Fort Worth Opera revealed today the names of the composers whose works have been selected for participation in the first season of the company’s exciting, annual new works program, Frontiers, making its debut May 6 – 11, 2013. The showcase will present eight unpublished works by composers from the Americas during the last week of the 2013 Opera Festival in the McDavid Studio across from Bass Hall in downtown Fort Worth.
Frontiers’ selected composers will present their works in 20 minute performances sung by artists in the 2013 Opera Festival and accompanied by piano. Steven Osgood will conduct the performances. The performances will be offered in two separate showcases of four works each on Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 6:00 – 7:00 pm, and Friday, May 10, 2013 at 3:00 – 4:00 pm.
In announcing the selected composers, Fort Worth General Director Darren K. Woods, who chairs the Frontiers panel, stated, "We were incredibly excited at the response to Frontiers. Fort Worth Opera received over 80 submissions to the Frontiers showcase and the caliber of works submitted was very high and the result is eight words of top quality that we are excited to present.
The works encompass a wide range of subjects that deal with today's struggles, from terrorism on our native soil to the problems families have getting along. Each one, whether comic or dramatic, takes a global challenge and tells it through a personal story."
Kurt Howard, Producing Director and Frontier’s Curator, commented on the selection process, saying, "We received a wide range of pieces, running from preliminary sketches from novice composers to fully produced works from lauded talents. The Frontiers panelists selected these works from independent listening to samples - without any knowledge of the composers until after the scores were tabulated. These eight selections quickly rose to the top of the list, but there were many talented voices represented in the submitted works.”
Synopses of each opera (in alphabetical order by composers’ last names), and brief biographies of the composers and librettists follows below.
Airline Icarus, by composer Brian Current and librettist Anton Piatigorsky, takes a look at the interpersonal dynamics, fears and longings of three passengers and a flight attendant on an intercontinental flight in the context of the Greek myth of Icarus.
Family rivalry, sibling jealousy, and its effects are the focus of composer Stephen Eddins’ and co-librettist Michael O’Brien’s Why I Live at the P.O., a chamber opera in one act based on the story by Eudora Welty about a young postmistress in small town Mississippi in the 1940’s.
Composer Matt Frey and librettist Daniel J. Kushner have written The Fox and the Pomegranate, an allegorical tale of love, seduction and betrayal.
A Chinese Zodiac goddess’s experience of compassion for the human race causes her to lose her place in the heavens and to share her musical powers with mankind, thereby rescuing it from the ravages of a deadly disease in composer/librettist Wang Jie’s work, From The Other Sky.
Brontë fans will want to hear the operatic interpretation of composer Louis Karchin’s and librettist Diane Osen’s Jane Eyre, based on the famous novel by Charlotte Brontë about a young orphan raised by a cruel aunt who falls in love with a man not knowing he is currently married.
The journey and final descent in to madness and suicide of the wife of Shakespeare’s MacBeth, is the focus of The Mortal Thoughts of Lady Macbeth, by composer Veronika Krausas, with librettist Thomas Pettit.
Composer Patrick Soluri, with librettist Deborah Brevoort, have written Embedded, the tale of an aging major American network anchor being pushed out by a younger rival. Tricked by a terrorist (whose last attack was foiled by her reporting) into traveling to see him for an exclusive interview, the opera takes an unexpected twist and ends with a moment of triumph in face of death.
The compelling story of the life and legacy of Negro League baseball player Josh Gibson, and the importance of his life in desegregating baseball is conveyed in The Summer King, by composer Daniel Sonenberg, with co-librettist Daniel Nester.
Frontiers composers will be in residence at the Festival from May 6 – 11, 2013. Post-performance discussions, and also open rehearsals will be part of the showcase.
The Frontiers Panel comprises, in addition to Mr. Woods, Joe Illick (Music Director), Kurt Howard (Producing Director and Frontiers Curator), and Keith A. Wolfe (Managing Director) will be joined by composer Mark Adamo, stage director and opera incubator organization American Lyric Theater founder Lawrence Edelson, stage director Candace Evans, Fort Worth Opera board member John Forestner, music critic, journalist, and author William V. Madison, conductor Steven Osgood, and Leadership FWOpera member Edward Willey.
Composer and Librettist biographies
Brian Current, composer: Airline Icarus
Brian Current studied music at McGill University and UC Berkeley. His music, lauded and performed internationally, as well as broadcast in over 35 countries, has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Barlow Prize for Orchestral Music (USA), the Italian Premio Fedora for Chamber Opera and a Selected Work (under 30) at the International Rostrum of Composers in Paris. Brian Current’s pieces have been programmed by all major symphony orchestras in Canada and by the Indianapolis Symphony, the New York City Opera, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the Oakland Symphony, the St. Lawrence String Quartet, the Warsaw National Philharmonic, the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, the American Composers Orchestra (Carnegie Hall), Monday Evening Concerts (Los Angeles) and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. This season includes performances of his music by the Toronto Symphony, the Montreal Symphony, The Gryphon Trio, The Nouvel Ensemble Moderne and the National Symphony of Taiwan. Brian is the director of the New Music Ensemble of The Royal Conservatory in Toronto, where students are encouraged to commission and champion new works throughout their careers.
Anton Piatigorsky, librettist
Anton Piatigorsky’s plays include Breath In Between, Eternal Hydra, The Kabbalistic Psychoanalysis of Adam R. Tzaddik, Mysterium Tremendum and The Offering. He is the recipient of two Dora Mavor Moore awards for best new play, and the 2005 Elinore and Lou Siminovitch Protégé Award for playwriting. Anton’s other work includes the librettos for Airline Icarus (winner of the Primo Fedora Award) and Inventory, chamber operas by composer Brian Current. His first fiction, The Iron Bridge, a collection of short stories about 20th Century dictators as teenagers, was published by Goose Lane Editions in September 2012. He lives in Toronto.
Stephen Eddins, composer: Why I Live at the P.O.
Stephen Eddins was born in Charlottesville, VA, and started composing when he was nine. He received music degrees from Oberlin, the University of Akron, and a doctorate in composition from the University of Michigan. His teachers include Randolph Coleman, Bright Sheng, William Albright, Erik Santos, Evan Chambers, and Michael Daugherty. He has twice been a Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Much of his work involves collaboration with other artists and the interaction between music and text -- vocal and choral music, opera, music for theater and dance, liturgical music, and performance art. His stage works include Paranoia: A Psycho-Opera, and incidental music for Henry V, Macbeth, Yeats' The Only Jealousy of Emer, and Weiss' The Investigation. Three Canadian companies have mounted his opera, The Doll's House, and its Toronto production was nominated for 7 Dora (Toronto Theatre Guild) awards, including Outstanding New Musical and Outstanding Sound Design/Composition. The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance performed excerpts from his opera, Why I Live at the P.O., based on the story by Eudora Welty, in celebration of Welty's centennial year in 2009. Organized Rhythm (Clive Driskill-Smith, organ and Joseph Gramley, percussion) recently commissioned him to write Pluto, which was premiered at the American Guild of Organists' 2012 National Convention. As a teacher, he leads group seminars on the development of aural creativity and offers private composition instruction. In addition to working as assistant classical music editor for All Music Guide, he has written for The Opera Quarterly.
Michael O'Brien, librettist
Michael O’Brien is a playwright/dramatist whose works have been produced across Canada as well as in the USA and Great Britain. His works include Mad Boy Chronicle (Alberta Theatre Projects) and Restitution (Factory Theatre). Adapted works for the stage include A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist and Treasure Island (Young Peoples Theatre), The Barber of Seville (Theatre Columbus), Charles Dickens' Hard Times (Mainstage, National Arts Centre 2000) and H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man (The Shaw Festival 2006).His original dramatic works for CBC Radio include Shores of Wonder, Hearts of the World, Castle Grove and Someone Just For Me, and adapted radio works include Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin. Currently in progress: two original plays, God’s Wounds and The Runcible Lear, as well as a number of television projects with co-writer Christopher Marren. Mr. O'Brien is based in Toronto, Ontario.
Matt Frey, composer: The Fox and the Pomegranate
Matt Frey is a Brooklyn-based composer of contemporary concert music, both for vocal and instrumental ensembles. In 2012, Frey traveled to Auvillar, France, to work with members of Ensemble L’arsenale and the East Coast Contemporary Ensemble at the Etchings Contemporary Music Festival; just prior to that, he had earned a fellowship to participate in the 2012 John Duffy Composers Institute in Norfolk, Virginia, where scenes from his opera-in-progress The Fox and the Pomegranate were workshopped and performed. In addition to current projects – including original music for New York’s modern dance company Bodyart and a film score for celebrated Los Angeles chef Jordan Kahn – recent projects have included residencies, commissions, and/or premieres with the Jack String Quartet, the West Point Woodwind Quintet, the NYU Symphony Orchestra, and the Manhattan Wind Ensemble. A recent graduate of the Master’s program in Music Composition at New York University, where he studied with Joan La Barbara and Julia Wolfe, Frey is also known as a new music producer, performer, conductor, and advocate through his activities as co-founder of the West 4th New Music Collective, a cooperative of NYC-based composers and performers. Website: www.w4newmusic.com.
Daniel J. Kushner, librettist
Daniel J. Kushner is a professional arts journalist and music critic whose work has been featured in such publications as Opera News, NewMusicBox, The Huffington Post, and Symphony. Selected writings by Mr. Kushner—which often focus on the contemporary classical music scene, as well as non-classical music and visual art—can be found at his website, http://postpostrock.com/. He trained as a tenor during his undergraduate studies, and he completed his M.A. at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. The Fox and the Pomegranate is co-written with composer Matt Frey and marks Mr. Kushner’s debut as opera librettist; the opera was first workshopped at the 2012 John Duffy Composers Institute. Previous work includes the text for the song cycle A Painting of Pollock, set to music by Mr. Frey for vocalist and percussion. Pollock was premiered in September 2011 at Exapno in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Wang Jie, composer/librettist: From the Other Sky
Born in Shanghai, Wang Jie has emerged as one of the most distinctive musical voices of her generation. Elegant and elementally clear, she spins a few notes into large music forms – a rare trait in today’s composers. A scholarship from Manhattan School of Music brought her to the US where she began her composition studies under the tutelage of Nils Vigeland and later at the Curtis Institute of Music with Richard Danielpour. Her tragic opera Nannan was showcased by New York City Opera's annual VOX festival. This led to the production of her chamber opera Flown, a meditation on lovers who must separate, by Music-Theatre Group. Having won the coveted Underwood Commission, her concert opera From the Other Sky was the centerpiece of the American Composers Orchestra's season opening concert at Carnegie Hall. The Minnesota Orchestra, led by Osmo Vanska, performed her Symphony No. 1 as part of its Future Classics series. Multi-language song cycle "A Longing for Spring" was premiered at Merkin Hall for the 45th anniversary celebration of Continuum. Jie holds honors from ASCAP, American Academy of Arts and Letters, BMI, NYU, Opera America, among others. Recent commissions include a symphonic work for Detroit Symphony Orchestra, an Oboe Concerto for Orchestra of the League of Composers, a song for Opera America’s opening of the National Opera Center and Songs for Mahler in the Absence of Words for the New York Piano Quartet. The recordings of the latter two works are released in fall 2012. Website: www.wangjiemusic.com
Louis Karchin, composer: Jane Eyre
Louis Karchin’s music has been performed world-wide, most recently at the Alba Music Festival and La Fenice, in Italy, at Mozart Hall, Seoul, South Korea, and at Tanglewood’s Festival of Contemporary Music. The British music journal, Contemporary Music Review singled out Karchin as one of twenty-five of the most exciting American composers born in the decade of the 1950's, and he was chosen as one of 53 composers selected to represent New York at the turn of the millennium in the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's "Great Day in New York" Festival at Alice Tully Hall. In 2011-12, Mr. Karchin was a recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and in the spring of 2012, he received the inaugural Andrew Imbrie Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Karchin studied at the Eastman School of Music and Harvard University; his principal teachers have included Samuel Adler, Joseph Schwantner, Fred Lerdahl, Earl Kim, and Leon Kirchner. Additional study included two summers as a Leonard Bernstein Fellow in Composition at the Tanglewood Music Center. He is now Professor of Music in NYU's Faculty of Arts and Science, teaching in an advanced graduate program in composition, which he organized in 1989. Karchin’s first opera, Romulus, received a fully-staged premiere in May of 2007, in a three-way collaboration between Works and Process at the Guggenheim, American Opera Projects, and the Washington Square Ensemble, and is now available on a much-heralded Naxos release. Other prominent vocal-instrumental works include his Masque, Orpheus, based on a poem by Stanley Kunitz (premiered by Earplay), and American Visions, on poetry of Yevgeny Yevtushenko (premiered by the Da Capo Chamber Players). Recognition for Mr. Karchin’s work has come from the Koussevitzky, Fromm and Barlow Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts (three awards), and two additional awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His music is published by C. F. Peters Corporation and the American Composers Alliance. Five CDs of his work are available on Naxos, New World, and Albany labels.
Diane Osen, librettist
Librettist Diane Osen earned a BA with honors from Vassar College and an MA in English from Rutgers University before embarking on a career as a writer, consultant and teacher. In addition to serving as a communications executive at Polaroid, Columbia Pictures and NBC, she has taught writing at New York University and has consulted for non-profit arts institutions such as the National Book Foundation, the American Museum of the Moving Image and Concert Artists Guild. Among the four books she has published is The Book That Changed My Life, a collection of interviews with prize-winning novelists, historians and poets including E.L. Doctorow, Don DeLillo, Diane Johnson, David McCullough and Philip Levine. Inspired by these writers, she adapted the book that changed her life—Jane Eyre—into a libretto for composer and conductor Louis Karchin. Her interest in opera was sparked early in life by her father David Osen, who began his career as a baritone at the New York City Opera singing in The Student Prince, Der Rosenkavalier and Der Fledermaus. She looks forward to re-introducing to 21st century opera audiences one of the most iconic figures of 19th century literature. Diane lives in Short Hills, New Jersey, with her husband Rick Covkin and their daughter Serena.
Patrick Soluri, composer: Embedded
Patrick Soluri is a New York City based composer who specializes in dramatic music for orchestra, ballet, opera, film & TV. His love of telling stories through music is evident in a large body of work for the stage, screen and concert hall. This includes five commissioned ballet scores performed and commissioned by Staatsballet Berlin, Dances patrelle and Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet, the most well-known of which are Madame X (featuring American Ballet Theater principal dancer Marcelo Gomes), and Fancy Nancy, based on the popular children’s books. Additionally, numerous operatic works including a showcase by New York City Opera as part of ‘VOX Showcasing American Composers’; the one-act opera, Embedded, commissioned and workshopped by American Lyric Theater; and a series of short comic operas that have premiered annually since 2009 at sold-out shows Carnegie Hall with the Remarkable Theater Brigade. His most performed short opera is the dark comedy Figaro’s Last Hangover. He has also worked on numerous film and TV projects including the Emmy winning Wonderpets, and recently finished working with Sean Lennon on the film score for Alter Egos. His music has been featured on various shows on TLC, LOGO and DISCOVERY in the US and Europe, including America’s Got Talent. Performances of his operas during the 2012/13 season include Fort Worth Opera, Remarkable Theater Brigade at Carnegie Hall, Juventas New Music Ensemble in Boston, plus several additional performances around the country yet to be announced. For the latest news and more info, please visit www.patricksoluri.com
Deborah Brevoort, librettist
Deborah Brevoort is an award winning author of numerous plays and musicals and is best known for The Women of Lockerbie, which is currently being performed around the world after winning the Kennedy Center Fund for New American plays award and the silver medal in the Onassis International playwriting competition. In addition to Embedded, she wrote the librettos for: Steal a Pencil for Me, an opera about the Holocaust with Gerald Cohen; Crossing Over, a hip hop musical set in Amish Country with Stephanie Salzman; two musicals based on Alaskan children’s books, King Island Christmas and Goodbye My Island with David Friedman; and Coyote Goes Salmon Fishing, with Scott Richards. She is a two-time winner of the Frederick Loewe Award. Her plays include: Blue Moon Over Memphis, a Noh drama about Elvis Presley (published in The Best American Short Plays) The Poetry of Pizza, a cross cultural comedy about love, (Purple Rose, Mixed Blood, Virginia Stage and others); The Comfort Team, about military spouses during the surge of Iraq (Virginia Stage); The Velvet Weapon, a backstage farce about democracy; The Blue-Sky Boys about NASA’s Apollo mission (Sloan commission; Barter Theatre); and Into the Fire and Signs of Life (published by Samuel French). Deborah is an alumnus of New Dramatists and was an original company member with Perseverance Theatre in Alaska. She is a co-founder of Theatre Without Borders. She teaches at Goddard College in Vermont, and at Columbia University and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in New York City. Website: www.DeborahBrevoort.com
Daniel Sonenberg, composer: The Summer King
Daniel Sonenberg’s music has been performed by the Da Capo Chamber Players, the Momenta String Quartet, Friends and Enemies of New Music, the Portland Chamber Music Festival, the Manhattan School of Music, and many others. In 2011, he was awarded a residency at Yaddo, where he completed his opera, The Summer King, about the great Negro League baseball player Josh Gibson. Workshop and concert performances of scenes, arias and duets from the opera have taken place in New York City and Portland, Maine since 2003. Many of these have been sponsored by the New York-based company American Opera Projects. In March 2013, the Da Capo Chamber players will premiere a new work by Dr. Sonenberg while in residence at the University of Southern Maine. He has been increasingly active as a performer of his own music in recent years, having played the guitar part for numerous performances of his Seven Jarring Dances for Clarinet(s) and Steel-String Guitar (2011) and the drum part for his Takes One to Know One (2012), for bass clarinet, cello, bass, and percussion (floor tom and kick drum). He has received grants and fellowships from the Maine Arts Commission, Meet The Composer, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the New York Music Fund, and the American Music Center. Daniel Sonenberg is Associate Professor and Resident Composer at the University of Southern Maine. He lives in Portland with his wife, artist Alex Sax, and four-year-old triplet sons, Satchel, Pablo and Levi.
Daniel Nester, co-librettist
Daniel Nester is the author of How to Be Inappropriate, a collection of humorous nonfiction; God Save My Queen: A Tribute and God Save My Queen II: The Show Must Go On, collections on his obsession with the rock band Queen; and The History of My World Tonight, a collection of poems. His work has appeared in a variety of places, such as Salon, n+1, The Morning News, The Daily Beast, The Rumpus, Time Out New York, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and the Poetry Foundation website, and anthologized in such collections as The Best American Poetry 2003, The Best Creative Nonfiction, and Third Rail: The Poetry of Rock and Roll. He is an associate professor of English at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.
Veronika Krausas, composer: The Mortal Thoughts of Lady Macbeth
Composer Veronika Krausas has had her works performed internationally. She has directed, composed for, and produced multi-media events. Her chamber opera The Mortal Thoughts of Lady Macbeth, based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, was premiered at the New York Opera’s VOX 2008 festival. It was staged and won both the Best Opera and Best Performance for The Mortal Thoughts of Lady Macbeth at Goat Hall Productions Works for Opera (San Francisco - 2009). A full production was mounted in Los Angeles in August 2010. In February 2009 the Penderecki String Quartet gave the US Premiere of midaregami, her work for string quartet and mezzo-soprano at the Redcat Theater at Disney Hall. Language of the Birds, a commission for the 25th Anniversary of the San Francisco Choral Artists and the Alexander String Quartet, was released on CD with Foghorn Classics. Her chamber orchestra work analemma is an official selection of the US for the 2012 World Music Days in Belgium. Of Lithuanian heritage, she was born in Australia, raised in Canada, and lives in Los Angeles. She has music composition degrees from the University of Toronto, McGill University in Montreal, and a doctorate from the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Krausas is an Assistant Professor in the Composition Department and the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Theory at the Thornton School of Music, on the advisory council of Jacaranda Music, an associate artist with The Industry, a lecturer at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and an artist with Catalysis Projects.
Librettist: Thomas Pettit
Thomas Pettit is a playwright and television writer from London, England. He moved to the United States and graduated from Tufts University with a degree in Spanish Literature; he now lives in Los Angeles. He has written numerous plays and screenplays and most recently wrote for the CBS television crime drama Cold Case; one of his episodes was the award-nominated “Forever Blue”. He is currently completing his first mystery novel, A Madman’s Notes.
Fort Worth Opera’s upcoming 2013 Festival season runs April 20–May 12, 2013, and offers Puccini’s tragic drama, La Bohème; Donizetti’s spirited switched-at-birth romantic comedy, The Daughter of the Regiment; and the company’s first-ever production of Strauss’ entertaining and comedic opera-within-an-opera, Ariadne auf Naxos, all performed in the company’s artistic home, Bass Hall. The company’s popular alternative venue series, newly-titled Opera Unbound, will feature the regional premiere of American composer Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied, to be held in the McDavid Studio across from Bass Hall in downtown Fort Worth. An emotion-packed, landmark work based on the bestselling book by journalist Tom Philpott, Glory Denied tells the tragic, true story of America’s longest-held Vietnam prisoner-of-war, Colonel Jim Thompson. Nine singers will make their company debuts in lead roles this spring. Please note that the company’s 67th season and seventh festival is one month earlier than previous seasons as it moves to its new time.
Tickets for the 2013 Festival can be purchased online, by phone, or in person at the Fort Worth Opera Box Office inside the Fort Worth Community Arts Center at 1300 Gendy St., Fort Worth, Texas, 76107. Season subscriptions start at $35 while single tickets start at $25. For more information, please visit www.fwopera.org or call 817.731.0726 or toll-free at 1.877.396.7372. To purchase tickets online, go to www.fwopera.org.