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by BWW News Desk
Washington National Opera (WNO) will present the world premieres of three new 20-minute operas today, November 19, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater: The Game of Hearts by composer Douglas Pew and librettist Dara Weinberg, Part of the Act by composer Liam Wade and librettist John Grimmett, and Charon by composer Scott Perkins and librettist Nat Cassidy. The three operas, each highlighting American culture and themes, are the first new works created under the auspices of the American Opera Initiative, WNO's new commissioning program.
The three 20-minute operas will be presented with accompaniment by a small chamber orchestra conducted by Anne Manson and will be performed in English by singers from WNO's Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program.
The composer-librettist teams are already at work in collaboration with distinguished mentors who have each enjoyed professional success with new American opera. These mentors include composer Jake Heggie (Dead Man Walking, Moby-Dick), librettist Mark Campbell (winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Silent Night), and conductor Anne Manson. Conductor RoBert Wood (UrbanArias) is assisting as an advisor to the project. The composers and librettists will work with these mentors and advisors during workshops later this month in Washington.
The November 19 event marks the inaugural performance of the American Opera Initiative, WNO's new program to stimulate, enrich, and ensure the future of contemporary American opera.
The Game of Hearts
Composer Douglas Pew and librettist Dara Weinberg present The Game of Hearts, a comedic opera about a group of widows in a Seattle nursing home. Pew and Weinberg first met in Poland last year at the start of their two-year terms as Fulbright Scholars studying music composition and theater.
Douglas Pew has received commissions from the Barlow Endowment for New Music at Brigham Young University, the Aspen Music Festival, the Society of Composer Inc., the Tangeman Sacred Music Center, and the MusicX Festival, among other institutions. He is a graduate of the Brigham Young University-Idaho and the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music. While a faculty member at BYU-Idaho from 2005-2007, he founded and directed the Teton New Music Ensemble.
Dara Weinberg has an MFA from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars and has co- founded two theater ensembles in the United States that continue to produce new work: the Parallel Octave, a Baltimore-based improvising chorus, in 2010; and the Indy Convergence, an artist residency program in Indianapolis, in 2008. Her play To Die in Athens, an adaptation from Greek tragedy, was performed in Warsaw and Baltimore in the summer of 2012.
Part of the Act
Part of the Act, by composer Liam Wade and librettist John Grimmett, is a comic opera set in a vaudevillian theater in New York City in 1924. Sparks fly between actresses in a backstage dressing room when a glamorous star is accused of infidelity by her rival.
Liam Wade is the co-founder and executive director of CMASH (Chamber Music Art Song Hybrid), a new-music repertory group committed to establishing and nurturing long-term collaborative relationships between composers and performers. He studied composition at La Schola Cantorum in Paris; the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the University of California at Davis.
John Grimmett is a composer, lyricist, and playwright. He has written and directed musical productions at the University of Houston and Rice University and is active in the New York City theater community. His thesis project at the University of Houston-The Short Happy.
Life of Francis Macomber, based on the short story by Ernest Hemingway-received the "Most Outstanding Thesis" Award. His full-length play Lil' Miss Lovelady was produced by the Red Door Theatre Company in June 2011. In January 2012, Sleeping Beauty: The Dream (book by Josh Jordan; music and lyrics by John Grimmett) premiered in Houston, and in June 2012 Odette (words by Jason Carlson; music by John Grimmett) was produced in conjunction with the New York Avant-Garde Arts Festival sponsored by Variations Theatre Group. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and is currently pursuing his M.F.A. at the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program (Cycle 22) at New York University.
Composer Scott Perkins and librettist Nat Cassidy will premiere Charon, an allegorical tale of the ferryman of the River Styx and the cross-section of American characters he transports from the land of living to the world beyond.
Scott Perkins is a prize-winning composer, a versatile performer, an award-winning scholar, and a music educator. His music includes art songs, musical theater, solo instrumental works, choral music, electroacoustic installations, and music for film and church. He is also a co- founder of Encore Music Creations, which provides concerts, church festivals, workshops, and a host of other musical events and products. He earned his Ph.D. in composition with minors in music theory and music history at the Eastman School of Music, from which he also holds master's degrees in both music theory and music theory pedagogy. He was recently appointed Assistant Professor of Music at DePauw University. He has also served on the faculties of Central Connecticut State University and Nazareth College.
Nat Cassidy is an award-winning playwright, director, and actor. As an actor, he has been in more than 40 New York productions for theaters such as Lincoln Center, The Public Theater, SoHo Playhouse, and Classic Stage Company. As a director, his work has been seen at venues such as LaMaMa E.T.C., Theatre Row, The Players Club, WorkShop Theater Company, the Gallery Players, and Manhattan Theatre Source. His full-length scripts include The Reckoning of Kit & Little Boots, a "metaphysical buddy comedy" starring Christopher Marlowe and Caligula, which was awarded the 2009 New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Full-Length Script. He received his BFA in Acting/Directing from the University of Arizona in 2004.
Washington National Opera (WNO) is one of the leading opera companies in the United States. Founded in 1956 and now an affiliate of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the company boasts numerous artistic highlights, including world premieres, commissioning of new works and new productions, international tours, and performances by some of opera's most admired artists. WNO productions have been heard around the world, through radio and television broadcasts on WETA-FM, NPR, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and PBS, as well as through audio and video recordings.
This year, WNO launches the American Opera Initiative, a comprehensive new commissioning program that will bring contemporary American stories to the stage while fostering and developing the talents of new American composers and librettists. WNO contributes to the future of opera through two other signature artist-development programs: the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program is a leading resident-training program for artists on the verge of international careers, and the WNO Opera Institute nurtures the ambitions of high- school-age singers and pianists from across the nation during a three-week summer program.
WNO's education and access initiatives include year-round programs in public schools throughout the region; Generation O, a popular discount-ticket initiative for young people; and a variety of lectures and discussions for every production on the season calendar. Among the most popular of WNO's community programs is Opera in the Outfield, which brings a free, live simulcast of an opera to Nationals Park for thousands of opera fans as well as new audiences.
For more information about Washington National Opera, visit www.kennedy-center.org/wno.