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American history of opera from 18th Century
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Opera has long been part of the musical culture of New Orleans, Louisiana. Operas have regularly been performed in the city since the 1790s, and for the majority of the city’s history since the early 19th century, New Orleans has had a resident company regularly performing opera in addition to theaters hosting traveling performers and companies.
Earlier opera houses
Operas were staged at a variety of theaters in the city, the first documented was André Grétry’s Sylvain at the Theatre de la Rue Saint Pierre on 22 May 1796. On 30 January 1808, the Théâtre St. Philippe was opened with the U.S. premiere of Étienne Méhul’s Une folie. The U.S. premiere of Luigi Cherubini’s Les deux journées took place at this theater on 12 March 1811. The city’s most famous opera venue between 1819 and 1859 was the Théâtre d’Orléans. That theater was succeeded in 1859 by the French Opera House, located on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. Living in a cosmopolitan city, New Orleans’ inhabitants, whether high in status or low, imported or indigenous, constituted a highly receptive audience.
The French Opera House burned down in 1919, causing severe disruption to opera in the city. When attempts to arrange financing for rebuilding failed, the company disbanded. For a generation, most opera in New Orleans was presented by touring companies at various local theaters.
A History of opera in New Orleans
by Jack Belsom, Archivist
THE EARLY YEARS
The date of the very first staging of opera in the Crescent City cannot be firmly established and seems forever lost to music historians. But it can safely be stated that since 1796, in the final decade of the Spanish colonial era, New Orleans has had operatic performances on almost a yearly basis. What is also significant is that, with few exceptions throughout the nineteenth century, each year the city hosted a resident company which was engaged for its principal theatre and which could be depended upon for performances throughout an established operatic season.
The Théâtre St. Pierre, on St. Peter street between Royal and Bourbon, opened in October 1792. Louis Alexandre Henry had purchased the land the previous year and built the theatre, which featured plays, comedies and vaudeville. It was there, on May 22,1796, that the first documented staging of an opera in New Orleans,André Ernest Grétry’s Sylvain, took place.
The St. Pierre closed in 1803 and the Théâtre St. Philippe, at St. Philip and Royal streets, opened January 30, 1808 with the American premiere of Etienne Nicholas Méhul’s Une Folie. During the first third of the nineteenth century there was slow yearly growth as various theatres opened (and in some cases closed) and the repertoire was expanded to include, in addition to the popular light scores of Grétry, Méhul, Nicolo Isouard, Nicholas Dalayrac and François Boieldieu, works by Italian composers such as Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Luigi Cherubini’s Les Deux Journées.
THE THEATRE D’ORLEANS
The first Théâtre d’ Orléans opened in October 1815 on Orleans between Royal and Bourbon streets, but soon fell victim to fire. It was rebuilt and reopened in November 1819 under the management of impresario John Davis who, for many years, would be a leading figure in the French theatre in New Orleans.
Within a few years the stage was set for an ongoing theatrical rivalry when, in 1824, James Caldwell inaugurated his Camp Street theatre, catering more to the tastes of the growing English speaking population. The ensuing history of opera in New Orleans can be told largely in a review of the theatres, large and small, that served the Crescent City for the next 180 years.
Although challenged at times by the adventurous spirit of rival impresarios, such as James Caldwell, and by itinerant opera companies that regularly visited the city, playing at other theatres, the Théâtre d’ Orléans reigned supreme as the city’s most important venue for regular operatic seasons in the period prior to the Civil War.
John Davis, and, later, his son Pierre, continued as managers of the Théâtre d’ Orléans, each season importing a company of singers, musicians and actors from Europe who were employed during the winter months in seasons of opera and drama. Opening in the autumn, and continuing throughout the winter, the annual season at the Théâtre d’Orléans at times ended with the onset of Lent, but frequently extended until late April or May when the onslaught of hot, humid weather forced the closure of the theatres.
Since the arrival of summer heat frequently coincided with the annual visitation of yellow fever or other illness, by May a large segment of the theatre going public relocated to the country parishes or to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, areas thought to be more healthy. Thus, a prolonged summer season would have proved economically infeasible as well.
In an attempt to keep his companies intact, however, Davis soon developed an ingenious alternative. Rather than disbanding until the following autumn, at the end of the 1826/27 season Davis and his troupe instead embarked on a tour of several northeastern cities, playing French drama and opera then already in the repertoire in New Orleans, but as yet not staged in Philadelphia and New York. Ironically, to this day these stagings, given by the ensemble from the Théâtre d’Orléans while on tour, are credited as American “premieres”, and their earlier performances here during the regular seasons are unknown.
Boieldieu’s La Dame blanche and Gasparo Spontini’s La Vestale are but two examples from a sizeable list. Davis’s company returned on tour to the eastern seaboard cities annually during the summers from 1828 to 1831, and again in 1833, while during their regular seasons in New Orleans they brought out the newer scores of Gioacchino Rossini, Daniel François Auber and other popular composers of the day.
In the five seasons from 1828/29 through 1832/33 Davis introduced to New Orleans audiences a number of important scores, and a host of works by then popular, but now virtually forgotten composers, most of whose works no longer figure in the active repertoire. Four operas by Gioachino Rossini–La Gazza Ladra, La Donna del Lago, Le Comte Ory, and L’Italiana in Algeri — received their United States premieres at the Théâtre d’Orléans during these seasons, as well as Hérold’s Zampa, a popular favorite in the nineteenth century.
Meanwhile, at the Camp Street Theatre James Caldwell had produced Weber’s Der Freischütz, and, in somewhat diluted versions, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Le Nozze di Figaro. Both theatres vied for the honor of the first New Orleans staging of Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable in spring, 1835, but while the Camp’s version was ready by March 30th, it generally was conceded that the version heard at the Théâtre d’Orléans on May 12, 1835 came closer to both the singing and the staging demands of the opera.
THE ST. CHARLES AND ITALIAN OPERA
The rivalry between Davis and Caldwell intensified after 1835 when the latter opened his opulent St. Charles Theatre, one of the nation’s finest, with a seating capacity of 4,100, built at a total cost of $325,000. Caldwell soon began importing Italian opera companies from Havana, and further enriched the local repertoire by staging, again for the first time in this country, the operas of Vincenzo Bellini (Norma, 1836), Gaetano Donizetti (Parisina, 1837),and Rossini (Semiramide, 1837). The Théâtre d’Orléans, relying on the Creole population’s love of all things French, countered with operas of Jacques Halévy, Adolph Charles Adam, Auber and Giacomo Meyerbeer.
In the 1839/40 season the Théâtre d’Orléans produced Anna Bolena, the second Donizetti opera premiered here. Within eight years New Orleans was to witness, in sum, the United States premiere stagings of no fewer than twelve of that composer’s operas, including, the following season, Lucia di Lammermoor, and in subsequent years at either the Orléans or at one of Caldwell’s rival theatres, the St. Charles or the New American, Marino Faliero, Il Furioso, Belisario, La favorite, La fille du Régiment, Gemma di Vergy, Lucrezia Borgia, Don Pasquale, and Les Martyrs.
On Sunday evening, March 13, 1842, during a visit here by the Francisco Marty Italian Opera troupe from Havana, fire broke out at Caldwell’s resplendent St. Charles, which within a few hours was totally destroyed. That summer another fire claimed a second rival Caldwell theatre, the New American on Poydras street. Although both soon were replaced with less imposing structures, neither was able in future seasons to provide the competition that had earmarked the Davis/Caldwell rivalry of over a decade. Instead, for the next eighteen seasons the Théâtre d’Orléans was synonymous in New Orleans with opera and drama.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE THEATRE D’ORLEANS
Beginning in the autumn of 1842 the Théâtre d’ Orléans entered what in retrospect can be seen as its Golden Age and, in many respects, the Golden Age of opera in New Orleans as well, lasting until the construction of the French Opera House in 1859 and the outbreak of the Civil War. The repertoire at the theatre was consolidated and strengthened by the annual introduction of the latest works produced in Paris and other European cities.
United States premieres of the operas of Jacques Halévy (La Juive, Charles VI and Jaguarita l’Indienne), and of Giacomo Meyerbeer (Les Huguenots, Le Prophète, Marguerite d’Anjou, and L’Etoile du Nord), enlivened the repertoire, which saw also the first stagings in this country of Rossini’s Moïse et Pharaon in its revised French version, Verdi’s Jérusalem (a revision of his earlier I Lombardi), Bellini’s Il Pirata and Ambroise Thomas’s Le Caïd and Le Songe d’une nuit d’été.
The Théâtre d’Orléans troupe again visited New York and other cities of the northeast in the summers of 1843 and 1845, once again bringing its repertoire of French scores to audiences there. At home the city continued to host various traveling companies which paid sporadic visits, such as the one under the leadership of Max Maretzek during spring 1852. It also was customary to persuade visiting prima donnas and tenors who had been engaged for a concert series to tarry for performances as guests with the resident company or in operatic “seasons” gotten up by the rival theatres.
Thus Henriette Sontag was the featured artist in performances of La Sonnambula, Lucrezia Borgia, and La fille du Régiment in March 1854, only a few months prior to her untimely death, of cholera, that summer in Mexico City. Later in that decade the Théâtre d’Orléans hosted visits by Anna de la Grange and Erminia Frezzolini, while at rival theatres Felicita Vestvali and Mario Tiberini were the leading singers in visiting ensembles.
Near the end of this decade Verdi’s Ernani, La Traviata, Rigoletto and Le Trouvère (United States premiere of the revised French version) entered the repertoire, the future popularity ofTrovatore suggested by some 26 stagings in the four seasons between 1856 and 1860. An indication of the importance of the Théâtre d’Orléans, both as a social force in this city and in the musical history of the nineteenth century, is reflected by the statistics.
In the 19 seasons between 1841/42 and 1859/60 the theatre had presented 109 different operas by 35 major and minor composers for a total of some 1550 performances. Three works stood out as the most frequently produced: La favorite (95), Les Huguenots (82) and Le Prophète (79). Although another theatre soon would succeed to a role of prominence in the city, and would in time establish records of its own, it never quite captured the spirit or drive of the Théâtre d’ Orléans in its heyday.
By 1859, however, the old theatre had deteriorated physically, and when a dispute arose between the owner and the impresario, Charles Boudousquié, over the rental terms for the following season it was decided that a new temple of song should be erected. A charter was adopted by the stockholders on March 4, 1859, financial backing assured and a contract signed with the architect, James Gallier, Jr., on April 9, 1859. Construction began by early June 1859, aided by special permission to erect bonfires in Bourbon and Toulouse streets to allow both a night and a day crew to be engaged, and within record time the building was completed.
THE FRENCH OPERA HOUSE (1859-1919)
On December 1, 1859 a gala performance of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell inaugurated the new theatre which thereafter would be celebrated as the French Opera House. During the following season, 1860/61, great excitement was generated by frequent appearances there of the gifted young soprano Adelina Patti, who, aged seventeen, and prior to her debut on the international scene, appeared first in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and then, during the remainder of the season, was heard in various other roles, including Leonora in Il Trovatore, Rosina in Barbiere, Lady Harriet in Martha, Gilda in Rigoletto, Valentine in Les Huguenots, and Dinorah in the first United States staging of Meyerbeer’s Le Pardon du Ploërmel.
With the occupation of New Orleans by Federal troops in 1862 the theatrical life which the city formerly had enjoyed went into an eclipse that was only partially removed during the ensuing decade. One of the most enterprising attempts to reestablish opera in New Orleans following the end of hostilities was doomed when the ship Evening Star, en route to New Orleans with members of the operatic company recruited in Europe for the autumn season, as well as French Opera impresario Charles Alhaiza and architect James Gallier, Sr., was lost at sea in a raging hurricane on October 3, 1866 off Tybee Island, Georgia.
Later that autumn a touring company, the Ghioni/Susini troupe, passed through the city, offering Faust and Un Ballo in Maschera for the first time, both sung in Italian, as was Meyerbeer’s L ’Africana, heard here first in November 1866. That same month saw the inauguration of the German National Theatre, on Baronne corner Perdido, where in subsequent seasons Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (1868) and Beethoven’s Fidelio (1870) would be staged by visiting operatic companies.
By the 1870s the French Opera House again flourished, and during the latter third of the century that theatre was the site of additional United States premieres as scores by Ambroise Thomas (Mignon, 1871), Charles Gounod (Le Tribut de Zamora, 1888; and La Reine de Saba, 1899), Edouard Lalo (Le Roi d’Ys, 1890), and Jules Massenet (Le Cid, 1890; Hérodiade, 1892; Esclarmonde, 1893 and Le Portrait du Manon, 1895) were introduced.
In 1877 Der Fliegende Holländer, Lohengrin and Tannhäuser, all sung in Italian, were played here for the first time by the visiting J.C. Freyer Opera company at the 3rd Varieties Theatre (later called the Grand Opera House) on Canal street. Despite the city’s sizeable German population, New Orleans was slow to respond to Wagnerian music drama.
For one brief week in December, 1895, however, it was temporarily seduced by Walter Damrosch whose traveling company staged, in the space of seven days, three of the Ring operas: Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung. In the remainder of the week New Orleanians heard Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger, with Beethoven’s Fideliothrown in for good measure.
Before the century ended New Orleans also experienced its first stagings of Carmen (1879, in Italian) and Aïda, of Boito’s Mefistofele (1881, in English), Les Contes d’Hoffmann(1887),Cavalleria rusticana (1892, in English), Manon (1894), Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust in a concert version (1894), and Pagliacci (1895, also in English). Other United States premieres during the final decade of the century were Ernest Reyer’s Sigurd (1891) and Salammbo (1900).
Several of the city’s theatres had perished in fires, the old Théâtre d’Orléans in 1866, shortly after the end of the Civil War, Crisp’s Gaiety (2nd Varieties) in 1870, the German National Theatre in 1885, and the second St. Charles in 1899.
As the twentieth century dawned the French Opera House hosted for the first time the touring Metropolitan Opera Company which visited New Orleans in October 1901 as part of its cross-country tour. The Metropolitan returned in 1905 with Wagner’s Parsifal, and then not again until the waning years of the Great Depression.
During the first two decades of the twentieth century regular seasons continued in most years between 1900 and the outbreak of World War I, the permanent ensemble at the French Opera House occasionally supplemented by visits from touring companies such as the San Carlo, under the direction of Henry Russell, which played a two-and-a-half month season in 1906/07 that included the first United States staging of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur (January 5, 1907).
Works heard locally for the first time during this period included La Gioconda, Thaïs, Otello, Tosca, La Bohème, La Fanciulla del West and Madama Butterfly, as well as the United States premieres, at the French Opera House, of Massenet’s Don Quichotte and Cendrillon, and of Giordano’s Siberia.
With the outbreak of a global conflict in 1914 and especially under the threat of submarine warfare, importing an operatic ensemble from Belgium and France for the French Opera House was impossible, and for several seasons opera lovers here depended instead on visits from the touring Chicago Grand Opera Company, and the Boston Grand Opera, which brought Montemezzi’s L’Amore dei tre re and Mascagni’s Iris.
When the Armistice was signed plans were made immediately for a resumption of a regular operatic season in 1919/20 and the gala opening night on November 11, 1919 featured a revival of Samson et Dalila. But the bête noire of New Orleans theatres, rampaging fire, struck again during the early morning hours of December 4, 1919, and by dawn the sixty year old French Opera House lay in smoldering ruins.
Talk of rebuilding it could not be translated into action, and for over twenty years opera in the Crescent City was confined largely to visits by the Chicago Opera, Fortune Gallo’s San Carlo, occasional stagings by the Metropolitan Opera Company on tour, and, for a few seasons, by locally produced opera by a group called Le Petit Opéra Louisianais.
Hopes for guest appearances at the French Opera House by tenor Enrico Caruso were forever dashed by the fire, and the great Neapolitan’s only New Orleans appearance came the summer of 1920 when he sang a recital at the Athenaeum Theatre on St. Charles Avenue near Lee Circle.
During the 1920s and 30s it was the Gallo touring companies that visited most frequently, remaining for “seasons” of one to four weeks, usually at the Tulane Theatre. While Gallo’s repertoire favored standard, highly popular works, in the course of twelve visits to the city between 1920 and 1942 the Fortune Gallo Company offered the first New Orleans stagings of La Forza del Destino (1920), Andrea Chénier (1925), and Wolf Ferrari’s I Gioelli della Madonna.
During spring 1922 a Russian company, then on a transcontinental tour, allowed local audiences to sample several of the greatest Russian scores not previously heard here– Boris Godounov, Pique Dame, Evgeny Onegin, Anton Rubinstein’s Demon, and Rimsky Korsakoff’s Tsar’s Bride and Snegurochka. A visit in 1937 by the Salzburg Opera Guild offered, among others, the first stagings here of Cosi fan tutte and L’Incoronazione di Poppea.
THE NEW ORLEANS OPERA ASSOCIATION
Welcome though these sporadic appearances were, what the city needed was a return to a permanent company, with a fixed operatic season. Determined to meet this challenge, in February 1943 a group of music lovers, led by Walter L. Loubat (1885-1945), drew up a charter creating the New Orleans Opera House Association. An inaugural summer season of open air performances, billed as “Opera under the Stars”, in City Park stadium was planned.
The inaugural bill of Cavalleria rusticana/Pagliacci (June 11/12, 1943) was followed by three other works. Amelio Colantoni served as artistic director; former Metropolitan Opera conductor Louis Hasselmans was recruited from nearby Louisiana State University’s faculty; and Lelia Haller, a New Orleanian who had danced with the Paris Opéra ballet, began the training of a resident corps de ballet. The initial season scored a success, but the ever present threat of evening showers in semi tropical New Orleans prompted a move indoors to the Municipal Auditorium that autumn. The concert hall of the Auditorium remained home for the Opera Association until the inauguration of the Theatre of Performing Arts in 1973.
From 1943 to 1954 the company was led by German-born conductor Walter Herbert. While initially the repertoire reflected a cautious approach, with a dependence on popular French scores, interspersed within the standard Verdi and Puccini catalogue, Herbert’s vision looked ahead to a day when unfamiliar works might also be accepted.
His abrupt departure in 1954 left many of his plans unrealized, but during his tenure as General Director he presented the first local stagings of Gian-Carlo Menotti’s The Old Maid and the Thief, Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier and Salome, the latter on a double bill with Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Petrouchka. Revivals included Samson et Dalila, Otello, Tristan und Isolde, Andrea Chénier, Don Pasquale and La Gioconda, operas which had been heard here only rarely previously, and not within several decades.
Herbert sought the finest talent available, reflected in a roster of leading singers which included Licia Albanese (Violetta), Victoria de los Angeles (Marguerite; Cio-Cio-San), Kirsten Flagstad (Isolde), Dorothy Kirsten (Violetta), Zinka Milanov (Leonora di Vargas), Roberta Peters (Rosina), Bidú Sayao (Manon), Risë Stevens (Carmen) and Astrid Varnay (Salome; Ortrud), as well as Jussi Björling (Gustave III), Giuseppe di Stefano (Duke of Mantua), Jerome Hines (Méphistophélès; Osmin), George London (Hoffmann villains), Robert Merrill (Germont), Ezio Pinza (Méphistophélès), Lawrence Tibbett (Jokanaan), Richard Tucker (Faust), Ramón Vinay (Don José; Radamès; Samson; Otello) and Leonard Warren (Rigoletto). In April 1948 Mario Lanza made one of the few operatic stage appearances of his career as Lt. Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly.
Herbert was succeeded as General Director in summer 1954 by Renato Cellini (1912-1967), then a conductor at the Metropolitan Opera. In addition to his conducting and coaching duties there Cellini had conducted several complete recordings for RCA Victor. At the same time the Association named veteran producer Armando Agnini (1884-1960) as its principal stage director, that post having been filled most recently by William Wymetal and various guest directors. Cellini’s inaugural work, La Bohème (October 7/9, 1954) was the first of seven or eight operas, the standard annual season since the mid-1940s.
Recognizing the need for developing and training young singers, and of allowing them opportunities for stage experience, the following summer Cellini launched the Experimental Opera Theatre of America (EOTA), a program that functioned thereafter in 1956 and from 1958 to 1960.
Although its repertoire largely reflected that of the parent company, a few novelties were offered during these seasons, the first local stagings of Menotti’s Amelia Goes to the Ball and The Consul, Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, and the complete Puccini Il Trittico. Young artists at the beginning of their careers who appeared in EOTA productions included Mignon Dunn, Enrico di Giuseppe, John McCurdy (Macurdy), John Reardon, Joseph Rouleau, André Turp and Margarita Zambrana.
During the decade he led the company Cellini further widened the repertoire with stagings here of Strauss’s Elektra, Verdi’s Falstaff, Puccini’s Turandot and Manon Lescaut, as well as Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah. Revivals of scores that had not been played in New Orleans for many years included Boris Godounov, L’Amore de tre re, La Cenerentola, Norma and Werther.
Nicolai Gedda and Aase Nordmo-Loevberg
As in the previous decade, the roster of singers included national and international stars. These ten seasons saw the local operatic debuts of Luigi Alva (Almaviva), Inge Borkh (Tosca), Giuseppe Campora (Edgardo), Richard Cassilly (Pollione), Boris Christoff (Boris), Phyllis Curtin (Manon), Lisa della Casa (Marschallin), Plácido Domingo (Arturo Bucklaw), Eileen Farrell (Leonora di Vargas), Nicolai Gedda (des Grieux), Sandor Konya (Radamès), Cornell MacNeil (Enrico Ashton), Aase Nordmo-Loevberg (Elisabeth), Louis Quilico (Lescaut), Judith Raskin (Sophie), Cesare Siepi (Giovanni), Beverly Sills (Hoffmann heroines), Giorgio Tozzi (Preceptor – Elektra) and Cesare Valletti (des Grieux).
When poor health forced the retirement of Maestro Cellini in 1964 the Board appointed Knud Andersson (1910-1996) as Music Director/Resident Conductor. Dr. Andersson, who began his New Orleans career as chorus director in October 1953 during Walter Herbert’s tenure, occasionally led performances during the regular season, as well as summer EOTA productions, most notably the first New Orleans staging of Floyd’s Susannah in 1962. Important milestones in Andersson’s career were the first New Orleans stagings of Attila, Arabella, Ariadne auf Naxos and a revival of Die Walküre.
Arthur G. Cosenza
Also in the spring of 1965 the Association’s Board of Directors created a production team by naming Arthur G. Cosenza (1924-2005) its resident stage director. Cosenza, a native of Philadelphia, first appeared on the New Orleans opera stage singing baritone supporting roles during the 1953/54 season.
Following Agnini’s death in March 1960, Cosenza increasingly functioned in the role of stage director while maintaining his faculty connection with Loyola University, where, from 1954 to 1984, he directed that school’s Opera Workshop. In the autumn of 1970 he was named General Director, a position he held until June 1996 when he was named Artistic Director with responsibility for repertory planning and casting.
At the same time the Board named as its Executive Director Ray Anthony Delia who previously had been Director of Development, Marketing and Public Relations. Delia’s years with the company were highlighted by the creation of an endowment fund, by a noted improvement in the Association’s fiscal growth, and increased corporate sponsorship and community outreach.
Among the many highlights of a fifteen-year period from 1964 to 1979 under the aegis of Cosenza and Andersson, were the Association’s 25th Anniversary season (1967/68) celebrated with a new production of Faust; the first New Orleans staging of Verdi’s Macbeth; Plácido Domingo and Montserrat Caballé in Il Trovatore; Der Fliegende Holländer; a virtually uncut mounting of Lucia di Lammermoor starring Joan Sutherland; and Tito Capobianco’s inventive staging of Les Contes d’Hoffmann, featuring Beverly Sills, John Alexander, and Norman Treigle.
Other notable productions during this period were the first New Orleans stagings of Strauss’s Arabella and Ariadne auf Naxos, and of Verdi’s Attila and Nabucco, and revivals of La Sonnambula, Werther, Louise, Les Pêcheurs de Perles, La fille du Régiment, Ernani, Fidelio and Die Walküre.
A production that captured national coverage was the world premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s one act opera Markheim, (March 31, 1966), in which the title role was created by New Orleans native Norman Treigle. Treigle, a world renowned basso, began his stage career here in supporting roles in 1947 and went on to star with the New York City Opera before his untimely death at age 47 in 1975.
A number of other local artists launched their careers in supporting roles with the New Orleans Opera Association as well, prior to their national and international careers, including, besides Treigle, baritone Michael Devlin, and tenors Charles Anthony and Anthony Laciura who perform regularly in character tenor roles with the Metropolitan Opera.
In 1973 the Association launched a series of revivals of now rarely played French grand operas, works that had been standard repertory pieces at the old French Opera House prior to 1919 but which had not been played locally for several generations. Among these were Halévy’s La Juive (1973, with Richard Tucker as Eléazar), Massenet’s Hérodiade (1975), Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots (1975) and Donizetti’s La favorite (1976).
Major singers heard with the Opera Association for the first time during this period were Bianca Berini (Amneris), Ingrid Bjöner (Senta), Gilda Cruz-Romo (Leonora), Christina Deutekom (Lucia), Rosalind Elias (Charlotte), Leyla Gencer (Leonora), Rita Hunter (Brünnhilde), Raina Kabaivanska (Desdemona), Evelyn Lear (Tosca), Adriana Maliponte (Leïla), Johanna Meier (Sieglinde), Birgit Nilsson (Turandot), Nell Rankin (Charlotte), Katia Ricciarelli (Mimi), Mietta Sighele (Cio-Cio-San), Pauline Tinsley (Lady Macbeth), Gabriella Tucci (Tosca), Claire Watson (Arabella) and Virginia Zeani (U.S. stage debut, Violetta).
Others included Fernando Corena (Pasquale), Justino Diaz (Alvise), Pablo Elvira (Alphonse XI), Ferruccio Furlanetto (U.S. debut, Zaccaria), James McCracken (Otello), Sherrill Milnes (Rigoletto), James Morris (Colline; Banquo), Kostas Paskalis (Scarpia), Paul Plishka (Ramfis), Giuseppe Taddei (Scarpia), Jon Vickers (Radamès), and David Ward (Holländer).
A summer season in 1966 by the Repertory Opera Theatre, featuring young singers, harkened back to Cellini’s EOTA of the 1950s. However, the idea did not survive the summer, and there was a gradual contraction as well in the number of works offered during the regular season.
Eight operas were offered each season between 1964/65 and 1968/69, but the number was reduced to seven and then six (1970/71 to 1976/77). There was a further reduction to five (1977/78 to 1981/82), and finally to the present schedule of four operas, each staged on two evenings. Steadily mounting production costs was the major reason cited by the Association for the decline in the number of operas performed each season.
Almost from its inception in 1943 the Opera Association had staged its regular season in the Municipal Auditorium, whose most serious drawbacks were variable acoustics and the lack of a large sunken orchestra pit. Midway through the 1972/73 season, however, the company moved to the newly completed 2,317 seat Theatre of Performing Arts adjacent to the old Auditorium in Louis Armstrong Park where it has continued to perform. Madama Butterfly was the Association’s inaugural production in the new venue, but its next staging that spring, a revival of Massenet’s Thaïs in an opulent production, featured in the title role Carol Neblett, whose brief nude scene in the Act 1 finale made international headlines.
A memorable performance of the 1973/74 season was Richard Tucker’s portrayal of Eléazar in Halévy’s La Juive, one of the most popular repertory works at the French Opera during the nineteenth century, and a role the tenor had long wanted to undertake on stage. Not only did Tucker fulfill a lifelong ambition by singing the role, he did it wearing some of the costumes used by Enrico Caruso at the Metropolitan Opera half a century earlier.
VISITS BY TOURING COMPANIES
Nor was the Crescent City lacking during the twentieth century in memorable visits by touring companies. The Municipal Auditorium itself had been inaugurated in March 1930 by the Chicago Civic Opera, which presented Mary Garden in Le Jongleur de Notre Dame and Tito Schipa as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor. Thereafter, until World War II, Fortune Gallo’s touring San Carlo troupe used the Auditorium instead of its former home, the old Tulane Theatre.
In the 1930s and 40s the Louisiana State University Opera Department, under the able direction of former Metropolitan Opera baritone Pasquale Amato, toured its well conceived productions, which included the first New Orleans staging of Smetana’s Bartered Bride and a well received Les Contes d’Hoffmann. The Metropolitan Opera finally returned to the city on its annual spring tour in April 1939, its first visit since 1905, and was heard again in 1940 and 1941. Melchior and Rethberg (Lohengrin), Martinelli, Rethberg, Castagna and Pinza (Aïda), deLuca and Pons (Rigoletto), and Jepson, Crooks, Pinza and Warren (Faust) were among the stars on the Met’s touring roster.
In 1947, following World War II, the Met returned with Ezio Pinza and Eleanor Steber starring in Le Nozze di Figaro, Bidú Sayao and Ferruccio Tagliavini singing Violetta and Alfredo inTraviata, and Jan Peerce, Robert Merrill and Patrice Munsel featured in Lucia. A lengthy hiatus in Met tour appearances followed, until 1972. Then, in a brief span of three days, productions of Otello (McCracken, Milnes, Amara), Faust (Domingo, Zylis-Gara, Raimondi), Traviata (Moffo, Merrill), and La fille du Régiment (Sutherland, Pavarotti, Corena) showed the Met at its absolute best.
Finally, the appearance here of two diverse touring companies sparked great enthusiasm — Sarah Caldwell’s American National Opera (November 1967) with a restudied, powerfulTosca, and the first New Orleans staging of Alban Berg’s Lulu — and London’s English National Opera (June 1984) with its updated “little Italy” setting for Rigoletto, a bouncy and tongue-in-cheek Gilbert & Sullivan Patience and, finally, the unexpected triumph of the visit, and its first New Orleans staging, Benjamin Britten’s powerful Gloriana.
COMMUNITY OUTREACH AND EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES
The New Orleans Opera Association has worked to develop young audiences by inviting student groups, free of charge, to the final dress rehearsals of each opera. These “Preview Performances” have been funded for the last several seasons by the Brown Foundation, allowing the staff to create student study guides with information about the operas, the composers and the history of opera in New Orleans. These booklets are equally popular with the many adults who attend the “Nuts and Bolts” lectures prior to each public performance.
In 1998 former New Orleans Opera General Director Arthur Cosenza created the MetroPelican Opera, an education/outreach touring ensemble. MetroPelican artists, as the name implies, have performed throughout “Metro” New Orleans and the “Pelican” State in a variety of repertoire. In 1996 MetroPelican’s Hansel and Gretel became the first opera production to tour elementary schools as part of the Orleans Parish “Arts in Education” package. For the abridged version of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess colorful set panels were commissioned from YA/YA (Young Aspirations/Young Artists) students.
And an adaptation of Louisiana composer Keith Gates’ Evangéline was MetroPelican’s contribution to FrancoFête in 1999. Current popular offerings include “A Celebration in Song” during Black History Month and “Opera à la Carte”, a lively introduction to opera’s “greatest hits.” The MetroPelican Opera won the 2000 tribute to the Classical Arts Education Award, recognizing the widespread presence of opera in Louisiana schools.
For many years the Association maintained its own studios for the construction and storage of props and scenery such as those for Delibes’ Lakmé, created for the local debut of Louisiana soprano Elizabeth Futral. This operation was greatly expanded in January 1984 with the dedication of the H. Lloyd Hawkins Scenic Studio in Metairie. There the Association maintains an inventory of sets and props, many of which have been rented to opera companies throughout North America. Projected titles (English translations) were introduced, beginning with the opening night Aïda (October 1984).
In 1994, in association with Video Artists International (VAI), and in support of its endowment fund, the company authorized the release on compact discs of a select number of its archival performances that had been preserved on tape recordings. Emphasis has been on the release of scores which were not well represented in the catalog, such as Susannah and Markheim, on the work of important artists who had appeared with the Association in roles which they did not record commercially (Leonard Warren as Falstaff; Montserrat Caballé as Manon), as well as on some of the most memorable evenings of opera in the company’s 50 year history.
THE ASSOCIATION CELEBRATES ITS 50TH ANNIVERSARY
Works new to the company’s repertoire in seasons between 1979 and 1993 included Adriana Lecouvreur, La fanciulla del West, I Lombardi, and Don Carlo. In an era when the great dramatic voices of the previous generation often seemed sadly lacking, the Association responded with younger American singers such as Rockwell Blake (Gérald), Gary Lakes (Samson), Gran Wilson (Prince Ramiro), June Anderson (Queen of Night), Catherine Malfitano (Mimi), Erie Mills (Oscar) and Diana Soviero (Violetta), while presenting as well Carlo Bergonzi (Riccardo), Fiorenza Cossotto (Dalila), Giuseppe Giacomini (Otello), Siegfried Jerusalem (Lohengrin), Matteo Manuguerra (Rigoletto), Boris Martinovich (Jake Wallace), Ingvar Wixell (Rigoletto), Stefka Evstatieva (Leonora), Shirley Verrett (Carmen) and Teresa Zylis-Gara (Adriana Lecouvreur).
In 1993 the Opera Association celebrated the 50th Anniversary of its founding, concluding that season with a revival, in a new production, of Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, the two operas with which it had begun its life so many years before. In its 1995/96 season the Association observed the anniversary of the first recorded operatic performance in New Orleans, in 1796, and the completion of an almost unbroken tradition of opera in the Crescent City for the past 200 years.
Highlights of the company’s recent seasons have included stagings of Verdi’s Falstaff with Louis Quilico, memorable pairings of Gran Wilson and Erie Mills in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, and in Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore, and a notable revival of Massenet’s Werther, also with Wilson. Strauss’s Elektra and Mozart’s Don Giovanni were revisited, the latter after an absence of twenty-three years, and in 1995 Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin entered the repertoire for the first time.
In 1998 Arthur Cosenza retired and was named Emeritus Director. That autumn the Opera Association appointed Robert Lyall as General Director. One of Lyall’s stated objectives was a widening of the repertoire to include significant works of the twentieth century. The 1999/2000 season saw the first professional staging here of Douglas Moore’s classic The Ballad of Baby Doe and the first local staging of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire, following its world premiere the previous year in San Francisco. Subsequent seasons saw a stylish revival of Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos (last heard here in 1974), Salome, and the company’s first Porgy and Bess.
In 2001/02 the Association embarked on an ambitious plan to produce the four operas of Wagner’s Ring cycle, beginning with Die Walküre, and more recently Das Rheingold andSiegfried. The 2003/04 season featured the much anticipated world premiere of Thea Musgrave’s Pontalba based on Christina Vella’s excellent biography of Micaela Almonaster, the Baroness Pontalba.
Although the destruction wrought by hurricane Katrina forced the cancellation of the autumn portion of the Association’s 2005/06 season the company now is poised to continue building on a rich tradition and history of opera which are unique to this country.
Jack Belsom, © 2006
Operahouses in New York
Ett av de första operahusen i USA invigdes i New York 1833. En av grundarna var librettisten Lorenzo da Ponte som dock redan efter ett par säsonger tvingades att sälja teatern på grund av sina finansiella problem. 1836 bytte huset namn till National Theater . År 1839 brann teatern ner till grunden, men återuppbyggdes och återöppnades direkt. Redan den 29 maj 1841 skadades åter huset av brand. Da Ponte’s operahus blev föregångaren till Academy of Music och senare Metropolitan Opera i New York.
The Academy of Music was a New York City opera house, located on the northeast corner of East 14th Street and Irving Place in Manhattan. The 4,000-seat hall opened on October 2, 1854. The review in The New York Times declared it to be an acoustical ”triumph”, but ”In every other aspect … a decided failure,” complaining about the architecture, interior design and the closeness of the seating; although a follow-up several days later relented a bit, saying that the theater ”looked more cheerful, and in every way more effective” than it had on opening night.
The Academy’s opera season became the center of social life for New York’s elite, with the oldest and most prominent families owning seats in the theater’s boxes. The opera house was destroyed by fire and subsequently rebuilt in 1866, but it was supplanted as the city’s premiere opera venue in 1883 by the new Metropolitan Opera House – created by the nouveaux riche who had been frozen out of the Academy – and ceased presenting opera in 1886, turning instead to vaudeville. It was demolished in 1926.
The Academy of Music has been described as ”the first successful dedicated opera house in the United States,” but it was not the first building in New York designed specifically for opera That honor goes to the Italian Opera House built in 1833 by Lorenzo Da Ponte as a home for his new New York Opera Company, which lasted only two seasons before the company was disbanded and the theatre sold.
Over a decade later, in 1847, the Isaiah Rogers-designed Astor Opera House opened on Astor Place only to close several years later after a riot provoked by competing performances of Macbeth by English actor William Charles Macready at the Opera House and American Edwin Forrest at the nearby Broadway Theatre. By May 1853, the interior has been dismantled and the furnishings sold off, with the shell of the building sold to the Mercantile Library Association.
It was the demise of the Astor Opera House that spurred New York’s elite to build a new opera house in what was then the more genteel neighborhood of Union Square, led by Moses H. Grinnell, who formed a corporation in 1852 to fund the construction of the building, selling shares at $1,000 each to raise $200,000. When finished, the building, which was designed by Alexander Saeltzer – who was designing the Astor Library at about the same time, and had previously designed Anshe Chesed Synagogue – was the world’s largest opera venue at the time, with seats for four thousand arranged on five levels (orchestra, parquette, balcony and first, second and third tiers) and an interior height from floor to dome of 80 feet (24 m).
It had a plush interior, and private boxes in the orchestra, but, perhaps due to newspaper editorials questioning the project’s republican values, was consciously somewhat less ”aristocratized” than the Astor Opera House had been – there, general admissions were relegated to the benches of a ”cockloft” reachable only by a narrow stairway, and otherwise isolated from the gentry below, while in the new theatre many of the regular seats were relatively inexpensive. The stage’s proscenium opening was 48 feet (15 m), with an additional 35 feet (11 m) in the wings, and a depth of 70 feet (21 m) from the footlights to the back wall. The height of the proscenium opening was 30 feet (9.1 m).
Its first opera season was from October through December 1854. The Max Maretzek Italian Opera Company was engaged by US actor James Henry Hackett. The company performed Bellini’s Norma for the inauguration of the theatre with Giulia Grisi in the title role and Giuseppe Mario as Pollione headlining the performance under Max Maretzek’s baton.
The first season’s repertoire was ambitious, and included Semiramide and The Barber of Seville by Rossini; Norma and La Sonnambula by Bellini; and Don Pasquale, Lucrezia Borgia, La Favorita and Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti.Maretzek’s company performed an annual season at the Academy through 1878. His company was not the only group active at the opera house as the theater during this time. Musicologist George Whitney Martin writes:
New York’s Academy of Music, from 1854 to 1883 the city’s leading house for opera, did not offer a secure base to any opera company. And why? Because it was primarily a real estate venture run by a board of investors seeking the highest rent possible.”
Other opera companies active at the Academy, including Jaime Nunó’s Havana Italian Opera Troupe and the Max Strakosch Italian Opera Company, the latter of which began performing at the Academy in 1860 only to merge with Maretzek’s company in 1868. The Academy hosted several American premieres, including Rigoletto (1855), Il trovatore (1855), La traviata (1856), Aida (1873), Lohengrin (1874), Die Walkure (1877) and Carmen (1878).
The Academy’s opera season became the center of social life for New York’s wealthy gentry, but from its inception, the Academy of Music not only presented opera, but also served as a theater, and a meeting and exposition hall for a wide variety of functions, including political rallies, charity balls and science and industry fairs, among other events. In 1860 it was the site of a reception for the Prince of Wales. After the Civil War, an organization called the Cercle Française de l’Harmonie began using the Academy as a venue for masked balls, also called ”French balls”, in which the nouveau riche men of New York society would rub elbows – and other body parts – with semi-dressed prostitutes and courtesans, with little regard for public decorum or modesty. These balls were covered by the press, which did little to dim the enthusiasm or ribald behavior of the participants.
One reporter wrote that women were thrown in the air and then sexually assaulted ”amid the jeers and laughter of the other drunken wretches on the floor … [with] not a whisper of shame in the crowd”. These spectacles grew in size over the following decades: in 1876, one such ball was attended by over 4000 people. Feminist editor Victoria Woodhull condemned the sexual hyprocrisy of the French balls in 1873 in Woodhull and Clafliin’s Weekly, complaining that the Academy of Music was being used ”for the purpose of debauching debauched women; and the trustees of the Academy know this.”
Still, it was the opera season that made the Academy the mainstay of social life for New Yorks ”uppertens”, and the oldest and most prominent families owned seats in the theater’s boxes. This emblem of social prominence was passed down from generation to generation. The inability of New York’s wealthy industrial and mercantile families, including the Vanderbilts, Goulds and Morgans, to gain access to this closed society inspired the creation of the new Metropolitan Opera Association in 1880.
The trustees of the Academy belatedly attempted to head off the competition by offering to add 26 new boxes to the 18 the Academy already had, to accommodate the Vanderbilts, Morgans, Rockefellers who were behind the planned new venue, but it was too late to fend them off. The Metropolitan’s new opera house at Broadway and 39th Street, twice the size of the Academy, opened in 1883. It contained three tiers of elegant boxes to display the wealth of the city’s new economic leaders. The new opera house was an instant success with New York society and music lovers alike, and the Academy of Music’s opera season was canceled in 1886.
In 1888 the Academy began to offer vaudeville. From January 28 to March 1901, a revival of Clyde Fitch’s play Barbara Frietchie appeared there. The venue was rented by labor organizations in the early 1900s and used to stage rallies. In 1926 it was demolished, along with its neighbor Tammany Hall, for the construction of the Consolidated Edison Company Building.
Planning of a new operahouse here
The Chines Operahouse in New York here
Metropolitan Opera är kanske också känt i Sverige på grund av att några av våra internationellt mest kända sångare har sjungit i huset först på Broadway till exempel Christina Nilsson, som sjöng i öppningsföreställningen Charles Gounods Faust, 1883, Jussi Björling, Birgit Nilsson med flera, men också från 1966 i det nya huset på Lincoln Square.
Read more about the first Metropolitan Opera House here
Most would find it surprising that The Metropolitan Opera Management sued to have their own opera house razed but that is exactly what happened in the mid-1960s. The Metropolitan Opera Association already had plans to relocate to Lincoln Center and they feared the competition that might arise if a new opera company took over the existing Metropolitan Opera House.
Part of the reason the association wanted to relocate was because of the opera house’s plain, and what some called ugly, exterior. The opera house, done in the Italian Renaissance style, was even dubbed a “third-rate warehouse.” What the exterior did not hint of was the building’s lavish interior. The group of wealthy New Yorkers designed the inside to be more extravagant than the competition, the Academy of Music.
Front View of the Met, 1966. Image via The Library of Congress
The architect, J. Cleveland Cady was responsible for the design of the building in 1883. After a fire in 1892, architects Carrere and Hastings redesigned the lavish interior. They created a gold auditorium which included the largest proscenium in America at the time, inscribed with the names of six composers: Beethoven, Gluck, Gounod, Mozart, Verdi, and Wagner. The famous gold damask stage curtain was not installed until 1906.The two architects also restored its Diamond Horseshoe box seats where the Vanderbilts and Astors watched the performances, along with five thousand others.
Images via The Library of Congress Details of Stage, 1966.
Even though the opera house was beautifully designed, it was not a shoe-in to be designated as a historical landmark. Starting in September of 1965, before the building was demolished, a year long dispute occurred between the Metropolitan Opera Association, the New York City Landmarks Association, and a variety of composers, musicians, and New Yorkers who spent their time at the opera house.
The New York City Landmarks Association considered the opera house as one of their first buildings for preservation. Because of the opera management’s opposition and the questionable quality of the architecture, the landmark association voted not to preserve the building. Unhappy with the decision, New York City Mayor Lindsay and Governor Rockefeller formed the Old Opera House Committee with the goal of preserving the Opera House.
Met Street View, 1966. Image via The Library of Congress
In April 1966, the last month of opera performances, New Yorkers affiliated with the opera house were still making attempts to save it. Ten days before what would be the last performance, a group of composers, actors, and musicians made a final effort to save the opera house. They planned to raise $8 million dollars to buy the opera house from the Metropolitan Opera Association but the association countered saying they would make almost double that amount of money if they leased it to a development firm. During the last opera performance, on April 16,1966, the conductor, Leopold Stokoski made a final and simple plea from the podium: “I beg you to save this magnificent house.”
Outside, 1914. Image via The Library of Congress
Displeased with all the hoopla, the opera management sued and in August of 1966 the verdict was that all preservation efforts be suspended. In January of 1967, the Metropolitan Opera House was destroyed; three years later, the bland World Apparel Center at West 39th Street and Broadway was built on the site which still stands there today.
The old Metropolitan Opera House has become a prime example for preservationists of what should still be standing, along with the original Penn Station which was demolished in 1963. Had the Landmark Commission had more experience giving buildings historical status, maybe the opera house would still hold performances at West 39th St and Broadway. At least New Yorkers appreciated the opulence during countless performances before the wrecking ball came swinging.
For more Untapped old Metropolitan Opera House, check out Disney’s Homage to the building and learn a detailed history of the old Met.
The Academy of Music (which was located at the corner of 14th Street and Irving Place) is considered to be the first successful opera house in New York City, though it has largely been forgotten. When it was constructed in 1854, the Academy of Music, which was located at the northern end of the city’s theater district, was a respectable place to go. However, by the early 1880s, the area had become the haunt of unionists and anarchists. Two different groups–New Yorkers unable to purchase boxes at the Academy because of its limited seating and patrons dissatisfied with the Academy’s location–decided it was time to build a new opera house. The influential group included W. H. Vanderbilt, W. K. Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt, J. P. Morgan, and J. A. Roosevelt.
The Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center 1966
The Metropolitan Opera is a vibrant home for the most creative and talented singers, conductors, composers, musicians, stage directors, designers, visual artists, choreographers, and dancers from around the world.
Since the summer of 2006, Peter Gelb has been the Met’s general manager—the 16th in company history. Under his leadership, the Met has been elevating its theatrical standards by significantly increasing the number of new productions, staged by the most imaginative directors working in theater and opera, and has launched a series of initiatives to broaden its reach internationally. These efforts to win new audiences prominently include the successful Live in HD series of high-definition performance transmissions to movie theaters around the world, as well as opening the house to the general public for free dress rehearsals. To revitalize its repertoire, the Met regularly presents modern masterpieces alongside the classics.
Known as the venue for the world’s greatest voices, the Met has been under the musical direction of James Levine since 1976. Maestro Levine is credited with having created one of opera’s finest orchestras and choruses.
The Metropolitan Opera was founded in 1883, with its first opera house built on Broadway and 39th Street by a group of wealthy businessmen who wanted their own theater. In the company’s early years, the management changed course several times, first performing everything in Italian (even Carmen and Lohengrin), then everything in German (even Aida and Faust), before finally settling into a policy of performing most works in their original language, with some notable exceptions.
The Metropolitan Opera has always engaged many of the world’s most important artists. Christine Nilsson and Marcella Sembrich shared leading roles during the opening season. In the German seasons that followed, Lilli Lehmann dominated the Wagnerian repertory and anything else she chose to sing. In the 1890s, Nellie Melba and Emma Calvé shared the spotlight with the De Reszke brothers, Jean and Edouard, and two American sopranos, Emma Eames and Lillian Nordica.
Enrico Caruso arrived in 1903, and by the time of his death 18 years later had sung more performances with the Met than with all the world’s other opera companies combined. American singers acquired even greater prominence with Geraldine Farrar and Rosa Ponselle becoming important members of the company. In the 1920s, Lawrence Tibbett became the first in a distinguished line of American baritones for whom the Met was home. Today, the Met continues to present the best available talent from around the world and also discovers and trains artists through its National Council Auditions and Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.
Almost from the beginning, it was clear that the opera house on 39th Street did not have adequate stage facilities. But it was not until the Met joined with other New York institutions in forming Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts that a new home became possible. The new Metropolitan Opera House, which opened at Lincoln Center in September of 1966, was equipped with the finest technical facilities.
Many great conductors have helped shape the Met, beginning with Wagner’s disciple Anton Seidl in the 1880s and 1890s and Arturo Toscanini who made his debut in 1908. There were two seasons with both Toscanini and Gustav Mahler on the conducting roster.
Later, Artur Bodanzky, Bruno Walter, George Szell, Fritz Reiner, and Dimitri Mitropoulos contributed powerful musical direction. James Levine made his debut in 1971, celebrating his 40th anniversary in the 2010–11 season, and has been Music Director since 1976. (He held the title of Artistic Director between 1986 and 2004.) Fabio Luisi, Principal Guest Conductor since the beginning of the 2010–11 season, was named the Met’s Principal Conductor in September 2011.
The Met has given the U.S. premieres of some of the most important operas in the repertory. Among Wagner’s works, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Das Rheingold, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung, Tristan und Isolde, and Parsifal were first performed in this country by the Met. Other American premieres have included Boris Godunov, Der Rosenkavalier, Turandot, Simon Boccanegra, and Arabella.
The Met’s 32 world premieres include Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West and Il Trittico, Humperdinck’s Königskinder, and five recent works—John Corigliano and William Hoffman’s The Ghosts of Versailles (1991), Philip Glass’s The Voyage (1992), John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby (1999), Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy (2005), Tan Dun’s The First Emperor (2006), and the Baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island (2011), devised and written by Jeremy Sams, with music by Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau, and others. An additional 53 operas have had their Met premieres since 1976.
Hänsel und Gretel was the first complete opera broadcast from the Met on Christmas Day 1931. Regular Saturday afternoon live broadcasts quickly made the Met a permanent presence in communities throughout the United States and Canada.
In 1977, the Met began a regular series of televised productions with a performance of La Bohème, viewed by more than four million people on public television. Over the following decades, more than 70 complete Met performances have been made available to a huge audience around the world. Many of these performances have been issued on video, laserdisc, and DVD.
In 1995, the Met introduced Met Titles, a unique system of simultaneous translation. Met Titles appear on individual screens mounted on the back of each row of seats, for those members of the audience who wish to utilize them, but with minimum distraction for those who do not. Titles are provided for all Met performances in English, Spanish, and German. Titles are also provided in Italian for Italian-language operas.
Each season the Met stages more than 200 opera performances in New York. More than 800,000 people attend the performances in the opera house during the season, and millions more experience the Met through new media distribution initiatives and state-of-the-art technology.
The Met continues its hugely successful radio broadcast series—entering its 85th year this fall—the longest-running classical music series in American broadcast history. It is heard around the world on the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network.
In December 2006, the company launched The Met: Live in HD, a series of performance transmissions shown live in high definition in movie theaters around the world. The series expanded from an initial six transmissions to 10 in the 2014–15 season and today reaches more than 2,000 venues in 70 countries across six continents. The Live in HD performances are later also shown on public television, and a number of them have been released on DVD. In partnership with the New York City Department of Education and the Metropolitan Opera Guild, the Met has developed a nationwide program for students to attend Live in HD transmissions for free in their schools.
Other media offerings include Metropolitan Opera Radio on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, a subscription-based audio service broadcasting both live and historical performances, commercial-free and round the clock. Met Opera on Demand (formerly called Met Player), a subscription-based online streaming service available at metoperaondemand.org, was launched in November 2008.
It offers more than 550 Met performances, including Live in HD productions, classic telecasts, and archival broadcast recordings, for high-quality viewing and listening on any computer or iPad. The Met also provides free live audio streaming of performances on its website once every week during the opera season.
In 2006, the Met launched a groundbreaking commissioning program in partnership with New York’s Lincoln Center Theater, which provides renowned composers and playwrights with the resources to create and develop new works at the Met and at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater. The first of these to reach the stage was Nico Muhly’s Two Boys, with a libretto by Craig Lucas, which opened at the Met in the fall of 2013.
Other initiatives include the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Gallery Met, which displays the work of top contemporary visual artists; annual holiday entertainment offerings; a Rush Ticket Program offering discounted orchestra seats for $25; expanded editorial offerings in Met publications, on the web, and through broadcasts; and new public programs that provide greater access to the Met, including the series of Open Dress Rehearsals, which are free to the public.
The New York City Opera (NYCO) is an American opera company located in Manhattan in New York City. The company was active from 1943 to 2013. It is currently defunct, having filed for bankruptcy in 2013.
As of 2015, two different groups of investors have put forward plans in bankruptcy court to revive the company under new management. One group, called New Vision, is led by the architect Gene Kaufman. A second group, NYCO Renaissance, is led by Roy Niederhoffer, a financier and former board member of the NYCO. This second group has announced plans to present a season of opera in 2016 while awaiting the decision of the bankruptcy court.
The company, called ”the people’s opera” by New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, was founded in 1943. The company’s stated purpose was to make opera accessible to a wide audience at a reasonable ticket price. It also sought to produce an innovative choice of repertory, and provide a home for American singers and composers. The company was originally housed at the New York City Center theater on West 55th Street. It later became part of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts at the New York State Theater from 1966 to 2010. During this time it produced autumn and spring seasons of opera in repertory and maintained extensive education and outreach programs, offering arts-in-education programs to 4,000 students in over thirty schools.
In 2011, the company left Lincoln Center due to financial difficulties and moved its offices to 75 Broad St. in Lower Manhattan.In the 2011–12 and 2012–13 seasons, NYCO performed four operas at various venues in New York City, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music. On October 1, 2013, following an unsuccessful emergency fund-raising campaign, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
During its nearly 70-year history, the NYCO helped launch the careers of many great opera singers including Beverly Sills, Sherrill Milnes, Plácido Domingo, Maralin Niska, Carol Vaness, José Carreras, Shirley Verrett, Tatiana Troyanos, Jerry Hadley, Catherine Malfitano, Samuel Ramey, and Gianna Rolandi. Sills later served as the company’s director from 1979–1989. More recent acclaimed American singers who have called NYCO home include David Daniels, Mark Delavan, Mary Dunleavy, Lauren Flanigan, Elizabeth Futral, Bejun Mehta, Robert Brubaker and Carl Tanner.
NYCO similarly championed the work of American composers; approximately one-third of its repertoire was traditionally American opera. The company’s American repertoire ranged from established works (e.g., Douglas Moore’s The Ballad of Baby Doe, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah and Leonard Bernstein’s Candide) to new works (e.g., Thomas Pasatieri’s Before Breakfast and Mark Adamo’s Little Women).
NYCO’s commitment to the future of American opera was demonstrated in its annual series, Vox, Contemporary Opera Lab, in which operas-in-progress were showcased, giving composers a chance to hear their work performed by professional singers and orchestra. The company also occasionally produced musicals and operettas including works by Stephen Sondheim and Gilbert and Sullivan.
The New York City Opera (NYCO) har sina lokaler i New York State Theater, ritat av Philip Johnson, vid Lincoln Center i New York. Huset öppnades 22 februari 1966.
NYCO har en tradition att lansera och stödja amerikanska sångare. Ungefär en tredjedel av produktionerna är amerikanska operor.
Säsongen 2013-14 blev inställd och New York City Opera är under avveckling.
With much regret that we announced the cancellation of the 2013-2014 Season in October, 2013 and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. As a part of the bankruptcy sale process, New York City Opera has selected the NYCO Renaissance proposal from among a number of others to purchase its assets, including intellectual property assets such as its name and trademark. The proposed transaction remains subject to bankruptcy court approval.
We thank you for your continued support over the years and for making New York City Opera truly The People’s Opera.
For 70 years, the New York City Opera held a unique place in the cultural scene of both New York and the world. Its distinctive repertoire included explorations of musical theater, operetta, and unusual or lesser-known works alongside the classics of the operatic canon. Its compelling and innovative productions emphasized character, action, and drama. Renowned for its long history of giving promising young artists their first big break, the company was the first to make stars of young singers like Plácido Domingo, Beverly Sills, Samuel Ramey, and José Carreras.
Subject to appropriate U.S. Bankruptcy Court approval, we plan to relaunch New York City Opera in 2015 at an exciting venue that was designed as one of the world’s finest medium-sized opera houses: the 1100-seat Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Its state-of-the-art technical specifications, acoustic design and spacious orchestra pit make it an ideal new home for City Opera. The shops, restaurants and nightlife of the Time Warner Center will provide City Opera’s patrons with a host of amenities for pre- and post-performance enjoyment as well as easy and convenient transportation options.
Operahouses in Chicago
Chicago Opera Group grundades 1910 och präglades i nästan tjugo år framåt av Mary Gurden som sjöng sina mest kända partier, Mélisande och Thais och även var chef för kompaniet 1921-22, den säsong man uruppförde Prokofievs Kärleken till de tre apelsinerna.
Kompaniet omorganiserades under namnet Chicago Civic Opera och flyttade 1929 in i den nyuppförda operabyggnaden (3 953 platser), men redan 1932 upplöstes ensemblen till följd av finanskrisen i USA.
1933-46 spelade olika ensembler, som delvis utgjordes av sångare från Metropolitan Opera i New York, och först 1954 bildades Chicago Lyric Theatre som 1956 ändrade namn till The Lyric Opera of Chicago. Säsongen är kort och har huvudsakligen baserats på stjärnsångare från Europa som Jussi Björling, Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi, Birgit Nilsson, Mario del Monaco, och Tito Gobbi. Bl a Björling och Maria Callas hade sina amerikanska debuter här (1937 respektive 1954).
Lyric Opera of Chicago is one of the world’s great opera companies. It is renowned internationally for its artistic excellence and financial strength. Founded in 1954, Lyric has always distinguished itself by presenting the finest international singers, conductors, directors, and designers in classic and less-familiar operatic repertoire and in world-premiere productions.
The company’s mission is to express and promote the life-changing, transformational, revelatory power of great art and opera. Lyric exists to provide a broad, deep, and relevant cultural service to the Chicago region and the nation, and to advance opera’s development by producing and performing consistently world-class opera, with a balanced repertoire encompassing core classics, less-known masterpieces, and new works; creating a diverse, innovative, wide-ranging program of community engagement and education activities that reaches the widest possible public; and developing exceptional emerging operatic talent.
Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director, began his tenure in 2011. Sir Andrew Davis has served as Lyric’s music director since 2000. Renée Fleming became Lyric’s first creative consultant in 2010.
The company, originally known as The Lyric Theatre of Chicago, was formed in 1954 by Carol Fox, Lawrence V. Kelly, and Nicola Rescigno. The latter two founders withdrew after the 1955 season, and the company was renamed Lyric Opera of Chicago prior to the 1956 season. Carol Fox served as founding general manager (1954-80); she died in 1981. Fox was succeeded by Ardis Krainik, who had been with the company since its founding and served as general director from 1981 until her death in 1997. William Mason served as general director from 1997 until his retirement in 2011. He is Lyric’s first general director emeritus.
Bruno Bartoletti and Pino Donati were co-artistic directors from 1964 to 1974. Bartoletti served as sole artistic director from 1975 until retiring in 1999. He was artistic director emeritus until his death in 2013. Bartoletti made his American debut at Lyric in 1956 and conducted more than 600 performances of 55 operas at Lyric (1956-2007). Matthew A. Epstein, who had been Lyric’s artistic adviser beginning in 1980, served as artistic director from 1999 to 2005.
In 2014-15 Lyric presented 69 performances of 8 operas (Don Giovanni, Capriccio, Il Trovatore, Porgy and Bess, Anna Bolena, Tosca, Tannhäuser, and The Passenger). Don Giovanni, Tosca, and Anna Bolena were new productions, and Tannhäuser and The Passenger (a Midwest premiere) were new-to-Chicago productions. Lyric also presented a 60th-anniversary Gala, 25 performances of Carousel, the world premiere of the second mariachi opera, El Pasado Nunca Se Termina, a special family performance entitled The Magic Victrola, and a piano recital by Lang Lang.
In addition to planning repertoire and productions for Lyric Opera of Chicago’s recent and future seasons at the Civic Opera House, in 2012 Anthony Freud launched Lyric Unlimited, a long-term initiative that provides a relevant cultural service to communities throughout the Chicago area not previously touched by opera. Lyric Unlimited encompasses collaboration with other cultural organizations and explores ways to make opera as an art form resonate more powerfully and broadly with people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests.
Lyric Unlimited highlights to date include The Second City Guide to the Opera; a pair of mariachi operas, the commission of The Property, a klezmer opera from Wlad Marhulets and three original family performances at the Civic Opera House; the formation of a special high-school program, the Youth Opera Council; and a Community Ambassador Program, inaugurated by soprano Ana María Martínez and bass-baritone Eric Owens. In August, 2015, Lyric Unlimited will present the world premiere of another new commission, Second Nature, an opera for young audiences by Matthew Aucoin.
2012-13 saw the inauguration of Lyric’s American Musical Theater Initiative, encompassing new productions of classic musicals by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II each spring for five seasons: Oklahoma! (2013),The Sound of Music (2014), Carousel (2015), The King and I (2016), and South Pacific (2017).
Renée Fleming became Lyric Opera’s first-ever creative consultant in December 2010 and was elected to the Board of Directors as a vice president at that time. Fleming has an active leadership role in developing new projects designed to increase opera audiences and awareness of the art form, while sharing in the company’s artistic vision. In collaboration with her Lyric colleagues, Fleming has worked to establish a prominent presence for Lyric in a variety of web-based marketing projects, and in print and broadcast media; expand the education and community-engagement activities of Lyric to include a joint program with several key community music organizations called the Vocal Partnership Program, devoted to finding and nurturing young, talented singers in the Chicago area, and to making Lyric more accessible to the children and young adults involved in all areas of music education at Merit School of Music, Music Institute of Chicago, ChiARTS, Gallery 37 Advanced Arts
Education Program, Sherwood Conservatory, and Chicago Academy for the Arts; present non-operatic and off-season performances at the Civic Opera House including recitals by major international artists; foster an annual commitment to American music theater; curate the world premiere of Bel Canto, Lyric’s 10th new-opera commission (premiere scheduled for the 2015-16 season); collaborate with other Chicago-based arts institutions to send a special message about the strength of culture in Chicago and to promote and expand arts education in the Chicago Public School system; and further develop Lyric’s young-professionals initiative, which takes opera into the workplace and provides entry-level experiences for the curious adult. Most recently Fleming was named Ryan Opera Center Advis In May, Fleming extended the tenure of her role as Creative Consultant through 2017.
The Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus are considered among the finest in the world. The orchestra comprises 74 musicians. The regular chorus consists of 48 members plus a core supplementary chorus of 12 and a supplementary chorus of several dozen.
The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center (originally the Apprentice Artist Program, subsequently The Lyric Opera School of Chicago and the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists) was established in 1973 as the professional artist-development program for Lyric Opera of Chicago. The Ryan Opera Center is recognized as one of the premier programs of its kind in the world. That standing is maintained by providing the finest up-and-coming singers with unparalleled training and experience.
The Civic Opera Building, at 20 North Wacker Drive on the east bank of the Chicago River between Washington and Madison streets, is the permanent home of Lyric Opera of Chicago. The 3,563-seat capacity of the theater makes it second only to New York’s Metropolitan Opera as the largest opera auditorium in North America.
Lyric Opera purchased the Civic Opera House and adjacent backstage spaces from the building’s owner in 1993, the first time in the history of the opera house (built in 1929) that the resident opera company has actually owned the space. Lyric simultaneously launched a $100-million capital campaign: Building on Greatness…An Opera House for the 21st Century, to finance the purchase and renovation of the art-deco house. The renovation was completed in time for the 1996-97 season. In 1996 the Civic Opera House auditorium was named the Ardis Krainik Theatre for Lyric’s second general director.
Lyric Opera of Chicago annually employs about 900 seasonal, part-time and fulltime staff, including orchestra musicians, chorus members, stagehands, production and technical staff, stage management, ushers, etc. There are approximately 90 fulltime year-round administration staff.
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s opening performances have been broadcast live since 1973 (except for a four-year span early in the 2000s). A virtually limitless worldwide audience can hear the broadcasts each year – live on opening nights during the season (on 98.7WFMT in the Chicago area and worldwide via live streaming on https://www.wfmt.com), and again during an eight-week rebroadcast period beginning in May.
In 1989 Lyric Opera of Chicago launched its Toward the 21st Century artistic initiative – the most important artistic initiative the company had undertaken to date, and one with far-reaching impact on American opera in North America as well as in the international opera community. Throughout the 1990s Lyric produced one 20th-century European and one American opera each season as part of the regular subscription series. Within this initiative Lyric commissioned three new works: William Bolcom’s McTeague (1992-93); Anthony Davis’s Amistad (1997-98); and Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge (1999-00).
Among other major artistic achievements is Lyric’s first presentation of Wagner’s Ring cycle in a single season within the span of a week, during the 1995-96 season. Sold out months in advance, the three cycles had a total economic impact of $34.7 million on the Chicago metropolitan area. The Ring again sold out when remounted for three cycles during the 2004-05 season.
Over the course of the company’s 60-year history, Lyric Opera of Chicago has consistently offered its patrons a world-class roster of singers, conductors, directors, designers, choreographers, and dancers in a wide-ranging repertoire. – See more here
The world-renowned Lyric Opera of Chicago performs in one of North America’s most beautiful opera houses, the Civic Opera House, at 20 North Wacker Drive. The opera house was the vision of utility magnate Samuel Insull (1859-1938), a populist billionaire known as ”the Prince of Electricity.” Insull, the president of the Chicago Civic Opera Association, wanted to erect a new opera house to replace Louis B. Sullivan’s Auditorium Building on South Michigan Avenue as the home of the Chicago Civic Opera–one that would be democratic in scope, and would be housed in and supported by a commercial office building. He mandated five requisites for the new opera house: safety, excellent sight lines, comfortable seating, gracious surroundings, and premium acoustics.
The design team chosen by Insull, the Chicago architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, wanted the Civic Opera Building to symbolize ”the spirit of a community which is still youthful and not much hampered by traditions.” The firm was already famous for designing the Field Museum of Natural History, the Wrigley Building on North Michigan Avenue, and the Continental Illinois Bank Building on South LaSalle Street. In the 1930s the firm created the massive Merchandise Mart Building, also on the Chicago River.
From its opening on Nov. 4, 1929 (just six days after the stock-market crash) until Lyric Opera of Chicago was founded in 1954 (as Lyric Theatre), the Civic Opera House was home to the Chicago Civic Opera, Chicago Grand Opera Company, Chicago City Opera Company and Chicago Opera Company. Over the years the Civic Opera House has also hosted visiting opera and dance companies, as well as touring operettas, musical shows, and a great number of orchestral, dance, and vocal concerts. The adjoining Civic Theatre, at the north end of the block-long building, was used to present plays (including the premiere of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie), dance performances, and films; for a considerable time it also served as a television studio.
The Civic Opera Building is a majestic limestone skyscraper with a 45-story office tower and two 22-story wings. Shaped like a gigantic throne facing the Chicago River between Washington and Madison streets, it was completed after just 22 months of planning and construction. The auditorium and its backstage areas occupy approximately one-third of the total space of the building. The distinguishing feature on the Wacker Drive side of the Civic Opera Building is the colonnaded portico that runs the entire length of the building. At the south end, large bronze doors open onto the grand foyer of the Civic Opera House, whose gilt cornices glitter beneath the sparkling lights of Austrian crystal chandeliers and elaborately stenciled ceilings.
The magnificent space features a floor and wainscoting of pink and gray Tennessee marble, and fluted Roman travertine columns and pilasters. The 40-foot-high columns are topped with carved capitals covered in gold leaf. In early 1994 the space was named the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Grand Foyer in honor of major benefactors. An imposing grand double staircase leads to the mezzanine foyer, where there are thirty-one boxes. Above this box level are two more balconies, each with 800 seats. The Civic Opera House seats 3,563.
The decorative character of the entire building is a hybrid of Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. Comedy-tragedy masks and cornucopia of instruments abound as playful ornaments around entrances, inspired by the Paris Opera House designed by Jean-Louis-Charles Garnier. The famous painted fire curtain (depicting the parade scene from Aida) and the interior decoration details of the Civic Opera House were created by American artist Jules Guerin in a palette of salmon pinks, roses, olives, golds and bronzes.
In 1993, Lyric Opera of Chicago purchased all of the theater and backstage space in the Civic Opera Building. Previously Lyric Opera had rented the auditorium and backstage areas. A massive $100-million renovation of the backstage area commenced in 1993, and continued during Lyric’s off-seasons (mid-March through early September) through 1996. The improvements made during this project allow Lyric Opera to continue producing world-class opera well into the 21st century. The purchase and renovation was made possible by Lyric’s $100-million ”Building on Greatness” capital campaign. The Lyric Opera of Chicago/Chicago Symphony Orchestra Facilities Fund helped launch Lyric’s campaign with a $50 million commitment.
The renovation includes the creation of a large rehearsal hall that duplicates the dimensions of the mainstage; the creation of a stage-level scenery handling area that has ended Lyric’s need to often store valuable sets on city sidewalks; the replacement of outdated stage rigging and lighting; updating of electrical and mechanical systems; installation of new heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems throughout the backstage areas and in the Civic Opera House itself; improved and expanded patron restrooms; updating of facilities for persons with disabilities; redesign of the mezzanine lobby; and the addition and renovation of dressing rooms, locker space and lounges for artists, orchestra, chorus, ballet and stagehands, as well as the renovation of backstage office space for production and rehearsal personnel. These improvements were made during the first three phases of the renovation.
The final phase took place between early April and early August of 1996. All 3,563 seats and carpeting were removed from the auditorium. As soon as the seats were out, 20,000 square feet of scaffolding went upseven stories high — so that artisans could clean and completely repaint the auditorium (including elaborate stenciling). The theater had never been fully repainted since it opened in 1929 — just patched and touched up as needed over the years.
During the summer of 1996 more than 30 highly skilled artisans from around the country worked in the Civic Opera House six days a week, 10 hours a day, applying 2,000 gallons of gold paint to the elegant ornamentation of the auditorium, Rice Grand Foyer, and all lobbies. The painters also hand-stenciled and hand-detailed the exquisite ornamentation that adorns the Civic Opera House ceilings — in a dozen colors, no less.
Every seat in the auditorium was beautifully refurbished for the first time since 1929. The metal portions were repainted and the wood arms were refinished; the upholstery, seat and back of each chair were replaced. 6,000 square yards of new deep-red carpeting were installed in the theater and lobbies of the Civic Opera House. The 31 boxes on the mezzanine level were rebuilt and enlarged by 18 inches. A new mainstage curtain was installed, made of 580 yards of heavy-weight wool velour and silk fringe to replicate the original 1929 curtain.
Each side of the curtain weighs approximately 500 pounds; the hung dimensions are 64 x 45 feet. All the bronze decorative features and railings in the Civic Opera House were polished to a just-like-new sheen. The beautiful travertine marble was thoroughly cleaned.
Backstage, a 40-foot-high, 40,000-pound soundproof door was installed to acoustically separate the scenery handling area from the mainstage. During the renovation 32 miles of new rope and cable were installed backstage to update the scenery rigging system. Additionally, 170 miles of electrical wiring and 38 miles of electrical conduit were installed throughout the Civic Opera House. – See more here
American and World Premieres at Lyric Opera of Chicago
Lord Byron’s Love Letter, Raffaele de Banfield: American Premiere
Il ballo delle ingrate, Claudio Monteverdi: American Premiere
The Harvest, Vittorio Giannini: World Premiere
Billy Budd, Benjamin Britten: American Professional Stage Premiere
Paradise Lost, Krzysztof Penderecki: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Opera
McTeague, William Bolcom: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Opera
Un re in ascolto, Luciano Berio: American Premiere
Amistad, Anthony Davis: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Opera and the American Music Theatre Festival of Philadelphia
A View from the Bridge, William Bolcom: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Opera
A Wedding, William Bolcom: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Opera
El Pasado Nunca Se Termina, José “Pepe” Martínez and Leonard Foglia: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Unlimited
Bel Canto, Jimmy López and Nilo Cruz: Commissioned by Lyric OperaThe Property, Wlad Marhulets and Stephanie Fleischmann: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Unlimited
El Pasado Nunca Se Termina, José “Pepe” Martínez and Leonard Foglia: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Unlimited
Second Nature, Matthew Aucoin: World Premiere/Commissioned by Lyric Unlimited – See more here
A gem in San Francisco’s architectural crown, the War Memorial Opera House was built as a monument to San Francisco’s dead from World War I. One of the City’s most beautiful public buildings, the Opera House played host to two historic events—the drafting of the charter of the United Nations in 1945, and the ceremony where the United States restored Japanese sovereignty in 1951.
Designed by Arthur Brown, Jr. in the American Renaissance style, the 3,146-seat War Memorial Opera House is a California Historical Landmark. The building has been the home of San Francisco Opera since it opened on October 15, 1932 with a performance of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca.
The artists who have performed on its stage are as legendary as the building itself. The theater hosts approximately seventy performances of ten operas annually and for 83 years has been a vibrant enclave of arts, culture and creativity. The Opera House is also home to San Francisco Ballet.
After an addition to the Franklin Street façade (1979) and a complete seismic retrofit in 1997 following the Loma Prieta earthquake, the War Memorial Opera House stands as the centerpiece of the San Francisco Performing Arts Complex, one of America’s foremost performing arts campuses. Adjacent to the Opera House is the War Memorial Courtyard and the newly restored Veterans Building. Following the first act of Tosca in 1932, Wallace M. Alexander, president of the San Francisco Opera Association, said in his remarks presenting the Opera House to the community: “This is your opera house, your own rich heritage.”
San Francisco has had a love affair with opera for more than 150 years. In fact, citizens during the Gold Rush were mad for it. Between 1851 and the earthquake of 1906, nearly 5,000 opera performances were given in San Francisco in 26 different theaters. San Francisco Opera, one of the world’s leading opera companies for more than 90 years, is synonymous with what the Bay Area is known for: entrepreneurship, innovation and community involvement.
The City’s resident company was established in 1923, thanks to a young Neapolitan conductor named Gaetano Merola (1881–1953) who came to San Francisco in 1906. He saw that the money San Franciscans paid to see various touring companies could easily support a permanent opera company. He also knew of plans for a grand hall for music and opera, which would eventually become the War Memorial Opera House, and thought it should be inaugurated by a local group. Merola built relationships with the City’s philanthropic and Italian communities and worked to secure funding from San Francisco’s business community to establish the San Francisco Opera Association—the oldest surviving opera company on the West Coast.
From 1924 to 1937, Merola and a small group of artists made short tours to Los Angeles. Because of their popularity, the Company presented consecutive Los Angeles seasons through 1964 and expanded the tours to other cities. From San Diego to Seattle, San Francisco Opera established itself as the opera company of the West Coast and paved the way for other permanent companies in California, Oregon and Washington.
The greatest achievement of the Company’s early days was the construction of the War Memorial Opera House. Built during the Great Depression, it was constructed as a memorial to San Franciscans who served in World War I. Through the efforts of a small group of private citizens who brought the fundraising effort to the community, the War Memorial became the first opera house in America built entirely through community donations.
On October 15, 1932, the War Memorial Opera House was inaugurated with a performance of Puccini’s Tosca. In the following years, the Company grew larger, seasons grew longer and renowned artists continued to delight San Francisco audiences under Merola’s leadership. Wagner’s complete cycle, Der Ring des NOn August 30, 1953, Merola was conducting a performance at Stern Grove. As the soprano performing “Un bel di” from Madama Butterfly sang the word morire (to die), Merola fell—suffering a fatal heart attack. He died conducting the music he loved.
The man who rushed to Merola’s side that fateful day was Kurt Herbert Adler. Merola had invited the Viennese conductor to join San Francisco Opera as chorus director in 1942. Adler was quickly named San Francisco Opera’s artistic director, and was appointed the Company’s next general director in 1957.
With Adler at the helm San Francisco Opera’s repertoire expanded, with bold new productions from directors like Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, known for his ability to tread the delicate line between vanguard innovation and traditionalism. The Company became known for presenting newly discovered talent—including the U.S. debuts of Leontyne Price, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Birgit Nilsson and Mario del Monaco—furthering San Francisco’s reputation as a place to hear outstanding singers.
In 1957 Adler founded the Merola Opera Program, a training program for young artists that was the first of its kind in America. In keeping with its namesake’s mission to cultivate new talent, the Merola Opera Program has fostered the careers of a number of today’s superstars, including Anna Netrebko, Deborah Voigt, Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Thomas Hampson and Patrick Summers. This program evolved with the creation of San Francisco Opera Center and the Adler Fellowship Program for the further professional development of young singers, coach-pianists and stage directors.
In his 38 years leading San Francisco Opera, Adler created an inviting space where the world’s great singers, conductors, directors and designers could flourish. After his administration, each of the Company’s four general directors brought their own unique talents to ensure that San Francisco Opera continues to be at the forefront of the opera world: Terence McEwen, with his commitment to outstanding vocal artistry and developing young talent; Lotfi Mansouri, who expanded the Company’s repertoire and oversaw the restoration of the War Memorial Opera House in 1996; Pamela Rosenberg’s ambitious programming of notable U.S. debuts and world premieres; and now David Gockley, dedicated to building new audiences and an American canon of new opera, as well as ensuring San Francisco Opera’s future.
Our first two general directors, Merola and Adler, regularly conducted for the first six decades of the Company’s history. In 1985 Sir John Pritchard was appointed San Francisco Opera’s first permanent music director, and he was followed by Donald Runnicles in 1992. Italian conductor Nicola Luisotti succeeded Runnicles as music director in 2009. Born and raised in Italy, Maestro Luisotti has garnered critical and audience acclaim at the world’s leading opera houses including Milan’s La Scala, Vienna State Opera, Paris Opera, Metropolitan Opera and Royal Opera, Covent Garden.
The technology for these simulcasts and other media outreach comes from another of Gockley’s innovations, the Koret‑Taube Media Suite. As the first permanent HD video production facility installed in any American opera house, the Koret-Taube Media Suite gives the Company the capability to produce simulcasts, its Grand Opera Cinema Series and live recordings of San Francisco Opera productions available on DVD.
Legendary tenor Luciano Pavarotti once said of San Francisco, “This is my second hometown. Musically, it is my first.” San Francisco Opera stands proudly among the great opera houses of the world with nine decades of unparalleled artistry and an unwavering commitment to the community that sustains it.
– See more About history here
Operahouse and operascenes in U S A
There are operahouses or operascenes in more than one hundred citys in the United States of America from Alaska in the north to Puerto Rico in the south and Honolulu in the west and Boston in the east.
List of operalinks in the United States of America
Magic Circle Chamber Opera of New York
San Antonio Lyric Opera
Links to American classical- and operafestivals
American opera composers
John Coolidge Adams (born February 15, 1947) is an American composer with strong roots in minimalism.
His works include Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986), On the Transmigration of Souls (2002), a choral piece commemorating the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks (for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003), and Shaker Loops (1978), a minimalist four-movement work for strings. His operas include Nixon in China (1987), which recounts Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to China, and Doctor Atomic (2005), which covers Robert Oppenheimer, the Manhattan Project, and the building of the first atomic bomb.
The Death of Klinghoffer is an opera for which he wrote the music, based on the hijacking of the passenger liner Achille Lauro by the Palestine Liberation Front in 1985, and the hijackers’ murder of wheelchair-bound 69-year-old Jewish-American passenger Leon Klinghoffer. The opera has drawn controversy, including allegations by some (including Klinghoffer’s two daughters) that the opera is antisemitic and glorifies terrorism. The work’s creators and others have disputed these criticisms.
American composer-librettist Mark Adamo prepared for the world-première performances in June 2013 of his third full-length opera, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, following a busy season of opera and chamber premières. In May 2012, Fort Worth Opera opened its first production of his second opera, Lysistrata; that September, the Constella Festival in Cincinnati opened their season with August Music, for flute duo and string quartet, commissioned by Sir James and Lady Jeanne Galway: in December, Sasha Cooke and the New York Festival of Song introduced The Racer’s Widow, a cycle of five American poems for mezzo-soprano, cello, and piano; and, in April 2013, baritone Thomas Hampson and the Jupiter String Quartet introduced Aristotle, after the poem by Billy Collins, in concerts at the Mondavi Center in Davis, California before continuing to Boston and New York under the auspices of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
Adamo first attracted national attention with his uniquely celebrated début opera, Little Women, after the Alcott novel. Introduced by Houston Grand Opera in 1998 and revived there in 2000, Little Women is one of the most frequently performed American operas of the last fifteen years, with more than 80 national and international engagements in cities ranging from New York to Minneapolis, Toronto, Chicago, San Francisco, Adelaide, Perth, Mexico City, Brugges, Banff, Calgary, and Tokyo, where it served as the official U.S. cultural entrant to the 2005 World Expo. The Houston Grand Opera revival (2000) was telecast by PBS/WNET on Great Performances in 2001 and released on CD by Ondine that same year; in fall 2010, Naxos released this performance on DVD and on Blu-ray. (Little Women was the first American opera recorded in high-definition television.) Comparable enthusiasm greeted the début of the larger-scaled Lysistrata, Adamo’s second opera, adapted from Aristophanes’ comedy but also including elements from Sophocles’ Antigone. Lysistrata was commissioned by Houston Grand Opera for its 50th anniversary and introduced in March 2005: its New York City Opera debut in March 2006 led to concert performances by Washington National Opera (May 2006) and Music at the Modern by the Van Cliburn Foundation (May 2007) before the new staging of the work at Fort Worth Opera in spring 2012, which was included on the best-of-2012 lists of both D Magazine and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
While Adamo’s principal work continues to be for the opera house, over the past 5 years he has ventured not only into chamber music but also into symphonic and choral composition. Adamo’s first concerto, Four Angels, for harp and orchestra, was commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra and debuted in June 2007: the Utah Symphony, led by their Music Director Emeritus, Keith Lockhart, presented Four Angels in January 2011. In May 2007, Washington’s Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, for which Adamo served as its first composer-in-residence, performed the revised version of Adamo’s Late Victorians, a cantata for singing voice, speaking voice, and orchestra: Naxos released Late Victorians in 2009 on Eclipse’s all-Adamo CD, which also included Alcott Music, from Little Women, for strings, harp, celesta, and percussion; “Regina Coeli,” an arrangement of the slow movement of Four Angels for harp and strings alone; and the Overture to Lysistrata for medium orchestra. In April of 2010, Harold Rosenbaum’s New York Virtuoso Singers paired six of Adamo’s newly-published choral scores with the complete chamber-choral work of John Corigliano. This concert featured the New York premières of Cantate Domino (after Psalm 91,) Pied Beauty and God’s Grandeur (Gerard Manley Hopkins; commissioned by the Gregg Smith Singers,) Matewan Music (Appalachian folk-tune variations,) Supreme Virtue (Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao te Ching,) and The Poet Speaks of Praising (Rilke: commissioned and introduced by Chanticleer.)
Composer-in-residence at New York City Opera from 2001 through 2006, where he led the VOX: Showcasing American Composers program, Adamo also served as Master Artist at Atlantic Center for the Arts in May 2003. Since 2007 he has served as the principal teacher of American Lyric Theatre’s Composer-Librettist Development Program in New York, in which he coaches teams of composers and librettists in developing their work for the stage.
Adamo began his education in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, where, as a freshman in the Dramatic Writing Program, he received the Paulette Goddard Remarque Scholarship for outstanding undergraduate achievement in playwriting. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Music Degree cum laude in composition in 1990 from the Catholic University of America. His music is published exclusively by G. Schirmer, Inc.
George Antheil July 8, 1900 – February 12, 1959) was an American avant-garde composer, pianist, author and inventor whose modernist musical compositions explored the modern sounds – musical, industrial, mechanical – of the early 20th century.
Spending much of the 1920s in Europe, Antheil returned to the US in the 1930s, and thereafter spent much of his time composing music for films and, eventually, television. As a result of this work, his style became more tonal. A man of diverse interests and talents, Antheil was constantly reinventing himself. He wrote magazine articles (one accurately predicted the development and outcome of World War II), an autobiography, a mystery novel, newspaper and music columns.
In 1941 he developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes with actress Hedy Lamarr that used a code (stored on a punched paper tape) to synchronise random frequencies, referred to as frequency hopping, with a receiver and transmitter. This technique, which is now known as spread spectrum, is now widely used in telecommunications. This work led to them being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
As a student in the 1950s, Argento divided his time between the United States and Italy, and his music is greatly influenced both by his instructors in the United States and his personal affection for Italy, particularly the city of Florence. Many of Argento’s works were written in Florence, where he spends a portion of every year.He has been a professor (and, more recently, a professor emeritus) at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He frequently remarks that he finds residents of that city to be tremendously supportive of his work, and that he thinks his musical development would have been impeded had he stayed in the high-pressure world of East Coast music. He was one of the founders of the Center Opera Company (now the Minnesota Opera). Newsweek magazine once referred to the Twin Cities as ”Argento’s town.”
Argento has written fourteen operas as well as major song cycles, orchestral works, and many choral pieces for small and large forces. Many of these were commissioned for and premiered by Minnesota-based artists. He has referred to his wife, the soprano Carolyn Bailey, as his muse, and she was a frequent performer of his works. She died on February 2, 2006.
Samuel Osmond Barber II (March 9, 1910 – January 23, 1981) was an American composer of orchestral, opera, choral, and piano music. He is one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century: music critic Donal Henahan stated that ”Probably no other American composer has ever enjoyed such early, such persistent and such long-lasting acclaim.”
His Adagio for Strings (1936) has earned a permanent place in the concert repertory of orchestras. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music twice: for his opera Vanessa (1956–57) and for the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1962). Also widely performed is his Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (1947), a setting for soprano and orchestra of a prose text by James Agee. At the time of his death, nearly all of his compositions had been recorded.
Marcus Samuel Blitzstein, known as Marc Blitzstein (March 2, 1905 – January 22, 1964), was an American composer, lyricist, and librettist. He won national attention in 1937 when his pro-union musical The Cradle Will Rock, directed by Orson Welles, was shut down by the Works Progress Administration. He is known for The Cradle Will Rock and for his Off-Broadway translation/adaptation of The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. His works also include the opera Regina, an adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s play The Little Foxes; the Broadway musical Juno, based on Seán O’Casey’s play Juno and the Paycock; and No for an Answer. He completed translation/adaptations of Brecht’s and Weill’s musical play Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and of Brecht’s play Mother Courage and Her Children with music by Paul Dessau. Blitzstein also composed music for films, such as Surf and Seaweed (1931) and The Spanish Earth (1937), and he contributed two songs to the original 1960 production of Hellman’s play Toys in the Attic.
National Medal of Arts, Pulitzer Prize, and Grammy Award-winner William Bolcom (born May 26, 1938) is an American composer of chamber, operatic, vocal, choral, cabaret, ragtime, and symphonic music.
Born in Seattle, Washington, he began composition studies at the age of 11 with George Frederick McKay and John Verrall at the University of Washington while continuing piano lessons with Madame Berthe Poncy Jacobson. He later studied with Darius Milhaud at Mills College while working on his Master of Arts degree, with Leland Smith at Stanford University while working on his D.M.A., and with Olivier Messiaen and Milhaud at the Paris Conservatoire, where he received the 2éme Prix de Composition.
He joined the faculty of the University of Michigan’s School of Music in 1973, was named the Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor of Composition in 1994, and retired in 2008 after 35 years. Bolcom won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1988 for 12 New Etudes for Piano, and his setting of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience on the Naxos label won four Grammy Awards in 2005.
As a pianist Bolcom has performed and recorded his own work frequently in collaboration with his wife and musical partner, mezzo-soprano Joan Morris. Their primary specialties in both concerts and recordings are cabaret songs, show tunes, and American Popular Songs of the 20th century.
As a composer, Bolcom has written four violin sonatas; nine symphonies; three operas (McTeague, A View from the Bridge and A Wedding), plus several musical theater operas; eleven string quartets; two film scores (Hester Street and Illuminata); incidental music for stage plays, including Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass;fanfares and occasional pieces; and an extensive catalogue of chamber and vocal works.
2009 saw the premieres of First Symphony for Band in February by the University of Michigan Symphony Band in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Shakyamuni in February by Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for the reopening of Alice Tully Hall; and in May, Lady Liberty by The Master Singers of Lexington [Mass.] and The Ann Arbor Vocal Arts Ensemble and Introduzione e Rondo: HAYDN GO SEEK by the Haydn Trio Eisenstadt in Eisenstadt, Austria, which was featured on Germany’s international broadcast service, Deutsche Welle.
Charles Wakefield Cadman (December 24, 1881 – December 30, 1946) was an American composer.
Life and career
Cadman’s musical education, unlike that of most of his American contemporaries, was completely American. Born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, he began piano lessons at 13. Eventually, he went to nearby Pittsburgh where he studied harmony, theory, and orchestration with Luigi von Kunits and Emil Paur, then concertmaster and conductor, respectively, of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. This was the sum of his training. He was named a national honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity in 1915.
In 1908 Cadman was appointed the music editor and critic of the Pittsburgh Dispatch. He was greatly influenced by American Indian music and went to Nebraska to make cylinder recordings of tribal melodies for the Smithsonian Institution. He lived with the Omaha and Winnebago tribes on their reservations, learning to play their instruments. He used elements of traditional music in the form of his compositions of 19th-century romantic music.
Publishing several articles on American Indian music, Cadman was regarded as one of the foremost experts on the subject. He toured both the States and Europe giving his then-celebrated ”Indian Talk”. But his involvement with the so-called Indianist movement in American music contributed to some critics failing to judge his works on their own merits.
Cadman’s early works enjoyed little success until the famous soprano Lillian Nordica sang his ”From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water,” an Indian-influenced song. Another Indian-influenced song which became well known in the 1920s was ”At Dawning”.
Cadman eventually moved to Los Angeles. He helped to found and often performed as a soloist with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. He wrote the scores for several films, including The Sky Hawk, Captain of the Guard, Women Everywhere, and Harmony at Home. Along with Dmitri Tiomkin, he was considered one of Hollywood’s top film composers.
But Cadman first and foremost was a serious composer who wrote for nearly every genre. His chamber music works are generally considered among his best. He introduced elements of ragtime music into the classical music format, anticipating Gershwin, Stravinsky, and Milhaud, among others. His Piano Trio, Op. 56, composed in 1913, drew the critics’ attention and praise for his innovations.
The Pageant of Colorado, a historical pageant with music composed by Cadman to a libretto by Lillian White Spencer, was produced in Denver, Colorado in May 1927 under the direction of dramatist and playwrightPercy Jewett Burrell, a fraternity colleague of Cadman.
His opera The Sunset Trail (1922) was part of the touring repertoire of Vladimir Rosing’s American Opera Company. He also composed music for Da O Ma, an opera based on Omaha traditions, with a libretto written by Nelle Richmond Eberhart and Francis La Flesche, an Omaha ethnologist with the Smithsonian.
George Whitefield Chadwick (November 13, 1854 – April 4, 1931) was an American composer. Along with Horatio Parker, Amy Beach, Arthur Foote, and Edward MacDowell, he was a representative composer of what can be called the New England School of American composers of the late 19th century—the generation before Charles Ives. Chadwick’s works are influenced by the Realist movement in the arts, characterized by a down-to-earth depiction of people’s lives. Many consider his music to portray a distinctively American style. His works included several operas, three symphonies, five string quartets, tone poems, incidental music, songs and choral anthems. Along with a group of other composers collectively known as the Boston Six, Chadwick was one of those responsible for the first significant body of concert music by composers from the United States. The other five were Amy Beach, Arthur Foote, Edward MacDowell, John Knowles Paine, and Horatio Parker.
Born in a rural part of Lowell, Massachusetts, Chadwick received some early musical training from organ lessons given by his older brother, Fitz Henry. He developed an independent, self-reliant character early in his life. Dropping out of high school in 1871, Chadwick assisted briefly in his father’s insurance business. The experience enabled him to travel to Boston and other cities, where he attended concerts and cultural events that might have initiated his lifelong interest in the arts.
Tom Cipullo (Born November 22, 1956) is an American composer. Known mostly for vocal music, he has also composed orchestral, chamber, and solo instrumental works. His opera, Glory Denied, has been performed to critical acclaim in New York, Washington, and Texas.
Tom Cipullo was born into a musical family on Long Island, New York. His father, a jazz bassist playing under the name Ray Carle, performed throughout the New York area and hosted a successful radio show in the late 1950s and early 1960s, broadcasting with a quartet from the Café Rouge of the Statler Hilton Hotel. Cipullo’s brother, Chris, was a drummer in Los Angeles. Cipullo’s father named him after the bandleader Tommy Dorsey. Dorsey, who appeared frequently at the Café Rouge, died just a few days after Cipullo’s birth.
Cipullo attended Hofstra University, Boston University, and the City University of New York Graduate School. His teachers included David Del Tredici, Elie Siegmeister, Albert Tepper, Thea Musgrave (orchestration), and Graham Forbes, a highly regarded jazz pianist and the accompanist for Frank Sinatra during a period in the 1950s. Cipullo’s song cycles may be said to have entered the standard repertoire. He has composed over 225 songs, one evening-length chamber opera, six works for voices and chamber ensemble, solo piano pieces, and works for chorus and orchestra.Several of his song cycles are published by Oxford University Press, and others are distributed by Classical Vocal Reprints. His music appears on over a dozen commercially-released compact discs on the Albany, CRI, PGM, MSR Classics, GPR, Centaur, and Capstone labels.
His opera Glory Denied will premiere at Idaho Opera 2016
Frederick Shepherd Converse (January 5, 1871 – June 8, 1940), was an American composer of classical music, whose works include four operas and five symphonies.
Life and career
Converse was born in Newton, Massachusetts, the son of Edmund Winchester and Charlotte Augusta (Shepherd) Converse. His father was a successful merchant, and president of the National Tube Works and the Conanicut Mills. Frederick Converse’s higher education was at Harvard College, where he came under the influence of the composer John K. Paine. Converse had already received instruction in piano playing, and the study of musical theory was a most important part of his college course. Upon his graduation in 1893, his violin sonata (op. 1) was performed and won him highest honors in music.
After six months of business life, for which his father had intended him, he returned to the study of composing, Carl Baermann being his teacher in piano, and George W. Chadwick in composition. He then spent two years at the Royal Academy of Music in Munich, where he studied with Joseph Rheinberger, completing the course in 1898. His symphony in D-minor had its first performance on the occasion of his graduation.
During 1899-1902, Converse taught harmony at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He then joined the faculty of Harvard University as instructor in music, and was appointed assistant professor in 1905. Two years later he resigned, and afterwards devoted himself exclusively to composition.
Among Converse’s notable students were Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000) and Florence Price (1888-1953). See: List of music students by teacher: C to F#Frederick Converse. He died in Westwood, Massachusetts.
Stewart Armstrong Copeland (born July 16, 1952) is an American musician, multi-instrumentalist and composer best known as the drummer for the English rock band The Police and for his film music soundtracks. He has also written various pieces of music for ballet, opera and orchestra. According to MusicRadar, Copeland’s ”distinctive drum sound and uniqueness of style has made him one of the most popular drummers to ever get behind a drumset”. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Police in 2003 and the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2005.Stewart Armstrong Copeland was born in Alexandria, Virginia on July 16, 1952, the youngest of four children of CIA officer Miles Copeland, Jr. and Scottish archaeologist Lorraine Adie. The family moved to Cairo, Egypt, a few months after his birth, and Copeland spent his formative years in the Middle East. In 1957, the family moved to Beirut, Lebanon, and Copeland attended the American Community School there. He started taking drum lessons at age twelve and was playing drums for school dances within a year. Later he moved to England and attended Millfield from 1967 to 1969. Copeland went to college in California, attending United States International University and UC Berkeley. Returning to England, he worked as road manager for the progressive rock band Curved Air’s 1974 reunion tour, and then as drummer for the band during 1975 and 1976. He has composed several operas, Tell Tale Heart and The Invention of Morel will premiere in 2017 at Chicago Opera Theatre and Long Beach Opera.
The American John Corigliano continues to add to one of the richest, most unusual, and most widely celebrated bodies of work any composer has created over the last forty years.
Corigliano’s scores, now numbering over one hundred, have won him the Pulitzer Prize, the
Grawemeyer Award, four Grammy Awards, and an Academy Award (“Oscar”) and have
been performed and recorded by many of the most prominent orchestras, soloists, and
chamber musicians in the world. Attentive listening to this music reveals an unconfined
imagination, one which has taken traditional notions like ”symphony” or ”concerto” and
redefined them in a uniquely transparent idiom forged as much from the post-war European
avant garde as from his American forebears.
While he has composed three large-scale works for voice and orchestra, Corigliano’s lone
opera to date is The Ghosts of Versailles (1991), which counterposes the fiction of Mozart
and Beaumarchais with the Reign of Terror to create a richly multilayered meditation on the
need for, and costs of, personal and social change. The Metropolitan Opera’s first
commission in three decades, The Ghosts of Versailles succeeded brilliantly with both critics
and audiences: the season it opened, Corigliano was elected to the American Academy and
Institute of Arts and Letters, and Musical America named him its first-ever ”Composer of the
Year.” After triumphs in Chicago, Houston, and Hannover, Germany, The Ghosts of
Versailles returns to the American stage in a newly orchestrated smaller version in June 2009:
first scheduled by the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, the production includes stops in
Vancouver and the Wexford Festival on a lengthening list of future engagements.
Corigliano’s two other major vocal works show a comparably lavish and powerful sense of
vocal theatre. Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan (2000) boldly
refashions texts by the iconic songwriter into a compelling monodrama, by turns savage,
yearning, and hallucinatory; begun as a song cycle for piano and soprano in 2000, Corigliano
rescored the piece for full orchestra and amplified soprano in 2004. Its Naxos recording, on
which JoAnne Falletta leads the Buffalo Philharmonic, was released in September 2008 and
garnered Grammy nominations both for the work itself and for its leading interpreter, the
soprano Hila Plitmann. A Dylan Thomas Trilogy (1960, rev. 1999) revisits and combines
three of Corigliano’s earlier settings of this poet — Fern Hill (1960), Poem in October (1970),
and Poem on His Birthday (1976) — with the late Author’s Prologue into a ”memory play in the
form of an oratorio.” Scored for boy soprano, tenor, baritone, chorus, and orchestra, A
Dylan Thomas Trilogy was recorded in spring 2008 with Leonard Slatkin conducting Sir
Thomas Allen and the Nashville Symphony and Chorus: it was released by Naxos in
Corigliano serves on the composition faculty at the Juilliard School of Music and holds the
position of Distinguished Professor of Music at Lehman College, City University of New
York, which has established a scholarship in his name. Born in 1938 to John Corigliano Sr.,
a former concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, and Rose Buzen, an accomplished
pianist and educator, Corigliano has lived in New York City all his life: for the past fourteen
years he and his partner, Mark Adamo, have divided their time
between Manhattan and Kent Cliffs, New York.
Walter Johannes Damrosch (January 30, 1862 – December 22, 1950) was a German-born American conductor and composer.He is best remembered today as long-time director of the New York Symphony Orchestra and for conducting the world premiere performances of George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F (1925), and An American in Paris (1928).
Life and career
Damrosch was born in Breslau, Silesia, a son of Helene von Heimburg, a former opera singer, and the conductor Leopold Damrosch, and brother of conductor Frank Damrosch and music teacher Clara Mannes. His parents were Lutheran (his paternal grandfather was Jewish). He exhibited an interest in music at an early age and was instructed by his father in harmony and also studied under Wilhelm Albert Rischbieter and Felix Draeseke at the Dresden Conservatory. He emigrated with his parents in 1871 to the United States.
During the great music festival given by his father in May 1881, he first acted as conductor in drilling several sections of the large chorus, one in New York City, and another in Newark, New Jersey. The latter, consisting chiefly of members of the Harmonic Society, elected him to be their conductor. During this time a series of concerts was given in which such works as Anton Rubinstein’s Tower of Babel, Hector Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust, and Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem were performed. He was then only 19 years of age, but showed marked ability in drilling large masses.
In 1884, when his father initiated a run of all-German opera at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Walter was made an assistant conductor. After his father’s death in 1885, he held the same post under Anton Seidl and also became conductor of the Oratorio and Symphony Societies in New York.
On May 17, 1890, he married Margaret Blaine (1867–1949), the daughter of American politician and presidential candidate James G. Blaine. They had four daughters.
Damrosch was best known in his day as a conductor of the music of Richard Wagner and was also a pioneer in the performance of music on the radio, and as such became one of the chief popularizers of classical music in the United States. He conducted famed solo harpist Vincent Fanelli from 1908 to 1911. At the request of General Pershing he reorganized the bands of the A.E.F. in 1918.
Anthony Davis (born February 20, 1951), is an American jazz pianist, composer, and student of gamelan music. Davis is best known for his operas including X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X, which was premiered by the New York City Opera in 1986, Amistad, which premiered with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1997, and Wakonda’s Dream, which premiered at Opera Omaha in 2007.
Davis was born in Paterson, New Jersey. He taught at Yale University and Harvard University, and has played with Anthony Braxton and Leo Smith. In 1981, Davis formed an octet called Episteme. He also wrote the incidental music for the Broadway version of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. He incorporates several styles including jazz, rhythm ’n’ blues, gospel, non-Western, African, European classical, Indonesian, and experimental music.
Davis has received acclaim as a free-jazz pianist, a co-leader or sideman with various ensembles. Such ensembles include those that featured Smith as bandleader from 1974 to 1977.
Davis is professor of music at the University of California, San Diego. His opera Wakonda’s Dream is a tale of a contemporary Native American family and the history that affects them.
His latest opera, Lilith (libretto by Allan Havis)’ had its world premiere at the Conrad Prebys Music Center in UCSD on December 4, 2009. The story is about Adam’s first wife, set in a modern era.
X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X (1986)
Under the Double Moon (1989)
Wakonda’s Dream (2007)
Lear on the 2nd Floor (2012)
Lehman Engel (born September 14, 1910, Jackson, Mississippi; died August 29, 1982, New York City) was an American composer and conductor of Broadway musicals, television and film.
Work in theatre, television and films
Engel worked in a variety of positions on television specials. He was composer and conductor of the music for the famed 1954 television production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, starring Maurice Evans and Judith Anderson, but did not work on the 1960 remake starring the same two actors. He was conductor of the first (and so far, the only) television version of Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town (1958) (TV), as well as, in the preceding years, of the Hallmark Hall of Fame productions of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in 1957, The Taming of the Shrew in 1956, and The Tempest, in 1960, all with Maurice Evans. He also conducted the music for the Broadway musical version of Lil’ Abner, but not for the 1959 film version of the show. The music in the film was conducted by Joseph J. Lilley. He also musically directed and vocally arranged the 1959 musical Take Me Along.
Lehman Engel also composed the music for the 1939 Broadway revival of Hamlet, starring Maurice Evans, as well as for the original 1948 stage production of Maxwell Anderson’s Anne of the Thousand Days, starring Rex Harrison and Joyce Redman. In 1965 he served as the musical director for the Broadway production of La Grosse Valise (composer Gerard Calvi, lyrics by Harold Rome)
Arthur Farwell (March 23, 1872 – January 20, 1952) was an American composer, conductor, educationalist, lithographer, esoteric savant, and music publisher.
Farwell was born in St Paul, Minnesota. He trained as an engineer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating in 1893, but was turned towards a musical career by contact with the eccentric Boston-based composer Rudolf Gott. After studying in Boston, he became a pupil of Engelbert Humperdinck in Berlin and Alexandre Guilmant in Paris. Returning to the U.S., he lectured in music at Cornell University from 1899 to 1901, and founded the Wa-Wan Press, dedicated to publishing the works of the American Indianistcomposers, among whom Farwell himself was a leading figure. From 1910 to 1913 Farwell directed municipal concerts in New York City, including massed performances of choral works, some of them his own, by up to 1,000 voices. He directed the Music School Settlement (Now Third Street Music School Settlement) in NY from 1915-18 where his private pupils included the young Roy Harris. During this period he provided the score for Percy MacKaye’s ”Community Masque” Caliban by the Yellow Sands.In 1918 he moved to California, assuming the role of Acting Head of the music department at the University of California, Berkeley in 1918-19, he founded the Santa Barbara Community Chorus, was first holder of the composer’s fellowship of the Music & Art Association of Pasadena (1921–25), taught theory at Michigan State College (1927–39) and eventually settled in New York. Nicolas Slonimsky noted in Baker’s Biographical Dictionary that ”Disillusioned about commercial opportunities for American music, including his own, he established in East Lansing, in April 1936, his own lithographic handpress, with which he printed his own music, handling the entire process of reproduction, including the cover designs, by himself.”
His notable students include Bernard Rogers.
Carlisle Floyd (born June 11, 1926) is an American opera composer. The son of a Methodist minister, he has based many of his works on themes from the South. His best known opera, Susannah (1955), is based on a story from the Biblical Apocrypha, transferred to contemporary, rural Tennessee, and is set in a Southern dialect. Floyd was born in Latta, South Carolina, the son of a Methodist minister.
In 1943, Floyd entered Converse College, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and studied piano under Ernst Bacon. When Bacon accepted a position at Syracuse University, in New York, Floyd followed him there, where he received a Bachelor of Music in 1946. The following year, Floyd became part of the piano faculty at Florida State University, in Tallahassee. He was to remain there for thirty years, eventually becoming Professor of Composition. He received a master’s degree at Syracuse, in 1949.
While at FSU, Floyd gradually became interested in composition. His first opera was Slow Dusk, to his own libretto (as was to remain his custom), and was produced at Syracuse in 1949. His next opera, The Fugitives, was seen at Tallahassee in 1951, but was then withdrawn.
His third opera was to be Floyd’s greatest success: Susannah. It was first heard at Florida State, in February 1955, with Phyllis Curtin in the title role, and Mack Harrell as the Reverend Olin Blitch. The following year, the opera was given at the New York City Opera, with Curtin and Norman Treigle (in his first great success) as Blitch, with Erich Leinsdorf conducting. After receiving much acclaim, a City Opera production (directed by Frank Corsaro) was taken to the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, with Curtin, Treigle and Richard Cassilly.
Later in 1958, Floyd’s Wuthering Heights (after Emily Brontë) was premiered at the Santa Fe Opera, with Curtin as the heroine. In 1960, at Syracuse, his ”solo cantata on biblical texts,” Pilgrimage, was first heard with Treigle as soloist. The Passion of Jonathan Wade was first seen at the City Opera, in 1962. Set in South Carolina during Reconstruction, the piece had Theodor Uppman, Curtin, Treigle and Harry Theyard in the large cast; Julius Rudel conducted.
Floyd’s next opera was The Sojourner and Mollie Sinclair, which was a comedy regarding the Scottish settlers of the Carolinas. Patricia Neway and Treigle created the title roles, with Rudel conducting. The composer’s Markheim (after Robert Louis Stevenson) was first shown at the New Orleans Opera Association in 1966, with Treigle (to whom it was dedicated) and Audrey Schuh heading the cast. Floyd himself served as stage director.
Of Mice and Men (after John Steinbeck), following a long gestation, was heard at the Seattle Opera in 1970, in a staging by Corsaro. A monodrama on the royal subject of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Flower and Hawk, was premiered in Jacksonville, Florida, with Curtin directed by Corsaro. (The production was then seen at Carnegie Hall.)
Bilby’s Doll (after Esther Forbes) was first mounted at the Houston Grand Opera in 1976, with Christopher Keene conducting and David Pountney producing. In 1976, Floyd co-founded, with David Gockley, the Houston Opera Studio, a training program administered by the Houston Grand Opera for outstanding young professional singers and repertory coaches. His students there included Michael Ching. Between 1976 and 1996, he held the M.D. Anderson Professorship at the University of Houston School of Music.
In Houston, Willie Stark (after Robert Penn Warren) was also first heard, in 1981, in staging by Harold Prince. After an hiatus of almost twenty years, Floyd’s latest opera was premiered in Houston: Cold Sassy Tree (after Olive Ann Burns), in 2000. Patrick Summers conducted, Bruce Beresford directed, and Patricia Racette led the cast.
Carlisle Floyd composed a Piano Sonata in the 1950s for Rudolf Firkušný, who played it at a Carnegie Hall recital, but it then languished until Daniell Revenaugh recorded it in 2009, at the age of 74. Revenaugh worked with the composer in learning the piece (Floyd himself has never learned it), and their rehearsal sessions and the live recording itself were filmed for posterity. The recording was made on the Alma-Tadema Steinway that graced the White House during the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.
The Houston Grand Opera has announced that a new opera by Floyd will be premiered on March 5, 2016, Prince of Players, about the 17th-century actor, Edward Kynaston.
William Henry Fry (August 10, 1813 – December 21, 1864) was a pioneering American composer, music critic, and journalist. Fry was the first person born in the United States to write for a large symphony orchestra, and the first to compose a publicly performed opera. He was also the first music critic for a major American newspaper, and he was the first person to insist that his fellow countrymen support American-made music.
William Henry Fry was born on August 10, 1813 in Philadelphia. His father, William Fry, was a prominent printer and, along with Roberts Vaux and Robert Walsh, ran theNational Gazette and Literary Register, a major American newspaper at the time—edited by Robert Walsh from 1821 to 1836. William Henry had four brothers—Joseph Reese, Edward Plunket, Charles, and Horace Fry. He was educated at what is now Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. After returning to Philadelphia to work for his father, he studied composition with Leopold Meignen, a former band leader in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army and the music director of the Musical Fund Society orchestra. He eventually became secretary of the Musical Fund Society.
Fry’s operatic compositions include Aurelia the Vestal, Leonora (based on the 1838 play The Lady of Lyons), and Notre-Dame of Paris (based on the 1831 novel by Victor Hugo). Leonora was a very successful production at its premiere in 1845 and second run the following year. Leonora is also significant as it was the first grand opera written by an American composer. The opera was written for Ann Childe Seguin who took the title role when it opened.
After a six-year sojourn in Europe (1846–52), where he served as foreign correspondent to the Philadelphia Public Ledger, Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, and The Message Bird (later known as the New York Musical World and Times), Fry gave a series of eleven widely publicized lectures in New York’s Metropolitan Hall. These dealt with subjects such as the history and theory of music as well as the state of American classical music.
In addition to his operas, Fry wrote seven symphonies that have extra-musical themes. His Santa Claus: Christmas Symphony of 1853, which was very well received by audiences but derided by many of Fry’s rival critics, may be the first orchestral use of the saxophone, invented barely a decade before. His 1854 Niagara Symphony, written for Louis Jullien’s orchestra, uses eleven timpani to create the roar of the waters, snare drums to reproduce the hiss of the spray, and a remarkable series of discordant, chromatic descending scales to reproduce the chaos of the falling waters as they crash onto the rocks.
Fry’s other works, including Leonora (New York debut in 1858) and Notre-Dame of Paris (1864, Philadelphia), received mixed reviews along partisan lines: conservatives tended to dislike Fry’s music, whereas political progressives highly enjoyed it. His other musical works included the Overture to Macbeth, the Breaking Heart, string quartets and sacred choral music.
From 1852 until his death in 1864, Fry served as music critic and political editor for the New York Tribune.
George Gershwin September 26, 1898 – July 11, 1937) was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin’s compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known. Among his best-known works are the orchestral compositions Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and An American in Paris (1928) as well as the opera Porgy and Bess (1935).
Gershwin studied piano under Charles Hambitzer and composition with Rubin Goldmark and Henry Cowell. He began his career as a song plugger, but soon started composing Broadway theatre works with his brother Ira Gershwin, and Buddy DeSylva. He moved to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger, where he began to compose An American in Paris. After returning to New York City, he wrote Porgy and Bess with Ira and the author DuBose Heyward. Initially a commercial failure, Porgy and Bess is now considered one of the most important American operas of the twentieth century.
Gershwin moved to Hollywood and composed numerous film scores until his death in 1937 from a brain tumor.
Gershwin’s compositions have been adapted for use in many films and for television, and several became jazz standards recorded in many variations. Many celebrated singers and musicians have covered his songs.
The music of the American composer Gordon Getty has been widely performed in North America and Europe in such prestigious venues as New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, London’s Royal Festival Hall, Vienna’s Brahmssaal, and Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall and Bolshoi Theatre, as well as at the Aspen, Spoleto, and Bad Kissingen Festivals. In 1986, he was honored as an Outstanding American Composer at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and he was awarded the 2003 Gold Baton of the American Symphony Orchestra League.
Getty has recently devoted considerable attention to a pair of one-act operas, Usher House (derived from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”) and The Canterville Ghost (after Oscar Wilde’s tale). The former will be premiered in 2014 by the Welsh National Opera. Getty’s first opera,Plump Jack, involving adventures of Shakespeare’s Sir John Falstaff, was premiered by the San Francisco Symphony in 1984 and has been revived by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, and London Philharmonia, among other ensembles. In 2011 the Munich Radio Orchestra and an international cast conducted by Ulf Schirmer performed a new concert version ofPlump Jack, which was simulcast on Bavarian Radio and released in 2012 by PentaTone Classics. The same label is preparing the release of Usher House, with Lawrence Foster conducting the Gulbenkian Orchestra Lisbon.
Getty, who studied at the San Francisco Conservatory, has produced a steady stream of compositions since the 1980s, beginning with The White Election (1981), a much-performed song cycle on poems by Emily Dickinson. It has been recorded twice — by Kaaren Erickson for Delos and by Lisa Delan for PentaTone — and has been performed in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and the Morgan Library (in New York), the Kennedy Center and National Gallery of Art (in Washington, D.C), and the Hermitage Theatre (in St. Petersburg, Russia), among many other venues. His three-song cycle Poor Peter (2005) was included by Lisa Delan and pianist Kristin Pankonin on their PentaTone recital And If the Song Be Worth a Smile, which features songs by six contemporary American composers.
Poetry from the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries has often inspired Getty in his vocal compositions. His choral works Victorian Scenes (1989, to texts by Tennyson and Housman) andAnnabel Lee (1990, to a poem by Poe) were premiered by the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Sinfonia at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Michael Tilson Thomas led the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus in Annabel Lee in 1998 and 2004, on the latter occasion also premiering Getty’s Young America (2001), a cycle of six movements for chorus and orchestra to texts by the composer and by Stephen Vincent Benét. Joan and the Bells, a cantata portraying the trial and execution of Joan of Arc, has been performed widely since its 1998 premiere, notably in a 2004 revival in St. George’s Chapel of Windsor Castle, under the baton of Mikhail Pletnev. In 2005, PentaTone released a CD of Getty’s principal choral works up to that time, performed by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (Michael Tilson Thomas conducting) and the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir and Russian National Orchestra (conducted by Alexander Verdernikov). Getty has recently completed choral works based on Keats’ La Belle Dame sans Merci, Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl”, and an original poem that he modeled on Masefield, The Old Man in the Night. He has written a new setting of the traditional text Hodie Christus Natus Est for children’s chorus or women’s chorus accompanied by chamber ensemble, and is currently expanding that into a triptych of similarly scored Christmas pieces.
Although most of Getty’s works feature the voice, he has also written for orchestra, chamber ensembles, and solo piano. In 2010, PentaTone released a CD devoted to six of his orchestral pieces, with Sir Neville Marriner conducting the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, and in 2013 it followed up with a CD of the composer’s solo-piano works played by Conrad Tao. Currently in preparation is a PentaTone CD of his chamber music, which will include a string-quartet version of his Four Traditional Pieces, a work that was performed in a string-orchestra arrangement by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra in 2012. Other recent performances of particular note featured his ballet Ancestor Suite, which in 2009 was given its premiere staging, with choreography by Vladimir Vasiliev, by the Bolshoi Ballet and Russian National Orchestra at the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, and was then presented at the 2012 Festival del Sole in Napa, California.
Of his compositions Getty has said: “My style is undoubtedly tonal, though with hints of atonality, such as any composer would likely use to suggest a degree of disorientation. But I’m strictly tonal in my approach. I represent a viewpoint that stands somewhat apart from the twentieth century, which was in large measure a repudiation of the nineteenth and a sock in the nose to sentimentality. Whatever it was that the great Victorian composers and poets were trying to achieve, that’s what I’m trying to achieve.”’
Through his operas, his symphonies, his compositions for his own ensemble, and his wide-ranging collaborations with artists ranging from Twyla Tharp to Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen to David Bowie, Philip Glass has had an extraordinary and unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of his times.
The operas – “Einstein on the Beach,” “Satyagraha,” “Akhnaten,” and “The Voyage,” among many others – play throughout the world’s leading houses, and rarely to an empty seat. Glass has written music for experimental theater and for Academy Award-winning motion pictures such as “The Hours” and Martin Scorsese’s “Kundun,” while “Koyaanisqatsi,” his initial filmic landscape with Godfrey Reggio and the Philip Glass Ensemble, may be the most radical and influential mating of sound and vision since “Fantasia.” His associations, personal and professional, with leading rock, pop and world music artists date back to the 1960s, including the beginning of his collaborative relationship with artist Robert Wilson. Indeed, Glass is the first composer to win a wide, multi-generational audience in the opera house, the concert hall, the dance world, in film and in popular music — simultaneously.
He was born in 1937 and grew up in Baltimore. He studied at the University of Chicago, the Juilliard School and in Aspen with Darius Milhaud. Finding himself dissatisfied with much of what then passed for modern music, he moved to Europe, where he studied with the legendary pedagogue Nadia Boulanger (who also taught Aaron Copland , Virgil Thomson and Quincy Jones) and worked closely with the sitar virtuoso and composer Ravi Shankar. He returned to New York in 1967 and formed the Philip Glass Ensemble – seven musicians playing keyboards and a variety of woodwinds, amplified and fed through a mixer.
The new musical style that Glass was evolving was eventually dubbed “minimalism.” Glass himself never liked the term and preferred to speak of himself as a composer of “music with repetitive structures.” Much of his early work was based on the extended reiteration of brief, elegant melodic fragments that wove in and out of an aural tapestry. Or, to put it another way, it immersed a listener in a sort of sonic weather that twists, turns, surrounds, develops.
There has been nothing “minimalist” about his output. In the past 25 years, Glass has composed more than twenty operas, large and small; eight symphonies (with others already on the way); two piano concertos and concertos for violin, piano, timpani, and saxophone quartet and orchestra; soundtracks to films ranging from new scores for the stylized classics of Jean Cocteau to Errol Morris’s documentary about former defense secretary Robert McNamara; string quartets; a growing body of work for solo piano and organ. He has collaborated with Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Yo-Yo Ma, and Doris Lessing, among many others. He presents lectures, workshops, and solo keyboard performances around the world, and continues to appear regularly with the Philip Glass Ensemble.
Ricky Ian Gordon was born on May 15, 1956 in Oceanside, NY and raised on Long Island. After studying piano, composition and acting, at Carnegie Mellon University, he settled in New York City, where he quickly emerged as a leading writer of vocal music that spans art song, opera, and musical theater. Mr. Gordon’s songs have been performed and or recorded by such internationally renowned singers as Renee Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Nathan Gunn, Judy Collins, Kelli O’Hara, Audra MacDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Nicole Cabell, the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Frederica Von Stade, Andrea Marcovicci, Harolyn Blackwell, and Betty Buckley, among many others.
Recent productions of his work include:
2014: ”27” – libretto by Royce Vavrek, directed by James Robinson, conducted by Michael Christie…
Stephanie Blythe makes her Opera Theatre of St. Louis debut starring as Gertrude Stein, in a role written for her by composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist Royce Vavrek. Indulge for an evening at #27 Rue de Fleurus in Stein’s Paris salon, home to the luminaries of the Lost Generation.
Elizabeth Futral is Alice B. Toklas.
Stein and Toklas were a couple for nearly 40 years, until Stein’s death in 1946. Stein, of course, was the quirky writer, art collector, salonnière and pontificator on all matters artistic. Toklas, whom both women called the ”wife,” was Stein’s secretary, cook and general enabler as well as lover. For those four decades, practically everyone who was anyone artistic or literary in Paris passed through their apartment at 27 rue de Fleurus — thus the title of the opera and a signature refrain. Meet Picasso, Matisse, Leo Stein, Man Ray F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, various paintings and doughboys and soldiers all played by Theo Lebow, Tobias Greenhalgh, and Daniel Brevik
”Gordon’s compositions are stunning. The orchestrations are intricate and lovely, which in turn are contrasted by the upfront nature of the main vocal line, combining opposites in one marvelous conclusion. The thought lingers that these two opposites mirror Toklas and Stein; Toklas the delicate and lovely orchestration and Stein the brash vocal line. Vavrek’s libretto is crisp, and fortunate to have read the libretto; it is as fine as any poetry and can stand on its own as such.
Director James Robinson has done a remarkable job to bring this enlightened work to life with some truly stunning visuals created by cleverness rather than extravagance, and conductor Michael Christie brings the remarkable score to vivid realization with members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
Allen Moyer creates a worthy canvas that is somehow elegant in its simplicity, and James Schuette’s costumes effectively let the trio differentiate their myriad characters (and adds his own humorous touches too). Kudos also to wig and makeup designer Tom Watson and Sean Curran’s choreography.
New operas don’t often go on to the kind of popularity that sees them being universally admired and being performed a great deal at other opera companies, but ”27” is likely to defy the odds. St. Louisans should not miss the opportunity to see the impressive work during its birth.” Christopher Reilly, Alive Magazine
2014: ”A Coffin In Egypt” — libretto by Leonard Foglia based on Horton Foote’s play, Directed by Leonard Foglia, Conducted by Timothy Myers
90-year-old grand dame Myrtle Bledsoe has outlived her husband, her daughters and virtually everyone else in Egypt, Texas. But in the last stage of her life, she can’t outlive the truth. Houston Grand Opera, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and Opera Philadelphia proudly present the World Premiere of this haunting tale of memory and murder, racism and recrimination. Known for opera, art song, and musical theater, composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist/director Leonard Foglia base the opera on a play by Horton Foote, providing the perfect showcase for beloved mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade.
”A Coffin in Egypt” is a splendid opera of spite.” Mark Swed, The Los Angeles Times
”Gordon’s contribution to the genre is as germane to the spirit of a place as Copland’s The Tender Land or Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men.” Peter Dobrin, The Philadelphia Inquirer
”A Coffin in Egypt, a rarely produced 1980 play by Horton Foote would seem an unlikely subject for an opera, but in the hands of the marvelous Frederica von Stade and the talented composer and librettist team of Ricky Ian Gordon and Leonard Foglia, it becomes a tour de force.” Hoyt Hilsman, Huffington Post
”Gordon’s music amplifies her sentiments. Gentle, free-flowing melodies drive home Myrtle’s wistfulness about past pleasures and her love of nature’s beauty. When her anger flares up, Gordon’s sharply etched vocal lines pack a wallop. The music’s animation and economy enable her storytelling to move quickly.” Steven Brown,The Houston Chronicle
2011: ”Rappahannock County” — libretto by Mark Campbell, directed by Kevin Newbury, conducted by Rob Fisher…
This fictional song cycle (recorded on Naxos and published by Presser Music) inspired by diaries, letters, and personal accounts from the 1860s, premiered at the Harrison Opera House April 12th, 2011. It was co-commissioned in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War, by The Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond, Texas Performing Arts at the University of Texas in Austin, The Virginia Arts Festival, and Virginia Opera.
”The piece has the sense of a lens closing in on a spectrum of individuals and their feelings around slavery and morality in a profound and poignant way…
The acclaim accorded ”Rappahannock County” by the 2,200 people who packed Norfolk’s Harrison Opera House for the premiere made clear that Gordon and Campbell had achieved their goal.” Wes Blomster, Opera Today
2010: ”Sycamore Trees” – By Ricky Ian Gordon, Directed by Tina Landau, Book by Ricky Ian Gordon and Nina Mankin…
”Sycamore Trees” was sponsored by the Shen Family Foundation and was a recipient of The Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award. It featured Broadway’s Farah Alvin, Marc Kudisch, Judy Kuhn, Jessica Molaskey, Matthew Risch, Diane Sutherland & Tony Yazbeck.
”Sycamore Trees” is a compelling musical of suburban secrets… ” Peter Marks, The Washington Post
”If ”Sycamore Trees” were simply an autobiographical tribute to Gordon’s past, it would have limited force, but it’s aimed at the American dream itself, which gives it broader emotional resonance. With his ability to put old ideas about love, unity and community into new post-modern musical settings, full of unconventional tunes and harmonies, Gordon ultimately achieves in ”Sycamore Trees” a fresh and stimulating tribute to the thing he seems to cherish most: family — his, yours, everyone’s. ” Barbara Mackay, The Washington Examiner
Nominated for The Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding Play or Musical by The Helen Hayes Awards Organization, and won a Helen Hayes Award for Best Ensemble.
2010: ”The Grapes of Wrath” – A Two Act Concert Version of the Opera with a libretto by Michael Korie, at Carnegie Hall, directed by Eric Simonson with projections by Wendall Harrington and lighting by Francis Aronson. Narrated by Jane Fonda, with a cast that included Victoria Clark, Nathan Gunn, Christine Ebersole, Elizabeth Futral, Matthew Worth, Sean Panikkar, Stephen Powell, Steven Pasquale, Peter Halverson, Andrew Wilkowske, Madelyn Gunn, and Alex Schwartz…with The Collegiate Chorale and The American Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ted Sperling.
”It must be said that ”The Grapes of Wrath” certainly reached the audience on Monday night. The hall was packed and the ovation tumultuous.” Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times.
”…a stirring, crowd-pleasing work that left the Carnegie Hall audience cheering on its feet…
on the whole Gordon and his librettist Michael Korie have created a major new American opera, one that is likely to stand the test of time.” Eric Myers, Opera Magazine
2008: ”Green Sneakers” – A Theatrical Song Cycle for Baritone, String Quartet, and Empty Chair, with a libretto by the composer, premiered July 15th in Vail, Colorado, at the Alberto Vilar Performing Arts Center, when the composer was Composer-in-Residence at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival. Upon it’s premiere, with baritone, Jesse Blumberg, and the Miami String Quartet, it was cited a ”Masterpiece” in Opera Today, in an article entitled ”Gordon Creates Masterpiece With ”Green Sneakers,”
”It is amazing that in this his first work for string quartet Gordon has perfected an idiom that goes to the edge of tonality to create a microcosm of pain and despair that has all the markings of a contemporary Gesamtkunstwerk. Indeed, at the premier, members of the Miami String Quartet were no longer mere strings, but humanized voices that formed a seamless dramatic unity with Blumberg… With the repetition of ”Sleep Dear,” the final words of Green Sneakers, one heard in Vail a distant echo of the ”Ewig” that concludes Mahler’s monumental Abschied. For this is a song of today’s earth, a farewell lamentation that transcends death.” Wes Blomberg, Opera Today
It was subsequently done at Pittsburgh Opera in a festival of the composer’s works, on a double bill with his ”Orpheus and Euridice.” Robert Croan writing in thePittsburgh Post Gazette, called his article, ”Superb Mini-Operas Convey Heartfelt Grief.”
2007 & 2008: ”The Grapes of Wrath” – A full-scale opera with libretto by Michael Korie, premiered at the Minnesota Opera in a production that then traveled first to Utah Opera, and then to Pittsburgh Opera. Musical America called the work, ”The Great American Opera,” and Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed wrote that: ”…the greatest glory of the opera is Gordon’s ability to musically flesh out the entire 11-member Joad clan…Gordon’s other great achievement is to merge Broadway and opera… greatly enhanced by his firm control over ensembles and his sheer love for the operatic voice.” Alex Ross, writing in The New Yorker, wrote ”Gordon, who first made his name in the theatre and as a composer of Broadway-style songs, fills his score with beautifully turned genre pieces, often harking back to American popular music of the twenties and thirties: Gershwinesque song-and-dance numbers, a few sweetly soaring love songs in the manner of Jerome Kern, banjo-twanging ballads, saxed-up jazz choruses, even a barbershop quartet. You couldn’t ask for a more comfortably appointed evening of vintage musical Americana. Yet, with a slyness worthy of Weill, Gordon wields his hummable tunes to critical effect…” A Suite from the opera was premiered at Disney Hall in spring 2008 (May 18). The full opera, live from the Minnesota premiere, is available on a 3 CD set with libretto liner notes on PS Classics. Carl Fischer has published the Vocal Score as well as a Folio of 16 Arias from the Opera.
”The Grapes Of Wrath” was cited in Opera News Magazine as one of the ”Masterpieces of the 21st Century.”
2005: ”Orpheus and Euridice” – A Theatrical Song Cycle in Two Acts, premiered at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theatre as part of Great Performers, and The American Songbook Series, October 5, 2005. Directed and choreographed by Doug Varone and performed by Elizabeth Futral, Soprano, Todd Palmer, Clarinet and Melvin Chen, Piano, it won an OBIE Award and is recorded on Ghostlight Records and published by Carl Fischer Music. It was given new productions at Long Beach Opera February of 2008, Fort Worth Opera in July of 2008. Long Leaf Opera in North Carolina reprised the Lincoln Center/Doug Varone production.
”Both Gordon’s text and music are couched in an accessible idiom of disarming lyrical directness, a cleverly disguised faux naïveté that always resolves dissonant situations with grace and a sure sense of dramatic effect — the mark of a born theater composer.” Peter G. Davis, New York Magazine
”Orpheus and Euridice” was cited in Opera News Magazine as one of the ”Masterpieces of the 21th Century.”
2003: ”My Life with Albertine” – written with Richard Nelson and based on Marcel Proust’s ”Remembrance of Things Past” premiered at New York’s Playwrights Horizons (recorded on PS Classics and published by Rodgers and Hammerstein/Williamson Music, AT&T Award). It starred Kelli O’Hara, Brent Carver and Emily Skinner.
”The music swirls with regret, romance, and a sense of lost time.” Ben Brantley,The New York Times
2001: ”Bright Eyed Joy: The Music of Ricky Ian Gordon” – was presented at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall as part of the American Songbook Series. Stephen Holden, writing in the New York Times wrote of the work, ”If the music of Ricky Ian Gordon had to be defined by a single quality, it would be the bursting effervescence in fusing songs that blithely blur the lines between art song and the high-end Broadway music of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim…It’s caviar for a world gorging on pizza.” ”Bright Eyed Joy” is recorded on Nonesuch Records with vocalists including Audra McDonald, Dawn Upshaw, and Adam Guettel.
Other works include, ”Dream True,” written with Tina Landau and premiered in 1999 at The Vineyard Theater (recorded on PS Classics, Richard Rodgers Award, Jonathan Larson Foundation Award), ”States Of Independence,” (also with Ms. Landau, for The Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia (formerly The American Music Theater Festival) in 1992, and ”Only Heaven,” based on the works of Langston Hughes and premiered in 1995 at Encompass Opera (recorded on PS Classics, and published by Rodgers and Hammerstein/Williamson Music). ”The Tibetan Book of the Dead,” written with Jean Claude Van Itallie, premiered at the Houston Grand Opera in 1996 and, and ”Morning Star,” written with William Hoffman which Mr. Gordon wrote for The Lyric Opera Of Chicago, where he was a composer in residence.
Having recently completed an opera based on Giorgio Bassani’s novel, ”The Garden of the Finzi Continis” with librettist Michael Korie, Mr. Gordon is currently working on commissions from New York’s Metropolitan Opera, (”Intimate Apparel” with Playwright, Lynn Nottage) and his ”Morning Star” with librettist William M. Hoffman will premiere at Cincinnati Opera in June 2015, with Ron Daniels directing, and Christopher Allen conducting. After Renee Fleming premiered his orchestral setting of Harper’s final monologue from Tony Kushner’s ”Angels In America,” ”Night Flight To San Francisco” (which originally premiered in a piano vocal version at Lincoln Center in 2000) with conductor Sebastian Lang Lessing and The San Antonio Symphony in 2011, he set Harper’s OTHER monologue from Tony Kushner’s ”Angels In America,” the ”Antarctica” monologue.
As a teacher Mr. Gordon has taught both Master Classes and Composition Classes in Colleges and Universities throughout the country including Yale, NYU, Northwestern, Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, Catholic, Bennington, Vassar, Carnegie-Mellon, Elon, Michigan State, U of Michigan, Point Park (McGinnis Distinguished Lecturer) Texas Lutheran University, Eastman School of Music, Florida State University, Texas Christian University, and San Francisco Conservatory. He has been the featured Composer-in-Residence at various festivals including Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, The Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, The Van Cliburn Foundation, Voices of Change, Santa Fe Song Festival, Songfest at Pepperdine University, Chautauqua, Aspen Music Festival, and Ravinia.
Among his honors are an OBIE Award, the 2003 Alumni Merit Award for exceptional achievement and leadership from Carnegie-Mellon University, A Shen Family Foundation Award, the Stephen Sondheim Award, The Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Theater Foundation Award, The Constance Klinsky Award, and many awards from ASCAP, of which he is a member, The National Endowment of the Arts, and The American Music Center.
Mr. Gordon’s works are published by Williamson Music, Carl Fischer Music, and Presser Music and available everywhere.
His works are also widely recorded on various labels.
Louis Gruenberg August 3 1884 [O.S. July 22] – June 9, 1964) was a Russian-born American pianist and prolific composer, especially of operas. An early champion of Schoenberg and other contemporary composers, he was also a highly respected Oscar-nominated film composer in Hollywood in the 1940s
Life and career
He was born near Brest-Litovsk (now in Belarus but then in Russia), to Abe Gruenberg and Klara Kantarovitch. His family emigrated to the United States when he was a few months old. His father worked as a violinist in New York City. Young Louis had a talent for the piano, and by the age of eight Gruenberg was taking piano lessons with Adele Margulies at the National Conservatory in New York (then headed by Antonín Dvořák).
Gruenberg played both solo concerts and in ensembles from the beginning, and in his early twenties he went to study in Europe with Ferruccio Busoni at the Vienna Conservatory. Before World War I, Gruenberg taught students and toured, both as an accompanist and soloist.
In 1919, Gruenberg wrote The Hill of Dreams for orchestra, which gained him the highly acclaimed Flagler Prize and enabled him to devote himself more completely to composition. As Gruenberg began to make his mark as a composer, he showed his fascination with jazz, composing works with strong jazz and ragtime influences.
On February 4, 1923, Gruenberg conducted the American premiere of Pierrot Lunaire by Arnold Schoenberg as a member of the International Composers’ Guild (founded by Edgard Varèse and Carlos Salzedo in 1921). Shortly after this performance, he and other members of the league left over disagreements with Varèse and formed the League of Composers.
In its 1933 season, the Metropolitan Opera premiered his expressionistic opera The Emperor Jones, based on the major experimental the play by Eugene O’Neill which had already triumphed on Broadway with Paul Robeson playing the title role of an African-American who declares himself emperor on a Caribbean island. In the opera, the title role was created by baritone Lawrence Tibbett, performing in blackface. It was performed at the Met for the 1934 season as well, and featured on the cover of Time Magazine receiving much critical acclaim.
Paul Robeson’s 1936 film Song of Freedom also features a scene from the opera with Robeson singing the role of Jones. (This has sometimes resulted in a confusion that the 1933 film of O’Neill’s play is a film of the opera.)
Between 1933 and 1936, Gruenberg headed the composition department of Chicago Musical College (now part of Roosevelt University). He collaborated with a man nicknamed ”Roosevelt’s filmmaker,” Pare Lorentzto create ‘”The Fight for Life,” a semi-documentary film about childbirth in Chicago slums, on which John Steinbeck also collaborated.
In 1937, he moved with his family to Beverly Hills, California, where fellow League members Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky also now lived (though they never spoke). There he worked at merging music with visual media and film, and also composed for Hollywood films.
Henry Kimball Hadley (20 December 1871 – 6 September 1937) was an American composer and conductor.
Hadley was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, to a musical family. His father, from whom he received his first musical instruction in violin and piano, was a secondary school music teacher, his mother was active in church music, and his brother Arthur went on to a successful career as a professional cellist. In the Hadley home, the two brothers played string quartets with their father on viola and the composer Henry Gilbert on second violin.
Hadley also studied harmony with his father and with Stephen Emery, and, from the age of fourteen, he studied composition with the prominent American composer George Whitefield Chadwick. Under Chadwick’s tutelage, Hadley composed many works, including songs, chamber music, a musical, and an orchestral overture.
In 1893, Hadley toured with the Laura Schirmer-Mapleson Opera Company as a violinist. But he left the tour when the company encountered financial difficulties and was unable to pay his salary.
In 1894, he travelled to Vienna to further his studies with Eusebius Mandyczewski. Hadley loved the artistic atmosphere of the city, where he could attend countless concerts and operas, and where he occasionlly saw Brahms in the cafes. He heard Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony while there, and it made a strong impact on him. During this period Hadley also befriended the German-American conductor Adolf Neuendorff, who gave him advice regarding his compositions.
Howard Harold Hanson (October 28, 1896 – February 26, 1981) was an American composer, conductor, educator, music theorist, and champion of American classical music. As director for 40 years of the Eastman School of Music, he built a high-quality school and provided opportunities for commissioning and performing American music. He won aPulitzer Prize (in 1944 for his Symphony no. 4) and received numerous other awards.
Early life and education
Hanson was born in Wahoo, Nebraska, to Swedish immigrant parents, Hans and Hilma (née Eckstrom) Hanson. In his youth he studied music with his mother. Later, he studied at Luther College in Wahoo, receiving a diploma in 1911, then at the Institute of Musical Art, the forerunner of the Juilliard School, in New York City, where he studied with the composer and music theorist Percy Goetschius in 1914.
Afterward he attended Northwestern University, where he studied composition with church music expert Peter Lutkin and Arne Oldberg in Chicago. Throughout his education, Hanson studied piano, cello, and trombone. Hanson earned his BA degree in music from Northwestern in 1916, where he began his teaching career as a teacher’s assistant.
John Harris Harbison was born on December 20, 1938, in Orange, New Jersey, to the historian Elmore Harris Harbison and Janet German Harbison. The Harbisons were a musical family; Elmore had studied composition in his youth and Janet wrote songs. Harbison’s sisters Helen and Margaret were musicians as well. He won the prestigious BMI Foundation’s Student Composer Awards for composition at the age of sixteen in 1954. He studied music at Harvard University (BA 1960), where he sang with the Harvard Glee Club, and later at the Berlin Musikhochschule and at Princeton (MFA 1963). He is an Institute Professor of music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a former student of Walter Piston and Roger Sessions. His works include several symphonies, string quartets, and concerti for violin, viola, and bass viol (double bass).
He won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1987 for The Flight into Egypt, and in 1989 he received a $305,000 MacArthur Fellowship. In 1998 he was awarded the 4th Annual Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities. In 2006 a recording of his Mottetti di Montale was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Small Ensemble Performance category.
The Metropolitan Opera commissioned Harbison’s The Great Gatsby to celebrate James Levine’s 25th anniversary with the company. The opera premiered on December 20, 1999, conducted by Levine and starring Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Susan Graham, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Mark Baker, Dwayne Croft, and Richard Paul Fink.
In 1991, Harbison was the Music Director sf the Ojai Music Festival in conjunction with Peter Maxwell Davies.
Harbison was jointly commissioned by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue to write a piece for the ”Papal Concert of Reconciliation.” The event was co-officiated by the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Rav Elio Toaff, the Imam of the Mosque of Rome, Abdulawahab Hussein Gomaa, and Pope John Paul II. Abraham, a six-minute composition for brass and antiphonal choirs, had its world premiere on January 17, 2004, performed by members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and a choir made up of members of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, the London Philharmonic Choir, the Krakow Philharmonic Choir, and the Ankara Polyphonic Choir, under the baton of Sir Gilbert Levine.
Harbison was previously the principal guest conductor for Emmanuel Music in Boston; after founding director Craig Smith’s untimely death in 2007, Harbison was named Acting Artistic Director.
When asked in 1990 for his ”artistic credo” Harbison replied: ”to make each piece different from the others, to find clear, fresh large designs, to reinvent traditions.”
He is married to violinist Rose Mary Harbison (née Pederson).
Jake Heggie is the American composer of the operas Moby-Dick (libretto by Gene Scheer), Dead Man Walking (libretto by Terrence McNally), Three Decembers (Scheer), The End of the Affair (McDonald), Out of Darkness – A Holocaust Triptych (Scheer), To Hell and Back (Scheer), At the Statue of Venus (McNally), and The Radio Hour: A Choral Opera (Scheer). He is currently at work on two new stage works: Great Scott (McNally) for The Dallas Opera in 2015, and an opera based on It’s A Wonderful Life (Scheer) for the Houston Grand Opera in 2016. Heggie has also composed more than 250 art songs, as well as concerti, chamber music, choral and orchestral works, including his recent Ahab Symphony.
The operas – most created with the distinguished writers Terrence McNally and Gene Scheer – have been produced on five continents. Dead Man Walking has received more than 40 productions worldwide since its San Francisco Opera premiere in 2000 and has been recorded live twice (Erato Records in 2000 and Virgin Classics in 2011). Moby-Dick has received six international productions since its 2010 premiere at The Dallas Opera and was telecast nationally in 2013 as part of Great Performances’ 40th Anniversary Season. Moby-Dick received its East Coast premiere at the Kennedy Center in Feb 2014 with the Washington National Opera; a production from the San Francisco Opera has been released on DVD (EuroArts). It is also the subject of a book by Robert Wallace titled Heggie & Scheer’s Moby-Dick – A Grand Opera for the 21st Century (UNT Press).
Heggie was recently awarded the prestigious Eddie Medora King prize from the UT Austin Butler School of Music. A Guggenheim Fellow, he served for three years as a mentor for Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative. He is also a frequent guest artist and master teacher at universities and conservatories, including Boston University, Bucknell, Cornell, The Royal Conservatory in Toronto, University of Northern Iowa, University of North Texas, University of Colorado, USC’s Thornton School, Vanderbilt University, and at festivals such as SongFest at the Colburn School, Ravinia Festival, and VISI in Vancouver.
Jake Heggie frequently collaborates as composer and pianist with some of the world’s most loved singers, including sopranos Kiri Te Kanawa, Renée Fleming, Ailyn Pérez and Talise Trevigne; mezzo-sopranos Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Frederica von Stade and Jamie Barton; Broadway stars Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald; tenors William Burden, Stephen Costello and Jay Hunter Morris; baritones Nathan Gunn, Morgan Smith and Bryn Terfel. Directors who have championed his work include Leonard Foglia, Joe Mantello and Jack O’Brien. All of Heggie’s major opera premieres have been led by Patrick Summers; he has also worked closely with conductors John DeMain, Joseph Mechavich and Nicole Paiement.
In addition to two new operas, upcoming works include The Work At Hand: Symphonic Songs for mezzo Jamie Barton and cellist Anne Martindale Williams (Carnegie Hall and the Pittsburgh Symphony); new songs for Susan Graham (Vocal Arts DC); a new orchestration of the song cycle Camille Claudel: Into the Fire for mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and The Berkeley Symphony led by Joana Carneiro; and Stop This Day And Night With Me for The King’s Singers, the 2015 Brock Commission for the American Choral Directors Association Conference.
Jake Heggie lives in San Francisco with his husband, Curt Branom.
Artist Biography by Blair Johnston
Like most early American pioneers of serious music, James Hewitt was not born an American. Hewitt, who during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries established himself in both New York City and Boston as a successful composer-conductor and also a keen-minded publisher, was born in England on the fourth of June, 1770. He learned the violin and the organ as a young man, and after arriving in the United States in 1792 he organized a series of concerts whose programs announced that he had previously played violin in the London court orchestra under Franz Joseph Haydn. The validity of this claim has been questioned, but it certainly served its purpose: very soon after arriving in the New World, Hewitt landed a job directing music activities at the Park Street Theatre in New York. He remained with that theater until 1808, dividing his time between his conducting and composing duties and the running of a music store. In 1811 Hewitt moved to Boston, where he played organ at the Trinity Church and oversaw the music and musicians of the Federal Street Theatre. In 1817 or so it was back to New York for good, though he did travel often during his last years. He died while visiting Boston in 1827, but his musical spirit lived on through the successful musical careers of some of his children.
James Hewitt might or might not have ever played under Haydn. He definitely did, however, have a taste for the man’s music, performing and conducting it often during his early days in New York; in 1893 he presented the American premiere of Haydn’s Seven Last Words. As a composer, Hewitt was constrained by the commercial necessities of his time, and even if he had been skilled enough to compose large-scale concert music of a deep and serious kind, he never could have sold it. So the music that he did compose is largely of lighter build: stage works like the Indian Chief (1794) and the Tars from Tripoli (1807) and programmatic instrumental compositions like the Overture in Nine Parts, Expressive of a Battle (1792), represent the taste of the time. Hewitt did, however, compose a series of piano sonatas that, though hardly comparable in ingenuity with their European models, are better fare than most Americans of the day might have drawn up. He also penned several dozen songs and dances.
Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Higdon (b. Brooklyn, NY, December 31, 1962) is one of America’s most acclaimed and most frequently performed living composers. Higdon started late in music, teaching herself to play flute at the age of 15 and beginning formal musical studies at 18, with an even later start in composition at the age of 21. Despite this late beginning, she has become a major figure in contemporary Classical music and makes her living from commissions. These commissions represent a range of genres, including orchestral, chamber, choral, vocal, and wind ensemble.
Higdon holds a Ph.D. and a M.A. in Music Composition from the University of Pennsylvania, a B.M. in Flute Performance from Bowling Green State University, and an Artist Diploma in Music Composition from The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Hailed by the Washington Post as ”a savvy, sensitive composer with a keen ear, an innate sense of form and a generous dash of pure esprit,” her works have been performed throughout the world, and are enjoyed by audiences at several hundred performances a year and on over sixty CDs. Higdon’s orchestral work, blue cathedral, is one of the most performed contemporary orchestral compositions by a living American with more than 600 performances worldwide since its premiere in 2000.
Her list of commissioners and performing organizations is extensive and includes The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Chicago Symphony, The Atlanta Symphony, The Baltimore Symphony, The Boston Symphony Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, The London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Luzern Sinfonieorchester, The Hague Philharmonic, The Melbourne Symphony, The New Zealand Symphony, The Pittsburgh Symphony, The Indianapolis Symphony, The Dallas Symphony, as well as such groups as the Tokyo String Quartet, eighth blackbird, and the President’s Own Marine Band. Higdon has worked with musicians that include Nathan Gunn, Isabel Leonard, Hilary Hahn, and Yuja Wang.
Her Percussion Concerto won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition in January, 2010. Higdon also received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto, with the committee citing Higdon’s work as “a deeply engaging piece that combines flowing lyricism with dazzling virtuosity.”
Among her national honors, Higdon has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts & Letters (two awards), the Koussevitzky Foundation, the Pew Fellowship in the Arts, Meet-the-Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, and ASCAP. She was also honored by the Delaware Symphony with the A.I. DuPont Award for her contributions to the symphonic literature. Most recently, she was awarded the Distinguished Arts Award by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett.
Higdon has been a featured composer at many festivals including Aspen, Tanglewood, Vail, Norfolk, Grand Teton, and Cabrillo. She has served as Composer-in-Residence with several orchestras across the country including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Fort Worth Symphony, the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra, the Wheeling Symphony and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Higdon was also honored to serve as one of the Creative Directors of the Boundless Series for the Cincinnati Symphony’s 2012-13 season.
Higdon’s most recent project is an opera based on the best-selling novel, Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier. It was premiered to all sold-out performances by the Santa Fe Opera in August of 2015 and will travel to Opera Philadelphia, Minnesota Opera and North Carolina Opera in the next two seasons.
Dr. Higdon currently holds the Milton L. Rock Chair in Composition Studies at The Curtis Institute of Music, where she has inspired a generation of young composers and musicians. Her music is published exclusively by Lawdon Press.
For more information: www.jenniferhigdon.com
Scott Joplin c. 1867/1868 – April 1, 1917) was an African-American composer and pianist. Joplin achieved fame for his ragtime compositions and was dubbed the ”King of Ragtime Writers”. During his brief career, he wrote 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas. One of his first pieces, the ”Maple Leaf Rag”, became ragtime’s first and most influential hit, and has been recognized as the archetypal rag.
Joplin was born into a musical family of railway laborers in Northeast Texas, and developed his musical knowledge with the help of local teachers. Joplin grew up in Texarkana, where he formed a vocal quartet, and taught mandolin and guitar. During the late 1880s he left his job as a laborer with the railroad, and travelled around the American South as an itinerant musician. He went to Chicago for the World’s Fair of 1893, which played a major part in making ragtime a national craze by 1897.
Joplin moved to Sedalia, Missouri, in 1894 and earned a living as a piano teacher; there he taught future ragtime composers Arthur Marshall, Scott Hayden and Brun Campbell. Joplin began publishing music in 1895, and publication of his ”Maple Leaf Rag” in 1899 brought him fame. This piece had a profound influence on subsequent writers of ragtime. It also brought the composer a steady income for life, though Joplin did not reach this level of success again and frequently had financial problems. Joplin moved to St. Louis in 1901, where he continued to compose and publish music, and regularly performed in the St. Louis community. The score to his first opera A Guest of Honor was confiscated in 1903 with his belongings because of a non-payment of bills, and is now considered lost. He continued to compose and publish music, and in 1907 moved to New York City to find a producer for a new opera. He attempted to go beyond the limitations of the musical form that made him famous, without much monetary success. His second opera, Treemonisha, was not received well at its partially staged performance in 1915.
In 1916 Joplin descended into dementia as a result of syphilis. He was admitted to a mental institution in January 1917, and died there three months later at the age of 49. Joplin’s death is widely considered to mark the end of ragtime as a mainstream music format, and in the next several years it evolved with other styles into stride, jazz, and eventually big band swing. His music was rediscovered and returned to popularity in the early 1970s with the release of a million-selling album recorded by Joshua Rifkin. This was followed by the Academy Award–winning 1973 movie The Sting that featured several of his compositions including ”The Entertainer”. The opera Treemonisha was finally produced in full to wide acclaim in 1972. In 1976, Joplin was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize.
LORI LAITMAN is one of America’s most prolific and widely performed composers of vocal music. She has composed three operas, an oratorio, choral works and over 250 songs, setting the words of classical and contemporary poets, among them the lost voices of poets who perished in the Holocaust. The Journal of Singing has written: “It is difficult to think of anyone before the public today who equals her exceptional gifts for embracing a poetic text and giving it new and deeper life through music.”
The Three Feathers, Laitman’s one-act children’s opera with librettist Dana Gioia (past Chairman of The National Endowment for the Arts) was commissioned by the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech and produced in conjunction with VA Tech, Opera Roanoke and Blacksburg Children’s Chorale. The opera, based on a Grimm’s fairy tale, premiered on October 17, 2014 in a production directed by Beth Greenberg and conducted by Scott Williamson.
Opera Colorado will present the professional premiere of Laitman’s opera The Scarlet Letter in May 2016. Elizabeth Futral, Dominic Armstrong and Malcolm MacKenzie will star in a production directed by Greenberg and conducted by Ari Pelto. The libretto, based on the Hawthorne classic, is by Colorado’s former Poet Laureate, David Mason. Laitman and Mason are currently developing the opera Ludlow, based on Mason’s award-winning verse novel about the 1914 Colorado mining town disaster. They also collaborated on Vedem, a Holocaust oratorio commissioned by Music of Remembrance. The work premiered in Seattle in May 2010, and Naxos released it on CD in 2011. Of the recording, Fanfare Magazine wrote: “A most touching experience, and one that further confirms Laitman’s status as one of the most talented and intriguing of living composers.” Laitman continues to work with Music of Remembrance, and her latest commission, In Sleep The World Is Yours, sets the poetry of Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger in a cycle for soprano, oboe and piano. The work premiered in May 2014 and will be released on Naxos in 2015.
Laitman’s music has steadily gained recognition, both in the U.S. and abroad. In 2012, she was commissioned by Opera America to compose a song for The Opera America Songbook in celebration of the opening of the National Opera Center in NYC. The National Museum of Women in the Arts presented Laitman’s works on The Shenson Series. The Washington Master Chorale commissioned and premiered her Dickinson choral song cycle, The Earth and I, subsequently released on the Albany label. Austrian baritone Wolfgang Holzmair commissioned and premiered Todesfuge Songs with cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton in New York, Washington, DC and at Wigmore Hall in London. Laitman’s music was featured on Thomas Hampson’s Song of America radio series and website, and she is included in The Grove Dictionary of American Music.
Albany Records has released Laitman’s four solo CDs. Her latest, Within These Spaces, garnered exceptional praise: “One hundred years hence, when critics look back at the arts songs of our era, there will be many fine composers to laud and applaud, but few will deserve higher praise than Lori Laitman.” (Journal of Singing); “This is music of depth and richness that connects with the soul.” (American Record Guide); “Her affinity for the voice…is beyond doubt…her songs represent outpourings of great beauty.” (Fanfare Magazine)
Marvin David Levy (August 2, 1932 – February 9, 2015) was an American composer, best known for his opera Mourning Becomes Electra.
Mourning Becomes Electra was given its world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in 1967. Although deemed a failure at the time, the work was revived in 1998 in a revised version by the composer to a triumphant success at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.The New York City Opera and the Seattle Opera staged the work in 2003, and the Florida Grand Opera staged the opera in 2013.
A disc featuring Canto de los Marranos (Song of the Marranos) and excerpts from Shir Shel Moshe (Song of Moses) was issued as part of the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music by Naxos in 2004.
The Passaic, New Jersey-born Levy died in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on February 9, 2015, aged 82.
David T. Little (born October 25, 1978) is an American composer and drummer known for his orchestral and operatic works, most notably his opera Dog Days which was named a standout opera of recent decades by The New York Times. He is the artistic director of Newspeak, an eight-piece amplified ensemble that explores the boundaries between rock and classical music, and is a member of the composition faculty at Shenandoah University.
David T. Little’s music has been performed throughout the world—including in Dresden, London, Edinburgh, LA, Montreal, and at the Tanglewood, Aspen, MATA Festival and Cabrillo Festival—by such performers as the London Sinfonietta, eighth blackbird, So Percussion, ensemble courage, Dither, NOW Ensemble, PRISM Quartet, the New World Symphony, American Opera Projects, the New York City Opera, the Grand Rapids Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Marin Alsop. He has received awards and recognition from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Meet The Composer, the American Music Center, the Harvey Gaul Competition, BMI, and ASCAP, and has received commissions from Carnegie Hall, the Baltimore Symphony, the Albany Symphony, the New World Symphony, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the University of Michigan, and Dawn Upshaw’s Vocal Arts program at the Bard Conservatory.
Recent and upcoming projects include the opera Dog Days (Robert Woodruff, director; Royce Vavrek, librettist),Haunt of Last Nightfall for Third Coast Percussion, RADIANT CHiLD for the New World Symphony, Conspiracy Theory for Darcy James Argue’e Secret Society–a new music big band–and new works for Nadia Sirota, Kathleen Supové, Lisa Moore/Ashley Bathgate, and the Baltimore Symphony under Marin Alsop. His and the sky was still there was recently released Todd Reynold’s Outerborough, on Innova records.
In 2004, Little founded the amplified octet Newspeak, for which he is also the drummer and artistic director. Hailed as “potent” (TheRestIsNoise.com), “innovative” (New York Magazine), and “fierce” (Time Out New York), Newspeak explores the relationship of music and politics, while confronting head-on the boundaries between the classical and the rock traditions. A New Amsterdam Records artist, Newspeak released its first CD of commissioned works in November 2010, to critical acclaim. “You could call this punk classical,” one critic proclaimed, noting that the disc is “fearlessly aware, insightfully political (and) resolutely defiant.”
Little holds degrees from Susquehanna University (2001), The University of Michigan (2002) and Princeton University (PhD, 2011), and his primary teachers have included Osvaldo Golijov, Paul Lansky, Steven Mackey, William Bolcom, and Michael Daugherty. He has taught music in New York City through Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections program, served as the inaugural Digital Composer-in-Residence for the UK-based DilettanteMusic.com, and was recently appointed as the Executive Director of New York’s MATA Festival.
Little’s follow-up to Dog Days with librettist Royce Vavrek is a grand opera commissioned by Fort Worth Opera and American Lyric Theater that focuses on the night before John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. The work is set to premiere in Fort Worth, Texas in 2016.
Gian Carlo Menotti July 7, 1911 – February 1, 2007 was an Italian-American composer and librettist. Although he often referred to himself as an American composer, he kept his Italian citizenship. He wrote the classic Christmas opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, along with over two dozen other operas intended to appeal to popular taste.
He won the Pulitzer Prize twice, for The Consul (1950) and for The Saint of Bleecker Street (1955). He founded the noted Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of the Two Worlds) in Spoleto in 1958 and its American counterpart, Spoleto Festival USA, in 1977. In 1986 he commenced a Melbourne Spoleto Festival in Australia, but he withdrew after three years.
Menotti died on February 1, 2007, at the age of 95 in a hospital in Monte Carlo, Monaco, where he had a home.
Douglas Stuart Moore (August 10, 1893 – July 25, 1969) was an American composer, educator, and author. He wrote music for the theater, film, ballet and orchestra, but his greatest fame is associated with his operas The Devil and Daniel Webster (1938) and The Ballad of Baby Doe (1956).
Moore was born in Cutchogue, Long Island, New York, and his ancestors can be traced back to the first settlers arriving to Long Island. He was an alumnus of the Fessenden School, the Hotchkiss School and Yale University. Moore earned two degrees from Yale University, a B.A. in 1915, then a B.Mus in 1917.
Moore served in the Navy as a lieutenant, after which he studied music with Nadia Boulanger, Vincent d’Indy and Ernest Bloch in Paris.
Moore served as president of the National Institute and American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1953 – 1956. He had been a member since 1941.
In 1921, Moore went to Cleveland as Director of Music at the Cleveland Museum of Art, during which he studied with Ernest Bloch at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and performed in plays at The Cleveland Play House. He made his debut as a composer and conductor in 1923 conducting his Four Museum Pieces with the Cleveland Orchestra. In 1926, Moore joined the music faculty at Columbia University, where he remained until his retirement in 1962. He was an effective and appreciated teacher whose genial manner made him popular amongst students.
His teaching often included studies of contemporary music and at one point invited Béla Bartók for a small seminar in one of his classes. In 1954 he was a co-founder, with Otto Luening and Oliver Daniel, of the CRI (Composers Recordings, Inc.) record label.
Apart from classical compositions, Moore also composed several popular songs whilst at Yale together with poet and Hotchkiss School mate Archibald MacLeish and later in collaboration with John Jacob Niles. These songs were later published in 1921 under the collective title ”Songs my Mother never taught Me”. He later collaborated with fellow Yale alumnus Stephen Vincent Benet on the folk opera The Devil and Daniel Webster.
He wrote two books on music, Listening to Music (1932) and From Madrigal to modern Music (1942).
Moore lived his entire life in the family home Salt Meadow in Cutchogue, where his studio faced a tidal inlet. Douglas Moore died in the Eastern Long Island Hospital in the neighboring village of Greenport in 1969.
Paul Moravec (born November 2, 1957, in Buffalo, New York) is an American composer and a University Professor at Adelphi University on Long Island, New York. Already a prolific composer, he has been described as a ”new tonalist.” He is best known for his work Tempest Fantasy, which received the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Music.
Moravec was born in Buffalo, New York and subsequently attended the Lawrenceville School, graduating in 1975. He received his B.A. in composition from Harvard University in 1980; while there, he performed with the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, one of the Holden Choirs. He won the Prix de Rome and studied at the American Academy in Rome after graduating. He then received the Master of Music (1982) and Doctor of Musical Arts (1987) in composition, both from Columbia University.
Moravec has taught at Dartmouth College (1987–96) and Hunter College (1997–98). He suffered from clinically diagnosed depression that reached a zenith during the time immediately surrounding his departure from Dartmouth College, and underwent electroshock therapy. He is currently a University Professor in the music department at Adelphi University, and has contributed to what the New York Times has called a ”renaissance” in a college that went through academic and financial difficulties in the 1990s.
In 2004, Moravec received the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his work Tempest Fantasy. This prestigious award raised Moravec’s profile significantly, and he was appointed to several residencies. He was named the new honorary composer-member of the New York Composers Circle in September, 2006.He was also appointed the composer in residence for the 2007-2008 academic year at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.
In addition to his Pulitzer Prize, Moravec has received a Composer Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship, and the Charles Ives Prize and Goddard Lieberson Awards in American Composition.
He has been commissioned by such ensembles as the Dessoff Choirs, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, and the Harvard Glee Club.
His best-known pieces include the Pulitzer-winning, Shakespeare-inspired Tempest Fantasy, a 30-minute chamber work scored for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano, which was premiered on May 2, 2003, at the Morgan Library in New York City by David Krakauer and Trio Solisti, for whom it was written;Northern Lights Electric, a 1994 work that combines a musical illustration of the Northern Lights with a musical depiction of electric light; and the 1998 cantata Fire/Ice/Air, which contrasts the journeys of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, on his expedition to the Antarctic, and Charles Lindbergh, on his trans-Atlantic flight. An oratorio, Blizzard Voices, about the Schoolhouse Blizzard of 1888, was commissioned by Opera Omaha and was premiered there in September 2008. He collaborated with Terry Teachout on The Letter, an opera based on the 1927 play by W. Somerset Maugham that was premiered in 2009 by the Santa Fe Opera.
Nico Muhly (b. 1981) is a composer of chamber music, orchestral music, sacred music, opera, ballet, and music for collaborators across a variety of fields. He has been commissioned by St. Paul’s Cathedral and Carnegie Hall, and has written choral music for the Tallis Scholars and the Hilliard Ensemble, songs for Anne Sofie von Otter and Iestyn Davies, an encore for violinist Hilary Hahn, and a viola concerto for Nadia Sirota. The Metropolitan Opera recently commissioned him to compose Marnie for its 2019-2020 season, based on Winston Graham’s 1961 novel that was adapted into an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
Muhly has scored ballets for choreographer Benjamin Millepied, including the most recent work for Paris Opera Ballet, and films including The Reader, Kill Your Darlings, and Me, Earl And The Dying Girl, in addition to arranging music by Antony & the Johnsons and the National. His debut CD Speak Volumes (2007) was the first of many collaborations with the artists of Reykjavik’s Bedroom Community label, and with singer/songwriter Thomas Bartlett (Doveman), he is half of the gamelan-inspired song project Peter Pears. He lives in New York City.
Horatio William Parker (September 15, 1863 – December 18, 1919) was an American composer, organist and teacher. He was a central figure in musical life in New Haven,Connecticut in the late 19th century, and is best remembered as the undergraduate teacher of Charles Ives while the composer attended Yale University.
He was born in Auburndale, Massachusetts. His earliest lessons were with his mother. He then studied in Boston with George Whitefield Chadwick, Stephen A. Emery and John Orth. He finished his formal education in Europe, a common destination for a young American composer in the 1880s, where he studied in Munich with Josef Rheinberger; also in Munich he composed his first significant works, including asymphony and a dramatic cantata.
After his return to the United States in 1885, he was for two years professor of music in the Cathedral School of St. Paul in Garden City, Long Island. From 1888 to 1893, he was organist of Trinity Church, New York City, and from 1893 to 1901 organist of Trinity Church, Boston. In 1893, Parker became Battell Professor of the theory of music at Yale University. He was appointed Dean of Music at that school in 1904, a position which he held for the rest of his life. The University of Cambridge bestowed on him the honorary degree Doctor of Music (Mus.Doc.) in May 1902. On December 30, 1915, he was elected as a national honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity, the national fraternity for men in music. Parker died in Cedarhurst, New York.
Thomas Pasatieri (born New York, United States, October 20, 1945) is an American opera composer.
He began composing at age 10 and, as a teenager, studied with Nadia Boulanger. He entered the Juilliard School at age 16 and eventually became the school’s first recipient of a doctoral degree.
Pasatieri has taught composition at the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. From 1980 through 1984, he held the post of Artistic Director at Atlanta Opera.
He has composed 24 operas, the best known of which is The Seagull, composed in 1972. Two of his operas were premiered in 2007: Frau Margot by the Fort Worth Opera and The Hotel Casablanca in San Francisco. Other popular operas include La Divina and Signor Deluso.
In 1984, Pasatieri moved to Los Angeles, California, where he formed his film music production company, Topaz Productions. His film orchestrations can be heard in Billy Bathgate, Road to Perdition, American Beauty, The Little Mermaid, The Shawshank Redemption, Fried Green Tomatoes, Legends of the Fall, Thomas Newman’s Angels in America and Scent of a Woman, among many others. In 2003, Pasatieri returned to New York to continue his concert and opera career.
Composer and pianist Jack Perla is active in opera, jazz, chamber, and symphonic music. His operas and instrumental compositions have been widely performed, and he has performed in the U.S., Europe, and Japan, forging a reputation for his unique cross-fertilization of jazz and classical music. Perla has been commissioned by Los Angeles Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Houston Grand Opera, Seattle Opera, and the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition. He is also recipient of the Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Composers Award, as well as awards, support, and recognition from the Argosy Fund for New Music, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and numerous other organizations. Perla is currently working on a commission from Opera Theater of Saint Louis for a full-length opera based on Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown, which will premiere in 2016. Enormous Changes, Perla’s third jazz recording, was released in July on Seattle-based Origin records. Pretty Boy, a new disc of chamber and vocal music, is slated for release in fall of 2015. Perla grew up in Brooklyn and lived in New York City while attending NYU and the Manhattan School of Music. He earned his DMA in composition from the Yale School of Music, and lives and works in San Francisco.
At Seattle Opera in 2015/16: An American Dream
Seattle Opera Debut – See more here
– See more here
Swedish born composer and multi-instrumentalist Stig Jonas Pettersson resides in Los Angeles where he composes, teaches and performs music with members of his chamber group The Krysalis Ensemble, consisting of some of the finest musicians on the West Coast.
Over the last ten years he has written and recorded an impressive catalogue of works including ballets, operas, art songs, instrumental suites and free standing pieces of great variety released and performed to great reviews and acclaim.
In addition to music, S.J. Pettersson is an accomplished photographer, film maker, designer, librettist, scenographer and choreographer, overseeing each individual detail of his works from the composing, arranging, production to the design and performances of his numerous works. His polystylistic and anachronistic style draws influences from the entire spectrum of musical history and breathes fresh air into the world of Classical Music. Please visit the individual pages of his recorded works and sample his music there and on, on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, YouTube and numerous other sites and online music channels.
Conductor, composer and pianist André Previn has received a number of awards and honors for his outstanding musical accomplishments, including both the Austrian and German Cross of Merit, and the Glenn Gould Prize. He is the recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Kennedy Center, the London Symphony Orchestra, Gramophone Classic FM, and this year was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy. He has also received several Grammy awards for recordings, including the CD of his violin concerto ”Anne-Sophie” and Bernstein’s Serenade featuring Anne-Sophie Mutter together with the Boston and London Symphony orchestras.
A regular guest with the world’s major orchestras, both in concert and on recordings, André Previn frequently works with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic. In addition, he has held chief artistic posts with such orchestras as the Houston Symphony, London Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony and Royal Philharmonic orchestras. In 2009, André Previn was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra.
As a pianist, André Previn enjoys recording and performing song recitals, chamber music and jazz. He has given recitals with Renée Fleming at Lincoln Center and with Barbara Bonney at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. He regularly gives chamber music concerts with Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lynn Harrell, as well as with members of the Boston Symphony and London Symphony orchestras, and the Vienna Philharmonic.
André Previn has enjoyed a number of successes as a composer. His first opera, A Streetcar Named Desire, was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque. Recent highlights include the premiere of his Double Concerto for Violin and Double Bass for Anne-Sophie Mutter and Roman Patkoló, premiered by the Boston Symphony in 2007. His Harp Concerto commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony premiered in 2008; his work ”Owls”, was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2008; his second opera, ”Brief Encounter”, commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera premiered in 2009; and his double concerto for violin and viola, written for Anne-Sophie Mutter and Yuri Bashmet, received its premiere in 2009.
For his 80th birthday celebrations in 2009, Carnegie Hall presented four concerts which showcased the diversity of his career. Other highlights this season include concerts with the Leipzig Gewandhaus, London Symphony Orchestra, Dresden Philharmonic, and the Czech Philharmonic at the Prague Spring Festival.
André Previn records for Deutsche Grammophon. His music is published by G Schirmer, Inc and Chester Music Ltd.
Gunther Alexander Schuller – kompositör (November 22, 1925 – June 21, 2015) was an American composer, conductor, horn player, author, historian and jazz musician.
Biography and works
Schuller was born in Queens, New York City, the son of German parents Elsie (Bernartz) and Arthur E. Schuller, a violinist with the New York Philharmonic. He studied at the Saint Thomas Choir School and became an accomplished French horn player and flute player. At age 15 he was already playing horn professionally with the American Ballet Theatre (1943) followed by an appointment as principal hornist with theCincinnati Symphony Orchestra (1943–45), and then the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York, where he stayed until 1959. During his youth, he attended the Precollege Division at the Manhattan School of Music, later going on to teach at the school.But, already a high school dropout because he wanted to play professionally, Schuller never obtained a degree from any institution.He began his career in jazz by recording as a horn player with Miles Davis (1949–50).
Performance and growth
In 1955, Schuller and jazz pianist John Lewis founded the Modern Jazz Society,which gave its first concert at Town Hall, New York, the same year and later became known as the Jazz and Classical Music Society. While lecturing at Brandeis University in 1957, he coined the term ”Third Stream” to describe music that combines classical and jazz techniques.He became an enthusiastic advocate of this style and wrote many works according to its principles, among them Transformation (1957, for jazz ensemble),Concertino (1959, for jazz quartet and orchestra), Abstraction (1959, for nine instruments), and Variants on a Theme of Thelonious Monk (1960, for 13 instruments) utilizing Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman. In 1966, he composed the opera The Visitation. He also orchestrated Scott Joplin’s only known surviving operaTreemonisha for the Houston Grand Opera’s premiere production of this work in 1975.
William Grant Still (May 11, 1895 – December 3, 1978) was an American composer, who in his lifetime composed more than 150 pieces of music, including 5 symphonies and 8 operas.
Often referred to as ”the Dean” of African-American composers, Still was the first American born composer of any race to have an opera produced by a major opera company. He was the first African American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony (his first symphony) performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television. His first symphony was also at one the time the most widely performed symphony by an American composer.
Born in Mississippi, he grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, attended Wilberforce University and Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and was a student of George Whitefield Chadwick and later Edgard Varèse.
William Grant Still was born on May 11, 1895 in Woodville, Mississippi. He was the son of two teachers, Carrie Lena Fambro Still (1872–1927) and William Grant Still Sr.(1871–1895). His father was a partner in a grocery store and performed as a local bandleader. William Grant Still Sr. died when his infant son was three months old.
Still’s mother moved with him to Little Rock, Arkansas, where she taught high school English for 33 years. She met and married Charles B. Shepperson, who nurtured his stepson William’s musical interests by taking him to operettas and buying Red Seal recordings of classical music, which the boy greatly enjoyed. The two attended a number of performances by musicians on tour. His maternal grandmother sang African-American spirituals to him.
Still grew up in Little Rock, and started violin lessons at the age of 15. He taught himself to play the clarinet, saxophone, oboe, double bass, cello and viola, and showed a great interest in music. At 16 he graduated from M. W. Gibbs High School in Little Rock.
His mother wanted him to go to medical school, so Still pursued a Bachelor of Science degree program at Wilberforce University, a historically black college in Ohio. Still became a member of Kappa Alpha Psifraternity. He conducted the university band, learned to play various instruments, and started to compose and to do orchestrations.
He was awarded scholarships to study at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music with Friedrick Lehmann and with George Whitefield Chadwick. He also studied with the modern composer Edgard Varèse.
Still was married to pianist Verna Arvey. Their granddaughter is journalist Celeste Headlee.
Joseph Deems Taylor (December 22, 1885 – July 3, 1966) was an American composer, music critic, and promoter of classical music. Nat Benchley, co-editor of The Lost Algonquin Roundtable, referred to him as ”the dean of American music.”
Early life and family
Deems Taylor was born in New York City to JoJo and Katherine Taylor. He attended New York University.
Taylor married three times. His first wife was Jane Anderson. They married in 1910 and divorced in 1918. In 1921, he married Mary Kennedy, who was an actress and a writer. They had a daughter, Joan Kennedy Taylor, in 1926, and divorced in 1934. Taylor married his third and final wife, costume designer Lucille Watson-Little, in 1945. They divorced eight years later.
Taylor initially planned to become an architect;however, despite minimal musical training he soon took to music composition. The result was a series of works for orchestra and/or voices. In 1916 he wrote the cantata The Chambered Nautilus, followed by Through the Looking-Glass (for orchestra) in 1918, earning him public praise and recognition.
In 1921 Taylor secured a job as music critic for the New York World, a post he held when approached by the Metropolitan Opera to suggest a composer to write a new opera. He put forth his own name, and was accepted, the result being The King’s Henchman, with the libretto by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Peter Ibbetson followed in 1929.
Taylor’s compositions were met with great initial enthusiasm. The number of Metropolitan Opera performances for The King’s Henchman and Peter Ibbetson is greater than any opera of any other American composer, and he had as many large-scale works published as any of his American-born contemporaries. Taylor’s music is often witty, always deftly formed, well-timed, and entertaining. The basic style of even his later works is academically post-Romantic, resisting any influence of progressive trends except perhaps in orchestration. This conservatism, lacking sharp individual profile or sense of deep conviction, may help to explain the initial enthusiastic acceptance of Taylor’s work but may also explain the fact that his music was virtually forgotten soon afterward.
Virgil Thomson (November 25, 1896 – September 30, 1989) was an American composer and critic. He was instrumental in the development of the ”American Sound” in classical music. He has been described as a modernist, a neoclassicist, a composer of ”an Olympian blend of humanity and detachment”whose ”expressive voice was always carefully muted” until his late opera Lord Byron which, in contrast to all his previous work, exhibited an emotional content that rises to ”moments of real passion”, and a neoromantic.
Virgil Thomson was born in Kansas City, Missouri. As a child, he befriended Alice Smith, great-granddaughter of Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter-day Saint movement. After World War I, he entered Harvard University thanks to a loan from Dr. Fred M. Smith, the president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and father of Alice Smith. His tours of Europe with the Harvard Glee Club helped nurture his desire to return there. At Harvard, Thomson focused his studies on the piano work of Erik Satie. He studied in Paris on fellowship for a year, and after graduating, lived in Paris from 1925-40. He eventually studied with Nadia Boulanger and became a fixture of ”Paris in the twenties.”
His most important friend from this period was Gertrude Stein, who was an artistic collaborator and mentor to him. Following the publication of his book, The State of Music, he established himself in New York City as a peer of Aaron Copland, and was also a music critic for the New York Herald-Tribune from 1940-54.
His writings on music, and his reviews of performances in particular, are noted for their wit and their independent judgments. His definition of music was famously ”that which musicians do,” and his views on music are radical in their insistence on reducing the rarefied aesthetics of music to market activity. He even went so far as to claim that the style a piece was written in could be most effectively understood as a consequence of its income source.
Stewart Wallace was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but grew up in Texas. The radical mix of jazz, blues, gospel, Tejano, rock and classical music there profoundly influenced him.
He played in a rock and roll band and sang as a cantor in the synagogue.
For his thesis at the University of Texas at Austin, he wrote his first opera, though he was studying literature and philosophy, not music; and at 28 years old, he had his first major premiere Where’s Dick? at Houston Grand Opera.
This was the beginning of his fruitful and ongoing collaboration with librettist Michael Korie. Like many subsequent Wallace works, Where’s Dick? wrestles with the myth of America and its politics, in this case seen through a series of comic book grotesques doing vaudeville turns.
Now forty-four years old, the versatile composer has written music in every genre with performances throughout the world.
Harvey Milk, Wallace’s fifth full-length opera and most widely known score, was commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera, New York City Opera and San Francisco Opera.
With a libretto by Michael Korie and directed by Christopher Alden, the January 1995 world premiere in Houston played to sold-out houses and was discussed and debated in every major American and European newspaper, Time, Newsweek, Vanity Fair and CNN.
In fact, the term ”CNN Opera” was coined for Harvey Milk by critic Peter G. Davis. Though at first it was meant disparagingly, Davis praised the opera’s premiere and, for better or worse, the name stuck. The Washington Post said, ”Harvey Milk is an astounding achievement – lively, artful, tough-minded American music-drama, deeply satisfying to ear, eye and mind.”
The original Christopher Alden production was then seen in New York and San Francisco. In 1996, a new production of the opera in German premiered in Dortmund.
Reviewing the Teldec CD with Donald Runnicles conducting the San Francisco Opera, France’s Diapason called Harvey Milk ”truly staggering.”
Returning to San Francisco by way of China, his next opera is based on Amy Tan’s bestselling novel The Bonesetter’s Daughter with Tan collaborating on the libretto with Michael Korie. The opera takes place in China right before the Communist revolution and is framed by the forgotten memories of an elderly Chinese mother in present-day San Francisco.
Chen Shi-Zheng, whose 19 hour production of Peony Pavilion was internationally acclaimed, will direct. In September 2005, Jessye Norman will make her Chinese debut premiering the first aria from the opera in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The Bonesetter’s Daughter will premiere in 2008 in both the United States and China.
Wallace’s first collaboration with Korie is now set to become the first ever feature-length animated opera. Inspired by comic strips, detective fiction, film noir and the rampant greed of the go-go eighties, Where’s Dick? premiered in May 1989 at the Houston Grand Opera with Richard Foreman directing and John DeMain conducting.
Robert Eugene Ward (September 13, 1917 – April 3, 2013) was an American composer.
Ward was born in Cleveland, Ohio, one of five children of the owner of a moving and storage company. He sang in church choirs and local opera theaters when he was a boy. His earliest extant compositions date to 1934,at a time he was attending John Adams High School, from which he graduated in 1935. After that, Ward attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where his composition teachers were Bernard Rogers, Howard Hanson and Edward Royce. Ward received a fellowship and attended the Juilliard School of Music in New York from 1939 to 1942, where he studied composition with Frederick Jacobi, orchestration with Bernard Wagenaar, and conducting with Albert Stoessel and Edgar Schenkman. In the summer of 1941 he studied under Aaron Copland at the Berkshire Music Center in Massachusetts.
From his student days to the end of World War II, Ward produced about forty compositions, of which eleven he later withdrew. Most of those early works are small scale, songs and pieces for piano or chamber ensembles. He completed his First Symphony in 1941, which won the Juilliard Publication Award the following year. Around that time, Ward also wrote a number of reviews and other articles for the magazine Modern Music and served on the faculty of Queens College.
In February 1942 Ward joined the U.S. Army, and attended the Army Music School at Fort Myer, being assigned the military occupational specialty of band director. At Fort Riley, Kansas, he wrote a major part of the score to a musical revue called The Life of Riley. Ward was assigned to the 7th Infantry and sent to the Pacific. For the 7th Infantry Band he wrote a March, and for its dance band he wrote at least two jazz compositions.
During his military service Ward met Mary Raymond Benedict, a Red Cross recreation worker. They married on June 19, 1944, and had five children; Melinda, Jonathon, Mark, Johanna and Tim.
Affectionately referred to by Elton John as “the greatest songwriter on the planet” and praised by the New York Times for his “genuine originality,” Rufus Wainwright has established himself as one of the great male vocalists and songwriters of his generation. The New York-born, Montreal-raised singer songwriter has released seven studio albums, three DVDs, and three live albums, including the fantastic Grammy nominated Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall, which captured his celebrated Judy Garland tribute performance at the London Palladium in 2007, and the album Release The Stars which went Gold in Canada and the U.K. Rufus has received Juno Awards for Best Alternative Album in 1999 and 2002 for Rufus Wainwright and Poses, respectively, and nominations for his albums Want Two (2005) and Release the Stars (2008). He was nominated for Songwriter of the Year in 2008 for his Release the Stars album. He also composed the original music for choreographer Stephen Petronio’s work BLOOM which has toured across the country. Musically Rufus has collaborated with artists including Elton John, David Byrne, Boy George, Joni Mitchell, Pet Shop Boys and producer Mark Ronson among others. His most recent collaboration is on the title track of Robbie Williams’ latest album, Swings Both Ways, which was co-written with renowned musician and producer Guy Chambers and sung as a duet between Rufus and Robbie. In addition to being a celebrated contemporary pop singer, Rufus has made a name for himself in the classical world. His much acclaimed first opera, titled Prima Donna, premiered at the Manchester International Festival in July 2009. The opera was subsequently performed in London at Sadler’s Wells in April 2010, in Toronto at the Luminato Festival in June 2010 and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House in February 2012. Now fully established as a composer of operas, Rufus has been commissioned by the Canadian Opera Company to write his second opera based on the story of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and Antinous. The new opera will premiere in Toronto in October 2018. Rufus has also distinguished himself by playing original orchestrated pop songs and pieces from an extensive classical repertoire with well-respected opera singers and orchestras around the world. Wainwright was commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony to compose “Five Shakespeare Sonnets,” a five-movement suite that sets the texts from selected Shakespearian “Sonnets” to orchestra and voice. “Five Shakespeare Sonnets” premiered in the US in 2010 and debuted in the UK in 2012 with the sixty-piece BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rory MacDonald. Rufus worked on a theatrical adaption of “Five Shakespeare Sonnets” with the famed director Robert Wilson at the Berliner Ensemble in 2009. Other recent achievements include the 2012 world premiere of Sing Me The Songs That Say I Love You: A Concert for Kate McGarrigle, the feature length music documentary starring Rufus, Martha Wainwright and their family and directed by Lian Lunson. The film captures the May 2011 tribute concert honoring Rufus’ late mother, the great singer songwriter Kate McGarrigle. Nonesuch Records released a record, Sing Me The Songs That Say I Love You: Celebrating the Works of Kate McGarrigle which included songs from the movie as well as selections from the three tribute concerts for Kate given in London, New York and Toronto and featuring performances by Rufus, Martha, Anna McGarrigle, Emmylou Harris, Richard and Linda Thompson and many others. The movie and the record are both available on iTunes and Amazon. In 2014, Universal Records released Vibrate: The Best of Rufus Wainwright, a new career-spanning collection that features eighteen standout songs defining one of music’s most innovative talents. Included in the collection are three brand new recordings, “Me and Liza”, “Chic and Pointless” and “WWIII.” Also released on CD and Blu-ray is Rufus Wainwright: Live from the Artists Den which captures Rufus’ inspired performance at New York City’s Church of the Ascension in 2012. Rufus recently completed his PledgeMusic campaign to record Prima Donna: The Album, a studio recording of his first opera with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He describes, “It is vitally important to me that Prima Donna be properly recorded and released so that I can tour a concert version of it in the coming year, and I have decided to do this with the help of both PledgeMusic and the incredible BBC Symphony Orchestra which in turn requires your generous support.” Rufus chose the PledgeMusic direct-to-fan platform so his supporters can partake in the album-making process through behind the scenes updates and exclusive views into the creative journey, which will see Prima Donna released on CD and vinyl.
Clarence Cameron White (August 10, 1880 – June 30, 1960) was an African-American neoromantic composer and concert violinist. Dramatic works by the composer were his best-known, such as the incidental music for the play Tambour and the opera Ouanga. During the first decades of the twentieth century, White was considered the foremost violinist of his race. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Born in Clarksville, Tennessee to James W. White, a doctor and school principal, and Jennie Scott White, a violinist who studied at Oberlin Conservatory of Music. His father died when he was only two years old.
White received his musical training in Oberlin, Ohio at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music where he was the only black student in the orchestra. In Washington, D.C., he attended Howard University from 1894–1895. At age eight he studied violin, first with Will Marion Cook and then he continued his studies with Martin Legowitz at age Twelve. He attended Oberlin Conservatory of Music 1896–1901, but before graduating he accepted a teaching position. As a teacher, he began teaching in the DC public schools and then quickly, in 1903 moved on to the Washington Conservatory of Music where he taught until 1907. His musical education continued later at the Hartford School of Music.
On April 24, 1905, he married the former Beatrice Warrick.To this union were born two children:
- William Warrick White (March 27, 1906–?)
- Clarence Cameron White, Jr. (March 11, 1908–January 30, 1913
White was a protégé of Emma Azalia Hackley who raised money for his scholarship to allow him to study abroad. Traveling to London, he studied music with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor in 1906; he returned to the city again from 1908 to 1910 to study with M. Zacharewitsch. From 1924 to 1930, he continued teaching at Virginia State College and then at the Hampton Institute (1932—1935). In this period he wrote his best-known works: the ballet, A Night in Sans Souci—from the play Tambour, and the opera Ouanga. The lead role in Ouanga had been performed by baritone Lawrence Winters. These works are based on Haitian themes working with playwright and librettist John Matheus. During the period of 1930–1932, he studied with Raoul Laparra in Paris.
His compositions began as neoromantic pieces that were conventional for the period. ‘Negro’ folk music then served as an inspirational source. The early output of the composer included violin compositions and spiritual arrangements such as Forty Negro Spirituals (1927) and Traditional Negro Spirituals (1940). As he matured, the forms utilized by the composer became more varied. The 1954 Benjamin Award was presented to him for Elegy, a composition for orchestra. He also used decidedly ‘Negro’ themes for his string quartet and other chamber music. As a concert violinist he received critical praise. Often he toured throughout the United States, accompanied by his first wife of 36 years, pianist Beatrice Warrick White. Beatrice died at their home in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in October 1942; they had two sons who predeceased their mother. White soon moved to New York City and in 1943 remarried to Pura Belpré.
Called “blazingly ardent and softly haunting “ by the New York Times, the music of composer/producer Luna Pearl Woolf offers penetrating insight into its subjects, creating acoustic sound worlds that evoke and inspire. Woolf’s music draws listeners into an emotional journey. Her innovative collaborations with authors, filmmakers, dancers and musicians tell original stories or grapple with history and current events.
Better Gods, Woolf’s one-hour opera commissioned by the Washington National Opera, Francesca Zambello, Artistic Director, will be mounted January 8 and 9, 2016, at The Kennedy Center, Washington DC. Part of the WNO’s ambitious American Opera Initiative, Better Gods tells the story of Queen Lili’uokalani, the last queen of Hawaii, and the fall of the Hawaiian monarchy. Libretto by Caitlin Vincent, directed by Ethan McSweeney, Timothy Myers, music director.
Charles Wuorinen is one of the world’s leading composers. His many honors include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the Pulitzer Prize. His compositions encompass every form and medium, including works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, soloists, ballet, and stage. Wuorinen has written more than 260 compositions to date. His most recent works include an opera on Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain premiered at the Teatro Real in Madrid in January 2014, a major cultural event worldwide. ”Madrid has just seen the biggest audience in its history, local and global, for Charles Wuorinen’s Brokeback Mountain.” The Australian. Other recent works include Time Regained, for Peter Serkin, James Levine and the MET Opera Orchestra, Eighth Symphony for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Metagong for two pianos and two percussion for the New York New Music Ensemble.
Wuorinen has been described as a ”maximalist,” writing music luxuriant with events, lyrical and expressive, strikingly dramatic. His works are characterized by powerful harmonies and elegant craftsmanship, offering at once a link to the music of the past and a vision of a rich musical future.
Both as composer and performer (conductor and pianist) Wuorinen has worked with some of the finest performers of the current time and his works reflect the great virtuosity of his collaborators.
His works have been recorded on nearly a dozen labels including several releases on Naxos, Albany Records (Charles Wuorinen Series), and two releases on John Zorn’s Tzadik label.
Wuorinen is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
American operas a selection:
Amahl and the Night Visitors is an opera in one act by Gian Carlo Menotti with an original English libretto by the composer. It was commissioned by NBC and first performed by the NBC Opera Theatre on December 24, 1951, in New York City at NBC studio 8H in Rockefeller Center, where it was broadcast live on television from that venue as the debut production of the Hallmark Hall of Fame. It was the first opera specifically composed for television in America.
Amistad is an opera that was ten years in the making. I encountered this neglected episode in American history first in a poem by Robert Hayden entitled ”Middle Passage.” The poem detailed numerous voyages of slave ships to these shores through captains’ logs and sailors’ tales. This narrative culminates with the Amistad rebellion and the story of the trial. In the poem Hayden captures the story of slavery and the hope contained within his lines, ”Voyage through death to life upon these shores,” which speaks to the essential irony of our people and culture born of the horror of slavery.
Thulani Davis and I first discussed the idea of creating an opera on the Amistad Rebellion in 1986, after the premiere of our opera X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. We were drawn to the drama of the story, a successful uprising of captives on a slave ship, and the implications of the Amistad incident in an understanding of ourselves and the American experience. Through the Amistad, we could revisit the story of the Middle Passage, the contradictions implicit in the ethos of America, and also explore the emergence of the African-American as a cultural entity.
— Anthony Davis
Antony and Cleopatra opera composed by Samuel Barber to the opening of the new Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center 16.9.196
Antony and Cleopatra is an opera in three acts by American composer Samuel Barber. The libretto was prepared by Franco Zeffirelli. It was based on the play Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare and made use of Shakespeare’s language exclusively.
The opera was first performed on September 16, 1966, at the opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. After an unsuccessful premiere, the opera was extensively revised by Barber and Gian Carlo Menotti in an edition first performed in 1975.
For the premiere, which was also the opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House, no expense was spared. Franco Zeffirelli was hired as stage director. Thomas Schippers was the conductor. The stage design and costumes were elaborate; the cast was enormous including 22 singers, a full chorus, and a troupe of ballet dancers.
The opera was poorly received by the press, and not enthusiastically received by the public (Freeman 1997, 15; Heyman 1992b). Among the reasons cited for the opera’s lack of success were an ”inflated production with problematic technical apparatus, gaudy costumes, overcrowded stage forces and a press overly attentive to the social glitter of the occasion” (Heyman 1992a). Less kindly, the 1966 premiere was retrospectively described as ”a hair-curlingly awful production. … The night has gone down in the annals of opera as a landmark of vulgarity and staging excess. Mr. Barber’s score, as we discovered from subsequent exposure to revised excerpts in concert and on records, was to a great extent an innocent victim of the over-all fiasco” (Henahan 1975). The opera was dropped from the Met’s repertory after the initial performances of the production.
Barber later revised the opera, with text revisions by Gian-Carlo Menotti, Barber’s partner and the librettist of his first opera, Vanessa (Heyman 1992a). This version was premiered under Menotti’s direction at the Juilliard American Opera Center on February 6, 1975 (Freeman 1997, 15). There were further productions at the Spoleto Festival USA and Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy, in 1983, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1991 (Heyman 1992a).
Akhnaten is an opera in three acts based on the life and religious convictions of the pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV), written by the American minimalist composer Philip Glass in 1983.
Akhnaten had its world premiere on March 24, 1984 at the Stuttgart State Opera, under the German title Echnaton.PaulEsswood sang the title role, German director Achim Freyer staged the opera in an abstract style with highly ritualistic movements. The American premiere was held on October 12, 1984 at the Houston Grand Opera, where Glass’s opera The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 also premiered.
Azora, daughter of Montezuma, opera by Henry Kimball Hadley to a libretto in English by author David Stevens
Washington National Opera: American Opera Initiative: New Hour-Long Opera: Better Gods
Told through the eyes of an American journalist, the world premiere of Better Gods is the story of Queen Liliuokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawaii, who fought to preserve her people’s native culture when the island was annexed to the U.S.
Brokeback Mountain is an opera by American composer Charles Wuorinen, with a libretto in English by Annie Proulx, based on her 1997 short story Brokeback Mountain. They began work on it in 2008 under a commission by Gerard Mortier of the New York City Opera. He took the project with him to the Teatro Real of Madrid, where the opera was premiered on January 28, 2014.
In 2007, Wuorinen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer, saw the 2005 film directed by Ang Lee and ”was inspired by its operatic possibilities.” He approached Proulx with the idea of turning her short story into an opera and ”to ask for her blessing to adapt the story for opera. Proulx went one step further, offering to write the libretto”.
As recounted by Ashifa Kassam:
- After reading Proulx’ tale of doomed lovers, composer Charles Wuorinen knew he had the makings of a tragic opera. ”In older operas there would be an illegitimate child or difference of social classes,” said Wuorinen. ”Same-sex love, especially when it takes place in an environment where it’s absolutely forbidden, is a contemporary version of the same eternal problem.”
Gerard Mortier, the incoming General Director of the New York City Opera, arranged to commission the work. When Mortier abruptly left the New York City Opera in 2008, the project was in limbo for a time, but he took it with him to his new post as General Director of Teatro Real in Madrid.
Work on the opera was started in August 2008 and completed in February 2012. As Kennicott notes:
- While other composers might have found the taciturn and often painfully inarticulate characters a challenge, Wuorinen was inspired. Brokeback Mountain was a struggle toward the possibility of expression, about a groping toward language and awareness and self-knowledge. ”I take the position that since it takes a long time for any word to get out, that what is laconic on the page can seem quite expansive on the opera stage,” he says.
The world premiere took place 28 January 2014 in Madrid directed by Ivo van Hove and conducted by Titus Engel. The opera received its German premiere in Aachen on 7 December 2014 in a new production directed by Ludger Englels and conducted by Kazem Abdullah.
The Ballad of Baby Doe is an opera by the American composer Douglas Moore that uses an English-language libretto by John Latouche. It is Moore’s most famous opera and one of the few American operas to be in the standard repertory. Especially famous are the title heroine’s five arias: ”Letter Aria,” ”Willow Song,” ”I Knew it Was Wrong”, ”Gold is a Fine Thing”, and ”Always Through the Changing.” Horace Tabor’s ”Warm as the Autumn Light” is also frequently heard. Distinguished sopranos who have portrayed Baby Doe include Beverly Sills (Moore’s favorite interpreter of the role), Karan Armstrong, Faith Esham, and Elizabeth Futral.
The opera’s premiere took place at the Central City Opera in Colorado in 1956. Hanya Holm directed and choreographed the production, and sopranos Dolores Wilson and Leyna Gabriele alternated in the title role. The opera’s New York premiere, directed by Vladimir Rosing, was presented at the New York City Opera in 1958 in a revised version which added the gambling scene in Act 2 and an additional aria for Baby Doe. At the time, further revisions were being considered, but these were abandoned upon the sudden death of Latouche.
Cleopatras Night, opera by Henry Kimball Hadley with a libretto by Alice Leal Pollock based on a story by French author Théophile Gautier
Burlesque opera of Tabasco opera by George W Chadwick and libretto by R A Barnet
Cold Mountain is the first opera written by Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Jennifer Higdon and set to an English libretto by Gene Scheer based on Charles Frazier’s award-winning novel of the same name, published in 1997, which won the 1997 National Book Award and was made into a film of the same title in 2003.
The opera was given its world premiere at The Santa Fe Opera on August 1, 2015 conducted by Miguel Harth-Bedoya and directed by Leonard Foglia with set design by Robert Brill, lighting design by Brian Nason, costumes by David C. Woolard and projection design by Elaine J. McCarthy. It was co-commissioned by and is a co-production with both Opera Philadelphia and the Minnesota Opera.
The Philadelphia company will present the work in February 2016 as part of its ”American Repertoire Program”, a ten-year commitment to produce a contemporary American work each season. The Minnesota production will be staged in 2018, but specific dates have not been announced. For The Santa Fe Opera, it is the company’s 46th American and fourth world premiere in its 59 seasons.
The production coincided with the 150th anniversary of the ending of the American Civil War.
For the premiere, the role of the main protagonist, W. P. Inman, a wounded Southern infantryman who deserts from the army to make his way back to the woman who is waiting for him, was sung by American baritone Nathan Gunn and the role of Ada by mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard.
Its first performance was on March 1, 1950 in Philadelphia with Patricia Neway as the lead heroine Magda Sorel, Gloria Lane as the secretary of the consulate, Marie Powers as the mother, and Andrew McKinley as the magician Nika Magadoff. The opera opened two weeks later in New York City where it enjoyed a successful opening run of nearly eight months.
Neway (alternating with Yul Brynner’s sister, Vera Brynner) also led the Broadway cast, this time with Rosemary Kuhlmann as the secretary of the consulate.
Neway, Kuhlmann, and Powers also performed these roles in the UK at the Cambridge Theatre in February 1951, with Norman Kelley playing the role of the magician Nika. For the opera’s La Scala debut in January 1951, Powers and McKinley reprised their roles, and Clara Petrella portrayed Magda.
Zechariah Chafee, Jr. noted the topicality of the opera by analogy to the real-life situations of how non-American scientists were hindered from entering the United States in the early 1950s.
For The Consul, Menotti won the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Music and also the 1950 New York Drama Critics’ Circle award for Best Musical.
Cyrano opera by Walter Damrosch Libretto by W.J. Henderson after the play by Edmond Rostand
The Crucible is an English language opera written by Robert Ward based on the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller. It won both the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Music and the New York Music Critics Circle Citation. The libretto was lightly adapted from Miller’s text by Bernard Stambler.
Ward received a commission from the New York City Opera to write the opera. Arthur Miller was involved in selecting Ward. The opera won both the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Music and the New York Music Critics Circle Citation. It is one of the most performed operas by an American composer.
The Crucible premiered on 26 October 1961 at the New York City Opera (NYCO), with Chester Ludgin as John Proctor, and Norman Treigle as the Reverend John Hale. The production was staged by Allen Fletcher, used scenery designed by Paul Sylbert, and costumes designed by Ruth Morely. The work was next performed in student productions at the University of California, Los Angeles and The Hartt School in West Hartford, Connecticut in 1964. The opera was mounted by the San Francisco Opera for the first time on June 22, 1965 with much of the same cast as the NYCO production. In 1968 the NYCO revived the production, It has since been staged by the Lake George Opera (1966), the Seattle Opera (1968), the Pennsylvania Opera Theater (1989) and the Tulsa Opera (1995).
The Crucible had its Australian premiere on 10 October 2008 at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, forty-seven years after its world premiere. It was performed by senior opera-students, conducted by Justin Bischof and directed by Leith Taylor.
Dead Man Walking is the first opera by Jake Heggie, with a libretto by Terrence McNally. Based on the book of the same name by Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, the work premiered on October 7, 2000 at the War Memorial Opera House, produced by the San Francisco Opera.The 2000 premiere production was commissioned by then-General Director Lotfi Mansouri and the stage director was Joe Mantello. Sets, costumes and lighting were designed by Michael Yeargen, Sam Fleming, and Jennifer Tipton, respectively.
The opera has since been performed numerous times across the United States and had its Australian premiere in 2002 at the State Opera of South Australia, with Teddy Tahu Rhodes as Joseph De Rocher. The opera was nominated for six Helpmann Awards, winning two: ”Best Set Design” and ”Best Male in an Operatic Performance”. It was also produced in St. Louis, Missouri by the Union Avenue Opera Company in 2011.
In 2007, the opera played in Sydney for a limited season produced by Nicole Alexander Productions at the State Theatre. The Canadian premiere took place in January 2006 in Calgary, Alberta, with Daniel Okulitch in the role of Joseph De Rocher. The European premiere was given in May 2006 at the Semperoper in Dresden, Germany. The same production had its opening night on September 26, 2007, at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna. The opera has its Scandinavian premiere at the Malmö Opera och Musikteater in Malmö, Sweden.
A new orchestration of the opera, for 31 musicians, prepared under Jake Heggie’s direction, will be premiered at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco in February 2015 by Opera Parallèle. The production will be directed by Brian Staufenbiel and conducted by Nicole Paiement; the cast will feature Jennifer Rivera (Sister Helen), Michael Mayes (Joe DeRocher), Catherine Cook (Mrs. DeRocher), and Talise Trevigne (Sister Rose).
Doctor Atomic is an opera by the contemporary American composer John Adams, with libretto by Peter Sellars. It premiered at the San Francisco Opera on October 1, 2005. The work focuses on the great stress and anxiety experienced by those at Los Alamos while the test of the first atomic bomb (the ”Trinity” test) was being prepared. In 2007, a documentary was made about the creation of the opera, titled Wonders Are Many.
The Death of Klinghoffer (1991) is an American opera, with music by John Adams to an English-language libretto by Alice Goodman. First produced in Brussels and New York in 1991, the opera is based on the hijacking of the passenger liner Achille Lauro by the Palestine Liberation Front in 1985, and the hijackers’ murder of wheelchair-bound 69-year-old Jewish-American passenger Leon Klinghoffer.
The concept of the opera originated with theatre director Peter Sellars, who was a major collaborator, as was choreographer Mark Morris. It was commissioned by five American and European opera companies, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
The opera has generated controversy, including allegations by Klinghoffer’s two daughters and others that the opera is antisemitic and glorifies terrorism. The work’s creators and others have disputed these criticisms.
S.J. Pettersson’s second classical release is an unorthodox opera (with as many instrumental tracks as vocal ones) based on the famous 1901 stage play ”A Dream Play” by August Strindberg, one of Strindberg’s most admired and influential dramas, seen as an important precursor to both dramatic expressionism and surrealism.
Strindberg himself describes the play this way in his famous preface: ”Everything can happen; everything is possible and likely to happen. Time and space do not exist; on an insignificant foundation of reality the imagination spills out and weaves new patterns – a concoction of memories, experiences, improbabilities and utterly free improvisations. The characters are split in twain, duplicate, multiply and evaporate. They condense, distill and again reunite. But one mind rises above them all. It is the Dreamer; for him there are no secrets, no consistencies, no scruples, no Law. He does not judge, nor gives out pardons but impartially relates the content of the dream itself. And as the dream often painful is, and much less often joyfully free-spirited, there is a tone of sadness and empathy with everything alive in this labyrinthine tale now beginning to unfold.”
The primary character in the play is Agnes, a daughter of the Vedic god Indra. She descends to Earth to bear witness to problems of human beings. She meets about 40 characters, some of them having a clearly symbolical value (such as four deans representing theology, philosophy, medicine, and law). After deciding to experience human life first hand by becoming a human, she experiences all sorts of human suffering such as poverty, cruelty, and the often difficult routine of family life. She marries and has a child but in the end the daughter of gods realizes that human beings are to be pitied and is faced with heartbreaking choice: to return to the Heavens in an attempt to persuade her Father Indra to intervene and ease the suffering of humanity, or to stay on Earth and care for her earthly child. Finally, she returns to the Heaven and this moment corresponds to the awakening from a dream-like sequence of events.
S.J. Pettersson’s treatment of the play is to basically tell the story, or often, as is the case with the purely instrumental pieces, through emotions. The scenes are replaced with lyrical narratives, often in first person, and characters just mentioned in passing, comes alive with their own tales. There is no attempt to re-tell the story (which in itself is as difficult to follow and make sense out of as indeed our dreams are) but rather to express it in another medium in the terms of that medium’s capability to reach where the written word is not able to penetrate. The result is almost closer to a song cycle (using 4 different vocal soloists that are all as similar as they are different in character, much like the shifting characters of the play) and with powerful instrumental pieces that in an almost hyper-romantic fashion carry the narrative along with their own emotional contents. The musical style is highly anachronistic but the perhaps biggest influence seems to be Weill’s German operas from the 1920s blended with elements of Bach, Shubert, Chopin, Prokofiev’s lyrical side, even Shostakovich at time. It is a very accessible work often hiding its harmonic and rhythmical complexity below the surface. The performances throughout are stellar with many of Los Angeles top classical musicians lending their hands and, seemingly, their hearts. The vocal performances are highly unusual and emotionally effective, often sung in pure tone avoiding vibrato and with an approach to communicate the often difficult scenes without resorting to obvious vocal tricks and audience pandering. As a result, the suffering seems to be located internally rather than externally which in many ways increases the personal aspect of what is a universal condition.
The libretto is poetically very beautiful and in the end leaves the play behind with a final piece, Hope, that seems to transfer the words and thoughts from that of Strindberg to the composers own mouth.
Two performance will be given by Victorian Opera in Melbourne, Australia during 2016
The Great Gatsby is an opera in two acts written by American composer John Harbison. The libretto, also by Harbison, was adapted from the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Additional popular song lyrics were by Murray Horwitz. The opera was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in honor of music director James Levine’s 25th anniversary with the company.
The Great Gatsby had its premiere performance on December 20, 1999. Conducted by Levine, the cast included Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. The stage production was by Mark Lamos. The opera has been performed at the Met twelve times in two seasons. In 2000 it was produced at Lyric Opera of Chicago. The opera has received mixed reviews, some describing it as ”undramatic and dull.”It was also performed in the summer of 2012 at the Aspen Music Festival and School.
Opera star Arden Scott returns to her hometown to save the struggling company that launched her career. The opening night performance of the long-lost opera she discovered falls on the same night as the home team’s first National Championship game (Go, Grizzlies!). The fate of the company hangs in the balance as Arden discovers that greatness is truly a matter of heart.
Starring Joyce DiDonato • Ailyn Pérez • Frederica von Stade • Nathan Gunn • Anthony Roth Costanzo
Conductor Patrick Summers • Director Jack O’Brien
Set and Costume Design Bob Crowley • Lighting Design Brian MacDevitt
Projection Design Elaine J. McCarthy
A Flowering Tree is an opera in two acts composed by John Adams with libretto by Adams and Peter Sellars, and commissioned by the New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna, the San Francisco Symphony, the Barbican Centre in London, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, and the Berliner Philharmoniker.
The story is based on an ancient Indian folk tale of the same title with translations by Attipat Krishnaswami Ramanujan. The opera resembles Mozart’s The Magic Flute in some ways; both operas adapt folk tales, in this case one from southern India, ”describing a young couple undergoing rituals and trials to discover the transfiguring power of love.” This parallel was intended by the composer as the opera was commissioned to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. It is set for a small cast of three singers (baritone for the narrator, tenor for the prince, and lyric soprano for Kamudha), a large chorus (SATB), and three dancers.
It premiered on 14 November 2006 in the MuseumsQuartier Halle E in Vienna with Eric Owens as the narrator, Russell Thomas as the prince, Jessica Rivera as Kumudha, Orquesta Joven Camerata de Venezuela and the Schola Cantorum de Venezuela all under the direction of John Adams in a production of Peter Sellars co-commissioned by New Crowned Hope.
Judith opera by George W Chadwick. Libretto by William Chauncy Langdon after the biblical Book of Judith
Harvey Milk, Wallace’s fifth full-length opera and most widely known score, was commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera, New York City Opera and San Francisco Opera.
With a libretto by Michael Korie and directed by Christopher Alden, the January 1995 world premiere in Houston played to sold-out houses and was discussed and debated in every major American and European newspaper, Time, Newsweek, Vanity Fair and CNN.
In fact, the term ”CNN Opera” was coined for Harvey Milk by critic Peter G. Davis. Though at first it was meant disparagingly, Davis praised the opera’s premiere and, for better or worse, the name stuck. The Washington Post said, ”Harvey Milk is an astounding achievement – lively, artful, tough-minded American music-drama, deeply satisfying to ear, eye and mind.”
The original Christopher Alden production was then seen in New York and San Francisco. In 1996, a new production of the opera in German premiered in Dortmund.
Reviewing the Teldec CD with Donald Runnicles conducting the San Francisco Opera, France’s Diapason called Harvey Milk ”truly staggering.”
The Hotel Casablanca, opera in two acts; original libretto by the composer based on George Feydeau’s play, A Flea in Her Ear. (3 August 2007, San Francisco, San Francisco Opera Merola Program)
Lear on the Second Floor, a contemporary inversion of Shakespeare’s King Lear, a prominent neuroscience researcher in her late 50s or early 60s (Dr. Nora Lear) is suddenly beset by dementia. As Nora loses her bearings and her autonomy, she is quickly at the mercy of her three quarreling, but loving daughters who range in lifestyle from high society to adult movie making. An attending nurse from the Caribbean gives Nora some respite. Nora’s dead husband Mortimer, throughout, is her constant escort as she walks through a vortex of memory, guilt and human sensibility. The least vulnerable and most professional daughter wins court appointed guardianship, but Nora escapes from this Court’s tight grip by flying with her husband through the notorious Second Floor.
Lear on the Second Floor on Youtube
Leonora opera by William Henry Fry considered to be the first American opera
Lilith a opera by Anthony Davis and Allan Havis.
Jonah Davis is only 12, but his parents don’t bat an eye when he sings about shooting someone in the head … three times, a lyric from a song he has been practicing and honing for the past month at his family’s home in University City.
“Jonah has perfect pitch, which I don’t,” said his proud mother, Cynthia-Aaronson Davis.
“He learns music very fast and has an amazing ear,” added Anthony Davis, Jonah’s equally proud father, a music professor at UCSD for the past 11 years.
As for the violent subject matter their son is studiously articulating in song, his parents are keenly aware of the lyrics.
The menacing words come from “Shoot Him in the Head, Aunt Claire,” which Jonah performs as a part of a duet with his mother. The song is part of “Lilith,” the new opera by Jonah’s internationally celebrated father.
A mix of contemporary classical and blues, jazzy sonorities and propulsive Cuban rhythms, Davis’ fifth opera features a libretto by veteran playwright (and fellow UCSD professor) Allan Havis. “Lilith,” which addresses its biblically inspired subject matter with both serious contemplation and wry humor, will receive its world premiere Wednesday and Friday night at UCSD’s Conrad Prebys Concert Hall.
Jonah’s opening line in the duet with his mom — Shoot him in the head, Aunt Claire, three times / It’s like Nazi zombies, it’s so unfair — might sound like a fantasy-inspired couplet from a gangsta-rap song. It isn’t.
“Once you hear the whole story of what’s going on in ‘Lilith,’ you’ll understand the lyrics I sing better,” said Jonah, a seventh grader at Francis Parker Middle School and a member of its classical guitar ensemble.
“I think it’s really cool to be in an opera with my parents because I can always ask them questions, if I need help with something. My dad’s been writing operas for a long time and my mom’s been an opera singer a long time.”
Jonah has been singing on stage since 2007, when he had a part in his father’s previous opera, “Wakonda’s Dream,” produced by Opera Omaha.
“Anthony asked him if he was interested,” Cynthia-Aaronson Davis said. “After he found out he’d get paid by Opera Omaha, Jonah said: ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’ He auditioned and they hired him. He’d never been on stage before and he got better reviews than me.
“We did a concert last year of some of Anthony’s music at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in South Carolina and the review said Jonah’s performance was ‘flawlessly moving.’ Mine was ‘expertly sung.’ His musicality is amazing for someone his age.”
Jonah is also a budding electric guitarist who counts Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page among his favorites. His parents brag that, while riding in the family car with them, Jonah is able to accurately sing the instrumental solos — not just the words — to songs by everyone from Hendrix to Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder.
“Lilith” features Jonah less prominently than “Wakonda’s Dream,” but that suits him fine.
“It’s not as big a part, but it has a lot more harder rhythms in it,” Jonah said. “In ‘Wakonda’s Dream’ everybody had the same timing, whereas in ‘Lilith’ I don’t really have a background (of instruments) to hear what pitch you need. It’s more of a video game (music) background, so you have to memorize the pitches. I think my dad got the idea from when I play video games, like ‘Call of Duty’ and ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.’ ”
That is precisely the inspiration cited by the elder Davis.
To create the video game-inspired beeping melodies and skittering rhythms, Davis used a Kurzweil digital synthesizer. He employs the same instrument for only one other scene in the opera, which he composed and scored — for the first time in his career — using a Finale software program rather than working by hand or employing a musical copyist.
A skilled pianist and an ingenious improviser, Davis has made several landmark albums with such jazz-and-beyond visionaries as flutist James Newton, trombonist (and former UCSD professor) George Lewis and contrabass great Mark Dresser (a current UCSD professor who will perform as part of the “Lilith” ensemble and whose music-making with Davis dates back at least 35 years).
The “Lilith” cast also showcases two stellar singers who each teach at UCSD, bass baritone Philip Larson and soprano Susan Narucki. In addition to Dresser, the opera’s eight-piece instrumental ensemble features Cuban expatriate percussionist Dafnis Prieto. Now a fast-rising bandleader in New York, Prieto has been working with Davis on “Revolution of Forms,” an opera inspired by the Cuban revolution’s failed quest to create a network of arts schools in Havana.
“Dafnis is incredibly flexible and his expertise in Cuban rhythms will play out all over the place in ‘Lilith’,” said Davis, who will serve as the conductor at the performances.
The roots of this genre-leaping opera date back to 1999, one year after Davis began teaching at UCSD. Havis gave him a copy of his 1990 play “Lilith,” which had debuted in a New York production that featured future “West Wing” TV star Allison Janey.
Davis quickly saw the operatic possibilities for “Lilith,” a classic battle-of-the-sexes morality tale inspired by the mythology of a woman who was regarded as both a goddess and a demon.
“What appealed to me in the play was that ‘Lilith’ engages in a serious discussion of what it means to be a woman and addresses the undertones of the liberation of women,” said Davis, who in 2002 collaborated with Havis on “Restless Mourning,” a 9/11-inspired work commissioned by the Piccolo Spoleto Festival.
“Lilith herself is a symbol of women’s equality who was born as Adam’s equal. I was drawn to her as this kind of Gothic character and, at the same time, to the play’s very hip sense of humor. And because of the idea that Lilith also exists within Hebrew literature and the Kabbalah, I was very interested in the underpinnings of it and how the music could really enhance the story.”
Like his 1992 opera, “Tania,” he wrote “Lilith” with Cynthia in mind, “because of the ease with which she sings high notes, where her voice lies and her vocal quality.”
All three members of the Davis family speak enthusiastically about the benefits of working together on “Lilith.” However, Jonah is quick to note that sports — especially baseball, football and basketball — are his greatest passion.
“Sports would be my first choice,” he said. “If anything bad ever happened, I could go over to music.”
There may be one other factor, at least as far as “Lilith” is concerned.
“Jonah is a boy soprano, but his voice is changing as we speak,” Anthony said, laughing heartily.
“He’s turning from a boy soprano into a baritone. We just have to make it through the performances. So far, it’s going OK.”
George Varga: (619) 293-2253; [email protected]
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Little Women (1998) is the first opera composed by American composer Mark Adamo to his own libretto after Louisa May Alcott’s tale of growing up in New England after the American Civil War, Little Women. The opera also includes text by John Bunyan (Beth’s setting of The Pilgrim’s Progress), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Dr. Bhaer sings ”Kennst du das Land”), and Alcott herself (an excerpt of one of her thrillers at the beginning of Act II, which is spoken and mostly omitted on the audio recording).
Commissioned by the Opera Studio of Houston Grand Opera (HGO), then under the guidance of General Director David Gockley, Little Women was first performed on March 13, 1998 in a smaller scale production.The success of this first production prompted Gockley to pronounce it ”destined to be an American classic” and scheduled the opera for a mainstage premiere of ten performances in March 2000 — making it the first of HGO’s twenty-some commissions to be so revived.
G. Schirmer published the opera in May 1998; National Public Radio broadcast the recording of the premiere the following September; and there have been more than 35 distinct productions, professional and academic, domestic and international, since the world premiere, ranging from established American stages (Minnesota Opera, New York City Opera, Opera Pacific), to newer, more progressive companies (Fort Worth Opera, Opera Columbus) from American summer festivals (Glimmerglass Opera, Central City Opera, Chautauqua Opera), to international venues (Teatro de la Ciudad in Mexico City, World Expo in Tokyo and Nagoya, Japan), and to conservatories (Indiana University at Bloomington, Anderson University (three of this cast died in a small plane crash in Bloomington a few years later), Westminster Choir College, New England Conservatory of Music, Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, University of the Philippines College of Music.)
The American television premiere took place on August 29, 2001 on PBS’s Great Performances (a co-production between Houston Grand Opera and Thirteen/WNET New York), and the world premiere recording of the HGO production was released on Ondine on August 28, 2001.
Little Women had its Australian premiere in May 2007 at the Adelaide Festival. The opera premiered in Israel in July 2008, in Tel Aviv. Little Women had its European Premiere in Bruges, Belgium on August 1, 2009. The performers were participants in the Intermezzo Foundation’s Young Artist Program.The Canadian premiere took place on January 30, 2010, performed by the Calgary Opera.
The Man without a country opera by Walter Damrosch. Arthur Guiterman wrote the English language libretto which was based on Edward Everett Hale’s 1863 short story of the same name. The work premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on May 12, 1937
McTeague is an American opera composed by William Bolcom with a libretto Arnold Weinstein and Robert Altman. The opera is based on a novel of the same name by Frank Norris (written in 1895, published in 1899) which also served as the source material for the Erich von Stroheim film Greed (1924). The piece was written on commission for the Lyric Opera of Chicago and first performed there on October 31, 1992.
Merry Mount is an opera in three acts by American composer Howard Hanson; its libretto, by Richard Stokes, is loosely based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story ”The May-Pole of Merry Mount”, taken from his Twice Told Tales. Hanson’s only opera, it was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
The opera received its world premiere in concert at the fortieth annual May Festival of the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor, Michigan (at Hill Auditorium), on May 20, 1933, with the composer conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The cast included Leonora Corona, Rose Bampton, Frederick Jagel, Chase Baromeo, John Charles Thomas, and George Galvani.
Its world stage premiere by the Metropolitan Opera was given on February 10, 1934. As that performance took place at a Saturday matinée, it was broadcast nationally as part of the company’s weekly radio series, with Milton Cross serving as announcer. The premiere featured Lawrence Tibbett in the central role of Wrestling Bradford, the Puritan minister, with Gladys Swarthout as his betrothed, Plentiful Tewke. Swedish soprano Göta Ljungberg and Canadian tenor Edward Johnson took the roles of the Cavalier lovers, Lady Marigold Sandys and Sir Gower Lackland; Tullio Serafin was on the podium. At its premiere, the opera received a total of fifty curtain calls, still a house record. The opera was performed eight more times during the season, but never returned to the Met’s repertory, and subsequent performances have been scarce.
Moby-Dick is an American opera in two acts by Jake Heggie to an English libretto by Gene Scheer from Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick. It was commissioned by the Dallas Opera and four other opera companies, premiering in Dallas, Texas, on April 30, 2010.
Moby-Dick was commissioned by the Dallas Opera to commemorate their inaugural season in the Winspear Opera House, jointly with San Francisco Opera, San Diego Opera, State Opera of South Australia and Calgary Opera, each of which planned to have subsequent productions of the work.
After the series of presentations in Dallas from late April to mid-May 2010, performances at the State Opera of South Australia in Adelaide followed in August/September the following year, with the Calgary Opera staging the work in early 2012. A production was mounted by the San Diego Opera in January/ February 2012, and then it appeared at the San Francisco Opera as part of its 2012/13 season in November.
The opera was presented by Washington National Opera in February/March 2014 and is scheduled to be performed at Los Angeles Opera in the autumn of 2015 and in Cincinnati Opera in the summer of 2016.
The premiere production featured lighting design by Donald Holder, set design by Robert Brill, costume design by Jane Greenwood and projection design by Elaine J. McCarthy.
Mourning Becomes Electra is an opera in 3 acts by composer Marvin David Levy. The work uses an English language libretto by Henry W Butler after the play of the same name by Eugene O’Neill.
It premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on March 17, 1967 with Zubin Mehta conducting. Mihalis Kakogiannis directed the production and Boris Aronson designed the sets, costumes, and lighting. The original production was critically well received, returned for a second season at the Met, and was presented successfully in Germany.
However, it then vanished from the stage. After thirty years, the opera was presented by Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1998 in a revised version that reduced the orchestration and simplified the harmonic language. A more drastic revision of the opera was subsequently premiered at the Seattle Opera on October 18, 2003. The orchestration was further cut down and electronic samplers added. A number of passages were re-written and a new finale was created. In addition, the opera was restructured from the original three acts (corresponding to the original O’Neill drama) into two.
This version was subsequently mounted in 2004 at the New York City Opera. These more recent productions have been in general favorably received, not the least because of the performance in all of them of Lauren Flanigan as Christine Mannon. The Florida Grand Opera will stage it in November of 2013 in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale.
Nixon in China is an opera in three acts by John Adams, with a libretto by Alice Goodman. Adams’ first opera, it was inspired by U.S. President Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972. The work premiered at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987, in a production by Peter Sellars with choreography by Mark Morris. When Sellars approached Adams with the idea for the opera in 1985, Adams was initially reluctant, but eventually decided that the work could be a study in how myths come to be, and accepted the project. Goodman’s libretto was the result of considerable research into Nixon’s visit, though she disregarded most sources published after 1972.
To create the sounds he sought, Adams augmented the orchestra with a large saxophone section, additional percussion, and electronic synthesizer. Although sometimes described as ”minimalist”, the score displays a variety of musical styles, embracing minimalism after the manner of Philip Glass alongside passages echoing 19th-century composers such as Wagner and Johann Strauss. With these ingredients, Adams mixes Stravinskian 20th-century neoclassicism, jazz references, and big band sounds reminiscent of Nixon’s youth in the 1930s. The combination of these elements varies frequently, to reflect changes in the onstage action.
Following the 1987 premiere, the opera received mixed reviews; some critics dismissed the work, predicting it would soon vanish. However, it has been presented on many occasions since, in both Europe and North America, and has been recorded twice. In 2011, the opera received its Metropolitan Opera debut, a production based on the original sets, and in the same year was given an abstract production in Toronto by the Canadian Opera Company. Recent critical opinion has tended to recognize the work as a significant and lasting contribution to American opera.
Peter Ibbetson opera by Deems Taylor
From its triumphant, star-studded première in 1931 until 1985, Peter Ibbetson was the most-performed American opera at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The story (based on the novel by George Du Maurier) of two star-crossed lovers who secretly escape to a mystical “dream world” was immensely popular in the 1930s, and was the subject of several Hollywood films. Composer Deems Taylor—known to millions as the host of the original DisneyFantasia movie—was at that time a leading voice in American music. His lush, romantic / impressionist music and masterful dramatic timing make Peter Ibbetson a most rewarding listening experience, and a “must” for all opera fans. Rediscover an American classic with this world-première recording featuring some of today’s leading opera stars.
The Pipe of Desire opera by Frederick Shepherd Converse. Libretto by George Edward Barton.The Pipe of Desire was the first American opera to be performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, although it did not have its premiere there.
Porgy and Bess is an English-language opera composed in 1934 by George Gershwin, with a libretto written by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin from Heyward’s novel Porgy and later play of the same title. Porgy and Bess was first performed in New York City on September 30, 1935, and featured an entire cast of classically trained African-American singers—a daring artistic choice at the time. After suffering from an initially unpopular public reception due in part to its racially charged theme, the Houston Grand Opera production of the opera in 1976 gained it new popularity, eventually becoming one of the best-known and most frequently performed operas.
Gershwin read Porgy in 1926 and proposed that he should collaborate with Heyward on Porgy and Bess. In 1934, Gershwin and Heyward began work on the project by visiting the author’s native Charleston. Gershwin explained why he called Porgy and Bess a folk opera in a 1935 New York Times article: ”Porgy and Bess is a folk tale. Its people naturally would sing folk music. When I first began work in the music I decided against the use of original folk material because I wanted the music to be all of one piece. Therefore I wrote my own spirituals and folksongs. But they are still folk music – and therefore, being in operatic form, Porgy and Bess becomes a folk opera.”
The libretto of Porgy and Bess tells the story of Porgy, a disabled black beggar living in the slums of Charleston, South Carolina. It deals with his attempts to rescue Bess from the clutches of Crown, her violent and possessive lover, and Sportin’ Life, the drug dealer. Where the earlier novel and stage-play differ, the opera generally follows the stage-play.
In the years following Gershwin’s death, Porgy and Bess was adapted for smaller scale performances and was later adapted into a film in 1959. Some of the songs in the opera, such as ”Summertime” became popular and frequently recorded songs. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the trend has been towards reproducing a greater fidelity to Gershwin’s original intentions although other smaller-scale productions continued to be mounted. A complete version of the score was released in 1976; since then, it has been recorded several times.
Prima Donna is an opera composed by Canadian-American singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright to a French language libretto which he co-authored with Bernadette Colomine. It is about ”a day in the life of an aging opera singer”, anxiously preparing for her comeback in 1970s Paris, who falls in love with a journalist. It premiered at the Palace Theatre, Manchester on July 10, 2009 during the Manchester International Festival. The U.S. premiere was presented by New York City Opera at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on February 19, 2012.
In March 2014, Wainwright began raising funds via PledgeMusic to record a two-disc album recording of the opera.
Regina is an opera by Marc Blitzstein, to his own libretto based on the play The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman. It was completed in 1948 and premiered the next year. Blitzstein chose this source in order to make a strong statement against capitalism. In three acts, the musical style has been described as new American verismo, abounding in the use of spirituals, Victorian parlour music, dance forms, ragtime, aria and large, symphonic score.
Borrowing from both opera and Broadway styles, in a manner similar to Leonard Bernstein in Trouble in Tahiti and Virgil Thomson in Four Saints in Three Acts, Regina has been said to straddle the line between entertainment and so-called serious music. Hellman gave Blitzstein considerable advice and strongly objected to any departures from the play’s structure. Blitzstein planned an elaborate choral prologue, but Hellman convinced him to shorten and finally jettison it.
Before the premiere, producer Cheryl Crawford insisted on still further cuts to the opera, asking Blitzstein to reduce the work from three acts to two. He did so, cutting fifteen minutes of music out of the party scene. Leonard Bernstein described Regina’s relationship to The Little Foxes as ”coating the wormwood with sugar, and scenting with magnolia blossoms the cursed house.”
Regina premiered on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre in New York on October 31, 1949 conducted by Maurice Abravanel and directed by Bobby Lewis with choreography by Anna Sokolow. Jane Pickens, formerly of the pop trio the Pickens Sisters, played Regina, and Brenda Lewis was Birdie. The first production received mixed reviews and closed on December 17, 1949.
In 1953, the City Centre Opera produced a different version of the opera with greatly expanded orchestration, giving the work a more ”operatic” rather than ”Broadway” sound. Bobby Lewis directed again, using the same sets. Brenda Lewis, Birdie in the 1949 cast, now took the lead as Regina. The 1953 production restored the party scene but cut other material. This production was a success, leading the company to revive the work again in 1958, with still more cuts.
The 1958 version completely eliminated the onstage Dixieland band that had been an essential part of Blitzstein’s plan for the work. The 1958 version, which was Hellman’s favorite although furthest from the composer’s intentions,was recorded.
The first major revival of Regina since the 1958 production was in 1977, in Detroit, by the Michigan Opera Theatre with John Yaffé, conductor, directed by Frank Rizzo, design by Franco Colavecchia, choreographed by Grethe Barrett Holby. It was again produced in 1980, by the Houston Grand Opera with Elisabeth Carron as Birdie. The first British Performance was produced in Glasgow in 1991 by the Scottish Opera. New York City Opera revisited Regina in 1992 and cut music further from the 1959 version, which had come to be called definitive.The Scottish Opera production was released as a recording in 1992 by John Mauceri and the Scottish Opera Orchestra, with Katherine Ciesinski (replacing the original Regina, Katherine Terrell and Samuel Ramey. This recording included nearly all the music written for the opera.
Maestro Robert L. Larsen of the Des Moines Metro Opera has championed the opera and produced it in both 1994 and 2008. The Florida Grand Opera produced a new staging of the work in 2001, with Stewart Robertson conducting. Yet another version of the opera was mounted by the Chicago Lyric Opera in 2003, with much music restored but with many scenes involving the black servants deleted, as the well-intentioned portrayals of black characters had come to seem sentimental and patronizing.
This last production also added lines of dialogue from Hellman’s play to clarify the story. Pacific Opera Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia and Long Leaf Opera in Chapel Hill, NC, produced the opera in 2008.
An out-of-print piano/vocal score of Regina was published by Chappell. Subsequently, scholars working with Blitzstein’s collected papers at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin have reinstated music and dialogue excised earlier. Today, a restored Regina can be produced according to Blitzstein’s intentions, so long overridden in earlier versions.
The Sacrifice opera by Frederick Shepherd Converse Libretto by the composer and John Albert Macy
after Los Gringos, or an Interior View of Mexico and California, with Wanderings in Peru, Chile, and Polynesia by Lietenant Henry Augustus Wise, writing as ”Harry Gringo”
The Saint of Bleecker Street is an opera in three acts by Gian Carlo Menotti to an original English libretto by the composer. It was first performed at the Broadway Theatre in New York City on December 27, 1954. David Poleri and Davis Cunningham alternated in the role of Michele, and Thomas Schippers conducted. It ran for 92 consecutive performances.
The opera is through-composed, and set in the intensely Catholic Little Italy of New York City in 1954. It follows Annina, a young and simple woman who is blessed with the stigmata. She often hears voices and has visions of the angels. Her brother, Michele, is an atheist who is intensely protective of his sister; he believes she requires hospitalization, but he cannot stop the rest of the neighborhood from believing her a saint.
The Saint of Bleecker Street won Menotti the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1955 and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical.Although it is not part of the standard operatic repertory, recordings of it exist, and it is occasionally performed.
The original set for The Saint of Bleecker Street was designed by the American symbolic realist painter George Tooker, and was based on elements from his painting The Subway, currently in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Satyagraha is a 1979 opera in three acts for orchestra, chorus and soloists, composed by Philip Glass, with a libretto by Glass and Constance DeJong.
Loosely based on the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi, it forms the second part of Glass’s ”Portrait Trilogy” of operas about men who changed the world, which also includes Einstein on the Beach and Akhnaten.
Glass’s style can broadly be described as minimalist. The work is scored for 2 sopranos, 2 mezzo-sopranos, 2 tenors, a baritone, 2 basses, a large SATB chorus, and an orchestra of strings and woodwinds only, no brass or percussion. Principal roles are Miss Schlesen, M.K. Gandhi, Mr. Kallenbach and Parsi Rustomji.
The title refers to Gandhi’s concept of non-violent resistance to injustice, Satyagraha, and the text, from the Bhagavad Gita, is sung in the original Sanskrit. In performance, translation is usually provided in supertitles.
Satyagraha was commissioned by the city of Rotterdam, Netherlands, and first performed at the Stadsschouwburg (Municipal Theatre) there on September 5, 1980, by the Netherlands Opera and the Utrecht Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bruce Ferden.
Its North American premiere was at the Artpark in Lewiston, New York, on July 29, 1981. That same year it was staged by the Stuttgart Opera (which went on to perform the complete trilogy in 1990); this production was taped during its revival in 1983 and released on video.
The UK premiere was a joint production by Bath Spa University and Frome Community College in the theatre of Kingswood School., Bath in 1997.
In 2007 a new UK staging was prepared by the English National Opera and Improbable theatre, co-produced by the Metropolitan Opera in New York. This opened in London in April and in New York the following April. Well received, it was revived in London in February 2010 and in New York in November 2011; the New York performance on November 19 was part of the Met Opera: Live in HD series.
On September 16, 2014 a new production was staged at the Ekaterinburg State Academic Opera in Russia. The creative team included Thaddeus Strassberger (direction and scenic design), Mattie Ullrich (costume design) Oliver von Dohnanyi (conductor).
Shanewis opera by Charles Wakefield Cadman
His 1918 opera Shanewis (The Robin Woman) was the first American opera to play two seasons at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera.
The Scarlet Letter opera by Walter Damrosch, based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name. The libretto was by George Parsons Lathrop, son-in-law of the author
A Streetcar Named Desire is an opera composed by André Previn with a libretto by Philip Littell in 1995. It is based on the play by Tennessee Williams.
The opera received its premiere at the San Francisco Opera, September 19 – October 11, 1998. It was conducted by André Previn, and was directed by Colin Graham, with sets by Michael Yeargan.
Susannah is an opera in two acts by the American composer Carlisle Floyd, who wrote the libretto and music while a member of the piano faculty at Florida State University. Floyd adapted the story from the Apocryphal tale of Susannah and the Elders, though the latter story has a more positive ending. The story focuses on 18-year-old Susannah Polk, an innocent girl who is targeted as a sinner in the small mountain town of New Hope Valley, in the Southern American state of Tennessee.
The opera was awarded the New York Music Critics Circle Award for Best New Opera in 1956 and was chosen to represent American music and culture at the World’s Fair at Brussels in 1958, with a production (by Frank Corsaro) that featured Phyllis Curtin and Norman Treigle. It received its Metropolitan Opera premiere in 1999, with Renée Fleming singing the title role, Jerry Hadley singing Sam and Samuel Ramey singing Blitch. Ramey also recorded the complete opera with Cheryl Studer as Susannah and Jerry Hadley as Sam.
Other well-known sopranos who have portrayed the heroine have included Lee Venora, Joy Clements, Maralin Niska, Nancy Shade, Diana Soviero, Karan Armstrong, Kelly Kaduce and Phyllis Treigle (opposite Michael Devlin as Blitch).
Susannah is one of the most performed American operas, second to Porgy and Bess, and recently celebrated its 50th anniversary with a performance on the very stage where it premiered February 24, 1955, in Ruby Diamond Auditorium at Florida State University. At the first performance, Carlisle Floyd was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Florida State.
It has been speculated that the opera was inspired by McCarthyism, a period of intense fear of communism in America during the early 1950s. The opera also contains many feminist themes that had not been widely explored in popular culture at the time of the opera’s writing. Floyd has claimed that this opera, like his other operas, was meant to be different from a traditional opera.
The music is largely characterized by Appalachian folk melodies. Also included are some Protestant hymns and some traditional classical music. A particularly prominent part of the opera is Susannah’s soaring and melancholy aria in Act II, ”The Trees on the Mountain”, which is similar to Appalachian folk tunes but in fact Floyd’s own composition.
Tammany opera by James Hewitt and a libretto by Ann Julia Hatton
Tania opera by Anthony Davis, libretto by Michael John LaChiusa; conducted by William McGlaughlin; directed by Christopher Alden; scenery by Paul Steinberg; costumes by Gabriel Berry; lighting by Robert Wierzel. Presented by the American Music Theater Festival at the Plays and Players Theater in Philadelphia.
The Tender Land is an opera with music by Aaron Copland and libretto by Horace Everett, a pseudonym for Erik Johns. The opera tells of a farm family in the Midwest of the United States. Copland was inspired to write this opera after viewing the Depression-era photographs of Walker Evans and reading James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. He wrote the work between 1952 and 1954 for the NBC Television Opera Workshop, with the intention of its being presented on television. However, the television producers rejected the opera.
Eventually, the work had its premiere on April 1, 1954 at the New York City Opera, with Thomas Schippers as the conductor, Jerome Robbins as the director, and a cast including the young Norman Treigle, but it was poorly received at that time. Contemporary criticism commented on the weaknesses of the opera’s characters and the storyline. Later analysis by Christopher Patton stated that one underlying cause of the opera’s failure at the premiere was the contrast between writing for the intimate medium of television, the originally intended medium of the work, versus the more public and larger-scale setting of an opera house.
An orchestral suite based on the opera was later compiled by Copland in 1958. Copland and Johns later made revisions to the opera.
Patton has also commented on the role of Erik Johns’ interest in the Vedanta branch of Hinduism in the libretto.
On July 28, 1965, the composer conducted a concert version of his work, as part of the French-American Festival, with the New York Philharmonic. In the cast were Joy Clements, Claramae Turner, Richard Cassilly, Treigle, and Richard Fredricks. Three days later, Columbia recorded an abridged version of the opera, again conducted by Copland, at the Manhattan Center, with the same cast. In 2000, Sony released the historic performance on compact disc.
THREE DECEMBERS, an opera in two acts by Jake Heggie & Gene Scheer, based on an original play by Terrence McNally. Live recording from Houston Grand Opera (2008).
Frederica von Stade (Madeline), Kristin Clayton (Bea), Keith Phares (Charlie). Patrick Summers conducts members of the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra.
The great Frederica von Stade sings “the role of a lifetime” (Houston Chronicle) as Broadway star Madeline Mitchell in the latest lyric drama by Heggie & Scheer, based on a play by Terrence McNally. Madeline’s children are sung by soprano Kristin Clayton (Bea) and baritone Keith Phares (Charlie). In the story, a famous actress has become estranged from her children. Madeline has been keeping a powerful secret from them, and over three decades hidden truths are revealed as they struggle to find their identities as part of a family and in their lives.
Transatlantic (aka The People’s Choice) is a Grand Opera in 3 acts by George Antheil written in 1928 to a libretto by the composer. It was premiered in Frankfurt on May 25, 1930. Though a critical success the work ran for only 6 performances and was not performed again during Antheil’s lifetime.
It has been subsequently revived in 1998 (Minnesota) and 2002 (Flensburg, Germany).
The work is scored for a large orchestra with soloists and chorus.
The plot is a political satire in which a corrupt American oil baron (Ajax) recruits a charismatic, enthusiastic, cooperative man (Hector Jackson) to run for president. Ajax employs a seductress (Helen) to further motivate Hector but Helen falls for him. In an attempt to control this situation Ajax forces Helen to marry a gigolo (Jason). Further complications ensue when the campaign treasurer (Leo) also falls for Helen and embezzles $1 million from Ajax’ funds to buy her a diamond ring. The American public becomes sufficiently enthralled with Hector to vote him into office.
Treemonisha (1911/1972) is an opera composed by the famed African-American composer Scott Joplin, most famous for his ragtime piano works. Though it encompasses a wide range of musical styles other than ragtime, and Joplin did not refer to it as such, it is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a ”ragtime opera”. The music of Treemonisha includes an overture and prelude, along with various recitatives, choruses, small ensemble pieces, a ballet, and a few arias.
The opera was virtually unheard of until its first complete performance in 1972. The performance was called a ”semimiracle” by music historian Gilbert Chase, who said Treemonisha ”bestowed its creative vitality and moral message upon many thousands of delighted listeners and viewers” when it was recreated. The musical style of the opera is the popular romantic one of the early 20th century. It has been described as ”charming and piquant and … deeply moving”, with elements of black folk songs and dances, including a kind of pre-blues music, spirituals, and a call-and-response style scene involving a congregation and preacher.
The opera’s theme is that education is the salvation of the Negro race, represented by the heroine and symbolic educator Treemonisha, who runs into trouble with a local band of magicians who kidnap her.
Two Boys is an opera in two acts by American composer Nico Muhly, with an English-language libretto by American playwright Craig Lucas. The opera’s story is based on real events in Manchester, England, in 2001 as described in a 2005 Vanity Fair article titled ”You Want Me 2 Kill Him?” The Guardian, among other news publications, found that the story has depth and intricacy upon which Muhly’s opera only touches.
Muhly’s opera was first performed by the English National Opera (ENO) in London on 24 June 2011, directed by Bartlett Sher. It was performed by the Metropolitan Opera in New York in October and November, 2013. The ENO and the Met shared the initial production costs.
Using the narrative structure of a police investigation into a violent crime, the opera explores the world of online relationships and chatrooms, and was billed by the ENO as ”a cautionary tale of the dark side of the internet.”
Nonesuch Records released the first recording of the piece, from the Metropolitan Opera production, in 2014.
Vanessa is an American opera in three (originally four) acts by Samuel Barber, opus 32, with an original English libretto by Gian-Carlo Menotti. It was composed in 1956–1957 and was first performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on January 15, 1958 under the baton of Dimitri Mitropoulos in a production designed by Cecil Beaton and directed by Menotti. Barber revised the opera in 1964, reducing the four acts to the three-act version most commonly performed today.
For the Met premiere, Sena Jurinac was contracted to sing the title role. However, she cancelled six weeks before the opening night and Eleanor Steber replaced her, making it her own for a long time. In the role of Erika, Vanessa’s niece, was Rosalind Elias, then a young mezzo-soprano. Nicolai Gedda sang the lover Anatol, mezzo Regina Resnik sang the Baroness, Vanessa’s mother, while bass, Giorgio Tozzi, sang the old doctor.
The premiere ”was an unqualified success with the audience and with many of the critics as well although they were somewhat qualified in their judgment. Of the final quintet, however, New York Times critic Howard Taubman said it is ’…a full-blown set-piece that packs an emotional charge and that would be a credit to any composer anywhere today.’ ”. Other reports substantiate this and it won Barber the Pulitzer Prize. In Europe, however, it met with a chillier reception.
The Met’s Cecil Beaton sets were destroyed by fire in 1973 and, after a long period of few revivals, one being in 1988 by the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, the Washington National Opera (in a co-production with the Dallas Opera) revived the work in 1995 using the 1964 revised and more compact version. Elizabeth Holleque sang the title role.
Kiri Te Kanawa sang the title role in three revivals, the first of which was presented by the Opéra de Monte-Carlo in 2001 and the last two in 2004 (at the time, described as her farewell to the opera stage), at the Washington National Opera and at the Los Angeles Opera.
In all three productions, Rosalind Elias, who sang Erika in the 1958 premiere, took on the role of the Baroness. For its 50th anniversary revival by the New York City Opera in November 2007, she was once more featured in that role, with Lauren Flanagan taking the title role.
Highlights from the score include the soprano scena and aria He has come, he has come!…Do Not Utter a Word (recorded by Leontyne Price and Renée Fleming), the mezzo aria Must the Winter Come So Soon? (recorded by Denyce Graves), and the last-act quintet, To Leave, to Break.
Wakonda’s Dream is an English-language opera written by Anthony Davis with a libretto by Yusef Komunyakaa. It premiered March 7, 2007 at Omaha, Nebraska’s Orpheum.It has involved several well-known people in the world of opera and other musical and theatrical works. Directed by Rhoda Levine, the cast included Eugene Perry, Patrick Kilcoyne, Arnold Rawls, William Ferguson, Kristopher Irmiter, Mara Bonde, Phyllis Pancella, Joe Fitzgerald, Earl Howard and several other opera veterans.
Music by William Bolcom
Libretto by Arnold Weinstein and Robert Altman
Based on the motion picture of the same name by Robert Altman and John Considine
Commissioned by the Lyric Opera of Chicago
Premiered on December 11, 2004, Dennis Russell Davies conducting
”A Wedding is his best operatic score to date: accessible, singable, eclectic, consistently inventive and great fun.” — Chicago Tribune
”…half ironic, half tender, and fully enchanting…” — The New Yorker
”Audience laughter sprang not only from the hilarious plot situations but from the witty, perceptive libretto by Arnold Weinstein and [Robert] Altman, as well as from Bolcom’s frothy concoction of musical styles … Bolcom’s music swings and sways. It rocks and rolls. It dances a snappy samba. The wedding ceremony reels to a pompous march. It’s all in good fun — sort of a Bernstein meets Gershwin meets the Beatles.” —Charles H. Parsons, Opera News Online [Indiana University production, February 2008]
”This setting of Arthur Miller’s famous play will have a life beyond its premiere when most new operas do not because Bolcom exploits the glory of the human voice….Arthur Miller himself helped Arnold Weinstein adapt the play into an opera. Weinstein’s poetic expansions spring from Miller’s spare, potent dialogue like sunflowers in a scrapyard. Bolcom is as adept with Miller’s punchy dialogue as he is with Weinstein’s poetic flights. The speech rhythms are embedded in the music, which always feels melodic and part of the surging whole.” — Tom Strini, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
”Again and again, the orchestration confidently establishes just the right emotional temperature in any given scene. This is the opera Bolcom was born to write.” — David Patrick Stearns, USA Today
”… Weinstein, a selfless and sage librettist, knew what he was doing as he added layers of nostalgia: he was playing to the strengths of the composer….I can’t remember seeing a recent new opera as taut as this one: not a single note wasted.” — Alex Ross, The New Yorker
”….Bolcom’s melodic structures often suggest Italian opera, even if the idiom and the subject are American as Coney Island red hots…. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Bolcom is a shrewd composer for the theater, and his eclectic style… is an accurate reflection of the state of American art music in the final year of the 20th century… the young immigrant Rodolpho’s breakout area, ’New York Lights,’ reflects Bolcom’s lyrical best.” — John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune
”Bolcom’s music…was the heart of the drama… His longtime affinity for the best in popular song– its rounded, lyrical flow and often catchy rhythms — was on full, expert display here.” — Wynne Delacoma, Chicago Sun Times
”… this is an opera that works in the old-fashioned way, making characters sping to life, making us care, making us feel…. Bolcom has taken this material and treated it to his special brand of musical melange — a little 20th century acerbity, a little Puccini-esque romanticism (there are a few honest-to-goodness arias), a little pop (’Paper Doll’ is marvelously used in the score), a little Broadway. It adds up to a unique sound world that, much more often than not, holds the ear, paints the scene, intensifies the action.” — Tim Smith, Sun Sentinel, South Florida
”Bolcom set Arthur Miller’s gloomy play . . . to a score of considerable invention and power that complements and enhances the action with rare acuity. ’A View from the Bridge’ is a remarkable accomplishment — for Bolcom, for the cast, for Washington National Opera and for American opera.” –Tim Page, The Washington Post
”Although Mr. Bolcom’s score can be characterized as American verismo, he is unafraid to indulge in the kind of lyricism that opera audiences still crave. Arias like Rodolfo’s ravishing paean to his adopted city, ”New York Lights,” and Marco’s ominous ”A Ship Called Hunger,” have been too often lacking in contemporary opera.” –T. L. Ponick, The Washington Times
Opera by Gunther Schuller with world-premiere in Hamburg 1966. US premiere at San Francisco Opera 1967 conductor the composer.
Lacking much action and dialogue, Edgar Allan Poe’s macabre short story “The Fall of the House of Usher” may not seem the most obvious candidate for operatic treatment. Yet it has captured the imaginations of some of the most gifted composers, including American minimalist Philip Glass, whose 1987 opera has been seen all over the world, and, of course, Claude Debussy who worked on turning it into an opera from 1908 until 1917. Despite his close affinity for the subject, Debussy left La Chute de la Maison Usher unfinished when he died in 1918. His original plan—to write a double bill of Poe operas—was never fulfilled.
Now San Francisco Opera presents its own double bill: the American premiere of Robert Orledge’s completion of Debussy’s La Chute de la Maison Usher, alongside the American premiere of Usher House by San Francisco-based composer Gordon Getty.
Getty, who has composed operas on diverse subjects such as Joan of Arc and Falstaff, draws unabashedly on 19th-century musical models. San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, a close friend, has described Getty’s music as “a kind of free declamation. [His] harmonies and melodies come through in a very clear way: there is nothing murky about his music, even though his harmonies and transpositions of the notes can be very surprising.”
As Getty notes, “I feel that I belong to the nineteenth century. I have nineteenth-century ideals. I want to make the world better.”
– See more here
A Witch of Salem opera by Charles Wakefield Cadman
X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X is an opera with music by Anthony Davis and libretto by Thulani Davis. Based on the life of the civil rights leader Malcolm X. The opera premiered in a semi-staged production in Philadelphia in 1985 and received its first fully staged production at the New York City Opera in 1986.
Famous Swedish singers that have sung in USA
- Christina Nilsson
- Julia Claussen
- Karin Branzell
- Martin Öhman
- Nanny Todsen
- Gertrud Pålson-Wettergren
- Kerstin Thorborg
- Set Svanholm
- Jussi Björling
- Torsten Ralf
- Joel Berglund
- Hjördis Schymberg
- Sven Nilsson
- Sigurd Björling
- Birgit Nilsson
- Bengt Rundgren
- Berit Lindholm
- Nicolai Gedda
- Ingvar Wixell
- Birgitta Svendén
- Peter Mattei
- Susanne Resmark
- Lars Cleveman
- Katarina Dalayman
- Elisabeth Söderström
- Catarina Ligendza
- MariAnne Häggander
- Anne Sofie von Otter
- Nina Stemme
- Miah Persson
- Erika Sunnegårdh