MUSIC OF OPERA COMPOSER CONRAD CUMMINGS PRESENTED IN ONE-NIGHT-ONLY CONCERT

August 15, 2014

EVENING TO FEATURE TWO PREMIERE WORKS

 

NEW YORK, NY — – American Opera Projects and LivelyWorks present Two Premieres and a Reunion, a special evening of music by composer Conrad Cummings Wednesday September 10th, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at The National Opera Center, 330 Seventh Avenue, Manhattan. Tickets are $15 available online at https://twopremieres.eventbrite.com or $20 at the door. A reception with the artists will follow the concert.

The performance features premieres of two commissioned works: the theatrical song cycle Thoroughfare, written for Metropolitan Opera tenor Keith Jameson with lyrics by Mark Campbell; and the virtuoso concert piece Golden Gate Fantasy, written for award-winning violinist Gregory Fulkerson.

Also featured are two concert duets reuniting frequent Cummings collaborators Jesse Blumberg and Hai-Ting Chinn: Before The Golden Gate, with lyrics by Vikram Seth; and From Positions 1956, with lyrics by Michael Korie. Long-time Cummings collaborator, Charity Wicks, is the pianist for all four works.

Cummings composed Before The Golden Gate as a preparation – a “writing into” – the full-length opera based on Vikram Seth’s novel in verse. Hai-Ting Chinn and Jesse Blumberg have both been frequent collaborators of Cummings’s, and each has sung a role in The Golden Gate, but never at the same time. Here they interweave the voices of multiple characters in an abstract evocation of the novel’s dark lyricism. From Positions 1956 takes moments from Cummings’s and Michael Korie’s opera drawn from instructional manuals of the 1950’s, particularly marriage manuals, and casts them into a concert piece customized for these two interpreters.

Golden Gate Fantasy is a 21st century take on a 19th century form: the virtuoso concert piece drawn from themes of a popular opera, in this case Cummings’s. Gregory Fulkerson notes, “Like Sarasate’s fantasy to Carmen, I asked Cummings for dare-devil virtuosity, playfulness, and a distillation of the opera’s intense lyric spirit. He’s more than succeeded.”

Renowned tenor Keith Jameson, recently appearing in Falstaff at the Metropolitan Opera, will premiere the theatrical song cycle Thoroughfare, a work written expressly for him by Cummings and noted librettist Mark Campbell. Subtitled “A song cycle between places,” the five-part story follows the protagonist from Columbus Circle where his boyfriend has suddenly broken up with him, down Broadway, to Madison Square Park where his heart begins to mend. Jameson explains, “I wanted to be as vulnerable as the lover in Schubert’s Winterreise. But I wanted it to feel fresh, modern, and like it could be a chapter out of my own life.”

AOP General Director Charles Jarden writes, “Conrad has always had a special place at AOP.  One of his many talents as a composer is writing expressly for the singers involved, in this case Jesse, Hai-Ting and Keith. AOP has had the good fortune to work on some of this dramatic material previously, with these talents, including the pianist Charity Wicks. We are excited to connect with it again as it develops into concert form. We predict that Conrad’s newest work for Keith, working with librettist Mark Campbell, will resonate with the audience along with the artists.”

Cummings notes, “It’s rare that commissions, lyricists, and performers of this quality come together in one night. And it’s a wonderful reunion for artists who love each other’s work and have all excelled in my music on separate occasions. For one happy night we all get to work together. And the audience is invited to join us all for drinks and snacks after the concert. Life doesn’t get better.”

 

ABOUT THE CREATORS

Conrad CummingsA versatile composer on the faculty at The Juilliard School Evening Division, CONRAD CUMMINGS has received the following praise from the NYTimes: “Mr. Cummings is his own man, with an impressive ability to change styles while retaining a compositional image.” His works have been performed at Carnegie Hall, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, and by the New Jersey, Indianapolis, and Louisville Orchestras. Commissions include Canadian Brass, Opera Delaware, and San Francisco Opera Center. The Golden Gate (“Intensity more often encountered in Stephen Sondheim’s musicals than in the opera house.” – NYTimes) with libretto adapted from Vikram Seth’s novel in verse, received a staged workshop at Lincoln Center’s Rose Studio, co-produced by AOP and Livelyworks, and was named one of the best operas of the 21st century by Opera News. Positions 1956 (“an amusing piece given substance by some tender and some keen, rueful moments.” – The New Yorker), a self-help opera in three parts with libretto by Michael Korie, commissioned by Washington DC opera company UrbanArias, received its premiere production in April 2012, followed by a revival of the political campaign opera Photo-Op (“A must-see” – Washington Post) by the same company in September 2012. Earlier operas include Eros and Psyche, Oberlin Opera Theater (“I can’t think of anybody else who’s doing what he’s doing right now.” – The New Yorker), and Tonkin, Opera Delaware (“Mr. Cummings samples musical history for techniques and sonorities the way rappers sample pop rhythms.”  – NYTimes). Cummings trained at Yale, Stony Brook, and Columbia, did post-doc work at IRCAM in Paris, taught at Oberlin Conservatory for ten years where he directed the music and media program, moved to New York to run a kids’ interactive media company, and since 2003 teaches composition in the Evening Division at The Juilliard School. Recordings are available on CRI’s Emergency Music label; honors include MacDowell, Djerassi and Tanglewood fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Opera America, and The Rockefeller Foundation. www.conradcummings.com

MARK CAMPBELL is one of the most in-demand librettists in contemporary opera, profiled in Opera News as an artist “poised…to become a major force in opera in the coming decade.” Mark is most known for writing the libretto for Silent Night, which garnered a 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music for composer Kevin Puts. The opera was produced by Minnesota Opera, aired on PBS’ Great Performances and will be seen in eight cities since its premiere. Other successful operas include Later the Same Evening, Volpone, Bastianello/Lucrezia, Rappahannock County and A Letter to East 11th Street. As a lyricist, Mark penned the lyrics for Songs from an Unmade Bed, which premiered at New York Theatre Workshop and has since been produced around the world. Other musicals: The Audience, Chang & Eng, and Splendora. Mark received may prestigious awards for his work, including: the first Kleban Foundation Award, two Richard Rodgers Awards, a NYFA Playwriting Fellowship, three Drama Desk Award nominations, a Rockefeller Foundation Award, and a Jonathan Larson Foundation Award. Upcoming projects include: The Manchurian Candidate (Kevin Puts, Minnesota Opera), As One (Laura Kaminsky, Kimberly Reed, co-librettist, AOP commissioned, BAM), Burke+Hare (Julian Grant, MTG), The Shining (Paul Moravec, Minnesota Opera), The Trial of Elizabeth Cree (Kevin Puts, Opera Philadelphia), Dinner at Eight (William Bolcom, Minnesota Opera). www.markcampbellwords.com

MICHAEL KORIE writes lyrics for musicals and librettos for operas.  Works include Grey Gardens (Playwrights Horizons, Broadway, Outer Critics Circle Award); Far From Heaven (Playwrights Horizons, Williamstown Festival); The Grapes of Wrath (Minnesota Opera, Carnegie Hall, Los Angeles Walt Disney Concert Hall); Harvey Milk (San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, New York City Opera); Doctor Zhivago (Lyric Theatre, Sydney, upcoming New York); Happiness (Lincoln Center Theater); Doll (Ravinia Festival, Chicago); Hoppers Wife (Long Beach California Opera); Kabbalah (Brooklyn Academy Next Wave Festival); Wheres Dick? (Houston Grand Opera); Positions 1956 (Knitting Factory, Urban Arias).  Korie serves on the council of The Dramatists Guild, mentors The Dramatist Guild Fellows Program, and teaches lyric writing at Yale.

Best-selling author VIKRAM SETH was born in 1952 in Calcutta, India, educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, Stanford University and Nanjing University, and has traveled widely and lived in Britain, California, India and China. His first novel, The Golden Gate: A Novel in Verse (1986), describing the experiences of a group of friends living in California, gained international attention and extraordinary sales. His acclaimed epic of Indian life, A Suitable Boy (1993), won the WH Smith Literary Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize and sold over two million copies. An Equal Music (1999), the story of a violinist haunted by the memory of a former lover, has been translated and published in sixteen languages. His poetry includes Mappings (1980), The Humble Administrator’s Garden (1985), winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Asia), and All You Who Sleep Tonight: Poems (1990). His children’s book, Beastly Tales from Here and There (1992), consists of ten stories about animals told in verse. Vikram Seth’s Two Lives, a memoir of the marriage of his great uncle and aunt, appeared in 2005. A Suitable Girl is the much-awaited sequel to A Suitable Boy, scheduled for world-wide release in 2016.

 

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Baritone JESSE BLUMBERG, equally at home on opera, concert, and recital stages, has performed roles at Minnesota Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Boston Early Music Festival, Boston Lyric Opera, and at London’s Royal Festival Hall. He has made concert appearances with American Bach Soloists, Boston Baroque, Oratorio Society of New York, TENET/Green Mountain Project, Pacific MusicWorks, Apollo’s Fire, and on Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series.  Jesse has performed recitals with the New York Festival of Song, Marilyn Horne Foundation, and the Mirror Visions Ensemble.  His 2014-2015 season includes European tour with Boston Early Music Festival and debuts with Hawaii Opera Theatre and Atlanta Opera.  Jesse is also the founder and artistic director of Five Boroughs Music Festival, which brings chamber music of many genres to every corner of New York City. www.jesseblumberg.com

American Mezzo-soprano HAI-TING CHINN performs in a wide range of styles and venues, from Purcell to Pierrot Lunaire, Cherubino to The King & I, J.S. Bach to P.D.Q. Bach. She was featured in the revival and tour of Phillip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach, performed at venues around the world from 2011–2014, and she is currently singing the role of Belle in Glass’s La Belle et la Bête, also on tour. She has performed with New York City Opera, The Wooster Group, OperaOmnia, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and the Waverly Consort; and on the stages of Carnegie Hall, the Mann Center in Philadelphia, the Edinburgh Festival, the Verbier Festival, and London’s West End. She has premiered new works by Du Yun, Conrad Cummings, Stefan Weisman, Yoav Gal, and Matt Schickele. Hai-Ting is also an Artist in Residence at HERE arts center, where she is developing Science Fair, a staged solo show of science set to music.

Violinist GREGORY FULKERSON enjoys an active performing career in both standard and contemporary repertoire. He won First Prize in the International American Music Competition sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Kennedy Center, and has performed the World Premieres of the John Becker Concerto with the Chattanooga Symphony, the Richard Wernick Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Roy Harris Concerto with the North Carolina Symphony (later performing and recording it with The Louisville Orchestra). He has performed the title role in the Philip Glass opera, EINSTEIN ON THE BEACH, for a total of 48 performances on four continents, and later recorded the work for Nonesuch. Fulkerson’s debut recording (on New World Records) was chosen one of the year’s best by The New York Times, and his complete Violin Sonatas of Charles Ives (Bridge Records) has become the standard for that repertoire. His complete Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin by J.S. Bach (Bridge) was chosen one of the Best CDs of 2000 by The New Yorker magazine.

KEITH JAMESON, tenor, has performed with the Metropolitan Opera in Falstaff (Live in HD) Carmen (Live in HD, released on DVD), Billy Budd, and War and Peace among others. He recently performed the title role of Candide with the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra, and Bardolfo in Falstaff with the Saito Kinen Festival in Japan. Notable roles include Candide, Oronte in Alcina, Tobias in Sweeney Todd, Nanki-Poo in The Mikado, and many others with New York City Opera, Nanki-Poo with English National Opera, and Peter Quint in The Turn of the Screw with Opera Royal de Wallonie, the Novice in Billy Budd with Santa Fe Opera, Los Angeles Opera and the Metropolitan Opera. He sang Haydn’s Creation and Lord Nelson Mass, with Boston Baroque, both released on CD. Future engagements include Capriccio with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Iolanta and Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera, and Candide with the Baltimore Symphony. He will record his first solo CD this year, including the new song cycle Thoroughfare by Conrad Cummings and Mark Campbell.

CHARITY WICKS is a pianist and music director who is highly lauded for her versatility, as she is at ease with a wide range of repertory from solo works and chamber music to contemporary opera and musical theater. She has been the pianist for numerous workshops and performances of The Golden Gate, and is always thrilled to be playing Conrad’s music! Charity has been a music director and pianist for many AOP projects over the years, including the Composers and the Voice program and Semmelweis by Ray Lustig, and she was most recently the associate conductor of the world premier of The Summer King, a new opera by Daniel Sonenberg. She also was involved in the workshops of Stephen Schwartz’s opera Séance on a Wet Afternoon, for which she was the associate conductor for the world premier. She has additionally worked on several Broadway musicals including Wicked, Violet, Big Fish, Nice Work if You Can Get It, Billy Elliot, In the Heights, and Spring Awakening, and regularly develops new musicals. She holds a BM and MM from Temple University, and a DMA from The Manhattan School of Music.

 

ABOUT THE PRODUCER

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 Nkeiru Okoye’s Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom, Lera Auerbach’s The Blind, a co-production with Lincoln Center Festival 2013. Other notable premieres include Kimper/Persons’ Patience & Sarah (1998), Stefan Weisman’s Darkling (2006), Lee Hoiby’s This is the Rill Speaking (2008), and Phil Kline’s Out Cold (2012) at BAM. AOP-developed projects with premiere with collaborating companies: Gregory Spears’s Paul’s Case at Urban Arias (2013) and PROTOTYPE Festival (Jan 2014), Kamran Ince’s Judgment of Midas at Milwaukee Opera Theatre (2013), Jack Perla’s Love/Hate at ODC Theater with San Francisco Opera (2012), 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), Lee Hoiby’s This Is the Rill Speaking at Opera Memphis (2013) and Purchase College (2008). Upcoming:  As One at BAM and Composers & the Voice: Six Scenes, September 2014.

Emma Lively is the president of LIVELYWORKS, a young company committed to developing and producing tuneful, optimistic and entertaining works for the stage.

 

ADDITIONAL PROJECT INFO AND PRESS MATERIALS AVAILABLE AT: www.operaprojects.org

 

Two Premieres and a Reunion
An Evening of Music by Conrad Cummings

Wednesday September 10th, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets $15, available online at https://twopremieres.eventbrite.com or $20 at the door

National Opera Center
330 Seventh Avenue at 29th Street, Manhattan

Concert duration: 55 minutes

 

Join Mr. Cummings, the creators, and the artists for drinks and snacks after the concert


MODEL LOVE: Not Your Grandmother’s Song Cycle (a.k.a. The Orgasm Post)

September 28, 2011

NOTE: This post has been rated NSFW: Not Safe For Work

(But then again, you shouldn’t be reading this at work, should you?)

While perusing Facebook and cozying up to my coffee cup yesterday morning, I stumbled upon a friend’s enthusiastic endorsement of Nicole Daedone’s TEDxSF talk “Orgasm: The Cure for Hunger in the Western Woman.” I immediately thought of MODEL LOVE. Had the Lovers in our song cycle practiced what Ms. Daedone preached, I wouldn’t find myself singing lines like these:

Men folk tell of a fabled creature 

called the female orgasm

It comes in the night

and it’s so enormous

it makes your hair stand on end and your toes curl.

Men folk enact a strange dance

to conjure up the spirit of the mythical beast,

but this usually brings forth only the male of the species

which is smaller and thought to resemble a slug 

due to its sticky trail.

We don’t know much about who this woman is or where she comes from, but in songs like “Prehistoric Courtship,” we see what she has in common with both of her male Model Lovers: a frustrated desire to connect coupled with the inability to do so. Left unsatisfied after both men have climaxed, her vocal line rises with longing and pent-up rage, before descending to its sad conclusion:

It is said the beast could be brought forth

if the men-folk didn’t engage in the preliminary

twelve pints of lager ritual

…but that’s old wives’ tales.

Schumann recognizing a woman in desperate need of a song cycle.

In case it isn’t clear yet, let me give it to you straight: MODEL LOVE is not your grandmother’s FRAUENLIEBE UND -LEBEN.

In fact, there are some surface similarities between the two song cycles: both works are composed of eight songs. Both begin with a piece about the marvel and mystery of attraction. And both come to an end as the singer confronts painful realities about a long-held dream of love and relationship. But, where Schumann’s Frau sings sincerely of the joys of marriage and motherhood, the Men and Woman of MODEL LOVE have a very different story to share: of the darkness of hungers long-unexpressed and what happens when we forget how to connect.

Has Ms. Daedone uncovered the cure for the insatiable hunger that lurks within?  We don’t pretend that MODEL LOVE can answer that question, but we do plan on giving you one hell of a good show.

See you Sunday…

Rose


The Enticement of Hollows & Shadows: MODEL LOVE Gets Up on Its Feet

September 17, 2011
Rosalie Sullivan

"wildirishrose99"

Greetings from the front lines! The premiere of David Jackson‘s song-cycle MODEL LOVE is a mere two weeks away. As you can imagine, we Model Lovers have been hard at work for some time preparing this piece for its debut at the Kaplan Penthouse on October 2nd. Much of that preparation was done in isolation: days and nights spent learning vocal lines, pulling apart texts, counting complex rhythms (insert this mezzo’s gratitude for the creators of the visual metronome who helped restore my ability to learn polyrhythms), and (in one instance earlier this week) memorizing a trio while on the elliptical machine at the gym! Last night was therefore a particularly gratifying moment, as the cast gathered for our first staging rehearsal.

“There is miracle in personality” sings our tenor, Jeremy Little, in the cycle’s opening number. It is a song about the mystery of attraction, an attempt to explain that unmistakable spark that arises in a moment and draws us inexorably to another person. Getting these songs up on their feet last night, I felt something of that magic: how satisfying it was to finally begin physicalizing together what had previously only existed as a collection of notes and words in my mind! Questions I’ve had for weeks began to be answered, as we three fumbled and found our way, putting flesh on Henry Normal’s heady texts and creating emotional connections for ourselves under the expert guidance of our director, Crystal Manich.

There was something of this sensation when we came together for our first musical run-through a few weeks ago: we all remarked how much easier the music became when we could hear and play off of each other. What pleasure there was in feeling the sound gel and savoring those delicious moments of dissonance that pepper David’s vocal writing! With each successive rehearsal, we add a new layer, the piece makes more sense, and I am increasingly excited to see where we will wind up.

Tomorrow we’re in for another treat as we sit in on the first orchestra rehearsal: so many new colors and textures to enjoy!  “The enticement of hollows and shadows” indeed … how lucky we are to go exploring in their depths!

More to come soon…

Rose


Funny, sexy MODEL LOVE to premiere at Lincoln Center w NORA by its side

September 16, 2011

J. David Jackson's MODEL LOVE premieres October 2. IMAGE: Erik and Julie, NYC, 2006, Photograph by Skye Parrott

On Sunday, October 2, 4pm and 7:30pm, American Opera Projects will present the world premiere of Model Love, a humorous staged song-cycle about contemporary relationships with jazz and rock elements by composer J. David Jackson based on texts by British comedian Henry Normal, and the one-act opera monodrama Nora, In the Great Outdoors, music by Daniel Felsenfeld and libretto by Will Eno, that continues the final scene of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House moments after Nora abandons her family. The event will be held at Lincoln Center’s Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse. Tickets are $25, $50 for VIP reserve seating, available at www.operaprojects.org.

“Fun, energetic and curious song cycle interested in M-M-W threesome. R U what I M looking 4?” Model Love is a 30-minute song cycle fusing contemporary art song with blues, jazz ,and rock set for three singers (mezzo-soprano Rosalie Sullivan, baritone Gregory Gerbrandt, and tenor Jeremy Little) chamber orchestra and rock band. Based on texts from Nude Modelling for the Afterlife by BAFTA award winning poet/comedian Henry Normal with music by J. David Jackson, Model Love mixes musical styles and genres in a way that humorously (and accurately) represents the variegated emotions and situations of contemporary love affairs. J. David Jackson conducts.

Nora, In the Great Outdoors

Kirsten Chambers will sing the title role in the Felsenfeld/Eno monodrama

Using an icy climate crossed with a fragile-yet-eruptive emotional state of mind as musical grist, Nora, In the Great Outdoors is a take on the ending of Ibsen’s seminal “A Doll’s House,” especially its famous final stage direction, the first collaboration between composer Daniel Felsenfeld and playwright Will Eno. The monodrama takes over immediately where Ibsen leaves off, when the heroine abandons her family, her marriage her security, and perhaps the most famous slammed door in the history of drama. Commissioned by American Opera Projects, Nora, In the Great Outdoors, is a monodrama for soprano and piano trio and will star Kirsten Chambers in the title role. Keith Chambers conducts.


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