Hunter College Opera Theater
Presents the World Theatre Premiere of
an American opera buffa
May 11-12, 2017
Ardea Arts is pleased to announce that Hunter Opera Theater (HOT) will present the New York Theater Premiere of Fireworks, an American opera buffa by composer Kitty Brazelton and writer-librettist Billy Aronson, commissioned and developed by Family Opera Initiative. Performances will take place at The Kaye Playhouse, E. 68th Street, Hunter College, NYC, Thursday and Friday, May 11-12, 2017 at 7:30pm. For more information, visit www.ardeaarts.com/fireworks. For tickets please visit: https://kayeplayhouse.primetix.com/Tickets/?perfid=1518.
A one-act opera, Fireworks is a comedy and social commentary seen through the eyes of an intergalactic de Toqueville (IT) who travels to Earth to investigate why colored lights erupt every year at the same time and from the same place on a planet orbiting a star in the heavens. Landing, the alien encounters a host of quintessential American characters including a geeky high school boy, a rebellious teenage girl, an actor trying to make a name for himself, a harried single mother, and an immigrant park groundskeeper, all getting ready for a Fourth of July celebration. The Alien has explored zillions of galaxies, but she’s never seen anything as brash, daring or infectious as this idea of democracy.
Commissioned and developed by Family Opera Initiative (FOI), Grethe Barrett Holby founding artistic and creative director, Fireworks was premiered by FOI and American Opera Projects in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn on July 2, 2002 – Independence Day following 9/11. The premiere was directed by Holby, conducted by Wendy Bobbit Cavett, and produced by Charles Jarden. Fifteen years later, the time is ripe to revisit and reassess the core values of our democracy. HOT’s in-theater premiere, directed by Susan Gonzalez and conducted by Steven Crawford, will do that.
Kitty Brazelton(Composer) rejoices in the keen expression she achieves by infusing vernacular American dialects into deep, complex structures. Fireworks was commissioned by Family Opera Initiative (FOI) and premiered by FOI and American Opera Projects in 2002. Her The Electric Ordo Virtutum premiered at Lincoln Center Festival 1998; and her full-length opera Animal Tales with George Plimpton and Holby, commissioned by FOI/Ardea Arts, received its World Concert Premiere on March 25, 2017, co-produced by Ardea Arts and the Garden State Philharmonic, NJ. On April 7th, The Library of Congress and Opera America co-present the world premiere of Fierce Grace – Jeanett Rankin, a song cycle about the first woman elected to Congress, composed in part by Kitty Brazelton, with three other women composers. Brazelton is the recipient of two Opera America Opera Grants for Female Composers” program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. Brazelton’s orchestral work includes Sleeping Out of Doors(1998); a piano concerto commissioned and premiered by conductor Kristjan Järvi’s Absolute Ensemble. Chamber music credits include the N.Y.S.C.A. cyber-punk fantasia 5 Dreams, marriage (premiered by her unique quartet, WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A BAT?), Manhattan Brass Quintet and the California EAR Unit. Brazelton has created electronic compositions for pianist Kathleen Supové, duos Twisted Tutu and Double Edge, choreographers Jody Oberfelder and Gina Gibney, Kitchen House Blend and Relâche.
Billy Aronson (Story and Libretto)
WHAT IS AN AMERICAN? Fireworks is Billy Aronson’s exploration of that question
“When I visit a foreign country people can tell I’m American, and they treat me differently because of that. They respect me, or envy me, or laugh at me, just because I’m American. Why should it matter so much? And how can they tell I’m American in the first place?
When the French Count Alexis de Tocqueville came here in the early 1800’s to check out the new nation, he found its citizens to be very odd creatures…sometimes ridiculous, sometimes ingenious, but always distinctive. Though my ancestors didn’t live in America when Count de Tocqueville was visiting, or in 1776, I share something important with Americans of those days, and with all Americans of today. But what exactly is it that we share? What makes us Americans?
Instead of answering this question, Fireworks explores it, explodes it, has fun with it. I hope our having fun is fun for you.” – Billy Aronson 2002
Billy Aronson has written plays produced by Playwrights Horizons, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, and Wellfleet Harbor Actor’s Theatre. Additional credits include original concept and lyrics for the hit musical Rent; Flurry Tale and Fireworks for Family Opera Initiative; Cartoon Network, Children’s Television Workshop (Sesame English and the Sesame Street home video), the Disney Channel, MTV, PBS, Nickelodeon, A&E International, The History Channel, and Comedy Central. Best American Short Plays 1992-1993, 1999-2000, and plays from the Woolly Mammoth. Aronson is a graduate of the Yale Drama School and Princeton University.
ARDEA ARTS is the premiere company in the U.S. creating new, high-quality opera-theater works for multi-generational audiences, works toentertain, challenge and inspire today’s diverse global community, uplift the human spirit, and encourage new ways of seeing our fast changing world. Learn more about ARDEA Arts’ history, mission and repertory at: www.ARDEAarts.com.
Family Opera Initiative (FOI), a major program of Ardea Arts, was founded by Grethe Barrett Holby in 1995 to create a substantial new repertory for family and multi-generational audiences, with the goal of bringing the opera experience to a widely diverse audience, and the commitment to engage the community in the process and performance of the work, both within and far outside the walls of the opera house. FOI has commissioned and developed a repertory of opera and music-theater works including the holiday opera Flurry Tale by Rusty Magee & Billy Aronson; the swashbuckling Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Richard Peaslee & Kenneth Cavander; the summer pageant Fireworks by Kitty Brazelton & Billy Aronson which premiered in 2002 in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn NY; Animal Tales by George Plimpton, Kitty Brazelton, and Holby, about “having the gumption to spread ones wings” (World Concert Premiere March 25, 2017), as well as the accompanying Cat’s Talefor younger audiences (World Premiere at The Central Park Zoo, NYC 2010). FOI has also premiered Glen Roven’s Goodnight Moon & Plums- five songs for kidsduring FOI’s summer performances in Southampton, NY; David Wolfson’s 10-minute gem Maya’s Ark based on a true story from inner-city Newark NJ, and a staged and choreographed version of Babar, the little elephantwith The French Institute FI-AF NYC and Jane Comfort and Dancers. Works currently in development are The Three Astronauts, based on the book by Umberto Eco and Eugenio Carmi, and written in part by Pulitzer prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa with an international team of writers and composers, and BOUNCE: The Basketball Opera (World Premiere in Lexington KY November 17-19, 2017). Ardea Arts/FOI has collaborated on these new works with extraordinary artists unexpected in the field of family entertainment.
Ardea Arts received its second Art Works award from the National Endowment for the Arts for BOUNCE The Basketball Opera, and two awards from Opera America, including the commissioning of Kitty Brazelton for Animal Tales received funding from Opera America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, and most recently, The Opera Fund: Audience Development grant program.
Grethe Barrett HolbyFounding director of Ardea Arts, Family Opera Initiative and American Opera Projects, Holby has directed, choreographed, performed and collaborated on world premieres and the opera standard repertory with companies across the country, including The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center Festival, Houston Grand Opera and La Scala among many others. Her most recent new work in collaboration with composers Glen Roven, Tomas Doncker, Ansel Elgort, and writer Charles R. Smith Jr., BOUNCE The Basketball Opera, will premiere on Nov 17-19, 2017, a co-production of Ardea Arts and University of Kentucky Opera Theatre. An originating cast member of Einstein on the Beach, with collaborations with Leonard Bernstein, Lou Reed, Robert Wilson and Yusef Komunyakaa, among many others, and a Rockefeller Fellowship recipient, Holby is credited with “bringing opera into the 21stcentury.” (NPR)
Susan Gonzalez is Director of the Vocal Performance Program and the Hunter Opera Theater which has been showcasing fully staged productions of new works in the Kaye Playhouse since 2007. Among these include the premieres of Nicholas Flagello’s opera The Sisters, Richard Burke’s Game of Poker and The House as well as various student compositions featured in our Pocket Opera Project. As a singer, Susan has appeared in leading roles with numerous opera companies and symphony orchestras including the Chicago Lyric Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Lake George Opera, Eugene Opera, Dayton Opera, New Orleans Opera, and Bolshoi Opera. Susan received an Emmy nomination for the role of Rosina in il Barbiere di Sivigliafilmed for television under the direction of Richard Pearlman. She currently serves as New York State Governor for the National Opera Association and sits on Opera America’s Singer’s Training Forum. In addition Susan was on the board of the New York Opera Alliance (NYOA)’s New York Operafest 2016. Hunter Opera Theater has been an active member of NYOA since 2014.
Maestro Steven Crawford is among the most versatile musicians on the classical scene today. He has conducted in opera companies and orchestras around the United States, has accompanied the worlds finest singers, and is in the top tier of coaches in the opera world. He is also an active accompanist, having recently performed Winterreise with baritone Jason Detwiler. Maestro Crawford’s conducting engagements include performances with the Metropolitan Opera (La Bohème, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, Faust and Madama Butterfly), Cincinnati Opera, Kentucky Opera, Dayton Opera, Nevada Opera, Chelsea Opera and Opera Idaho. He has also conducted a number of world and NYB premieres, including A Chekhov Trilogy by Richard Wargo, Honor by Christian Mcleer, and the Mark of Cain by Matthew Harris. His positions (past and present) include principal conductor of the Greater Miami Opera, principal conductor of Land of Enchantment Opera, and principal conductor/artistic advisor of Opera Idaho. He has been engaged as conductor by the New World Symphony as well as cover to Kurt Mazur with the New York Philharmonic. A long-time proponent of training both singers and instrumentalists, Maestro Crawford is Music Director of Land of Enchantment Opera, and Senior coach for the Vann Vocal Institute) He has conducted at University of Illinois, Portland State University and
Prelude to Performance, and in 2009 he spearheaded the training of instrumentalists for
the Bel Canto institute of Firenze, IT.
The Hunter College Opera Theater (HOT) is the resident opera company of Hunter College. HOT specializes in contemporary opera, and is dedicated to performing the music by composers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. HOT has presented numerous performance premiers since its inception, and their productions provide unique opportunities for talented, young artists to sing leading roles in contemporary masterworks while studying and performing roles from the standard repertoire through repertoire and scenes classes. HOT’s biannual Pocket Opera Project supports the work of up-and-coming composers and librettists and fosters interdepartmental collaborations between Hunter students.
In addition, HOT singers have the opportunity to work with some of the finest professionals in the business in our annual series of Master Classes. Recent guest teachers on this series include such luminaries as Martina Arroyo, Claudia Catania, Warren Jones, Andreas Scholl, Ira Siff, and Willie Anthony Waters.
HOT alumni are engaged as performers in excellent venues around the world from the Metropolitan Opera to festivals and opera houses in France, Germany, and beyond. Many alums have continued on to pursue doctoral degrees and work in higher education while others have made careers in arts administration and work as producers, directors, and more.
HOT was founded by Professor Susan Gonzalez and the late Professor Richard Burke, in 2007, and has been a proud member of the NY Opera Alliance since 2014, in which Fireworks will also be performed this summer.