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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Fort Greene Park to be commemorated in student operas in new AOP and NYU Tisch partnership

February 19, 2016

Randall Eng, composer and Assistant Arts Professor at Tisch’s Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program

By the end of this spring, one of New York City’s most historic and vibrant neighborhoods will be commemorated in song. And not just one song, but an entire series of new operas. This spring, students in the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (GMTWP) at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts will learn the ins and outs of opera writing when Brooklyn’s American Opera Projects (AOP) partners with the esteemed arts school for a new “Opera Writing Workshop.”  Led by composer Randall Eng, the workshop is an advanced class for composers and librettists of GMTWP at Tisch who will collaborate with an ensemble of eight professional opera singers and two music directors to create short operas under the mentorship of AOP, an opera company in Fort Greene that has developed and premiered contemporary operas for over 25 years.

For the inaugural workshop, AOP and Eng have assigned the students to create operas inspired by the Brooklyn neighborhood Fort Greene and the historic Fort Greene Park, the latter of which has been home to a graveyard of Revolutionary War soldiers as well as a source of inspiration for writers Richard Wright and Marianne Moore and filmmaker Spike Lee. In addition to the musical team, AOP will provide the students with special access to staff from NYC Parks and Fort Greene Park Conservancy.  NYU associate professor and opera director Sam Helfrich will direct the AOP workshop singers in the site-specific scenes being created with the participation of his design students in Tisch’s Design for Stage and Film Department. The operas will be performed in conjunction with American Opera Projects at GMTWP’s Black Box Theatre on May 7, 2016 and in Fort Greene Park itself on May 8, 2016.

AOP General Director Charles Jarden stated, “In this partnership with NYU, AOP is broadening our mission to help mentor creators of opera and music theater work by attracting grad students at one of the best schools in the country.  This project is a great complement to one of our core programs, Composers & the Voice and Randall Eng is one of the alums of that program, which makes the partnership especially valuable and gratifying for us.  We are deeply grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and to the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs for on-going generous support.”

As of February 1st there are twenty-five (25) students enrolled in the class.

Crowds gather in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn’s first park and subject for NYU’s Opera Writing Workshop composers.


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