Opera Grows in Brooklyn is the place to see “the next great masterwork by the next great composer”

April 21, 2010
AbSynth at Opera Grows in Brooklyn

AbSynth at Opera Grows in Brooklyn

Friday April 16, 2010, proved to be a memorable evening of three exciting new operatic works, performed within an equally modern and unique theater space.  American Opera Projects in conjunction with Opera on Tap produced a trio of contemporary opera compositions.

The triple lineup included a futuristic opera in one act entitled Absynth, a collection of songs by composer Tom Cipullo and Margot Alone in the Light, an operatic work that takes place on Venus.  Audience members watched the show from circular seating in the house, surrounded by black pools of water and dim, colored lighting. The almost alien ambiance of Galapagos contributed to the futuristic performances of both Absynth and Margot Alone in the Light, while creating an interesting backdrop for Cipullo’s songs about love and regret.

The iconoclastic reviewers over at Parterre Box were in the audience and noted:

Galapagos was quite an interesting place to see an event like this. I personally think this type of venue is a great place for workshopping new works; those in the audience were young and seemingly very supportive of the performances…

What I kept thinking about though, was the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the ’60s, where visionaries like Philip Glass would play in spacious lofts simply because they could. While Galapagos is definitely a money making venture, I think this is as close as the opera world will get to that type of experimental sharing as was seen all those years ago… I would certainly go again to a presentation like this. You never really know if you’ll be there for the premiere of the next great masterwork by the next great composer, and if you aren’t, well, the beer is still cold.

more…

In reply, a blogger named Will also remarked:

…the atmosphere you describe at Galapagos is virtually identical to the way audiences experienced the plays of Shakespeare, and the operas of Cavalli, Handel, Gluck and Rossini when they were new.

The production began with AOP’s Absynth, commissioned, conceived and performed by mezzo- soprano Abigail Fischer.  The futuristic piece combined electronics and vocals to tell the story of a machine that becomes a woman and wishes to return to her original state of being.  Absynth includes compositions by Nico Muhly, Kevin McFarland, Florent Ghys, Caleb Burhans and AOP’s “Composers and the Voice” composers Stephen Andrew Taylor and Andrew Staniland.  The work at large was directed by American Opera Projects Producing Director Matt Gray and also featured actors Mateo Moreno, Erin Posanti, and Craig Kelton Peterson.

“Dreams of Pure Spirit: Songs of Tom Cipullo” rounded out the program as the second performance of the evening.  Cipullo served both as composer and pianist for the compilation, accompanying alternating performers Tory Browers (Soprano), Rebecca Jo Loeb (Mezzo) and Michael Anthony McGee (Baritone).  The songs ranged from humorous commentaries on New York City, to melancholy expressions of love and regret.  Cipullo’s range of emotion was well received by Paterre Box critic Valmont who commented, “His songs can weave several different moods into the same line, and the writing is lyrical and beautiful. He does excel at quirky humor and chooses wonderful texts for this purpose…”

“Opera Grows in Brooklyn” ended with C&V composer Clint Borzoni’s mini-opera Margot in the Light. The text for this opera, written by librettist Emily Conbere, is based on Ray Bradbury short story about the inhabitants of Venus who only see sunlight once in seven years.  Margot in the Light follows the plight of native Earthling Margot, who moves to Venus but still remembers the sun.  The title role of Margot was sung by soprano Martha Guth to positive reviews.  Valmont says of her voice, “Her lyric soprano is easily produced and with great beauty”.  Supporting cast members included Alteouise deVaughn, Lisa Williamson, Kimberly Sogioka and Dennis Blackwell.


“Opera Grows in Brooklyn” will return to Galapagos on Friday, July 16.


April line-up for “Opera Grows in Brooklyn” announced

March 11, 2010

Opera Grows in BrooklynTom Cipullo, Nico Muhly, and a collection of Composers & the Voice alums will be the next to join the rosters of composers to participate in the Opera Grows in Brooklyn series.  The show will be held on Friday, April 16 at 8pm at Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood. Tickets are $20 ($15 for students/seniors) at www.galapagosartspace.com and they tend to sell out, so buy early!

Opera Grows in Brooklyn is an ongoing collaboration between American Opera Projects and Opera on Tap that presents three 30-minute selections of songs and scenes from contemporary composers in a hip, cabaret-style atmosphere. Audiences have a chance to meet the artists and composers after the performance.

American Opera Projects begins the evening with Absynth, a futuristic monodrama made up of newly-commissioned electronic songs from composers Nico Muhly, Kevin McFarland, Florent Ghys, Caleb Burhans and C&V composers Andrew Staniland and Stephen Andrew Taylor. Conceived and performed by frequent AOP collaborator mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer (Composers & the Voice, Semmelweis, Judgment of Midas), Absynth explores questions about the influence and relationship between (wo)Man and Machine.

Dreams of Pure Spirit:  Songs of Tom Cipullo will showcase some of Tom Cipullo’s more accessible and lyrical works.  The performers for the evening are three of the most exciting young singers in New York, soprano Tory Browers, mezzo Rebecca Jo Loeb, and baritone Michael Anthony McGee. Mr. McGee, the winner of numerous competitions, will be making his Kennedy Center debut on April 10 in Tom Cipullo’s mini-opera LUCY.  He is one of only forty young artists that have been recently selected to attend Operalia, Placido Domingo’s international opera competition in Milan.  Ms. Loeb has performed with the New York Festival of Song in their Rising Stars series.  Tory Browers has performed Mr. Cipullo’s music at Merkin Hall under the auspices of Joy in Singing, and at SongFest in Malibu.  As Anne Midgette noted in The New York Times, “Call it aria, call it Broadway, Mr. Cipullo’s strengths are in song.”

Finally, Opera on Tap will present the one-act opera Margot Alone in the Light, an adaptation of Ray Bradbury‘s short story All Summer in a Day by C&V composer Clint Borzoni and librettist Emily Conbere and produced by Jennifer Peterson‘s operamission. Ray Bradbury’s story is set in a classroom of schoolchildren on the planet Venus, where it rains constantly with the exception of one hour every seven years.  None of the schoolchildren remember the sun, except for ‘Margot,’ who moved to Venus four years ago from Ohio.  The role of ‘Margot’ will be portrayed by soprano Martha Guth and the role of ‘Mrs. Clott,’ the schoolteacher, will be sung by mezzo-soprano Alteouise de Vaughn.  It will be staged by Scott C. Embler (founding member and former producing director of Vital Theatre Company). Jennifer Peterson, founder and director of operamission, will conduct the opera.

The inaugural performance of Opera Grows in Brooklyn at Galapagos in April 2009 was called “an exciting new level of work for these young companies. Brooklyn and the rest of the city will benefit from future collaborations like these.” (The Curator). Past Opera Grows in Brooklyn performances have featured music by David T. Little, Stefan Weisman, Christopher Berg, Gilda Lyons, Matthew Schickele and Jack Perla and performances by David Adam Moore, Lauren Worsham, Jonathan Hays, and Daisy Press.

“Director Robert Elmes is adding opera to a space known best for its Obie Award winning, progressive programming,” says AOP General Director Charles Jarden. “We think it’s not just cool for opera to be in a spectacular space like Galapagos, it’s essential for creating new music that connects to audiences. Opera away from opera houses is the best way for the genre to thrive and grow. It is economically smart and creatively daring and the voices sound great to both new listeners and fans. If one audience member walks out with an interest in discovering music by living composers, we’ll know we are on the right track.”


Staniland goes “Blue” for Continuum

December 8, 2009
Andrew Staniland

Andrew Staniland

C&V alumnus Andrew Staniland will have his song  “Blue” (2008) presented as part of Continuum’s  first concert of  its 44th New York season – NORTHERN EXPOSURES: Canadian Music – The New Individualists.  The concert is Tuesday, December 8, 7 PM, at Americas Society, 680 Park Avenue at 68th Street.

“Blue,” based on a moving poem of Walt Whitman, will be sung by mezzo-soprano, Abigail Fischer. The piece was developed during Andrew’s residency during the 2007-08 Composers & the Voice program at AOP with Fischer premiering the song.

Tickets and info…


Celebrating The Music of Jennifer Fitzgerald (1975-2007)

September 17, 2008

The Duke New Music Ensemble [dnme] opens their second season with a special collaboration with Durham’s own pulsoptional, bringing to Duke a memorial tribute concert that celebrates the music of Duke alumna and C&V composer Jennifer Fitzgerald, who passed away last year after a prolonged fight with cancer.

DUKE NEW MUSIC ENSEMBLE [dnme] and PULSOPTIONAL present

Jennifer Fitzgerald

Jennifer Fitzgerald

THE MUSIC OF JENNIFER FITZGERALD (1975-2007)
featuring ABIGAIL FISCHER, mezzo soprano, SLOAN HOFFMAN, horn, JOHN McDONALD (composer and piano) and GLENN MEHRBACH (piano)
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2008 at 8PM
THE ARK DANCE STUDIO (Duke University East Campus)
DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA

FREE ADMISSION
Co-sponsored in part by the Duke University Program in Women’s Studies, Dance Program, Graduate Student Affairs, and the Department of Music.  The Duke New Music Ensemble’s 2008-09 season is made possible through the McClatchey Music Endowment in the Department of Music.  For more information, please visit music.duke.edu or call (919) 660-3300.


Seldom-Heard Operas by Lee Hoiby Evoke Calm & Storms

April 30, 2008
NY Times logo
Music Review

Seldom-Heard Operas Evoke Calm and Storms

Published: April 30, 2008

For lovers of vocal music, Lee Hoiby is a name to be reckoned with. Leontyne Price and Renée Fleming have been among the composer’s champions, and his songs are common currency for vocal students. Fate has not been as kind to Mr. Hoiby’s 11 operas — a pity, given the admirable craft and imagination they reveal.

Jennifer Taylor for The New York Times

Justin Petersen and Abigail Fischer in Lee Hoiby’s opera “This Is the Rill Speaking.”

In a valuable act of reclamation, American Opera Projects and the Purchase College Conservatory of Music provided welcome exposure for two of them, “This Is the Rill Speaking” and “The Tempest,” on Monday night at Symphony Space. What the two works share is conventional tonality, deft setting of English text and idiomatic librettos by Mark Shulgasser. Otherwise, they could hardly be more different.

“This Is the Rill Speaking,” a 1991 one-act setting of a Lanford Wilson play, offers a vision of rural, small-town life through snatches of conversation patched together like a comfortable quilt. Mr. Hoiby’s unfailingly gracious music mixes a nostalgic glow with moments of winking mischief and gentle seduction. Six singers fill 11 roles, accompanied by a string quartet, double bass, wind quintet and harp.

The American Opera Projects staging, designed by Glenn Reed and billed as the work’s first professional production, was spare and economical: a few scattered chairs and benches, a table and a wooden fence long and tall enough to conceal quick costume changes. Ned Canty, the director, provided clean, effective blocking.

Among a solid cast of young singers, Abigail Fischer, a mezzo-soprano, stood out for her attractive tone, abundant feeling and clear diction. Andrew Garland, a baritone, and William Ferguson, a tenor, also made strong impressions. The conductor, Benton Hess, drew a secure if not always polished performance from his instrumentalists.

Mr. Hoiby’s “Tempest,” from 1986, is a linguistically faithful condensation of Shakespeare’s play, set to a grandiose score for full orchestra. The conservatory’s Purchase Opera presented an hour of excerpts in concert, with its Purchase Symphony Orchestra onstage behind the singers, and the chorus in a balcony.

You could argue that while Mr. Hoiby’s writing never lacks potency or passion, his idiom is too conservative to realize Shakespeare’s strange, magical world properly. There are exceptions; one is the raging storm of a supremely evocative overture. Another is the role of Ariel, a stratospheric coloratura part reminiscent of Zerbinetta’s in Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos.”

Molly Davey brought a brilliant technique and an otherworldly shimmer to Ariel, and Robert Balonek was a strong, earnest Prospero. Eric Barry, as Caliban, was admirable in the big showpiece, “Be Not Afear’d,” but otherwise was overshadowed by the bug-eyed antics of Trinculo (Rasdia Wilmot) and Stephano (Julian Whitley). The remaining roles were capably handled, and the conductor, Hugh Murphy, provided lively guidance.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company


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