Center for Contemporary Opera Receives Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant 3/18-19


Center for Contemporary Opera, led by General Director James E. Schaeffer, presents the world premiere of Michael Dellaira and JD McClatchy's The Secret Agent, Friday, March 18 and Saturday, March 19 at The Danny Kaye Playhouse. The cast features Metropolitan Opera veteran Amy Burton as Winnie and Scott Bearden as Verloc. The performance will be directed by Sam Helfrich. Emmy-nominated conductor Sara Jobin, will conduct the Center for Contemporary Opera Orchestra.

Based on Joseph Conrad's novel, The Secret Agent is a story of social tragedy and intimate human drama taking place in late 19th century London. It chronicles a stirring tale of political intrigue among anarchists and government officials, murder and suicide. A bomb has exploded at the Greenwich Observatory - an attack "having all the shocking senselessness of gratuitous blasphemy," as Conrad writes. Chief Inspector Heat's investigation leads to Adolf Verloc, a foreign provocateur and his cell of terrorists. But the bomber turns out to be a mere boy: Verloc's wife's beloved brother, out on a mission he could not have understood. On joint commission from The Center for Contemporary Opera, San Antonio Opera and Long Leaf Opera, Michael Dellaira and JD McClatchy have transformed this political mystery into a captivating opera.

Michael Dellaira's "haunting harmonies" (,"eloquence and sensitivity" (The New York Times) and "flair for vocal writing" ( are widely appreciated in both the U.S. and Europe. He has received numerous awards, including an ASCAP Morton Gould Award, as well as First Prize by the American Society of University Composers. Dellaira has also been awarded two residencies at The Composers Conference, a Fulbright Fellowship to Rome, grants from the American Music Center, Cary Trust, Ford Foundation, Mellon Foundation, New Jersey Arts Council and most recently, a Jerome Foundation commission from the American Composers Forum. A graduate of Georgetown University and the Academy of Santa Cecilia, he earned his Ph.D. in music composition from Princeton University. Currently Dellaira is Composer-in-Residence at the Center for Contemporary Opera.

J. D. "Sandy" McClatchy is a celebrated poet educated at Georgetown and Yale, from which he received his Ph.D. in 1974. In addition to many acclaimed essays, he is the author of six books of poetry: Mercury Dressing (2009); Hazmat (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002) which was nominated for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize; Ten Commandments (1998); The Rest of the Way (1992); Stars Principal (1986); and Scenes from Another Life (1981). McClatchy has written many texts for musical settings, including eight opera libretti, for such composers as William Schuman, Ned Rorem, Lorin Maazel, Lowell Liebermann, and Elliot Goldenthal, performed in opera houses around the world.

Of McClatchy's work, the poet Anthony Hecht said, "There are very few poets writing today who, poem by poem, move me from admiration to admiration, and always with renewed and novel delight. There is no poet writing whose intelligence, dexterity, wit or depth of thoughtfulness or feeling is greater or more telling than J. D. McClatchy's."

His honors include an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and
fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Amy Burton, soprano, is one of New York's most notable singers. She has been seen at the Metropolitan Opera from 1993 to the present and has been one of New York City Opera's leading sopranos in over a dozen productions. Her diverse musical life encompasses opera, chamber music, recitals, orchestral concerts and cabaret, with a special affinity for Mozart, Handel and French repertoire. Career highlights include operas and concerts in Zürich, Bern, Nice, Paris, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Wexford (Ireland), Tokyo, Rome, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as well as with American opera companies and orchestras in San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego and Washington, among others. In 2002, Amy Burton was
invited to sing at the White House, a performance that was broadcast nationally. A champion of new music, Ms. Burton has performed works by American composers such as John Musto, John Corigliano, Derek Bermel and William Bolcom, and premiered pieces by Musto, Paul Moravec, Lee Hoiby, John Harbison, Richard Festinger, Michael Cohen, Richard Danielpour, Richard Wilson, and Glen Cortese. Scott Bearden, baritone, continues to impress audiences and critics alike with his vivid portrayals of many of the heavier baritone roles from the Italian repertoire. Last year's engagements included an appearance at the prestigious Caramoor Bel Canto Festival and La Traviata with Fremont Opera. Other past engagements include: Rigoletto and Scarpia for Opera Theatre of Connecticut, Falstaff, Tonio in I Pagliacci and the title role in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi with Mississippi Opera, Un Ballo in maschera with Festival Opera, Falstaff for the Tanglewood
Music Festival, under the baton of Maestro Seiji Ozawa, Three Penny Opera, La Boheme and Tosca with West Bay Opera, Tosca and La Boheme with the Midland Symphony, Cosi fan tutte and Tosca at the Sanibel Music Festival, Falstaff, Tosca and Il Tabarro with IVAI in Tel Aviv, Israel, and with Opera San Jose, both as a resident artist and as a guest artist, L'Elisir d'amore, Rigoletto ( two productions), Madama Butterfly, Falstaff, Cosi fan tutte, Manon, La Boheme, I Pagliacci and IL Barbiere di Siviglia.