MasterVoices to Open 75th Season with New York Premiere of 27 This Fall

MasterVoices to Open 75th Season with New York Premiere of 27 This Fall

MasterVoices (formerly The Collegiate Chorale)will open its 75th anniversary season with Ricky Ian Gordon's 27, with libretto by Royce Vavrek, starring Stephanie Blythe, Heidi Stober,Theo Lebow, Tobias Greenhalgh, and Daniel Brevik, conducted by Ted Sperling, and directed by James Robinson, with Orchestra of St. Luke's on October 20 and 21, 2016at New York City Center.

27 explores the relationship between Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, who hosted regular salon evenings at their Paris home at 27 Rue de Fleurus, with such guests as Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Man Ray, Henri Matisse and Ernest Hemingway. Originally commissioned by Opera Theater of St. Louis, 27 received its world premiere in June 2014. For the New York Premiere, Ricky Ian Gordon has expanded portions of the opera originally sung by a small male ensemble and re-scored them for the full MasterVoices chorus.

"It's with great excitement that MasterVoices brings 27 to City Center for its New York Premiere," said Ted Sperling, MasterVoices' Artistic Director. "MasterVoices has had a long association with Ricky Ian Gordon, presenting the lauded New York Premiere of The Grapes of Wrath in 2010, and is building a new relationship with librettist Royce Vavrek, whose Naamah's Ark we will premiere this June. We at MasterVoices are committed to bringing worthy works to the New York audience that would otherwise go unheard, and 27is perfectly suited both to our mission and to the new series we've initiated this season at New York City Center. We're delighted to be welcoming back the singular Stephanie Blythe as Gertrude Stein, and to be working with the radiant Heidi Stober (Alice B. Toklas) for the first time. 27 is more than a celebration of the influence that Gertrude Stein had on her contemporary artist friends; it's also an expression of the love and devotion Alice B. Toklas felt towards Gertrude, and her desire to be recognized as her wife in an era where that was not possible. It could not be a better time to remind ourselves of the timelessness of this struggle, as we wrestle with what it means for us today."

"When I pitched the piece to Ted Sperling and MasterVoices," commented Ricky Ian Gordon, 27's composer, "it was because I heard in my head a way of expanding the texture of the three-man chorus to full chorus, in a way that I felt beautiful and exciting, and in no way robbed from the integrity of the piece. I ended up creating a new version, wherein I did nothing to what the actual cast does, but added the chorus to both augment and enhance some moments, and invent others. Now it feels like an entirely new opera to me, more epic, less intimate, but fresh and independent. I am very happy to premiere this new version with MasterVoices and Ted Sperling," Gordon said.

"The first thing that you notice about Ricky Ian Gordon's 27... is that it moves. Royce Vavrek, the librettist, taking his cue from Stein's own short phrases and cells of text, created a playful, quick-witted libretto that pushed Mr. Gordon beyond his trademark melodies into a brighter, friskier style. With so many contemporary composers falling into the trap of endless declamation, it is a treat to hear this lively fantasia about a curious historical figure that embraces her peculiarities but makes her sympathetic. It is no small matter that the piece was written for Stephanie Blythe, an outsize personality herself, whose grand, multifaceted mezzo brings the character to vibrant life." - Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal

Ricky Ian Gordon's work spans art song, opera, and musical theater, and has been performed and recorded by such internationally renowned singers as Renee Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Nathan Gunn, Judy Collins, Kelli O'Hara, Audra MacDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Nicole Cabell, the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Frederica Von Stade, Andrea Marcovicci, Harolyn Blackwell, and Betty Buckley, among many others. His most recent productions include Morning Star - libretto by William Hoffman, directed by Ron Daniels, conducted by Christopher Allen; 27 (world premiere) - libretto by Royce Vavrek, directed by James Robinson, conducted by Michael Christie; A Coffin In Egypt - libretto by Leonard Foglia based on Horton Foote's play, directed by Leonard Foglia, conducted by Timothy Myers;Rappahannock County - libretto by Mark Campbell, directed by Kevin Newbury, conducted by Rob Fisher; the musical Sycamore Trees - directed by Tina Landau, book by Ricky Ian Gordon and Nina Mankin; and The Grapes of Wrath - A Two Act Concert Version of the Opera with a libretto by Michael Korie, with MasterVoices (formerly The Collegiate Chorale) at Carnegie Hall, directed by Eric Simonson, conducted by Ted Sperling, narrated by Jane Fonda. Gordon recently completed an opera based on Giorgio Bassani's novel, "The Garden of the Finzi Continis" with librettist Michael Korie, and is currently working on commissions from New York's Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Theatre. Mr. Gordon studied at Carnegie Mellon, and now teaches Master Classes and Composition Classes in Colleges and Universities throughout the country including Yale, NYU, Northwestern, Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, Catholic, Bennington, Vassar, and his alma mater. He has been the featured Composer-in-Residence at countless music festivals and among his honors are an OBIE Award, the 2003 Alumni Merit Award for exceptional achievement and leadership from Carnegie-Mellon University, A Shen Family Foundation Award, the Stephen Sondheim Award, The Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Theater Foundation Award, The Constance Klinsky Award, and awards from ASCAP, of which he is a member, The National Endowment of the Arts, and The American Music Center. Mr. Gordon's works are published by Williamson Music, Carl Fischer Music, and Presser Music and are available everywhere and widely recorded on various labels. For more, visit: http://www.rickyiangordon.com/bio.php.

Royce Vavrek is a Brooklyn-based librettist and lyricist known for his standing as "a favorite collaborator of the postclassical set" (Time Out New York), his name "virtually synonymous with contemporary opera in New York" (I Care If You Listen). His work has been called "sharp, crisp, witty" (See Magazine), "taut" (The New Yorker), "meticulous" (Operavore, WQXR Radio), "full-throated" (CulturePOP), "dramatically wild" and "exhilarating" (The New York Times). Royce is co-Artistic Director of The Coterie, an opera-theater company founded with soprano Lauren Worsham. He holds a BFA in Filmmaking and Creative Writing from Concordia University in Montreal and an MFA in Musical Theater Writing from NYU. He is an alum of ALT's Composer Librettist Development Program. For more, visit: http://www.bretadamsltd.net/content/client/lyricists/royce-vavrek/.

Renowned opera singer and recitalist, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe is considered one of the most highly respected and critically acclaimed artists of her generation. Her repertoire ranges from Handel to Wagner, German lieder to contemporary and classic American song. Ms. Blythe has performed on many of the world's great stages, such as Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, Paris National Opera and San Francisco, Chicago Lyric and Seattle Operas. Her many roles include the title roles inCarmen, Samson et Dalila, Orfeo ed Euridice, La Grande Duchesse, Tancredi, Mignon, and Giulio Cesare; and Frugola, Principessa, and Zita in Il Trittico; Fricka in both Das Rheingold and Die Walküre; Waltraute in Götterdämmerung; Azucena in Il Trovatore;Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera; Baba the Turk in The Rake's Progress; Jezibaba inRusalka; Jocasta in Oedipus Rex; Mere Marie in Dialogues des Carmélites; Mistress Quickly in Falstaff; andIno/Juno in Semele. She also created the role of Gertrude Stein in Ricky Ian Gordon's 27 at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. This summer she sings the title role in Samson et Dalilah with the Atlanta Symphony, and next season she returns to the San Francisco Opera as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd and the Houston Grand Opera as Nettie Fowler in Carousel. She also performs her new program, Sing, America! Ms. Blythe was named Musical America's Vocalist of the Year in 2009, received an Opera News Award in 2007, and won the Richard Tucker Award in 1999. Ms. Blythe released her first crossover recording on the Innova label with pianist Craig Terry in 2013 and is also the Artistic Director of the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar at the Crane School of Music. For more, visit: http://www.stephanieblythemezzo.com/about/.

Stunning audiences with her sterling lyric soprano voice and incisive stage personality, American soprano Heidi Stober has established herself as a house favorite at leading companies on both sides of the Atlantic. Since her critically acclaimed debut at Deutsche Oper Berlin in the fall of 2008, Ms. Stober has cultivated a long standing relationship with the company, going on to appear in a variety of leading roles including Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Micaëla in Carmen, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, Adina in a new production of L'elisir d'amore, Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel, Oscar in Un ballo in maschera, Nannetta in Falstaff, Zerlina in Don Giovanni and Princess Ninette in Robert Carsen's newproduction of Prokofiev's L'Amour des Trois Oranges. Heidi's professional training took place at the Houston Grand Opera Studio, and she holds degrees from Lawrence University and the New England Conservatory. For more, visit: http://www.heidistober.com/biography/.

Tenor Theo Lebow began 2015 with a very successful return to Seattle Opera as Jupiter and Apollo in Handel's Semele. The Seattle Times praised him for his "Tonal beauty, alacrity, and commendable passagework." In the spring of 2015, Mr. Lebow sang a wide variety of concert and recital engagements, including a debut with The German Forum, and a return to The New York Festival Of Song for concerts at both Merkin Hall, New York City, and Washington DC's Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. He also sang Schubert's "Die Winterreise" at the Gretna Music Festival with the Henschel String Quartet, a performance later broadcast on NPR. A notable success was Mr. Lebow's debut in May 2014 with Opera Theatre of St. Louis as Picasso and F. Scott Fitzgerald in the World Premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon's opera 27, a recording of the opera has since been recorded on Albany Records. For more, visit http://www.kenbensonartists.com/roster/artist/theo-lebow.

Baritone Tobias Greenhalgh is a versatile singer on the rise, whom Opera News recently claimed was "so clearly headed for success." Most recent credits include the title role inEugene Onegin, Argante in Rinaldo, Ceccoin Gli Uccelatori, Le Directeur/ Gendarmein Les Mammelles de Tiresias, and Ramiro in L'heure Espangole at the Wiener Kammeroper in Vienna. Tobias also sang the role of Schaunard in La bohème with Palm Beach Opera and Argante in Rinaldo at the New Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. Upcoming engagements include Carmina Burana with the Noord Nederlands Orkest, a leading role in an upcoming production for the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus at the Franz Lehàr Festival at Bad Ischl, Ned Keene in Peter Grimes and Littore/Tribune inL'incoronazione di Poppea at the Theater an der Wien, Escamillo in Carmen,The Father inHansel and Gretel at the Wiener Kammeroper, and Morales in Carmen with Palm Beach Opera. As a Gerdine Young Artist at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, he created the roles of Leo Stein and Man Ray in the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon's 27. He is a recent graduate of The Juilliard School, from which he earned both his Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees. For more, visit: http://tobiasgreenhalgh.com/about/.

Bass-baritone, Daniel Brevik, raised in the small town of Holliston, Massachusetts, grew up playing football, delivering newspapers and singing Sinatra tunes. During his studies at Plymouth State University, Brevik started singing with the Chamber Singers, and under the superb direction of Dr. Daniel Perkins, toured around The U.S., Vietnam, and Italy. Brevik was soon awarded the Wendy Shattuck Presidential Scholarship by the New England Conservatory for his studies in opera. Although his experience in opera was limited, his coaches and teachers, combined with hard work helped him to learn fast. After receiving his masters from NEC, Danny was hired as a member of the 2013 Gerdine Young Artistprogram at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Danny proved to be a stand-out during his first engagement with OTSL and was rehired as the "Android" for OTSL's The Very Last Green Thing. OTSL later asked him to become a soloist in their artist in residence program where he got to showcase his skills in Opera, Musical Theater, Jazz, Country Music and R&B at schools around St. Louis. In 2014, the role of 27's Henri Matisse/Ernest Hemmingwaywas written for Brevik, and as a result, he got to perform in the world premiere. Brevik continued his quest of sharing music, traveling and singing all over Moldova, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, on a mission of spreading the joy of music to third world countries. For more, visit: http://dannybrevik.wix.com/dbrevik#!biography/c1enr.

Ted Sperling has maintained an active and successful career in the theater and concert worlds for over thirty years. A multi-faceted artist, he is a director, music director, conductor, orchestrator, singer, pianist, violinist and violist. He is the Artistic Director of MasterVoices (formerly The Collegiate Chorale) and Principal Conductor of the Westchester Philharmonic. Mr. Sperling won the 2005 Tony and Drama Desk Awards for his orchestrations of The Light in the Piazza, for which he was also music director. Other Broadway credits as music director/conductor/pianist include the rapturously received revivals of Fiddler on the Roof, The King and I and South Pacific; Guys and Dolls, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Full Monty, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Angels in America, My Favorite Year, Falsettos, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, LES MISERABLES, Roza, and Sunday in the Park with George. Mr. Sperling was also an original cast member of the Broadway musical Titanic. Mr. Sperling has an active concert career, working with many major symphony orchestras, and singers Audra McDonald, Victoria Clark, Patti LuPone, Kelli O'Hara, Nathan Gunn, Idina Menzel, Paulo Szot and Deborah Voigt. For more, visit tedsperling.net.

American stage director James Robinson is Artistic Director at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, where he has mounted productions including Chin's Alice in Wonderland (American premiere), Ash's The Golden Ticket (world premiere), Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles(also presented at the Wexford Festival), and Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer and Nixon in China (a production seen throughout the United States and Canada). Elsewhere, Robinson has directed new productions for Houston Grand Opera (Lucia di Lammermoor, Giulio Cesare and Abduction from the Seraglio), San Francisco Opera (Norma, Il Trittico andL'Elisir d'amore) and the Canadian Opera Company (Norma, Elektra and Nixon in China). For the Santa Fe Opera, he has directed new productions of Capriccio, Così fan tutte andThe Rake's Progress, and numerous productions for the New York City Opera (La bohème, Hansel and Gretel and Il viaggio a Reims). His work has also been seen at the Australian Opera, the Washington Opera, the Los Angeles Opera, the Seattle Opera, the Royal Swedish Opera, the Dallas Opera, the Minnesota Opera and Chicago Opera Theater. Additionally, he has created productions for the London Symphony Orchestra (Bernstein's Mass and Honegger's Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher), the Hollywood Bowl (Amadeus), Carnegie Hall, and the Minnesota Orchestra. Future plans include a revival of Dr Sun Yat Sen and collaborations with Washington National Opera and Houston Grand Opera. For more, visit:http://www.rayfieldallied.com/artists/james-robinson/

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