New LGBTQ Operas Coming Out in Hard Times

February 23, 2017
as-one-pittsburgh

Taylor Raven, left, and Brian Vu portray Hannah, the transgender heroine of As One at Pittsburgh Opera. Photo by Renee Rosensteel.

In light of recent news from Washington, American Opera Projects (AOP) announces that of its 31 new operas in development, four are on LGBTQ topics. For AOP, this is not new. In 1998, AOP premiered the first opera ever to focus on a lesbian relationship, Patience & Sarah, by composer Paula M. Kimper, and librettist Wende Persons, three years after Houston Grand Opera’s premiere of Harvey Milk composed by Stewart Wallace to a libretto by Michael Korie.

Upcoming LGBTQ operas are:

While AOP’s roster of LGBTQ operas is growing, clearly in our era there is still significant progress to be made. At the same time, these operas are being embraced across the US. As One, the first opera about a transgender person, by artistic team Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell, and Kimberly Reed is now one of the most performed new operas in America. Following AOP’s premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, As One has had productions in Seattle, Washington D.C., Berkeley, Logan, UT, Berlin, and just last week, Pittsburgh, where the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called it “pertinent and moving,” with upcoming shows in San Diego, Denver, New Orleans, Long Beach, Kansas City, and more.

As One forces you to think, simultaneously challenging preconceptions and inspiring empathy.” – The New York Times

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 be an art form that reflects the stories of our time. 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.

At a time when the Trump Administration has removed the Obama-era guidance allowing trans people to select school restrooms according to gender choice, AOP will continue to actively pursue works like these for development and production.

AOP’s most recent world premiere Three Way “explores sex without moralizing” (The East Nashvillian) depicting modern sexuality in three short, comic one acts. The co-production with Nashville Opera, where it had its well-received premiere in January, will come to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in June 2017.

I’m here for an opera that explains to straight people what being trans- or cis-gender is. Hopefully, we as the audience come to a deeper understanding with them. – Schmopera.com‘s review of Three Way’s world premiere in Nashville.

For us to empathize with the struggles of others there can be no art form where their stories are not told. Giving every minority – of race, gender, country, political view, you name it – an opportunity to tell their story may seem impossible, but it is still the ideal. More immediately, we hold 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.

Bloggers: Matt Gray & Annie Troy

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Gender-fluid couple Kyle (Jordan Rutter) and Tyler (Melisa Bonetti), left, get eyed by another couple in Three Way. Photo by Anthony Popolo.


“Opera has come a long way, baby” with the D.C. premiere of AS ONE

October 23, 2015
As One Luis Alejandro Orozco Ashley Cutright by C. Stanely Photography 1

Luis Alejandro Orozco and Ashley Cutright in As One from UrbanArias (Photo: C. Stanley Photography)

“The opening scene of the opera As One, produced by UrbanArias, beautifully establishes a work that is both universal and timely in its experience and a metaphor for the fluidity of identity of a male and female in one body.” Susan Galbraith writes in her review for DC Theater Scene.

As One, a monodrama for two singers, illustrates the struggle of the transgender protagonist Hannah as she battles with the mismatch of how she feels and how her body appears. Composer Laura Kaminsky, librettists Mark Campbell and filmmaker-librettist Kimberly Reed created an opera which delves deep into ones definition of self with great simplicity in production and instrumentation. As One was developed and produced by American Opera Projects who have also been instrumental in getting As One performed in California and D.C. UrbanArias held performances of As One on October 3, 4, 9 and 10 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington DC. The production was led by director Octavio Cardenas, and conductor and head of UrbanArias, Robert Wood.

Anne Midgette, reviewer for Washington Post, praised the production’s subject matter “…a thoughtful and substantial piece as well as that rarest of operatic commodities – a story that lends itself to dramatization in music.” The DC Theater Scene review, written by Susan Galbraith, states “The complexity of human experience is powerfully evoked in a way only opera can with the dense layering of music, words, stage pictures, and, in this case, film.” Galbraith was also enamored with the production writing “The set design by Adam Crinson was quite beautiful and used the Sprenger space …. to great advantage.” DC Metro Theater Arts reviewer John Stolthberg commends the production, writing “its simplicity – 4 musicians, two singers – was for me a source of its success as theater” while Susan Galbraith wrote As One “…reveled in giving voice to shared human experiences…”

As One Luis Alejandro Orozco Ashley Cutright by C. Stanely Photography 2

Luis Alejandro Orozco and Ashley Cutright in As One from UrbanArias (Photo: C. Stanley Photography)

Reviews agreed Kaminsky’s music painted the text and Hannah’s internal emotions. Anne Midgette compliments Kaminsky’s text setting saying she “…writes well for the voice, and the diction was exemplary, so you didn’t miss a word.” Stolthberg remarks on how the vocal line helps remove the usual gender binary in vocal music, “As One models…a multi-octave aural word within which ones pitch when one sings…need have no either/or, it need have only the glory of song.” The DC Metro Theater Arts review goes on to describe the vocal lines as “…a singular self whose lyrical introspections, contrapuntal exchanges, inter-knit vocal lines, and overlapping ranges become a pulsing metaphor for the multidimensional universe of human sexedness.” and reflects on “…rare moments when they [Hannah Before and Hannah After] sing exactly [the] same note – literally as one – effect is sublime.”

In addition to great vocal writing, Midgette notices how Laura Kaminsky’s orchestral writing reflects Hannah’s journey, “…Kaminsky’s effective, direct music – evoking now fiddling and Americana; now, through halting dissonances, the pain of a difficult place in the rod; now, thro
ugh the juxtaposition of plucked violin and singing cello, the exploration of two voices merging into a single identity.”

The opera clearly benefited from the wonderful performances by Luis Alejandro Orozco (Hannah Before) and Ashley Cutright (Hannah After). Stothberg praises them in his review saying they “Orozco and Cutright play…the very same self, learning to love themself, and they do so with such exquisite subtlety that I was blown away.” Galbraith was also struck with the singers “Both singers possess powerful voices and sing and move with extraordinary expression and poetic interactions…these two performers might well have been taken as dancers in their fluidity. they are endlessly watchable…”

It is a rare production which contains model composition, direction, and beautiful acting and singing. Galbraith finishers her review “As One charters new territory in theme and content of ‘what makes an opera’. It is a fascinating and promising chamber work and deserves serious attention.”

Read more about the opera at AOP’s As One page.

Washington Post review by Anne Midgette

DC Theatre Scene review by Susan Galbraith

DC Metro Theater Arts review by John Stolthberg


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.


US premiere of Heart of Darkness has sold-out run in San Francisco

May 4, 2015

On May 2, Opera Parallèle presented the US premiere of the AOP-developed opera Heart of Darkness at San Francisco’s trendy industrial Z-space. The new production by Brian Staufenbiel featuring designs by artist Matt Kish and conducted by Nicole Paiement sold out each of its four performances.

Composed by Grammy-nominated Tarik O’Regan, using a libretto by Tom Phillips, the opera is based on the novel by Joseph Conrad, and explores the excesses and depravities of European colonialism in the African Congo. AOP, in conjuction with OperaGenesis, started developing the opera in 2006. In 2011 critics raved for the sold-out world premiere at London’s Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio.  At last it has arrived to the US and is gathering more critical acclaim:

From San Francisco Chronicle:

“the kaleidoscopic inventiveness of O’Regan’s score”

“In O’Regan’s music — dexterously conducted by Artistic Director Nicole Paiement and sung by a splendid cast — the rich feints and ambiguities of Conrad’s tale find sonorous expression. A veil of uncertainty often settles over the music, thanks to shifting instrumental textures and a harmonic palette that seems inclined to change direction at a moment’s notice, like a rising mist off the water.”

From Bachtrack:

“O’Regan’s fine music was complemented by the Opera Parallèle’s thoughtful production and a superb set of musicians under Nicole Paiement’s magical baton.” [4 out of 5 stars]

From San Francisco Classical Voice:

“[Heart of Darkness’s] brevity and eloquence, as well as the small forces it requires, make it a natural for adventurous opera companies everywhere. … O’Regan creates a continuously shifting musical tapestry and many gorgeous effects. His orchestration is exceptionally beautiful [and] consistently inventive.”

From San Jose Mercury News:

“[Composer Tarik O’Regan], often compared to Benjamin Britten, employs a beguiling neo-tonal palette, and this score offered plenty of evidence of his skill at writing for orchestra.”

Shawnette Sulker and Philip Skinner in Opera Parallèle’s U.S. premiere of Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at Z Space. Photo: Steve DiBartolomeo

Listen to composer Tarik O’Regan on San Francisco public radio discuss the opera’s new production and the importance of AOP’s development process. (Interview begins at 6:00.)


NEW OPERA TACKLES RACISM IN AMERICA IN CONCERT PERFORMANCES THIS NOVEMBER

October 30, 2014

Independence Eve, currently in development at AOP, to be presented at Adelphi University and Brooklyn’s South Oxford Space

NEW YORK, NYAOP (American Opera Projects) and Adelphi University present Independence Eve, a new chamber opera in three scenes that explores the troubled journey of race relations in America. The concert performances will take place on Thursday, November 13 at 7:30PM at the Concert Hall of the Performing Arts Center at Adelphi University (1 South Ave, Garden City, NY 11530), with a second performance on Saturday, November 15 at 8PM in the Great Room at AOP’s South Oxford Space (138 S Oxford Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217). Composed by Sidney Marquez Boquiren with a libretto by Daniel Neer, the opera will include performances by baritone Jorell Williams, and tenor Brandon Snook. Damian Norfleet will act as stage director, while Mila Henry will provide music direction and piano.

Tickets for the Nov. 13 Adelphi performance will be $20 with discounts suitable for seniors, alumni and students. Tickets are on sale now and are available at http://aupac.adelphi.edu/. Tickets for the Nov. 15 South Oxford Space performance will be $20 and $15 for students and seniors and are available at www.operaprojects.org.

Currently in development at AOP, Independence Eve is comprised of three unrelated scenes, each of which take place on July 3 on a park bench in an unspecified American city, in the years 1963, 2013, and 2063. Each story focuses on the relationship between two men, one white and one black, who struggle with identity and acceptance. Independence Eve is a study of black and white America, offering commentary on the intricacies of race relations and the insidious and persistent stain of racism that has remained consistent throughout American history. The first scene of the opera, “Stop and Frisk,” has already received numerous community performances throughout Brooklyn, including this year’s BEAT festival. It has garnered attention from the press, including a recent Talk of the Town profile in The New Yorker.

Independence Eve is currently in development as part of the Brooklyn organization’s First Chance program that gives composers and librettists a first chance to hear their work performed before an audience. Development of the opera began during Mr. Boquiren’s fellowship in the 2011-12 season of AOP’s composer training program Composers & the Voice with both Mr. Williams and Mr. Snook creating their roles. Development of the opera is made possible, in part, through generous funding by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the New York Department of Cultural Affairs. AOP plans to present the world premiere of Independence Eve at park benches around New York City in June 2015.

ADDITIONAL PROJECT INFO AND PRESS MATERIALS AVAILABLE AT: www.operaprojects.org

Jorell Williams and Brandon Snook in Two Sides Sounding's 2014 presentation of the AOP-developed "Stop and Frisk"

Jorell Williams and Brandon Snook in Two Sides Sounding’s 2014 presentation of the AOP-developed “Stop and Frisk”

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

Sidney Marquez Boquiren is a composer-performer who grew up in the Philippines and Saudi Arabia but has spent most of his life in the United States. He collaborates with artists on various projects that include opera (Independence Eve with Daniel Neer); Biblical illumination (folia ligni for Spark and Echo Arts); and multi-media (The Gretel Project with Lauren K. Alleyne, Catherine Chung, and Tomiko Jones). As a pianist, he performs regularly with Rhymes With Opera and pulsoptional. -A MacDowell Fellow, Sidney is currently the Chair of the Department of Music at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, where he teaches music theory and composition. He is also a cantor and sings in the church choir of The Church of St. Francis Xavier in Manhattan.

Daniel Neer enjoys a diverse career as a singing actor and librettist. Recent projects include Bruce Bailey with Daniel Felsenfeld for the BEAT Festival, and BQE with Robinson McClellan for the Queens New Music Festival, (both commissioned by Two Sides Sounding). The opera Mercury Falling, with Chandler Carter, was presented at the Long Leaf Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina, and song set HAIKU-NYC with Ellen Mandel recently premiered at the BEAT Festival. Daniel’s auspicious collaboration with Sidney Boquiren began with the workshop of Odes to Earth and Air, a partnership continuing with Independence Eve in collaboration with American Opera Projects. Other recent premieres include two chamber works: The Good Doctor Windhager with Ronnie Reshef, and Summer, 1976 by Kim Sherman, both premiered by the lyricist and the Qube String Quartet in Columbus, Ohio. Baritone

Jorell Williams is from Brentwood, Long Island, but he was born in Brooklyn at Kings County Hospital. He had the honor of performing with the Chorale Le Chateau of New York in “A CELEBRATION OF AMERICA” in the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater on the occasion of the Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Praised by Opera News as having a “Solid vocal core” and the ABC News & Entertainment as “smooth-voiced”, Jorell Williams is pursuing a versatile performing career. Highlights of Jorell’s work include: Off-Broadway debut as The Villager with the New York City Center Encores! production of Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars, Captain Corcoran in HMS Pinafore (2011) and Fiesque in Maria di Rohan (2010) with the Caramoor International Music Festival, “The Muir” with the Mark Morris Dance Group, recording “Mr. President/Americana” with the Essential Voices USA for NPR, Maximilian in Candide with Coópera: Project Opera Manhattan, and appearing with the Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Opera Theatre’s collaborative workshop reading of Nico Muhly’s TWO BOYS (2011) and Michael Torke’s SENNA (2010). Mr. Williams is a graduate from the Manhattan School of Music, and earned his undergraduate degree at SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music. For more information, please visit: http://www.myspace.com/jorellwilliams

Tenor Brandon Snook has been praised by The New York Times for his “vocal freshness”, along with his “appealing and talented” nature, and has collaborated extensively with AOP, most notably being part of the 2011-12 Composers & the Voice Series. In addition to playing Little Bat in productions of Susannah in Tel Aviv, he premiered the role of Robert Johnson in Phil Kline and Jim Jarmusch’s opera Tesla in New York, Tony in the Off-Off Broadway production of Terrence McNally’s Master Class, and Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance in South Carolina. Additional mainstage credits include Cincinnati Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Des Moines Metro Opera, Sarasota Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and solo concert credits at Lincoln Center and Brooklyn Academy of Music. A native of Dallas, Texas, Brandon has voice degrees from the University of Kansas and the University of Michigan.

Damian Norfleet is a singer, actor, and director from New York City. His past collaborations with the American Opera Project include Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed, The Summer King, Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby, and We’ve Got Our Eye On You. Other past productions include Dreamgirls, Ragtime, Showboat, Cats, Henry V, The Festival of the Lion King, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Tommy, Equus, The Music Man, Kiss me, Kate; The Threepenny Opera, Makandal, Go West! (Village People Musical), Casanova, The Tenderland, Don Giovanni, Carmen, the new American opera Truth, the feature film Outliving Emily and the webseries Co-Operation.

Mila Henry is a New York-based pianist, coach, and music director who specializes in music theater projects and vocal chamber music, ranging from art song to cabaret, folk opera to indie musicals, standard repertoire to contemporary classics. She has collaborated with American Opera Projects, American Lyric Theater, Beth Morrison Projects, Center City Opera Theater, Gotham Chamber Opera, HERE, OPERA America, Opera on Tap, Ripe Time, VisionIntoArt, and Two Sides Sounding. Notable engagements include: The Blind (Lincoln Center Festival); Thumbprint and The Scarlet Ibis (PROTOTYPE); Smashed: The Carrie Nation Story (FringeNYC); The World is Round and As One (BAM Fisher); The Difficulty of Crossing a Field (Beth Morrison Projects). milahenry.com

ABOUT THE PRESENTERS: AOP‘s mission is to identify, develop and present new and innovative works of music-theatre by emerging and established artists and to engage our audiences in an immersive, transformative theatrical experience. At the forefront of the contemporary opera movement for a quarter-century, AOP creates, develops and presents opera and music theatre projects collaborating with young, rising and established artists in the field. AOP has produced over 30 world premieres, most recently Kaminsky/Reed/Campbell’s As One at BAM (2014), Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (2014), and Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (2013), a co-production with Lincoln Center Festival. AOP-developed operas that premiered with co-producers include Gregory Spears’s Paul’s Case at PROTOTYPE (2014), Stephen Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon at New York City Opera (2011), and Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at London’s Royal Opera House (2011). www.operaprojects.org

About Adelphi University: Adelphi is a world-class, modern university with excellent and highly relevant programs where students prepare for lives of active citizenship and professional careers. Through its schools and programs—College of Arts and Sciences, Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, Honors College, Robert B. Willumstad School of Business, Ruth S. Ammon School of Education, University College, College of Nursing and Public Health and the School of Social Work—the coeducational university offers undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as professional and educational programs for adults. Adelphi University currently enrolls nearly 8,000 students from 43 states and 45 foreign countries. With its main campus in Garden City and its centers in Manhattan, Suffolk County, and Poughkeepsie, the University, chartered in 1896, maintains a commitment to liberal studies, in tandem with rigorous professional preparation and active citizenship.


“LEGENDARY” Opera Scene Chosen From AOP Composer Training Program For Staged Performance

October 23, 2014

MANHATTAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC WILL PRESENT MUSIC AT ANNUAL “PAGE TO STAGE” PROGRAM IN MARCH 2015

Following its appearance in AOP’s Composers & the Voice training program, scenes from an opera-in-progress Legendary, music by Joseph Rubinstein, libretto by Jason Kim, have been selected by the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) to receive a staged performance at the music conservatory’s Greenfield Hall next Spring.

In Legendary, famed drag performer Dee Legendary embarks on a passionate love affair with (police) Officer John, whose fascination with Dee takes an unexpected and dangerous turn. Inspired by a true story, Legendary is an opera about double lives and destructive desires set in the glory days of New York City’s underground drag culture.

Legendary was developed during Rubinstein and Kim’s 2013-14 fellowship in AOP’s long running Composers & the Voice program (C&V). Along with five other composers, they received training for nine months with professional composers, librettists, and singers on creating opera and writing for the voice. A scene from Legendary was first presented to the public in September’s C&V Six Scenes concert.

The first two scenes of Legendary will be presented in March by AOP First Chance, public presentations of operas-in-progress, as part of MSM’s annual Opera Index series “New American Opera Previews, From Page to Stage.” Legendary will be the 11th AOP-developed work to appear in Page to Stage at MSM. Previous C&V works at MSM have included Jack Perla’s Love Hate (2012 premiere, ODC Theater with San Francisco Opera), Gregory Spears’ Paul’s Case (World premiere, UrbanArias (2013) and PROTOtype Festival (Jan 2014)), and Daniel Sonenberg’s The Summer King (concert premiere, PortlandOvations, May 2014). Composers & the Voice holds a long-established partnership with The Manhattan School of Music, as well as a new affiliation with the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, as a way of introducing contemporary opera to students.

Kim and Rubinstein in a 2013 Composers & the Voice workshop session. Photo by Ted Gorodetzky.

Kim and Rubinstein in a 2013 Composers & the Voice workshop session. Photo by Ted Gorodetzky.


AOP PRODUCTIONS REACH NEW STAGES

September 25, 2014

American Opera Projects is pleased to announce that several of its recent productions will be produced on stages around the country. Lera Auerbach’s The Blind, Tarik O’Regan and Tom Phillips’ Heart of Darkness, and Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell, and Kimberly Reed’s As One are each being performed in the coming months.

 9354607718_b214f9f0b6_zCast and Crew of The Blind At Lincoln Center Festival, 2013. Photo by Matt Gray

Composer Lera Auerbach‘s The Blind  will be presented by Central City Opera in their Summer 2015 Festival. The production was created and directed by John La Bouchardière and first produced by AOP in collaboration with Lincoln Center in 2013. This unusual a cappella opera for 12 singers is transformed into a unique theatrical experience by La Bouchardière’s unconventional production, which requires that the audience be blindfolded so that they must enter the world of the characters. “It’s not the characters who are blind,” said composer Lera Auerbach in a New York Times interview about the one-act opera, “The message is that we are the blind.  With all our means of communication we see each other less and connect to each other less.  We have less understanding and compassion for other people…” Adapted from an 1890 play by Maurice Maeterlinck, the story is about a dozen blind people who are taken by their priest on an outing.  When the elderly priest suddenly dies, they are stranded on an island left helpless and scared. The group realizes that they never really knew the priest as a person as they stumble upon his cold, dead body.  A Russian- American composer, Lera Auerbach wrote The Blind in 1994 while she was a student at Colorado’s Aspen Music Festival.

Alan Oke (Marlow), centre, in Heart Of Darkness by Tarik O'Regan

Royal Opera House Production of Heart of Darkness, London, 2011. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

Composer Tarik O’Regan‘s Heart of Darkness  will receive it’s U.S. premiere in San Francisco’s Z space by Opera Parallèle early May 2015. The opera was developed by AOP for several years, starting in 2006, and received it’s world premiere in London in collaboration with with Opera East, OperaGenesis and the Royal Opera House in the Linbury Studio Theater of the Royal Opera House in 2011. Adapted from the novella by Joseph Conrad by librettist Tom Phillips, Heart of Darkness is a powerful opera that portrays the greedy world of ivory smugglers in Central Africa as narrated by the central character, Marlow. In this new production, the plot unfolds through a series of short, fast-paced scenes that gradually increase in tension, as Marlow’s tale approaches its climax. O’Regan grew up in London, where he was born in 1978, spending some of his childhood in Morocco and Algeria. His music, recorded on over 25 albums and nominated for two GRAMMY’S®, is published exclusively by Novello & Co./G. Schirmer, Inc.

AS ONE photo 4 by Ken Howard for AOP

Kelly Markgraf, Sasha Cooke, and members of the Fry Street Quartet, BAM, 2014. Photo by Ken Howard

Finally, AOP’s recent production of As One will tour to the Caine College of the Arts, part of Utah State University in Logan, Utah. After its September production and premiere at BAM, the critical response has been overwhelmingly positive with critics declaring it “a piece that haunts and challenges” (Opera News), “artistically distinguished, socially important” (WQXR), and “satisfying in an entertaining and delicately moving way” (NY Observer). In the chamber opera by composer Laura Kaminsky, librettist Mark Campbell and librettist/filmmaker Kimberly Reed, a mezzo-soprano and a baritone depict the experiences of its sole transgender protagonist, Hannah, as she endeavors to resolve the discord between her self and the outside world. The work featured performances by Sasha Cooke, Kelly Markgraf, and The Fry Street Quartet, stage direction by Ken Cazan, and music direction by Steven Osgood.


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