The Wanton Sublime hailed as emotionally captivating and beautifully written

September 4, 2015

The Wanton Sublime, composed by Tarik O’Regan with a libretto by American poet Anna Rabinowitz, focuses on the character of the Virgin Mary as she grapples with the terror of being chosen for a divine purpose. Originally developed in NYC with American Opera Projects, it was just performed at the Grimeborn Festival in East London. Hai Ting Chinn was the star in this one woman opera, conducted by Andrew Griffiths, who lead the Orpheus Sinfonia, and directed by Robert Shaw. A strong, well-rounded production, The Wanton Sublime gives a new voice to a classic figure through powerful text, beautiful melodic lines, a simple production, and atypical instrumentation.

Hai-Ting Chinn in The Wanton Sublime (Grimeborn - Arcola Theatre) © Robert Workman

Hai-Ting Chinn in The Wanton Sublime (Grimeborn – Arcola Theatre)
© Robert Workman

Tim Ashley, writing for The Guardian, applauded the “…bluesy rebelliousness and Monteverdian lyricism…” of Tarik O’Regan’s music in The Wanton Sublime, citing a beautiful moment in which the Virgin Mary is torn between her fear and her faith as “…Chinn sings against a playback of her own voice singing sacred texts…”. Rupert Christiansen of The Telegraph was also impressed by O’Regan’s music, praising its unfaltering heartbeat and melody “…weaving a richly melismatic vocal line into a strikingly coloured orchestral score delicately enhanced by electronic effects. Never sterile or mechanical it seems to have a living organic pulse.”

The What’sOnStage review  by Mark Valencia complemented the music and the characterization of the Virgin Mary calling the opera “…musically rich…and also philosophically absorbing.” Valencia appreciates how Rabinowitz presents Mary as”…a strong young woman who questions, challenges and even defies the God who has slated her to be the mother of Christ.” Tim Ashley (The Guardian) also enjoyed the emotional depth of the opera, “The underlying point, integral to much mystic literature, is that divine intervention has the bewildering potential to shatter lives and identities.” Edward Bhesania’s review for The Stage compliments Rabinowitz’s and O’Regan’s creative partnership as Mary’s character “…begins with incredulity and disdain before finally reaching acceptance, by which point both music and text have attained a more sublime tone.” The EveningStandard review, written by Barry Millington, also applauds their collaboration, stating “…Rabinowitz’s text explores the nervous longings of an idealised iconic figure, complemented by Tarik O’Regan’s inventive and attractive score…”

Hai-Ting Chinn in The Wanton Sublime (Grimeborn - Arcola Theatre) © Robert Workman

Hai-Ting Chinn in The Wanton Sublime (Grimeborn – Arcola Theatre)
© Robert Workman

Valencia (What’sOnStage) also describes the minimalist staging by Robert Shaw “…commendably simple staging presents her as a power dressed young professional who changes midway through into simpler clothes that better assert her individuality. It’s a subtle transition, and beautifully judged.” Edward Bhesania (The Stage) complimented the instrumentation which “…uses a 9 piece band (including electric guitar and rums to underpin the journey of the Virgin Mary figure stripped of her iconic symbolism and grappling in today’s world of her unasked-for role.”

AOP began developing the monodrama in 2009 and co-produced its premiere at Roulette in Brooklyn in 2014. AOP had previously worked with Tarik O’Regan on his first opera Heart of Darkness and with Anna Rabinowitz on Darkling, another operatic adaptation of a book of her poetry. Darkling, music by Stefan Weisman, was commissioned and developed by AOP.

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Virgin Mothers and Sex Robots Perform Operas at Brooklyn’s Roulette

March 20, 2014

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American Opera Projects (AOP) in partnership with American Modern Ensemble (AME) and presented by Ear Heart Music (EHM), performs “The Wanton Sublime & The Companion”, a pair of one-act chamber operas, on Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 8:00 PM, at Roulette (509 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY). Tickets: $20 general; $15 members/seniors. Roulette.org

The Wanton Sublime, from composer Tarik O’Regan, librettist Anna Rabinowitz and commissioned by AOP,  explores the human and mythic aspects of the Virgin Mary. In this one-act monodrama for mezzo-soprano and amplified chamber ensemble, Mary struggles to retain her flesh and blood identity in the face of external forces intent on symbolizing her as the ideal woman. Featuring mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn under the direction of Mallory Catlett. This 30 minute monodrama is being developed through the AOP First Chance program and was last seen at Opera New Jersey in 2012.

Says Anna Rabinowitz, “The Virgin Mary comes down to us through western cultural history as the eternal feminine, exemplar of woman as gentle and compliant. The vehicle through which she has been known may be theology, but, as the dominant female in our culture, many of the characteristics of her womanhood are today in conflict with powerful social and political issues of gender. In The Wanton Sublime, Mary is a woman who, in the face of the destiny presented to her, occupies an interior world rife with questions rather than received answers. She is troubled, anxious, ambiguous, aware of her rights or lack thereof.”

In The Companion, a futuristic one-act opera by composer Robert Paterson and librettist David Cote, people live with biomorphic androids that cook, clean, and make love on demand. Maya is not completely satisfied with her model so she calls in tech-support worker Dax. But can Maya handle Joe 2.0? Featuring soprano Nancy Allen Lundy, tenor Brandon Snook, and baritone Kyle Guglielmo under the direction of Walker Lewis. The 35 minute opera is the second act of an Il trittico-style evening called Three Way. Both The Companion and its preceding act Safe Word were developed during Robert Paterson’s 2011-12 fellowship in AOP’s Composers & the Voice program.

Brandon Snook performs an aria from The Companion. Composers & the Voice 2012.

Says David Cote, “The Companion is the second act of an opera triptych about sexuality and power called Three Way. Clearly The Companion is science fiction, but who doubts that society is headed this way? In the piece, I wanted to tell a funny yet strange story about obsession, detachment and projection. Technology enables Maya’s quest for perfect love, even as it reflects the absurdity of that quest back at her. Dax knows how robots work, but people are a dark mystery. Joe has amazing perceptual and cognitive powers, but he lacks emotional integration. Whether that makes him more human or less is an open question.”

These semi-staged premieres, featuring the American Modern Ensemble with Tyson Deaton, conductor, will be presented with an intermission. The author A.M. Homes, best known for her novel The End of Alice and her memoir, The Mistress’s Daughter, moderates a mid-concert discussion with fellow Yaddo artists Mallory Catlett, Walker Lewis, Tarik O’Regan, Robert Paterson, and Anna Rabinowitz, as well as David Cote.

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For press inquiries: Sarah Baird Knight | sarah@dotdotdotmusic.net | t. 718/344-3690 | www.dotdotdotmusic.net


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