Opera Philadelphia

Published15 May 2014

Opera Philadelphia, Gotham Chamber Opera, and Music-Theatre Group Appoint David T. Little as fourth Composer in Residence

Opera Philadelphia, in collaboration with Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group in New York, is proud to announce that composer David T. Little has been selected as its fourth Composer in Residence (CIR). Little was chosen from over 100 applicants for the position and now has the opportunity to follow a personalized development track focused on the advancement of his skills as an operatic composer.

Funded by a $1.7 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the program fosterstomorrow’s American operatic masterpieces through personalized creative development and intensive, hands-on composition opportunities for today’s most promising opera composers. The Composer in Residence position combines its individualized plan of study with a living stipend and health benefits.

“I could not be more excited to join the roster of this esteemed and innovative program,” said Little, who holds a PhD from Princeton University and has studied under composers Osvaldo Golijov and William Bolcom. “Writing for the stage is one of my greatest joys as a composer, and I am excited to work with Opera Philadelphia, Gotham Chamber Opera, Music-Theatre Group and my fellow Composers in Residence to explore the wide range of possible musico-dramatic forms available to us today, and to continuing to hone my compositional and dramatic craft.”

An accomplished rock drummer and the founding artistic director for the amplified chamber ensemble Newspeak, Little fuses classical and popular idioms to powerful effect. The New Yorker has called him, “one of the most imaginative young composers on the music-theatre scene.” His multi-media music theatre work, Soldier Songs, based on interviews with veterans of five wars, received its New York City premiere in January 2013 at the inaugural PROTOTYPE Festival. The Wall Street Journal called Little’s first full-length opera, Dog Days, “one of the most exciting new operas of recent years,” and The New York Times cited Dog Days as one of two highlights of the season, stating that the work “proved beyond any doubt that opera has both a relevant present and a bright future.”

“David T. Little is a true 21st century composer witha unique voice. We were immediately taken with his musical insight, melodic textures, and unorthodox operatic structure,” said David B. Devan, General Director & President of Opera Philadelphia. “We believe his artistry will serve the opera world for years to come and we are excited to grant him this time and opportunity to develop his operatic voice even further."

“David T. Little is among the greatest talents in opera today, as well as being a supremely nice guy,” said Neal Goren, Artistic Director of Gotham Chamber Opera. “It will be a joy and an honor to help him achieve his full artistic potential.”

“David T. Little's writing for the music theatre already demands and ultimately commands our attention,” said Diane Wondisford, Producing Director of Music-Theatre Group. “I am very excited to accompany him on this three-year journey in the opera world.”

Little recently completed the large scale work AGENCY for the Kronos Quartet with electronics; two songs from Artaud in the Black Lodge (a theatre work in progress for tenor and chamber ensemble, commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects) for the 21C Liederabend at BAM; Hellhound for cello and small ensemble for Maya Beiser. A new production of Soldier Songs with film by Bill Morrison premieres this weekend in D.C. and will make its international debut on the Holland Festival next month. He is currently working on a new opera about the last day of John F. Kennedy’s life, with a libretto by Royce Vavrek, commissioned by the Fort Worth Opera and American Lyric Theater to premiere in 2016. He was mostly recently awarded a commission from The Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Theater as part of their new works program. For his full biography, visit http://davidtlittle.com/about.

“I stumbled backwards into opera, really, and have learned almost entirely by doing,” Little said, “writing pieces like Dog Days, Soldier Songs, and Vinkensport by following my instincts. These projects excited me to explore the vast potentials of opera in the 21st century, into questions of form, language, narrative, and so on. I am looking forward to working with and within these three terrific companies to explore all that opera can be.”

Little will begin his appointment on June 1, 2014. He joins Composers in Residence Missy Mazzoli, who was appointed in September 2012; Andrew Norman, who was appointed in September 2013; and Lembit Beecher, who was the first composer appointed to the program in September 2011.

The Composers in Residence continue their creative development this season with Opera Philadelphia, Gotham Chamber Opera, and Music-Theatre Group. Beecher, whose work I Have No Stories to Tell You received its World Premiere in February with Gotham Chamber Opera, is working on a studio recording of the opera and returns to Philadelphia in May for a final workshop with Pig Iron Theatre for an opera he is writing about characters with Alzheimer’s disease. Norman will be back in residency in Philadelphia from May 18-June 8, during which he is observing a workshop for Daniel Schnyder’s new opera Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD and rehearsals for the East Coast Premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s A Coffin in Egypt with Opera Philadelphia and the U.S. Premiere of The Raven by Toshio Hosokawa with Gotham Chamber Opera. He is also taking voice lessons and meeting with composer Jennifer Higdon and librettists Mark Campbell.

Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek are currently writing a chamber opera based on the Oscar-nominated 1996 film Breaking the Waves,written and directed by Lars von Trier. In May, they are working with director Stephanie Havey, soprano Ashley Milanese, baritone Sean Michael Plumb, and conductor Teddy Poll on two scenes scheduled to be performed in June during the New Works Sampler at the annual Opera America conference. Mazzoli and Vavrek will also be traveling to Scotland this summer to continue their research and writing of Breaking the Waves.

About the Composer in Residence Program

Since 2011, Opera Philadelphia, in collaboration with Music-Theatre Group and Gotham Chamber Opera in New York, has offered the nation’s first comprehensive, operatic Composer in Residence program. Funded by two grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the program provides a highly individualized professional development path for today’s most promising opera composers, selected on a competitive basis. The goal of the Composer in Residence program is to foster tomorrow’s masterpieces of American opera through individualized creative development. The composers in the program are eager to step beyond his or her musical comfort zones, and challenge preconceived notions of what opera and music can be. They work zealously with the resident companies to take this timeless art form and infuse it with the technological, creative, and collaborative sensibilities most relevant to our time.

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