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Lowell House Opera to Present World Premiere of NIGHTTOWN

The production will run from March 10th through the 12th at the Sanders Theatre.

Lowell House Opera to Present World Premiere of NIGHTTOWN

Lowell House Opera, the professional opera company in residence at Harvard University, presents the world premiere of NIGHTTOWN: an operatic reimagining of James Joyce's Ulysses, by composer and librettist Benjamin Perry Wenzelberg, based on the 15th and 18th chapters of Ulysses and the novel's roots in Homer's Odyssey. Performances will take place at Sanders Theater at Harvard University and will be livestreamed from March 10-12, 2022 at 7:30 and 3pm, 100 years after the novel's initial publication. The showtime is approximately 100 minutes, and the Sanders Theatre is located at 45 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. The opera is performed in English with a fifteen-piece orchestra, and will be conducted by Wenzelberg and stage directed by Lowell House Opera Executive Producer and Stage Director Adrienne Boris.

Featuring a cast, orchestra, and creative team composed equally of professionals and undergraduate Harvard College students, NIGHTTOWN was commissioned by LHO in 2019 from Wenzelberg and musically advised by composers Jonathan Dove and Michael Gandolfi. This is the company's first commission of an undergraduate composer and its first world premiere. The opera also serves as Wenzelberg's senior thesis as an English concentrator, advised by Professor Russell Rymer.

This daring, visceral new opera refracts one of the most monumental novels in the English language through the consciousness of a character still gaining her voice 100 years after its publication. The epic journey of Homer's Odyssey-as retold through James Joyce's portrayal of a single day in Dublin, Ulysses-is infused into the interior lives of interconnected characters rocked by grief. NIGHTTOWN presents the debaucherous "Circe" chapter of Joyce's story through the perspective of Molly Bloom, whose final-chapter soliloquy is the only time she holds narrative focus in the novel. The opera portrays Molly's own odyssey-rife with contemporary overtones on this timeless story-from dreamy musings in bed next to her sleeping husband into a wild world of her own imagination. Through dramatic forays into sexuality, sedition, collision, confrontation, transgression, and ultimately, profound loss, NIGHTTOWN shows us that time and time again, the "longest way round is the shortest way home."

Composer and /librettist Wenzelberg began his opera career at a young age as a child soloist and chorister at The Metropolitan Opera, starred as Miles in Britten's The Turn of the Screw with New York City Opera, and even appeared on several musical segments of Sesame Street. Prior to coming to Harvard, he studied composition and conducting for eight years at Juilliard Pre-College. He is the winner of an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award for his opera Sleeping Beauty: A New Opera for Family Audiences, and recently conducted The Boston Pops as the winner of the Bernstein Centenary Conducting Competition. As a countenor, he has been featured on WBUR's "From the Top" and was named a 2021 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions District Winner of the Boston District and Encouragement Award Winner of the New England Region.

Wenzelberg's prodigious musical talent and interdisciplinary approach to creating opera have recently attracted the attention of The Harvard Gazette and The Harvard Crimson who have written advance coverage of NIGHTTOWN. His turn at The Boston Pops podium was also featured in The Boston Globe in 2018.

About his creative process, Wenzelberg states, "Telling the novel's narrative through the voice of Molly Bloom's final-chapter soliloquy felt especially meaningful 100 years after the original work's publication, and centering her story of great grief and profound love takes on particular salience in my mind during contemporary times. I consider NIGHTTOWN a testament to a lot of loss, personally and collectively, during COVID, and also a vehicle of rediscovered connection and catharsis profoundly apt for 2022."

The opera also features one of the only explicitly gender-expansive characters in operatic repertoire, based on the Ulysses character Bella Cohen, who, in the novel, presents as gender fluid and runs the brothel visited by Leopold Bloom. Wenzelberg has renamed the character Bell*, offering multiple possible endings (e.g. Bella, Bello, Bellix, etc.) depending on the performer's identity and/or the production's interpretation of the character. The role's musical range is also written flexibly. In Lowell House Opera's production, Bell* will be sung by male soprano Elijah McCormick.

"The world premiere of NIGHTTOWN epitomizes Lowell House Opera's mission to produce professional work featuring Harvard College students working as peers alongside professionals," says Executive Producer & Stage Director of Lowell House Opera, Adrienne Boris, who co-commissioned the work along with fellow professional advisor and LHO Music Director, Edward Elwyn Jones, in 2019. "Not only is Benjamin certain to take the opera world by storm with his talent and infectious enthusiasm, but he also writes contemporary opera that speaks to contemporary times in a way that is inclusive and immediate. NIGHTTOWN is an accessible, moving story about collective grief, the changing nature of love, and the way in which our home shapes us in the world at large, themes that have only grown more potent over the course of the opera's pandemic-era development. It is a remarkable work, especially for such a young composer/librettist, and Lowell House Opera is proud to share it with a wide audience this March."

For tickets and livestream information, click here.

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