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MassOpera & OperaHub Announce Selected Work For New Opera Workshop

The New Opera Workshop is an innovative partnership to spearhead the cultivation, creation, workshopping and production of new chamber opera.

MassOpera & OperaHub Announce Selected Work For New Opera Workshop

In June of 2020, MassOpera and OperaHub announced a call for proposal submissions to the New Opera Workshop (NOW) seeking creative and innovative operatic works to add to the American operatic cannon. Projects were required to feature a majority of female roles with a focus on roles for diverse women, by librettists and composers currently living in the United States.

From the initial call, NOW received 95 applications for blind review, and from that pool, 74 projects met the stated requirements, and were advanced to the next round of review. Eight projects were chosen as finalists, and sent to a review panel made up of diverse industry experts--including, Michael Bobbitt, the new executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council; Dawn Simmons, executive director of StageSource; and Mark Campbell, Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award winning librettist--before a final project was selected by the New Opera Workshop team: OperaHub's General Director, Christie Gibson, MassOpera's Director of New Works, Cassandra Lovering, and MassOpera's Co-Artistic Director, Daniel P. Ryan.

After four rounds of review, MassOpera and OperaHub are pleased to announce the New Opera Workshop selected work: Caravana de mujeres, a comedic opera by Laura Barati, librettist, and Nicolas Lell Benavides, composer.

CARAVANA DE MUJERES

Laura Barati, librettist

Nicolas Lell Benavides, composer

Cast: 4 women, 3 men

Inspired by a real Spanish matchmaking service that uses day trips to the countryside to help Latina immigrants meet rural Spanish farmers at speed dating events, Caravana de mujeres follows Luz, a Colombian immigrant in her sixties, as she searches for love and companionship. Already on a bus to the country, Luz is horrified to learn that her niece, Natalia, has not only booked a trip to the wrong town, but to a place she's avoided for six years: her ex-fiancé's hometown. Natalia is shocked to learn that Luz was engaged to farmer Juan Antonio until his 83-year-old mother disapproved of his engagement to an immigrant. Juan Antonio is at that night's event, hoping to see Luz. As Luz faces the farmer that got away, Natalia is forced to confront her prejudices about her aunt's aspirations for romantic connection. Caravana de mujeres is an earnest comedy that explores the very human desire for love and companionship while also diving into the fascinating larger social dynamic between Latinx immigrants and native Spaniards.

NOW will foster process-driven opera development, supported by a collaborative team of performers and artistic/production personnel, and in the coming months will provide the Caravana de mujeres team with all the resources necessary to build the opera from the ground up, including providing dramaturgical support, hosting and facilitating librettist and piano vocal workshops, and connecting the librettist and composer with a stage director, movement specialist, set designer, and other industry professionals.

Nicolas Lell Benavides, composer of Caravana de mujeres, of the process says that, "Opera forces composers and writers, who are solitary creatures by nature, to work together and reckon with new and sometimes conflicting points of view. I find this sharing of the process thrilling, and a big part of the success of opera comes down to investment in development. As a composer my focus is on the music, but many people fail to realize that the best stories take months or years of story development where the composer serves a support role to the librettist. I'm so happy that Laura and I are getting time and resources with MassOpera and OperaHub to be sure our story clicks."

Laura Barati, librettist of Caravana de mujeres believes that "Developing Caravana de mujeres through MassOpera and OperaHub's New Opera Workshop has been a dream! Often in new opera development, the time allotted for libretto development is necessarily compact to ensure the composer has enough time to compose and orchestrate. It's been a joy to have this time to simply develop our story and fine-tune the libretto with the support of our wonderful dramaturg, Aida Rocci, and the NOW team."

The other seven finalist projects included: It Rained on Shakopee by Wang Jie, composer, and Zhu Yi, librettist; My Friend Freddy by Roger A. Martinez, composer, and Alize Rozsnyai, librettist; City of Specters by Theo Popov, composer, and Tony Astro and Lydia Lim, co-librettists; The Challenger by Jared Field, composer, and Jesse Field, librettist; The Angel in the House (I Did My Best to Kill Her) by Ashi Day, composer & librettist; and an untitled opera by Alicia Hall Moran, composer & librettist. One other finalist requested to remain anonymous, and out of respect for their artistic integrity and privacy, NOW is honoring that request. Christie Gibson, General Director of OperaHub, and one of the Directors of the New Opera Workshop praised the caliber of the submitted projects stating, "We are grateful to all the opera creators who seriously engaged with our request for proposals that featured majority female casts and stories that speak to today. All the finalist proposals would be tremendous additions to the available repertoire and so many of the proposals we reviewed were fascinating, thoughtful, and beautiful."

The goal and mission of NOW is to develop new chamber opera through a process that reflects and examines our current world OR our hope for the future, utilizing a diverse range of performing artists and collaborators. Gibson states that Caravana de mujeres is a project that hits on everything we were hoping for in assembling our request for proposals a year ago. It is a contemporary story and addresses themes of current political import, including immigration, urban/rural relationships, and intergenerational ideas about romance and marriage. The cast is slated to be majority-female and centers a non-romantic relationship between two women. Laura and Nick are two up-and-coming opera creators and we are extremely excited to support them in their first collaboration. Their wit, lyricism, and compassion came through in their application and will serve this much-needed comedy very well."

For more information about Caravana de mujeres and/or the New Opera Workshop click the following link: https://massopera.org/new-opera-workshop/.


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