AOP First Chance previews new opera “COMPANIONSHIP” at Manhattan School of Music and Cornelia Street Café

March 5, 2014

Media Contact: Matt Gray, AOP Producing Director, 718-398-4024,

Peters Rachel2Composer Rachel Peters; photo by Luke Redmond


BROOKLYN, NY, 3/5/2014 – On March 16 at 2:30PM, American Opera Projects (AOP) First Chance, public presentations of operas-in-progress, returns to the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) for their annual Opera Index series “New American Opera Previews, From Page to Stage” with scenes from Companionship, a new opera by composer Rachel Peters. Tickets for the MSM performance at Greenfield Hall (120 Claremont Ave., NYC 10027) are $20 ($15 advance, $10 Student/senior) and available by calling 212-706-9550. On March 24 at 8:30PM, an encore concert presentation will be held at Cornelia Street Café (29 Cornelia Street, New York, NYC 10014) as part of the “Otherwise Unsung” series featuring creators of new music-theatre joining forces to deliver contemporary arias and scenes. Tickets for the Cornelia Street Café performance are $10.00 cover plus $10.00 minimum and available by calling 212-989-9319.

Adapted from the short story by Arthur Phillips, Companionship is a dark comedy about a troubled baker on an “all-consuming” quest to create the perfect baguette when the 207,345th loaf comes to life. Directed by Lemuel Wade (AOP’s recent Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom), the excerpts will feature performances by MSM student singers Noragh Devlin, Lesley Dolman, Stephanie Jabre, Matilyn Obregón, and Xiaoming Tian, with Scott Rednour on piano. A talkback with the artists, hosted by former WQXR host Midge Woolsey, will follow the March 16 performance.

Companionship was developed by Ms. Peters in AOP’s Composers & the Voice (C&V) composer training program in 2011-2012 and will be AOP’s 10th collaboration with MSM’s Opera Studies department (Gordon Ostrowski, Asst. Dean) and New American Opera Previews, From Page to Stage. 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).

In September C&V fellows will present an operatic concert of “Six Scenes” at AOP’s home base in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. One of these C&V-developed opera scenes will be selected to be performed at MSM for the March 2015 “Page to Stage” series. C&V Voice is made possible in part by a generous multi-year award from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and The Victor Herbert Foundation in Memory of Lois C. Schwartz.

Rachel Peters’ operas include The Wild Beast of the Bungalow (Hartford Opera Theater, upcoming workshop with Center for Contemporary Opera), and Monkey Do (Rhymes With Opera). Musicals include Only Children (NYU Tisch Mainstage, Lincoln Center Directors Lab, Dixon Place), Tiny Feats of Cowardice (Adirondack Theatre Festival, HERE), Write Left (Playwrights Horizons Theatre School), Tomato Red (UC Irvine), Octopus Heart (NYU Steinhardt), f2m, and Public Domain. More info at

About American Opera Projects (AOP)

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 20 world premieres including most recently Lera Auerbach’s The Blind, a co-production with Lincoln Center Festival 2013 and Phil Kline’s Out Cold (2012) at BAM. AOP-developed premieres include Stephen Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon at New York City Opera (2011), Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at London’s Royal Opera House (2011), Jorge Martín’s Before Night Falls at Fort Worth Opera (2010), This Is the Rill Speaking at Opera Memphis (2013). Upcoming: AOP-commissioned The Wanton Sublime and The Companion at Roulette (April 2014) and As One at BAM, September 2014.

© Copyright 2014 American Opera Projects, Inc. All rights reserved.

Composers & the Voice – Session 5, Nov. 7, 2011

November 28, 2011

Zach Redler, Guest Blogger
Composers & the Voice Composer Fellow, 2011-12

Hey all!

Here is the LONG overdue post from our session three weeks ago, at which our first compositions were brilliantly performed!  It is such a great honor and opportunity for us to have such a safe environment to present pieces that are fresh off the presses.  To be in the company of such a diverse and interesting group of voices (compositionally, lyrically and vocally) really made the night for me.  Slight disclaimer: I do not wish to act as critic or musicologist, but I do have that in my background, so that person will probably be present.  Please correct me or call me out on anything I get wrong.  Also, I hope everyone will add their own feelings about their performances.

We started with a pairing of pieces by Rachel Peters, performed by Justin Hopkins.  She was so smart and creative to take two completely different texts, one by Oskar Pastior and one by Walt Whitman, and unite them in such a comedic and dramatic way.  The former, “Dominotaurus,” is a setting of, basically, one extremely long word in which each subsequent syllable creates a new word.  So it was Rachel’s choice as to which syllable to stress where, which created a very compelling piece that kept our attention.  Her harmonic language is also clever and, though tonal, it uses a good deal of polytonality or harmonic independence, quoting different “styles” as she goes along to enhance the drama of the piece.  For example, setting a falsetto coloratura section in a simple, almost baroque fashion.  Her second piece, “To A Certain Civilian,” is set with a gentle swing, and cleverly comments on the first with lines like “Did you find what I sang erewhile so hard to follow?”  All in all, a great start to the evening.

Baritone Justin Hopkins sings at the Nov 7 C&V workshop session.

Second on the docket was my and Sara Cooper’s monodrama “Count To Ten.”  Now, normally asking a singer to prepare an eight-minute operatic monodrama when they are only supposed to prepare a three to five minute aria or art song may seem daunting, but Amy Shoremount-Obra really stepped up to the plate.  She took command of the character that Sara and I had created, a 39 year-old prostitute, and really embodied her as she sang about her daily life and her hopes and dreams of one day being alone with just her pimp boyfriend Joe, after he “takes care” of all of the Johns who now think she’s too old, of course.  I am happy to say that I learned a lot about what may work for one singer vs. another and how to be flexible in really chiseling a piece to a certain performer’s strengths.  Luckily, Amy has so many that it wasn’t difficult.

Next, I believe, was Ronnie Reshef’s moving arioso “Transport” from The Waiting Woman, performed by Andrea Arias Martin.  So gorgeous.  It begins with a lovely ostinato (almost a passacaglia) with a pedal C over which Andrea’s voice just hovers, describing being “transported” in a cargo train for eight days and night climaxing on a glorious Bb!  We talked, as we did with everyone, about the possible strengths of small tweaks here and there, such as possibly altering a few pitches and/or tempi to optimize Andrea’s power for the piece.  But, in my opinion, it was a really great arc of an aria that used an entirely syllabic setting in a very lyrical and dramatic way.

Penultimately (I like that word), we heard from Mikael Karlsson.  I really, really enjoy Mikael’s music…and I’m not necessarily one for what I would call “out-there tonal music”.  It doesn’t seem to be atonal because there is definite “line” and “harmonic” direction, but rarely is there much homophony to establish any kind of solid tonal structure.  Though, I may be pulling this out of my butt…maybe Mikael can describe his style a little better. “Internal” from Decoration, performed by Rebecca Ringle is a bit of a tour-de-force.  Though the text is set on pitches, it seems to serve a bit more aliatorically in that certain phrases and sentences are separated in order to create specific word emphasis, rather than complete sentence understanding, which works very well.  Mikael used some “extended” techniques like Sprechstimme and some almost “growling” type sounds, along with directions to “spit it out” or use straight tone (no vibrato).  However, when all is said and done, we come away from the piece feeling connected to this character he’s created and that Rebecca has well developed.

Finally, we ended the night with a piece by Sidney Marquez Boquiren and Daniel Neer called “Washington Square Park,” performed by Brandon Snook.  In what seems to be Sidney and Daniel’s voice, this piece seems to be all about the text.  Sidney does a wonderful job of keeping a musical momentum while allowing ample room for the text to speak in the hall.  I have not yet seen a piece of Sidney’s that uses barlines, which is so interesting to me.  He instead generously gives the performers space to interpret their aria in the most powerful way.  We discussed a little bit of the use of sitting in a tenor’s passaggio on a FF phrase.  And again, like any good collaboration, they came out with a slightly altered tempo that helped the piece come to life as both Sidney and Daniel had envisioned.

Thus ended a great night of new music.  I apologize again for anything I either forgot or got COMPLETELY wrong.  These are just my observations, and please feel free to comment, clarify or just scold me for my stupidity.

Yay new work.  Yay American Opera Projects!

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