GOTHAM CHAMBER OPERA
Announces 2013-2014 Season
Gotham Chamber Opera announces the 2013-2014 season, featuring four new productions, including a world premiere and a U.S. premiere. The season begins with Baden-Baden 1927: a staged evening of four one-act operas that appeared together at the Baden-Baden Festival in 1927, from October 23 - November 1, 2013 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater, followed by a co-production with Trinity Church, Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s La descente d'Orphée aux enfers from January 1-5, 2014. The season continues in February with a double bill co-produced with and staged at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, consisting of Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda by Monteverdi, and a newly commissioned work, I Have No Stories to Tell You, by Gotham Chamber Opera Composer-In-Residence Lembit Beecher. The United States premiere of The Raven by Toshio Hosakawa at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater concludes the season in May 2014 as part of the New York Philharmonic’s inaugural NY PHIL BIENNIAL.
Having recently presented the world premiere of Nico Muhly’s Dark Sisters and revisited our roots with Mozart’s Il sogno di Scipione, we at Gotham Chamber Opera were, as usual, looking for the next unexpected direction to take. Sometimes, it turns out, unexpected directions are right in front of you. For me the path began with Robin Guarino’s masterful production of Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto at Juilliard in 2006. Here was a composer able to invoke both laughter and tears with equal flourish while creating characters of unusual complexity. I vowed to present a Cavalli opera when the right moment came along. As Guarino’s La Calisto production could not be improved upon, I instead considered his other best-known works, Giasone and L’Ormindo. But then the musicologist (and Gotham devotee) Ellen Rosand, who is the world’s leading expert on early Italian opera, turned my attention to the 1667 Eliogabalo: Cavalli’s last and, she felt, greatest opera. She was right.
The potential subversiveness of bringing to a Venetian public stage the issue of prostitution in the context of political appointments fully emerges if we consider two contemporaneous historical facts. First, in the seventeenth century prostitution was a striking reality in the Serenissima, a city famous all over Europe not only for its opera theaters but for its thousands of prostitutes. Second, many contemporaneous clandestine political pamphlets featured attacks on, and satires of, the Venetian government in which a common target was the assignment of political appointments in the Senate in exchange for money. Indeed the selling of appointments—the so-called broglio—was a particularly frequent practice among members of the Venetian senate. Not surprisingly, to describe the corrupt Venetian political world, the pamphleteers did not hesitate to draw comparisons between noble families involved in politics and the thousands of prostitutes living on the lagoon. Of course these works were all immediately censored by the government authorities, but they circulated nonetheless.
On this episode of the Indie Opera Podcast, Peter Szep, Noah Lethbridge, Walker Lewis and Brooke Larimer are joined by Mauro Calcagno, musicologist and James Marvel, Director of "Eliogabalo".
The Venice of the 1660s—when Cavalli’s Eliogabalo was composed-was characterized by an extremely conservative political and cultural atmosphere, very different from the progressive, libertine one of the first half of the century, when opera as public entertainment first flourished on the lagoon and Cavalli’s career as opera composer flourished too. The return of the Jesuits in Venice in 1657, after their expulsion for 50 years caused by the Interdict, contributed to a shift towards religious and cultural orthodoxy. Censorship became much more oppressive, and playwrights and librettists had to be much more careful. The noble owners of the theater where Eliogabalo was performed, the powerful Grimani family, financially supported the Society of Jesus. It is revealing that, in the months preceding the opera season in which Cavalli's work was to be performed, the brothers Giovanni Carlo and Vincenzo Grimani fired the impresario Marco Faustini to become the only people managing the Teatro SS. Giovanni e Paolo. As the sole directors of their own theater, their public image was even more closely tied to the productions staged there, and they might have wanted the operas to reflect their ideology even more. No longer needing an intermediary such as an impresario, they began to exercise direct artistic control. Cavalli's Eliogabalo fell at that crucial juncture in time.
IMAGE 5: The church of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, designed by Baldassarre Longhena, was being built at the time of Eliogabalo and was eventually completed in 1681.
I have always enjoyed Gotham Chamber Opera’s productions for their ability to completely envelop and immerse the audience’s senses in a story. In recent years, their continually elevated narrations have led them to synchronistic settings which enhance the viewer’s understanding of the characters’ motivations, historical references, and primary themes. In the case of Eliogabalo, both the space and the significance of the opening date (March 15, the Ides of March) foreshadow the mood of the tale.
My process for designing the scenery was greatly motivated by the unique voice of this unconventional space. The final product exudes a marriage of visions between me as set designer, the director James Marvel, and the space. During our first visit to The Box, James and I sat in every seat, studied the architecture, and walked in and out of the venue a number of times, keeping in mind how the audience would perceive their surroundings upon entering this world. On subsequent visits, I brought in color samples and materials that would both blend and contrast with the existing colors and fabrics. As we continued to survey The Box‘s amenities, we found a long central table used for dinner parties. This inspired us to make a long “catwalk” that would connect and include our audience in the show; it will provide closer visual contact for the patrons upstairs in the balcony and an extremely intimate experience for those lucky viewers seated at the table!
IMAGE 1: The Box
Cavalli’s Eliogabalo, as we have seen in the first chapter of this blog series, was replaced by an opera with the same exact title, but composed by a musician who was almost forty years younger, Giovanni A. Boretti. Luckily, unlike most of the operas written in that century for the Venetian theatres, the scores of both Cavalli’s and Boretti’s operas still survive. After the first run of performances in the Serenissima, Boretti’s opera travelled Italy for nine years, being performed in Parma, Naples, Genoa, Bologna, Rome, Milan, Palermo, and Turin. Cavalli's Eliogabalo, instead, ended up, as we remember, in the composer’s drawer. Cavalli himself however must have thought that Eliogabalo would have seen the stage sooner or later (much later, as it turned out!). Toward the end of his life he included it among the operas which he wanted passed on to future generations, and they now form a precious collection in the Marciana library in Venice (see the previous blog chapter).
IMAGE 3: Title page of Aurelio Aureli, Eliogabalo, music by Giovanni A. Boretti (Venice, 1668)
Nothing gets me more artistically titillated than the fusion of opera and nightlife. I am passionate about framing “high-art” performance in uniquely untraditional settings. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to sip a cocktail while enjoying operatic entertainment. Thankfully, Gotham Chamber Opera feels the same way and has chosen to stage Cavalli’s Eliogabalo directed by James Marvel at The Box- the coolest vaudeville/burlesque hot spot in New York City. I am assistant directing and choreographing this rarely performed Baroque beauty. Some might say staging a full Baroque Opera in the intimate confines of The Box is a bit crazy, I say it’s the way this work should be enjoyed- up-close and raw. It is obvious that staging an opera in a semi- unconventional space will have its challenges. Each of these “limitations” are opportunities for innovation.
Francesco Cavalli's Eliogabalo was originally scheduled for the 1668 Carnival season at the Theater SS. Giovanni e Paolo in Venice. However the premiere was abruptly cancelled shortly before it was to be performed, and thus Cavalli, who was in his sixties and one of the most famous composers of his time, never saw it staged. The opera had to actually wait more than three hundred years to be performed, until 1999, when it was staged in the small town of Crema, the composer’s birthplace in northern Italy. That performance was possible simply because the composer himself had made sure that his opera manuscripts would have been preserved (they are now housed in the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice). This preoccupation regarding his legacy was unusual. Indeed very few opera scores still survive from that century.
IMAGE 1: Bust of the emperor Heliogabalus (or Elagabalus, 204–222 A.D.), Rome, Musei Capitolini
Composer-in-Residence Missy Mazzoli was featured in OPERA America's Salon Series in January. The evening included a presentation of selections from her first opera, Song from the Uproar. You can watch the entire program here or at OPERA America's YouTube channel at http://youtu.be/eP9cqWiy38Q
Our Fall 2012 Newsletter "Behind the Curtain" is available for viewing on line or downloading. Gotham is busy year round with outreach activities and educational programs. Read about Gotham's most recent partnerships with Sing for Hope and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and go behind the curtain as Neal Goren discusses our latest production, Orientale, in his essay "Putting it Together".
Greetings from our President
Notes from our Artistic Director: Putting it Together - Orientale
Gotham Artists Singing for Hope at Mt. Sinai
Gotham Goes to Broadway for a Good Cause
Download your copy of the newsletter here.
OPERA AMERICA'S 2012 NEW WORKS FORUM
American Opera Showcase Performances
Thursday, November 8 and Friday, November 9
Gotham Chamber Opera presents excerpts from Heart of Darkness, with music by Tarik O'Regan and libretto by Tom Phillips; and excerpts from Dr. Sun Yat-Sen by composer Huang Ruo and librettist Candace Mui-Ngam Chong.
You can watch the complete presentation embedded below or on OPERA America's YouTube channel at http://youtu.be/IaQ67nbpBBs .
On Sunday, September 23, Gotham Chamber Opera joined fifty-eight Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, marketing firms, unions, and assorted other friends of the theatrical community for the 26thAnnual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction. This annual event, now a Times Square tradition, brings together actors, singers, producers, designers, stagehands, theater enthusiasts, and tourists for one purpose: to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organization. A record-breaking $681,892 was raised at the tables and the Grand Auction, allowing BC/EFA to continue supporting the work of many programs at The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative, the Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic, and the Dancers Resource.
A huge part of what I love about directing and choreographing is the challenge of fusing different styles and sources to make an evening. It is like sitting in front of a giant jig saw puzzle and trying to fit the pieces together. ORIENTALE has been an exciting exploration in how to approach presenting ethnically varying pieces from an assortment of periods in a respectful yet imaginative way. My mantra for ORIENTALE has been to get inspired by each musical piece we chose allowing the essence of each to converge and fuse into a style that is unique and specific to this show. I am less interested in strict period reconstruction and more curious about what can happen when bodies steeped in the traditions and knowledge of the past are thrust into a more contemporary light. . It has been an absolute dream to choreograph to MAYA’s gorgeous Armenian pieces, they offer so much passion and earthiness in their playing and create a fantastic dialogue with the European pieces composed in an “exotic” style.
The fun and communality of music-making is, or ought to be, obvious to everyone who hears the result. But most people probably wouldn’t guess that programming can be creative and joyful too. Certainly, programming Orientale – our title for the upcoming concerts Gotham Chamber Opera will present at (le) poisson rouge – has been an exercise in shared creativity every bit as exciting as what we hope it leads to. Perhaps there’s even a correlation between the pleasure derived in planning a program and the pleasure experienced upon hearing it.
We began with the notion of offering Monteverdi’s Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda as the tent pole of the fall LPR concert – even though we will mount a fully staged production in the 2013/14 season. After much discussion, we decided that a semi-staged production by a different director would only whet the audience’s appetite for the full production, which will take place in a very different environment than (le) poisson rouge nightclub. The opera – actually a proto-mini-opera that comes from Monteverdi’s Eighth Book of Madrigals – lends itself to varying interpretations and modes of presentation. The story of two battling warriors, set against the background of the Crusades, is narrated by one singer, with vocal interjections by the two protagonists. Even if one knows the piece, it leaves you asking: What is it really about? After discussions with our resident Baroque music expert, the celebrated theorbo player Grant Herreid, we decided that its subject is, among other things, the clash of cultures between East and West as seen through the eyes (and heard through the ears) of a Western composer residing in Venice, which was then at the crossroad between the two cultures.
Gotham Chamber Opera announces its 2012-2013 season of three productions, featuring two site-specific works. The season begins with GOTHAM @ LPR: ORIENTALE on October 1 and 3, 2012 at (le) poisson rouge and continues with the New York Premiere of Francesco Cavalli’s ELIOGABALO (1667) from March 15-29, 2013 at The Box, staged by James Marvel. The season will conclude in June with a production of Daniel Catan’s 1988 opera, LA HIJA DE RAPPACINI (Rappacini’s Daughter), in site-specific venues.
In addition to our performances throughout the year, Gotham Chamber Opera is proud to be a part of events that stimulate and engage the outside community with the beauty of opera and music as a whole. One such project was our recent partnership with Sing for Hope, whose mission is to mobilize professional artists to volunteer their talents for those who need it most. The cornerstone of the organization is their Healing Arts program, wherein live performances are brought to patients, families, visitors, and staff of hospitals throughout the New York area, sometimes even in individual hospital rooms! Ultimately, Sing for Hope is designed to bring together the hospital community of patients, families, doctors, and staff in a shared, uplifting experience.
Some of you may know Olivia Giovetti from WQXR’s opera blog, Operavore; she’s also on Twitter, and several other sites. Olivia attended the opening night of Gotham Chamber Opera's revival of Il sogno di Scipione last April. However, this story is about what happened after the performance: while on the way home, her husband noticed he had lost his keys! So, like any internet-savvy writer, she turned to Twitter as a last resort.
While her husband ran frantically back to the theater, Olivia searched Twitter for mentions of Scipione and looked for people who were still at the opening night gala. Luckily, one of her friends was indeed still at the gala and managed to recover the keys from under the seat! Just another way that the magic of opera and the Internet collide. The moral of the story, in her own words: “Now when we go out, I carry his keys (and phone and wallet) in my purse…”
Our Summer 2012 Newsletter "Behind the Curtain" is available for viewing on line or downloading. In it, you will read about our wonderful Tenth Anniversary Celebration and see photos from our Opening Night Gala for Il sogno di Scipione.
Greetings from our President
Notes from our Artistic Director
Reviews of Il sogno di Scipione
Download your copy of the newsletter here.
Gotham’s Composer-in-Residence: Lembit Beecher Since his appointment as the first Composer-in-Residence (CIR) one year ago, Lembit Beecher has been busy. If you search "Ikea Random Act of Culture" on YouTube, you’ll get a glimpse of his creativity -–and his intimate relationship with his sponsors: Gotham Chamber Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, and Music-Theatre Group. In collaboration with the three companies, Beecher divides his time between Philadelphia and New York and has experienced first hand the challenge of composing, staging, and performing opera. The residency, which lasts two more years, will provide him with the opportunity for additional personal and creative growth, combined with collaborations with his mentors and artistic directors.
Reflecting on Gotham’s first ten years, I am filled with gratitude. That we have been able to develop an entire family of administrators, artists, and donors of such quality is extremely humbling. But it’s also astonishing. Though the company’s slogan – “Where opera gets intimate” – is entirely apt, adding the phrase “against all odds” might be even apter. What, after all, are the odds of assembling the greatest artists in opera for ten years, convincing them to contribute their talents at far below market rate, and receiving thanks for doing so, year after year? And what are the odds of assembling an ever-growing number of donors, dedicated to our mission of presenting rarely performed chamber operas from the Baroque era to the present, in spite of an economy that one could at best call challenging? And what about assembling, from among those donors, a core group of dedicated enthusiasts to function as our board, willing to give their time and energy to guide us into the future? While the odds of all of these things converging simultaneously are puny, they have indeed occurred and continue to occur.
The Opera Company of Philadelphia, in collaboration with Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group in New York, is proud to announce that composer Missy Mazzoli has been selected as its second Composer In Residence (CIR). Mazzoli, already a prolific composer who is currently working on her second full-length opera, was chosen from over 100 applicants for the position and now has the opportunity to follow a personalized, three-year development track focused on the advancement of her career as an operatic composer.
“We are thrilled to be working with Missy Mazzoli in the development of her unique and eclectic operatic voice,” shared OCP General Director David B. Devan. “Missy has already proven herself as a significant composer with stories to tell, and this program will connect her with world-class professionals who can mentor and collaborate with her to support her continued growth as an artist.”
Renowed artist Cecily Brown created this image for our
Tenth Anniversary Revival of "Il sogno di Scipione".
Take home a commemoration of this wonderful production
and support Gotham at the same time. Posters are $15.
Visit our merchandise page for more information
and to make your purchase.
Seeking New York's Next 'Other' Opera Company
by Zachary Woolfe
By now enough people have gotten on enough soapboxes about New York City Opera’s sorry financial state. But while the company remains in limbo, its precarious situation should be a reminder to look at the bigger picture.
Institutions come and go; what is important is the preservation of core values. So what do we want from opera in New York?
A variety of repertory, including a healthy diet of new works. Stimulating interpretations of the standards. Affordability. A range in the scale of performances, from grand to modest. Opportunities for young artists.
Aided by brilliant marketing, the Metropolitan Opera has in recent years pivoted to seem younger and fresher, concerned with theatricality and its connection to the broader cultural landscape. But with 3,800 seats it cannot provide intimacy, and its much-touted new productions of classic works have largely been old wine in new bottles. For reasons of size and temperament it doesn’t really do new opera.
Keeping Operas, And His Life, In Brisk Motion
By VIVIEN SCHWEITZER
“WHAT role does the government have in the home?” the American composer Nico Muhly asked recently over tea in a Midtown cafe. “It’s a complicated and interesting question.”
Mr. Muhly, 30, whose high-profile commissions include a work for the Metropolitan Opera, said that as a gay man he is particularly interested in the government’s role in personal relationships. He explores a longstanding fascination with polygamy in his chamber opera “Dark Sisters,” a story of a polygamist family in a Mormon offshoot whose children are removed by state officials concerned about child abuse. A co-production of Gotham Chamber Opera, Music-Theater Group and the Opera Company of Philadelphia, the work, with a libretto by Stephen Karam and sets and video projections by 59 Productions, will receive its premiere on Wednesday evening at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater of John Jay College.
Our Fall Newsletter features interviews and articles from the creative team, and a special messag from our Board President and our Executive Director. An excellent way to prepare for your experience with Dark Sisters.
Staging a contemporary opera: Nico Muhly, Rebecca Taichman, and Neal Goren discuss how the staging of Dark Sisters draws inspiration from the score.
Notes from our Artistic Director: Neal Goren explains the five-year gestation process of a new American opera.
Photos from the September Preview, and more.
Opening Night is Wednesday, Nov. 9 and performances run until Nov. 19.
Download your copy of the Newsletter here.
In a series of video "vodcasts", composer Nico Muhly discusses the landscape as inspiration for much of the music in "Dark Sisters". The video includes footage from Nico's own trip to Colorado City and gives insight on the composer at work. Stephen Karam discusses the story behind "Dark Sisters", and the 2008 raid at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, TX. Watch both videos in our "Learn More" section: http://www.gothamchamberopera.org/learn_more/podcast/dark_sisters
Gotham Chamber Opera has commissioned many noteworthy artists over the years to create unique works for our productions. Limited edition signed posters are available from Matthew Barney, John Currin, Elizabeth Peyton, Vera Lutter, and Lisa Yuskavage. NEW! Noah Scalin's original artwork for Dark Sisters is available in a 14" x 22" poster. A number of these, signed by Nico Muhly and Stephen Karam, are for sale at a special price. All signed posters are $150. Unsigned posters are $15. Visit our store to make your purchase today! Take me to the shop.
You can now subscribe to the podcast series for Dark Sisters through iTunes. The series includes conversations with composer Nico Muhly and plural marriage scholar Ken Verdoia, an interview with librettist Stephen Karam, and an upcoming roundtable discussion between Nico, conductor Neal Goren and director Rebecca Taichman. Download all the epsiodes to your iPod or iPhone. Click here to subscribe.