New LGBTQ Operas Coming Out in Hard Times

February 23, 2017
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Taylor Raven, left, and Brian Vu portray Hannah, the transgender heroine of As One at Pittsburgh Opera. Photo by Renee Rosensteel.

In light of recent news from Washington, American Opera Projects (AOP) announces that of its 31 new operas in development, four are on LGBTQ topics. For AOP, this is not new. In 1998, AOP premiered the first opera ever to focus on a lesbian relationship, Patience & Sarah, by composer Paula M. Kimper, and librettist Wende Persons, three years after Houston Grand Opera’s premiere of Harvey Milk composed by Stewart Wallace to a libretto by Michael Korie.

Upcoming LGBTQ operas are:

While AOP’s roster of LGBTQ operas is growing, clearly in our era there is still significant progress to be made. At the same time, these operas are being embraced across the US. As One, the first opera about a transgender person, by artistic team Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell, and Kimberly Reed is now one of the most performed new operas in America. Following AOP’s premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, As One has had productions in Seattle, Washington D.C., Berkeley, Logan, UT, Berlin, and just last week, Pittsburgh, where the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called it “pertinent and moving,” with upcoming shows in San Diego, Denver, New Orleans, Long Beach, Kansas City, and more.

As One forces you to think, simultaneously challenging preconceptions and inspiring empathy.” – The New York Times

Opera has unfortunately been late to embrace contemporary works, especially ones that address current events and lifestyles. But it is encouraging to see that more and more opera companies recognize the need to be an art form that reflects the stories of our time. In recent years, audiences have seen successful premieres of LGBTQ-themed operas such as Paul’s Case, Before Night Falls, and A Letter to East 11th Street – all having received development in AOP’s First Chance program – as well as Fellow Travelers, Three Decembers, Brokeback Mountain, Prince of Players, Champion, and Angels in America.

At a time when the Trump Administration has removed the Obama-era guidance allowing trans people to select school restrooms according to gender choice, AOP will continue to actively pursue works like these for development and production.

AOP’s most recent world premiere Three Way “explores sex without moralizing” (The East Nashvillian) depicting modern sexuality in three short, comic one acts. The co-production with Nashville Opera, where it had its well-received premiere in January, will come to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in June 2017.

I’m here for an opera that explains to straight people what being trans- or cis-gender is. Hopefully, we as the audience come to a deeper understanding with them. – Schmopera.com‘s review of Three Way’s world premiere in Nashville.

For us to empathize with the struggles of others there can be no art form where their stories are not told. Giving every minority – of race, gender, country, political view, you name it – an opportunity to tell their story may seem impossible, but it is still the ideal. More immediately, we hold as a goal that a proliferation of these stories will allow opera audiences to recognize that the conflicts and lives of every person are relatable. And that the discovery of those inherent, relatable truths of our unified humanity makes enlightening, and exciting, entertainment.

Bloggers: Matt Gray & Annie Troy

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Gender-fluid couple Kyle (Jordan Rutter) and Tyler (Melisa Bonetti), left, get eyed by another couple in Three Way. Photo by Anthony Popolo.

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Three new operas developed by American Opera Projects to premiere in early 2017

January 18, 2017

American Opera Projects (AOP) in New York is currently developing twenty-one new operas with three to premiere in 2017 in multiple locations across the US:

THREE WAY – a sex comedy opera
Premieres January 27 – 29 @ Nashville Opera and June 15-18 @ Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Developed in AOP’s Composers & the Voice and First Chance programs
With music by Robert Paterson (The Whole Truth) and a libretto by David Cote (The Scarlet Ibis), Three Way is a new opera on the present and future of sex and love. In three playful one-acts, average heroes explore the worlds of android lovers, BDSM and multiple partners in their searches for the emotional connections that are ever-elusive in today’s romantic world. Sexy, funny and a little bit shocking, Three Way combines complex but melodic music with witty humor and personal drama creating an Il trittico for the Tinder generation. Nashville Opera and AOP will present the world premiere of Three Way January 27-29, 2017 at The Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville, TN and June 15-18, 2017 at BAM Fisher in Brooklyn, NY in a production directed by John Hoomes and conducted by Dean Williamson. It will feature performances by singers Courtney Ruckman, Samuel Levine, Danielle Pastin, Jordan Rutter, Wes Mason, Melisa Bonetti, Matthew Treviño, and Eliza Bonet with the Nashville Opera Orchestra (January) and the American Modern Ensemble (June performances). Three Way is sung in English with projected English titles, and contains adult language and situations intended for mature audiences. Tickets for the January world premiere are on sale at www.nashvilleopera.org.

THE SUMMER KING – life of Negro League baseball star, Josh Gibson
Premieres April 29-May 7 @ Pittsburgh Opera
Developed in AOP’s Composers & the Voice and First Chance programs
The very first world premiere in Pittsburgh Opera’s distinguished 78-year history, The Summer King tells the story of baseball legend Josh Gibson who went from the sandlots of Pittsburgh’s North Side to the pinnacle of greatness in the Negro Leagues, before ultimately being enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. With music by Daniel Sonenberg and libretto by Daniel Sonenberg and Daniel Nester, and additional lyrics by Mark Campbell, Pittsburgh Opera will present the world premiere at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center for the Performing Arts. Alfred Walker and Denyce Graves lead a cast directed by Sam Helfrich and conducted by Antony Walker. The Summer King was commissioned by Portland Ovations. For tickets and details see www.pittsburghopera.org/show/the-summer-king.

INDEPENDENCE EVE – 100 years of racial tension and relations in the US
Premieres June 3 – 11, Signature Theatre, Arlington, VA
Developed in AOP’s Composers & the Voice and First Chance programs
Washington D.C.’s UrbanArias and AOP present the world premiere of Independence Eve, a new chamber opera in three scenes by composer Sidney Marquez Boquiren and librettist Daniel Neer that explores the troubled journey of race relations in America. Comprised of three unrelated scenes, each of which take place on July 3 in an unspecified American city, Independence Eve focuses on the stories of three black males (each played by baritone Jorell Williams), and three white males (each played by tenor Brandon Snook), who struggle with identity and acceptance amidst race issues that span one hundred years of the American experience. Independence Eve is the fifth AOP-developed opera presented by UrbanArias following the world premieres of She, After, and Paul’s Case, last season’s As One, and this spring’s Lucy. UrbanArias Artistic Director Robert Wood conducts the world premiere that runs June 3-11, 2017 at Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA. Complete info can be found at www.urbanarias.org.

AS ONE – story of transgender self-discovery also presented across US: This spring will also feature new productions of the chamber opera As One at Pittsburgh Opera (Feb 18-26), Opera Colorado (March 2-4), and Long Beach Opera (May 13-21), making a total of nine new productions since AOP commissioned, developed and premiered the work at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2014. The opera for mezzo-soprano, baritone and string quartet by composer Laura Kaminsky, librettist Mark Campbell and librettist/ filmmaker Kimberly Reed, depicts the experiences of its sole transgender protagonist, Hannah, as she endeavors to resolve the discord between herself and the outside world.

ABOUT AMERICAN OPERA PROJECTS www.aopopera.org
Founded in 1988, American Opera Projects is at the forefront of the contemporary opera movement, commissioning, developing, presenting, and producing opera and music theatre projects, collaborating with young, rising, and established artists, and engaging audiences in unique and transformative theatrical experiences. AOP has produced over 30 world premieres, including the Nathan Davis/Brendan Pelsue dance chamber opera Hagoromo starring Wendy Whelan (BAM, 2015), Kaminsky/Reed/ Campbell’s As One (BAM, 2014), Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (Irondale Center, 2014), and Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (co-production with Lincoln Center Festival, 2013) and the upcoming 2017 co-production with Nashville Opera of Robert Paterson’s Three Way (Nashville Opera, BAM Fisher). AOP develops new operas through two programs made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and other generous donors that train emerging artists, and provide resources, workshop and production opportunities:

First Chance: First Chance allows composers and librettists to hear their work in part or in full for the first time before an audience, with live singers and accompaniment. Through question and answer sessions, First Chance allows audience members to provide input while artists discover their own unique voices. AOP then works on attracting presenting partners to produce a fully-staged world premiere including BAM, Lincoln Center Festival, and UrbanArias (in the DC metro area). www.aopopera.org/firstchance.html

Composers & the Voice: Created and led by Steven Osgood (General and Artistic Director of Chautauqua Opera and former Artistic Director of AOP), the Composers & the Voice fellowship training program provides composers and librettists experience working collaboratively with singers on writing for the voice and contemporary opera stage. AOP will begin its ninth season in Fall 2017, with applications made available on its website on March 15. Since launching in 2002, C&V has fostered the development of 54 composers & librettists. A complete list of alumni can be found at www.aopopera.org/composers_voice.

American Opera Projects
138 S. Oxford St. Ste. 3-D, Brooklyn, NY 11217 • 718.398.4024 • aoperaprojects.org


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