Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun
A celebrated Artist takes the stage to perform and is alarmed to find that an opera is about to start in the same space. Before the mix-up can be sorted out, the opera begins. The dismayed Artist watches and reacts as the opera unfolds.
In a rooftop garden inhabited by a family of humans and other creatures, the trouble-making Sweet Potato –partly out of curiosity, but also just for the fun of it –kicks the sun out of the galaxy. Sweet Potato’s friend, 89, is devastated, but Sweet Potato relishes seeing a big orb become a tiny blip in the sky. Things go from bad to worse when, as Squirrel plays the sacred prayer instrument, the Cosmic Cord, Sweet Potato blithely cuts the Cord. Shock is followed by heartbreak when Grandmother Seed-Keeper departs for her secret cellar to prepare for the garden’s survival. Grandfather Beekeeper orders Sweet Potato to the summit of City Park Mountain to gain insight and asks 89 to go as well. And thus their adventure begins.
Augusta Read Thomas
Augusta Read Thomas’s music is nuanced, majestic, elegant, capricious, lyrical, and colorful — “it is boldly considered music that celebrates the sound of the instruments and reaffirms the vitality of orchestral music.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)
A Grammy winner, her impressive body of works embodies unbridled passion and fierce poetry. The New Yorker magazine called her “a true virtuoso composer.” Championed by such luminaries as Barenboim, Rostropovich, Boulez, Eschenbach, Salonen, Maazel, Ozawa, and Knussen, she rose early to the top of her profession.
An influential teacher at Eastman, Northwestern, Tanglewood, and Aspen Music Festival, she is only the 16th person to be designated University Professor at the University of Chicago (one of only seven currently holding the title). Augusta said, “Teaching is a natural extension of my creative process and of my enthusiasm for the music of others.” She founded and leads the Center for Contemporary Composition at the University of Chicago.
Thomas was the longest-serving Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony, for Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez, from 1997 through 2006. This residency culminated in the premiere of Astral Canticle, one of two finalists for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music. During her residency, Thomas not only premiered nine commissioned orchestral works, but was also the central force in establishing the thriving MusicNOW series, through which she commissioned and programmed the work of many living composers.
Leslie Dunton-Downer has written extensively for composer Augusta Read Thomas. Their first work, Ligeia, premiered in Evian, France under the baton of Mstislav Rostropovich, and received the 1994 Orpheus Prize for Best Chamber Opera ahead of acclaimed productions in Italy and the U.S. Among other libretti is Belladonna, for a chamber opera by Pulitzer-winning composer Bernard Rands, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Aspen Music Festival.
Leslie has in recent years teamed up with Berlin-based composers Farahnaz Hatam, Colin Hacklander, Marion Wörle, and Maciej Sledziecki. Following the success of This Is Not A Swan Song, which premiered in Cologne in 2017, Leslie, Marion, and Maciej are making additional music theater pieces, redrum and Forest, for forthcoming premieres at the Delphi Theater in Berlin, where cabaret scenes for the popular TV series Babylon Berlin are filmed.
A graduate of Harvard College, Leslie earned a PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. She is a former Harvard University Lecturer, and a member of the Harvard Society of Fellows. Her most recent book, The English is Coming!: How One Language is Sweeping the World (Touchstone, 2011), examines the global roots and reach of the English language. She also co-authored two books for publisher Dorling Kindersley: Essential Shakespeare Handbook (2004, 2013), and Opera (2006), each published in numerous foreign language editions.
October 26, 2019, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Artist – Beatboxer – Vocal artist (this role could be portrayed as any vocal performer: jazz artist, etc.)
Sweet Potato – Soprano
89 – Baritone
Grandfather Beekeeper/Grandmother Seed Keeper/City Dweller #2 – Mezzo Soprano
Stage Manager/City Dweller #2 – Actor
Flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion – very small set up (small marimba, vibraphone, chimes and small table pieces: triangle, maraca, claves, woodblock, etc.)
Nimbus Music Publishing
Hometown to the World
Hometown to the World is set in 2008, in the aftermath of the nation’s largest Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid of North America’s biggest kosher meat processing plant, in Iowa. The small agrarian town of Postville had been brought back to economic viability by the influx of a group of Hasidic Jews—from the Lubavitcher sect—who moved from Brooklyn to Iowa, where hogs outnumber people five to one. One Lubavitcher family took over the failing slaughterhouse and brought it back to life in the community of primarily Lutheran farmers of Scandinavian descent. Postville’s prosperity attracted workers from around the world. They emigrated mostly from Central America, especially Guatemala, but also hailed from Eastern Europe, East Africa, Israel, even Palau. A vast number of these workers were hired even though they were known to be undocumented. Many came in desperation, to escape poverty, violence and repressive regimes, seeking a new life in the U.S.
During its renaissance, Postville evolved into a model of multi-culturalism, summarized perhaps most accurately by the sign on the edge of town, which reads: “Hometown to the World.” An ICE raid in May 2008 resulted in the deportation of approximately a quarter of the town’s population, which led to another quarter of the citizens fleeing. Families were destroyed, the meatpacking plant was forced to close, and Postville’s ability to function was decimated. With this history of Postville—a microcosm of America’s great immigrant experiment in multiculturalism—as the backdrop, Hometown to the World tells the story of how the worlds of three characters from the community’s main ethnic/religious/linguistic groups collide in the wake of a brutal ICE raid. The result is a complex tale that ends with a message of hope and equity. Today, as the many issues surrounding immigration, citizenship, economic viability, and cultural cohesion are at the center of national discourse, Hometown to the World is a critical piece of contemporary opera that seeks to create greater awareness, thoughtful dialogue, and impactful response.
Laura Kaminsky “makes the most of textures, sometimes delicate and almost weightless, sometimes thick and convoluted, but always vivid.” (Washington Post) “Full of fire as well as ice, contrasting dissonance and violence with tonal beauty and meditative reflection, (her music) is strong stuff.” (American Record Guide) As One (American Opera Projects/BAM), the most produced contemporary opera in the U.S., has played in Canada, Europe and Australia. Hometown to the World (Santa Fe Opera) premieres 2021; Finding Wright (Dayton Opera), 2022. Fantasy: Oppens Plays Kaminsky (Cedille Records, 2021) features pianist Ursula Oppens, Cassatt String Quartet, pianist Jerome Lowenthal, ASU Symphony Orchestra/Maestro Jeffery Meyer.
Scores: Bill Holab Music
Recordings: Affeto, Albany, Bridge, BSS, Cedille, CRI, Capstone, Mode, MSR, and Navona labels. A complete list of available recordings can be viewed at the Buy CDs page. Kaminsky is a BMI composer.
Hometown to the World is librettist Kimberly Reed’s fourth opera. She co-wrote the libretti for Today It Rains (Opera Parallèle, 2019), Some Light Emerges (Houston Grand Opera, 2017), and As One (the American Opera Project, 2014), which is the most frequently produced new opera in North America, according to Opera America magazine. Her film projections have been called “worthy of Fellini or Bergman” (SF Classical Voice). Ms. Reed’ s song cycle Fierce Grace: Jeannette Rankin premiered at the U.S. Library of Congress in 2017. Her nonfiction writing was published in “The Moth,” a New York Times best-seller. Kim’s documentary film Prodigal Sons won 14 awards and was released in theaters and broadcast worldwide, and her Sundance award-winning 2018 documentary Dark Money was promptly named by Vogue magazine as one of the 66 Best Documentaries of All Time and shortlisted for the Academy Awards. She is a fellow of Yaddo and New York Foundation for the Arts.
World Premiere, Friday, December 10, 2021, Santa Fe, NM
With additional performances December 11 and 12
Linda Morales – Mezzo-soprano
Abraham Fleischman – Baritone
Linda Larsen – Mezzo-Soprano
Chorus – SSA or SSATB
Clarinet in B flat, violin, viola, cello, contrabass, percussion (1 player)
Bill Holab Music
ca. 60 minutes
The Pigeon Keeper
A fictional Mediterranean island. Orsia, 12, lives in a village by the sea. Her father, Thalasso, is a fisherman, but the ocean has not been kind in recent years; the waters have been overfished; there are days when Thalasso comes home empty-handed. But what’s worse, ever since Orsia’s mother died seven years ago, Orsia’s father has forgotten how to laugh. On the anniversary of her mother’s death, Thalasso takes Orsia fishing. In the distance, they spot a large fish. Coming closer, they discover a boy hanging on to a piece of broken boat. They rescue this refugee from a faraway land and bring him home, but Thalasso is adamant: they cannot keep him. Orsia, who sees in the strange, silent child the brother she lost when her mother died in childbirth, pleads with Thalasso, who relents, allowing him to stay – but only for three days. Orsia sets out to find the boy a home in the village – to no avail. It is the Pigeon keeper, himself an emigrant from a faraway land, who stirs the boy to find his voice through song. Just as Thalasso is about to banish the child, the boy sings, warming Thalasso’s heart. This tale, which speaks to today’s mass migrations of peoples traversing the globe, explores how we respond to those in need in a time of hardship and scarcity; and celebrates the kindness of strangers, the power of human connection, and the unexpected places we find family.
David Hanlon is a composer, conductor, and pianist praised by Maestro Patrick Summers as “one of the major compositional voices of the young generation.” David has written and conducted many works for Houston Grand Opera, including the premiere of his chamber opera After the Storm (with librettist Stephanie Fleischmann.) The Houston Chronicle lauded the score as “haunting” and “stirringly successful.” Other HGO works include his chamber opera Past the Checkpoints about undocumented immigrants, as well as the chamber vocal pieces The Ninth November I Was Hiding and Power. His children’s opera Listen, Wilhelmina! returns to Wolf Trap Opera this summer, following its 2017 premiere. Other recent vocal works have included Texanische Liebeslieder written with Wilhelmina librettist Kathleen Kelly, based on the Texas-German dialect archives at UT-Austin, and Poems and Other Sentimental Bullshit for soprano Melody Moore’s Carnegie Hall debut.
David is also a conductor with a focus on new work, praised by the Washington Post for his interpretive skills and “precise baton.” This May, David conducts Cruzar la cara de la luna in its return to HGO. He also led the work at its HGO premiere and recording, as well as its revivals at Lyric Chicago of Chicago, San Diego Opera, Arizona Opera, and New York City Opera. Next season he will conduct The Scarlet Ibis at Chicago Opera Theatre, and El Pasado Nunca Se Termina at Fort Worth Opera, a work whose world premiere he led at Lyric Opera of Chicago. David served as Lorin Maazel’s assistant conductor for the Castleton Festival, and has also assisted at San Francisco Opera, Dallas Opera, and Philadelphia Opera.
Stephanie Fleischmann is a playwright and librettist whose texts serve as blueprints for intricate three-dimensional sonic and visual worlds. She has been called a “neo Emily Dickinson” (Backstage) and “a writer who can conjure something between a dreamy road movie and a theatrical coming-of-age tale, and who can piece these elements together in the style of a jagged ballad for guitar” (Chicago Sun Times). Her “lyrical monologues” (The New York Times), “smart” opera libretti (Opera News), plays and music-theater works have been performed internationally and across the U.S.
Opera libretti include: The Long Walk, music by Jeremy Howard Beck, commissioned by American Lyric Theater, After the Storm, music by David Hanlon, commissioned by Houston Grand Opera’s HGOco, In a Grove, with composer Christopher Cerrone, Mahogany Opera Group Various Stages Festival, ICA London; The Property, music by Wlad Marhulets, commissioned by Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Lyric Unlimited.
Fleischmann is a recipient of a 2017 Venturous Capital Fund grant, a 2017 NYSCA Individual Artist Commission, a 2014–15 Howard Foundation Fellowship in Playwriting, a grant from Arts Council England (for Tally Ho/NYLon Projects), two NYSCA Individual Artist Commissions, an NEA Opera/Music-Theater commission, two New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships, and a Tennessee Williams Fellowship among others.
She received her MFA from Brooklyn College, where she studied with Mac Wellman. She has taught at Sewanee, Bard, and Skidmore Colleges. Her plays are published by: Play, a Journal of Plays; Playscripts.com; and Smith and Krauss.
October 28, 2022
The Pigeon Keeper/Grocer/Schoolteacher – Leggero Tenor
Thalasso, Orsia’s father – Lyric Baritone
Orsia, 12 – Light Soprano, played by a young adult
Kosmo, 7 – Boy Soprano
Chorus: Children’s mixed chorus of birds/schoolmates. Although a true children’s chorus is most ideal, 3 women can stand in for the children’s chorus.
Violin, viola, cello, flute, oboe, clarinet (doubling bass clarinet), harp, percussion
ca. 75 minutes
This Little Light of Mine
This Little Light of Mine dramatizes the story of Fannie Lou Hamer, a former sharecropper who rose to national prominence at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. As a black woman of humble origins, she spoke truth to power no other civil rights leader. Adopted daughter Dorothy Jean Hamer tells how Fannie Lou and her husband ‘Pap’ took in foster children as their own; how the injustices of the Jim Crow South emboldened her to demand the right to vote for African-Americans; and how she shook the political world during “Freedom Summer” by helping found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Describing to the Convention Credentials Committee her harrowing story of harassment, arrest and beating by the police, Hamer pointedly asked: “Is this America?” Her efforts achieved limited success, but her voice resonated throughout the country and helped lead to the passage of the 1965 Civil Rights Act. Determined to keep fighting injustice, the restless Hamer risked her own health and well-being, even as her family cautioned her to slow down. Dorothy Jean, the story’s narrator, unexpectedly becomes an agent of tragedy when, in the final scene, she is refused admission to a white hospital and dies in childbirth. The drama ends as it began, with the song of hope, “This Little Light of Mine,” still haunted by the reality of an unjust world.
Chandler Carter’s operas have been variously described as a “compelling musical recounting” (Newsday); as conveying “an inborn feeling for the Southern setting, confidently employing elements of jazz, blues and gospel hymns” (Raleigh News and Observer).
Devoted to themes of social justice and the artist’s vision, Carter’s staged work focuses on historical stories that cross over boundaries of race and power. He wrote the words and music for No Easy Walk to Freedom, based on the life of Nelson Mandela, which premiered at The Riverside Church in New York City in 2001. Strange Fruit, based on the novel by Lillian Smith and libretto by Joan Ross Sorkin, was showcased in New York City Opera’s Vox series and opened Long Leaf Opera’s inaugural 2007 summer festival in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Long Leaf Opera also premiered his one-act monodrama Mercury Falling, written for tenor and librettist Daniel Neer, in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2009. The Center for Contemporary Opera showcased his most recent opera, Bobby, based on the life of Robert Kennedy with libretto by Stephen Molton in 2014.
Carter is Professor of Music and the head of composition at Hofstra University, where he produced and curated along with Diana Solomon-Glover, Hofstra’s annual Black History Month concerts from 2013-2016. Also a respected scholar, his forthcoming book, The Last Opera: The Progress of The Rake, Stravinsky and Sung Drama, will be published by Indiana University Press in 2019.
To a growing list of accomplishments, Diana Solomon-Glover now adds the title of librettist. This Little Light of Mine, an opera about Civil Rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer, with music by Chandler Carter was commissioned by Opera for All Voices and is scheduled to debut at the Santa Fe Opera in October 2022. This achievement crowns a career spent serving humanitarian efforts and social causes through her work on the operatic stage, concert, oratorio, recital, musical theater, cabaret and radio and television across the United States, Canada, Europe, the Caribbean and Central America.
Solomon-Glover has been a featured soloist for The Innocence Project’s Annual Gala, which celebrates the emancipation of wrongly incarcerated Americans and producer of Project People Foundation’s “Celebration of Life” concerts, which raised over $250,000 for programs benefiting South African children orphaned by AIDS. Ms. Solomon-Glover is co-owner with singer/composer Kristin Norderval of Reduta Deux, a not-for-profit dedicated to producing theatrical works that represent an unusual integration of vision and techniques whose subject matter reflects a broad human consciousness.
To be announced
Fannie Lou Hamer – Mezzo-Soprano
Dorothy Jean Hamer, adopted, pregnant daughter of Fannie Lou and Pap Hamer – Soprano
June Johnson, teenager who went to Winona with Fannie Lou Hamer – Soprano
Perry ‘Pap’ Hamer – Bass-Baritone
Chorus: Children’s mixed chorus – 15 to 20 singers
2 violins, viola, cello, double bass, steel-stringed guitar, piano, light percussion (one player)
ca. 75 minutes