Strong convictions make for strong emotion, and in Michael J. Evans' case, emotion transforms into operatic scenes. A FINE AGITATION is an eight-part stage work based on Susan B. Anthony's letters during her infamous voting trial, which sheds light on the beloved social reformer from a personal, intimate, and profoundly charming angle.
Both biographies and political subjects are notoriously difficult to set to music without becoming either dry tragedies or kitschy pastiches, but Evans circumvents this pitfall with a compositional style that is subtly, tastefully shaded, and at times almost light-footed. It shows Anthony, an American social justice icon, from a perspective that might have been disregarded for the better part of a century – the perspective of being human.
Navona Records is pleased to present FOUR TEN-MINUTE OPERAS from composer Jonathan Sheffer, a collection of works spanning a variety of themes from American history and culture. Performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and emerging UK artists, this release offers operatic explorations into perspectives from the American Civil War, pitfalls of dating in the digital age, religious commentary in the face of tragedy, and a dramatic retelling of a fatal baseball pitch. Conducted by Sheffer himself, each of these 10-minute operas tells an engaging tale that’s sure to strike a chord.
Navona Records presents HAMLET from Joseph Summer. In this installment of the Shakespeare Concert Series, composer Joseph Summer brings us along to Elsinore with The Bard’s classic play in an all new setting complete with the lyric integrity of Shakespeare’s words in a contemporary musical arrangement. Performed by Bulgaria’s State Opera Ruse orchestra, choir, and selected Bulgarian soloists with nine international soloists singing the lead roles, the celebrated revenge tragedy bursts with a new modern flair while keeping the spirit and riveting narrative of the original alive.
Henley Heyn’s self-titled HENLEY HEYN VOL. 1 was born from two important aspirations of her early career: to be seen and to be heard. Raw authenticity and artistic freedom drive this operatic multimedia release, performed by Heyn herself and the Slovak National Opera Orchestra.
Heyn has roared onto the operatic stage in recent seasons, making her Straussian and Wagnerian debuts as Salome & Brünnhilde, followed closely by a harrowing portrayal of Magda Sorel in Gian Carlo Menotti’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, The Consul. Now, she has collaborated with an 85-member orchestra to bring the impassioned vision of HENLEY HEYN VOL. 1 to life.
I GIVE YOU MY HOME is a site-specific chamber opera inspired by Rose Standish Nichols and the Nichols House Museum in Boston MA that premiered June 3, 2022. This elegant new opera paints a portrait of Rose, a professional Bostonian woman, and highlights her professional work as a landscape architect as well as her efforts to affect change through activism in the Women’s Peace Movement and Women’s Suffrage. Soprano Aliana de la Guardia portrays Rose in this opera, and is joined by saxophonist Philipp A. Stäudlin and percussionist Mike Williams.
Lawrence Siegel’s Kaddish is an evening-length cycle of fifteen original songs for chorus, soloists, and chamber ensemble that serves to find a common ground with those who survived the Holocaust. The choral masterpiece’s libretto is drawn from interviews with Holocaust survivors and incorporates elements of folk songs and traditional Klezmer music. As a whole, Kaddish brings us on a journey through the cultural identities of pre-Holocaust central Europe, reflections of the atrocities that occurred during those years, and the victims’ desire for ordinariness.
On KASSANDRA, composer Anthony Brandt and librettist Neena Beber explore two leading issues of our times — climate change and sexual harassment. Based on the Greek myth of Apollo trying to seduce Trojan princess Cassandra, Brandt and Beber tell the tragic yet familiar story of Kassandra, a scientist whose forecasts of climate change are discredited as a result of rejecting sexual advances from a venture capitalist. In the ancient myth, Apollo places a curse on Cassandra: she will see the future but no one will believe her. In today’s world, scientists face a similar curse, their warnings of our warming planet too often ignored. Brandt and Beber’s chamber opera challenges us to heed Kassandra’s predictions.
Composer Nicholas Vines’ surreal opera Loose, Wet, Perforated comes to life in this Navona Records release. Commissioned by the Boston-based experimental opera company Guerilla Opera, and premiered in 2011, this recording coincides with a new production of Loose, Wet, Perforated that involves video projection and audience interaction.
On September 2, 1998, 229 passengers and crew members lost their lives when Swissair Flight 111 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near Nova Scotia. Composer Matt Frey, who identified with the Swissair tragedy due to his own brush with a plane malfunction, explores the human relationship to air travel while also commemorating the lives lost in the chamber opera ONE-ELEVEN HEAVY.
Everybody knows Rumpelstiltskin’s name, but what if there’s more to his story? On RUMPELSTILTSKIN, composer Marti Epstein reimagines the classic fairy tale as a sympathetic opera, transforming the titular character into a tragic figure to propose that villains are made, rather than born. Guerilla Opera, conducted by Jeffrey Means, brings the alternate version to life across six scenes, deftly conveying the emotions and motivations of each character as they interpret Epstein’s carefully crafted soundscapes of shifting harmonic palettes and interweaving rhythmic pulses.
Chicago-based composer Ross Crean’s opera The Great God Pan soars in this new release, the first collaboration between the composer and PARMA recordings. The Great God Pan takes its story from an eponymous 1890 novella by Welsh author Arthur Machen, which explores themes of scientific hubris, transcendental medicine, and unexplainable supernatural behavior. Impressively, Crean adapted Machen’s narrative into the work’s libretto himself, an ambitious and rare undertaking for a composer. Crean’s familiarity with the story shows through in the emotional resonance of his music, which matches and communicates the character’s concerns and feelings with unflinching precision.
Composer Richard Thompson’s three-act opera presents the life behind the name of Paul Laurence Dunbar, one of the most prominent African American poets of the early 20th Century. This dramatic performance, inspired by the hundreds of letters exchanged between Dunbar and his wife, Alice Ruth Moore, removes the masks of fame and social identity to investigate the psychological realities of the people underneath.
On THE PRIESTESS OF MORPHINE, composer Rosśa Crean and librettist Aiden K. Feltkamp create a beautifully haunting portrait of a Gertrud Günther, a young Jewish lesbian caught between her two selves during the Third Reich, who bravely sought her inner truth and passions while forced to live in the shadows.
THE ROAD OF PROMISE represents a concert adaptation of Kurt Weill’s 1937 opera-oratorio The Eternal Road. Performed by members of the New York City-based performing arts organization MasterVoices (formerly The Collegiate Chorale), under the baton of Ted Sperling, this pseudo-allegorical work was conceived by European Jewish emigrants in the US as an attempt to inform the American public about Adolf Hitler’s persecution of German Jews.
The Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava stuns with a new recording of Richard Wagner's three-act opera TRISTAN AND ISOLDE. Skillfully conducted by German conductor Robert Reimer, this new, vibrant performance is likely to claim its place as one of the reference recordings of Wagner's innovative work.
In many ways, Walter Steffens' TWO CELLS IN SEVILLA is a work of polar opposites. Quasi-tonal but modern, traditional but minimalist, the German composer has created an opera uniting two historical protagonists as multi-faceted as the music itself.