AOP receives OPERA America Innovation Grant to expand training programs

June 6, 2017

AOP is proud to announce that it has been awarded an Innovation Grant to expand its composer-librettist training curriculum to academic music-theater programs, serving as a potential model for other schools and conservatories.

AOP’s training curriculum was pioneered with the creation of Composers & the Voice in 2002. Conceived by C&V’s current Artistic Director Steven Osgood, AOP’s in-house training program will enter its ninth season in Fall 2017. C&V brings together emerging opera composers and librettists and professional opera singers in private workshops to learn the craft of writing for the operatic voice and stage. The curriculum was adapted by C&V composer alum Randall Eng in partnership with AOP in 2015 to create the Advanced Opera Lab for students in the NYU/Tisch Graduate Musical Theater Program. The Innovation grant will continue this trajectory by supporting the codification of a curriculum for schools and conservatories that rarely provide opportunities for learning composition for the voice. In addition, the grant will support the creation of six new site-specific works on the theme of “New York Stories” that will emerge out of the partnerships between AOP and these institutions.

AOP was one of 27 opera companies around the nation to receive Innovation grant awards from the organization. Launched last fall, OPERA America’s Innovation Grants support exceptional projects that have the capacity to strengthen the field’s most important areas of practice, including artistic vitality, audience experience, organizational effectiveness and community connections. These grants invest up to $1.5 million annually in OPERA America’s Professional Company Members, enabling organizations of all sizes to increase their commitment to experimentation and innovation, as well as contribute to field-wide learning.

“Thanks to the tremendous generosity of the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, our member companies receive support to pursue new thinking and experimentation — to expand the boundaries of their current practices and adapt to an ever-changing field,” stated Marc A. Scorca, president and CEO of OPERA America in the press release. “These grants benefit not only the recipients but the entire art form: Through the lessons gleaned from the funded initiatives, companies throughout North America will be able to borrow and adapt good ideas, spreading the learning field-wide.”

NYU/AOP Opera Lab Cast, Creators, Designers, and Instructors at the May 14 performances of their opera scenes. International House, NYC. Photo by Steven Pisano.

NYU/AOP Opera Lab “Final Round”. International House, NYC. Photo by Steven Pisano.

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AOP Receives OPERA America Grant to Commission New Opera About the Chinese Zodiac

February 10, 2015

Opera Grant for Female Composers awarded to double-bill by composer Wang Jie currently in development at AOP for 2017 premiere at Festival Opera

American Opera Projects (AOP) is proud to announce it is the recipient of an OPERA America Female Commissioning Grant in support of a new double bill chamber opera by composer Wang Jie currently titled To Kill That Bird. The two one act operas of To Kill That Bird are united by the theme of strong female artists contending against the oppressive bureaucracy of the Zodiac Animal overlords.

AOP will begin workshops of the opera in 2015 through its First Chance program, which allows composers and librettists to hear their work in part or in full for the first time before an audience, with live singers and accompaniment. The production is slated to debut in 2017 at Festival Opera in Walnut Creek, CA, to be conducted by Festival Opera’s longtime artistic director, Michael Morgan.

First premiered in concert at Carnegie Hall in 2010 where it was called “by turns whimsical, campy, tragic, haunting” by The New Criterion, the first half of To Kill That Bird, the 30-minute “From the Other Sky,” portrays the fable of how the thirteen animals of the Chinese Zodiac downsized to twelve. Experiencing human compassion for the first time, this thirteenth Zodiac Goddess loses her place in the heavens to share her musical powers with mankind. “From the Other Sky” was commissioned by American Composers Orchestra/Mr. Paul Underwood.

The 70-minute second bill “From the Land Fallen” tantalizes the audience with a tragic and haunting transgender love story. New York City in a parallel universe, the Zodiac Animals rules the human world headed by the Rat. As human rebellion erupts, a war widow finds her late husband’s spirit embodied in a deranged woman and falls in love with her.

OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers provide support for the development of new operas by women, both directly to individual composers and to opera companies producing their work, advancing the important objective to increase diversity across the field.  As part of this grant program made possible through the generosity of The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, AOP-sponsored composers Laura Kaminsky (As One) and Sheila Silver (A Thousand Splendid Suns) were each awarded in 2014 a Female Discovery grant, which supported the production of new opera by emerging female composers.

Composer Wang Jie

Composer Wang Jie

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

Part cartoon character, part virtuoso, musical whiz kid WANG JIE has spent the last decade nudging serious music and its concert audiences into spectacular frontiers. One day she spins a few notes into large symphonic forms, the next she calls grotesque Zodiac animals to the opera stage. She’ll even tempt comedy writer Paul Simms to help her coax belly laughs from an otherwise sedate Opera America audience with “Lord? Please Don’t Let Me Die in a Funny Way”. Her stylistic versatility is a rare trait in today’s composers. Most recently, her Symphony No. 2, commissioned and premiered by Detroit Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin was streamed live to a worldwide audience. The showcase of her tragic opera Nannan by New York City Opera’s VOX led to the production of her chamber opera Flown, commissioned and produced by Music-Theatre Group. Having won the Underwood Composers Commission, her concert opera “From the Other Sky” was the centerpiece of the American Composers Orchestra’s season opening concert at Carnegie Hall. Jie holds honors from ASCAP, American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, NYU, Opera America, among others. http://wangjiemusic.com

ANNE BABSON, a Coney Island poet recently transplanted to Mississippi, was nominated for a Pushcart for work in The Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal and Illya’s Honey. She has won awards from Columbia, Atlanta Review, Grasslands Review, and other reviews. Her work has been published in the US, in England, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and Turkey. She was included in a British anthology of the best working American poets today entitled Seeds of Fire (Smokestack Books, 2008) and is another British Anthology related to the current riots in England entitled Emergency Verse (Caparison Books, 2011). She has four chapbooks, over a hundred journal publications, including work recently featured in in Iowa Review, Barrow Street, Atlanta Review, and many others. She is featured on a compilation hip-hop CD–The Cornerstone (New Lew Music, 2007). She has read her work for national radio programs and has appeared on television in the United States and in Taiwan.

 

ABOUT THE PRESENTERS:

AOP (American Opera Projects, Inc.) is a driving force behind the revitalization of contemporary opera and musical theater in the United States through its exclusive devotion to creating, developing, and presenting new American opera and music theatre projects. AOP has produced over 25 world premieres, including Kaminsky/Campbell/Reed’s As One (2014) and Phil Kline’s Out Cold (2012) at BAM, and Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (2013), Nicholas Brooke’s Tone Test (2004), and Kimper/Persons’ Patience & Sarah (1998) at Lincoln Center Festival. Other notable premieres include Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (2014), Weisman/Rabinowitz’s Darkling (2006), and Lee Hoiby’s This is the Rill Speaking (2008). AOP-developed operas that premiered with co-producers: Weisman/Cote’s The Scarlet Ibis at PROTOTYPE Festival (2015), Gregory Spears’s Paul’s Case at Urban Arias (2013) and PROTOTYPE Festival (2014), 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), and Jorge Martín’s Before Night Falls at Fort Worth Opera (2010). UPCOMING in 2015: As One at Caine College of the Arts (Logan, UT) and West Edge Opera (Berkeley, CA); Heart Of Darkness at Opera Parallèle (San Francisco, CA); Paradise Interrupted at Spoleto Festival USA (Charleston, SC); The Blind at Central City Opera (Central City, Denver, Aspen and Boulder, CO). www.operaprojects.org

Founded in 1991, FESTIVAL OPERA has focused on developing innovative and creative productions of classic opera from the standard repertory, and has augmented that vision in recent years with rarely-heard productions, commissions, and new works, endeavoring to bridge to diverse members of the community with meaningful stories and music. As Festival Opera enters its 25th season, the company remains committed to bringing extraordinary opera to residents of San Francisco’s East Bay communities. In 2015, the company will stage the West coast premiere of Jack Perla’s River of Light in a double bill with Gustav Holst’s Savitri, as well as a main stage production of Ariadne auf Naxos, directed and conducted by maestro Michael Morgan, Festival Opera’s longtime artistic director. Festival Opera showcases emerging American artists, and presents fully-staged opera in Walnut Creek, California, at the Lesher Center for the Arts, chamber operas in smaller venues, and a free Opera in the Park in June in Walnut Creek’s Civic Park. www.festivalopera.org


Three AOP Composers Awarded Competitive Grant for Female Composers

April 3, 2014

OPERA America has announced the first round of recipients of its new program, Opera Grants for Female Composers. From among the 112 eligible applicants, an independent adjudication panel selected eight composers, including three AOP composers Laura Kaminsky, Sheila Silver, and Composers & the Voice alumna Kristin Kuster.

AOP-OPERA-America-Female-ComposersComposers Sheila Silver, Laura Kaminsky, and Kristin Kuster

The recipients have each been awarded $12,500 to support the development of their compositions which are listed below.

Anna Clyne: As Sudden Shut
Michelle DiBucci: Charlotte Salomon: Der Tod und die Malerin (Death and the Painter)
Laura Kaminsky: As One
Kristin Kuster: Old Presque Isle
Anne LeBaron: Psyche & Delia
Fang Man: Golden Lily
Sheila Silver: A Thousand Splendid Suns
Luna Pearl Woolf: THE PILLAR

AOP is currently developing Laura Kaminsky’s As One, scheduled to premiere at BAM in September 2014. Sheila Silver’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, based on the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini, will begin development at AOP in the 2014-15 season.

OPERA America has awarded nearly $13 million over 25 years to Professional Company Members in support of new American operas, but fewer than 5 percent of the organization’s grants supporting repertoire development have been awarded to works by female composers. Opera Grants for Female Composers provide support for the development of new operas by women, both directly to individual composers and to opera companies producing their work, advancing the important objective to increase diversity across the field.

Opera Grants for Female Composers, made possible through the generosity of The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, is a two-year project. In this first year, Discovery Grants identify, support and help develop the work of female composers writing for the operatic medium, raising their visibility and promoting awareness of their compositions. In addition to financial assistance, grant recipients will be introduced to leaders in the field through a feature in Opera America Magazine, and at future New Works Forum meetings and annual conferences. Supported works will be considered for presentation as part of the New Works Forum in January 2015 and New Works Samplers at future annual conferences. The second year of the Opera Grants for Female Composers program will focus on Commissioning Grants. These awards will help support the commissioning and production of works by talented women. Details for this segment of the program will be announced later in 2014. The independent adjudication panelists for the Discovery Grant cycle included vocal coach-consultant Susan Ashbaker, composer Douglas Cuomo, director Robin Guarino, composer David T. Little, mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer, and composer/librettist Gene Scheer.

(from the press release)


Baseball Opera “The Summer King” Scores NEA Grant

December 19, 2013

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has announced that the University of Southern Maine has received an NEA Art Works grant for its upcoming May 2014 premiere of the baseball opera The Summer King, created by former C&V composer Daniel Sonenberg and developed by AOP.

"Broadway" Connie Rector (Franklin Westbrooks) looks in amazement at Josh Gibson's (Kenneth Overton) homer out of Yankee Stadium in an early AOP workshop of THE SUMMER KING.

“Broadway” Connie Rector (Franklin Westbrooks) looks in amazement at Josh Gibson’s (Kenneth Overton) homer out of Yankee Stadium in an early AOP workshop of THE SUMMER KING.

The Summer King follows the life and untimely death of “the Black Babe Ruth”, Negro League home run king Josh Gibson, in this new opera from composer/librettist Daniel Sonenberg and co-librettist Daniel Nestor. AOP will present a rare insight into the evolution of an opera with a full day of libretto readings, musical workshops, and an evening concert of scenes at OPERA America New Works Forum on January 15, 2014. 

From USM Newsletters:

Sonenberg, a University of Southern Maine (USM) associate professor of music at USM’s School of Music, has been notified that he is the recipient of a $15,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant in opera. His opera, titled “The Summer King,” will be performed in concert on May 8, 2014, at the Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine, in collaboration with Portland Ovations.

Scenes and excerpts from “The Summer King” already have been performed at Fort Worth Opera, the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, the Manhattan School of Music and USM to excellent reviews.

In January 2014, the Opera America New Works Forum in New York City, in collaboration with the Brooklyn-based company American Opera Projects, will present a preview of “The Summer King” in a daylong series of events, including a libretto reading by actors, a piano-vocal performance of three scenes and then an orchestral performance of the same three scenes. Each of these events will be followed by discussion with the audience, which will consist of opera professionals from throughout the country….

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Read full article at the website of University of Southern Maine


OPERA AND DANCE: A PAS DE DEUX

November 5, 2013

opera america - wolf-in-skinsThe Magazine of Opera America, Fall 2013 _ Wolf-in-Skins

In its profile of the current fusion of opera and dance, the Fall 2013 issue of OPERA America Magazine singled out AOP’s Wolf-in-Skins as a prime example of the form.

Composer Gregory Spears, who is collaborating with librettist Christopher Williams on the opera Wolf-in-Skins, says that when it comes to propelling narrative opera and dance each have their own particular strengths. “Opera excels at portraying a character’s inner monologue and builds tension through anticipation and reflection,” he says, whereas dance is “action expressed through movement.”

Williams, a trained dancer, is also the works’ director and choreographer. “As a director, I have a tool belt from which I can pull out whatever tools are necessary to tell the story,” he says. “I don’t see boundaries between the art forms and each has an ideal way to convey the narrative at that moment.” In Wolf-in-Skins the Singers also dance.

Williams felt that the epic nature of Wolf-in-Skins required equal contributions from opera, dance and the visual arts, and takes his cues from Wagner’s gesamtkunstwerk and Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe, where collaborations were forged among Stravinsky, Debussy, Picasso, Matisse, Balanchine and Massine. Portions of Wolf-in-Skins were performed earlier this year with Philadelphia Dance projects and co-presented by American Opera Projects, which has also helped developed the work.

The complete article, written by Patricia Kiernan Johnson, is available online  to OPERA America members and  downloadable at the iTunes Store. Wolf-in-Skins is currently in development at AOP.


The Summer King, Judgment of Midas, and Paul’s Case to be featured in the Spring

October 29, 2013
The Summer King, Judgment of Midas, and Paul's Case

The Summer King, Judgment of Midas, and Paul’s Case

OPERA America will be presenting The Summer King and Judgment of Midas as part of their New Works Forum, a series of showcases of works-in-progress and recent premieres. Now in its third year, the New Works Forum will take place January 12-15, 2014 in the Audition Recital Hall at the National Opera Center in New York City. Panel discussions will accompany performances and explore the developmental process.

The Summer King (music by Daniel Sonenberg, libretto by Sonenberg & Daniel Nester) covers the legacy of Negro League baseball player Josh Gibson. Dubbed “the black Babe Ruth”, Gibson was the second Negro League player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The opera explores the racial tensions surrounding black-owned teams and delves into the stadium culture of the 1930s. The Summer King will have its world premiere with Portland Ovations in May 2014.

Judgment of Midas (music by Kamran Ince, libretto by Miriam Seidel) takes as its starting point a series of mythical musical contests said to have taken place on Mount Tmolus, Turkey. Witnessed by King Midas, the contests pit the gods Pan and Apollo against each other in a struggle between ‘street’ music and ‘high’ music. Judgment of Midas had its world premiere in Milwaukee with Present Music in April, 2013.

The 2014 New Works Forum has been scheduled to coincide with PROTOTYPE Festival, presented by HERE and Beth Morrison Projects. Paul’s Case (music by Gregory Spears, libretto by Spears and Kathryn Walat), will be among the works featured at PROTOTYPE. Originating from AOP’s Composers and the Voice program, the opera follows the story of Paul, a high school dandy living in turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh who runs away to revel in the luxuries of New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel.

Performances at the New Works Forum are only open to OPERA America members. Previous AOP operas featured at the forum include Heart of Darkness, The Golden Gate, and Wolf-in-Skins. PROTOTYPE Festival is open to the public.


AOP Awarded OPERA America grant to develop mobile app

May 7, 2013

AOP’S “HAVE A VOICE” APP TO ENGAGE PERFORMING ARTS AUDIENCES THROUGH TECHNOLOGY PLATFORM

Brooklyn, NY— AOP (American Opera Projects) is awarded a grant of $12,600 in the first year of OPERA America’s Building Opera Audiences grant program generously funded by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation. This new grant program supports the efforts of North American opera companies to build informed, enthusiastic audiences for opera through innovative marketing projects. AOP is one of 13 organizations in the U.S. and Canada to receive funding totaling $300,000. A record-setting 67 applications totaling nearly $2 million in requests were received by OPERA America, demonstrating how vital audience development programs are to opera organizations today.

apps imageThe award will support AOP in the creation of a mobile application, currently entitled “Have a Voice,” to engage and expand opera audiences. By utilizing technology to foster feedback and discourse, the new platform aims to attract a technologically savvy audience while providing useful feedback to creative artists. “Have A Voice,” will be created as a cross-platform application that will allow an audience to share feedback at an event while simultaneously sharing content on the producer’s website and popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. An achievement rewards program will encourage users to remain active in the system in order to achieve virtual and/or physical rewards and prizes (for example: virtual badges, merchant discounts, tickets to participating partner events, etc.).

AOP will partner with other performing arts organizations during the initial year of the application (BETA phase) to provide input and test its effectiveness in anticipation of a public launch in 2014. Current organizations participating are Mark Morris Dance Group, Theatre For a New Audience, Irondale Ensemble Project, and The Brick (Brooklyn, NY), HERE Arts Center (New York, NY), Opera On Tap (based in New York, NY with 12 national chapters), Opera Memphis (Memphis, TN), and UrbanArias (Arlington, VA). AOP’s goal is to share the “Have a Voice” brand with a wide range of performing arts companies so as to encourage the participation, attendance, and rewards amongst an ever-increasing network, while specifically enhancing awareness of the creative profile of opera.

As the national nonprofit service organization, OPERA America leads and serves the entire opera community, supporting the creation, presentation and enjoyment of opera. “As entertainment options continue to grow, opera companies face increased competition for audiences,” stated Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “The Building Opera Audiences grant program provides funding to experiment with innovative projects that help engage new and retain current audiences, ensuring that opera and opera companies continue to flourish.”

Each funded project will be documented and evaluated throughout its lifespan. The results will be shared with the opera field, so that other organizations can learn from and replicate projects in their communities.

The idea for the app came from AOP Producing Director Matt Gray with the goal to better gather audience feedback that is at the core of AOP’s mission to develop and produce new works. “Our audiences are wonderfully unique. They love witnessing every step of the creative process. But getting them to comfortably express their thoughts about what they had experienced was a challenge. Comment cards, online polls, blog posts, Q&A sessions with the creators – each has its advantages and disadvantages. Putting the ability to respond in the format of their choice – written, video, audio, multiple choice – at the event itself while an audience’s ideas are still fresh, we had always known was going to be the key. Only now has the technology caught up to make that happen. It was OPERA America’s desire to attract new audiences that made us think beyond just using the app as a private tool for ourselves and share it with a network of performing arts companies, and ultimately our various audiences.”

The complete list of organizations receiving Building Opera Audiences grants is: American Opera Projects (Brooklyn, NY), Arizona Opera (Phoenix, AZ), Florentine Opera Company (Milwaukee, WI), Los Angeles Opera, Madison Opera, Opera on the James (Lynchburg, VA), Opera Memphis, Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, San Francisco Opera, Sarasota Opera, Seattle Opera, Syracuse Opera and Vancouver Opera.

The Building Opera Audiences grant program is made possible through the generosity of the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.


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