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Posts tagged 'Gregory Spears'

PSNY Composers in Alex Ross' 2017 Top Ten Lists

As the year ends, critics are busy preparing their annual accountings of the very best music of 2017. Alex Ross, the classical music critic of The New Yorker, has deftly diversified his year-end top ten lists, counting his favorite notable performances and recordings from the year. At the top of these lists is Kate Soper'sIpsa Dixit, performed at Dixon Place on February 4th. Ross describes Soper as "one of the great originals of her generation—a maker of erudite entertainments that inhabit a self-invented realm halfway between opera and philosophy."

Next on Ross' list is Chaya Czernowin's opera, Infinite Now, which premiered on April 23rd at the Flemish Opera. Check out an interview with Czernowin about this work below. 

Annie Gosfield's new adaptation of War of the Worlds, presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and narrated by Sigourney Weaver, also made it to Ross' list of notable performances. Check back soon for the full score of Gosfield's War of the Worlds on PSNY. 

Ross has been a vocal proponent of the music of Scott Wollschleger, so it is no surprise that Wollschleger's recent album on New Focus Recordings, "Soft Aberration", made it to his top ten records of 2017. That album features many of Wollschleger's recent works, including Brontal Symmetry, Soft Aberration, Bring Something Incomprehensible Into This World, and String Quartet No. 2 "White Wall". Check out Brontal Symmetry below.

Last but not least on Ross' list of notable recordings is Gregory Spears'  "Fellow Travelers", the very first recording produced and performed by the Cincinnati Opera. Three pieces from this opera—"I worry, that's all"; "Last Night"; and "Our Very Own Home"—are available from PSNY. See a concert performance of this last piece below.

Gregory Spears' "Fellow Travelers" Premieres at Cincinnati Opera

Gregory Spears
is a crucial voice in the contemporary opera landscape. His compositions, such as Paul's Case and Our Ladyshow how opera can communicate with the history of dramatic vocal music—from medieval liturgical music to the development of opera in the 17th century—while still remaining dedicated to exploring contemporary issues of identity, desire, and politics.

His latest project, Fellow Travelers, is based on the 2007 Thomas Mallon novel of the same name, with a libretto by Greg Pierce. Like Paul's Case, Fellow Travelers focuses on the experience of a young man in the process of discovering his identity, while reconciling his desires with American society. Fellow Travelers is set during the so-called "lavender scare" in 1950's, an often silenced era of oppression overshadowed by the more visible expulsion of suspected communist "deviants" from government and industry. Spears writes, "it's about a part of our history which was almost invisible, and I think one of the things opera can do is make invisible things visible."

Fellow Travelers will see its world premiere on June 17th at the Cincinnati Opera, who commissioned and co-produced the new work along with G. Sterling Zinsmeyer. Check out Spears' aria "Our Very Own Home" from Fellow Travelers, which weaves a thread between post-minimalism and early baroque monody, performed at a 2013 workshop of the opera: 

Gregory Spears's "O Columbia" a "piercingly moving" and "haunting meditation on exploration"

Following its premiere at Houston Grand Opera on September 23, Heidi Waleson of the Wall Street Journal has hailed Gregory Spears's new opera-oratorio, O Columbia, as "piercingly moving" and "a haunting meditation on exploration."

(Photo Credit: Lynn Lane, Wall Street Journal)

Presented as part of the company's HGOco community initiative program, the production featured direction by Kevin Newbury and was conducted by Timothy Myers, with a cast including soprano Pureum Jo, baritone Ben Edquist and mezzo-soprano Megan Samarin. O Columbia, with an original libretto by Royce Vavrek, is a celebration of exploration and a reflection upon the risks of discovering new frontiers. Through the work’s three parts the listener rides with Sir Walter Raleigh and a mysterious figure on the bow of his ship heading for the New World; sits with a teenager as she experiences communion, and later, heartbreak, with a Columbia space shuttle astronaut gliding around the earth; and travels with three astronauts to the far reaches of the solar system with Lady Columbia waiting at the edge. 

The work is a celebration of the identity of the American frontiersperson and an ode to America’s national mythology. In preparing the production, Vavrek writes that "we went to the Johnson Space Center and spoke to astronauts, engineers and other employees... we thought that, in our opera, we could return to the promise of space exploration. O Columbia blossomed into a work that celebrated the spirit of the frontiersman, as opposed to a tragic story." Waleson praises the work for its "neoclassical-style clarity," "crystalline orchestrations" and "textured, complex musical structures that sound old and new at the same time." Spears's next opera, Fellow Travelers, receives its premiere later this season by Cincinnati Opera

Below, watch a performance of Spears's recent cantata Virginiana, for solo voices and early instrument ensemble.

Virginiana was commissioned and premiered by New York's New Vintage Baroque and the Netherlands' Damask Ensemble. Written in the spirit of neoclassical works like Stravinsky's Pulcinella and The Rake's ProgressVirginiana explores 18th-century North American aesthetics as heard through a contemporary lens, with a text by Robert Bolling (1738-1775).

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