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The New York Philharmonic and Anthony Roth Costanzo Premiere Gregory Spears's Love Story

Feb. 16, 2022

On February 3 and 5, The New York Philharmonic, led by Jaap van Zweden, and acclaimed countertenor, Anthony Roth Costanzo, premiered Love Story, a new work by composer Gregory Spears and poet Tracy K. Smith. The performances were a culmination of a mini-festival titled “Authentic Selves: The Beauty Within”, conceptualized by Anthony Roth Costanzo, the Philharmonic’s current Artist-in-Residence.

Love Story consists of four contiguous settings of a single text by Tracy K. Smith. Each setting suggests a different reading of Smith’s poem, and the four together form a larger narrative arc reminiscent of a song cycle. Instead of using a series of poems, Love Story tells the story of a relationship’s end by revisiting the same narrative details over-and-over – creating new meaning through repetition. The fourth and final setting incorporates musical material from the previous three, transformed by the passing of time and the changing of seasons.

(Excerpt from Love Story performed by the New York Philharmonic
and Anthony Roth Costanzo, led by Jaap van Zweden)

Fellow Travelers, the celebrated opera by Gregory Spears and Greg Pierce based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Mallon, continues its remarkable run of multiple performances throughout the US when it opens at Opera Columbus on February 25 and 27. Opera Columbus's performances of Fellow Travelers are conducted by Kelly Kuo and staged by Peter Rothstein. 

Fellow Travelers follows the story of Hawk and Tim who become clandestine lovers at the height of the McCarthy Era in 1950's Washington D.C. Recent college graduate Timothy Laughlin is eager to join the crusade against communism. A chance encounter with handsome State Department official Hawkins Fuller leads to Tim’s first job—and his first love affair with a man. Drawn into a maelstrom of deceit, Tim struggles to reconcile his political convictions and his forbidden love for Fuller. The piece uses the love affair of Laughlin and Fuller to shed light on the "lavender scare”, an often-overlooked period of McCarthyism that resulted in the mass firings of suspected homosexuals from the United States government. “It’s about a part of our history which was almost invisible,” Spears says of Fellow Travelers, “and I think one of the things opera can do is make invisible things visible.” 

Critics have universally praised Fellow Travelers for the boldness of its story and the beauty of Spears’s music. Corinna da Fonseca Wollheim (New York Times) praises Fellow Travelers as “...the most romantic new opera I have seen in years. It’s also one of the most successfully political,” and John von Rhein (Chicago Tribune) declares, “... a poignant and moving meditation.... Fellow Travelers is one of the most accomplished new American operas I have encountered in recent years.” And Alex Ross (The New Yorker) notes "...the intimate power of Spears's musical voice, which is unlike that of any composer now working, is a kind of shivery, fraught simplicity. Spears has an eerie ability to suggest interior landscapes that go unseen, interior lives that go unspoken. In giving us glimpses of hidden selves, his music becomes universal in reach."

(Highlights from the 2016 production of Fellow Travelers at Cincinnati Opera)

Fellow Travelers was developed and co-commissioned by G. Sterling Zinsmeyer and Cincinnati Opera and originally produced by Cincinnati Opera in a production created by Kevin Newbury. The opera was also developed through “Opera Fusion: New Works,” a joint venture between Cincinnati Opera and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Singers and pianists should note that piano-vocal reductions of the arias: "I Worry, That's All", "Last Night", and "Our Very Own Home", from Fellow Travelers are published separately and available on PSNY here.

To learn more about Gregory Spears, visit:

Gregory Spears
Love Story (2021-2022)
for countertenor and orchestra
text (Eng) by Tracy K. Smith b.d, mar, sm sus cym)-hp.cel-str

Fellow Travelers (2016)

an opera in two acts

Libretto (En) by Greg Pierce
based on the novel “Fellow Travelers” by Thomas Mallon
3 sop, ten, 3 bar, b-bar