Opera Philadelphia

Published14 Jun 2016

Opera Philadelphia Appoints Rene Orth as Composer in Residence

Opera Philadelphia, in collaboration with Music-Theatre Group in New York, is proud to announce that composer Rene Orth, whose music “is whimsical, spikey, sometimes show-bizy, always dramatic, reflective, rarely predictable, and often electronic” (Musical America), has been selected as its sixth Composer in Residence (CIR). Orth was chosen from a national field of applicants for the position and now has the opportunity to follow a personalized development track focused on the advancement of her skills as an operatic composer.

Funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the program fosters tomorrow’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.

Of her appointment, Orth said, “I am so incredibly excited for this opportunity. As a composer committed to writing for the stage, I have no doubt that working alongside Opera Philadelphia, Music-Theatre Group, and my fellow Composers in Residence will help me develop into the best opera composer that I can be.”

Rene Orth
Composer Rene Orth Credit: Andrew Bogard

Originally from Dallas, Orth recently completed her studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she held the Edward B. Garrigues Fellowship and studied with David Ludwig, Jennifer Higdon, and Richard Danielpour.  Her chamber opera, Empty the House, with a libretto by Mark Campbell, received its world premiere with Curtis Opera Theatre in a sold-out run in January 2016. An intimate, poignant exploration of the complex nature of forgiveness, the opera centers on a mother who invites her grown daughter home for a last weekend in a house filled with painful memories, which nearly overwhelm them both. The piece was also selected to be a part of Fort Worth Opera’s FRONTIERS showcase in May 2016.

“A natural collaborator, Rene Orth exudes creativity, discovery, and exploration. She has an individual voice that soars but is also playful, whimsical, and sincere,” said David B. Devan, General Director and President of Opera Philadelphia. “She writes to move people and knows that there is no better art form than opera to accomplish that lofty goal. I can’t wait to see what unfolds in and out of the Composer in Residence program.”

“Rene Orth is a skilled and passionate young composer, and I am eager to witness how the mentoring and wide range of technical and practical experiences available to her during her residency will deepen and broaden her work as an opera composer,” said Diane Wondisford, Producing Director of Music-Theatre Group.

EMPTY THE HOUSE "Down in the Basement"

Orth is a recipient of a 2016 OPERA America Discovery Grant for Female Composers, which will help provide funding for the development of Machine, a new chamber opera with librettist Jason KimIn 2014, Washington National Opera commissioned Orth for a chamber opera, An American Man.  With a libretto by Jason Kim, the work premiered at the Kennedy Center as part of WNO’s American Opera Initiative. She has also held residencies at Yaddo and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and she currently serves on the theory and composition faculty for Luzerne Music Center. Recent and upcoming projects include commissions from Festival d’Aix-en- Provence, Women’s Sacred Music Project, The Louisville Orchestra and the Barnes Foundation. This summer, she will be returning to Festival d’Aix en Provence as one of three composers selected for the Song and Creation Residency. Other previous commissions and performances from notable ensembles include the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, the Dover Quartet, the Rock School of Dance, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival and the Pennsylvania Ballet.

Orth’s appointment began on June 1, 2016. She joins Composers in Residence David T. Little, who was appointed in June 2014, and David Hertzberg, who was appointed in June 2015. Composers Missy Mazzoli, Lembit Beecher, and Andrew Norman have all completed their residencies with Opera Philadelphia

The Composers in Residence continue their creative development this season with Opera Philadelphia. Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek have written a chamber opera based on the Oscar-nominated 1996 film Breaking the Waves, written and directed by Lars von Trier, which receives its World Premiere at the Perelman Theater in September 2016. Little’s opera JFK, which looks at the 12 hours leading up to John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, received its critically-acclaimed world premiere at Fort Worth Opera on April 23, 2016. Hertzberg’s “Sunday Morning,” a work for soprano and small ensemble, received its world premiere in March 2016 with New York City Opera. The New York Philharmonic premiered Norman’s “Split” in December 2015. The piece for piano and orchestra was described as “audacious, exhilarating and, in a way, exhausting” by The New York Times, premiering in the same week as his classical composition “Play” received a Grammy nomination. Beecher had his works recently performed by Cantori New York, The Colonials, and the Burlington Choral Society. He received a generous grant from Pew Center for the Arts and Heritage to develop and produce a new, fantastical chamber opera To Hide in a Tree of Sound, which premieres in 2017.



About the Composer in Residence Program

Since 2011, Opera Philadelphia, in collaboration with Music-Theatre Group in New York, has offered the nation’s first comprehensive, operatic Composer in Residence program. Funded by 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 program fosters tomorrow’s masterpieces of American opera through individualized creative development. The Composer in Residence (CIR) is eager to step beyond his or her musical comfort zones. He or she works zealously with the resident companies and advisors to take this timeless art form and infuse it with the artistic, technological, creative, and collaborative sensibilities most relevant to our time.

The composers take part in personalized learning tracks providing opportunities to cultivate their skills in all aspects of opera production, from working one-on-one with librettists and dramaturges, to workshops and scene treatments with world-class performers. They have exceptional access to observe and work hands-on in every aspect of creative development, production, and performance.

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