Music of Conrad Cummings Set for TWO PREMIERES AND A REUNION at The National Opera Center, 9/10
American Opera Projects and LivelyWorks present Two Premieres and a Reunion, a special evening of music by composer Conrad Cummings Wednesday September 10th, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at The National Opera Center, 330 Seventh Avenue, Manhattan. Tickets are $15 available online at https://twopremieres.eventbrite.com or $20 at the door. A reception with the artists will follow the concert.
The performance features premieres of two commissioned works: the theatrical song cycle Thoroughfare, written for Metropolitan Opera tenor Keith Jameson with lyrics by Mark Campbell; and the virtuoso concert piece Golden Gate Fantasy, written for award-winning violinist Gregory Fulkerson.
Also featured are two concert duets reuniting frequent Cummings collaborators Jesse Blumberg and Hai-Ting Chinn: Before The Golden Gate, with lyrics by Vikram Seth; and From Positions 1956, with lyrics by Michael Korie. Long-time Cummings collaborator, Charity Wicks, is the pianist for all four works.
Cummings composed Before The Golden Gate as a preparation - a "writing into" - the full-length opera based on Vikram Seth's novel in verse. Hai-Ting Chinn and Jesse Blumberg have both been frequent collaborators of Cummings's, and each has sung a role in The Golden Gate, but never at the same time. Here they interweave the voices of multiple characters in an abstract evocation of the novel's dark lyricism. From Positions 1956 takes moments from Cummings's and Michael Korie's opera drawn from instructional manuals of the 1950's, particularly marriage manuals, and casts them into a concert piece customized for these two interpreters.
Golden Gate Fantasy is a 21st century take on a 19th century form: the virtuoso concert piece drawn from themes of a popular opera, in this case Cummings's. Gregory Fulkerson notes, "Like Sarasate's fantasy to Carmen, I asked Cummings for dare-devil virtuosity, playfulness, and a distillation of the opera's intense lyric spirit. He's more than succeeded."
Renowned tenor Keith Jameson, recently appearing in Falstaff at the Metropolitan Opera, will premiere the theatrical song cycle Thoroughfare, a work written expressly for him by Cummings and noted librettist Mark Campbell. Subtitled "A song cycle between places," the five-part story follows the protagonist from Columbus Circle where his boyfriend has suddenly broken up with him, down Broadway, to Madison Square Park where his heart begins to mend. Jameson explains, "I wanted to be as vulnerable as the lover in Schubert's Winterreise. But I wanted it to feel fresh, modern, and like it could be a chapter out of my own life."
AOP General Director Charles Jarden writes, "Conrad has always had a special place at AOP. One of his many talents as a composer is writing expressly for the singers involved, in this case Jesse, Hai-Ting and Keith. AOP has had the good fortune to work on some of this dramatic material previously, with these talents, including the pianist Charity Wicks. We are excited to connect with it again as it develops into concert form. We predict that Conrad's newest work for Keith, working with librettist Mark Campbell, will resonate with the audience along with the artists."
Cummings notes, "It's rare that commissions, lyricists, and performers of this quality come together in one night. And it's a wonderful reunion for artists who love each other's work and have all excelled in my music on separate occasions. For one happy night we all get to work together. And the audience is invited to join us all for drinks and snacks after the concert. Life doesn't get better."
ABOUT THE CREATORS:
A versatile composer on the faculty at The Juilliard School Evening Division, CONRAD CUMMINGS has received the following praise from the NYTimes: "Mr. Cummings is his own man, with an impressive ability to change styles while retaining a compositional image." His works have been performed at Carnegie Hall, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, and by the New Jersey, Indianapolis, and Louisville Orchestras. Commissions include Canadian Brass, Opera Delaware, and San Francisco Opera Center. The Golden Gate ("Intensity more often encountered in Stephen Sondheim's musicals than in the opera house." - NYTimes) with libretto adapted from Vikram Seth's novel in verse, received a staged workshop at Lincoln Center's Rose Studio, co-produced by AOP and Livelyworks, and was named one of the best operas of the 21st century by Opera News. Positions 1956 ("an amusing piece given substance by some tender and some keen, rueful moments." - The New Yorker), a self-help opera in three parts with libretto by Michael Korie, commissioned by Washington DC opera company UrbanArias, received its premiere production in April 2012, followed by a revival of the political campaign opera Photo-Op ("A must-see" - Washington Post) by the same company in September 2012. Earlier operas include Eros and Psyche, Oberlin Opera Theater ("I can't think of anybody else who's doing what he's doing right now." - The New Yorker), and Tonkin, Opera Delaware ("Mr. Cummings samples musical history for techniques and sonorities the way rappers sample pop rhythms." - NYTimes). Cummings trained at Yale, Stony Brook, and Columbia, did post-doc work at IRCAM in Paris, taught at Oberlin Conservatory for ten years where he directed the music and media program, moved to New York to run a kids' interactive media company, and since 2003 teaches composition in the Evening Division at The Juilliard School. Recordings are available on CRI's Emergency Music label; honors include MacDowell, Djerassi and Tanglewood fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Opera America, and The Rockefeller Foundation. www.conradcummings.com
MARK CAMPBELL is one of the most in-demand librettists in contemporary opera, profiled in Opera News as an artist "poised...to become a major force in opera in the coming decade." Mark is most known for writing the libretto for Silent Night, which garnered a 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music for composer Kevin Puts. The opera was produced by Minnesota Opera, aired on PBS' Great Performances and will be seen in eight cities since its premiere. Other successful operas include Later the Same Evening, Volpone, Bastianello/Lucrezia, Rappahannock County and A Letter to East 11th Street. As a lyricist, Mark penned the lyrics for Songs from an Unmade Bed, which premiered at New York Theatre Workshop and has since been produced around the world. Other musicals: The Audience, Chang & Eng, and Splendora. Mark received may prestigious awards for his work, including: the first Kleban Foundation Award, two Richard Rodgers Awards, a NYFA Playwriting Fellowship, three Drama Desk Award nominations, a Rockefeller Foundation Award, and a Jonathan Larson Foundation Award. Upcoming projects include: The Manchurian Candidate (Kevin Puts, Minnesota Opera), As One (Laura Kaminsky, Kimberly Reed, co-librettist, AOP commissioned BAM), Burke+Hare (Julian Grant, MTG), The Shining (Paul Moravec, Minnesota Opera), The Trial of Elizabeth Cree (Kevin Puts, Opera Philadelphia), Dinner at Eight (William Bolcom, Minnesota Opera). www.markcampbellwords.com