American Opera Projects Participates in Brooklyn Public Library's Kwanzaa Project, 12/27 & 28


AOP (American Opera Projects) in partnership with The Walt Whitman Project will be participating in the Brooklyn Public Library's annual free Kwanzaa program today, December 27 at 3pm at the S. Stevan Dweck Auditorium at the Central Library, Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn Public Library (10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, NY 11238). On Friday, December 28 at 2pm, the program will be repeated at the Rosetta Gaston Senior Center in Brownsville (460 Dumont Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11212.) Both performances are free and open to the public. Reservations are not necessary, but seating is first come, first served.

AOP "I Hear America Singing" will be presenting excerpts of Nkeiru Okoye's folk opera HARRIET TUBMAN: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom, performed by soprano Sumayya Ali (Broadway's Porgy and Bess, Ragtime!) and mezzo-soprano Briana Hunter with AOP Resident Music Director Mila Henry on piano. Direction is by Beth Greenberg (New York City Opera). The opera is currently in development at AOP.

Created by American Opera Projects and The Walt Whitman Project (Artistic Director, Greg Trupiano) in 2009, "I Hear America Singing," inspired by the poem of Walt Whitman, seeks to express the varied thoughts, feelings, and stories of the people of our nation into a communal voice that will resonate for all. Previous performances of "I Hear America Singing" include works by AOP composers Gilda Lyons (Songs from the A Train and Songs from the F Train) and Nkeiru Okoye (Brooklyn Cinderella), based on poetry written by Brooklyn children.

2012 marks the 8th year of the Kwanzaa program at the Brooklyn Public Library. Poet Angeli Rasbury will return to curate the free celebration honoring universal African-American heritage and culture with music performances, readings, and reflections. In addition to the music by AOP, storytelling will be provided by Elders Share the Arts' "Pearls of Wisdom."

Over the years, the event has enjoyed the participation of diverse performers including CASYM Steel Pan Orchestra, the Restoration Youth Arts Academy, and features the works of composers and librettists currently working in Brooklyn as well as new creations of young writers.

Singers Sumayya Ali and Briana Hunter and pianist Mila Henry appear courtesy of American Opera Projects and The Walt Whitman Project, made possible in part by generous support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

A native New Yorker of African American and Nigerian descent, Nkeiru Okoye has had her music performed on four continents. Okoye's penchant for infusing popular and non-Western influences in a 'classical' framework shows in her most performed works, SONGS OF HARRIET TUBMAN (2007), PHILLIS WHEATLEY (2005, commissioned by the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, and recorded by the Moscow Symphony), VOICES SHOUTING OUT (2002); RUTH: an Orchestral Choreopoem, (1998); THE GENESIS (1997) and AFRICAN SKETCHES. Okoye's orchestral works have been performed by the Philadelphia, Detroit, St. Louis, Virginia, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Mississippi, Richmond, New Jersey Chamber, Cambridge Symphony, Western Piedmont, Rutgers University, Central Jersey, Hopkins, and New Horizons Symphony orchestras. Okoye has gotten awards, commissions and commendations from MEET THE COMPOSER, MetLife Creative Connections, John Duffy Composer Institute, Composer's Collaborative, Inc., Yvar Mikhashov Trust for New Music (1999); and numerous awards by the NAACP. Okoye is a frequent guest lecturer and panelist. In 2005, Okoye was a composer mentor at the University of Ghana for the International Society of Contemporary Music's World New Music Days. In 2007, Okoye was honored at Nigeria's 40under40 ceremony, in Lagos. Nkeiru Okoye (in KEAR roo oh KOY yeh) has BM in composition from Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and an MA and a Ph.D. in theory and composition from Rutgers University. In addition to being a composer, Dr. Okoye is a soft sculpture artist/creator of the "Canbie Collection" of multicultural dolls, which may be found in museums and galleries nationwide, including the Smithsonian.

For 25 years, AOP (American Opera Projects) has been creating, developing and presenting new American opera and music Theatre Projects. AOP, based in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, has produced over 20 world premiere operas including Patience & Sarah (1998), Stefan Weisman's Darkling (2006), Lee Hoiby's This is the Rill Speaking (2008), and Phil Kline's Out Cold (2012), part of BAM's 30th Next Wave Festival. AOP produces concerts and events including presentations of new music at Works and Process at the Guggenheim, the Rubin Museum of Art, and Carnegie Hall. AOP-developed projects include Stephen Schwartz's Séance on a Wet Afternoon (New York City Opera, 2011), Jorge Martín's Before Night Falls (Fort Worth Opera, 2010), Tarik O'Regan's Heart of Darkness (Royal Opera House (UK), 2011), and Jack Perla's Love/Hate (ODC Theater and San Francisco Opera, 2012). Upcoming: Gregory Spears's Paul's Case (UrbanArias, and Roulette, 2013).