New York City Opera Announces Its 2012-13 Season
New York City Opera remains true to its roots with today’s 2012-13 season announcement, presenting New York City audiences with new artists and productions, ranging from rarely heard opéra bouffe and bel canto opera to edgier contemporary fare. Through three-year alliances with two theaters – BAM in Brooklyn and New York City Center in midtown Manhattan – the company offers four brand new productions from leading directors Jay Scheib, Sam Buntrock, Michael Counts, and Christopher Alden, plus a fall showcase of the celebrated VOX program in conjunction with OPERA America’s New Works Forum.
Speaking on behalf of NYC Opera’s entire Board, Chairman Chuck Wall remarked:
“We are thrilled with George Steel’s artistic vision and leadership. Our commitment to that vision is supported by the fact that next season’s productions will take place at two of the most ideal opera venues in this great city, and all four productions will be brand new to the stage. This season’s sold-out performances and our new fiscal model have put New York City Opera on a firm footing for the future. With the continued support of our board, donors and loyal audiences, we look forward to a stirring new season.”
New productions of two envelope-pushing British chamber operas – Thomas Adès’s Powder Her Face from Jay Scheib (Feb 15-23) and Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw from Sam Buntrock (Feb 24 – March 2) – will debut at BAM. And the company dubbed “the People’s Opera” will finally be reunited with the venue known as “the People’s Theater,” when – for the first time since 1965 – New York City Opera returns to New York City Center, its original home. The residency opens with Gioachino Rossini’s Moses in Egypt from Michael Counts (April 14–20), followed by Jacques Offenbach’s La Périchole from Christopher Alden (April 21–27).
Inspired by a sex scandal that rocked Britain in the early 60s, Powder Her Face (1995) is a chamber opera composed by England’s Thomas Adès (b.1971) to a libretto by Philip Hensher. The new NYC Opera production marks the work’s return to BAM 15 years after its New York premiere at the venue, when it was presented at the BAM Majestic (now Harvey) Theater during the 1998 Next Wave Festival. There will be four performances at the Howard Gilman Opera House (Feb 15, 21, & 23 at 7:30pm; Feb 17 at 1:30pm). Playing off the cultural obsession with political scandal and tabloid journalism, the opera’s centerpiece is a series of Polaroid photos featuring Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll, dubbed the “Dirty Duchess.” Through the prism of Campbell’s life story, Powder Her Face explores the intersection of gender, politics, and power. As George Steel, General Manager and Artistic Director of NYC Opera, explains, “Powder Her Face showcases Adès in full Kurt Weill mode.” The new production comes courtesy of renowned downtown theater, opera, and live-art director and 2011 Guggenheim Fellow Jay Scheib, who says about the piece:
“Powder Her Face, with its high-speed turns, feels on the surface like a Don Giovanni for the Monica Lewinsky generation—but this one’s about a duchess who does what she wants how and when she wants. Adès has singlehandedly resurrected the reputation of one Dirty Duchess, as dreamt by Jean Genet—and the music is absolutely thrilling.”
With sets designed by Marsha Ginsberg, costumes by Alba Clemente, lighting by Thomas Dunn, and projection design by Josh Higgason, Scheib brings his genre-defying vision, deep integration of new technologies, and daring physicality to this modern opera. According to Time Out New York, which recently named him “Best New York Theater Director,” “mixing multimedia with deadpan-cool (and very sexy) actors, Scheib is forging new ways of seeing drama.”
NYC Opera closes its BAM residency with another contemporary British chamber opera, The Turn of the Screw (1954), marking the centennial of composer Benjamin Britten. Based on a 20th-century ghost story by Henry James, the opera’s libretto is by Myfanwy Piper, while the new production is created by Sam Buntrock, best-known for his multi-award-winning staging of Sunday in the Park with George in the West End and on Broadway. With set and costume design by David Farley and lighting by David Weiner, Buntrock directs the opera as a contemporary horror story in which, he explains, “chilling events unravel a mysterious building’s terrifying past, pushing the boundaries between sanity and the supernatural.” According to conductor Jayce Ogren, a NYC Opera mainstay (A Quiet Place, Prima Donna) who will lead the company in this production, “Britten’s The Turn of the Screw is nightmarish, thrilling, and unbearably sweet all at once, and I’ve been dying to conduct it since the moment I first heard the music. It’s a 20th-century masterpiece and one of the greatest operas ever written in the English language.”
The new production opens for four performances at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House on February 24 at 1:30pm (further performances are on Feb 26, 28, & March 2 at 7:30pm).
NYC Opera celebrates its return to its birthplace, New York City Center, with Gioachino Rossini’s Moses in Egypt. Opening with the Plague of Darkness and closing with the parting of the Red Sea, this rarely heard, large-scale bel canto opera tells the familiar Bible story through a libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola and music that places Rossini directly in the lineage of Mozart. Although the Italian composer revised Moses in Egypt several times, NYC Opera’s new production presents his original version, which remains perhaps musically the best. With costumes by Jessica Jahn and projections by Ada Whitney, the new production – arguably the opera’s first full NYC staging of the original version in more than 180 years – will be directed and designed by NYC Opera favorite Michael Counts, last seen directing 2011’s Monodramas. As George Steel observes,
“Michael Counts is the perfect director for this opera, which combines the spectacular and the intimate, the domestic and the epic, in ways that require someone with his unique combination of gifts. He is a perspicacious and nuanced story-teller who can also marshal theatrical wizardry to spectacular effect – and for parting the Red Sea, he is certainly my go-to person!”
Conductor Jayce Ogren returns to lead the orchestra and chorus for Moses in Egypt’s four performances, which take place shortly after the Passover and Easter holidays (April 14 at 1:30pm; April 16, 18, & 20 at 7:30pm). Ogren remarks on his continued work with the company: “New York City Opera is my closest musical family. I love the timeliness, intimacy, and artistic urgency this company brings to each production. I’m so looking forward to next season’s work with Sam Buntrock and Michael Counts, the wonderful NYCO Orchestra and Chorus, and some of the most exciting and talented young singers in America.”
Closing the 2012-13 season is a new production of Jacques Offenbach’s operetta La Périchole. With a libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, this lyrical satire verges on all-out farce. It is loosely based on the life of one of the 18th century’s most famous Peruvians, Micaela Villegas, a wildly popular entertainer who was mistress to the head of state. In the opera, Villegas becomes La Périchole, a Peruvian street-singer who maintains a love triangle between the Spanish viceroy and Piquillo, her true love and fellow street-singer, to save herself from destitution. This final production of the season will be directed in four performances by Christopher Alden, who previously helmed some of the most critically lauded stagings in NYC Opera’s recent history, including Don Giovanni, A Quiet Place, and this season’s Così fan tutte (April 21 at 1:30pm; April 23, 25, & 27 at 7:30pm). Alden says about La Périchole:
“Rossini famously called Offenbach “the Mozart of the Champs-Elysees” and La Périchole is among his most melodically inspired Mozartian creations – it’s sexy, funny and subversive and it has the extra added kick of deeply, sweetly human emotion running through its depiction of the relationship between the feisty Périchole and her lover Piquillo, two impoverished street singers who do heroic battle with the Establishment.”
NYC Opera has entered into agreements with both BAM and New York City Center to collaborate through the 2014-15 season. As NYC Opera continues to match special projects with suitable venues across the city, these two will serve as its primary theaters. The company’s Brooklyn base, BAM, was an incredible ally in NYC Opera’s sold-out stay this past February, the superior acoustics of the 2,000-seat, 19th-century-style opera house enhancing the artistry of singers and musicians. BAM’s convenient Fort Greene location offered a warm welcome to the company’s loyal audiences while also helping to attract a new, diverse, and enthusiastic fan base.
“BAM is thrilled to enter a multi-year alliance with New York City Opera,” said BAM President Karen Brooks Hopkins. “Its productions earlier this year were a great addition to our programming roster and exciting for our respective audiences. On behalf of my partner, Executive Producer Joseph Melillo, and myself, we welcome NYC Opera for three more years of artistic innovation.”
When NYC Opera and New York City Center were both first founded in 1943, Mayor LaGuardia dubbed them “the People’s Opera” and “the People’s Theater” respectively, and for the next two decades, the opera company called the venue home. Now, almost 50 years after its last performance there in 1965, NYC Opera returns to its midtown roots. New York City Center’s 2,200-seat space was renovated last year to enhance the experience of both the audience and the artists, and these improvements – along with its central location – make this, one of NYC Opera’s new primary theaters, one of the best places to enjoy the performing arts in Manhattan. “We are thrilled to welcome New York City Opera back home to City Center,” says Arlene Shuler, President & CEO of New York City Center. “NYC Opera is an important part of our history and we look forward to being part of its exciting future.”
Since 1999, a major component of NYC Opera has been VOX: Contemporary American Opera Lab, the company’s workshop for new American operas. On November 8, as a central part of OPERA America’s New Works Forum, VOX returns for its 13th season at the Skirball Center. This event is now completely produced by NYC Opera, solidifying the company’s commitment to producing new works by Americans. Composers are invited to submit works-in-progress or completed, previously unproduced works, and the selected composers will have their work produced by NYC Opera. Since 1999, composers Mark Adamo, Charles Wuorinen, Richard Danielpour, John Zorn, and Stephen Schwartz are among those who have had pieces presented in VOX that have gone on to redefine American opera. Described by the New York Times as an “invaluable showcase,” VOX offers excerpts of new operatic works in professional unstaged performances by members of the New York City Opera orchestra and soloists. As the only program in the country that gives composers the opportunity to hear their new works and works-in-progress with full instrumental ensembles and professional soloists, VOX continues to play a vital part in the fabric of American opera.
New York City Opera has been a pioneer in the field of arts education for more than 40 years. Drawing upon the company’s adventurous and contemporary approach to opera, NYC Opera Education provides students with a three-dimensional introduction to the art form – from page, to stage, to backstage. Students meet with NYC Opera Teaching Artists and other theater professionals in their classrooms, go behind the scenes to see how productions come together, and watch world-class performances of NYC Opera performances at NY City Center and BAM.
In classrooms around the City of New York, NYC Opera Teaching Artists collaborate with school teachers to introduce young children to the world of opera through the study of an age-appropriate opera based on a fairy tale or myth. After extensive professional development work with school teachers, NYC Opera introduces students to the basics of music and drama, and then encourages students to create their own interpretations of the story through original poems, songs, or art projects. The focus of study in NYC Opera’s 2012-13 education program Opera Is Elementary will be an abridged version of Korean composer Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland. When the full work first premiered in 2007, the LA Times declared: “A wondrous new work has, like Alice from her rabbit hole, emerged.” This abridged version of the opera based on the Lewis Carroll classic will be a wonderful starting point for thousands of NYC children as they have their first encounter with the art form. An English teacher at LaGuardia High School says of the program, “NYC City Opera Education is a necessity. It is definitely one of the greatest additions to classroom education in New York City. Opera relates the themes of life and brings together and presents all of the arts in a way that engages young people.”
NYCO subscriptions and tickets
Subscriptions for New York City Opera’s 2012-13 season start at just $100 and are available by calling the NYC Opera Box Office at (212) 870-5600, on weekdays between 10am and 6pm, or by visiting www.nycOpera.com.
New York City Opera: 2012-13 season:
Thomas Adès: Powder Her Face: new production by Jay Scheib
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
Feb 15, 21, & 23 at 7:30pm; Feb 17 at 1:30pm
Benjamin Britten: The Turn of the Screw: new production by Sam Buntrock
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
Feb 24 at 1:30pm; Feb 26, 28, & March 2 at 7:30pm
Gioachino Rossini: Moses in Egypt: new production by Michael Counts
New York City Center
April 14 at 1:30pm; April 16, 18, & 20 at 7:30pm
Jacques Offenbach: La Périchole: new production by Christopher Alden
New York City Center
April 21 at 1:30pm; April 23, 25, & 27 at 7:30pm