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.”


Wendy Whelan, ICE Ensemble lead AOP World Premiere at BAM

May 21, 2015

AOP returns to the Brooklyn Academy of Music this November with the world premiere of Hagoromo, a multidisciplinary work of dance-chamber opera inspired by one of the masterpieces of Japanese Noh drama. Reuniting former NYCB principal dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto, Hagoromo is conceived and directed by contemporary artist David Michalek (Slow Dancing) and will feature contralto Katalin Károlyi and tenor Peter Tantsits, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

Dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto star in the world premiere of HAGOROMO. Photo by David Michalek.

Dancers Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto star in the world premiere of HAGOROMO. Photo by David Michalek.

 

The ancient tale of Hagoromo involves a desolate island and the fateful encounter between a poor fisherman (Soto) and a fallen angel (Whelan). A thoroughly contemporary vision, this retelling is a bold experiment in hybrid forms: a chamber opera composed by Nathan Davis and librettist Brendan Pelsue, with dance choreographed by David Neumann, puppetry by Chris M. Green, dramaturgy by Norman Frisch, and costumes created by the celebrated Belgian designer Dries Van Noten.

Hagoromo premieres at BAM’s Harvey Theater (651 Fulton St., Brooklyn, NY 11217) Nov 5—7 at 7:30pm and Nov 8 at 3pm as part of BAM’s 2015 Next Wave Festival. This will be AOP’s first show in the Harvey and third world premiere at BAM, following Phil Kline’s Out Cold (2012) and Kaminsky/Campbell/Reed’s As One (2014), both of which performed at BAM’s Fisher Center.

www.bam.org/dance/2015/hagoromo
www.operaprojects.org/hagoromo


DAVID MICHALEK (director, conception)
David Michalek’s work ranges from photography, video/sound and light installations and live performance to site-specific works of public art. His concentration has been closely tied to his interest in the contemporary person, which he explores through the use of relational aesthetics, performance techniques, storytelling, movement, and gesture. His work in video has been focused on capturing marginal moments —carefully staged — that develop density with minimal action through the interplay of image, sound, and most importantly, time. Exploring notions of durational and rhythmic time (as opposed to the referential time used in cinema) in both form and content, his works engages in intimate yet open narratives. His work has been shown nationally and internationally with recent art exhibitions or performances at the Brooklyn Museum, the LA Music Center, The Louvre, The Cleveland Museum, Covent Garden, Harvard University, Sadler’s Wells, Trafalgar Square, Opera Bastille, Venice Biennale, Yale University, The Kitchen, Tanz Im August, WOMAdelaide, Lincoln Center and the Edinburgh Festival. David Michalek is a visiting faculty member at Yale Divinity School, where he lectures on religion and the arts. www.davidmichalek.net

NATHAN DAVIS (composer)
Nathan Davis “writes music that deals deftly and poetically with timbre and sonority” (NYTimes). Lincoln Center inaugurated the TullyScope Festival with the premiere of Nathan’s landmark work Bells and presented other premieres at the Mostly Mozart Festival. Commissioned by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Calder Quartet, Yarn/Wire, La Jolla Symphony Chorus, Steven Schick, Donaueschinger Musiktage, and the Ojai Festival (with sound sculptor Trimpin), Nathan’s music has been performed at NYC’s Carnegie Hall, Park Avenue Armory, Miller Theatre, LPR, Roulette, in a portrait concert at Spoleto USA, and internationally at Darmstadt, Helsinki Musica Nova, Aspekte Salzburg, and Acht Brücken Köln. He has received awards from Meet The Composer, Fromm Foundation, Copland Fund, Jerome Foundation, American Music Center, and MATA. With Phyllis Chen he scored Sylvia Milo’s acclaimed monodrama The Other Mozart. CDs of his music include The Bright and Hollow Sky, one of TimeOut NY’s top 5 classical albums of 2011. http://www.nathandavis.com

WENDY WHELAN (dancer, The Angel)
“America’s greatest contemporary ballerina.” ~ The New York Times
Wendy Whelan was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, where at the age of three she began taking dance classes with Virginia Wooton, a local teacher. In 1981 she received a scholarship to the summer course at the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet and a year later she moved to New York to become a full¬time student there. She was invited to become a member of the New York City Ballet corps de ballet in 1986 and was promoted to principal dancer in 1991. Whelan has performed a wide spectrum of the Balanchine repertory and worked closely with Jerome Robbins on many of his ballets. She has originated featured roles in 13 ballets for Christopher Wheeldon, as well as in the ballets of William Forsythe, Alexei Ratmansky, Wayne McGregor, Jorma Elo, Shen Wei, Jerome Robbins and Twyla Tharp. In 2007, Whelan was nominated for an Olivier Award and a Critics Circle Award for her performances with Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. She received the 2007 Dance Magazine Award, and in 2009 was given a Doctorate of Arts, honoris causa, from Bellarmine University. In 2011, she was honored with both The Jerome Robbins Award and a Bessie Award for her Sustained Achievement in Performance. In 2013, she premiered her first original production called Restless Creature at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Restless Creature has since toured to London and is currently on a 2015 tour across the US. Whelan was recently appointed an Artistic Associate at New York’s City Center. She resides in New York City with her husband, the artist David Michalek.

JOCK SOTO (dancer, Hakuryo)
Jock Soto, who is half Navajo Indian and half Puerto Rican, was born in New Mexico and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Mr. Soto’s extensive repertory at New York City Ballet included principal roles in numerous works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Peter Martins. He also inspired the creation of roles in many new ballets, including Peter Martins’s A Schubertiad (1984), Ecstatic Orange (1987), Fearful Symmetries (1990), Jazz(Six Syncopated Movements) (1993), Sinfonia (1993), and Morgen (2001); Christopher Wheeldon’s Slavonic Dances (1997), Mercurial Maoeuvres (2000), Polyphonia (2001), Morphoses (2002), Liturgy (2003), Shambards (2004), and After the Rain (2005); and Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s Chiaroscuro (1994). After an acclaimed 24-year performing career, he retired from dancing in June 2005. Mr. Soto returned to the stage in May 2007 to originate the role of Lord Capulet in Peter Martins’s new production of Romeo + Juliet for New York City Ballet. Mr. Soto’s life is the subject of a new documentary by filmmaker Gwendolen Cates, Water Flowing Together, that explores Mr. Soto’s roots and documents the final years of his performing career with New York City Ballet. He has been a member of the School of American Ballet’s faculty since 1996.

THE INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY ENSEMBLE (ICE)
The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), described by the New York Times as “one of the most accomplished and adventurous groups in new music,” is dedicated to reshaping the way music is created and experienced. With a modular makeup of 35 leading instrumentalists, performing in forces ranging from solos to large ensembles, ICE functions as performer, presenter, and educator, advancing the music of our time by developing innovative new works and new strategies for audience engagement. ICE redefines concert music as it brings together new work and new listeners in the 21st century.

DAVID NEUMANN (choreographer)
As artistic director of Advanced Beginner Group, Neumann’s work has been presented in New York at PS 122, Dance Theater Workshop, Central Park Summer Stage, Celebrate Brooklyn, Symphony Space, The Whitney at Altria, The Kitchen, and New York Live Arts. David Neumann and Advanced Beginner Group have received four Bessie Awards, several grants including Creative Capital, BUILD, Rockefeller and MAP funds. In recent years, Neumann has been awarded a 2011 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award for Dance, a 2013 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Choreography and a 2014 MacDowell Fellowship. He was recently awarded a 2014 NDP Production Grant. More recently, Neumann directed Geoff Sobelle’s ‘Object Lesson’ at BAM and choreographed Soho Rep’s Obie Award winning production of An Octoroon.

CHRIS M. GREEN (puppetry)
Chris M. Green is a Brooklyn-based designer, performer, composer, and director. His theatrical, sound, and installation works have been presented over the past 18 years in venues including Lincoln Center, New York City Center, National Geographic Museum, La Jolla Playhouse, St. Anne’s Warehouse, Goethe Institute (Delhi), Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Teatro del Lago (Chile) among others. His Brooklyn-based design studio Chris Green Kinetics has received awards from the American Association of Museums, Themed Entertainment Association, and AIA. Recent honors include Creative Capital Award (2009), MacDowell Fellowship (2012), and LMCC Process Space residency (2013). Currently, Green is developing his new play ‘American Weather’ through the HERE Resident Artist and Dream Music Programs with support from the Jim Henson Foundation. Along with wife Erin K. Orr, Green teaches an intensive performance workshop called ‘The Language of Things’ both nationally and internationally. He is honored to be on Hagoromo’s creative team.

DRIES VAN NOTEN (costumes)
Dries Van Noten sells his Men’s, Women’s and Accessories collections all over the world. In addition to his boutiques in Antwerp, Paris, Singapore, Kuwait, Hong Kong and Tokyo, Dries Van Noten works in partnership with some four hundred boutiques in cities such as New York, London, Milan, Berlin, and Moscow. In 2009, Dries was awarded Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in Paris; the Flemish Chamber of Commerce (VOKA) inducted him into the Galerie des Eminents; the Flemish Royal Academy of Belgium gifted him with the Gold Medal (“Gouden Penning”), and the Couture Council of the Museum at FIT in New-York honoured him with the “Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion”. In 2014 the work of Dries Van Noten, was featured at the musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. “Inspirations” is the very first exhibition devoted to the artist’s work. In November 2014, Dries Van Noten was appointed president of the jury of the 7th edition of the “A Shaded View on Fashion Film” Festival (ASVOFF). In 2015, the “Inspirations” exhibition moved to Antwerp’s MoMu. This is an evolution in content and expression of the exhibition in Paris devoted to the designer’s work.www.driesvannoten.be


AOP Receives OPERA America Grant to Commission New Opera About the Chinese Zodiac

February 10, 2015

Opera Grant for Female Composers awarded to double-bill by composer Wang Jie currently in development at AOP for 2017 premiere at Festival Opera

American Opera Projects (AOP) is proud to announce it is the recipient of an OPERA America Female Commissioning Grant in support of a new double bill chamber opera by composer Wang Jie currently titled To Kill That Bird. The two one act operas of To Kill That Bird are united by the theme of strong female artists contending against the oppressive bureaucracy of the Zodiac Animal overlords.

AOP will begin workshops of the opera in 2015 through its First Chance program, which 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. The production is slated to debut in 2017 at Festival Opera in Walnut Creek, CA, to be conducted by Festival Opera’s longtime artistic director, Michael Morgan.

First premiered in concert at Carnegie Hall in 2010 where it was called “by turns whimsical, campy, tragic, haunting” by The New Criterion, the first half of To Kill That Bird, the 30-minute “From the Other Sky,” portrays the fable of how the thirteen animals of the Chinese Zodiac downsized to twelve. Experiencing human compassion for the first time, this thirteenth Zodiac Goddess loses her place in the heavens to share her musical powers with mankind. “From the Other Sky” was commissioned by American Composers Orchestra/Mr. Paul Underwood.

The 70-minute second bill “From the Land Fallen” tantalizes the audience with a tragic and haunting transgender love story. New York City in a parallel universe, the Zodiac Animals rules the human world headed by the Rat. As human rebellion erupts, a war widow finds her late husband’s spirit embodied in a deranged woman and falls in love with her.

OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers provide support for the development of new operas by women, both directly to individual composers and to opera companies producing their work, advancing the important objective to increase diversity across the field.  As part of this grant program made possible through the generosity of The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, AOP-sponsored composers Laura Kaminsky (As One) and Sheila Silver (A Thousand Splendid Suns) were each awarded in 2014 a Female Discovery grant, which supported the production of new opera by emerging female composers.

Composer Wang Jie

Composer Wang Jie

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

Part cartoon character, part virtuoso, musical whiz kid WANG JIE has spent the last decade nudging serious music and its concert audiences into spectacular frontiers. One day she spins a few notes into large symphonic forms, the next she calls grotesque Zodiac animals to the opera stage. She’ll even tempt comedy writer Paul Simms to help her coax belly laughs from an otherwise sedate Opera America audience with “Lord? Please Don’t Let Me Die in a Funny Way”. Her stylistic versatility is a rare trait in today’s composers. Most recently, her Symphony No. 2, commissioned and premiered by Detroit Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin was streamed live to a worldwide audience. The showcase of her tragic opera Nannan by New York City Opera’s VOX led to the production of her chamber opera Flown, commissioned and produced by Music-Theatre Group. Having won the Underwood Composers Commission, her concert opera “From the Other Sky” was the centerpiece of the American Composers Orchestra’s season opening concert at Carnegie Hall. Jie holds honors from ASCAP, American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, NYU, Opera America, among others. http://wangjiemusic.com

ANNE BABSON, a Coney Island poet recently transplanted to Mississippi, was nominated for a Pushcart for work in The Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal and Illya’s Honey. She has won awards from Columbia, Atlanta Review, Grasslands Review, and other reviews. Her work has been published in the US, in England, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and Turkey. She was included in a British anthology of the best working American poets today entitled Seeds of Fire (Smokestack Books, 2008) and is another British Anthology related to the current riots in England entitled Emergency Verse (Caparison Books, 2011). She has four chapbooks, over a hundred journal publications, including work recently featured in in Iowa Review, Barrow Street, Atlanta Review, and many others. She is featured on a compilation hip-hop CD–The Cornerstone (New Lew Music, 2007). She has read her work for national radio programs and has appeared on television in the United States and in Taiwan.

 

ABOUT THE PRESENTERS:

AOP (American Opera Projects, Inc.) is a driving force behind the revitalization of contemporary opera and musical theater in the United States through its exclusive devotion to creating, developing, and presenting new American opera and music theatre projects. AOP has produced over 25 world premieres, including Kaminsky/Campbell/Reed’s As One (2014) and Phil Kline’s Out Cold (2012) at BAM, and Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (2013), Nicholas Brooke’s Tone Test (2004), and Kimper/Persons’ Patience & Sarah (1998) at Lincoln Center Festival. Other notable premieres include Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (2014), Weisman/Rabinowitz’s Darkling (2006), and Lee Hoiby’s This is the Rill Speaking (2008). AOP-developed operas that premiered with co-producers: Weisman/Cote’s The Scarlet Ibis at PROTOTYPE Festival (2015), Gregory Spears’s Paul’s Case at Urban Arias (2013) and PROTOTYPE Festival (2014), Stephen Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon at New York City Opera (2011), Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at London’s Royal Opera House (2011), and Jorge Martín’s Before Night Falls at Fort Worth Opera (2010). UPCOMING in 2015: As One at Caine College of the Arts (Logan, UT) and West Edge Opera (Berkeley, CA); Heart Of Darkness at Opera Parallèle (San Francisco, CA); Paradise Interrupted at Spoleto Festival USA (Charleston, SC); The Blind at Central City Opera (Central City, Denver, Aspen and Boulder, CO). www.operaprojects.org

Founded in 1991, FESTIVAL OPERA has focused on developing innovative and creative productions of classic opera from the standard repertory, and has augmented that vision in recent years with rarely-heard productions, commissions, and new works, endeavoring to bridge to diverse members of the community with meaningful stories and music. As Festival Opera enters its 25th season, the company remains committed to bringing extraordinary opera to residents of San Francisco’s East Bay communities. In 2015, the company will stage the West coast premiere of Jack Perla’s River of Light in a double bill with Gustav Holst’s Savitri, as well as a main stage production of Ariadne auf Naxos, directed and conducted by maestro Michael Morgan, Festival Opera’s longtime artistic director. Festival Opera showcases emerging American artists, and presents fully-staged opera in Walnut Creek, California, at the Lesher Center for the Arts, chamber operas in smaller venues, and a free Opera in the Park in June in Walnut Creek’s Civic Park. www.festivalopera.org


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