AOP’s Charles Jarden talks to The Washington Post about the art of opera development

October 21, 2013
AOP General Director Charles Jarden, with composer and Phoenix Concerts Artistic Director Gilda Lyons, introduces an AOP 25th anniversary concert, October 2013.

AOP General Director Charles Jarden, with composer and Phoenix Concerts Artistic Director Gilda Lyons, introduces an AOP 25th anniversary concert, October 2013.

“Developing new opera is an art in itself” states last week’s Washington Post article, and of course AOP couldn’t agree more! For her October 16 article, veteran classical music journalist Anne Midgette highlighted AOP’s role in creating a new American repertory and interviewed General Director Charles Jarden about the importance of the workshop process.

“Opera is complex enough to take on layers, like a snowball,” Jarden says, “and developing workshops, and showing workshops, and having capable press look at workshops, is a way to make everything better and grow the buzz.”

For 25 years AOP audiences have been able to participate in the workshopping process with the artists and will continue to do so in the next few months with previews of our opera-in-development Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom at Harlem’s Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture on Dec. 9, among others. The results of our workshops can be seen and heard in the Washington area in November when UrbanArias presents two AOP-developed monodramas from composer Daniel Felsenfeld –  Nora, In the Great Outdoors (2011) and Alice in the Time of the Jabberwock.  “Nora” boasts an AOP-commissioned libretto by Will Eno and will be sung by dynamic soprano Emily Pulley.  The UrbanArias orchestra is led by Robert Wood and the stage director is Beth Greenberg (AOP’s Harriet Tubman). Also in the DC area, AOP-commissioned and developed Lost Childhood, (Hamer/Azrael) which was  staged at Tel Aviv’s International Vocal Arts Institute, will receive a non-staged orchestral concert including original AOP cast members Michael Hendrick and Chris Trakas, in their roles of Judah and Manfred, respectively, on November 9. COMPLETE ARTICLE: http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/developing-new-operas-is-an-art-in-itself/2013/10/16/f7849c26-3687-11e3-8a0e-4e2cf80831fc_story.html

AOP receives NEA grant to develop, present “HARRIET TUBMAN” in 2013

December 5, 2012

harriet banner nkeiru

$15,000 grant to fund presentations of new musical work by composer Nkeiru Okoye based on the life of Harriet Tubman, hero of the Underground Railroad, on 100th anniversary of her death.

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Rocco Landesman announced last week that AOP is one of 832 non-profit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant. AOP is recommended for a $15,000 grant to support the creation, development and presentation of Nkeiru Okoye‘s folk opera Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom, during 2013, the 100th anniversary year of Tubman’s death and the 150th anniversary of The Emancipation Proclamation. Performances of the opera will occur in states along the Underground Railroad where Tubman was active.

“I’m proud to announce these 832 grants to the American public including AOP’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom,” said Chairman Landesman.  “These projects offer extraordinary examples of creativity in our country, including the creation of new work, innovative ways of engaging audiences, and exemplary education programs.”

Charles Jarden, General Director of AOP, states “AOP is grateful to the NEA for their support of new work, especially new opera.  Harriet Tubman is the fourth AOP opera in four years to receive NEA funds.  With the aid of this generous support AOP has launched four stylistically different, artistically excellent projects that have had and will continue for many years to have an impact on citizens of our county. AOP commissioned Nkeiru Okoye for songs  in our I HEAR AMERICA SINGING program, through funds from New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, and we witnessed the powerful impact of her music on the general public when we performed them in various inner city locations.  We are thrilled to be working with Nkeiru on her first opera and her choice of the Tubman story is perfect for AOP, a Brooklyn-based opera company.”

In March 2012, the NEA received 1,509 eligible applications for Art Works requesting more than $74 million in funding. The 832 recommended NEA grants total $22.3 million, span 13 artistic disciplines and fields, and focus primarily on the creation of work and presentation of both new and existing works for the benefit of American audiences. Applications were reviewed by panels of outside experts convened by NEA staff and each project was judged on its artistic excellence and artistic merit.

As part of AOP First Chance, a public workshop series for developing new opera and music-theater works, music from Harriet Tubman has been presented at several New York City venues including Galapagos Art Space and the Brooklyn Public Library. It has also received libretto development in closed workshop sessions at AOP.

For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, please visit the NEA website at arts.gov


Flanigan and Malfitano: A “Family” Reunion

June 29, 2011

A “family” show of sorts (but not one for the kiddies), The Family Room is Thomas Pasatieri’s terrifying new one-act opera that marks the first collaboration between American Opera Projects and Opera New Jersey.  The libretto was written by Daphne Malfitano and stars the legendary sopranos Lauren Flanigan and Catherine Malfitano, with stage direction by Scott Schwartz.  Chris Cooley assists on piano.

We find two nameless women living in a windowless studio.
They speak of dinner parties and relatives,
of husbands and love and a child named Georgie,
but their only company are ominous sounds from above.

There is life up there, but we are stuck as they are,
beneath it, in The Family Room.

from L-R: Lauren Flanigan, Thomas Pasatieri, Catherine Malfitano, Daphne Malfitano, and Chris Cooley

Since its initial readings in 2009, The Family Room has indeed been a close-knit process between creators and performers.  Written specifically for these two leading singing actresses, the opera marks the first time that Lauren Flanigan and Catherine Malfitano have performed together since the premiere of William Bolcom’s The Wedding in 2004, and also the first time that librettist Daphne Malfitano has worked on a project with her mother.  Previous projects composed for both sopranos by Pasatieri include Frau Margot and Monologues for Ms. Flanigan and Washington Square and The Seagull for Ms. Malfitano.  Similarly, Ms. Flanigan and director Scott Schwartz recently collaborated on NYCO’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon.  Not to mention that pianist Chris Cooley, who assisted on AOP’s initial readings of Séance, has been involved since the The Family Room’s beginning stages.

The latest installment of our First Chance Series, American Opera Projects co-presents The Family Room with Opera New Jersey, an idea that was dreamed up between AOP General Director Charles Jarden and ONJ General Director Richard Russell as an opportunity for the two companies to create a new partnership.  With a powerhouse cast and a creative team such as these, this is one family gathering you’re not likely to forget.

The Family Room

Saturday, July 23 at 2pm
Sunday, July 24 at 7pm

The Berlind Theater
McCarter Theatre Center
Princeton, NJ. 

Talk-backs with the creators and cast to follow each performance.

For tickets and more information, please  visit www.operaprojects.org.


More Praise for “Before Night Falls”

June 29, 2010
Jarden, Koch and Koch at Fort Worth

Charles Jarden, Executive Director of AOP, with Gloria Koch (daughter of the late Dolores Koch, co-librettist of Before Night Falls and friend of Reinaldo Arenas) and her daughter.

A full month after it’s world premiere with Fort Worth Opera, Before Night Falls, a new opera by Jorge Martín, is still receiving rave reviews. Before Night Falls tells the compelling story of gay Cuban counterrevolutionary Reinaldo Arenas and his struggles as a political dissident and homosexual in both Cuba and America.

“Vibrant, musically substantive, and very touching… One of the most admirable American operas of recent years.”

– David Shengold, Gay City News

Read full review…

“Although Martín’s score is eclectic, it is not annoyingly pastiche-like. It is nicely shape-shifting. And it all coheres. The orchestration often has a beautiful sheen: transparent but not thin or barren. And I will tell you something extraordinary: Before Night Falls is full of arias, duets, trios, and choruses. There are real, unabashed melodies and tunes. That is old-fashioned; indeed, it is well-nigh counterrevolutionary.”

– Jay Nordlinger, National Review

Read full review…

“…powerfully moving.”

– Anne Midgette, Washington Post

Read full review…

Make sure to check out AOP’s earlier blog post about the Fort Worth performance of Before Night Falls here.


AOP featured in Dec issue of Opera News

December 5, 2008
AOP executive director Charles Jarden and company manager Matt Gray in the Dec 08 issue of Opera News.

AOP executive director Charles Jarden and company manager Matt Gray in the Dec 08 issue of Opera News.

American Opera Projects is featured in a two-page profile in the latest edition of Opera News. The Dec 2008 article by Barry Singer describes how “in trying economic times for the arts, American Opera Projects commits itself to the trickiest of all ventures — creating new operas and selling them to the public.”

Making new operas is an uneasy enterprise. No one — not the composers and librettists on the front lines, not the administrators and funders who succor them behind the scenes — really has a firm grasp on this business. New operas today demand musical savvy, dramaturgical savvy and marketing savvy in almost equal measure. They require audience analysis, along with readings and workshops — but in what proportions, and at what cost? In our slippery cultural epoch, it is especially hard to say.

For all that, American Opera Projects soldiers on. From a small warren of offices in a modest landmark building in Fort Greene, on the ever-gentrifying fringes of Brooklyn — a spot about as far from the vast stage of the Metropolitan Opera as one can get in New York City and still be within the five boroughs’ confines — American Opera Projects grapples with the job of generating new American operas, one by one.

Read full article…


%d bloggers like this: