Encompass Opera Presents New Works Inspired By Immigration On June 9

Including premieres by Richard Pearson Thomas and Ángel E. Lasala with performances by Salvadoran tenor Oswaldo Iraheta, Ukrainian-Russian Sky Caravan Duo, and more.

By: May. 07, 2024
Encompass Opera Presents New Works Inspired By Immigration On June 9
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Encompass New Opera Theatre will present Unheard Voices: An Immigrant's Dream—a matinee concert on Sunday, June 9, 2024, 3:00 p.m., at downtown Manhattan's The Greene Space. Approaching its landmark 50th anniversary in 2026, ENOT continues to tell compelling stories through rare musical theater-opera productions. In Unheard Voices: An Immigrant's Dream, ENOT brings a wide variety of perspectives on the immigrant experience while reflecting the ambition of ENOT to integrate opera with social activism.

Curated by artistic/stage director Nancy Rhodes and led by music director/composer/pianist Richard Pearson Thomas, this season-ending concert comprising ancestral rhythms, folkloric songs, and new music by artists from El Salvador, Argentina, Russia, Sweden, and Ukraine, is performed by ENOT's singers and instrumentalists as well as special guests Ukrainian-Russian duo Sky Caravan honoring the unwavering spirit of the people of Ukraine.

“Encompass is dedicated to creating a new musical language to talk about today's relevant issues such as immigration. We are thrilled to celebrate the rich cultural tapestry that is the very fabric of not only New York, but of America too. Now is the time to give voice to the extraordinary diversity that is New York City. Through this live musical performance, we hope to ignite a conversation off the stage about immigration as well as redefine opera's role in society.”   - Nancy Rhodes, Artistic Director, Encompass New Opera Theatre

With ancestral voices from his indigenous roots, Salvadoran tenor Oswaldo Iraheta (pictured above) guides audiences to the heart of Central and South America with several passionate songs sung in both Spanish and English: the American premiere of Poemas Norteños, a folk song by Argentine composer Angel E. Lasala (1914-2000); El nido by contemporary Salvadoran composer Juan Guerra Gonzalez (b.1980); a musical journey crossing the Rio Grande with By the River by Maury Yeston (b.1945); I Stand Alone also by Yeston from the film Goya; and Polo by Spanish-Argentine composer Manuel De Falla (1876-1946), revealing the challenges of life in a new country. 

A champion of new works and singers for over four decades, ENOT will premiere two pieces by composer Richard Pearson Thomas (b.1957) who is known for his robust catalog of American song settings. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (2004) is set to “Sympathy,” an 1899 poem written by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), one of the most prominent African-American writers of his time. Dunbar wrote “Sympathy,” at least in part, because he was feeling “like he was trapped in a cage,” while working at the Library of Congress. Maya Angelou titled her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings from a line in the poem. Featuring Thomas on the piano, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will showcase emerging soprano MaKayla McDonald (pictured above), who will also perform the powerful aria “To This We've Come” from Menotti's opera, The Consul.

Celebrating its world premiere is Thomas's Alma Swansson's Prayers (2024) for piano and cello. The composer reflects on his great grandmother as a young girl sent to America from Sweden in 1899 with only a note pinned to her jacket never to see her family again. This tribute expresses the courage, longing, and hope that transcends time and bridges all generations.

Completing the program are performances by Sky Caravan—a duo known for performing Roma music from Eastern Europe. Ukrainian violinist Milena Dawidowicz and Russian pianist Elena Panova pay tribute to the Ukrainian community with John Williams's Theme from Schindler's List, and Melody by the Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk (b.1938), a piece frequently described as a spiritual hymn of Ukraine, and has been used in commemorations of the Holodomor and the Revolution of Dignity.

About Encompass New Opera Theatre

Encompass New Opera Theatre, one of the nation's leaders in championing new music theatre and American opera, is celebrating its 48th season dedicated to creating, developing, and producing adventurous productions. Striving to discover and nurture emerging singers, composers, librettists, and musicians; premiere groundbreaking new productions, and revive important 20th century musical works by American and international composers, Encompass has, since its inception in 1975, produced over 70 full-scale productions with orchestra and staged readings of over 168 new works from jazz and cabaret to musicals and opera. Co-founded by international stage director Nancy Rhodes, producer Roger Cunningham, and the renowned composer Virgil Thomson, Encompass quickly established a reputation for its remarkable performances of American Opera, including: their award-winning production of The Mother of Us All by Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson; Aaron Copland's The Tender Land; sold-out performances of Regina by Marc Blitzstein, and Elizabeth and Essex, a new musical starring Academy Award-winner Estelle Parsons. Encompass has premiered Only Heaven by Ricky Ian Gordon/Langston Hughes, The Astronaut's Tale at BAM Fisher, Anna Christie based on the O'Neill play, and Angel of the Amazon. In 2000, Opera America honored Encompass and Founding Artistic Director Nancy Rhodes for “25 Years of Dynamic Leadership.”

The June 2024 concert re-launches the highly successfully Paradigm Shifts Music Festival which was put on hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Festival is Encompass's educational and outreach program that bridges indigenous cultures, women's wisdom, and the global environmental/social justice movements through the lens of music. Encompass productions are made possible by the Natl Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, and by our corporate sponsors and individual donors. EncompassTheatre.org.

Program + Ticketing Information:

Sunday, June 9, 2024, at 3:00 p.m. (followed by post-concert reception)

The Greene Space, 44 Charlton Street, New York City, Subways: 1 to Houston; C/E to Spring.

Tickets: $45 General. $25 Students. $20 Livestream. To reserve, visit EncompassTheatre.org or call 212.594.7880. 


Oswaldo Iraheta - tenor

MaKayla McDonald - soprano

Valeria Sholokhova - cello

Jessica Aura Taskov – flute

Richard Pearson Thomas – piano/composer/music director

Milena Dawidowicz - violin (member of Sky Caravan)

Elena Panova - piano (member of Sky Caravan)


El nido (2011) by Juan Guerra Gonzalez set to text by Alfredo Espino

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (2004) by Richard Pearson Thomas set to text by 
                 Paul Laurence Dunbar New York premiere

Alma Swansson's Prayers (2024) by Richard Pearson Thomas world premiere

Poemas Norteños (1955) by Ángel E. Lasala set to text by Agustín Dentone U.S. premiere 

By the River (2007) by Maury Yeston

Polo from Seven Popular Songs of Spain (1915) by Manuel De Falla

“To This We've Come” aria from The Consul (1950) by Gian Carlo Menotti 

I Stand Alone (1986) from the film “Goya” by Maury Yeston
Theme from Schindler's List (1993) by John Williams

Melody (1982) by Myroslav Skoryk

Romanian Medley


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