Eastman Opera Theatre (EOT) is thrilled to premiere its first virtual presentation: Our Voices: Immersive Composer Collaborations, to be presented December 16 through 20, 2020. Our Voices is the collective title for six unique performances of music by six influential contemporary composers: Anthony Davis, Ricky Ian Gordon, Lori Laitman, Missy Mazzoli, Ben Moore, and Errollyn Wallen. This virtual experience will be directed by Lindsay Warren Baker, Stephen Carr, Steven Daigle, and Madeleine Snow (current MM degree candidate); with music direction by Timothy Long and Wilson Southerland.
In the words of EOT music director Timothy Long, these six composers are “among the music industry’s most successful vocal music composers today.” Each of these renowned composers will curate a program of their vocal music, join in group discussions and individual coachings with students and faculty members, and guide the process up to the fall performances. (See below for composer biographies.)
As so many schools struggle with the challenges of vocal and operatic practicing and interacting due to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, EOT is choosing to turn unusual and difficult circumstances into positive and unique experiences for Eastman students, focusing on the creative process.
Our Voices offers students something they rarely experience: a fully immersed creative, collaborative journey. “Adversity breeds creativity,” says Stephen Carr, Associate Artistic Director of Eastman Opera Theatre. “Our students will work one-on-one with some of the most prominent and prolific living composers of vocal music and take an active role in the scenic, costume, and lighting design of their own performances. We hope that they’ll emerge from this time as more fully fleshed artists, with a deeper understanding and greater appreciation of all that goes into this most collaborative of art forms.”
“Now is the time for artists to explore new ways to express themselves and Eastman has thoroughly taken on the challenge,” says composer Ben Moore. “Paradoxically, restrictions can sometimes open new doors and spark the imagination. That is undoubtedly the case for Eastman’s students and faculty.”
Presented in an “Opera Festival” style and in a fully virtual landscape, Our Voices will offer six premieres across five days. Besides music, each video features a 15-minute interview with the composer and director, providing insight into the composition and rehearsal process of the particular work being shown. Performance dates and times are as follows:
- Wednesday, December 16 at 7:30 p.m.: “The Greatest Liberty” with selected arias by Anthony Davis
- Thursday, December 17 at 7:30 p.m.: “Heart Melodies” by Ricky Ian Gordon
- Friday, December 18 at 7:30 p.m.: “I Shall Not Live in Vain”, music of Lori Laitman
- Saturday, December 19 at 2 p.m.: “This World Within Me”, with selections from Songs from the Uproar by Missy Mazzoli
- Saturday, December 19 at 7:30 p.m.: “The Journey Towards Freedom,” with selected songs and arias by Ben Moore
- Sunday, December 20 at 2 p.m.: “The Journey to Here,” with songs by Errollyn Wallen
Each day’s presentation will be added to the previous days’ videos, so that all six will be available to watch after Sunday, December 20. The complete series of operas will be available for streaming in the months to follow.
“It has never been more essential to learn how to tell stories through music and to reflect our turbulent but hopeful times through art,” shares Missy Mazzoli. “I am confident that the next generation can do this in surprising, vital and moving ways, and I love that the Eastman Opera Theatre has given them this opportunity.”
Click each composer’s name for further information.
Opera News has called Anthony Davis “a national treasure” for his pioneering, distinctly original work in opera, chamber, choral, and orchestral music. He won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his opera The Central Park Five.
The New York Times describes the vocal music of Ricky Ian Gordon as “caviar for a world gorging on pizza!” and praised him for “bursting effervescence infusing songs that blithely blur the lines between art song and the high–end Broadway music of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.” Eastman Opera Theatre recently produced his opera The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Described by Fanfare Magazine as “one of the most talented and intriguing living composers,” Lori Laitman‘s operas, choral works, and songs are widely performed throughout the world. The Journal of Singing praised “her exceptional gifts for embracing a poetic text and giving it new and deeper life through music.”
Recently deemed “one of the more consistently inventive, surprising composers now working in New York” (New York Times) and “Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart” (Time Out NY), Missy Mazzoli has had her music performed by the Kronos Quartet, LA Opera, eighth blackbird, the BBC Symphony, Scottish Opera, and many others. In 2018 she became one of the first two women to receive a mainstage commission from the Metropolitan Opera and was also nominated for a Grammy award.
The work of Ben Moore has been called “brilliant” and “gorgeously lyrical” by the New York Times; Opera News has praised the “easy tunefulness” and “romantic sweep” of his songs, which have been performed by such singers as Deborah Voigt, Susan Graham, Frederica von Stade, Isabel Leonard, Lawrence Brownlee, Robert White, Nathan Gunn and Audra McDonald.
Errollyn Wallen – “renaissance woman of contemporary British music” (The Observer) – is as respected a singer-songwriter of pop-influenced songs as she is a composer of contemporary new music. Communication is at the center of both worlds: engaging the audience, speaking directly to hearts and minds.
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About Eastman Opera Theatre:
Eastman Opera Theatre offers a comprehensive program of training and performance opportunities. Many Eastman graduates, like distinguished alumni Renée Fleming, Anthony Dean Griffey, Julia Bullock, Erin Morley, and Nicole Cabell, enter the operatic profession as a natural extension of this experience.
A minimum of three productions are mounted yearly, each within a different-sized performance venue at the Eastman School, including the recently renovated 2300 seat Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, the 450-seat Kilbourn Hall, and the 75-seat Opera Studio. Productions feature a wide range of musical styles, most are performed in the original language, and depending on the venue, many use full orchestral accompaniment. Studio productions, scenes programs, and outreach events are also presented to further enhance the variety of performance experience. Eastman Opera Theatre utilizes a “class and degree blind” approach to casting, meaning that roles go to the singer with the best audition, starting their Junior year in school and with the approval of their studio voice teacher. Most of our productions feature a mix of upper-class undergraduates (juniors and seniors), masters, and doctoral students.
Recent and past productions include Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi; Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Le nozze di Figaro, and Don Giovanni; Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore; Puccini’s La Rondine and La Bohème; Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Albert Herring; Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret; Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, and Assassins; Floyd’s Susannah; Handel’s Xerxes and Orlando; Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia; Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges; Bock’s She Loves Me; Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites; Lehár’s The Merry Widow and Weill’s Street Scene; Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea; Glass’s Hydrogen Jukebox and Les Enfants Terribles; Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza; and Gordon’s Tibetan Book of the Dead.
About Eastman School of Music:
The Eastman School of Music was founded in 1921 by industrialist and philanthropist George Eastman (1854-1932), founder of Eastman Kodak Company. It was the first professional school of the University of Rochester. Mr. Eastman’s dream was that his school would provide a broad education in the liberal arts as well as superb musical training. The current dean is Jamal Rossi, appointed in 2014.
More than 900 students are enrolled in the Collegiate Division of the Eastman School of Music—about 500 undergraduates and 400 graduate students. They come from almost every state, and approximately 23 percent are from other countries. They are taught by a faculty comprised of more than 130 highly regarded performers, composers, conductors, scholars, and educators. They are Pulitzer Prize winners, Grammy winners, Emmy Winners, Guggenheim Fellows, ASCAP Award recipients, published authors, recording artists, and acclaimed musicians who have performed in the world’s greatest concert halls. Each year, Eastman’s students, faculty members, and guest artists present more than 900 concerts to the Rochester community.