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Common cause

The Brooklyn Academy of Music kicks off its 2013 Next Wave Festival launches with a BAM/New York City Opera co-production of Anna Nicole, the opera by composer Mark-Anthony Turnage and librettist Richard Thomas based on the flamboyant life and tragic death of Anna Nicole Smith. Performances are September 17 to 28 at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House. The complete season press release follows the jump.

New York City Opera is on track to have its second consecutive balanced budget in a decade, and is receiving overwhelming acclaim for its current season. Today the Company announces its 2013-14 season, which includes two U.S. premieres, two new productions of landmark operas, and multiple opportunities to witness the artistry of Jayce Ogren, New York City Opera’s newly appointed Music Director.

Ogren’s term as Music Director will begin September 1. He will conduct at least two productions per season as well as concerts, galas and other projects. Ogren will work directly with General Manager and Artistic Director George Steel on programming and casting.

New York City Opera opens its 2013–14 season with the U.S. premiere of Anna Nicole (2010), a colossal co-production with the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) that launches the 2013 Next Wave Festival. Running for seven performances (September 17–28) in BAM’s 2,100-seat Howard Gilman Opera House, where New York City Opera has presented two critically acclaimed chamber operas this spring, Anna Nicolewill provide a sensational beginning to the Company’s 2013–14 season.

Composed by Mark-Anthony Turnage with a libretto by Richard Thomas, the opera is based on the flamboyant life and tragic death of Anna Nicole Smith. Reviewing the world premiere at Covent Garden, The New York Times called Anna Nicole a “musically rich, audacious and inexplicably poignant work.” Building upon New York City Opera’s history of integrating opera and popular music, Richard Jones will direct a large cast featuring veterans of Broadway as well as highly accomplished opera singers, including Sarah Joy Miller as Anna Nicole, along with Susan Bickley, Robert Brubaker, Rod Gilfry, John Easterlin,Joshua Jeremiah, Mary Testa, Stephen Wallem, Christina Sajous, James Barbour and Ben Davis.Steven Sloane will conduct 66 members of the New York City Opera Orchestra.

The second production of the season culminates a seed sown in 2001. Having seen and loved So Long Ago I Can’t Remember, from Michael Counts’ theater company GAle GAtes (April 2001), Steel met with Counts to discuss the latter directing an opera for the first time. Steel suggested Endimione (1772), a little known and rarely staged opera by Johann Christian Bach, the only Bach to compose operas. When New York City Opera presents the work (February 8–16, 2014, at El Museo del Barrio), with Counts at the helm, it will be the third new production the Company has created with the director. (Next month (April 14–20), Counts will direct Rossini’s Moses in Egypt at New York City Center, New York City Opera’s original home, having previously directed Monodramas to acclaim in 2011.) El Museo del Barrio was Steel’s first choice of venue for Endimione, a mythological story for which the fairy tale murals that line the walls of El Museo’s Heckscher Theater will provide apt environs.

From February 28 through March 15, 2014, New York City Opera will co-present Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle (1911) with St. Ann’s Warehouse. The opera will provide a showcase for Jayce Ogren, the Company’s new Music Director, and the New York City Opera Orchestra. The production will use all 13,000 square-feet of the cavernous warehouse space. Having presented the first fully staged U.S. production ofBluebeard’s Castle in 1952, New York City Opera will now join with St. Ann’s in offering the first American presentation of director Daniel Kramer’s staging, originally produced by ENO in 2009. George Steel is thrilled to welcome Kramer to the Company for the first time. Kramer previously worked at St. Ann’s Warehouse when his unforgettable Woyzeck made its U.S. premiere there in 2006.

New York City Opera will complete a trilogy of Christopher Alden–directed Mozart / Da Ponte operas when the Company presents The Marriage of Figaro, April 19–26, 2014 at New York City Center. The Company previously presented Alden’s critically acclaimed stagings of Don Giovanni (2009) and Così Fan Tutte(2012), and will present his new production of Offenbach’s La Périchole this April at City Center. Conducted by Ogren, The Marriage of Figaro will feature New York City Opera regulars Rod Gilfry as Count Almaviva and Keri Alkema as Countess Rosina Almaviva.

George Steel said, “I am thrilled to welcome conductor Jayce Ogren to role of Music Director. He already has an extraordinary track record with this wonderful orchestra, and he will bring electricity and artistic insight to our music-making. 2013-14 promises to be another powerhouse season for the Company: the climax of our Mozart / Da Ponte project with Christopher Alden, and three other landmark projects.”

Speaking on behalf of New York City Opera’s Board, Chairman Charles Wall remarked, “We take great pride in George Steel’s leadership of the Company, which has resulted in financial health and productions that bring new audiences to opera while electrifying our longtime supporters. The Board and I would also like to extend a warm welcome to Jayce Ogren, whose work in A Quiet PlacePrima Donna, and our new production of The Turn of the Screw last month, makes clear his place among his generation’s greatest young conductors. I can’t wait to see the four operas we will present next season.”

Jayce Ogren said, “Over the past four years, New York City Opera has been my closest collaborator, and our work together has provided many of the most rewarding artistic experiences of my career. I knew from my very first hour of rehearsal with the NYC Opera Orchestra in 2009 that we had a synergy that doesn’t come along every day. Making music with these fine players has continued to be a joy. No other company in the United States is more dedicated to mounting courageous and timely productions than New York City Opera, and the same goes for its commitment to young American singers. There is nowhere I would rather be Music Director.”

Subscriptions to the 2013-14 season, which include a 20% discount, are currently on sale. The on sale date for individual tickets, which are priced $25–$235, will be announced at a later date. To purchase tickets, visit nycopera.com or call 212.870.5600 (Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm). Tickets to Bluebeard’s Castle are also available to St. Ann’s Warehouse members at stannswarehouse.org and 718.254.8779 (Tue–Sat, 1–7pm). Tickets to Anna Nicole are available to BAM Season Ticket buyers on June 17 (June 10 for Friends of BAM) at BAM.org and 718.636.4100.
Since 1999, New York City Opera has presented VOX: Contemporary American Opera Lab, the Company’s annual workshop for new American operas. On January 14 as a central part of OPERA America’s New Works Forum, VOX returns for its 14th season at the NYU Skirball Center.

VOX solidifies the Company’s commitment to producing new works by American artists. 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 including Mark Adamo, Charles Wuorinen, Richard Danielpour, John Zorn, and Stephen Schwartz 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 during the season.

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 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 this year’s Opera is Elementary program, designed for 2nd-5th graders, will be the chamber opera version of Tobias Picker’sFantastic Mr. Fox. This classic story by Roald Dahl will be a wonderful starting point for thousands of NYC children as they have their first encounter with opera. The project will feature costumes designed and constructed in partnership with students from the High School for Fashion Industries. 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.”

NEW YORK CITY OPERA 2013-14 PRODUCTIONS

Anna Nicole (2010)
Co-produced with BAM for the 2013 Next Wave Festival
Composed by Mark-Anthony Turnage
Libretto by Richard Thomas
Conducted by Steven Sloane
Directed by Richard Jones

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House (30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn)
September 17, 19, 21, 24, 25, 27, and 28 at 7:30pm

Composed by Mark-Anthony Turnage to a libretto by Richard Thomas, Anna Nicole tells the story of Anna Nicole Smith, a small-town Texas waitress (and, later, exotic dancer) in pursuit of the American Dream. Smith weds an octogenarian billionaire and becomes a Playboy model and tabloid celebrity, living a life of excess and substance abuse under the constant glare of the media until her death at the age of 39. The opera mixes comedy and tragedy and boldly confronts issues of modern celebrity, greed and exploitation.

Richard Jones directs this U.S. premiere, a co-production with BAM that kicks off the 2013 Next Wave Festival. The diverse cast for Anna Nicole includes Sarah Joy Miller as Anna Nicole, Susan Bickley as Virgie, Robert Brubaker as Old Man Marshall, Rod Gilfry as Stern, John Easterlin as Larry King, Stephen Wallem as Trucker, Mary Testa as Aunt Kaye, Christina Sajous as Blossom, James Barbour as Daddy Hogan, Ben Davis as Billy and Joshua Jeremiah as Deputy Mayor. Steven Sloane will conduct the New York City Opera Orchestra.

Commissioned by London’s Royal Opera House, Anna Nicole premiered at Covent Garden in February 2011 under the direction of Richard Jones. The Times (UK) called it “jazzy, bitter-sweet, fizzing, moody and often touchingly tender.” The Independent (UK) said “Richard Thomas’ libretto would carry the day even if the score weren’t as terrific as it is: varied, acidic, lyrical and occasionally heartbreaking.” Turnage’s dynamic score draws on jazz, blues, musical theater and traditional operatic structures; Thomas (co-creator, Jerry Springer: the Opera) provides a razor-sharp and darkly humorous libretto.

Anna Nicole will be sung in English with English subtitles.

Endimione (1772)
Composed by Johann Christian Bach
Libretto by Pietro Metastasio
Directed by Michael Counts

El Museo del Barrio (1230 5th Avenue, Manhattan)
February 8, 12 and 14, 2014 at 7:30pm; February 16, 2014 at 1:30pm

Presenting a very rare, perhaps first-ever staging of a Johann Christian Bach opera in New York, New York City Opera returns to El Museo del Barrio, where the Company presented Telemann’s Orpheus in 2012 to great acclaim. Michael Counts (Moses in Egypt, 2013; Monodramas, 2011) will direct.

The story of Endimione centers on the characters of Diana and Nice. Through the mischief of Amore (Cupid), both fall madly in love with Endimione, a local shepherd. Pastoral mayhem ensues.

J.C. Bach’s ravishing score to Metastasio’s libretto makes crystal clear his enormous influence on Mozart. J.C. Bach, known as “the London Bach,” befriended Mozart when the eight-year-old and his family visited London.

This production, which Steel believes to be the U.S. premiere, culminates his longstanding desire to stage the opera. Endimione will be sung in Italian with English subtitles.

Bluebeard’s Castle (1911)
Co-produced by St. Ann’s Warehouse
Composed by Béla Bartók
Libretto by Béla Balázs
Conducted by Jayce Ogren
Directed by Daniel Kramer

St. Ann’s Warehouse (29 Jay Street, Brooklyn)
February 28, March 4, 7, 11, 13 and 15, 2014 at 7:30PM
March 2 and 9 at 1:30PM

Béla Bartók’s only opera, the fantastical one-act masterpiece Bluebeard’s Castle is a mysterious encounter between two characters, Duke Bluebeard and his new wife, Judith. In the castle, Judith not only discovers great riches, but also bloodstained weapons, lakes of tears and, finally, the bodies of former wives. The opera, based on Charles Perrault’s chilling 1697 fairytale, was written in 1911 and first produced in 1918. New York City Opera presented the first fully staged American production in 1952.

In his Company debut, director Daniel Kramer presents a vision that is brutally dark and full of shocking surprises, as Judith descends deeper within the castle and, perhaps, into Bluebeard’s soul. Reviewing the first presentation of Kramer’s staging, by English National Opera, at the London Coliseum in 2009, The Telegraph (UK) said it was “refreshing to encounter a director who has dug deep into the resonances of a masterpiece… an interpretation that will unsettle any idea you may have had as to what this weird fable signifies.” The Arts Desk (UK) said Kramer “has ripped from the pages of modern newspapers one of the most vital questions of today, which is just how far and appallingly men will go to define and license their own desires.”

Bluebeard’s Castle is a collaboration between New York City Opera, St. Ann’s Warehouse and English National Opera. New York City Opera’s new Music Director, Jayce Ogren, will conduct the Company’s orchestra in this site-specific staging at St. Ann’s Warehouse, which will stand in for Bluebeard’s haunted castle. Bluebeard’s Castle will be sung in Hungarian with English subtitles.

The first performance of the original production took place at English National Opera on November 6, 2009.

The Marriage of Figaro (1786)
Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
Conducted by Jayce Ogren
Directed by Christopher Alden

New York City Center (131 W 55th Street, Manhattan)
April 19 and 22, 2014 at 7:30pm; April 24, 2014 at 7pm; April 26, 2014 at 1:30pm

New York City Opera presents a new staging, by Christopher Alden, of the Mozart landmark The Marriage of Figaro. The production completes the Company’s trilogy of Mozart / Da Ponte operas directed by Alden, including Don Giovanni (2009) and Così Fan Tutte (2012), Jayce Ogren will conduct, and the cast will include Company regulars Rod Gilfry (baritone) as the Count Almaviva and Keri Alkema (soprano) as the Countess Rosina.

Mozart’s most popular opera, The Marriage of Figaro takes place in one single day inside the palace of the Count Almaviva. Figaro, the Count’s valet, is set to marry Susanna, the Countess’s maid, who is also a favorite of the Count. But before Figaro can finally be united with his bride, he must first overcome every obstacle put in his way by the philandering Count, who is aiming to bed Susanna first.

The Marriage of Figaro will be sung in Italian with English subtitles.

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