New Works THE INVESTMENT, DAUGHTERS OF THE BLOODY DUKE and AN AMERICAN MAN Set for WNO's 2014-15 American Opera Initiative
Washington National Opera (WNO) today announced details for the third season of the American Opera Initiative, its comprehensive commissioning program that brings contemporary American stories to the stage while fostering the talents of rising American composers and librettists. Three teams of new opera composers and librettists-John Liberatore and Niloufar Talebi, Jake Runestad and David Johnston, and Rene Orth and Jason Kim-will premiere new 20-minute operas, each based on a contemporary American story, in a semi-staged concert performance on November 21, 2014 in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.
"This season's composers and librettists have powerful and personal stories to tell, and their works stay true to the mission of the American Opera Initiative -- to tell all kinds of new American stories through music," said WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello. "I'm proud that the program is continuing to attract gifted artists, and I look forward to working with them in the coming months."
The composer/librettist teams will collaborate on their works with distinguished mentors who have each enjoyed professional success with new American operas: composer Jake Heggie (WNO's Moby-Dick), librettist Mark Campbell (Silent Night, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Music), and conductor Anne Manson (Manitoba Chamber Orchestra). The composers and librettists have been working with these mentors and advisors throughout the creative process. The next round of workshops will be held in September.
Michael Heaston is the program director of the American Opera Initiative and WNO's Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. "The third season of the American Opera Initiative includes a diverse slate of new works that will both entertain and challenge our audiences," he said. "Our young artists will have the extraordinary opportunity to work with living composers and librettists and our incredible team of mentors on the creation of new works."
Full casting for the three 20-minute operas, featuring members of WNO's Domingo- Cafritz Young Artist Program and other guest artists, will be announced soon. Tickets for the November 21 presentation are $15 and are on sale now.
As previously announced, Penny, an hour-long opera by composer Douglas Pew and librettist Dara Weinberg, will receive its world-premiere production under the auspices of the American Opera Initiative January 23-24, 2015 in the Terrace Theater. Pew and Weinberg are returning alumni of the program; their 20-minute work A Game of Hearts had its world premiere during the program's first season in November 2012. Penny is an original story developed by Weinberg about a woman living with a disability who discovers her voice and her talent for music, and the ensuing conflict with her family as she grows more independent. Penny will be conducted by Anne Manson and directed by Alan Paul, the Associate Director of Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company.
New 20-minute operas expand the American operatic repertory
The three original 20-minute operas presented in a semi-staged concert performance on November 21 will each highlight a very different aspect of American life and culture. These new works will be presented with accompaniment by a chamber orchestra conducted by Anne Manson and will be performed in English. Following the performance, there will be a Q&A session with the artists and creative team.
Music by John Liberatore Libretto by Niloufar Talebi
The Mohems are an Iranian-American couple who enjoy an affluent life in Silicon Valley because of Mr. Mohem's success in venture capitalism. The two have recently purchased a large painting by Roxana Lieber, an emerging young artist they invite to lunch at their mansion. While discussing the painting, Roxana reveals her subject behind what appears to be just an abstract landscape -- one that offends Mr. Mohem. As dormant differences erupt between Mr. and Mrs. Mohem, Roxana struggles with her own feelings about art and finds an unlikely sympathizer in the Mohems' newly immigrated maid.
Daughters of the Bloody Duke
Music by Jake Runestad Libretto by David Johnston
Daughters of the Bloody Duke is a dark comedic one-act opera, in which Margot, the young daughter of the Bloody Duke of Ravenswood, must choose between her growing love for her new husband and the demands of her revenge-crazed family.
An American Man
Music by Rene Orth Libretto by Jason Kim
Wyatt Adams, America's rising political star, returns home for his estranged father's funeral. But when he reveals his hidden motive-to erase all record of his father's troublesome past-things begin to get complicated. Caught between his political ambitions and his desire to do the right thing, Wyatt must figure out what truly matters to him.
Composers and librettists in the 2014-2015 season of the American Opera Initiative
John Liberatore (composer, The Investment) is a composer and pianist living in southern New York State. His music has been performed at venues around the world, including the International Viola Congress, Carnegie's Weill Hall, the Hindemith Music Centre, the American Cultural Institute of Peru, and the Four Seasons Centre of Toronto. Other recent engagements include performances with Dinosaur Annex, the Cleveland Contemporary Players, the Cuong Vu Trio, and the Finnish chamber ensemble Trio Ramifications. On a grant from the Presser Foundation, he spent the summer of 2012 in Tokyo, Japan, studying with Jo Kondo, an experience and mentorship which made an indelible impression on his music. Other recognitions include a fellowship from the Tanglewood Music Center in 2011, two ASCAP Morton Gould Awards, the Brian Israel Prize (first place), and invitations from the I-Park Artist's Enclave, the Brush Creek Arts Foundation, the MusicX Festival, and the Bowdoin Music Festival. In the fall of 2013, he joined the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. He holds degrees from Syracuse University and the Eastman School of Music.
Niloufar Talebi (librettist, The Investment) is a writer, award-winning translator, and theater artist. She is the editor/translator of BELONGING: New Poetry by Iranians Around the World (North Atlantic Books, 2008), and creator/performer of multimedia works including Four Springs (2004), Midnight Approaches (2006), ICARUS/RISE (2007), The Persian Rite of Spring (2010), and everyonedies (2012). Her libretti include Atash Sorushan (Fire Angels) (2011/2014), a song cycle with composer Mark Grey co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall, Cal Performances, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; The Disinherited (2014), a one-act opera with composer Clarice Assad as Resident Artist with the American Lyric Theater; and Epiphany (2015), a requiem with composer Paola Prestini and the Young People's Chorus of New York City. She is currently developing a libretto for the Los Angeles Children's Chorus (Spring 2015).
Award-winning composer Jake Runestad (composer, Daughters of the Bloody Duke) has received commissions and performances from leading ensembles and organizations such as the Netherlands Radio Choir, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Seraphic Fire, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, the Virginia Arts Festival, the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, Craig Hella Johnson and the Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble, Spire Chamber Ensemble, and the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay. Dubbed a "choral rockstar" by American Public Media, he is one of the most frequently performed composers of his generation. He holds a master's degree in composition from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts. Prior to graduate school, he studied extensively with acclaimed composer Libby Larsen. Born in 1986 and a native of Rockford, Illinois, he currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His music is published by Boosey & Hawkes and JR Music.
The work of David Johnston (librettist, Daughters of the Bloody Duke) has been seen in New York with Blue Coyote Theater Group, including Coney, Conversations on Russian Literature (also Germany), a new adaptation of The Oresteia (Time Out Best of 2007), and Busted Jesus Comix (also London, Los Angeles, and Capital Fringe Festival in Washington). Regional credits include The George Place (Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater). Projects with director Kevin Newbury include Candy & Dorothy (GLAAD winner 2006, Wellfleet Harbor), The Eumenides and the short film Monsura is Waiting. Publications include Leaving Tangier (Samuel French), A Funeral Home in Brooklyn (Smith & Kraus), and A Number on the Roman Calendar (Applause Theatrebooks). Playwriting awards: Theater Oxford, Berrilla Kerr Foundation Grant, Arch & Bruce Brown Foundation. Member: Actors' Equity, Dramatists Guild, Charles Maryan's Playwrights/Directors Workshop, BMI Librettist Workshop, and Resident Artist with American Lyric Theater. Upcoming projects include ALT's workshop of his one-act opera with composer Jeff Smith, Why is Eartha Kitt Trying to Kill Me?
Originally from Dallas, Texas, Rene Orth (composer, An American Man) is a composer, musician, and audio engineer. She has an interest in seamlessly combining electronic and acoustic music and has a focus on dramatic narrative form, with a keen sensitivity to color in orchestration. Recent and upcoming projects include commissions from the Philadelphia Fringe Festival and the Rock School of Dance. Current and past collaborations include projects with librettists Mark Campbell and Jason Kim, choreographers Georg Rieschl and Justin Allen, and poets Jeanne Minahan and Julia Bloch. Her music has been performed by the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, the Dover Quartet, the Fifth House Ensemble, and the University of Louisville University Chorus. In 2014, she held residencies at the artist colonies Yaddo and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. She participated in the Lake Champlain Music Festival (2013), Fresh Inc Festival (2013), and Atlantic Music Festival (2012), and was a recipient of a Kentucky Foundation for Women Artist Enrichment Grant. She currently holds the Milton L. Rock Composition Fellowship at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and works with Jennifer Higdon. She earned an M.M. in Music Composition at the University of Louisville as a Moritz von Bomhard Fellow and holds degrees from MediaTech Institute and Rhodes College.
Jason Kim (librettist, An American Man) is a Korean-born dramatist based in Brooklyn, New York. His plays include New America (Naked Angels, dir. Liz Carlson), Normal, Father School, A Modern Feeling (The New School for Drama), and an upcoming K-Pop Project with Ars Nova, Ma-Yi Theater, and the Woodshed Collective. His screenplay Auto is currently in development with producer Kishori Rajan at LineXLine Productions (May in the Summer, Four, Gimme the Loot). In television, he is currently writing for HBO's Girls. He has also written for the upcoming Fox series Gracepoint starring David Tennant, Anna Gunn, Jacki Weaver, and Nick Nolte (Fall 2014). In opera, he has collaborated with composers Joseph N. Rubinstein, Rene Orth, Gity Razaz, and Avner Finberg. He is the recipient of the IFP Marcie Bloom Fellowship in Film and the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. He is the Mark Campbell Chair Librettist Fellow in American Opera Project's Composers & The Voice Program. He earned an MFA at The New School for Drama and a bachelor's degree from Columbia University.
Mentors and Advisors in the American Opera Initiative
Jake Heggie is the American composer of the operas Moby-Dick, Dead Man Walking, Three Decembers, To Hell and Back, and Out of Darkness: a triptych of Holocaust stories (Another Sunrise -- Farewell, Auschwitz -- For a Look or a Touch). He has also composed more than 250 songs, as well as chamber, choral, and orchestral works. The operas -- most created with the distinguished writers Terrence McNally and Gene Scheer -- have been produced extensively on five continents. Dead Man Walking (McNally) has received 40 productions since its premiere, as well as two live recordings. Moby-Dick (Scheer) was telecast in 2013 as part of Great Performances' 40th season and was recently released on DVD (EuroArts). It is also the subject of the book Heggie & Scheer's Moby-Dick: A Grand Opera for the 21st Century (University of North Texas Press). A Guggenheim Fellow, he has served as a mentor to WNO's American Opera Initiative for young composers and librettists for the past two seasons. Upcoming commissions include Great Scott (McNally) for The Dallas Opera, starring Joyce DiDonato; The Radio Hour (Scheer) for the John Alexander Singers; a new project for Houston Grand Opera; and Symphonic Songs for mezzo Jamie Barton and cellist Anne Martindale-Williams, co- commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony and Carnegie Hall.
Mark Campbell is one of the most in-demand librettists in the field of contemporary opera, profiled in Opera News as an artist "poised...to become a major force in opera in the coming decade." He is most known for writing the libretto for Silent Night, which garnered a 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music for composer Kevin Puts. The opera premiered at Minnesota Opera, aired on PBS' Great Performances, and was subsequently produced in Philadelphia, Ft. Worth, and Cincinnati and will soon be seen in Wexford (Ireland), Kansas City, Calgary, and Montreal. Other successful operas include Later the Same Evening, Volpone, Bastianello/Lucrezia, Rappahannock County, and A Letter to East 11th Street. He received the first Kleban Foundation Award, two Richard Rodgers Awards, a NYFA Playwriting Fellowship, three Drama Desk Award nominations, a Rockefeller Foundation Award, and a Jonathan Larson Foundation Award. Recordings include the Grammy®-nominated Volpone (Wolf Trap Recordings), Later the Same Evening (Albany Records), The Inspector (Wolf Trap Recordings), Bastianello/Lucrezia (Bridge Classical), Rappahannock County (Nonesuch), and Songs from an Unmade Bed (Sh-k- Boom Records). As a lyricist, he penned the lyrics for Songs from an Unmade Bed, which premiered at New York Theatre Workshop and has since been produced around the world. Other musicals include The Audience, Chang & Eng, and Splendora. Upcoming projects include The Manchurian Candidate (Kevin Puts, Minnesota Opera), As One (Laura Kaminsky, BAM), Burke+Hare (Julian Grant, MTG), The Shining (Paul Moravec, Minnesota Opera), The Trial of Elizabeth Cree (Kevin Puts, Opera Philadelphia), and Dinner at Eight (William Bolcom, Minnesota Opera).
American conductor Anne Manson is currently the Music Director of Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, with whom she has led two hugely successful tours with world famous soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian and percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie. She made her debut with the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall last season, and she works regularly with the Orquesta de Extremadura in Spain. She came to prominence early in her career as Music Director of London's Mecklenburgh Opera from 1988 to 1996, where she programmed operas ranging from Mozart to 20th-century rarities and new commissions. She was the first woman to conduct at the Salzburg Festival, where she led the Vienna Philharmonic in Boris Godunov. She also served as Music Director of the Kansas City Symphony from 1999 to 2003. Other major engagements include the world premiere of Scott Wheeler's Democracy for Washington National Opera, Carlisle Floyd's Susannah for Grand Theatre de Gene?ve, and Donizetti's Viva la Mamma for Stockholm Royal Opera. New York City Opera presented her with the Richard F. Gold Debut Award for her conducting of Samuel Barber's Vanessa, and her work with the Canadian Opera Company in Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream earned her Canada's DORA Award for outstanding musical direction.
ABOUT WASHINGTON NATIONAL OPERA - Washington National Opera (WNO) is one of the leading opera companies in the United States. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Francesca Zambello, the company presents a diverse season of grand opera -- including both classics from the repertory and more contemporary pieces-plus an annual holiday family opera, several newly commissioned American works, and a variety of special concerts and events. The WNO Orchestra is led by Music Director Philippe Auguin. Founded in 1956 and an affiliate of the Kennedy Center since 2011, WNO has a storied legacy of world premieres, new productions, international tours, live recordings and radio broadcasts, and innovative education and community-engagement programs. Throughout its history WNO has been led by titans in the opera field, including the legendary Pla?cido Domingo, who headed the company from 1996 to 2011.
WNO contributes to the future of opera through two signature artist-development programs. The Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program, now in its 13th season, has become one of the nation's most competitive and comprehensive professional training programs for young singers and collaborative pianists. Alumni of the program have won major competitions and gone on to successful careers at major operas houses in the U.S. and abroad. The WNO Opera Institute nurtures the ambitions of high-school-age singers from across the nation during an intensive three-week summer program held at American University in Washington.
Among the company's most successful recent programs is the 2012 launch of the American Opera Initiative, a comprehensive commissioning program that works to expand the American operatic repertory, to give WNO's young artists the chance to collaborate with living composers and librettists on new works, and to make American opera more relevant to 21st century audiences. The most popular of WNO's community-engagement programs is M&M'S® Opera in the Outfield, during which an opera is broadcast live from the Kennedy Center stage to the high-definition scoreboard at Nationals Park. Last season's simulcast drew more than 10,000 spectators to the ballpark. The company's other education programs include the Kids Create Opera program at local elementary schools, Look-In performances for students in grades 4-8, and the Student Dress Rehearsal Program for middle and high school students. The company also offers free Opera Insights programs before every performance in the Opera House.
To celebrate the company's 60th anniversary, Washington National Opera will present three complete cycles of Wagner's Ring in spring 2016. These performances, featuring an acclaimed production by Artistic Director Francesca Zambello and conducted by Music Director Philippe Auguin, will be the first time the company has presented The Ring in complete cycles in its history.