is an opera for people who don’t like opera.”
– LA Times
Read full review…

“…the cast and the production values were exemplary.”
– Santa Barbara Noozhawk
Read full review…

“Stephen Schwartz may have written the world’s most accessible opera.”
– TalkinBroadway.com
Read full review…


Tribute to Stephen Schwartz previews “Seance,” features AOP vets

September 6, 2009

Composer Stephen Schwartz was honored with a concert of his works in Los Angeles that featured many AOP veterans including Lauren Flanigan, Michael Marcotte, and Nathan Lee Graham led in song by frequent AOP music director Charity Wicks. Scattered among hits from Mr. Schwartz’s musicals Pippin, Wicked, and Godspell (to name only a few), audiences got to hear a preview of the AOP-developed opera “Seance on a Wet Afternoon” that will have its premiere at Opera Santa Barbara on Sep. 26.

From Broadway World:

On Sunday, Aug 23rd 2009, Upright Cabaret’s incredibly popular “Wicked Summer Nights” series at the Ford Amphitheatre drew to a close with a spectacular concert entitled ‘Stephen Schwartz: Making Good’ which set out to celebrate the works of the man who inspired the series, Mr. Stephen Schwartz.

With Mr. Schwartz in attendance and narrating the first half of the concert, Director Billy Porter along with Music Directors Chris Bratten and Charity Wicks, guided the audience through the composers famed hit songs which included ‘Magic to Do,’ ‘Defying Gravity,’ and ‘I Guess I’ll Miss the Man,’ and then provided the audience with a sneak peek into Mr. Schwartz’ new work “Séance on a Wet Afternoon” set to debut in Sept 2009 in Santa Barbara, CA.

Read more and view photos…

Steve Pence, Lauren Flanigan, Michael Marcotte at Stephen Schwartz: Making Good

Steve Pence, Lauren Flanigan, Michael Marcotte at Stephen Schwartz: Making Good



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