2011 has already become a defining year in the history of civil rights movements, with the long-awaited legalization of same-sex marriage in New York State. In tribute to this historic event, American Opera Projects (AOP) on August 18th will host a public concert reading of vocal works by gay-identified New York composers, at its home base at South Oxford Space in Fort Greene. The program weds music by the young and upcoming Stefan Weisman with that of Pulitzer Prize winner David Del Tredici, and is conceived and conducted by conductor Conrad Chu, a specialist in contemporary music and proud New Yorker.
The one-act opera Fade, with music by AOP regular Stefan Weisman to a libretto by David Cote, will receive its second New York performance, but the first in the city to perform the composer's original arrangement for chamber orchestra. Fade, which tells the story of a New York yuppie couple encountering relationship problems stemming from a move to the country, was one of AOP's major development projects at the time of its New York premiere in July 2009. Since then it has been favorably received in many publications, with Bloomberg News calling Weisman's music "lyrical in a Philip-Glass-meets-John Adams vein," and showing "an ear for a gracious melody." The cast stars soprano Mellissa Hughes and baritone Christopher Herbert as the young couple, with mezzo-soprano Pamela Stein playing their housekeeper.
Concluding the program is a classic of the neo-Romanticist movement in the 1980s, when major figures in American composition were taking their first courageous steps to break with the hegemony of atonal serialism. Haddocks' Eyes dates from 1986, and is part of the long series of Lewis Carroll-inspired compositions for which David Del Tredici is most widely celebrated. Scored for 10 instrumentalists and soprano-narrator, the piece is based on the scene in Through the Looking-Glass where Alice befriends the elderly White Knight, who sings her a very odd song to lift her spirits. Like much of Del Tredici's vocal oeuvre, Haddocks' Eyes is an absurdist tour-de-force, and an irresistible challenge for a mercurial diva/actress. Mellissa Hughes will be our redoubtable soloist, and in a rare appearance, the composer himself will take on the demanding piano part in the ensemble.
Mr. Chu's chamber orchestra is composed of talented free-lancers and recent graduates from Juilliard, Manhattan, and other top conservatories. Admission is free, and free-will donations will be gratefully accepted. AOP presents this concert as part of its Helping Hands initiative, which supports the creation and presentation of new music by providing artists with administrative structure, organizational support and community outreach.
For more information and directions to the concert, go to www.operaprojects.org.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Stefan Weisman creates playful and brooding soundscapes described by Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times as "personal, moody and skillfully wrought." His opera Darkling, commissioned by American Opera Projects, was included in the Guggenheim Museum's Works & Process series and toured Europe in 2007. It will be released by Albany Records in 2012. His one-act opera Fade was commissioned by the British opera company Second Movement and premiered in London in 2008. Among his other commissions are works for Bang on a Can, Sequitur, and the eighth blackbird. He is a graduate of Bard College (BA) and Yale University (MM), and Princeton University (PhD). His composition instructors include David Lang, Joan Tower, Martin Bresnick, Steven Mackey, and Paul Lansky. Presently, he is on the faculty of Bard College's High School Early College in Queens.
David Cote, librettist, is collaborating with Stefan Weisman on a new opera, The Scarlet Ibis (HERE Artist Residency Program). Other libretti include the work-in-progress Atigun Pass with Robert Paterson and an untitled opera about fetishes. Fade had its world premiere in October 2008 in London. Cote also wrote the text for Paterson's recent choral piece, Did You Hear? for Vermont Youth Orchestra Association. Plays: Otherland (Gingold Theatrical Group) and the "final" scene of George Bernard Shaw's Why She Would Not. Cote is the theater editor of Time Out New York and a member of the New York Drama Critics Circle. He also appears as a contributing critic on NY1's On Stage and teaches arts criticism at Brooklyn College. Cote lives in Manhattan with his wife, Katherine Kellgren. Fellowships: The MacDowell Colony.
David Del Tredici - Generally recognized as the father of the Neo-Romantic movement in music, David Del Tredici has received numerous awards and has been commissioned and performed by nearly every major American and European orchestral ensemble. Del Tredici came to prominence with a series of works based on Lewis Carroll's "Alice" books. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1980 for In Memory of a Summer Day for soprano and orchestra, which is part of the "Alice" series. From the predominately atonal Pop-Pourri (1968) and An Alice Symphony (1969), his language has evolved to the lush romanticism of Child Alice (1977-81), and current works. Many Del Tredici recordings abound, and most recently, he was nominated for a 2007 Grammy Award in the category of "Best Contemporary Composition" for choral/orchestral work Paul Revere's Ride. Distinguished Professor of Music at The City College of New York, Del Tredici makes his home in Greenwich Village.