MSM Opera Program to Showcase Scenes from New Opera “Decoration”

September 11, 2012

Selections from an eerie, hallucinatory new opera Decoration by Composers & the Voice fellow Mikael Karlsson will be presented by the Manhattan School of Music’s opera department in a program of new operas in March 2013. One of the “Six Scenes” performed this past weekend at an AOP showcase of various operas in development, Decoration follows the pre-apocalyptic journey of two sisters – one pregnant, one dying – and their extremely different outlooks on the future.

Composer Mikael Karlsson (photo by Anna Österlund)

Decoration scenes, libretto by the composer and David Flodén, will be performed in a staged reading by MSM voice students at Greenfield Hall as part of the annual New American Opera Previews, from Page to Stage series, hosted by WQXR’s Midge Woolsey, produced by Opera Index. The selection was made by a panel of judges including Assistant Dean of Opera Studies/Opera Production at MSM Gordon Ostrowski and Head Coach William Tracy.

The nationally recognized Composers & the Voice (C&V) is a fellowship for six composers or composer/librettist teams to work with an artistic team, headed by Steven Osgood, and AOP’s Resident Ensemble of Singers. The primary focus of C&V is to give composers extensive experience working collaboratively with singers on writing for the voice. With each new group of fellows, sponsorships are named in honor of mentors and their support of Composers & the Voice.

Tobias Picker

Composer Tobias Picker (American Tragedy) served as a Mikael Karlsson’s “Composer Chair,” providing a one-on-one mentorship throughout the year. Other Composer Chairs during the past C&V season included John Corigliano, Daron Hagen, John Musto, Kaija Saariaho, and Stephen Schwartz.

Decoration marks the ninth presentation by MSM of opera excerpts to come out of  C&V.  Previous C&V operas have included “The Summer King” by Daniel Sonenberg, “Exiles” by Renee Favand-See, “Dream President” by Jennifer Griffith, “The Golden Gate” by Conrad Cummings, “Death in Summer” by Gregg Wrammage, “Paul’s Case” by Gregory Spears, “Henry’s Wife” by Randall Eng, and “Love/Hate” by Jack Perla, which went on to a world premiere in April 2012 in partnership with The San Francisco Opera.

Music from C&V fellows will also be programmed at upcoming presentations by OPERAtion Brooklyn and the BEAT Festival, Opera Memphis and AOP Artistic Partner The Walt Whitman Project.

“For the composers selected the implications are many and very rewarding,” said C&V Artistic Director Steven Osgood. “Each of them will have their music brought to a wider and diverse audience [and] each of them will forge relationships with major artistic institutions, which is today an increasingly difficult hurdle for emerging artists.”

Composers & the Voice is made possible in part by a generous multi-year award from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Fellows in the C&V program are supported by funding from The New York Community Trust Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund and Musical Arts Fund.


OPERAtion Brooklyn Takes a BEATing

August 24, 2012

This September, AOP (American Opera Projects) and Opera on Tap will present a new installment of their acclaimed series, “OPERAtion Brooklyn,” at the newly launched BEAT Festival. The festival, which aims to showcase Brooklyn’s most innovative and forward-thinking emerging artists in theater, dance and voice, will be held from September 12-23 with performances in venues throughout the borough. AOP and Opera on Tap will present progressive new works of opera in a casual setting on September 13th (Flatbush Reformed Church), 19th (Brooklyn Conservatory of Music), and 22nd (Irondale Center) at 7:30pm. “OPERAtion Brooklyn” will include the world premiere of Daniel Felsenfeld’s song cycle A Genuine Willingness to Help (Book 1), songs from One Ring Zero, and scenes from AOP’s series, Composers & the Voice. More information and tickets can be found at www.beatbrooklyn.com/opera/. The concerts will also be featured as part of the Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend Events.

Opera on Tap will present works for voice and chamber ensemble by resident Brooklyn composers Daniel Felsenfeld and the Brooklyn indie outfit One Ring Zero. The works will be conducted by Yoon Jae Lee, with Mila Henry on piano, and performances by sopranos Marcy Richardson, Delea Shand, and mezzo-soprano Kayleigh Butcher. The program will include a world premiere of Felsenfeld’s song cycle A Genuine Willingness to Help (Book I). Part of the composer’s “Author Project,” the work is comprised of songs set to varied and expressive texts by some of New York’s best young writers, including Jonathan Lethem, Fiona Maazel, and Rick Moody. Felsenfeld’s song cycle Raw Footage: Composer’s Cut (text from Robert Coover’s novel Lucky Pierre) will also be performed. In addition, the program will include four songs drawn from One Ring Zero’s album As Smart As We Are (The Author Project). These “mysterious pop songs,” arranged for piano and chamber ensemble by Michael Hearst and Joshua Camp, have been called “both haunting and entertaining” by The New Yorker and feature texts by Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and David Wondrich.

One Ring Zero

AOP will present two scenes rooted in contemporary conflicts – “Stop and Frisk” by composer Sidney Marquez Boquiren and librettist Daniel Neer and “Male Identity” by composer Zach Redler and librettist Sara Cooper – featuring performances by tenor Brandon Snook (Cincinnati Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Sarasota Opera) and baritone Jorell Williams (New York City Center Encores!, Caramoor International Music Festival, Ravinia Festival). Supporting on piano will be music directors Jeanne-Minette Cilliers and Mila Henry, with stage direction by Noah Himmelstein.

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Zach Redler and Sara Cooper at a Composers & the Voice workshop.

With their 30th birthdays on the horizon, three friends worry what kind of men they are becoming after three decades of pop culture consumption and father figure issues in the humorous “Male Identity.” In “Stop and Frisk, Joe and Sean, best friends and successful urban professionals, meet for an awkward lunch in the park and discuss the racial aftermath of Sean’s recent brush with police in a ‘Stop and Frisk’ search and investigation. “Stop and Frisk” is part of the opera-in-development Triptych in Grant Park.

The scenes were written as part of AOP’s free fellowship program Composers & the Voice (C&V) that provides composers and librettists experience working collaboratively with a group of singers on writing for the voice and the opera stage. In addition to the AOP training, distinguished composers Stephen Schwartz and Kaija Saariaho served as mentors to Zach & Sara and Sidney, respectively, in their official capacity as AOP Composer Chairs providing opportunities for discussion and one-on-one feedback.

Hailed as “a vital series” by TimeOut NY, “OPERAtion Brooklyn” is the partnership between Opera on Tap and American Opera Projects, two of Brooklyn’s most acclaimed producers of indie opera. The series aims to present the most daring of contemporary opera and song in a relaxed setting that encourages drinks and discussion as part of the new classical experience. Previously presented under the title Opera Grows in Brooklyn, the series premiered in March 2009 at Galapagos Art Space. The most recent collaboration, “Curioser & Curioser: An Opera-Burlesque Circus in Wonderland,” brought together the worlds of classical music and burlesque for a night of music and entertainment inspired by the tales of Alice in Wonderland. (www.operationbrooklyn.com)

The BEAT Festival aims to fill a void in Brooklyn’s performing arts community with a yearly fall festival showcasing the greatest works of Brooklyn’s finest performing artists. For its inaugural year, the BEAT festival has hand-picked the most innovative, forward-thinking of Brooklyn’s emerging artists including Lemon Andersen, Elevator Repair Service, Theater Group Dzieci, Creative Outlet Dance Theatre, Marshall Davis Jr., Ishmael “Ish” Islam, and many more all-star artists. “BEAT creates a platform to celebrate what is already here: extraordinary world-class performers who stand as the greatest innovators of the performing arts,” says festival artistic director Stephen Shelley. From September 12-23, artists will perform in venues throughout the borough.

For all BEAT performances, there will be general admission tickets available for $20, as well as tickets at the door that will be sold for a suggested donation of $20. For complete information and tickets visit www.beatbrooklyn.com .


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