AOP Board Member News: Performances, Accolades, and the Passing of a Leader

October 30, 2018

It has been a busy fall for AOP. Our Composers & The Voice fellows delivered a successful “Six Scenes” concert and our latest NYC premiere, “Savage Winter” has entered production for its November 7th unveiling at BAM. At this prolific time in our 30th season, we feel we must take a breath to acknowledge news about the achievements and influence of our effervescent Board members.

Anna Rabinowitz. photo © Elena Seibert

Anna Rabinowitz, poet, librettist, and National Endowment for the Arts fellow, has extrapolated her poetry collection, Words on the Street into a “multimedia hybrid performance” in collaboration with director Kristin Marting, video designer Lianne Arnold (As One), and composer Matt Marks. Staged at Baruch College’s Rose Naglebaum Theater from October 26th to November 4thWords on the Street is a humanity-spanning mystery story; a “what-done-it” if you will, surrounding the abduction of a baby in a dystopian world. Anna Rabinowitz has served on AOP’s board of directors since 2006 and has collaborated on AOP-commissioned adaptations of her poetry books, Darkling (music by Stefan Weisman) and The Wanton Sublime (music by Tarik O’Regan).

Anna Rabinowitz and the Berlin cast of AOP’s 2007 tour of Darkling.

In addition to this new production, Ms. Rabinowitz has also been honored by the Poetry Society of America, with a new prize conferred in her name. The Anna Rabinowitz Prize will be awarded in recognition of collaborative endeavors in the field of poetry that unify the art-form with typically related media such as music and visual art, or venture into more esoteric collaborative territory, such as science or mathematics. The award was established to honor Ms. Rabinowitz’s “boundless curiosity, creativity, and artistic accomplishments”, qualities she has shown no shortage of in her multifarious efforts with AOP.

Anthony Roth Costanzo, has been declared Musical America’s “Vocalist of the Year” for his courage, curiosity and passion in challenging notions of a counter-tenor’s role in contemporary opera, and his willingness to identify and combat issues faced by opera creatives in a relentlessly evolving artistic landscape. Celebrated for the “brilliant, piercing clarity of his voice” that can “blaze with passion” Costanzo has performed with The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, New York Philharmonic, and National Symphony Orchestra. With AOP, he was instrumental in AOP’s development of Wolf-In-Skins by composer Gregory Spears and librettist/choreographer Christopher Williams, and has been a member of the our board since 2013.

Anthony Roth Costanzo in the 2017 AOP workshop of Wolf-in-Skins. Photo: Steven Pisano.

Costanzo recently released his debut recording ARC, a collection that alternates between Arias by Handel and Glass, two composers who the singer views as integral to his development. The album was the basis for a large-scale, live cross-pollination of art-forms entitled “Glass Handel”. Art, dance, film, fashion, and theatre practitioners came together in a multimedia event intended to “appeal to an audience that is primed to appreciate aesthetic things but doesn’t really have an ‘in’ with opera”. Our heartiest congratulations to you in your multi-faceted endeavors, Anthony!

Anthony Roth Costanzo and Dr. Coco Lazaroff at AOP’s 25th Anniversary Gala at the Player’s Club. Photo by Richard Termine.

Finally, it is with heavy hearts that we acknowledge the passing of Dr. Coco Lazaroff, who has been Chair of the AOP Board since 2015. Dr. Lazaroff was a spirited and avid consumer of new opera, who challenged AOP to venture beyond traditional boundaries in the kinds of operas we develop. At the same time she adored the classic operas, and served on the board of the Metropolitan Opera.  She was a recognizable figure and always sat in the front row of theaters.  We imagine she now has the very best seat.  We miss you, Coco!

 

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The Wanton Sublime hailed as emotionally captivating and beautifully written

September 4, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Composer Stefan Weisman Marks His Time from C&V to His Third Opera

September 7, 2012

Stefan WeismanStefan Weisman, guest blogger
Composers & the Voice Composer Fellow, 2003-04

I remember hearing about AOP for the first time from my good friend, the talented composer Dan Sonenberg. He had just finished AOP’s inaugural session of the Composers & the Voice program. He told me that he had written six different songs, each of which was workshopped by a different singer, and, as a culmination of the program, he composed a short opera scene that was rehearsed and performed. I must admit that I was immediately envious. At that time I had written very little vocal music, but loved doing so whenever I did. However, I always felt that writing for the voice was a special challenge and in a way it was a mystery that required real experience to do well. I had to apply to AOP’s Composers & the Voice program, and I was thrilled to be accepted.

I remember working week after week, churning out new songs to be performed in the closed sessions of Composers & the Voice, during which I’d get feedback from the singers as well as from the accompanist, and from the other composers, and also, of course, from Steve Osgood, AOP’s artistic director at the time, and the creator of Composers & the Voice.

One song, “Twinkie,” was set to the ingredients of the iconic snack food of the same name. I would never have guessed at the time, that this would become my most performed piece. It was even recently performed on the nationally syndicated program The Wendy Williams Show, sung by one of my favorite collaborators, Hai-Ting Chinn. During the program, Wendy Williams said, “Very unique . . . You’re not going to hear opera like this anywhere else… Fabulous!”


The ingredients to a delicious aria…

Strangely, it was also because of this song, “Twinkie,” that Charles Jarden decided I might be the right composer to approach with the prospect of working on a new opera called Darkling with a libretto by poet Anna Rabinowitz. Her poetry is complex, and intentionally thorny at times, but always very beautiful. Apparently, Charles had decided that if I could make the complicated ingredients of a Twinkie work as a song, then I would have no problem working with the complexity of Anna’s poetry.

Darkling was a difficult and serious piece, and I was not sure I could successfully find music to match these words and ideas. When I first met Anna, I was certain I would have many questions about her poetry as I began the compositional process, and I told her I expected that I would need to consult with her frequently. Amazingly, I never needed to do so. As soon as my work began, something remarkable happened . . . my initial feelings of doubt and apprehension were swept away. I discovered that underneath the poem’s complex layers was a deep emotionality into which I was able to tap, and in this way the poetry came into vivid focus for me. Ultimately, my goal was to use music to instantly make those underlying emotions clear and direct, so that audiences would be able to connect to and appreciate the heartrending story and ideas I found in Darkling’s poetry.


“There’s Been a Slippage” from Darkling

I’m so grateful to AOP for commissioning me to write the music for Darkling. I am very proud of this piece, and I’ve been excited to witness its successes. It was included in the Guggenheim Museum’s Works & Process series, and premiered to great acclaim at the East 13th Street Theater. It was presented at the German Consulate as part of the Friends of Freie Universität’s Jewish Documentary Film, Theater, and Speaker Series. A touring version of Darkling previewed at New York City Opera’s VOX “On the Edge” Showcase and was then presented in Germany and Poland in 2007 and in Philadelphia in 2009. Most exciting for me is that Darkling was released by Albany Records in November 2011 in a stunning recording produced by Judith Sherman.

The cast of Darkling's European tour

The cast and creators of Darkling’s European tour

In a way, I also have AOP to thank for my second opera, Fade, with a libretto by David Cote. Fade was commissioned by the exciting British opera company, Second Movement, but before its premiere in London, AOP set up a libretto reading. David and I were convinced that the libretto was already finished. However, after we heard the libretto read by actors (overseen by director Ned Canty) and got feedback from a small handpicked audience, we discovered that we had more work to do.

Fade london

Second Movement’s premiere of “Fade”

Fade premiered in London in October 2008 on a triple bill with Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti and Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge. In addition to its London premiere, Fade has also had productions in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and New York City.

I am working with librettist David Cote once again. We are developing The Scarlet Ibis, an evening-length chamber opera that will be designed to appeal to younger audiences as well as sophisticated operagoers. The Scarlet Ibis is a lyrical tale of family, survival, and tolerance, based on a 1960 short story by James Hurst.

Counter-tenor Eric Brenner (Doodle) and mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn (Brother) in “The Scarlet Ibis” workshop ate HERE’s CultureMart 2012

We are calling The Scarlet Ibis a “family opera,” but although it will appeal to young viewers, we will not talk down to our audience. The Scarlet Ibis will be a hybrid opera, and we plan to work puppetry into its staging. The opera is being developed and produced by Beth Morrison Projects and HERE, but once again American Opera Projects had come on board to assist in the creation of my newest piece.

I am thrilled to have AOP with me as I continue my operatic journey. From Composers and the Voice, to Darkling, to Fade and now The Scarlet Ibis, AOP has been right there all along. I am so grateful for their championing new American opera, and I hope to continue my relationship with them for a long time to come.

Stefan Weisman
September 2012

The latest group of Composers & the Voice fellows will premiere new work on Sep. 7 & 9, 2012 at Six Scenes in Brooklyn, NY.
www.operaprojects.org/events/6scenes2012

Scenes from The Scarlet Ibis will be presented to the public at HERE’s CultureMart 2013 in Jan.-Feb. 2013.

Darkling CDThe CD studio recording of Darkling is available for purchase at Albany Records, Amazon, iTunes, and many other retail locations.


AOP and ONJ Team Up for Two Operatic Monodramas

April 5, 2012

AOP and Opera New Jersey are proud to announce their second summer of collaboration with this July’s Two Operatic Monodramas, after their inaugural partnership last year with Thomas Pasatieri’s The Family Room.

Two Operatic Monodramas –  featuring The Wanton Sublime, by composer Tarik O’Regan and librettist Anna Rabinowitz, and Our Lady, by composer Gregory Spears with texts from medieval Provençal – examines the human and mythic aspects of the Virgin Mary.  Both monodramas will be presented as staged readings on July 21st and 22nd at McCarter Theater Center in Princeton, NJ.

 The Wanton Sublime will feature mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn raising questions about Mary’s role as the “eternal feminine.”  Countertenor Ryland Angel joins AOP once again to sing of Mary’s sorrow and love in Our Lady, following two performances of the same work in Fall 2011.  Conductor Steven Osgood will lead an ensemble of strings and keyboard under the stage direction of Crystal Manich.

AOP and ONJ present

Two Operatic Monodramas

Our Lady by Gregory Spears
The Wanton Sublime by Tarik O’Regan & Anna Rabinowitz

July 21 at 2 p.m.
July 22 at 7:30 p.m.

Buy tickets online or call Opera New Jersey at (609) 799-7700.


New semi-staged version of Darkling premieres in Philadelphia

October 2, 2009

Philadelphia audiences finally got to experience the multimedia opera-theatre work Darkling when it premiered in a new, semi-staged version for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival presented by Center City Opera Theater on Sep 8, 10, and 12, 2009. Conductor and CCOT Artistic Director Andrew Kurtz brought composer Stefan Weisman and librettist Anna Rabinowitz‘s haunting experimental work to life as part of ConNEXTions 2009: The Next Generation of Opera.  Spanning the decades from the 1930’s to the post-World War period, Darkling is a remarkable story of a poet who struggles to identify and interpret the stories of various Polish-Jewish family  affected by the extraordinary events of the Holocaust based only on the few letters and photographs they left behind.

Maeve Hoglund as the bride fleeing to America in the Sep 2009 performance of Darkling in Philadelphia.

Maeve Hoglund as the bride fleeing to America in the Sep 2009 performance of Darkling in Philadelphia.

Returning singers Hai-Ting Chinn and Jon Garrison joined with Maeve Hoglund, Martin Hargrove and Jason Switzer, narrator Sharon Sigal, and a string quartet under the stage direction of Matt Gray. AOP premiered Darkling in 2006 at the East 13th Street Theater in a fully staged version conceived and directed by Michael Comlish. A concert version also developed by Mr. Comlish toured through Europe in 2007.


Classics Today and Thirteen/WNET discuss Pärt / O’Regan at the Guggenheim

January 20, 2009
PÄRT AND O'REGAN

PÄRT AND O'REGAN

Music critics were in the house at AOP’s two sold-out performances of Pärt / O’Regan at the Guggenheim Museum. Read their comments below.

Robert Levine, Classics Today:

WORKS-IN-PROCESS BY PÄRT AND O’REGAN
Guggenheim Museum, New York; Jan 11, 2008

“The Guggenheim Museum’s Peter B. Lewis Theater was host to American Opera Projects’ and Works & Process’ presentation of four works: three by the Estonian minimalist Arvo Pärt and one by the British-born, New York based Tarik O’Regan (who named Pärt as one of his inspirations). The 75 minute show was sometimes puzzling, sometimes riveting and always interesting. As always, AOP’s experiments require attention….”

Read full article…

Susan Yung, Sunday Arts Blog at Thirteen/WNET:

Tarik O’Regan, a British composer born in 1978, presented The Woven Child, with libretto by Anna Rabinowitz. It might be daunting for a young composer to be juxtaposed with a master like Pärt (born in 1935 in Estonia), but his composition definitely felt aurally akin – the notes arranged spaciously for miles, and then pooling into a dense symphonic chord. Soprano Caroline Worra’s vocal line paralleled the cello’s, wavering, blending, teasing; violin notes darted rapidly. Then came a hymn-like section, imbued with hope, patience, yearning.

Read full article…


Heart of Darkness composer nabs 2 Grammy noms

December 5, 2008
Tarik O'Regan

Tarik O'Regan

Composer Tarik O’Regan‘s choral CD Threshold of Night (Harmonia Mundi) has been nominated for 2 Grammys for the 51st Annual Grammy Awards – Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance!

The NJ Star Ledger recently gave a 4-star review to the album, describing it as “…some of the most strikingly beautiful secular choral works of recent years.” Read full review.

O’Regan’s first opera Heart of Darkness, based on the Joseph Conrad novella with a libretto by artist Tom Phillips, is currently in development with AOP and was most recently workshopped in London in partnership with OperaGenesis and the Royal Opera House. O’Regan will present excerpts from his newest AOP opera-in-development The Wanton Sublime, based on the book by Darkling poet Anna Rabinowitz, at the Guggenheim Museum in January. Click here for more info on the January presentation.

The 51st Annual Grammy Awards will take place on February 8, 2009. It will be broadcast on CBS in the United States at 8PM EST.


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