AOP and OOT’s new mission (if you choose to accept it)

February 29, 2012

OPERAtion BrooklynOn March 25 & 26, 2012, American Opera Projects and Opera on Tap will give the go sign to their newest collaboration – OPERAtion Brooklyn. After 10 performances of their series Opera Grows in Brooklyn, AOP and OOT will return to Galapagos Art Space with this new series that presents “the most daring of contemporary opera and song in a relaxed, nightclub-style evening that encourage[s] drinks and discussion as part of the new classical experience. ”

“We were looking for a direction to take Opera Grows in Brooklyn in 2012,” says AOP Producing Director Matt Gray, who co-produces the event with OOT’s Artistic Director Anne Hiatt, “and after assessing the successes of that series, we realized we most enjoyed ourselves when we were producing bigger and bolder. So, we decided to do fewer shows during the year, but make those we do real can’t-miss events. To convey this commitment we felt a new name was in order, something that showed our passion and determination for presenting the best of Brooklyn’s contemporary opera scene.”

OPERAtion Brooklyn

David Del Tredici

David Del Tredici

OPERAtion Brooklyn will kick off with a two-evening festival of Alice in Wonderland-inspired works called Curiouser & Curiouser, featuring a performance by the composer most musically associated with Lewis Carroll – David Del Tredici. Celebrating his 75th birthday the week before, Del Tredici, practically a legend of New York’s contemporary classical scene, will play piano for a revival of his 1986 work for soprano and 10-piece orchestra Haddocks’ Eyes, based on a section of Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. Excerpts from the Alice-inspired operas Dreaming of Wonderland (Manly Romero, composer) and Wonderglass (Susan Botti, composer) will also take audiences down the operatic rabbit hole.

As if that weren’t enough,  “Curiouser & Curiouser” will feature intermezzos from a collection of New York’s top circus-burlesque artists in a two-part program entitled “Through the Peeping Glass.” Producer Rita MenWeep has put together a mixture of acrobats (Joshua Dean, Ben Franklin), contortionists (Miss Ekaterina), and burlesque stars (Jenny C’est Quoi, Tigger!Creamy Stevens) who will portray some of the most iconic characters in Wonderland in the most unexpected of ways.

Rita MenWeep as the Red Queen

Rita MenWeep as the Red Queen

How did burlesque and opera come together? “I’ve known Rita for years,” says Gray. “I was actually in a play where she did her first-ever burlesque act. After one of our Opera Grows in Brooklyn performances I was thrilled to find that the late-night act was her burlesque version of The Wizard of Oz. Seeing the crossover happen between our audiences, we both thought, ‘Man, it would be great to get these people together. They don’t know what they’re missing.”

American Opera Projects and Opera on Tap have been artists-in-residence at Galapagos Art Space since 2009. The venue, just off the waterfront in DUMBO, Brooklyn, has been a primary destination for both new music and burlesque since it was founded by Artistic Director Robert Elmes in 1995.

“What’s funny is that the fans of neo-classical/opera and the fans of neo-burlesque know that both genres are misunderstood as either too highbrow or too lowbrow, respectively,” says Opera on Tap’s Anne Ricci. “We hope to prove to the unfamiliars how wrong they are on both those counts. But we’re not middlebrow, either!” she laughingly adds.

Tickets for Curiouser & Curiouser are available at Galapagos’s website here. Complete OPERAtion Brooklyn program information is available at www.operationbrooklyn.com.

David Del Tredici Photo Credit: Paula Court

Opera Grows in Brooklyn is the place to see “the next great masterwork by the next great composer”

April 21, 2010
AbSynth at Opera Grows in Brooklyn

AbSynth at Opera Grows in Brooklyn

Friday April 16, 2010, proved to be a memorable evening of three exciting new operatic works, performed within an equally modern and unique theater space.  American Opera Projects in conjunction with Opera on Tap produced a trio of contemporary opera compositions.

The triple lineup included a futuristic opera in one act entitled Absynth, a collection of songs by composer Tom Cipullo and Margot Alone in the Light, an operatic work that takes place on Venus.  Audience members watched the show from circular seating in the house, surrounded by black pools of water and dim, colored lighting. The almost alien ambiance of Galapagos contributed to the futuristic performances of both Absynth and Margot Alone in the Light, while creating an interesting backdrop for Cipullo’s songs about love and regret.

The iconoclastic reviewers over at Parterre Box were in the audience and noted:

Galapagos was quite an interesting place to see an event like this. I personally think this type of venue is a great place for workshopping new works; those in the audience were young and seemingly very supportive of the performances…

What I kept thinking about though, was the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the ’60s, where visionaries like Philip Glass would play in spacious lofts simply because they could. While Galapagos is definitely a money making venture, I think this is as close as the opera world will get to that type of experimental sharing as was seen all those years ago… I would certainly go again to a presentation like this. You never really know if you’ll be there for the premiere of the next great masterwork by the next great composer, and if you aren’t, well, the beer is still cold.

more…

In reply, a blogger named Will also remarked:

…the atmosphere you describe at Galapagos is virtually identical to the way audiences experienced the plays of Shakespeare, and the operas of Cavalli, Handel, Gluck and Rossini when they were new.

The production began with AOP’s Absynth, commissioned, conceived and performed by mezzo- soprano Abigail Fischer.  The futuristic piece combined electronics and vocals to tell the story of a machine that becomes a woman and wishes to return to her original state of being.  Absynth includes compositions by Nico Muhly, Kevin McFarland, Florent Ghys, Caleb Burhans and AOP’s “Composers and the Voice” composers Stephen Andrew Taylor and Andrew Staniland.  The work at large was directed by American Opera Projects Producing Director Matt Gray and also featured actors Mateo Moreno, Erin Posanti, and Craig Kelton Peterson.

“Dreams of Pure Spirit: Songs of Tom Cipullo” rounded out the program as the second performance of the evening.  Cipullo served both as composer and pianist for the compilation, accompanying alternating performers Tory Browers (Soprano), Rebecca Jo Loeb (Mezzo) and Michael Anthony McGee (Baritone).  The songs ranged from humorous commentaries on New York City, to melancholy expressions of love and regret.  Cipullo’s range of emotion was well received by Paterre Box critic Valmont who commented, “His songs can weave several different moods into the same line, and the writing is lyrical and beautiful. He does excel at quirky humor and chooses wonderful texts for this purpose…”

“Opera Grows in Brooklyn” ended with C&V composer Clint Borzoni’s mini-opera Margot in the Light. The text for this opera, written by librettist Emily Conbere, is based on Ray Bradbury short story about the inhabitants of Venus who only see sunlight once in seven years.  Margot in the Light follows the plight of native Earthling Margot, who moves to Venus but still remembers the sun.  The title role of Margot was sung by soprano Martha Guth to positive reviews.  Valmont says of her voice, “Her lyric soprano is easily produced and with great beauty”.  Supporting cast members included Alteouise deVaughn, Lisa Williamson, Kimberly Sogioka and Dennis Blackwell.


“Opera Grows in Brooklyn” will return to Galapagos on Friday, July 16.


AOP attends Seance premiere; Reviews are in!

October 7, 2009
Lauren Flanigan as Myra conjures the dead in the premiere of Seance on a Wet Afternoon. Photo: David Bazemore for The Santa Barbara Independent

Lauren Flanigan as Myra conjures the dead in the premiere of Seance on a Wet Afternoon. Photo: David Bazemore for The Santa Barbara Independent

AOP Board President Robert E. Lee III and Company Manager Matt Gray were on hand for the gala premiere of Stephen Schwartz‘s first opera Seance on a Wet Afternoon at Opera Santa Barbara. AOP artistic partner and star soprano Lauren Flanigan battled through a head cold and delivered a seemingly effortless bravura performance in the role of Myra, a psychic medium who convinces her husband to participate in a kidnapping scheme that will bring them fame and fortune.

The premiere also featured frequent AOP singers Caroline Worra and Michael Marcotte. Charity Wicks was the assistant conductor to Maestro Valery Ryvkin. A commission by Opera Santa Barbara and produced by Michael Jackowitz, AOP had developed the project since its first workshop in 2008 that was held at South Oxford Space in Brooklyn and the Rose Studio in Lincoln Center with additional public workshops at the Angel Orensanz Theater in the Lower East Side.

And the reviews have started pouring in!

“…terrifically involving and entertaining, sure to excite the interest of opera impresarios (and maybe even legit ones) seeking new audiences for a rigorous art form.”
– Variety
Read full review…

“Stephen Schwartz and Opera Santa Barbara have pulled off the season’s first major coup with this world premiere of what is likely to be among the most talked-about new operas of the decade. Boldly beautiful in its conception and staging, Séance on a Wet Afternoon takes audiences on a wild, suspenseful, and at times even hilarious ride to the limits of tragedy.”
– The Santa Barbara Independent
Read full review…

““Séance” is an opera for people who don’t like opera.”
– LA Times
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“…the cast and the production values were exemplary.”
– Santa Barbara Noozhawk
Read full review…

“Stephen Schwartz may have written the world’s most accessible opera.”
– TalkinBroadway.com
Read full review…


New semi-staged version of Darkling premieres in Philadelphia

October 2, 2009

Philadelphia audiences finally got to experience the multimedia opera-theatre work Darkling when it premiered in a new, semi-staged version for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival presented by Center City Opera Theater on Sep 8, 10, and 12, 2009. Conductor and CCOT Artistic Director Andrew Kurtz brought composer Stefan Weisman and librettist Anna Rabinowitz‘s haunting experimental work to life as part of ConNEXTions 2009: The Next Generation of Opera.  Spanning the decades from the 1930’s to the post-World War period, Darkling is a remarkable story of a poet who struggles to identify and interpret the stories of various Polish-Jewish family  affected by the extraordinary events of the Holocaust based only on the few letters and photographs they left behind.

Maeve Hoglund as the bride fleeing to America in the Sep 2009 performance of Darkling in Philadelphia.

Maeve Hoglund as the bride fleeing to America in the Sep 2009 performance of Darkling in Philadelphia.

Returning singers Hai-Ting Chinn and Jon Garrison joined with Maeve Hoglund, Martin Hargrove and Jason Switzer, narrator Sharon Sigal, and a string quartet under the stage direction of Matt Gray. AOP premiered Darkling in 2006 at the East 13th Street Theater in a fully staged version conceived and directed by Michael Comlish. A concert version also developed by Mr. Comlish toured through Europe in 2007.


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…


Ugetsu libretto reading continues C&V 2008-09

October 23, 2008
Ugetsu

Ugetsu

Tomorrow, AOP will be holding its first libretto reading of Ugetsu, an opera-in-development by composer Michael Rose and librettist Emily Howard to be directed by little old me. If you were at the Composers & the Voice Six Scenes concert in 2003 then you heard a scene from Ugetsu then. I’m not sure how much has changed since then, but that’s something you can definitely ask Michael on Friday.

Michael was a composer during the first season of Composers & the Voice and we’re thrilled to have him bring his piece back with us for our current season of C&V that focuses on presenting works from our stable of 30 C&V composers. Not a bad collection! We paired with Mike just a week ago to present the first event in the C&V 08-09 calendar – Composers Up Close and Personal. There we saw C&V composers Ray Lustig, Daniel Sonenberg, Stefan Weisman, and Kala Pierson present works that first premiered at C&V, were later developed at AOP, and even some brand new music. C&V chair Tan Dun‘s “Pipa Concerto” was also performed.

Ugetsu is based on the 1953 Kenji Mizoguchi film Ugetsu monogatari (Tales of the Pale and Silvery Moon After the Rain) and is a ghost story about love or a love story about ghosts. And since it seems to be a requisite of this genre, there is pottery scene. A few actually. Mizoguchi is considered one of the greatest filmmakers of Japan and by coincidence the Criterion Collection released a box set of his works just this month. So come see the reading and then go home and watch the movies. I think you’ll be turning Japanese. I really think so.

The reading will be about an hour long followed by our discussion period where Michael and Emily will be able to get your feedback about what you just saw. Go to the events page to get your free tickets!


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