CCO Opens 35th Season with Premieres of Two Getty Operas
The New York premieres and world premiere production of Gordon Getty's "Scare Pair," a double-bill by the San Francisco-based composer, pairs his two one act-operas -- Usher House and The Canterville Ghost -- together for the first time on October 19 and 21 (7:30pm) at The Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College (located at East 68th Street, between Lexington and Park Avenues). Both works, with the libretto and music by Mr. Getty, will be sung in English and have a running time of 60 minutes each.
Usher House (derived from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher") has Poe taking the stage himself as the narrator and main character. The macabre Edgar Allan Poe tale follows the reclusive Roderick Usher, who lives with his ailing twin sister, Madeline, and the sinister Doctor Primus, in their vast ancestral home that is alive with the ghosts of the past. When Roderick's old friend Poe visits, they become inescapably drawn into an otherworldly sequence of events, including Madeline's apparent death and burial in a vault beneath the house. The climax of the story occurs when Madeline's figure appears at the bedroom door during a storm - she had been buried alive and has clawed her way out of the vault to find her brother. As Poe flees the scene, he turns back to see the House of Usher splitting in two, collapsing around the siblings.
Edgar Allan Poe's quintessential Gothic tale serves as the basis for Gordon Getty's opera. The great challenge it presents to an opera composer, however, is that it contains almost no dialogue. As a result, the composer explains, "I found myself taking liberties. To start, I have made Poe himself the narrator who lives to tell the tale. More radically, I have conceived him and the doomed siblings as types of an antebellum warmth and gallantry which hardly exist anywhere in the prose of the real Poe, and must be counter to his purposes here. I have added other gothic staples - forbidden knowledge, a Faustian pact, ghostly ancestors - and have shifted all into a tale of good and evil and redemption. Good means Poe and the siblings, evil means Primus and the ancestors, and Madeline becomes the agent of redemption."
Usher House received its world premiere by the Welsh National Opera (Cardiff, Wales) on June 13, 2014 and its U.S. premiere by the San Francisco Opera in December 2015. A recording of Usher House with Lawrence Foster conducting the Orquestra Gulbenkian is available on the Pentatone label (Benedict Cumberbatch voices the spoken role of the Attendant on the recording, which will be a sung role in the CCO production.) The CCO production of Usher House will employ innovative video projections that integrate the dead ancestors as a silent chorus of ghoulish dancers.
Henry Fogel, in Fanfare, said of the piece, "In addition to Getty's typically strong vocal writing, the orchestration of this work is imaginative and colorful...Usher House merits exploration on the part of anyone interested in hearing a conservative but imaginative voice in contemporary opera."
The Canterville Ghost (after Oscar Wilde's witty tale from 1887 of the same name) brings a comic twist to Gordon Getty's "Scare Pair." It tells the story of the 300-year-old ghost of an English nobleman who desperately and unsuccessfully tries to scare the new American residents of the English castle where he resides. The Canterville Ghost ultimately winds up terrorized by the very family he is trying to haunt. The Canterville Ghost received its world premiere on May 9, 2015 by the Leipzig Opera. The CCO production will be its American premiere. It was released on the Pentatone label this year.
Mr. Getty said about the opera before its premiere in May 2015, "The do's and don'ts of romantic comedy are pretty much eternal. In The Canterville Ghost Wilde has given us, in short story form, one such romantic comedy of unique beauty and genius, though with heartbreak and redemption along the way. We laugh and cry, and are enriched. I added music, and some words, with the same intention."
"Scare Pair" takes place on Thursday, October 19 and Saturday, October 21 at 7:30pm at The Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College (located on East 68th Street between Lexington and Park Avenues). Tickets are priced at $35, $25. Senior/Student Tickets are $30 and must be purchased in person with valid ID. For ticket information contact : www.hunter.cuny.edu/kayeplayhouse or by phone at 212 772 4448.
The "Scare Pair" artistic team includes: Brian Staufenbiel, stage director, and Sara Jobin, the CCO's chief conductor. Scenery is by Dave Dunning, costumes by Callie Floor and projections by David Murakami.
The "Scare Pair" cast includes:
Dominic Armstrong -- Edgar Allen Poe / Duke Cecil of Cheshire
Keith Phares -- Roderick Usher / Hiram Otis
Summer Hassan -- Madeline Usher / Virginia Otis
Matthew Burns -- Dr. Primus / Sir Simon, the Ghost
Kevin Wetzel -- Attendant / Lord Canterville
Jessica Ann Best -- Mrs. Otis
Augusta Caso -- Child Madeline / First Otis Twin
Hilary Ginther -- Child Roderick / Second Otis Twin
Jamielyn Duggan -- Madeline Usher (dancer)
Mary Claire Curran -- Mrs. Umney
Phoebe Haines -- Barbara
Aaron Theno -- Richard
About the Artistic Team
Gordon Getty, Composer
The music of the American composer Gordon Getty has been performed in such prestigious venues as New York's Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, London's Royal Festival Hall, Vienna's Brahmssaal, and Moscow's Tchaikovsky Hall and Bolshoi Theatre, as well as at the Aspen, Spoleto, and Bad Kissingen Festivals.
Getty's first opera, Plump Jack, involving the adventures of Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff, was premiered by the San Francisco Symphony and has been revived by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, and London Philharmonia, among other ensembles. In 2011, the Munich Radio Orchestra performed Plump Jack in an abridged concert version, which was simulcast on Bavarian Radio and released on the Pentatone label. In June of 2018, Los Angeles Opera will present "Scare Pair," the double bill of his two one-act operas, Usher House and The Canterville Ghost, following The New York premiere with the Center for Contemporary Opera.
Joan and the Bells, a cantata portraying the trial and execution of Joan of Arc, has been widely performed, notably at Windsor Castle with Mikhail Pletnev conducting. Getty's ballet Ancestor Suite was given its premiere staging by the Bolshoi Ballet and Russian National Orchestra at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, and is slated for upcoming performances in China in 2018.
Getty has enjoyed a fruitful relationship with the Pentatone label. In addition to his three operas and Joan and the Bells, Pentatone has released an album devoted to six of his orchestral pieces, with Sir Neville Marriner conducting the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields; two albums of his choral works, Young America and The Little Match Girl; an album of his solo-piano works played by Conrad Tao; and The White Election, a much-performed song cycle on poems by Emily Dickinson.
Getty revisited the poetry of Emily Dickinson in his Four Dickinson Songs, recorded by Lisa Delan and Kristin Pankonin on their Pentatone recital album The Hours Begin to Sing. In 2018, a newly-orchestrated version of Four Dickinson Songs, featuring Lisa Delan and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Marseille, will be released by Pentatone. The album will also include other Dickinson settings by Aaron Copland, Jake Heggie and Michael Tilson Thomas. Also due for 2018 release is a new album of Getty's most recent choral works.
Getty was the subject of the 2016 documentary film There Will Be Music, by director Peter Rosen. PBS has broadcast the film around the country in 2017.
His music is published by Rork Music. www.gordongetty.com.
Brian Staufenbiel, Stage Director, has served as the creative director and stage director for San Francisco-based Opera Parallèle since 2007, working across a wide range of artistic disciplines. His innovative approach to stagecraft has garnered a steady stream of critical acclaim for the company's productions, which have included Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking, the American premiere of Tarik O'Regan's Heart of Darkness, John Harbison's The Great Gatsby, Philip Glass' Orphée, Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar, Adam Gorb's Anya 17, Alban Berg's Wozzeck, Peter Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouse, and Terrance Blanchard's Champion (in collaboration with SFJazz). This season, Staufenbiel will helm two new productions for Opera Parallèle, Jonathan Dove's Flight and Glass' Les enfants terribles. Other engagements include a new production of Today it Rains by composer Laura Kaminsky and librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed for 2019, as well as the world premiere of a new work by composer Lembit Beecher and librettist Hannah Moscovitch.
Sara Jobin, Conductor, serves as the Chief Conductor of the Center for Contemporary Opera. Gordon Getty's Scare Pair marks her third world premiere with the Center for Contemporary Opera. It is her fifth full production in six years with the company, following Louis Karchin's Jane Eyre, Michael Dellaira's The Secret Agent (with repeat performances at the Armel Festival in Szeged, Hungary, and in Avignon, France), William Mayer's A Death in the Family (also staged in Hungary and France), and Hans Werner Henze's El Cimarrón. In 2004 she had the honor of making history as the first woman to conduct mainstage subscription performances at San Francisco Opera, conducting Tosca with Carol Vaness and The Flying Dutchman with Nina Stemme. She has returned to that podium for 16 performances leading five differeNT Productions including the world premieres of Philip Glass' Appomattox and Nolan Gassar's The Secret Garden. She is Resident Conductor of the Toledo Symphony and Associate Conductor of the Toledo Opera, and has guest conducted the opera companies of Arizona, Pittsburgh, Santa Barbara, Anchorage, Tacoma, and Idaho. Her first full-length recording, John Musto's Volpone, was nominated for a 2010 Grammy for Best Opera Recording. Upcoming and recent engagements include a Bach B Minor Mass in Dachau to honor Noorunisa Inayat Khan; The Barber of Seville with Lyric Opera Baltimore; and Samuel Barber's Vanessa with the Toledo Opera. Tired of operas where the women die victimized by society, Ms. Jobin founded the Different Voice Opera Project in collaboration with Carol Gilligan.
Dave Dunning, Scenery, is the founder and president of Legend Theatrical, a premier national staging, audio and lighting company, which played an integral role in the lighting of the Bay Bridge. His credits include several productions for the San Francisco-based company Opera Parallèle.
Callie Floor, Costumes, has worked as a professional costume designer in the Bay area for three decades, formally beginning with California Revels as artistic associate/resident designer in 1989; she continues her design work to this day as resident costume designer with that musical theater company. In 1991, she became the manager of A.C.T./American Conservatory Theatre's expansive archive of costumes and costume rentals. An expert in every period of costume, she also has worked in costuming with the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, American Conservatory Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, CMC and Design, among others.
David Murakami, Projections, is a projection designer, screenwriter and film director focused on integrating emerging technologies with traditional stage performance. Past designs include Minnesota Opera's Das Rheingold, Opera Parallèle's Dead Man Walking, Champion and Trouble in Tahiti. Recent credits include the revival of Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum and Philip Glass' Les Enfant Terribles with Opera Parallèle. He is currently directing his sixth feature-length film, Morningstar.
"Scare Pair": Usher House and The Canterville Ghost (World Premiere Production)
Gordon Getty, Composer and Librettist
Brian Staufenbiel, Stage Director; Sara Jobin, Conductor
Dave Dunning, Scenery; Callie Floor, Costumes; David Murakami, Projections
Thursday, October 19 and Saturday October 21 at 7:30pm
Tickets: $35, $25. Senior/Student Tickets: $30 and must be purchased in person with valid ID.
The Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College
Located at East 68th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues
Travel Directions: By subway -- Take the 6 train to the 68th Street/Hunter College station; or the F train to the 63rd Street/Lexington station; By bus --The M98, M101, M102, M103; or Crosstown M66 to East 68th Street and Lexington Avenue.
The Center for Contemporary Opera
For more than three decades, the Center for Contemporary Opera has held the distinction of being the leading opera company devoted exclusively to the development and production of modern operas, seen in both the United States and abroad. In its 34th season, the Center for Contemporary Opera was founded by Richard Marshall and Robert Ward in November 1982 with the mission to produce and develop new opera and music-theater works; revive rarely seen American operas written after World War II; promote an interest in new operatic and music-theater culture among the public; and to produce contemporary opera outside of the United States. The Center for Contemporary Opera has produced a remarkable body of work in its thirty-four years of existence including staging fifty-nine operas with orchestra, fifteen world premieres, fifty-five operas in development, seven commercial recordings, and six European performances.
Jim Schaeffer, Artistic and General Director, is a former professional bassoonist and conductor, who began his opera career with the Fort Worth Opera Orchestra while still an undergraduate at the University of North Texas. His circuitous career included twenty years in the Air Force serving in a variety of flying, command, and logistics assignments. He then became president of Spectron Electronics in Los Angeles and a partner in Sonus Research and Design in Providence. He returned to his first love of music in 2004 as Director of the Long Leaf Opera Festival in Raleigh. In all, he has produced or developed well over 100 operas by American composers. He has served as CCO's Artistic and General Director since March 2006.