Posts tagged "nws"

Jeremy Howard Beck is the composer of The Long Walk, which will be featured at the New Works Sampler.

What was your earliest experience of opera?
When I was 10 or 11 my mother took my sister and me to see Carmen at the Tilles Center on Long Island. I was pretty confused about why, if the story takes place in Spain, the characters were all singing in French, but I was completely awed and transfixed by the music and the drama unfolding on stage (even if I realize now that I actually understood almost none of it). 

Why did you start composing (or writing librettos)?
Although I’ve loved music for my whole life, I never dreamed of being a composer. My first childhood obsession was roller coasters, and when I saw a documentary about roller coasters on TV that interviewed some of the leading designers of the day, I realized that people had to design these things, and that I was born to be one of those people. I sketched hundreds of original designs, and they got more sophisticated and technically fleshed out (and scarier, and more dramatic) as I got older. 

Unfortunately, I turned out to be terrible at calculus, so I had to figure out what else I could do with my life. Music was my other great love, but I’d never taken it very seriously as so many young musicians do—I’d never taken private trombone lessons or done any of the young solo competitions or festivals or anything like that. I’d certainly never composed anything. My high school band director was also my Music Theory teacher, and he suggested that I write enough music to put a portfolio together and apply to schools as a theory/composition major and just figure it out once I was there. I started writing and found that I loved it in the same way that I loved sketching imaginary roller coasters.

Somehow I ended up in college and eventually grad school as a composition major, and I was fortunate enough to find teachers and mentors who understood where I was coming from and what I wanted to do. I suppose you could say that designing roller coasters is exactly what I’ve ended up doing, and no one loves a good roller coaster like opera audiences and opera performers.

Who has been influential to you throughout your career and why?
John Corigliano and Mark Adamo for teaching me to think about music and drama as one and the same thing, and for their never-ending wisdom, support and mentorship; composer and teacher Deniz Hughes, for introducing me to Corigliano’s planning method, for making sure I knew how to ask the right questions, and for setting me on the path I’m on today; Lawrence Edelson, the founder and director of American Lyric Theater, for taking an enormous chance commissioning me and for being like a (very, very patient) lighthouse for me throughout the whole process; dramaturg Cori Ellison, for awakening me to a universe of dramatic possibility and giving me a vocabulary with which to talk about it all; composer Austin Wintory, for being my no-BS sounding board and indefatigable one-man workshop; The Guidonian Hand trombone quartet, for commissioning two big pieces from me and performing the bejezus out of them all over the country; dancer and choreographer Haylee Nichele, for finding joy and athleticism in my music that I didn’t even know was there.

What inspired you to create THE LONG WALK?
When Stephanie [Fleischmann] and I read The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life that Follows by Brian Castner we both instinctively knew that we’d found the story we needed to tell. There was the subject matter, which spoke to both of us and felt both authentically urgent and socially necessary, and there was the musical way Brian wrote his story, with its motivic refrains and symphonic sense of form and structure and development. It took a very long time for me to work out how to make the characters sing, but I knew how the music(s) would flow— move, build, act, function—almost instantly. It was immediately clear that this was not only a story that could be told with music but a story that demanded to be told in music.

What other projects do you have coming down the pipeline?
I’ll be spending the rest of 2014 and part of 2015 orchestrating THE LONG WALK—getting it ready for its world premiere in summer 2015—so there isn’t a whole lot of room to think about anything else. That said, I will also be writing two solo pieces for members of The Guidonian Hand: an unaccompanied solo multiphonic trombone songbook for William Lang called Single by Choice and a solo multi-track piece for James Rogers and his new contrabass trombone called Don’t Be Shy. (Writing solos is the only thing I can think of that’s as terrifying as writing an opera!) The Gaudete Brass Quintet will be recording a piece I wrote for them, ROAR, and soprano Heather Michele Meyer will be recording a song I wrote for her, Mamie, both this year.

Photo: THE LONG WALK: Stephanie Fleischmann, Librettist; Brian Castner, Author; Jeremy Howard Beck, composer. Photo courtesy of American Lyric Theater.

Royce Vavrek is the librettist of Breaking the Waves, which will be featured at the New Works Sampler.

What was your earliest experience of opera?
I first encountered opera through two recordings I bought as a boy, I Paglicacci (with Pavarotti) and Salome (with Jessye Norman).  My first live experience was the Opéra de Montréal’s production of Cavalleria Rusticana/I Pagliacci that I saw during the first year of my undergraduate studies at Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema.

Why did you begin writing librettos?
Music and theater have always occupied so much of my life, though I had no idea that I destined for a career in the opera.  As a very young boy I would dictate stories to my mother who would transcribe them.  I was lucky to have a great community theater experience in Grande Prairie, Alberta – I first played an orphan and a pickpocket in Oliver when I was 10 years old – and my parents were very committed to providing me with private music lessons.  I am nothing if not a product of an amazing arts education, and I would be nothing if it weren’t for the many teachers throughout my life that encouraged my artistic pursuits: from Ellyn Otterson, my childhood voice teacher, who opened my eyes to the joys of classical music and musical theater; to Paulette Long, my high school drama teacher whose encouragement meant the opportunity to write, produce, and travel with my original plays as a teenager; to Donna DeBruin who helped me harness my unbridled writing technique when I was in the eleventh grade; to Carole Zucker, an inspiring film studies professor who introduced me to the New German Cinema and the catalogue of Neil Jordan, works that ignited my imagination in immeasurable ways.  That these women offered unwavering support, even as I pushed the envelope with my increasingly provocative work, meant that I was able to experiment and develop my voice from early on.  I can’t imagine my life without the access they provided to the magic of storytelling in all of its forms.

Who has been influential to you throughout your career and why?
I wouldn’t be writing opera if it wasn’t for the initial training I received through the American Lyric Theater’s Composer Librettist Development Program.  I learned an immeasurable amount from the mentorship of Mark Adamo, dramaturg Cori Ellison and producing artistic director Lawrence Edelson.  I knew very little about opera going into the ALT program, but the foundation that I received has allowed for me to begin building a career in this industry.

Beth Morrison has had a hand in producing most of my work to date – including Song from the Uproar, Brooklyn Village, Dog Days, Angel’s Bone, and numerous contributions to the 21c Liederabend and New York City Opera VOX Contemporary American Opera Lab.  She is a constant inspiration, truly the spirit of indie opera personified.

Dog Days from Beth Morrison Projects on Vimeo.

A lot of my narrative sensibilities have grown out of the influences of master storytellers across all mediums.  For instance, when I found the cinema of Lars von Trier at the age of fourteen, my life was forever changed by the ferocious ways he tells stories, his formal experimentation, and the performances he is able to coax from his actors.  Similarly, the films of David Gordon Green and Catherine Breillat, the theater of Martin McDonagh and Stephen Sondheim, the poetry of P.K. Page, the prose of Timothy Findley and Richard Ford, and the popular music of Dolly Parton, Tom Waits and Bjork have informed my artistic aesthetic in countless ways.  I am also constantly inspired by the work of my collaborators, and I am forever learning and evolving through the opportunity to work with so many singular, amazing composers, directors, conductors, singers and visual artists.

Finally, every writer should have a muse as inspiring as Lauren Worsham.  I met Lauren during my first year at New York University’s Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program – she sang a song I wrote with Julia Meinwald called “Hybrid Dreams” (affectionately known as “BunnyPony”) in a William Finn lyric-writing class, and I knew immediately that she was insanely special.  I love to write for her because she is daring and versatile, she can delight and break your heart, she is a true singing actress with the most glorious voice.  One of the best things I ever did was start the opera-theater company The Coterie with her, as it was our way of drawing a line in the sand and say “this is what we think music theater needs to be” – a place where all forms of musical storytelling are celebrated, explored and valued.

BKLN PHIL Canvas from Brooklyn Philharmonic on Vimeo.

What inspired you to create Breaking the Waves?
I saw Lars von Trier’s “Breaking the Waves” for the first time when I was fourteen years old.  It blew my mind.  If a story could ever seep into your bones and alter your chemistry, this was the one for me.  When we were considering ideas for our follow-up to Song from the Uproar, I mentioned the movie and how I felt that Missy’s music would be the perfect vehicle to tell Bess’s story.  It really announced itself as the project that we both had to create together.

What other projects do you have coming down the pipeline?
I will premiere 27, my first collaboration with Ricky Ian Gordon, in June at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.  The opera celebrates Gertrude Stein’s famous salon at 27 rue de Fleurus in Paris during the early decades of the 20th century, and will star Stephanie Blythe as Gertrude and Elizabeth Futral as Alice B. Toklas.  With David T. Little I am writing JFK for Fort Worth Opera/American Lyric Theater, which will premiere in the 2016 season.  Prior to that we’ll take Dog Days to Fort Worth and Los Angeles Opera in 2015.  I am excited to dig into my first full-length show with Matt Marks, a collection of short music theater pieces about a suburban Los Angeles family called Strangers in Many Ways.  We premiered an episode last year, entitled Strip Mall, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and another, Bluetooth Islands, with the Brooklyn Philharmonic in 2012 - we’re now building the show with Alan Pierson for the ensemble Alarm Will Sound.  Du Yun and I presented a concert version of Angel’s Bone, an opera about fallen angels forced into sexual slavery, as part of this year’s Prototype Festival, and we’re hoping for a full production in the future. I will release a new song with Paola Prestini written for mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard on the next AIDS Quilt Songbook, and we are preparing to write a follow-up to our Hubble Cantata, a collaboration with filmmaker Carmen Kordas and astrophysicist Mario Livio.  With Joshua Schmidt I am developing a new musical, Midwestern Gothic, for Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, and with Rachel Peters I will workshop The Wild Beast of the Bungalow with the Center for Contemporary Opera later this year.

HUBBLE CANTATA // trailer from quilken on Vimeo.

It’s safe to say I am compelled to create work, often exploring new collaborations. Working with new people keeps me on my toes, pushing me to explore innovative ways of thinking. I can’t wait to begin projects with new collaborators including composers Ellen Reid, Mikael Karlsson, Jude Vaclavik, Aaron Roche and Greg Spears.  Another upcoming project that I’m in the process of designing is a touring concert with Amelia Watkins, a dear friend and amazing soprano, that explores the shared landscape of our formative years in western Canada called My Alberta.

I also look forward to further building The Coterie with Lauren and managing director Eric Hurtig. We’ve premiered over 40 new songs in concert and are dreaming up our first production in the not-too-distant future.  We also have designs on creating a movie opera and a series of podcasts that explore the art of collaboration!

Kamran Ince is the composer and Jerry Dye is the librettist of Abandoned, which will be featured at the New Works Sampler.

What was your earliest experience of opera?
KI: Attended some operas in my early teens at the State Opera in Ankara, Turkey.
JD: As a kid, my experience with opera and classical music was limited, to say the very least. Perhaps I had seen the beautiful Jessye Norman sing on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. That was about it. Then, when I was 19, I met a friend with a deep and abiding love of opera. Humbled, I asked him where I should start. He graciously made me a cassette tape of Victoria de los Angeles singing Bachianas Brasileiras no 5. As I drove cross-country with the windows rolled down, I popped the cassette in my dashboard. Hearing that voice coming from the rattling speakers inside my beat up Pontiac Grand Le Mans brought me to tears. I pulled the car over in a gas station and wept for quite some time.

Why did you start composing or writing librettos?
KI: I started composing when I was 11 years old. It was so much more fun to compose then to practice scales and arpeggios on the cello or the piano (instruments I play).
JD: Simply because I was asked. Though I have often worked in collaboration with musicians, this is project is my first opera collaboration.

Who has been influential to you throughout your career and why?
KI: My stock answer as to who is my favorite composer has been Brahms. Because he created such an original language out of what came before him without being obsessed with the next radical thing in the development of Western concert music. He created such a unique language out of a synthesis of what happened before him. Very much like where composers find themselves today. The difference is today materials can be from various cultures of different countries, rock, pop, folk, jazz, etc. in addition to serious concert music. So, what I am trying to do is similar to what Brahms did, except in the realm of world serious concert music, rather then just Western. Also find a sense of rebellion, anger against the unfairness of many things in life in Brahms’ music. He is a rebel in that way—I see myself a little that way. Of course I am also influenced by every piece of music I have heard, one way or other. Even if I don’t like a piece, there may be one measure that I am impressed by or find unique that will stay in my sound library, causing something later on.
JD: I was born and raised in Mississippi. My greatest influences coming up were all the Southern literary greats like Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and Tennessee Williams. Their stories and cadence were familiar and intoxicating to me. These voices gave me permission to write. At 18, I worked (as an actor) on an adaptation of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying that seemed to literally alter the cells in my body. It opened a floodgate inside me. Shortly after, I began devouring the likes of Wallace Stevens, EE Cummings, William Carlos Williams, Yeats, and Shakespeare while simultaneously obsessing over Laurie Anderson, Jean Cocteau, and the films of Federico Fellini. I still find all these influences swimming around in my brain. It’s full in there.

What inspired you to create Abandoned?
KI: Of course Jerre Dye’s libretto about the abandoned Sears building’s soul that comes to life as a women 3:00 a.m. in one hot Summer night. Her love and longing for the sun, not knowing if it will ever come out again is tantalizing. Such a moving, desperate, passionate love story.. A few months before writing Abandoned, I was asked to write a song (kind of alternative pop) for a friends daughter. I asked her to send me some of her favorite songs to listen to, one of which was Kate Bush’s “Snowflake.” I liked this song a lot. After finishing the my song, my thoughts about this Kate Bush song still lingered as I was writing Abandoned.
JD: Abandoned is a part of a collection of seven small works I wrote for Opera Memphis called Ghosts of Crosstown, which is based on stories gathered around the history of an enormous, abandoned Sear’s building in downtown Memphis. Each aria is inspired by actual stories culled from locals that had worked in the building since the construction in 1927. This piece, Abandoned, served as a bit of a framing devise for the whole project. The inspiration came from a beautiful afternoon tour of the broken building. 

The derelict building with its slumped ceilings and peeling paint possessed a kind of beautiful sadness about it. As I watched the sun set through the shattered windowpanes, I was taken by the forlorn beauty of the moment…the loneliness and decay. The piece was written from this vantage point. If the building were a person, how might he or she feel for the world falling down around them?

Other inspiration came from a couple of significant quotes:

“Architecture appears for the first time when the sunlight hits a wall. The sunlight did not know what it was before it hit a wall.” – Louis Kahn

“It is in dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value. Acquaintance with grief turns out to be one of the more unusual prerequisites of architectural appreciation. We might, quite aside from all other requirements, need to be a little sad before buildings can properly touch us.” -Alain de Botton

What other projects do you have coming down the pipeline?
KI: The 200th year anniversary of Mendelssohn’s birth is this year. I am recomposing (this is the latest thing hip groups are commissioning), that is taking one aspect/idea of the original and composing in my own language over again, 5-6 songs from Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words. This is commissioned by the German group Spark (recorder, melodica, violin, cello, piano) and will be premiered at the Schleswig Holstein Festival in Germany in August.
JD: I am currently writing SELF STORAGE: a memory play with music. This full-length work is based on the lives of people who continuously rent storage units. I am also working on a screenplay adaptation of my play CICADA, which premiered this spring in Chicago through Route 66 Theatre Company. And then there’s that damn novel…

Missy Mazzoli is the composer of Breaking the Waves, which will be featured at the New Works Sampler.

What was your earliest experience of opera?
I came to opera in a roundabout way, via Guns N’ Roses videos, high school musicals, and the odd radio broadcast. When I was a freshman in college I took the bus from Boston to New York to see Wozzeck at the Met, and the rest is history. 

Why did you start composing?
Composing is the best way I have of giving order to the world around me, but it’s also my favorite escape from everyday life. With each piece I write, even the shortest, most abstract piece of concert music, I try to create a tiny new world where listeners can lose themselves. Opera envelops us completely – it has the power to take us out of our lives into these new worlds, where almost anything can happen. I also love the collaborations that are inevitably a part of making opera, and have always felt that my work with librettists and directors has elevated my music to a higher level.

Who has been influential to you throughout your career and why?
Meredith Monk has always been incredibly influential to me. When I first moved to New York I spent a summer working for her as an assistant and copyist, and it was a fantastic lesson in how to live a creative life. Works like Atlas, Dolmen Music, Book of Days and The Impermanence Project are inviting and beautiful in a thousand different ways. They’re also so completely original that they remain a wonderful mystery to me, and I return to these works again and again. I should also mention composers David Lang and Louis Andriessen, directors Robert Wilson and Peter Sellars, and filmmakers Werner Herzog, Chris Marker, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and (of course) Lars von Trier. These artists inspire me to work hard and raise the stakes with each new piece I create.  

What inspired you to create Breaking the Waves?
When librettist Royce Vavrek approached me about adapting the 1996 Lars von Trier film Breaking the Waves I could immediately hear Bess’s music in my head. This story sings to me; there seems to be an unlimited psychological depth to each character that lends itself to musical translation. It’s a very operatic tale, sometimes disturbing, often bleak, but with a glorious love story that holds it all together. Breaking the Waves is a film that asks big, difficult questions about the very nature of goodness, loyalty and faith.

What other projects do you have coming down the pipeline?
I’m in the preliminary stages of a few different operas, and also working on new album of my music called Vespers for a New Dark Age. It features performances by my band Victoire, percussionist Glenn Kotche, and a few more special guests.

Photo: Marnie Brechenridge, soprano, singing an excerpt from Breaking the Waves at the 21st Century Liederabend at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Photo by Jill Steinberg.

Stephanie Fleischmann is the librettist of The Long Walk, which will be featured at the New Works Sampler.

What was your earliest experience of opera?
Probably my first experience was The Magic Flute, via Ingmar Bergman’s film. And I was hooked. Not so long after: David Hockney’s dazzling Tristan and Isolde in Los Angeles in 1987, and Peter Sellars’ Cosi in 1989. Christopher Alden’s production of Imeneo at Glimmerglass… All mesmerizing seminal early opera experiences.

Why did you start writing librettos?
I was a playwright first, before I became a librettist—I am undeniably a person of the theater. But I grew up around music. If language is my medium, music is in my DNA. In opera, language, sound/music, image, spectacle, the intimacy and epic sweep of story, the lyricism and explosiveness of the dramatic moment all converge to offer up unbelievable potential for both celebrating and dreaming beyond the everyday, for revelation, for transporting and reaching deep inside an audience.

Who has been influential to you throughout your career and why?
Most recently: Mark Adamo, Mark Campbell and Cori Ellison—for the brilliance and rigor of their mentorship. Larry Edelson for his belief in the work composer Jeremy Howard Beck and I are doing—our collaboration on The Long Walk. Director Brian Mertes for his far-reaching collaborative vision, his visceral and magical approach to theater-making. Frank Gehry for his openness, his always thinking outside the box, and his support. My father, Ernest Fleischmann, who ran an orchestra (and came close to running several opera companies in his time, but could never quite shake his connection to his orchestra) for his deep understanding of the possibilities provoked by the confluence of music and the space of the theater; his nurturing of this confluence—in LA, the world at large, and at home.

What inspired you to create The Long Walk?
When American Lyric Theater commissioned Jeremy and I to write our first full-length opera, we rifled through and wrangled over all sorts of ideas, until we landed on The Long Walk—a story that both Jeremy and I instantaneously felt needed to be told. What moved me about it was the story of the family, which remained at the periphery of the book, but which I couldn’t help bring into the center of the story of the opera: The question, how do you mourn the death of a loved one who happens to be still here and move forward from there? Music gives us a vehicle with which to do that. That the book, and what Brian Castner is battling throughout the course of the book, is prismatic, ineffable, full of sound and fury, full of refrain, only made it all the more compelling to us.

What other projects do you have coming down the pipeline?
The libretto for The Property, a klezmer opera commissioned by Lyric Opera of Chicago, with music by Wlad Marhulets, co-adapted and directed by Eric Einhorn, based on the graphic novel by Rutu Modan, premiering in February 2015. The Secret Lives of Coats, a coatcheck musical, with music by Christina Campanella, opening in Minneapolis in October. The Russian Doctor, a meditation on Chekhov’s journey to Sakhalin Island, created with performer Andy Dawson and director Martin-Lloyd Evans, with music by Jonny Pilcher and video by Leo Warner/59 Productions, premiering at Birmingham Rep in the U.K. this September, and lyrics, dramaturgy and story editing for Chekhov at Lake Lucille’s September production of The Seagull, and the documentary film of that production, directed by Brian Mertes, designed by Deb O and Julian Crouch.