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.



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.

“something I would never, could never do, in a more traditional concert setting”

October 2, 2013

Experimental performance artist Laurie Anderson takes us through her personal journey of The Blind (AOP’s co-production with Lincoln Center Festival 2013) in an interview with composer Lera Auerbach in this month’s Harper’s BAZAAR.

“After experiencing The Blind, I felt that my ears had been directly connected to my mind and that I had somehow heard the desperate and impossibly beautiful music of the bardo*.”

     *The bardo is a Buddhist concept about the sound of the interval between death and rebirth expressed in The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

To Read the Full Story: Lera Auberbach Interview on Opera The Blind – Harper’s BAZAAR 

Director John LaBouchardiere’s production of The Blind just recently wrapped up its first touring performances at the Trondheim Chamber Music Festival in Norway on September 25 & 26.


Meet the Cast You WON’T See at THE BLIND

June 26, 2013

Curious about who you’ll be hearing at AOP and Lincoln Center Festival’s co-production of The Blind from July 9-14? While their vocal talent goes without saying, we think they’re a pretty good-lookin’ cast to boot…browse the list below, or jump to a name using one of the following quick-links!

Yulia Van Doren
Sarah Brailey
Faith Sherman
Barbara Rearick
Nicole Mitchell
Rosalie Sullivan

Dominic Armstrong
John McVeigh
Kyle Pfortmiller
David Schmidt
Branch Fields
Liam Moran

Dominic Armstrong (Tenor) was heard during the 2012-13 season with the New York City Opera as Prologue and Peter Quint in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw and made debuts at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and at Carnegie Hall as Steve in Prévin’s A Streetcar Named Desire. He has also recently sung Shostakovich’s Moscow, Cheryomushki with Chicago Opera Theatre, Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus with Memphis Opera, and Remendado in Carmen at the Castleton Festival. He has also sung Flavio in Norma and Borsa in Rigoletto with the Opera Company of Philadelphia, the title role of La Clemenza di Tito at Chicago Opera Theatre, Parpignol in La Bohème at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Reverend Horace Adams in Peter Grimes and  Heinrich in Tannhaüser in Turin, Count Almaviva in Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles at the Wexford Festival, the title role of Candide and as Ulisse in Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria at the Wolf Trap Opera, and Nemorino in L’Elisir d’Amore in Hong Kong. He was Grand Finalist in the 2008 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.  AOP credits include Composers and the Voice resident ensemble (2013-2014).

Sarah Brailey (Soprano) is sought-after in a broad and varied repertoire that ranges from the baroque to the present day. Recent highlights include solo performances at Alice Tully Hall in Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream with the American Classical Orchestra and Handel’s Messiah with the Trinity Choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra. She has also recently sung Bach’s St. John Passion with the Boulder Bach Festival and his St. Matthew Passion at Trinity Wall Street. Highlights of next season include a tour with experimental a cappella vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth and appearances with composer/performer John Zorn in New York City, England’s Huddersfield Festival, and Australia’s Adelaide Festival. AOP credits include The Scarlet Ibis.

Branch Fields (Bass) has performed with a number of opera companies in the U.S., including the Santa Fe Opera, New York City Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Carolina, Michigan Opera Theatre, Utah Opera, and Opera San Jose. He has also been heard in concert, with the Munich Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Santa Fe Symphony, Colorado Springs Philharmonic, and American Symphony Orchestra. He recently sang Emile de Becque in South Pacific with the Utah Festival Opera and at the Ogunquit Playhouse. Highlights of his 2012-13 season include Don Alfonso in Cosí fan tutte, King Balthazar in Amahl and the Night Visitors, and Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette in Bozeman, Montana; a benefit performance for the Open Heart Foundation of Tim Janis’ The Christmas Rose at Carnegie Hall; Sarastro in The Magic Flute for Opera on the James in Lynchburg, Virginia; and Méphistophélès in Gounod’s Faust in Fort Collins. AOP credits include Paul’s Case.

John McVeigh (Tenor) is heard during the 2013-14 season as Pang in Turandot with Hawaii Opera Theatre and returns to Houston Grand Opera for productions of Carmen and Das Rheingold. Recent operatic appearances include Goro in Madama Butterfly with PORTopera; Tybalt in Roméo et Juliette with Opera Colorado; Acis in Acis and Galatea at the Macau International Music Festival, Glimmerglass Opera, and Detroit Oratorio Society; Emilio in Handel’s Partenope at Glimmerglass Opera and New York City Opera; Pang with Arizona Opera; Lurcanio in Ariodante at New York City Opera and Houston Grand Opera; and productions of Das Rheingold, Ariadne auf Naxos, and Billy Budd at the Metropolitan Opera. Recent concert engagements include Haydn’s Creation with the Portland Symphony; Handel’s Messiah with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Baroque, Winston Salem Symphony, and Charlotte Symphony Orchestra; Acis with Amsterdam’s Concert Radio Kamer Filharmonie; Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the Dallas Symphony; Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Memphis Symphony; and Handel’s L’allegro at the Kennedy Center with the Mark Morris Dance Group.

Nicole Mitchell (Mezzo-soprano) is a native of Brooklyn and has performed regularly with AOP and The Walt Whitman Project promoting the works of New York composers, including Gilda Lyons’ Songs from the F Train cycle at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall. She has also sung Tituba in Robert Ward’s The Crucible with New York City Opera, Sarasota Opera, and Piedmont Opera. In 2008, while a Tanglewood Vocal Fellow (2008), she sang in Kurt Weill’s The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Earlier this year she was heard in recital at Brooklyn Navy Yard Center’s BLDG 92 Museum. AOP credits include Songs from the F Train and This Is the Rill Speaking.

Liam Moran (Bass) was heard this season at Opera Omaha as Dr. Grenvil in La Traviata, Annapolis Opera as Sparafucile in Rigoletto, Kentucky Opera as the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, and at New York’s St. Thomas Church and Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in Handel’s Messiah. During the 2013-14 season he will sing Count Ceprano in Rigoletto and Gualtiero in I Puritani with Boston Lyric Opera and the Mozart Requiem with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.



Kyle Pfortmiller (Baritone) made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Marquis d’Obigny in a new production of La Traviata in 2010, and has also recently sung Papageno in The Magic Flute with Opera Carolina, and Valentin in Faust, Fred/Petruchio in Kiss Me Kate, and Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady with Utah Festival Opera and Music Theater. Next season he returns to the Met for Andrea Chénier and the company premiere of Nico Muhly’s Two Boys. AOP credits include Brahms, Barber, and John Adams with the String Orchestra of Brooklyn.

Rearick Barbara smBarbara Rearick (Mezzo-Soprano) has sung with the orchestras of Houston, Baltimore, Hallé, and Berlin’s Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester (with whom she recorded Kurt Weill’s The Eternal Road). In 2011 she sang Mark Anthony Turnage’s Twice Through the Heart for the Chicago Symphony’s MusicNow series. She is a founding member of the Britten-Pears Ensemble, a London-based chamber group specializing in contemporary works. With the late Richard Rodney Bennett, she gave recitals at festivals and venues throughout the US and UK including Wigmore Hall and at the Aldeburgh Festival. She has also appeared on BBC World Service Radio, WQXR, and NPR and is on the voice faculty at Princeton University.

Schmidt DavidDavid Schmidt (Baritone) has performed a broad range of opera, concert, and musical theater on stages throughout the US and Italy. He joined the Metropolitan Opera Chorus this past summer for performances of Parsifal and Götterdämmerung. At Italy’s Spoleto Festival, he sang the premiere performance of an aria composed for a new production of The Telephone directed by composer Gian Carlo Menotti. He has also sung with the Nashville Opera, Anchorage Opera, Opera Memphis, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Des Moines Metro Opera, Missouri Symphony, and National Opera Company. AOP credits include OPERAtion Brooklyn and The Scarlet Ibis.

Faith Sherman (Mezzo-soprano) made her European debut at the English National Opera as the Pilgrim in Kaijia Saariaho’s L’amour de loin, and has also sung Sister Sophia in The Sound of Music at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Bernstein’s Jeremiah Symphony at the Aspen Music Festival, Concepcion in L’heure espagnole at Oper Frankfurt; Beatrice in Berlioz’ Béatrice et Bénédict at Houston Grand Opera, and in the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Rappahannock County at Virginia Opera. She is an alumna of the Juilliard School and Houston Grand Opera Studio Program.

Sullivan, RosalieRosalie Sullivan (Mezzo-soprano) has performed with AOP, Opera Orchestra of New York, Central City Opera, Opera Omaha, and as soloist at Carnegie Hall with MidAmerica Productions. Recent appearances include Phil Kline and Jim Jarmusch’s Tesla in New York with American Contemporary Music Ensemble, David Jackson’s staged song cycle Model Love, and works by Paul Moravec, Mark Adamo, Martin Hennessy, Stephen Paulus, and Gerald Busby. Operatic highlights include Sesto in La Clemenza di Tito, Dorabella and Despina in Così fan tutte, Carmen and Mercedes in Carmen, and Zenobia in Radamisto. She has been a recipient of honors and awards from the Santa Fe Opera, the Merola Opera Board, Anna Sosenko Assist Trust, and the A E Ventures Foundation. AOP credits include Love/Hate, Patience & Sarah, and Model Love.

Yulia Van Doren (Soprano) has recently sung with the Nashville Symphony, Pasadena Symphony, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and City of London Sinfonia. She has also sung Monsigny’s  Le roi et le fermier at Opera de Versailles, Lincoln Center, and Washington’s Kennedy Center, Scarlatti’s Tigrane at Opera de Nice, and made her Carnegie Hall debut in a new work by Angel Lam. A specialist in baroque repertoire she has sung at the Mostly Mozart Festival, Ravinia Festival, and Tanglewood Festival (Handel’s Orlando with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra); Kennedy Center (Charpentier’s Actéon with Opera Lafayette); Macao International Music Festival (Handel’s Acis and Galatea with Berlin’s Akademie für Alte Musik); and Houston and Baltimore Symphonies (Handel’s Messiah). She made her debut at Amsterdam’s Concertgebou with Radio Kamer Filharmonie as Galatea in Acis and Galatea and has sung Belinda in multiple tours of Dido and Aeneas (choreographed and directed by Mark Morris) and St. Teresa in Morris’ production of Virgil Thomson’s Four Saints in Three Acts at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.


Two World Premieres and many, many raves

May 2, 2013

April has been busy and gratifying for AOP and we are just about a third of the way through our 25th year (stay tuned for announcements about anniversary events). Just as we finished up workshops for our upcoming July premiere of The Blind at Lincoln Center Festival, two AOP-developed works received their world premieres at regional opera companies. Even better, they are resounding successes. AOP develops new work and partners with companies across the country because of leadership support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and many generous individuals.


Present Music and Milwaukee Opera Theater co-produced Judgment of Midas on April 12 & 13. The extravagant, Turkish influenced music by composer Kamran Ince supplies “an orgiastic climax as crazed and hair-raising as anything I’ve heard in all of opera” (ThirdCoastDaily.com). It is a large scale comedy with six principles and a small chorus.

UrbanArias began two week premiere run of a chamber opera, Paul’s Case, at Artisphere in Arlington, VA (Washington, DC) on April 20. Based on a story by Willa Cather, Paul’s Case is

“…an arresting little piece that communicates its haunting story with clarity and a sense of inevitability.” (The Washington Post)

“Composer Gregory Spears combines minimalism, baroque gestures, and extended vocal techniques into a distinctive and pungent musical language . . . the overall pacing is taut, the nine-piece orchestration vivid and the denouement appropriately wrenching.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“The words ‘world premiere’ don’t always translate to ‘Must-See,’ but in the case of Paul’s Case… they’re synonymous.” (DC Metro Theater Arts)

“…the piece is nearly ready to claim a place in the chamber opera repertoire – thanks to a long-haul development process for which American Opera Projects deserves much credit.” (Arts Journal)


Visit AOP First Chance to follow the next round of operas on their way to premiere productions!


2013 Lincoln Center Festival to Feature AOP Premiere

March 27, 2013

Composer Lera Auerbach

New York, NY, March 27, 2013 — Nigel Redden, Director of Lincoln Center Festival, today announced the 2013 Festival’s line-up, which includes the latest AOP Premiere – The Blind, an a capella opera by the prolific Russian-born, New York-based composer, Lera Auerbach, featuring a new staging by John La Bouchardière (The Full Monteverdi, Lincoln Center Festival 2007).  The opera is based on an early surrealist play by Maurice Maeterlinck about a group of sightless people who have been abandoned on a desolate island.  There will be six performances in the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse from July 9-14, 2013. The one-hour production will be conducted by Julian Wachner. The Lincoln Center Festival press release describes the co-production:

Following the sell-out success of his project The Full Monteverdi performed by I Fagiolini during Lincoln Center Festival 2007, British director John La Bouchardière returns to the Festival to direct a new and radical re-imagining of Lera Auerbach’s 2001 a cappella opera The Blind, freely-adapted from  the controversial Symbolist play by Maurice Maeterlinck.

Scored for 12 unaccompanied voices, The Blind chronicles a group of sightless people abandoned on a desolate island as they await the return of the religious leader who led them from their home so they could feel the last rays of sunlight before winter.  The audience will be immersed into complete darkness to experience the sensory world of the story. The cast includes: Dominic Armstrong, Sarah Brailey, Yulia Van Doren, Branch Fields, John McVeigh, Nicole Mitchell, Liam Moran, Kyle Pfortmiller, Barbara Rearick, David Schmidt, Faith Sherman, and Rosalie Sullivan. It is performed in English.

The Blind will be AOP’s fourth premiere at The Lincoln Center Festival following Hildegurls Electric Ordo Virtutum (1998),  Patience & Sarah (1998), and Tone Test (2004). The Festival runs from July 6 through 28, 2013. Single tickets go on sale on April 8 for the festival, which will unfold in six venues on and off the Lincoln Center campus. There will be a total of 62 performances by artists and ensembles from ten countries.

More on The Blind here


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