THREE WAY, Trio of Comic, One-Act Operas, to Premiere in 2017

THREE WAY, Trio of Comic, One-Act Operas, to Premiere in 2017Three Way is a trio of comic one-act operas for eight singers and chamber orchestra by Robert Paterson, with libretto by David Cote, that explores the possible future-and the eternal questions-of love, sex, and need.

The Companion is about Maya and her live-in lover Joe, a biomorphic android. Safe Word explores an encounter between a dominatrix and her businessman client that goes places no one expects. Masquerade dramatizes a party at a mansion in which four couples don masks and shed their outer selves.

Robert Paterson's music has been performed by ensembles including the Louisville Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Albany Symphony, American Composers Orchestra, New York New Music Ensemble, California EAR Unit, and Ensemble Aleph in Paris. David Cote is a playwright and librettist as well as theater editor of Time Out New York. (See bios below.)

The Companion and Safe Word have been seen in workshop and semi-staged concert performances presented by American Opera Projects and Fort Worth Opera's Frontiers Showcase program.

Make them wait.

Anticipation builds desire.

Make them wait.

Impatience is a kind of torture, but so delicious too.

This is my office, my web, my stage.

Where I entertain.

And they never complain.

-from Act II: Safe Word

World premiere engagement: Nashville Opera, January 27-29, 2017

Co-produced by Nashville Opera and American Opera Projects, Three Way will have its world premiere presentation at Nashville Opera: three performances at the James K. Polk Theatre (TPAC) January 27, 28, and 29, 2017. The cast features sopranos Danielle Pastin and Courtney Ruckman, mezzo-sopranos Eliza Bonet and MeLisa Bonetti, countertenor Jordan Rutter, tenor Samuel Levine, baritone Wes Mason, and bass Matthew Treviño. John Hoomes, Nashville Opera CEO & Artistic Director, is the stage director; Dean Williamson is music director and conductor; and Amy Tate Williams is the chorusmaster and accompanist.

New York premiere engagement: BAM Fisher, June 15-18, 2017

The New York premiere of Three Way will be presented with four performances of the Nashville/AOP production June 15, 16, 17, and 18, 2017, at BAM Fisher, Brooklyn Academy Of Music's newest space. American Modern Ensemble, the acclaimed contemporary group of which Robert Paterson is artistic director, will join the production as the orchestra.

Some of us believe fences should come down.

Social attitudes have evolved.

Gender barriers dissolved.


It's a Masquerade, where identities fade.

Disguises in place of familiar faces.

Erasing our safety but also our fear.

Because anyone might be anybody here.

-from Act III: Masquerade

Watch an excerpt of The Companion in semi-staged performance below!

Three Way is the second collaboration between Robert Paterson and David Cote. In Real Life, their song cycle about online dating, has its New York premiere at Merkin Hall on April 27, 2017, performed by American Modern Ensemble. Paterson's first opera, The Whole Truth, with librettist Mark Campbell, premiered in January 2016 at Dixon Place, New York City.

What characterizes Three Way as an opera?

In a discussion with Paterson and Cote, the following themes arose as defining characteristics of their work:

- It was written from the ground up - original material, not an adaptation of an existing novel, movie or news/historical event.

- It is a comic opera - and as Paterson says, "There are not many of those being written these days!"

- Three Way is a work that is squarely within the opera tradition. They describe it as "foregrounding narrative, character, and conflict, not using surrealist or multimedia aspects - and there are 12 arias! The music is rich and full of timbral variety; it is highly melodic, yet often chromatic, full of witty lyrics and orchestral flourishes, and designed to engage the ear as much as mind and heart."

The theme of sex

When Paterson and Cote decided to collaborate, they chose a universal subject: sex. "Opera is about big experiences," says Paterson, " and, ultimately, about what it means to be human. The history of opera is full of sexuality driving the plot: whether via jealousy, lust, violation, shame, or revenge." Three Way is a triptych that addresses this theme through three different aspects: futurism, fetishism, and post-gender, post-monogamous lifestyles.

The subject lent itself to exploring basic human questions, such as how and whether sex evolves, how technology will change sexual activity, and the meaning of gender. Paterson's vocal writing explores a historically operatic tradition: the re-gendering of roles and voices. For example, in the third act, Masquerade, the similarly dressed, androgynous, "postgender" couple Kyle and Tyler are sung by a countertenor and a mezzo, respectively. These vocal types were chosen so that the two can "meet each other halfway," blending ranges for humorous and provocative effect.

Coincidentally, as they were writing Three Way, the movies Her, Fifty Shades of Gray and Ex Machina were released, as well as Showtime's Polyamory - signaling a wider cultural interest in portraying possibilities in the future of sex. There's also been a dramatic rise in the visibility and depiction of trans people in film, TV, theater, and opera.

Each of the acts has a twist-and each leaves the door open for whatever may come next.


Robert Paterson's music is acclaimed for its elegance, wit, structural integrity, and a wonderful sense of color. Paterson was awarded Composer of The Year from the Classical Recording Foundation, at Carnegie's Weill Hall in 2011. His music has been on the Grammy ballot yearly, and his music was named "Best of 2012" on National Public Radio. In addition to the Three Way premieres, his season's highlights include premieres of Shine for the American Brass Quintet, Moon Music for the Claremont Trio (both of which are on new recordings), and Graffiti Canons for the Volti choir of San Francisco. His works have been performed by the Louisville Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Austin Symphony, Vermont Symphony, among others. Paterson gives master classes at universities, including the Curtis Institute of Music, Aspen Music Festival, New York University, and the Cleveland Institute of Music. Paterson is the Artistic Director of the American Modern Ensemble and resides in NYC with his wife Victoria, and their son Dylan. For more information, visit

David Cote is a playwright, librettist and journalist based in New York. Opera libretti include The Scarlet Ibis and Fade (Stefan Weisman); the Black Lives Matter monodrama Invitation to a Die-In and We've Got Our Eye on You (Nkeiru Okoye). David's song cycle with Robert Paterson, In Real Life, will have its New York premiere in April 2017. His choral works with Paterson, Did You Hear? and Snow Day, were sung by Musica Sacra, conducted by Kent Tritle and released on Eternal Reflections (American Modern Recordings). Plays include Otherland (O'Neill National Playwrights Conference finalist) and Fear of Art. David is theater editor and chief drama critic of Time Out New York and a contributing critic on NY1's On Stage. His reporting and reviews have appeared in American Theatre, Opera News, The Guardian and The New York Times. Fellowships: The MacDowell Colony. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, audiobook narrator Katherine Kellgren. For more information, visit


January 27, 28, 29, 2017

James K. Polk Theater, TPAC, Nashville, TN

Nashville Opera

June 15, 16, 17, 18, 2017*

BAM Fisher, Brooklyn, NY

*These performances feature American Modern Ensemble

THREE WAY - A Trio of Comic Operas About Craving and Connection

By Robert Paterson, libretto by David Cote

John Hoomes, Stage Director, Nashville Opera CEO & Artistic Director

Dean Williamson, Music Director and Conductor

Amy Tate Williams, Chorusmaster/Accompanist

The Companion

Danielle Pastin, Soprano (Maya)

Samuel Levine, Tenor (Joe)

Wes Mason, Baritone (Dax)

Safe Word

Eliza Bonet, Mezzo-soprano (Domme)

Matthew Treviño, Bass (The Client)


Danielle Pastin, Soprano (Connie)

Courtney Ruckman, Soprano (Jessie)

Eliza Bonet, Mezzo-soprano (Jillian Debridge)

MeLisa Bonetti, Mezzo-soprano (Tyler)

Jordan Rutter, Countertenor (Kyle)

Samuel Levine, Tenor (Marcus)

Wes Mason, Baritone (Larry)

Matthew Treviño, Bass (Bruce Debridge)

For more information on THREE WAY, visit Robert Paterson's website: or go to American Opera Projects online at

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