Opera Philadelphia

Published4 Mar 2014

DOUBLE EXPOSURE Event on March 21 Gives Audiences an Inside View of New Operas Being Written by Composers in Residence Lembit Beecher and Missy Mazzoli

Two composers + two directors = four visions of opera in the making

Philadelphia, PA: Opera Philadelphia is inviting the public to participate in Double Exposure, a unique, “opera in the making” event spotlighting the talents of two of the company’s Composers in Residence. On Friday, March 21, an audience at FringeArts will enjoy scenes from new operas currently being written by composers Lembit Beecher and Missy Mazzoli. In a twist, the four scenes will each be staged twice, by two different teams of singers and musicians led by stage directors Daniel Fish and Stephanie Havey.

Double Exposure is an Opera Philadelphia Lab initiative that should prove both highly engaging as well as informative for both our audience and our Composers in Residence, Lembit Beecher and Missy Mazzoli,” said David B. Devan, General Director and President of Opera Philadelphia. “With minimal physical production, our two talented directors will work with their teams to develop unique mini-productions that are vivid, imaginative, and allow both the composers and the audience to see how different directors and performers may interpret the same pieces of music.”

Tickets to Double Exposure are FREE and are available at operaphila.org beginning on Monday, March 10, at 10 a.m. Audience members are invited to stick around after the 7:30 p.m. performance for a reception, where they can meet the composers and share feedback about the operas. A second, FREE Double Exposure event will be held on Sunday, March 23, at 5:00 p.m. at The National Opera Center in New York City.

Lembit Beecher was selected as the first Composer in Residence in 2011. Born of Estonian and American parents, Beecher's music focuses on themes of storytelling, nature and the immigrant experience. The first scene Beecher will present in Double Exposure is from I Have No Stories to Tell You, with a libretto by Hannah Moscovitch, which made its World Premiere on February 26, 2014, in the Medieval Sculpture Hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The 35-minute opera turns from the battlefield to domestic life to tell the story of a soldier’s return home after extended assignment in the Middle East. Haunted by her experiences and reluctant to discuss them with a husband who no longer seems to understand her, she struggles to readjust to home. As we see glimpses into her life over the course of a year, we begin to understand the nightmarish memories she carries with her, her inability to communicate them with her husband, and the way in which her husband's need to know will drive their relationship to the brink. The second scene is from a yet-to-be-titled chamber opera Beecher and librettist Anisa George are writing about characters coping with Alzheimer’s disease. The piece explores the humanity that persists under the fist of a terrible, erasing disease like Alzheimer’s, and though it deals with the difficulties of dementia and the heartbreak of letting go, it is at its core a love story.

Missy Mazzoli has been dubbed “one of the more consistently inventive, surprising composers now working in New York” (The New York Times), “Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart” (Time Out New York). She recently premiered a new work at Carnegie Hall as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival, and this season has featured premieres of newly commissioned works for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, and pianist Emanuel Ax.

In Double Exposure, Mazzoli will present two scenes from a chamber opera she and librettist Royce Vavrek are currently writing, based on the Oscar-nominated 1996 film Breaking the Waves, written and directed by Lars von Trier. Set in the Scottish Highlands in the early 1970s, the opera tells the story of a religious young woman, Bess McNeill, and of the love she has for her husband Jan, a handsome oil rig worker. When Jan becomes paralyzed in an off-shore oil rig accident, Bess’s marital vows are put to the test when he encourages her to seek other lovers and return to his bedside to tell him of her sexual activities. He insists that the stories will feel like they are making love together and their love for each other will keep him alive. Bess’s increasing selflessness leads to a finale of divine grace, but at great cost.

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. Lembit Beecher was appointed the first Composer in Residence in September 2011. Missy Mazzoli was appointed in September 2012, with Andrew Norman joining the program in September 2013.

Casts and Creative Teams for Double Exposure

Team 1

Director: Daniel Fish
Conductor: Kensho Watanabe
Pianist: Bénédicte Jourdois
Singers: Ashley Milanese, Julia Dawson, Johnathan McCullough, Thomas Shivone, Joanna Gates, Jennifer Beattie

Team 2

Director: Stephanie Harvey
Conductor: Edward Poll
Pianist: Matthew Brower
Singers: Melinda Whittington, Lauren Eberwein, Sean Plumb, André Courville, Veronica Chapman-Smith, Heidi Kurtz

Creative Teams 1 & 2

A string quartet from the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra performs with both teams.

Lighting Designer: Chris Frey
Costume Director: Millie Hiibel

Chat with Guest Services