World Premiere of Contemporary Opera White Witch Set for This October
White Witch, a new contemporary American opera, will have its world premiere in October 2014 in New York City. The work, with music by Brian Schober and libretto by Joan Ross Sorkin, is a one-act monodrama for voice and percussion, directed and choreographed by Lynn Neuman. Renowned contralto Christina Ascher plays the title role, accompanied by percussionist Jared Soldiviero. White Witch will be performed on Thursday, October 23, Friday, October 24 and Saturday, October 25 at 8:00 pm at Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Peter Norton Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th Street, Manhattan. There will be a Q&A after the performance with the artists and members of the creative team.
Set in Jamaica in 1831, the opera - a tale of voodoo, murder and revenge - is based on the 19th century legend of Annie Palmer, a white English plantation owner notoriously known as The White Witch of Rose Hall. Annie had an overblown ego, an insatiable sexual appetite and a knowledge of voodoo gleaned from her childhood Haitian nanny. With extreme hubris, she used the black arts to kill three husbands and a series of lovers and rivals - including plantation slaves - in cold blood. Her remorse came too little, too late. Ultimately, one of her former slave lovers used the same voodoo power to seal her fate.
The score, a perfect symbiosis of Sorkin's libretto and Schober's music, is suggestively evocative and exotic, at different times delicately ethereal, dramatically angular, deeply psychological - always captivating.
The design team includes Gail Scott White (video and projection design) and Malinda Crump (costume designer).
Brian Schober has had an active career as a composer and performer in the US and abroad. His music spans all instrumental and vocal media. Schober studied at the Eastman School of Music and the Paris Conservatory under Samuel Adler, Joseph Schwantner, Sue Seid, Russell Saunders, Olivier Messiaen, Betsy Jolas, Jean Guillou and André Isoir. Schober is the recipient of many prizes and awards from BMI, Editions Salabert, the French Cultural Ministry, the National Endowment of the Arts, The American Music Center and Aaron Copland Fund for Music (twice).
Joan Ross Sorkin is an opera librettist, playwright, musical theatre bookwriter and lyricist. Her opera credits include Strange Fruit (Premiere: Long Leaf Opera; Concert: Harlem School of the Arts/New York City Opera; New York City Opera VOX); The Reef (Center for Contemporary Opera, Prima le Parole, Libretto Slam!). Her plays include (mis)Understanding Mammy: The Hattie McDaniel Story (Drama Desk nomination for Capathia Jenkins as Hattie). Recent musicals include Monet, In the Theatre and Go Green! Sorkin is a member of the Dramatists Guild, BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, ASCAP and New Victory LabWorks.
Lynn Neuman is a choreographer, teacher, performer and Artistic Director of the Artichoke Dance Company, a New York City-based modern dance troupe. She has created over 40 works for the company, which have been presented nationally and internationally under its auspices. Neuman has been commissioned to create over 20 works for other dance companies and educational institutions and has staged a handful of operas. The Village Voice pronounced her work "brave, musical and inclined to gamble." Philadelphia City Paper lauded her "...powerful and original movement style loaded with substance and impact."
Christina Ascher has made an international name for herself as a dedicated and uncompromising interpreter of modern music and modern musical theatre. She has soloed with the Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic of London and most of Europe's New Music ensembles and festivals. Ascher made her career in Europe starting in 1974, where she sang lead roles in the opera houses of Berlin, Bonn, Hamburg, Munich, Zurich and Graz, to name a few. She specialized in Mozart, Rossini, Strauss and Wagner until she shifted her focus to modern music in the mid-1980s. She teaches voice at Voice Studio Christina Ascher.
Jared Soldivero is an active freelance percussionist. He appears frequently with the Albany Symphony and has also performed with the New York Philharmonic, American Ballet Theatre, Vermont Symphony, Springfield Symphony, and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. During the summer, Soldiviero is Principal Timpanist at the Crested Butte Music Festival. He is an accomplished chamber musician. Soldivero's interest in contemporary music has led to concerts under Pierre Boulez, Simon Rattle and others.
Video and Projection Design
Gail Scott White is a new media scenographer and animator who collaboratively makes "Live Movies," a hybrid art form synthesizing cinematic art with live performances for opera, dance and theatre. She has created projection designs for, among others, B3W's Confined, Ariel Dance Theatre's Flush, The Gyre Project, Austin's Long Center for the Performing Arts, Maryland Opera Studio's premiere of Shadowboxer, and The Heidi Chronicles (Arena Stage). White's grant awards include funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is co-founder and co-director of the performance and design company Cyburbia Production in Fairfax, VA.
Malinda Crump has been designing and constructing costumes for the stage and fashion for clients for over a decade. Her creations have been seen adorning the bodies of performers in New York, St. Louis and Kansas City. She is also a dancer and choreographer for Artichoke Dance Company as well as her own company, Periscope Performance Lab.