New Opera Workshop
The series grows out of a course on the writing of libretti designed and taught by poet, librettist, critic, editor, rare book dealer and Visiting Professor of Poetry Ernest Hilbert. Third-year MFA candidates in poetry at Western take this course as their summer intensive, and not only study the history of opera, but also draft an original libretto.
Over the last several years, Western Poetry MFA alumni who have taken Hilbert's class have successfully begun to seek out composers to score their work, and as a result we conceived the idea to bring these new operas to the public in a workshop format. A vital creative culture requires not just intense and sustained study and practice, but also ways to help bring new art to fruition. In the case of opera, that means opening the doors to full production of new work, a long process. Given the strong resources for opera in Colorado, we thought we could find a way to begin to do this, and we were correct.
Our inaugural opera workshop is The Audubon Dream, by Karen E. Peace, with libretto by Western Poetry MFA alumna Laura Stuckey '13. We will present the first act of this two-act opera in piano reduction, oratorio-style, in the Taylor Hall Auditorium, at 7 pm on Friday, July 24. The performance will be introduced by the composer and librettist and a discussion with all the artists will follow.
In addition to sending us two superb singers, Central City Opera has generously offered a 15% discount to all their productions for this summer to anyone attending our production of The Audubon Dream, including production of La Traviata, Man of La Mancha, Don Quixote & The Duchess, and The Prodigal Son. When purchasing tickets on their main site or by phone, use the code "WRITING" when prompted to activate the discount. If you have any questions, please contact the Central City Box office at 303-292-6700.
Our hope is that the excellence all the artists bring to this workshop will give the composers and librettists the opportunity to continue developing their material and move towards fully produced performances with regional and national companies. Please join us for this exciting premiere.
We are grateful to Western's Music Department for the use of their Baldwin grand piano.
Synopsis of The Audubon Dream
The Audubon Dream is set in 1866, when the aging widow Lucy Audubon, financially destitute and concerned for the well-being of her granddaughter, Hattie, contemplates selling all that remains of her late husband John Audubon’s estate—the copper plates of his Birds in America series. Although her husband has been deceased for twenty years, Lucy must again confront grief in all its complexities, as she reflects on her marriage, John Audubon, and ultimately his celebrated contribution to art and science. That contribution, or as Audubon put it, the “machine” of his work, was a dream that the couple shared and built together. During her widowhood, Lucy views herself as the rightful heir to the dream. John James Audubon (who appears as a ghost) is probably the more romantic of the two figures—Lucy is a shrewd businesswoman worried about her own survival. Even earlier in their marriage, when Lucy played a critical role in Audubon’s work, her family was always her first priority.
The opera is primarily set in Minnie’s Land, the house that Audubon had built and named for Lucy upon his return from Europe at the peak of his success in the 1840s. After his death, the property was cut up into several sections where several lived. Lucy alternated between the homes of her two sons, Victor and John Woodhouse Audubon. Selling the copper plates was among her last acts before leaving Minnie’s Land to live in a boarding house in Kentucky for the remainder of her years. Kentucky is also where the Audubons courted and married during their first years together, and some scenes flash back to this locale.
Karen E. Peace’s compositions have been performed by small ensembles, choral groups, orchestras and chamber orchestras, including the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs (COS; www.chamberorchestraofthesprings.org) and Colorado Vocal Arts Ensemble (CVAE; www.cvae.org). The premiere performance of her Requiem, with COS and CVAE, was nominated for a Pikes Peak Arts Council “Outstanding Performance by a Small Ensemble” award. She has also given presentations on various arts topics for the COS, University of Massachusetts’ New England Poetry Symposium, Pikes Peak Opera League and Poetry West. Peace holds an MS in Computer Info Systems and BA in English Literature, and a certificate in Software Technical Writing. She worked as a software engineer for 14 years, ending as a Technical Architect and Database Designer for MCI. Many of Peace’s compositions can be heard at http://www.musicadota.tk/musicvideoswiz/artist/Karen%20E.%20Peace, and some can be viewed on Youtube by searching for “KE Peace Requiem” or “KE Dawn and the Phoenix”
Emily is one half of Liria Duo with pianist Sara Parkinson. Liria Duo released an album of songs by Libby Larsen in 2013 called Songs of Her Self. The duo spent three years working closely with the composer on this premiere recording.
Emily has appeared as a soloist with several regional orchestral and choral organizations in the Rocky Mountains. She has successfully competed in many multi-round competitions, singing in the National Semi-Finals of the NATS Artist Award recital competition, the National Finals of the Music Teachers National Association Young Artist Competition, the Denver Lyric Opera Guild Competition Finals, and the Regional Round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Emily received her Master of Music in Voice Performance from CU-Boulder and her Bachelor of Music in Voice and Flute Performance from the University of Montana. She is a native of Whitefish, Montana, and currently resides with her husband, pianist/coach/conductor Steven Aguiló-Arbues in Denver, Colorado. www.emilymurdocksoprano.com
Enid was nominated for a WAMMY (Washington Area Music Association) award as a recording artist, making her debut with Siya Jika in 2009. Since then she has recorded a solo album and has written the book and lyrics for “Getting It Wright,” a musical comedy about the Wright Brothers. Recently Justus Parotta set her libretto “Lottie Silks,” and it was work shopped in the 2014 Catholic University of America New Voices vocal festival in Washington, DC. She founded the Gunnison Opera Study Group, a community initiative, and sings with the Crested Butte Music Festival chorus annually. She has a local event space, The Fashion Café, where she has hosted Word Horde and other readings. She also writes a column on local culture for The Gunnison Times.