Heartbeat Opera Announces Titles for SPRING FEST 2024

The company performs two operas in rep: a reimagined EUGENE ONEGIN, and Heartbeat's first-ever commissioned opera, THE EXTINCTIONIST.

By: Jan. 31, 2024
Heartbeat Opera Announces Titles for SPRING FEST 2024

Heartbeat Opera returns to Baruch Performing Arts Center with its Spring Festival from April 2-14, 2024. 

The company performs two operas in rep: a reimagined EUGENE ONEGIN, and Heartbeat's first-ever commissioned opera, THE EXTINCTIONIST, by composer and Heartbeat Opera Music Director Daniel Schlosberg and playwright Amanda Quaid.

Schlosberg has long been the "secret sauce" of Heartbeat Opera's productions. His chamber arrangements of classic operas, hailed as "ingenious" by The Wall Street Journal and "Heartbeat's secret weapon" by The New Yorker, are always front and center, with unexpected instrumentation, sound design and electronics. After last season's MACBETH, Oussama Zahr wrote in The New York Times: "Schlosberg, with the vision of a master sculptor, chipped away at Verdi's score to reveal new contours and continuities in the music and action. He didn't so much reduce Verdi's orchestration as reinvent it for an ensemble of six musicians (including himself as conductor and pianist)...They played like a band possessed...It was flat-out brilliant." THE EXTINCTIONIST—Schlosberg's first opera, in which he again conducts from the piano—offers a moment to celebrate his brilliant work with Heartbeat Opera over the last decade.

"We are thrilled to be putting on Dan's opera—it's new, yet so quintessentially 'Heartbeat'," states Artistic Director Jacob Ashworth. "ONEGIN is a bucket list piece and I'm so excited to adapt Tchaikovsky's masterpiece with Dustin Wills (2024 Obie Award for Wolf Play, Montag, and Wet Brain) as we continue to be a place for brilliant theater directors to shake up the opera world."

In addition to Dustin Wills winning an Obie last week, two designers in the Spring Festival won Obie Awards: Kate Noll (set design for The Extinctionist and associate set design for Onegin), and Haydee Zelidith (costumes for both The Extinctionist and Onegin).

Heartbeat has become synonymous with visceral productions such as a FIDELIO that recruited real prison choirs as the chorus, and a CARMEN set on the U.S./Mexico border that featured accordion, electric guitar, and saxophone (and cut the famous “Habanera” from the opening but inserted it as the harrowing finale)—and its Spring Festival promises more bracing surprises. 

EUGENE ONEGIN

A brand new 100-minute adaptation.
Sung in Russian. Subtitles in English.

Tuesday, April 2, 7pm
Thursday, April 4, 7pm
Saturday, April 6, 7pm
Sunday, April 7, 7:30pm
Thursday, April 11, 7pm
Saturday, April 13, 7pm

Inside the ornamented drawing rooms of a buttoned-up society, three young outsiders flame into mismatched passion and combust, hurtling toward irreparable choices. Tchaikovsky's long-suppressed queerness floods into every character of this propulsive drama, as they smash against one of the most romantic operatic scores in history.

Heartbeat Opera's adaptation of EUGENE ONEGIN looks at romance and friendship through the lens of Tchaikovsky's suppressed queerness. The desires of all three main characters—Onegin, Tatyana, and Lensky—are warped and transmuted by the pressure of their society, so that they resist definition even as they demand expression. 

A series of only recently uncensored letters written by Tchaikovsky to his brothers give a fuller, clearer insight into the oppression he faced for his sexuality. An excerpt of one such letter to his younger brother (September 28, 1876, Moscow):

"Can you understand how it kills me to think that people who love me can sometimes feel ashamed of me! It's happened a hundred times. What I want is to get married or openly have an affair with a woman in order the shut the mouths of all those scum. Since my letters to you I've already given way three times to my proclivities. Only the other day I made a trip to the village where Bulatov lives, and fell madly in love with his coachman. So you're quite right when you say that people are totally incapable of not yielding to their weaknesses."

This reimagining of EUGENE ONEGIN comes at a time in which many Russian artists are being forced to flee the country or live under terrifying risk. In Heartbeat's hands, Tchaikovsky's psychological masterpiece becomes an acute expression of the impossibility of liberation and acceptance that remains true even in our most progressive societies today. 

This production marks the major New York opera debut for the fast-rising theater director Dustin Wills, who just won an Obie Award for his Direction of Wolf Play, Montag, and Wet Brain, and also recently won the Lucille Lortel award for Wolf Play. Other plays he has directed include Frontières Sans Frontiéres, named in The New York Times' Top Ten Theatrical Productions of 2017 and a Time Out New York Critics Pick; and Plano, called "rare theater magic" by Austin's Sightlines Magazine.

Daniel Schlosberg's new 8-instrument orchestration exposes the tensions between domestic strictures and illicit desire inherent in EUGENE ONEGIN. Folk timbres, unbridled romanticism, and electric soundscapes shade the score as it takes unexpected turns, while remaining true to the essence of Tchaikovksy's ravishing masterpiece.

Composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Libretto by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky & Konstantin Shilovsky
Adaptation Dustin Wills & Jacob Ashworth
New Arrangement Daniel Schlosberg
Director Dustin Wills 
Music Director Jacob Ashworth (doubling on violin)
Scenic Designer Dustin Wills
Costume Designer Haydee Zelideth
Lighting Designer Reza Behjat
Stage Manager Abril Valbuena
Dramaturg Peregrine Teng Heard
Festival Production Management Intuitive Arts Management

CAST
Eugene Onegin Edwin Joseph
Tatyana Emily Margevich
Lensky Roy Hage
Olga Maggie Renee
Filipyevna Tynan Davis
Larina Shannon Delijani
Prince Gremin Lloyd Reshard Jr.

ORCHESTRA
(Ashworth conducts, and leads from the violin)
Violin (doubling electric), Viola, Cello, Bass (doubling electric),
Clarinet/Bass Clarinet/Saxophone, Horn, Harp, Guitars (acoustic/electric)

THE EXTINCTIONIST

A world premiere 75-minute opera.
Sung in English.

Wednesday, April 3, 7pm
Friday, April 5, 7pm
Sunday, April 7, 3pm
Wednesday, April 10, 7pm
Friday, April 12, 7pm
Sunday, April 14, 3pm

THE EXTINCTIONIST follows a young couple trying to have a baby. Ice caps are melting. Forests are burning. In the face of environmental collapse, one woman wonders if the best way to protect a future child is not to have one at all. It all goes according to plan until she discovers she has little choice in the matter. In this dark comedy, a woman's body becomes a battleground of political anguish, conflicting desire, and existential dread.

The first opera composed by Heartbeat Opera's Music Director Daniel Schlosberg follows the story of a woman making a difficult decision—to bear a child or not, in the face of climate change—contending with the choices that are available to her. The libretto by Amanda Quaid (based on her play of the same name) feels even more prescient in the face of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Shadi Ghaheri returns as director after her successful TOSCA at the 2023 Spring Festival, which The Wall Street Journal characterized as "clever" and Opera News described as "seamlessly tailored." 

THE EXTINCTIONIST also marks prize-winning writer, actor, and teacher Amanda Quaid's first opera libretto. Her work as a playwright, which she began in 2018, has been lauded on off-Broadway stages, and her screenplays have received widespread recognition at Oscar-qualifying festivals across the country.

Originally workshopped in 2021 at PS21 in upstate NY, THE EXTINCTIONIST received a feature in The New York Times, in which Jacob Ashworth was quoted as saying "You can't really put climate change itself onstage. But what you can do is show what climate change does to a marriage, to a friendship, to somebody's choices in their lives, to their own activism, to their own involvement in the world around them." This 13-minute documentary shows an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at the residency of the opera. 

THE EXTINCTIONIST is a piece that feels intrinsically “Heartbeat,” even though it is a brand new work: a taut story, focusing on societal issues affecting real people, with a small cast and band, and an obsession with using the medium of opera to unleash the emotional avalanche inside the drama. 

CREATIVE & PRODUCTION TEAM
Composed by Daniel Schlosberg 
Libretto by Amanda Quaid, based on her play
Originally conceived with Louisa Proske
Director Shadi Ghaheri 
Music Director Daniel Schlosberg
Scenic Designer Kate Noll
Costume Designer Haydee Zelideth
Lighting Designer Reza Behjat
Projection Designer Camilla Tassi
Puppetry by Afsaneh Aayani
Stage Manager Chris Griswold
Dramaturg Peregrine Teng Heard
Festival Production Management Intuitive Arts Management

CAST
Woman Yvette Keong
Man Philip Stoddard
Friend Claire Leyden
Doctor Eliam Ramos

ORCHESTRA
(Schlosberg conducts from the piano) Violin (doubling Viola) Suliman Tekalli
Electric Guitar Taylor Levine
Percussion Katherine Fortunato

Heartbeat's Spring Festival

April 2-14, 2024
Baruch Performing Arts Center

Heartbeat Opera

heartbeatopera.org




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