A Preview of Our Exciting 2018-2019 Season

Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times wrote, “For thirty-four years the Center for Contemporary Opera has been grappling with what opera can be today. This genre has evolved over centuries, along with musical and theatrical styles. Yet shouldn’t certain basic elements of the art form remain? There is no house policy about this issue. Rather, the center presents contemporary works, large and small, that involve all kinds of musical and dramatic approaches, and lets audiences decide.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we continue our unique mission with a variety of works, from grand opera on a large scale to intimate chamber works. The following works are scheduled for our historic thirty-sixth season: Artemisia (CCO Development Series) by Laura Schwendinger,  Hester by Richard Allan White, Marvelous Pursuits by Judith Shatin, My Friendly Camel  (CCO Development Series) by Joanna Marsh and David Pountney, Purewater by Andrew Rudin and Ann McCutchen, and The Glass Hammer by Jorge Martin. Funding permitting, we will also produce Twelfth Night by Peter Westergaard. All works other than Artemesia will take place in May and June of 2019 in a festival format. Specific dates, times, and locations will be announced very soon.

Artemisia, (CCO Development Series) an opera based on the life of Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi, with music by Laura Elise Schwendinger and a libretto by Ginger Strand. Artemisia Gentileschi was born in Rome in 1593 and achieved renown in an era when women painters were not accepted by patrons and was the first women member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence. As a sixteen year-old, Artemisia was raped by Agostino Tassi, while she was studying with him. Orazio, Artemisia’s father,  pressed charges against Tassi. Artemisia was subjected to torture to verify her testimony. At the conclusion of the trial, Tassi was sentenced to prison for one year, but never served. The court case seemed to overshadow Artemisia’s achievements as an artist for many years, however today, she is regarded as one of the most advanced painters of her time. This fine opera tells her story.

In 1992, writer Alfred Kazin began an article in The New York Review of Books with what today would seem a startling question: “Why is there no opera of The Scarlet Letter?” He must not have known Richard Alan White. Mr. White began conceptualizing his opera, Hester, named after the protagonist of Hawthorne’s classic American novel, in the 1970’s. At the time Mr. White began putting pencil to music paper, two major operas had in fact been inspired by The Scarlet Letter: Damrosch’s 1895 opera and Giannini’s in 1938, though neither became household names. To date, Mr. White’s approach to composing this classic is unique. With a focus on Hester Prynne, Mr. White brings a truth to the story’s emotional depth.  “I’ve worked in prisons. I was a NYC caseworker for the Dept. of Social Services and have worked with countless single mothers. I’ve known people who have been killed,” he said. Hester is not a fantastical melodrama. It is about real life and is more relevant today than ever before.”

Marvelous Pursuits by Judith Shatin. Spring 2019. Marvelous Pursuits is a setting of Barbara Goldberg’s poetry cycle of the same name, in a scoring for vocal quartet. Stimulated by a sentence about a man with two mistresses in an eighth-century Japanese Pillow-Book, the poetry is a post-modern take on love and desire. It shows them to be partial, temporary, byzantine. It plays with the biblical command not to covet thy neighbor’s wife, with a man desiring his own wife only when someone else displays interest. The cycle is by turns whimsical and barbed, delightful and treacherous as it tells the story of a man who gives up his two mistresses and returns to his wife, suddenly dear because of the piano tuner’s desire for her.  Shatin is distinguished professor of music at the University of Virginia.

My Beautiful Camel (CCO Development Series) by Joanna Marsh, with libretto by David Pountney, takes place inside the offices of the Burj Khalifa, the iconic skyscraper in Dubai. Ivan, a Russian event manager, is struggling to keep his company afloat and his last hope lies with a contract to run Dubai Fashion Week, but following a heap of mistakes and a series of poor decisions, pandemonium ensues.

Purewater by Andrew Rudin and Ann McCutchen. An adaptation of Andre Gide’s novella La Symphonie pastorale, “Purewater” is set in a small, upper Midwestern town during the Dust Bowl. A minister falls in love with a blind young woman, Clara, he sheltered, but so does his son.The story deals with the idea of blindness; although Clara is evidently blind physically, the pastor himself is blind in his morality, seemingly unaware of the full extent of his sinfulness in his obsession for Clara. Stephen Brookes, writing in the Washington Post says “Rudin has a gift for the kind of gesture that grabs you by the ears and won’t let go, the music building in power as its inherent possibilities unfold. Extroverted, engaging and driven by an almost heroic sense of drama…” Rudin was recently honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters for lifetime achievement.

The Glass Hammer by Jorge Martin. Spring 2019.  The Glass Hammer, based on the poems by the celebrated author of Andrew Hudgins tells the story of a boy brought up in a military family in Texas and Alabama.. In a sequence of sixty-five short lyrics, the work moves from the anecdotal circumstances of his infancy to the rebellions of his youth and adolescence, from the tragedy of his mother’s death to the acceptance of his father’s disciplinary love.

“If music be the food of love, play on, Give me excess of it; that surfeiting, The appetite may sicken, and so die.”  So says Duke Orsino in Shakespeare’s immortal comedy, Twelfth Night. Distinguished composer Peter Westergaard brings this immortal work to life in this world premiere opera.