NYU Tisch, the Brooklyn Museum, and American Opera Projects to present 11 Mini-Operas based on Judy Chicago’s iconic feminist artwork The Dinner Party

May 8, 2018

Judy Chicago (American, born 1939). The Dinner Party, 1974–79. Ceramic, porcelain, textile, 576 × 576 in. (1463 × 1463 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. (Photo: Donald Woodman)

The Dinner Party Operas
Short operas inspired by Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party
A collaboration between NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, American Opera Projects, and the Brooklyn Museum

Wednesday, May 23 | 7:30 PM – Program A
GMTWP Black Box Theatre, NYU Tisch
715 Broadway, 2nd Floor, NY, NY 10003

Sunday, May 27 | 2:00 PM – Program B
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium at the Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11238

 

February 28, 2017

NEW YORK, NY – The Dinner Party Operas, a showcase of eleven original mini-operas inspired by Judy Chicago’s iconic feminist installation The Dinner Party, a multi-media work housed in the Brooklyn Museum, will be presented this May in New York City by the NYU Tisch Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (GMTWP), the Brooklyn Museum, the NYU Tisch Department of Design for Stage & Film and American Opera Projects (AOP). Six of the operas will be performed on Wednesday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m. at NYU Tisch’s GMTWP Black Box Theatre, located in Manhattan at 715 Broadway, between Washington and Waverly places, on the second floor. The remaining five operas will be performed on Sunday, May 27 at 2:00 p.m. at the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium at the Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11238. Each under 15-minutes long, the operas were written and composed by students in the NYU Tisch GMTWP Opera Lab and will be performed by professional opera singers with piano accompaniment. The Dinner Party Operas is free with advance registration (May 23) or museum admission (May 27) and open to the public. To reserve tickets for the May 23 performance at NYU, email tisch.ipa@nyu.edu. Complete info at www.aopopera.org.

The Dinner Party Operas is the most recent production of Tisch GMTWP’s Opera Lab program, through which students write, compose, develop, and design original operas performed by professional opera singers. Opera Lab was started in 2015 by GMTWP professor Randall Eng with Design Dept. professor Sam Helfrich, and is open to both students and alumni. In previous years, the program’s mini-operas were created on the subjects of Brooklyn’s historic Fort Greene Park and New York City’s International House, which houses and supports international students and entrepreneurs from around the world.

The Dinner Party, an important icon of 1970s feminist art and a milestone in twentieth-century art, is presented as the centerpiece around which the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art is organized. The Dinner Party comprises a massive ceremonial banquet, arranged on a triangular table with a total of thirty-nine place settings, each commemorating an important woman from history. The settings consist of embroidered runners, gold chalices and utensils, and china-painted porcelain plates with raised central motifs that are based on vulvar and butterfly forms and rendered in styles appropriate to the individual women being honored. The names of another 999 women are inscribed in gold on the white tile floor below the triangular table. This permanent installation is enhanced by rotating Herstory Gallery exhibitions relating to the 1,038 women honored at the table. The pharaoh Hatshepsut; the medieval nun, composer, scientist, and prophetess Hildegard von Bingen; and writer Emily Dickinson are just three of the famous women from Judy Chicago’s art installation who serve as muses for this year’s operas.

“The Dinner Party contains a multitude of stories, and was created in part to encourage viewers to investigate those stories,” said Eng. “In these operas, the students have done exactly that, as they transform the visual and historic into music and theatre. Some of the operas celebrate moments in the lives of specific women, while others confront the work as a whole, and it’s been a joy to see the range of operatic responses—from comic farce to meditative reflection to heightened tragedy to impassioned critique.”

In addition to Profs. Eng and Helfrich, NYU Tisch’s GMTWP Opera Lab is led by Music Directors Mila Henry and James Lowe, who will provide piano accompaniment for the performances. Stage directors and designers from the NYU Tisch Graduate Department of Design for Stage and Film will stage the works in Program A under the guidance of Prof. Helfrich. Luke Leonard will direct the Program B operas.

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“Startling,” “gripping” THE ECHO DRIFT finishes “virtuoso” run at Prototype Festival

January 26, 2018

On January 20, the world premiere of THE ECHO DRIFT, with music by Mikael Karlsson, libretto by Elle Kunnos de Voss & Kathryn Walat, directed by Mallory Catlett and conducted by Nicholas DeMaison completed its six-performance run at Baruch Performing Arts Center in New York City as part of the 2018 Prototype Festival. Mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert starred as a convicted murderer trapped in a timeless prison and is unexpectedly befriended by a moth (actor John Kelly) with an offer of a perceived way to freedom. The experimental chamber opera, performed by members of ICE Ensemble and enhanced by electronic soundscape and animation, was enthusiastically received by both audiences and critics alike.

Blythe Gaissert as Walker Loats in The Echo Drift

“a startling science fiction conceit kickstarted the gripping one-act The Echo Drift. In this world premiere work, an inmate in a futuristic prison gets a visit from a talking moth that tries to persuade her than she can escape by rejecting her conventional sense of time and space. Everything about this presentation was virtuoso, from the psychedelic snarls and slithers in composer Mikael Karlsson’s orchestra writing to the sly, ironic whispers of actor John Kelly as the Moth. But the heart of the piece was the bravura singing of Blythe Gaissert as the panicky prisoner, her smoky mezzo biting into the wide-ranging and relentless vocal part with the violent abandon of a starving shark.” – The Observer

Stark and intricate, propulsive and a little film-noir, “The Echo Drift” is most exciting when it is fast and cacophonous, nearly overwhelming the senses.” – The New York Times

a totally original and stunning, immersive piece… with a scintillating score composed by Mikael Karlsson, and a brilliant environmental production by Elle Kunnos de Voss in their first collaboration. … Gaissert is wonderful as Loats, giving herself over totally to the fantasy world that the creators have presented to her, more than holding her own vocally in the powerful and audacious orchestral setting–by turns jazzy, acoustic, electronic, melodic, atonal, soothing, blasting–that the composer has devised.” – Broadway World

“seventy immersive minutes of six-channel surround sound and projected animations … The score was modest, absorbing, and lush …  For a story about a convicted murderer in solitary confinement, The Echo Drift is surprisingly accessible and apolitical. … Gaissert and Kelly fully embraced the sophisticated score and meta set, and The Echo Drift balanced an immersive multidimensional experience with a refreshing affirmation of human solidarity.” – I Care If You Listen

“Nicholas DeMaison conducted with unwavering clarity, helped by seven superb musicians from the International Contemporary Ensemble. Levy Lorenzo’s electronics wizardry—effectively an eighth instrument—creates unusually vivid textures, such as the complex, machine-like chords repeated near the end, tolling like otherworldly bells. … It is hard to sufficiently praise soprano Blythe Gaissert as Loats, singing tirelessly over the course of the opera’s 70 minutes.” – Musical America

“The Echo Drift struck an admirable balance between evocative score and creative composition, and is easily worthy of a pure listen without the staging. Karlsson’s subtle but crucial electronic elements were particularly noteworthy, threading through the live performers with magnetic textures… singers and musicians alike made this small chamber opera a grand production.” – Seen and Heard International

In a tension-filled final day, Gaissert took ill and made the difficult decision not to perform. Her cover Kathryn Krasovec stepped in with only a few hours of rehearsal under her belt and gave a powerful performance that captivated the audience on the opera’s final night.

The Echo Drift was commissioned, developed and produced by Beth Morrison Projects, HERE, and American Opera Projects. The Echo Drift was originally developed by Mikael Karlsson and Elle Kunnos de Voss in a full-length workshop presented by the Embassy of Sweden in Washington DC in 2014. Additional development was provided through the Opera Genesis Fellowship, a residency at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, made in partnership with American Opera Projects.


AOP to present the complete video of the 2014 world premiere of As One for one week

June 21, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 21, 2017

TO CELEBRATE LGBTQ PRIDE, AMERICAN OPERA PROJECTS PRESENTS THE COMPLETE VIDEO OF THE 2014 WORLD PREMIERE OF AS ONE – “A TRANSGENDER STORY WITH POWER, PASSION”

The popular chamber opera by Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell, and Kimberly Reed will be screened to the public June 23-30 on the AOP website.

Premiere production at BAM features mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and baritone Kelly Markgraf sharing the role of the transgender protagonist.

 

BROOKLYN, NYIn celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month, American Opera Projects (AOP) will make available to the public the video of their 2014 World Premiere production of the opera As One from June 23-30, 2017 on the AOP website at www.aopopera.org/AsOne/worldpremiere.  As One, with music and concept by Laura Kaminsky, an original libretto by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed, and film by Ms. Reed chronicles the experiences of a transgender person with empathy and wit as she emerges into harmony with the world around her.

As One has become one of the most produced contemporary American operas written in the past 50 years with eight new productions around the country (and one in Berlin, Germany) in the three years since its premiere and at least eight more scheduled for the 2017-18 season, including San Diego Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera and Hawaii Opera Theatre.

AOP developed and commissioned the one-act chamber opera specifically for internationally-acclaimed singers (and real-life husband and wife) Kelly Markgraf, baritone, and Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano, who shared the role of the protagonist Hannah in the world premiere production at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), directed by Ken Cazan, conducted by Steven Osgood, and featuring the Utah-based Fry Street Quartet. The production design by David Jacques includes film by Kimberly Reed, director of the award-winning documentary, Prodigal Sons. Costume design was by Sara Jean Tosetti.

Reviewing the world premiere, The New York Times said, “As One forces you to think, simultaneously challenging preconceptions and inspiring empathy.” Subsequent productions earned the opera additional critical praise: “The real secret of the opera’s success… is that under everything lays a winning coming-of-age story. … By moving beyond the daily news, As One approaches admirable universality.” (The Los Angeles Times); “a transgender story with power, passion … beautiful lyrical moments… as uplifting as any operatic ending could be.” (Seattle Times); “A thoughtful and substantial piece as well as that rarest of operatic commodities — a story that lends itself to dramatization in music.” (The Washington Post); “As One is the hottest title in opera right now … An accomplished bit of art-making, with considerable entertainment value, that thrusts itself smack into the current political and social discourse.” (The Denver Post)

In addition to As One, Brooklyn-based opera producer American Opera Projects has developed and produced numerous LGBTQ-themed works including the 1998 Lincoln Center Festival world premiere of Patience & Sarah by Paula Kimper and Wende Person, one of the first operas about a gay relationship.

“While AOP’s roster of LGBTQ operas is growing, clearly in our era there is still significant progress to be made,” says AOP Producing Director Matt Gray. “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 present stories that reflect contemporary issues and portray a diversity of characters.” 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. Gray continues, “For us to empathize with the struggles of others there can be no art form where their stories are not told. AOP holds 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.”

For more information about transgender issues please visit the GLAAD WEBSITE.

AS ONE photo 3 by Ken Howard for AOP

Baritone Kelly Markgraf (left) and mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke shared the role of the transgender protagonist Hannah in the 2014 world premiere of As One, an opera by Laura Kaminsky, Kimberly Reed, and Mark Campbell. Photo by Ken Howard.

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PRESS CONTACT:  Matthew Gray, AOP Producing Director, 718-398-4024, mgray@operaprojects.org

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


Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park the Subject of 12 Mini-operas by NYU Composers

April 22, 2016

“Park and Bark” to premiere in Fort Greene Park and NYU on May 7 and 8

A 2013 AOP concert in Fort Greene Park

A 2013 AOP concert in Fort Greene Park

NEW YORK – On May 7 and 8, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, American Opera Projects (AOP), and the Fort Greene Park Conservancy (FGPC) will present “Park and Bark,” twelve mini-operas written by students in Tisch’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (GMTWP) on the subject of Fort Greene Park, one of New York’s, and the nation’s, most historic and vibrant neighborhood parks. The operas, each under fifteen minutes, include dramatizations of the park’s large dog walking community, the remains of the Prison Ship Martyrs from the American Revolution, and a park gardener in a post-apocalyptic future. Six of the operas, staged by opera director, associate Arts Professor and Head of Dramaturgy in the Graduate Department of Design for Stage and Film Sam Helfrich (Glimmerglass, Virginia Opera, Boston Lyric), will be performed at NYU Tisch’s Black Box Theater (715 Broadway, 2nd Floor, NY 10003) on Saturday, May 7th at 2:00pm. The other six operas will be performed in an outdoor concert near the Visitors Center at Fort Greene Park on Sunday, May 8th at 4:00pm. All performances are free and open to the public. Seating for May 7 is limited and can be reserved at https://parkandbarkmay7.eventbrite.com. More information can be found at www.aopopera.org.

The operas will be performed by sopranos Kamala Sankaram (Prototype Festival), Deborah van Renterghem (Santa Fe Opera), and Amelia Watkins (Leipzig Gewandhaus), mezzo-soprano Sarah Heltzel (Seattle Opera), tenor Blake Friedman (Brooklyn Academy of Music), countertenor Eric Brenner (Prototype Festival), baritone Jorell Williams (Santa Fe Opera, Mark Morris Dance Group), and bass Sam Carl (Berlin Opera Academy, Edinburgh International Festival). Like Mozart, Handel, and Verdi, who often wrote roles for particular singers, the composers worked with the professional opera singers and music directors Kelly Horsted and Mila Henry on the development of the thirteen operas.

Students in the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (GMTWP) began learning the ins and outs of opera writing this spring when Brooklyn’s American Opera Projects (AOP) partnered with Tisch School of the Arts for a new “Opera Writing Workshop.”  Led by composer and faculty member Randall Eng, the workshop is an advanced class for composers and librettists of GMTWP at Tisch, as well as recent alumni, to collaborate with professional opera singers and music directors under the mentorship of AOP, an opera company in Fort Greene that has developed and premiered contemporary operas for over 25 years.

L to R: Randall Eng, Chandra McClelland, Tek Goo Kang, Brian Cavanagh-Strong, Ben Bonnema

L to R: Randall Eng, Chandra McClelland, Tek Goo Kang, Brian Cavanagh-Strong, Ben Bonnema

AOP General Director and Fort Greene Park Conservancy Chairman Charles Jarden, with park and conservancy staff, guided the thirteen composer/librettist teams’ research of Fort Greene Park in diverse subjects as park history, modern anecdotes, and neighborhood color.

“This process has been particularly helpful for anyone who has gone through school already and needs critical eyes on their work,” wrote Casey O’Neil, one of the workshop’s composers. “Randall and the guest instructors delivered terrific and specific feedback, which has helped make the works much stronger.”

Support for the workshop was provided by the Institute of Performing Arts, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and a multi-year award to AOP from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with the free performances made possible by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

L to R: Randall Eng, Mila Henry, Blake Friedman, Amelia Watkins, Sam Carl

L to R: Randall Eng, Mila Henry, Blake Friedman, Amelia Watkins, Sam Carl

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Pittsburgh Opera announces AOP operas ‘The Summer King’ and ‘As One’ for their 2016/17 season

February 26, 2016

THE SUMMER KING by Daniel Sonenberg • World Premiere: April 29, May 2, 5 & 7, 2017
AS ONE by Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell, and Kimberly Reed • Pennsylvania Premiere: February 18, 21, 24 & 26, 2017

Pittsburgh Opera has announced it will mount the staged World Premiere of The Summer King in April 2017, with a cast to include mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves and previous AOP artists Kenneth Kellogg and Jasmine Muhammad, direction by Sam Helfrich, and with Pittsburgh Opera Music Director Antony Walker conducting. In addition, AOP’s critically-acclaimed chamber opera As One will make its Pennsylvania debut as part of Pittsburgh Opera’s 2016-17 season.

The Summer King, has been developed with AOP since composer Daniel Sonenberg participated in the first iteration of AOP’s training fellowship program Composers and the Voice in 2003. It was followed by AOP First Chance workshop performances in Brooklyn, at the Manhattan School of Music, and at the University of Southern Maine (USM), where Dan is currently Associate Professor and Resident Composer. The opera received its world premiere in concert form in Portland, Maine in May 2014, in a production sponsored by Portland Ovations, USM and American Opera Projects.

Pittsburgh Opera writes “The very first world premiere in [our] distinguished 78 year history hits close to home. The Summer King tells the story of baseball legend Josh Gibson story. Josh 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.” The opera skillfully portrays the complex inner conflict Gibson faced when the free-living, home-run king was asked to risk his respect to be an activist for integration. Tragically, Gibson died just months before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

“Watching an opera grow from an idea in a Composers & the Voice session to a fully staged World Premiere at a house like Pittsburgh is a heart-warming experience for AOP,” said AOP Producing Director. “We are thrilled we could be there every step of the way. We knew from the beginning that this was a very special story, one truly worthy of operatic treatment. We performed scenes on the sidewalks of Brooklyn and crowds couldn’t help but be drawn in. We know that this story can reach new audiences that would never think opera tells stories relevant to their lives. And we know Pittsburgh Opera feels the same.”

"The Summer King"

The Summer King was commissioned by Portland Ovations, with development by American Opera Projects, and deeply appreciated continuing support for the Pittsburgh Opera world premiere from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Summer King has received major support from American Opera Projects, the National Endowment for the Arts, Bob Crewe Foundation, Maine Arts Commission and University of Southern Maine. The Summer King received its first public presentation as a concert performance on May 8, 2014 at Merrill Auditorium, Portland, Maine under the auspices of Portland Ovations in collaboration with the University of Southern Maine.

RELATED READING: “In its 78th season, a world premiere for Pittsburgh Opera” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

SK video still 2

AS ONE

AOP’s As One continues to sweep the country following performances in San Francisco, Washington DC, Utah, and the AOP World Premiere in Brooklyn. Pittsburgh Opera will present the critically acclaimed opera by composer Laura Kaminsky and co-librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed as part of its Second Stage series in February 2017 and will star Pittsburgh Opera’s Resident Artists. In As One, a mezzo-soprano and a baritone depict the experiences of its sole transgender protagonist, Hannah, as she endeavors to resolve the discord between herself and the outside world.

AS ONE photo 3 by Ken Howard for AOP

Commissioned and developed by American Opera Projects, As One received generous funding in its creation from OPERA America’s Opera Discovery Grants for Female Composers Program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Art Works, Dr. Coco Lazaroff, Lynn Loacker and Judith O. Rubin.

As One will also be presented by Opera Colorado in the 2016-17 season and will be featured in Montreal at OPERA America’s annual opera conference as part of its New Works Forum in May 2016.


“Magic” chamber dance opera Hagoromo premieres in sold-out run at BAM

November 19, 2015
Hagoromo world premiere

Photo by Mark Stephen Kornbluth for AOP.

American Opera Project’s high-profile production Hagoromo combined dazzling new-opera, dance, puppetry, and fashion, for its sold-out World Premiere run this November at the BAM Harvey Theatre as part of BAM’s 2015 Next Wave Festival. In this dance-opera, an angel’s cloak falls to earth where a fisherman claims it. The angel performs her heavenly dance to reclaim her cloak and return to the heavens.

The multi-genre collaboration began after flutist Claire Chase, director of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) which appeared in Hagoromo, asked David Michalek to choreograph her solo recital.  “Then she suggested that they try something bigger. The germ of an idea was born,” Marina Harss explained in The New York Times. The music for Hagoromo was composed by ICE member Nathan Davis, with a libretto by Brendan Pelsue, commissioned by AOP. The vocalists for the new-opera were Katalin Karolyi, singing for the angel, and Peter Tantsits, who was the voice of the fisherman. The Brooklyn Youth Chorus was also featured in the ensemble, aiding plot development and commentary.

Apollinaire Scherr commended David Michalek‘s work in the Financial Times writing he “…has seamlessly integrated the worlds of experimental music, dance, theatre, opera, puppetry and fashion into a rich, sober whole.” David Michalek, known for his beautiful film work, bravely made his directing debut with the multi-genre Hagoromo, in collaboration with Bessie-award winning choreographer David Neumann.

Two of their performers were prior New York City ballet stars Wendy Whelan, and Jock Soto. Christina Pandolfi for Broadway World hailed Hagoromo “[A] multi-medium artistic portrait” which demonstrated “the sheer excellence of Whelan and Soto’s capacity for movement.”  Wendy Whelan‘s final heavenly dance cast a spell on the audience, with Alastair Macaulay with The New York Times elating “[Whelan] tips her torso strangely sideways, opens her palms quietly to the audience, or turns her head to regard Mr. Soto, we feel her magic.”

Wendy dancing

Photograph by Ioulex for The New Yorker

Two stars making their debut on the BAM Harvey Stage were the puppets which accompanied Wendy Whelan‘s final, spell-binding, dance. They seemed almost human to Andrew Blackmore-Dobbyn who wrote a review for Bachtrack. “The puppets “seemed to carry something essential of [Whelan’s] spirit when they moved with her synchronously. The power of those two puppets was such that I quickly forgot about the three black-clad and veiled operators that were required to make each of them dance.”

Arts Journal‘s Deborah Jowitt praised the creative team that “have together created moments of considerable beauty and imagination” including the “wonderfully effective” puppeteers and the “impressive” music of Nathan Davis that carried the dance of the “sensual” Soto and Whelan who “enters as smoothly as quiet water, extending one long leg and beautifully arched foot in a way that recalls Balanchine’s wish that a dancer should make her legs as flexible as an elephant’s trunk.”

“The results of this unusual collaboration were visually arresting, musically adventurous, dramatically taut, and choreographically appealing,” exclaimed Alexandra Ivanoff for the international news outlet Today’s Zaman. “Michalek’s clever use of stylistic features borrowed from the Noh theatre tradition matched up with Davis’ imaginative and programmatic palette of live sounds, both accompanimental and soloistic, generated the tricky energy flow needed to animate an essentially slow-motion visual life.” Ivanoff went on to praise soloists Tantsits and Karolyi who “employed their freakishly wide vocal ranges with both power and supreme subtlety throughout. The 20 girls of the youth chorus were astounding in their execution of a difficult score.”

Whelan and Soto dance in costumes by Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten. Photo by Mark Stephen Kornbluth for AOP.

Whelan and Soto dance in costumes by Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten. Photo by Mark Stephen Kornbluth for AOP.

Although the costumes were relatively simple, it was important that the angel’s cloak be as beautiful as possible. Vogue writer Kate Guadagnino observed “Naturally, a work whose plot hinges on an article of clothing also required an adept costume designer, and Michalek asked none other than Dries Van Noten.” The cloak was indeed heavenly. The gold, transparent, reflective material was all at once powerful, and luxurious.

Just as the fisherman gets a glimpse of heaven, so is the audience touched by an ethereal production. George Grella writes for NY Classical Review, “It’s a multimedia work that eschews the commonplace of video. Everything is live: music, dance, singing, narration, and puppetry. When all the elements are working at the same, high level, Hagoromo is magic, but there are also prosaic details and stretches that keep it earth-bound.”


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