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
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
This intimate opera springs from the complex intersection of race, religion, ethnicity, and culture that took place in Postville, Iowa, where America’s largest kosher meat-packing plant became the site of America’s largest workplace raid by the U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE) agency. The other group of immigrants in Postville, the heartland of “white: America, are primarily German and Scandinavian farmers. The 2008 ICE raid of the Agriprocessors meat-packing plant resulted in approximately one quarter of Postville’s residents – most of them Guatemalan – being arrested and deported, decimating the community. This story of the intersection of cultures in America’s heartland is told through these three characters.
Laura Kaminsky’s “music is full of fire as well as ice, written in an idiom that contrasts dissonance and violence with tonal beauty and meditative reflection. It is strong stuff.” (American Record Guide).
Social and political themes are common in her work, as is an abiding respect for and connection to the natural world. Her first opera, As One (commissioned by American Opera Projects; co-librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed), debuted in 2014 at BAM. Some Light Emerges was commissioned and premiered in March 2017 by Houston Grand Opera. Upcoming are a Piano Quintet for Ursula Oppens and the Cassatt String Quartet, and her seventh string quartet, for the Fry Street Quartet.
Awarded the 2016 Gold Cross of Merit (Zloty Krzyż Zasługi RP) from the President of Poland for exemplary public service, Kaminsky has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, Opera America, Chamber Music America, Koussevitzky Music Foundation, Aaron Copland Fund, American Music Center, USArtists International, CEC ArtsLink International Partnerships, Likhachev-Russkiy Mir Foundation, and more. She has been a fellow at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Centrum Foundation, Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, Millay Colony for the Arts, and Camargo Foundation.
Currently composer-in-residence at American Opera Projects and head of composition at the Conservatory of Music/Purchase College/SUNY. Scores are available through Bill Holab Music; recordings are on the Albany, Bridge, Capstone, CRI, Mode, MSR, and Navona labels.
Kimberly Reed co-wrote, with Pulitzer-winning librettist Mark Campbell, the libretto for the chamber opera As One. With music by celebrated composer Laura Kaminsky, As One has become one of the most produced new American operas since its 2014 premiere. She also created a film for As One; “backed by scene-setting projections from Ms. Reed, the drama powerfully coheres,” said the New York Times. The San Francisco Chronicle noted the “delicately atmospheric film” and libretto that “conjures up a blend of excitement, shame, self-fulfillment and fear with crisp efficiency.”
The Kaminsky-Campbell-Reed team reconvened to create Some Light Emerges, about the Rothko Chapel, commissioned by Houston Grand Opera. Ms. Reed also wrote the text for the song cycle Fierce Grace: Jeannette Rankin, commissioned by Opera America and premiered at the U.S. Library of Congress.
Alongside writers Malcolm Gladwell and Joyce Maynard, Reed’s nonfiction is collected in “The Moth,” an acclaimed and NY Times best-selling compendium of true stories. She has been a fellow at Yaddo Artists Colony, Squaw Valley Writers Workshop, and the Hermitage Artist Retreat Center.
As a filmmaker, Prodigal Sons, a “whiplash doc that heralds an exciting talent” (SF Weekly), premiered at the Telluride Film Festival, screened at 100+ festivals, garnered 14 awards including the FIPRESCI Prize, and was broadcast worldwide. One of Filmmaker magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” she has been featured on CNN, NPR, MSNBC, The Moth Radio Hour, and The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Digital Premiere, May, 2021, Hawaii Opera Theatre
Stage Premiere, December, 2021, Santa Fe Opera
Linda Morales – Soprano
Abraham – Baritone
Linda Larson – Mezzo-Soprano
Chorus: An optional chorus will be available for all productions of Postville, to be performed as a prologue and epilogue for the piece. The Chorus will be created with a children’s chorus in mind, but may be performed by any type of chorus, the more diverse the better. If a chorus is not present, a musical prologue will start the piece and be illustrated by the projections described below.
Clarinet in B flat, violin, viola, cello, contrabass, percussion (1 player)
Bill Holab Music
ca. 60 minutes
Optional choral prologue/epilogue that would make the piece 70-75 minutes will be included.
The Pigeon Keeper
A fictional Mediterranean country. 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-fancier, himself an emigrant from a faraway land, who stirs the boy (who has still not uttered a word) 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 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.
To be announced
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 as chorus of birds/schoolmates
Please note: Although a true children’s chorus is most ideal, 3 women can stand in for the children’s chorus if necessary. We imagine that they would then operate simple puppets to help create a sense of a multiplicity of birds, and, in the case of the scene at school, a few more children.
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 as perhaps 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.
Diana Solomon-Glover, soprano, is a versatile performer who has appeared in opera, concert, oratorio, recital, musical theater, cabaret, radio and television. Her talents, which she frequently lends to support humanitarian efforts, have taken her across the United States, Canada, Europe, the Caribbean, Central America, and Cuba, where she was privileged to participate in a cultural exchange with some of the country’s cultural icons, performing at some of Cuba’s most legendary venues. In addition, she has been the featured soloist for The Innocence Project Annual Gala and, as their featured artist and producer, helped Project People Foundation raise over $250,000 for their programs benefiting South African children orphaned by AIDS.
In 2016, Ms. Solomon-Glover became co-owner along with singer/composer, Kristin Norderval, of Reduta Deux, a NFP dedicated to producing theatrical works that represent an unusual integration of vision and techniques and whose subject matter reflects a broad human consciousness.
Ms. Solomon-Glover is also a collaborator on The Darkest Light in the Heart, a new opera based on the events of the 2015 Charleston massacre – libretto by celebrated playwright, Steven Fechter, and score by renowned composer, Anthony Davis – which is being developed by the Spoleto Festival under Nigel Redden.
Ms. Solomon-Glover can be heard on The Riverside Choir recordings, Touch the Spirit, Christmas by Candlelight and Carols by Candlelight and on The View from the Mountaintop.
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