Awakenings, with music by Tobias Picker and a libretto by Aryeh Lev Stollmen, is based on the book of the same name by Dr. Oliver Sacks. The book tells the true story of Dr. Sacks’s astounding treatment of survivors of the great sleeping-sickness pandemic, encephalitis lethargica, which swept across the globe in the early twentieth century. Although millions died, many thousands lived on, left immobile like living statues and housed in large institutions. After nearly half a century, most of those who had survived remained locked away in hospital wards, forgotten and “asleep.” In the late 1960s, by experimenting with the drug L-DOPA used to treat Parkinson’s Disease, Dr. Sacks began to “awaken” these patients—men and women who had never stopped thinking or feeling—temporarily bringing them back to an active and engaged life.
Awakenings has been commissioned by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and will receive its world premiere at the company in June 2020.
OF:NW November 1-11, 2019
Public presentation (Sold Out): Monday, November 11, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. Music Hall’s Wilks Studio, Cincinnati, OH
Castor and Patience, with music by composer Gregory Spears (Fellow Travelers) and a libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith, tells the story of African American cousins who find themselves at odds over the fate of a historic parcel of land they have inherited in the American South.
According to Smith, “It’s 2008, and Patience is fighting to stave off overzealous developers. Castor has a ballooning mortgage to contend with and is hoping to sell his share of the land. But if they’re going to get anywhere as a family, they must first learn to see past their different allegiances and trust one another. Castor and Patience is the story of not just a single family or even a particular geography, but of America’s warring tensions between reckoning with the hard facts of history and racing blindly forward toward the dream of progress.”
Castor and Patience has been commissioned by Cincinnati Opera in honor of its 100th anniversary season and will receive its world premiere as part of the company’s 2020 Summer Festival.
OF:NW August 26-September 4, 2019
Public presentation: Wednesday, September 4, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. Music Hall’s Wilks Studio, Cincinnati, OH
Postville: Hometown to the World is the latest piece by composer Laura Kaminsky and filmmaker Kimberly Reed, known for their partnership on the critically acclaimed opera As One, concerning the journey of a transgender person, which was featured in Cincinnati Opera’s 2018 Summer Festival. Their new work takes place in Postville, Iowa, which bills itself as the “Hometown to the World,” but which is known for a massive 2008 raid by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency at a Kosher meat-packing plant, in which over a tenth of the town’s population was arrested and deported.
This new work was created for the “Opera for All Voices” program, which is led by Santa Fe Opera and San Francisco Opera, and includes the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Minnesota Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Sarasota Opera, and Seattle Opera. It is Kaminsky and Reed’s second work to participate in Opera Fusion: New Works, following their opera Some Light Emerges, which had a residency in September 2016.
OF:NW December 12-16, 2018
Public presentation (SOLD OUT) Sunday, December 16, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. Corbett Opera Center, Music Hall, Cincinnati, OH Admission is free, but tickets are required. This event has reached capacity, and tickets are no longer available. Click here to watch the live stream on Sunday, December 16 at 7:30 PM.
The work will be based on the play by Sarah Ruhl and tells the Orpheus story from the perspective of Eurydice, using contemporary language to present the young lovers as quirky and conflicted. “Eurydice” was commissioned in 2015 by the Met Opera/Lincoln Center Theater New Works Program.
OF:NW November 8 – 17, 2018
Public presentation Saturday, November 17, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. The Wilks Studio, Music Hall, Cincinnati, OH
Additional presentations: November 18 and 19, 2018 Lincoln Center and Century Association, New York City
Set at the end of the classical era, Hadrian tells the story of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and his profound grief at the death of his lover Antinous. Hadrian’s relationship with Antinous, a young man in his entourage, was frowned upon by many in his inner circle. In fact, during this period of the most critical changes in religious history – the rise of monotheism in the face of the end of the old pagan deities – Hadrian’s love for Antinous was not only discouraged, it was dangerous. When Antinous drowns in the Nile at the height of their love affair, many questions arise about the nature of his death.
Hadrian offers answers to those questions and in turn raises more questions about self-sacrifice, jealousy, treachery and love itself. The opera is currently in development and is scheduled to open the COC’s 2018/2019 mainstage season.
Adapted by Lynn Nottage from her prize-winning 2003 play of the same name, Intimate Apparel tells the story of Esther, a 35-year-old seamstress in 1905 New York City.
Esther sews lingerie for a living, interacting with a wealthy Fifth Avenue wife, a Tenderloin prostitute, and a Jewish fabric merchant on the Lower East Side, with whom she shares a closeness that cannot be pursued further because of his religion.
Esther embarks on a letter-writing relationship with a Panama Canal laborer, leading to marriage and ultimately heartbreak, but she maintains her strength of character and determination to make a better life for herself.
Intimate Apparel is commissioned by The Metropolitan Opera / Lincoln Center Theater New Works Program. The Met/LCT New Works Program develops new opera and music theater works through a creative developmental process, leading to an exploratory workshop production.
This preliminary workshop of Intimate Apparel, focusing on musical development, was facilitated by Opera Fusion: New Works as a precursor to the Met/Lincoln Center Theater workshop, which will follow in 2017.
In the mid-1960s, the renowned art collector Dominique de Menil commissioned the noted American artist Mark Rothko to create a series of paintings and the ideal gallery in which to house them. Mrs. de Menil also envisioned that the resultant Rothko Chapel, which opened in 1971, would serve as a spiritual space for “those of all faiths, or no faith.”
Some Light Emerges is set mostly within the Rothko Chapel and chronicles the direct and tangential intersections of five people across four decades who visit the chapel, as well as the struggles and triumphs of Dominique de Menil in realizing her dream.
Adapted from a 2005 novel by Salman Rushdie, Shalimar the Clown tells the story of Shalimar and his beloved Boonyi, who have grown up together in a pastoral Kashmiri village, making people laugh as acrobats and dancers in a traditional folk theater. Though one is Muslim and one is Hindu, they fall in love—and despite all odds, their village embraces their marriage. But when a new American ambassador sees Boonyi dance, dark clouds gather. The promise of a new life tears their love apart and sends Shalimar down a path of revenge.
Infuriated at being told to write one final column after being laid off from her newspaper job, Ann Mitchell prints a letter from a fictional unemployed “John Doe” threatening suicide on Christmas Eve in protest of society’s ills. When the letter causes a sensation among readers, and the paper’s competition suspects a fraud and starts to investigate, editor Henry Connell is persuaded to rehire Mitchell, who schemes to boost the newspaper’s sales by exploiting the fictional John Doe.
From a number of derelicts who show up at the paper claiming to have written the original letter, Mitchell and Connell hire John Willoughby, a former baseball player and tramp in need of money to repair his injured arm, to play the role of John Doe. Mitchell starts to pen a series of articles in Doe’s name, elaborating on the original letter’s ideas of society’s disregard for people in need.
The newspaper’s publisher, D.B. Norton, proposes to take John Doe national through the radio, with Mitchell writing the speeches. Meanwhile, Willoughby is offered a bribe from a rival newspaper to admit the whole thing was a publicity stunt, but ultimately turns it down and delivers the speech Mitchell has written for him instead. The speeches inspire citizens across the country to form John Doe Clubs whose simple slogan is “Be a better neighbor.” However, Norton secretly plans to channel Doe’s popularity into support for his own national political ambitions.
Willoughby, who has come to believe in the John Doe philosophy himself, denounces Norton and tries to expose the plot at the rally, but Norton speaks first, exposing Doe as a fake. Despondent at letting his now-angry followers down, Willoughby plans to commit suicide by jumping from the roof of City Hall on Christmas Eve, as in the original John Doe letter. Mitchell, who has fallen in love with Willoughby, desperately tries to talk him out of jumping, and citizens tell him of their plan to restart their John Doe Club. Convinced not to kill himself, Willoughby leaves, carrying a fainted Mitchell in his arms.
Composer Daniel Catán began work on Meet John Doe prior to his untimely death in 2011, but the opera remained unfinished. In 2015, Opera Fusion: New Works welcomed the creative team tasked with completing the opera: Eduardo Diazmuñoz, Michaela Eremiášová, Jairo Duarte-López, and Andrea Puente Catán.
Great Scott is set in an American city that boasts a respected but struggling opera company and a thriving football team. Arden Scott, the hometown girl who has become an international opera star, has returned to her roots to help save the company. She has chosen not a standard classic or a new work, but a long-lost bel canto opera she recently discovered: Vittorio Bazzetti’s Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii, which has been gathering dust ever since its composition in 1835.
By chance, the opera company is set to give the world premiere the same night the local football team, the Grizzlies, will play in their first Super Bowl across town—an event that will be telecast to 100 million viewers. The owner of the team is married to the opera company’s founder, Winnie Flato. Success on the field is no less important than Arden’s and Maestro Bazzetti’s in the opera house. No wonder Arden finds herself in a state of personal crisis over the career and life she has chosen as every conceivable disaster seems to await the company.
With a large cast and chorus, two mad scenes, an erupting volcano, and a difficult unknown score, will mere human resources be equal to the opera’s inhuman demands? And a defeat at the Super Bowl could be end of Winnie’s opera company as well.
Based on the 2007 novel by Thomas Mallon, Fellow Travelers takes place in 1950s Washington, D.C., and follows Timothy Laughlin, a recent college graduate and devout Catholic eager to join the crusade against Communism.
A chance encounter with a handsome State Department official, Hawkins Fuller, leads to Tim’s first job in D.C. and—after Fuller’s advances—his first love affair. As McCarthy makes a desperate bid for power and investigations focus on “sexual subversives,” Tim struggles to reconcile his political convictions, his love for God, and his love for Fuller—an entanglement that will end in a stunning act of betrayal.
OF:NW November 18-26, 2013
"Our Very Own Home"
Performed by baritone Joseph Lattanzi; recorded at the OF:NW 'Fellow Travelers' workshop performance on November 26, 2013.
Morning Star tells the story of a Jewish mother who immigrates to New York City with her four children in the hopes of achieving the American dream. The action follows the immigrants through the early years of the 20th century as they adapt to their new country, enduring both the First World War and the Great Depression. Through their struggles, the work addresses such issues as political ideology, race, religion, and identity with humor and humanity.
Champion, an opera with a unique fusion of jazz and operatic styles, is based on the true story of boxer Emile Griffith. A world champion prizefighter, Griffith experienced both triumph and tragedy; in winning the Welterweight Championship in 1962, his punches put opponent Benny “The Kid” Paret in a coma from which he never recovered. Just before the match, Paret had mocked Griffith using homosexual slurs.
Years later, Griffith’s homosexuality was revealed when he was nearly killed by a gang outside a gay bar. Champion presents a modern tragic hero who is ultimately consumed by rage, regret, and the terrible consequences of his actions.
Set in 1964 at a Catholic elementary school in the Bronx, the action pits a nun against a popular priest over allegations of sexual abuse. The charismatic and progressive Father Flynn is trying to loosen the stranglehold of St. Nicholas Church School’s strict customs, which are fiercely guarded by its iron-fisted principal, Sister Aloysius Beauvier.
When the young, innocent Sister James shares with the principal her suspicion that Father Flynn may be abusing the school’s only black student, Sister Aloysius embarks on a personal crusade to find the truth and ruin the priest. With no proof besides her moral certainty, Sister Aloysius engages in a battle of wills with Father Flynn in this riveting new work, which poses questions to ponder long after the curtain goes down.
The opera Doubt is based on the play Doubt: A Parable by John Patrick Shanley, which won both the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2005 Tony Award for Best Play.
In 2008, Shanley wrote and directed the motion picture adaptation of Doubt, starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including a Best Adapted Screenplay nod for Shanley.