“Opera has come a long way, baby” with the D.C. premiere of AS ONE

October 23, 2015
As One Luis Alejandro Orozco Ashley Cutright by C. Stanely Photography 1

Luis Alejandro Orozco and Ashley Cutright in As One from UrbanArias (Photo: C. Stanley Photography)

“The opening scene of the opera As One, produced by UrbanArias, beautifully establishes a work that is both universal and timely in its experience and a metaphor for the fluidity of identity of a male and female in one body.” Susan Galbraith writes in her review for DC Theater Scene.

As One, a monodrama for two singers, illustrates the struggle of the transgender protagonist Hannah as she battles with the mismatch of how she feels and how her body appears. Composer Laura Kaminsky, librettists Mark Campbell and filmmaker-librettist Kimberly Reed created an opera which delves deep into ones definition of self with great simplicity in production and instrumentation. As One was developed and produced by American Opera Projects who have also been instrumental in getting As One performed in California and D.C. UrbanArias held performances of As One on October 3, 4, 9 and 10 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington DC. The production was led by director Octavio Cardenas, and conductor and head of UrbanArias, Robert Wood.

Anne Midgette, reviewer for Washington Post, praised the production’s subject matter “…a thoughtful and substantial piece as well as that rarest of operatic commodities – a story that lends itself to dramatization in music.” The DC Theater Scene review, written by Susan Galbraith, states “The complexity of human experience is powerfully evoked in a way only opera can with the dense layering of music, words, stage pictures, and, in this case, film.” Galbraith was also enamored with the production writing “The set design by Adam Crinson was quite beautiful and used the Sprenger space …. to great advantage.” DC Metro Theater Arts reviewer John Stolthberg commends the production, writing “its simplicity – 4 musicians, two singers – was for me a source of its success as theater” while Susan Galbraith wrote As One “…reveled in giving voice to shared human experiences…”

As One Luis Alejandro Orozco Ashley Cutright by C. Stanely Photography 2

Luis Alejandro Orozco and Ashley Cutright in As One from UrbanArias (Photo: C. Stanley Photography)

Reviews agreed Kaminsky’s music painted the text and Hannah’s internal emotions. Anne Midgette compliments Kaminsky’s text setting saying she “…writes well for the voice, and the diction was exemplary, so you didn’t miss a word.” Stolthberg remarks on how the vocal line helps remove the usual gender binary in vocal music, “As One models…a multi-octave aural word within which ones pitch when one sings…need have no either/or, it need have only the glory of song.” The DC Metro Theater Arts review goes on to describe the vocal lines as “…a singular self whose lyrical introspections, contrapuntal exchanges, inter-knit vocal lines, and overlapping ranges become a pulsing metaphor for the multidimensional universe of human sexedness.” and reflects on “…rare moments when they [Hannah Before and Hannah After] sing exactly [the] same note – literally as one – effect is sublime.”

In addition to great vocal writing, Midgette notices how Laura Kaminsky’s orchestral writing reflects Hannah’s journey, “…Kaminsky’s effective, direct music – evoking now fiddling and Americana; now, through halting dissonances, the pain of a difficult place in the rod; now, thro
ugh the juxtaposition of plucked violin and singing cello, the exploration of two voices merging into a single identity.”

The opera clearly benefited from the wonderful performances by Luis Alejandro Orozco (Hannah Before) and Ashley Cutright (Hannah After). Stothberg praises them in his review saying they “Orozco and Cutright play…the very same self, learning to love themself, and they do so with such exquisite subtlety that I was blown away.” Galbraith was also struck with the singers “Both singers possess powerful voices and sing and move with extraordinary expression and poetic interactions…these two performers might well have been taken as dancers in their fluidity. they are endlessly watchable…”

It is a rare production which contains model composition, direction, and beautiful acting and singing. Galbraith finishers her review “As One charters new territory in theme and content of ‘what makes an opera’. It is a fascinating and promising chamber work and deserves serious attention.”

Read more about the opera at AOP’s As One page.

Washington Post review by Anne Midgette

DC Theatre Scene review by Susan Galbraith

DC Metro Theater Arts review by John Stolthberg

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AOP’s Charles Jarden talks to The Washington Post about the art of opera development

October 21, 2013
AOP General Director Charles Jarden, with composer and Phoenix Concerts Artistic Director Gilda Lyons, introduces an AOP 25th anniversary concert, October 2013.

AOP General Director Charles Jarden, with composer and Phoenix Concerts Artistic Director Gilda Lyons, introduces an AOP 25th anniversary concert, October 2013.

“Developing new opera is an art in itself” states last week’s Washington Post article, and of course AOP couldn’t agree more! For her October 16 article, veteran classical music journalist Anne Midgette highlighted AOP’s role in creating a new American repertory and interviewed General Director Charles Jarden about the importance of the workshop process.

“Opera is complex enough to take on layers, like a snowball,” Jarden says, “and developing workshops, and showing workshops, and having capable press look at workshops, is a way to make everything better and grow the buzz.”

For 25 years AOP audiences have been able to participate in the workshopping process with the artists and will continue to do so in the next few months with previews of our opera-in-development Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom at Harlem’s Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture on Dec. 9, among others. The results of our workshops can be seen and heard in the Washington area in November when UrbanArias presents two AOP-developed monodramas from composer Daniel Felsenfeld –  Nora, In the Great Outdoors (2011) and Alice in the Time of the Jabberwock.  “Nora” boasts an AOP-commissioned libretto by Will Eno and will be sung by dynamic soprano Emily Pulley.  The UrbanArias orchestra is led by Robert Wood and the stage director is Beth Greenberg (AOP’s Harriet Tubman). Also in the DC area, AOP-commissioned and developed Lost Childhood, (Hamer/Azrael) which was  staged at Tel Aviv’s International Vocal Arts Institute, will receive a non-staged orchestral concert including original AOP cast members Michael Hendrick and Chris Trakas, in their roles of Judah and Manfred, respectively, on November 9. COMPLETE ARTICLE: http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/developing-new-operas-is-an-art-in-itself/2013/10/16/f7849c26-3687-11e3-8a0e-4e2cf80831fc_story.html

A Second Case for Paul’s Case

August 22, 2013
Paul's Case

Paul’s Case as performed by UrbanAria at Artisphere in Arlington, VA.
(courtesy of PROTOTYPE Festival’s website)

Hot off its premiere with UrbanArias in April, Paul’s Case will be presented as part of PROTOTYPE Festival’s 2014 series. With music by Gregory Spears and a libretto by the composer and Kathryn Walat, Paul’s Case is based on a Willa Cather short story from 1905. The opera follows Paul, a student in turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh who tries navigate his journey to adulthood and find an outlet for his artistic energies. Reacting to his middle-class surroundings, Paul cultivates the image of a dandy and steals money from his father’s business. He runs away to New York City to experience true freedom for the first time. Paul’s Case was developed by AOP and the original cast and production from its UrbanArias premiere will be brought to the festival. Tenor Jonathan Blalock sings the lead role. Performances will take place Jan 8, 9, 11, 12 & 13 at 145 Sixth Avenue. To buy tickets, click here.

PROTOTYPE Festival was launched in January 2013 as an annual festival for visionary opera and music theater works by artists from New York and around the world.


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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