Are you full?

June 6, 2018

Nathaniel Sullivan, Yoojin Lee, and Jordan Rutter in “A Drop in the Ocean” Photo by Steven Pisano Photography

If you had a chance to see the Dinner Party Operas recently presented by AOP, the Brooklyn Museum, and NYU Tisch’s Opera Writing Workshop, we hope you are! (And if you didn’t, all of the operas are available on AOP’s YouTube page in their entirety here!)

The two performances were the culmination of the 2017-2018 session of the NYU Tisch Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program’s Opera Lab. Collectively they featured eleven short operas written and composed by NYU graduate students and performed by AOP’s professional opera singers Keith Browning, Alexa Jarvis, Kathryn Krasovec, Yoojin Lee, Nicole Mitchell, Jordan Rutter, Nathaniel Sullivan, and Amelia Watkins, who additionally acted as mentors through the duration of the program. The operas themselves were inspired by The Dinner Party, an installation of feminist artwork by Judy Chicago currently housed at Brooklyn Museum.

The Dinner Party, an important icon of 1970s feminist art and a milestone in twentieth-century art, is presented as the centerpiece around which the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art is organized. The Dinner Party comprises a massive ceremonial banquet, arranged on a triangular table with a total of thirty-nine place settings, each commemorating an important woman from history. The settings consist of embroidered runners, gold chalices and utensils, and china-painted porcelain plates with raised central motifs that are based on vulvar and butterfly forms and rendered in styles appropriate to the individual women being honored. The names of another 999 women are inscribed in gold on the white tile floor below the triangular table. This permanent installation is enhanced by rotating Herstory Gallery exhibitions relating to the 1,038 women honored at the table.

Judy Chicago (American, born 1939). The Dinner Party, 1974–79. Ceramic, porcelain, textile, 576 × 576 in. (1463 × 1463 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. (Photo: Donald Woodman)

Some students chose to interpret the mythos of these women literally, while others reimagined their lives or simply drew inspiration. The historic pieces included “Master” in which Emily Dickinson reckons with the life of her poetry in the aftermath of her death. It featured music by Jacinth Greywoode and libretto by Deepali Gupta. In “A Drop in the Ocean” (music by Bryan Blaskie and libretto by Christine Claudel Filimonova), Christine de Pizan, the first women to earn a living wage as a writer, interviewed for her first job after the death of her husband. Spencer Robelen and Seth Christenfeld’s “An Unbroken Line” took place in Egypt, 1458 BC when the pharaoh Hatshepsut, in the twilight of her reign, is beset by palace intrigue orchestrated by her sister and carried out by her heir. “Waiting for the Rain” built from the legacy of Hildegard von Bingen, a medieval nun, composer, scientist, and prophetess, with music by Kevin Cummines and a libretto by Clara Luthas. “Judith and Holofernes” (music by Mehmet Salih Yildirim and libretto by Lily Dwoskin) depicted the Biblical heroine, Judith, and her slaughter of the infamous General Holofernes.

Other operas took a more varied approach, some reinventing the mythos of the women and some using them in a contemporary context. “Petronilla” (Music by Kent Jeong-Eun Kim and libretto by Zach Childers) imagined a scene between Lady Alice and her maid Petronilla de Meath, the first Irish woman to be burned at the stake for witchcraft during the Middle Ages, as a playful comedy; “Ár n-Athair” (music by Benedict Braxton-Smith and libretto by Nick Stephens) also took on the subject of a woman accused of witchcraft, this time revolving around the alliance between Goodwife “Goody” Ann Glover and a pirate when they are both imprisoned by the powerful Cotton Mather; “President Joan (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Sandwiches)” retold the myth of Pope Joan, but set it in the farce that is modern U.S. politics. Music by Boram Han and libretto by Cal Silberstein; The Byzantine Empress Theodora helped a young modern professional stuck in a dead-end job surrounded by misogynistic co-workers in the opera with music by Minhui Lee and libretto by Benji Goldsmith; “Women’s Work (Music by Benji Goldsmith and libretto by Seth Christenfeld) also featured a modern setting for its story of an artist forced to reckon with her white privilege after a black friend confronts her over her work – a scultural bust of Sojourner Truth. And Avery and Ainsley took The Dinner Party as a whole for inspiration, exploring not one of the women represented, but the piece itself and its perceived role in the surreal opera by Jonathan Fadner and Scott R. Ritter.

Alexa Jarvis, Amelia Watkins, and Nicole Mitchell in “President Joan (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Sandwiches)” Photo by Matt Gray.

The operas were split between two performances. The full house at the Wednesday, May 23 performance at NYU Tisch’s Black Box Theatre saw six operas with music direction by Mila Henry, directed by students from The New School, and designed by students from the NYU Tisch Department of Design. On Sunday, May 27 at the Brooklyn Museum the remaining five operas were presented under the stage direction of Luke Leonard and music direction of James Lowe to an equally large audience who were able to then visit the installation after the performance.

The Opera Lab was led by Professors Randall Eng of Tisch’s Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program and Sam Helfrich of the Tisch Department of Design, in partnership with American Opera Projects.

The Dinner Party Operas

More about NYU Tisch:

For over 50 years, the NYU Tisch School of the Arts has drawn on the vast artistic and cultural resources of New York City and New York University to create an extraordinary training ground for the individual artist and scholar of the arts. Today, students learn their craft in a spirited, risk-taking environment that combines the professional training of a conservatory with the liberal arts education of a premier global university with campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, and 11 academic centers around the world. Learn more at www.tisch.nyu.edu.

More about Brooklyn Museum:

The Brooklyn Museum presents important art in eye-opening ways, and has long been at the forefront of engagement with underserved and younger audiences, from its widely popular Target First Saturdays program and creative reinstallations of its permanent collection, to its pioneering online presence and inventive use of technology in reimagining the visitor experience. A driving force behind the massive growth and energy of the Borough of Brooklyn and of its diverse cultural community, the Brooklyn Museum annually welcomes more than half a million visitors who represent one of New York’s most diverse museum-going audiences.

With roots dating back to 1823, the Brooklyn Museum is one of the oldest and largest museums in the United States, with a collection representing nearly every culture, ranging from some of the most important ancient Egyptian works in the nation; to the arts of the Pacific Islands, Asia, Africa, and the Islamic world; to American and European art; to international contemporary work. The Brooklyn Museum is home to the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, the only facility of its kind in the country. For more information, visit www.brooklynmuseum.org

 

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NYU Tisch, the Brooklyn Museum, and American Opera Projects to present 11 Mini-Operas based on Judy Chicago’s iconic feminist artwork The Dinner Party

May 8, 2018

Judy Chicago (American, born 1939). The Dinner Party, 1974–79. Ceramic, porcelain, textile, 576 × 576 in. (1463 × 1463 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. (Photo: Donald Woodman)

The Dinner Party Operas
Short operas inspired by Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party
A collaboration between NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, American Opera Projects, and the Brooklyn Museum

Wednesday, May 23 | 7:30 PM – Program A
GMTWP Black Box Theatre, NYU Tisch
715 Broadway, 2nd Floor, NY, NY 10003

Sunday, May 27 | 2:00 PM – Program B
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium at the Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11238

 

February 28, 2017

NEW YORK, NY – The Dinner Party Operas, a showcase of eleven original mini-operas inspired by Judy Chicago’s iconic feminist installation The Dinner Party, a multi-media work housed in the Brooklyn Museum, will be presented this May in New York City by the NYU Tisch Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (GMTWP), the Brooklyn Museum, the NYU Tisch Department of Design for Stage & Film and American Opera Projects (AOP). Six of the operas will be performed on Wednesday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m. at NYU Tisch’s GMTWP Black Box Theatre, located in Manhattan at 715 Broadway, between Washington and Waverly places, on the second floor. The remaining five operas will be performed on Sunday, May 27 at 2:00 p.m. at the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium at the Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11238. Each under 15-minutes long, the operas were written and composed by students in the NYU Tisch GMTWP Opera Lab and will be performed by professional opera singers with piano accompaniment. The Dinner Party Operas is free with advance registration (May 23) or museum admission (May 27) and open to the public. To reserve tickets for the May 23 performance at NYU, email tisch.ipa@nyu.edu. Complete info at www.aopopera.org.

The Dinner Party Operas is the most recent production of Tisch GMTWP’s Opera Lab program, through which students write, compose, develop, and design original operas performed by professional opera singers. Opera Lab was started in 2015 by GMTWP professor Randall Eng with Design Dept. professor Sam Helfrich, and is open to both students and alumni. In previous years, the program’s mini-operas were created on the subjects of Brooklyn’s historic Fort Greene Park and New York City’s International House, which houses and supports international students and entrepreneurs from around the world.

The Dinner Party, an important icon of 1970s feminist art and a milestone in twentieth-century art, is presented as the centerpiece around which the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art is organized. The Dinner Party comprises a massive ceremonial banquet, arranged on a triangular table with a total of thirty-nine place settings, each commemorating an important woman from history. The settings consist of embroidered runners, gold chalices and utensils, and china-painted porcelain plates with raised central motifs that are based on vulvar and butterfly forms and rendered in styles appropriate to the individual women being honored. The names of another 999 women are inscribed in gold on the white tile floor below the triangular table. This permanent installation is enhanced by rotating Herstory Gallery exhibitions relating to the 1,038 women honored at the table. The pharaoh Hatshepsut; the medieval nun, composer, scientist, and prophetess Hildegard von Bingen; and writer Emily Dickinson are just three of the famous women from Judy Chicago’s art installation who serve as muses for this year’s operas.

“The Dinner Party contains a multitude of stories, and was created in part to encourage viewers to investigate those stories,” said Eng. “In these operas, the students have done exactly that, as they transform the visual and historic into music and theatre. Some of the operas celebrate moments in the lives of specific women, while others confront the work as a whole, and it’s been a joy to see the range of operatic responses—from comic farce to meditative reflection to heightened tragedy to impassioned critique.”

In addition to Profs. Eng and Helfrich, NYU Tisch’s GMTWP Opera Lab is led by Music Directors Mila Henry and James Lowe, who will provide piano accompaniment for the performances. Stage directors and designers from the NYU Tisch Graduate Department of Design for Stage and Film will stage the works in Program A under the guidance of Prof. Helfrich. Luke Leonard will direct the Program B operas.

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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.


Virgin Mothers and Sex Robots Perform Operas at Brooklyn’s Roulette

March 20, 2014

AME.AOP.EHM-Two-Operas-700X300-dpi

American Opera Projects (AOP) in partnership with American Modern Ensemble (AME) and presented by Ear Heart Music (EHM), performs “The Wanton Sublime & The Companion”, a pair of one-act chamber operas, on Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 8:00 PM, at Roulette (509 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY). Tickets: $20 general; $15 members/seniors. Roulette.org

The Wanton Sublime, from composer Tarik O’Regan, librettist Anna Rabinowitz and commissioned by AOP,  explores the human and mythic aspects of the Virgin Mary. In this one-act monodrama for mezzo-soprano and amplified chamber ensemble, Mary struggles to retain her flesh and blood identity in the face of external forces intent on symbolizing her as the ideal woman. Featuring mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn under the direction of Mallory Catlett. This 30 minute monodrama is being developed through the AOP First Chance program and was last seen at Opera New Jersey in 2012.

Says Anna Rabinowitz, “The Virgin Mary comes down to us through western cultural history as the eternal feminine, exemplar of woman as gentle and compliant. The vehicle through which she has been known may be theology, but, as the dominant female in our culture, many of the characteristics of her womanhood are today in conflict with powerful social and political issues of gender. In The Wanton Sublime, Mary is a woman who, in the face of the destiny presented to her, occupies an interior world rife with questions rather than received answers. She is troubled, anxious, ambiguous, aware of her rights or lack thereof.”

In The Companion, a futuristic one-act opera by composer Robert Paterson and librettist David Cote, people live with biomorphic androids that cook, clean, and make love on demand. Maya is not completely satisfied with her model so she calls in tech-support worker Dax. But can Maya handle Joe 2.0? Featuring soprano Nancy Allen Lundy, tenor Brandon Snook, and baritone Kyle Guglielmo under the direction of Walker Lewis. The 35 minute opera is the second act of an Il trittico-style evening called Three Way. Both The Companion and its preceding act Safe Word were developed during Robert Paterson’s 2011-12 fellowship in AOP’s Composers & the Voice program.

Brandon Snook performs an aria from The Companion. Composers & the Voice 2012.

Says David Cote, “The Companion is the second act of an opera triptych about sexuality and power called Three Way. Clearly The Companion is science fiction, but who doubts that society is headed this way? In the piece, I wanted to tell a funny yet strange story about obsession, detachment and projection. Technology enables Maya’s quest for perfect love, even as it reflects the absurdity of that quest back at her. Dax knows how robots work, but people are a dark mystery. Joe has amazing perceptual and cognitive powers, but he lacks emotional integration. Whether that makes him more human or less is an open question.”

These semi-staged premieres, featuring the American Modern Ensemble with Tyson Deaton, conductor, will be presented with an intermission. The author A.M. Homes, best known for her novel The End of Alice and her memoir, The Mistress’s Daughter, moderates a mid-concert discussion with fellow Yaddo artists Mallory Catlett, Walker Lewis, Tarik O’Regan, Robert Paterson, and Anna Rabinowitz, as well as David Cote.

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For press inquiries: Sarah Baird Knight | sarah@dotdotdotmusic.net | t. 718/344-3690 | www.dotdotdotmusic.net


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