New Opera Workshop
[Note: All general conference registrations include admission for one person to the New Opera Workshop performance; individual tickets will also be sold at the door on a first-come, first-served basis (no reservations) to the general public for $20/person, $10/students.]
Join us this year, on Friday, July 22, at 4 pm in the Taylor Hall Studio Theater, for our second workshop, in which we will present The Price of Pomegranates, by Jerome W. Malek, with libretto by Susan Spear (MFA '12).
The workshop grows out of a course on the writing of libretti designed and taught by poet, librettist, critic, editor, rare book dealer and Poetry Concentration Director Ernest Hilbert, who will introduce the workshop and lead the conversation about the opera afterwards. Third-year MFA candidates in poetry at Western take Professor Hilbert's 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 2015 opera workshop was The Audubon Dream, by Karen E. Peace, with libretto by Western Poetry MFA alumna Laura Stuckey '13. We presented the first act of this two-act opera in piano reduction, oratorio-style.Central City Opera were performers in our first year, 2015: soprano Emily Murdock and lyric baritone Dr. Adam Ewing. Two singers from Central City will again participate with us this year: mezzo Tracy Kaufman and lyric baritone Tom Stizler, whose bios appear below. Central City is one of the preeminent opera organizations in America and we count ourselves fortunate to enjoy participation of their singers in our workshop. You can see our event on the Central City Opera website here.
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.
The embedded videos below present our first two seasons: "The Audubon Dream" from 2015, and "The Price of Pomegranates" from 2016.
2015: "The Audubon Dream"
2016; "The Price of Pomegranates"
Synopsis of The Price of Pomegranates
The Price of Pomegranates is the story of Ameena, a young Afghan widow, Samira, her mother-in-law, and Rastin, Samira's cousin.
After Ameena's husband was killed by the Taliban for his work as a translator for coalition forces, she was given special immigrant status by the US government. Because of her deep love and concern for Samira, who is also widowed, Ameena negotiated immigrant status for her as well.
Ameena has no children and no special skills, and she works as a clerk in the local Afghan grocery store. She speaks functional English. Samira is in her late 60s, speaks no English and has never worked outside her home. After she was widowed, she became dependent on her son, Ameena's husband. When he was killed, she was left alone. She and her Samira have immigrated to Fremont, California.
Rastin is a 50-year old widowed medical doctor from Kabul, who now works cleaning offices in a medical building in Fremont. He earns just enough to live and is working on becoming certified to practice medicine in California. He speaks English. He has adult children in Afghanistan.
As all three of the main characters begin to build their new lives, generations and cultures clash.
Ben is a graduate of the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program of the Washington National Opera where he was hand selected by Director Plácido Domingo. He made his main stage debut with that company conducting Hansel and Gretel at the historic Lincoln Theater. Other appearances with the WNO included a sold out run of performances of Così fan Tutte at the Washington National Opera Studio, and concerts at the Opera House of John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Music Center at Strathmore. Since relocating to Memphis, he has been a regular guest conductor with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and has also appeared with Ballet Memphis, and the New Ballet Ensemble and School. He is the conductor on the recently released recording of Mark Abel’s opera Home is a Harbor, on Delos Records.
Ben completed studies at Chapman University and the University of California, Los Angeles and pursued advanced studies at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy. In 2014 he was identified by Opera America as a future leader in the field of Opera in the United States.
Last Fall Rachel released a new collaborative classical album entitled Mourning which takes listeners through the process of wanting, having, losing, and keeping hope after the loss of a child. This album marks the second full vocal release for Rachel. Her first, Twisted Folk, is a solo recording featuring the work of contemporary composers fusing classical folk melodies in modern classical settings. Last year, Rachel and fellow soprano Alisa Peterson began a new venture in the world of blogging and podcasts with the start of The Transparent Singer: Daring Divas Keep it Real. This is a grass roots forum dedicated to aid singers in navigating the world of creating art that matters. Visit www.thetransparentsinger.com. Another venture in the world of producing is for a musical called Anthem which was performed as a mentored production in The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival and featured in the New York Fringe Festival in 2014. Visit www.anthemmusical.com for more information.
In August of 2015, Rachel produced and performed in a new musical oratorio entitled, Facebookatorio as part of the Southern California UnSUNg series. In December, Rachel was the featured soloist in the Lompoc Pops holiday concert, and early 2016, Rachel organized and performed two concerts in Paris, one of which was a dedication to the victims and families of the attacks in November of 2015. Visit the news section of www.reallyrachel.com for updates on upcoming performances and projects in development.www.tomsitzler.com.
MusiciansStanislaw Skrowaczewski, and Lucinda Carver. Nick is a member of the San Bernardino and the Redlands Symphony Orchestras. As principal viola of Del Gesu Strings, Nick toured South America, playing concerts in Panama City (Panama), San Salvador (El Salvador), Quito (Ecuador), and Santiago (Chile). Locally, he has collaborated with various musicians presenting chamber music concerts, and is a member of the Chamber Players of Los Angeles. A dedicated educator, Nick has taught privately for over 20 years at public and private schools and youth orchestras since 1995. From 2008 to 2011, he was a conductor for the Irvine Young Concert Artists orchestra and he was recently appointed to the faculty for Junior Chamber Music in Orange County.
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.