I’m back from an amazing vacation of camping across New England! The almost 2000-mile road trip took David and me through eight states, including New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey (some of those states we simply passed through). Highlights included camping in the very rustic Moosalamoo Recreation Area in the Green Mountains National Forest of Vermont as well as camping at a remote, water-access-only site on Umbagog Lake in northern New Hampshire. This trip provided me with the opportunity to completely unplug, literally, since most of the time my cell phone could neither be charged nor receive a cell signal. It was also a great chance for David and I to have some quality time alone before he heads back to school for his final year of seminary and the busy cultural season begins in Philadelphia. Rested and relaxed, I am happy to be back and already hard at work.
On our way up to the Adirondacks to spend a day with a long-time Board member of Opera Philadelphia and his lovely wife, we stopped at Cooperstown so that I could meet with baritone Nathan Gunn.
This summer, Nathan was the 2013 Concert Artist in Residence at Glimmerglass, an important festival that takes place each year during the months of July and August. Nathan was also singing the role of Lancelot in Glimmerglass' production of CAMELOT. Unfortunately, I was not able to get any of Glimmerglass' performances as we could only stop in Cooperstown for one day. This summer’s festival included a wide range of choices which included CAMELOT, THE FLYING DUTCHMAN, and a rare Verdi work, KING FOR A DAY. It also included Pergolesi’s STABAT MATER which was paired with a new production of the 2008 Pulitzer-prize winning opera THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL PASSION, written by David Lang, a composer whose music and work I like very much.
Nathan and I were meeting to plan for Opera Philadelphia's American Repertoire Council, of which Nathan is the Director. This Council brings together music professionals from a wide spectrum of roles and talents who we convene to help Opera Philadelphiathink about how the development and dissemination of new American opera can best be supported. The other members of the Council are; Lembit Beecher (Composer in Residence), Annie Burridge (SVP of Institutional Advancement), Youngmoo Kim (Director, Drexel University Expressive & Creative Interaction Technologies “ExCITe” Center), David Lai (SVP Artist Manager, IMG Artists), Missy Mazzoli (Composer in Residence), Daniel K. Meyer (Chairman, Board of Directors) , Zizi Mueller (President, Boosey & Hawkes USA), David Hyde Pierce (actor – director), Gene Scheer (librettist – composer), Kyle Bartlett (New Works Administrator), Daniel Lerner ( performance coach), Mikael Eliasen (Artistic Advisor, Hirsig Family Head-of-Department Chair in Vocal Studies Artistic Director of the Curtis Opera Theatre, Opera and Voice Coach, Dean of Vocal Studies, Curtis Institute), Eric Owens (operatic bass-baritone), David Pittsinger (operatic baritone), Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr. (Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor of Music, University of Pennsylvania), and Corrado Rovaris (Jack Mulroney Music Director).
At our N.O.W. Gala in February, I am pictured with Nathan Gunn, Director of the American Repertoire Council, Council member David Hyde Pierce, and Board Chairman Daniel K. Meyer, M.D.
The initial meeting of our Council took place in conjunction with our N.O.W. Gala in February 2013. Nathan and I were able to hammer out many of the details for the next meeting of the Council which will convene on November 2-3 of this year. We chose these dates because they coincide with the opening weekend of our first ever Opera in the City: SVADBA – WEDDING, an incredible a cappella opera written by Canadian composer Ana Sokolović. This new initiative, which takes opera outside the opera house, is a fitting context in which to convene our Council and we hope it will help instigate ideas for further innovation and artistic expression.
The opera SVADBA is interesting on a number of fronts. First and foremost, it is a wonderfully fresh and eclectic work that has incredible integrity, integrating the composer’s Serbian heritage with virtuosic vocal performance. Second, Opera Philadelphia is producing this work in partnership with FringeArts at theirnew performance space, bringing together new ideas and a new audience to opera. Third, SVADBA launches our commitment to produce art in neighborhoods with other local artistic partners.
Rending of the new FringeArts building, by WRT Planning & Design
I am hoping this backdrop will foster creative ideas for future projects from our Council’s thought leaders. Nathan and I sketched out the agenda and program for this second meeting and made plans to meet ahead of time with individual Council members to begin seeding the group dialogue with fresh insights. The thing I love most about attending the Council’s meetings is the benefit of being surrounded, face-to-face, with individuals who share similar goals but yet see and experience the world differently. The confluence of incongruent ideas and varied experiences is an exciting act of creativity, and, as chemistry teaches, when friction and force are combined, new matter is created: the same goes for art!
Today marks the first day of full rehearsals for the opera that will open Philadelphia’s exciting cultural season: Verdi's NABUCCO (more on that in a couple of days). I can’t wait to see our rehearsal hall filled with talented people as they get to work doing what we do – producing opera and providing opportunities for artists to be their all.