Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park the Subject of 12 Mini-operas by NYU Composers

April 22, 2016

“Park and Bark” to premiere in Fort Greene Park and NYU on May 7 and 8

A 2013 AOP concert in Fort Greene Park

A 2013 AOP concert in Fort Greene Park

NEW YORK – On May 7 and 8, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, American Opera Projects (AOP), and the Fort Greene Park Conservancy (FGPC) will present “Park and Bark,” twelve mini-operas written by students in Tisch’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (GMTWP) on the subject of Fort Greene Park, one of New York’s, and the nation’s, most historic and vibrant neighborhood parks. The operas, each under fifteen minutes, include dramatizations of the park’s large dog walking community, the remains of the Prison Ship Martyrs from the American Revolution, and a park gardener in a post-apocalyptic future. Six of the operas, staged by opera director, associate Arts Professor and Head of Dramaturgy in the Graduate Department of Design for Stage and Film Sam Helfrich (Glimmerglass, Virginia Opera, Boston Lyric), will be performed at NYU Tisch’s Black Box Theater (715 Broadway, 2nd Floor, NY 10003) on Saturday, May 7th at 2:00pm. The other six operas will be performed in an outdoor concert near the Visitors Center at Fort Greene Park on Sunday, May 8th at 4:00pm. All performances are free and open to the public. Seating for May 7 is limited and can be reserved at https://parkandbarkmay7.eventbrite.com. More information can be found at www.aopopera.org.

The operas will be performed by sopranos Kamala Sankaram (Prototype Festival), Deborah van Renterghem (Santa Fe Opera), and Amelia Watkins (Leipzig Gewandhaus), mezzo-soprano Sarah Heltzel (Seattle Opera), tenor Blake Friedman (Brooklyn Academy of Music), countertenor Eric Brenner (Prototype Festival), baritone Jorell Williams (Santa Fe Opera, Mark Morris Dance Group), and bass Sam Carl (Berlin Opera Academy, Edinburgh International Festival). Like Mozart, Handel, and Verdi, who often wrote roles for particular singers, the composers worked with the professional opera singers and music directors Kelly Horsted and Mila Henry on the development of the thirteen operas.

Students in the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (GMTWP) began learning the ins and outs of opera writing this spring when Brooklyn’s American Opera Projects (AOP) partnered with Tisch School of the Arts for a new “Opera Writing Workshop.”  Led by composer and faculty member Randall Eng, the workshop is an advanced class for composers and librettists of GMTWP at Tisch, as well as recent alumni, to collaborate with professional opera singers and music directors under the mentorship of AOP, an opera company in Fort Greene that has developed and premiered contemporary operas for over 25 years.

L to R: Randall Eng, Chandra McClelland, Tek Goo Kang, Brian Cavanagh-Strong, Ben Bonnema

L to R: Randall Eng, Chandra McClelland, Tek Goo Kang, Brian Cavanagh-Strong, Ben Bonnema

AOP General Director and Fort Greene Park Conservancy Chairman Charles Jarden, with park and conservancy staff, guided the thirteen composer/librettist teams’ research of Fort Greene Park in diverse subjects as park history, modern anecdotes, and neighborhood color.

“This process has been particularly helpful for anyone who has gone through school already and needs critical eyes on their work,” wrote Casey O’Neil, one of the workshop’s composers. “Randall and the guest instructors delivered terrific and specific feedback, which has helped make the works much stronger.”

Support for the workshop was provided by the Institute of Performing Arts, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and a multi-year award to AOP from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with the free performances made possible by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

L to R: Randall Eng, Mila Henry, Blake Friedman, Amelia Watkins, Sam Carl

L to R: Randall Eng, Mila Henry, Blake Friedman, Amelia Watkins, Sam Carl

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AOP kicks off summer with free concert in Fort Greene Park

June 17, 2013

On Friday, June 21, AOP, with friends Opera on Tap, Two Sides Sounding, and Lauren Flanigan’s Music & Mentoring House, will perform “The Voice of Brooklyn,” a free outdoor concert of opera, musicals, spirituals, and songs in Fort Greene Park in Fort Greene, Brooklyn from 5:30pm to sundown. A full schedule and details on the performances are available at www.operaprojects.org/events/MMNY2013.

  • The day’s music will begin with songs from composers championed by American Opera Projects over the years, interspersed with selections by local artists paying tribute to Kings County itself in Two Sides Sounding’s “AOP Friends and Neighbors,” with performances by Eleanor Taylor, Hai-Ting Chinn, and Mila Henry, and featuring music from composers such as Renée Favand-See, Matthew Schickele, Lee Hoiby, and Gabriel Kahane.
  • Summer lovebirds might flock to Fort Greene as Opera on Tap presents “Summer Lovin’…”, where Opera on Tap’s divas and divos bring their operatic stylings to the streets to show just how musical summer romance can be.
  • In celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, AOP singers perform a mix of traditional spirituals, operatic favorites, and compelling new songs, featuring music by Nkeiru Okoye from the opera “Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom” and “Brooklyn Cinderella,” a song cycle based on the poetry of Brooklyn teenagers. Performances by Sumayya Ali, Sequina Dubose, Clinton Ingram, and Damian Norfleet.

  • Flanigan KightThe evening will close with musical performances by acclaimed soprano, Lauren Flanigan (Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, AOP’s Seance on a Wet Afternoon, Marina, and Beauty Intolerable), and vocal students of Music and Mentoring House. Together, the singers will perform new works by composer Josh Kight from “Pity,” a musical theatre work that explores the relativity of truth, and song cycles “The Cuckoo” and “Chairs,” a piece that explores the simple but important relationship that people have with different chairs.

The concert will be presented as part of the annual Make Music New York Festival, a live, free musical celebration across New York City that takes place each June 21 – the longest day of the year. This year’s concert is AOP’s fifth partnership with MMNY. For a lineup of other MMNY concerts around the city visit www.makemusicny.org.

Additional links:
http://www.twosidessounding.com
http://www.operaontap.com

AOP’s 2011 Make Music NY concert in Fort Greene Park.


Alvin Singleton commemorates Revolutionary War memorial with new composition

November 11, 2008
Composer Alvin Singleton

Composer Alvin Singleton

This weekend, composer Alvin Singleton will premiere “Brooklyn Bones,” a choral and orchestral piece written exclusively for the 100th anniversary of the 1908 dedication of the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument – one of the most important and sacred memorials in our country. The majestic, Stanford White-designed Prison Ship Martyrs Monument which stands in the heart of Fort Greene Park in Fort Greene, Brooklyn (home of American Opera Projects) honors over 11,500 Prisoners of War who perished for the cause of freedom aboard British prison ships during the American Revolutionary War of Independence. Remains of the Prison Ship Martyrs are interred in a crypt beneath the Monument.

On Saturday, November 15th, after a full day of free family events in Fort Greene Park celebrating the anniversary, a Reception and Benefit for the Fort Greene Park Conservancy will be held in the lobby of nearby Brooklyn Tech High School, with food and entertainment, followed by the 7:30 PM premier performance of Singleton’s “Brooklyn Bones.” The Brooklyn Tech Reception and Benefit is open to the public with a $25 per person donation to the Conservancy.

AOP sponsored an afternoon of educational outreach with Mr. Singleton last month when he visited music students at Brooklyn High School of the Arts to discuss his composition of the piece.

Learn more about the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument and the Centennial Celebration here.


A weekend of opera concerts in NYC parks

July 10, 2008
J. David Jackson (left, with AOP Board Mamber John Buscarello) at the Metropolitan Opera's summer concert in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.

J. David Jackson (left, with AOP Board Member John Buscarello) at the Metropolitan Opera's summer concert in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.

AOP conductor covers Met Opera’s concert in Prospect Park

AOP conductor J. David Jackson (Darkling, Marina: A Captive Spirit) was the cover conductor for the Metropolitan Opera’s concert in Prospect Park, Brooklyn that drew a crowd of 50,000 on the evening of June 20. The concert featured the soprano Angela Gheorghiu and the tenor Roberto Alagna performing famous opera arias and duets.

AOP presents its own park concert in Brooklyn

On Saturday, June 21, AOP held its own summer concert in a Brooklyn Park one day after the Metropolitan Opera’s presentation. A crowd of less than 50,000 was on hand in Fort Greene Park to watch AOP and friends performing all new opera arias and duets as part of the free festival Make Music NY.

Donna Smith performs C&V songs based on the potry of Walt Whitman

Donna Smith performs C&V songs based on the potry of Walt Whitman

AOP performed songs from this year’s C&V composers based on the writings of Brooklyn’s own Walt Whitman in between presentations from Opera on Tap, Collective Opera Company, and Rhymes With Opera. Greg Trupiano, Artistic Director of the Walt Whitman Project, introduced each of the songs with information about their source poems, including one poem that was written only a block away from where the performance was held.

The show was also held earlier in the day at Lincoln Square in Manhattan.


Alvin Singleton receives grant to develop new work with AOP

July 10, 2008
Composer Alvin Singleton

Composer Alvin Singleton

AOP is proud to announce that Meet the Composer has awarded AOP and composer Alvin Singleton a “Creative Connections” grant for Singleton’s participation in the development and outreach programming of a newly commissioned work. The work, a dramatic oratorio for chamber orchestra and chorus with a commissioned text by author Patricia Hampl, is about the 100 year-old Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn. The commission has been paid by The Fort Greene Park Conservancy, with funds raised through a consortium of organizations, city, state and private donations.

AOP will partner with these organizations to develop the work, building national and community awareness about the subject in advance of the November 2008 rededication of the Monument.


The Summer King scores in Brooklyn

October 22, 2007

Summer King Kenneth OvertonBrooklyn audiences got a taste of Daniel Sonenberg‘s baseball opera The Summer King at a series of staged workshops performed around the borough this summer. AOP took to the streets of St. Mark’s Place and the fields of Fort Greene Park and captured the eyes and ears of people from every walk of life, many of whom had never heard live opera before. Based on the life of the Negro League star player Josh Gibson (portrayed by Kenneth Overton, left), The Summer King began its development as an opera as part of AOP’s Composers & the Voice series in 2002. For a profile of the Brooklyn performances, check out the article by Heidi Waleson in The Wall Street Journal.


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