Other WOrks in Development
New Short Operas & Music-Theatre Gems
In the winter of 2020, the company will present an evening of two short operas by artistic members. Composer Nicolas Benavides’ opera Pepito was an instant hit when presented as a workshop premiere last year by the Washington National Opera, and now we seek to broaden the audience for this charming, humorous look at nonetheless serious subjects such as the importance of animal rescue, the struggle for cross-cultural-linguistic-and species-communication, and the development of the next generation of opera lovers.
Company composer and cellist Dawn Avery has been commissioned to write a companion short opera based on the works of American artist Georgia O’Keefe and her final years in Abiquiu with her beloved philosophizing chow-chow and his none-too-loving observations of the human race and ruminations on the state of art, nature, and spirit animals. The program of these companion works is designed for audiences of all ages.
This last work will launch a collaboration with the Phillips Collection to commission and present a total of five short “Music-Theatre Gems”, which will showcase outstanding local composers and librettists/lyricists teams based on the Phillips iconic works in their collection. This collaboration of visual art plus music-theatre programming will be part of a more extended series of events to be performed as split programs presented in the Phillips Collection galleries and Dupont Underground.
The Dunbar Opera
In 2020, the hundredth anniversary of Dunbar High School, America’s first school for African Americans, New Music-Theatre partners with a group of its esteemed alumni to present in Dupont Underground DC composer Steve Allen’s one-act opera The Poet about Paul Lawrence Dunbar. Begun over ten years ago, the work was heard at Dunbar School with Greg Watkins and Denyce Graves featured in the original production. A few years ago it had a brief run in Chicago. The music was also heard in the 2016 documentary about Dunbar entitled “Beyond the Mask.”
Steve Allen has joined as a company member with the Alliance’s commitment to present initially the one-act version and enable Allen to expand and complete a full-length version plus develop new works.
The Poet is a gorgeous celebration of Dunbar, meticulously thought-out and rendered in a wide variety of musical styles attractively juxtaposed and woven together. It is based on the lives and love of Paul Lawrence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore.
Composer D.J. Sparr with Librettists Mark Campbell and Davis Miller debuted this one-hour opera as part of Washington National Opera’s first inaugural American Opera Initiative (AOI) for less than a handful of performances at the Kennedy Center. Most Washingtonians did not get to see their own home-grown Soloman Howard step into a major role while still in the Domingo Cafritz training program. It has been the intention of Alliance for New Music -Theatre to bring this opera and Soloman Howard back from what is now his illustrious international career.
Set between 1964 and 1989, the story is about a boy in North Carolina in the early 1960s who is galvanized to overcome some traumatic childhood events when he sees Muhammad Ali on television. More than twenty years later, as a writer on the brink of middle age, he now seeks to rekindle that spirit by visiting his boyhood hero in person at his mother's home in Louisville. The opera moves back and forth in time, and Howard creates a tour de force role as the great boxer and then the elderly, frail Ali fighting the opponent of his life in Parkinson’s.
New Music-Theatre will be setting it – where else? – but in a boxing ring, not in Dupont Underground but with added performances in a local boxing gym across town.
The Garuda Project
Indonesia’s history has always been linked to water. So is its destiny. The seas have for more than a millennium preserved the great diversity of its peoples in ethnicity, religion, and language. In 2019, the country celebrates its 70th anniversary of unification, but in this century Indonesia faces a new challenge. As sea levels rise, the watery world that protected and “fed” the islands with its bounty threatens to destroy its landmass. The Indonesian Ambassador, Mahendra Siregar, and senior staff of the Indonesian Embassy have invited Artistic Director Susan Galbraith, who was born and grew up in Indonesia, to launch a multi-year project, drawing on the rich legends, dance, and music of the country and create a new work of music-theatre in collaboration with both local Indonesian and American artists. The new work will serve as both an important warning and an opportunity for people to unite in response to climate change. From Hanuman’s great leap across the ocean (taken from the Hindhu Ramayana) to a tale of Garuda, the mythical bird and symbol of Indonesia, who must battle for amrta, the sacred water of life, the entire community is called on to participate and save the world. The work will incorporate Balinese and Javanese dance, gamelan orchestra, singing, drama and wajang kulit (Shadow Puppetry) and will be performed primarily in English with some spoken bahasa Indonesia.
On the Road to Arivaca
Alliance has been researching, developing and now commissioning for fall 2020 a full-length “chamber opera,” that takes up the issue of immigrants crossing our southern border and humanizes the story that has entered our national conversation. Based on a true encounter, two men trespass the rule of “no engagement” between “illegal” and “Samaritan” when they inadvertently meet, and both face difficult moral choices. The opera will put the audience “on the road” in difficult encounters that surround the many issues of immigration, national boundaries, and cross-cultural and-linguistic engagement. How does one act when one has to decide in a split second on the fate of a fellow human being? Larry Ortiz wrote the original poem on which the opera is based and serves as advisor with Composer and Librettist Susan Galbraith. The work will also feature a Latinx children’s chorus.