New York City Opera Champions American Opera with 11th Season of VOX Contemporary American Opera Lab
Free Annual Showcase of New American Operas Returns to Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University on April 30 & May 1, 2010
Record Number of Submissions Received for VOX 2010
Operas to Include Bang on a Can Co-Founder Michael Gordon's Acquanetta
(New York, NY, February 18, 2010) – Affirming the role of New York City Opera as a leader in the development of American opera, the company’s celebrated annual new music festival, the newly-renamed VOX Contemporary American Opera Lab, will return on Friday, April 30, and Saturday, May 1, to the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts (566 LaGuardia Place, at Washington Square South) at New York University. Now in its eleventh year, this showcase for new American operas offers both emerging and established composers and librettists the opportunity to hear their previously unproduced works performed by New York City Opera’s soloists, orchestra and chorus in readings that are free and open to the public.
The ten operas to be featured in the VOX Lab were selected from a record-high total of 99 submissions. As a group, the operas are experimental and boundary-pushing, encompassing all of the diverse qualities that define contemporary American opera. Featured works include A Revolution of Forms by Anthony Davis, whose opera X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X, premiered at City Opera in 1986. Paola Prestini’s Oceanic Verses will star Grammy Award-winning soprano Hila Plitmann and Italian folk singer Claudio Prima. Other selections include works by returning VOX composers including Brian Current (Airline Icarus, VOX 2007), David T. Little (Soldier Songs, VOX 2008), and Scott Davenport Richards (Charlie Crosses the Nation, VOX 2008).
“This year, we are bringing VOX closer to the heart of New York City Opera,” stated George Steel, New York City Opera General Manager and Artistic Director. “By renaming VOX as a Contemporary American Opera Lab, we not only underscore the critical role of VOX in the mission of New York City Opera, but the crucial role of City Opera in creating and nurturing American opera.”
For six decades New York City Opera has been a leader in development of American opera, with an unmatched repertory of 95 American works by more than 58 American composers. City Opera has also played a major role in shaping an American aesthetic for opera through the world premieres of 29 American operas. To date, VOX has presented excerpts from 100 new operas, with more than 40 of those going on to full productions — four at City Opera and the remainder at companies including Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Washington National Opera, Michigan Opera Theater and Santa Fe Opera, placing VOX at the core of New York City Opera’s commitment to American opera.
VOX: SECOND LOOK, an initiative introduced at VOX 2009, will continue in 2010, enabling composers to present new excerpts from works previously performed at VOX and other workshop settings, along with works that have been premiered but not performed again since. This year, composer Michael Gordon, best known for his compositions and work with Bang on a Can, will showcase his opera Acquanetta, which was previously performed in Germany, and composer Daniel Crozier will also have the opportunity to demonstrate the progress of his opera With Blood, With Ink (VOX 2000).
FREE. Limited availability. Reservations begin April 1 online at: nycOpera.com
Friday, April 30 – 7:00-10:00 pm
Panel Discussion: Writing for the Voice: Exploring the relationships between composers and singers in developing new operatic works.
Moderator: Beth Morrison, joining NYCO this year as VOX Producer
Panelists: VOX composers David T. Little, Paola Prestini, Missy Mazzoli, Julian Wachner, Scott Davenport Richards
With Blood, With Ink
Daniel Crozier, composer; Peter Krask, librettist
A boldly Neo-Romantic depiction of the visionary but tragic life of Juana Inés de la Cruz, a 17th-century intellectual, poet, nun and feminist ultimately forced by the Inquisition to sign an oath in blood renouncing her daring work. The dying Juana looks back on her life, vainly trying to counsel and comfort her younger self. Each of the opera’s nine scenes is framed by a fragment of the Requiem Mass, and the libretto skillfully incorporates morsels of Juana’s own poetry.
Du Yun, composer-librettist
Torn from her roots in rural China, a dead woman wanders through the shadowy space between memory and reality, tracing her identity through the land she once walked; an immigrant in death as in life. The Chinese-born composer explores memory and origin, through childhood stories recast in a wistful narrative. In this haunting chamber music theatre piece, the protagonist’s voice is split in two: a rational narrator, unable to internalize the depth of her loss, and a visceral vocalist, unable to rationalize it.
Song from the Uproar
Missy Mazzoli, composer-librettist
This unique chamber opera offers a deeply personal response to the colorful journals of Isabelle Eberhardt (1877-1904), a Swiss writer, adventurer, Sufi, and romantic who left her home at age 20 to lead a nomadic life in the North African desert. Immersing us in the surreal landscapes of Eberhardt’s life, Song from the Uproar explores such universal themes as falling in love, breaking with the past, and the conflicts between East and West.
A Star Across the Ocean
Scott Davenport Richards, composer-librettist
In 1965, a black American theatre director and his wife, a white dancer, take their 4-year-old son along on a tour to Paris. This “mythic” autobiographical music theatre piece knits the family’s Parisian experiences together with those of the legendary expatriates Josephine Baker, Paul Robeson, and Quincy Jones, revealing surprising insights into racial politics both here and abroad.
David T. Little, composer; Royce Vavrek, librettist
Based on a short story by Judy Budnitz, this contemporary black comedy weaves the tale of a post-apocalyptic American family facing wartime poverty, desperation, and chaos, and the hybrid creature who arrives to enrich and complicate their lives. Deftly blending opera and rock-infused musical theatre, Dog Days poses the nagging question: Where is the line between animal and human?
Saturday, May 1
Panel Discussion: Why Write an Opera?
Moderator: George Steel, City Opera General Manager and Artistic Director
Panelists: VOX Composers Du Yun, Brian Current, Daniel Crozier, Anthony Davis, Dafnis Prieto, Michael Gordon
Brian Current, composer; Anton Piatigorsky, librettist
A composer who critics call “wild and witty” and “playfully radical” teams up with an award-winning playwright to create a miniature music drama for soprano and orchestra about a young woman who daydreams while taking inventory at a ladies’ shoe store. It’s bel canto meets Blahnik.
Julian Wachner, composer; Alexis Nouss, librettist
Based on Longfellow’s classic poem of love and loss, Evangeline Revisited retells the tale while challenging its assumptions. In post-modern, post-feminist fashion, the heroine is embodied by two sopranos: one the poet’s Romantic vision, and the other a caustic contemporary observer. Similarly, the work is scored for traditional orchestra, while fearlessly juxtaposing atonal, folk, cabaret, medieval, and aleatoric musical idioms.
A Revolution of Forms
Anthony Davis, Dafnis Prieto, composers; Alma Guillermoprieto, Charles Koppelman, librettists
In 1961, Fidel Castro seized an abandoned country club and hired architect Ricardo Porro to build on its site a National Art School meant to embody the hopes and dreams of the Cuban Revolution. A diverse creative team creates an epic personal and political drama of real people and events, swathed in the sensuous, rhythmic sounds of Afro-Cuban music and evoking timeless motifs including creativity, community, and revolution.
Paola Prestini, composer-librettist
A portrait of the composer’s native Italy as a multi-ethnic mosaic of ancient cultures. With a libretto drawn from classic and folk sources dating as far back as 3000 BC, this “operatic tableau of rituals” explores three aspects of every woman’s psyche: martyr, nurturer, and ruler. The intertwining tales of the Mother and the Queen are set to strikingly original music peppered with fragments of traditional and ancient music and field samples collected from Italy’s ancient Salento region.
Michael Gordon, composer; Deborah Artman, librettist
The eponymous heroine, an exotic, mysterious actress, rose to B-movie fame in the 1943 horror classic Captive Wild Woman, in which she played the improbably lovely result of a mad scientist’s experiments on an ape. Blending classic minimalism and contemporary popular sounds, Acquanetta deconstructs the film’s climactic scene: the mad scientist, the ape, and Acquanetta conjure both the campy spirit of B-movies and a haunting meditation on the nature of identity.
About the Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at NYU
The Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, New York University, is the premier venue for the presentation of cultural and performing arts events at NYU and lower Manhattan. Located at 566 LaGuardia Place (at Washington Square South), it provides a large-scale performance space for university events and live professional performances from around the world. The 860-seat theater opened in October 2003 and hosts the only major university-based professional multi-arts presenting program in Manhattan. As a result, one natural and continuing mission of the Skirball Center is to build young audiences for live performance through a broad range of compelling performance events at affordable ticket prices. For more information and a current schedule of events, visit www.skirballcenter.nyu.edu
About New York City Opera
America’s preeminent cultural institutions, celebrated for its adventurous programming and visionary productions. The company’s wide-ranging repertory of 275 works spans five centuries of music and includes 29 world premieres and 61 American and/or New York premieres. The company has been a leading showcase or young artists, helping to launch the careers of more than 3,000 singers, including José Carreras, Phyllis Curtin, David Daniels, Plácido Domingo, Lauren Flanigan, Elizabeth Futral, Jerry Hadley, Catherine Malfitano, Bejun Mehta, Sherrill Milnes, Samuel Ramey, Gianna Rolandi, Beverly Sills, Norman Treigle, Tatiana Troyanos, and Carol Vaness. In 1983 City Opera made operatic history when it became the first American opera company to use supertitles, an innovation that has revolutionized the way opera is produced and appreciated worldwide. New York City Opera’s 2009–2010 season began on November 5, 2009, with American Voices, a gala concert that celebrated the company’s return to its newly renovated home, the David H. Koch Theater. The repertory for the 2009–2010 season features productions that showcase the company’s musical versatility and theatrical flair: a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and revivals of four signature productions; Hugo Weisgall’s dynamic Esther, Emmanuel Chabrier’s delightful L’Étoile, Puccini’s beloved Madama Butterfly, and Handel’s intimate comedy Partenope. The 2009–2010 season also features the expansion of the company’s groundbreaking education programs, which will introduce the magic of opera to more than 4,000 students in all five boroughs of New York City. To learn more about New York City Opera visit nycOpera.com
Sponsors and Supporters
New York City Opera dedicates its 2010 spring season to the memory of James C. Slaughter.
Leadership support for VOX 2010 is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Major support is provided by The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc., The Amphion Foundation, Inc., The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, The Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, The Helen F. Whitaker Fund, Virgil Thomson Foundation, Ltd., and contributors to the VOX Special Appeal. Public support is provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts. New York City Opera would also like to recognize the leadership and support of the Board's VOX Committee: John E. Baumgardner, Jr., Chairman, Carol M. and Timothy A. Cole, Mary Sharp Cronson, Mary Gould, Cerise and Charles Jacobs, Kenneth S. Kaiserman, Younghee Kim-Wait, Carol Ann Leibner, Raymond Steckel, Joan Ross Sorkin, and Baroness Mariuccia Zerilli-Marimò. New York City Opera thanks Linda and Stuart Nelson for their special gift to support composer copying costs.