Kassandra

A Chamber Opera In Five Scenes

Anthony Brandt composer

Neena Beber librettist

Penelope Shumate soprano
Christopher Besch baritone
Megan Berti mezzo-soprano
Albert Stanley tenor
Aidan Smerud bass

Eiki Isomura conductor

Release Date: July 22, 2022
Catalog #: NV6438
Format: Digital
21st Century
Opera
Clarinet
Flute
Voice

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.

Listen

Hear the full album on YouTube

Stream/Buy

Choose your platform

Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Scene I: A TED-style talk Anthony Brandt Penelope Shumate, Kassandra; Christopher Besch, Apollo; Megan Berti, Ty; Albert Stanley, Al; Aidan Smerud, Artie | Eiki Isomura, conductor; William Yeh, flute; Roy Park, clarinet; Thomas Frey, bass clarinet; Ting-Ting Yang, piano; Alexander Garde, percussion; Jacob Schafer, violin; Julia Kirk, viola; Max Geissler, cello 10:36
02 Scene II: A conference room at Apollo Industries Anthony Brandt Penelope Shumate, Kassandra; Christopher Besch, Apollo; Megan Berti, Ty; Albert Stanley, Al; Aidan Smerud, Artie | Eiki Isomura, conductor; William Yeh, flute; Roy Park, clarinet; Thomas Frey, bass clarinet; Ting-Ting Yang, piano; Alexander Garde, percussion; Jacob Schafer, violin; Julia Kirk, viola; Max Geissler, cello 11:31
03 Scene III: The HR department of Apollo Industries Anthony Brandt Penelope Shumate, Kassandra; Christopher Besch, Apollo; Megan Berti, Ty; Albert Stanley, Al; Aidan Smerud, Artie | Eiki Isomura, conductor; William Yeh, flute; Roy Park, clarinet; Thomas Frey, bass clarinet; Ting-Ting Yang, piano; Alexander Garde, percussion; Jacob Schafer, violin; Julia Kirk, viola; Max Geissler, cello 6:42
04 Scene IV: Various offices and conference rooms Anthony Brandt Penelope Shumate, Kassandra; Christopher Besch, Apollo; Megan Berti, Ty; Albert Stanley, Al; Aidan Smerud, Artie | Eiki Isomura, conductor; William Yeh, flute; Roy Park, clarinet; Thomas Frey, bass clarinet; Ting-Ting Yang, piano; Alexander Garde, percussion; Jacob Schafer, violin; Julia Kirk, viola; Max Geissler, cello 13:02
05 Scene V: By the sea Anthony Brandt Penelope Shumate, Kassandra; Christopher Besch, Apollo; Megan Berti, Ty; Albert Stanley, Al; Aidan Smerud, Artie | Eiki Isomura, conductor; William Yeh, flute; Roy Park, clarinet; Thomas Frey, bass clarinet; Ting-Ting Yang, piano; Alexander Garde, percussion; Jacob Schafer, violin; Julia Kirk, viola; Max Geissler, cello 5:16

Recorded December 16 & 17, 2021 at Stude Hall, Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music in Houston TX

Recording Session Engineer & Editor Andy Bradley

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Quinton Blue

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette
Mastering Melanie Montgomery

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming, Morgan Hauber
Publicity Patrick Niland, Aidan Curran
Content Manager Sara Warner

Artist Information

Anthony Brandt

Composer

Composer Anthony Brandt’s catalogue includes three chamber operas, as well as orchestral, chamber, vocal, theater, dance, and television scores. Recordings of his music are available on the Albany, Crystal, and Navona labels. As co-founder and Artistic Director of the Houston-based new music ensemble Musiqa, Brandt has produced performances of the music of over 200 living composers, including over 70 world premieres. Musiqa’s innovative interdisciplinary concerts have earned two national awards for adventurous programming. Brandt and neuroscientist David Eagleman have co-authored The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World, published in fourteen countries. Brandt has written extensively about music cognition and creativity, and is currently a co-investigator in an NEA research lab and several other studies. He is a Professor of Composition and Theory at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

Learn More
Neena Beber

Neena Beber

Librettist

Librettist Neena Beber’s plays include Jump/Cut, The Dew Point, Tomorrowland, A Common Vision, The Brief but Exemplary Life of the Living Goddess (as told by herself) and Misreadings, published by Samuel French. Beber is a recipient of an Obie Grant award (Lilly Award), the L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award, and Sloan and Amblin Commissions, as well as an exchange at the Royal Court Theatre.

A member of the BMI Lehman Engel Advanced Musical Theatre Workshop, Beber has contributed to the New York Public Library at the Lincoln Center Songbook Series. She previously collaborated with composer Anthony Brandt on the chamber opera Ulysses, Home. Beber holds a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.F.A from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts (Paulette Goddard Fellow; Distinguished Alumni Award).

Penelope Shumate

Penelope Shumate

Soprano

Praised by The New York Times for her singing with “bell-like clarity and surpassing sweetness,” and by the New York Concert Review for “her sparkling coloratura perfection,” soprano Penelope Shumate (Kassandra) can also be heard on Messiah Refreshed (2020) recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and As the Fireflies Watched . . .the Chamber Music of James Stephenson (2021).

A versatile singer and actress, Shumate has appeared with many opera companies, orchestras, festivals, and other music organizations in opera roles, oratorios, recitals, and concerts. In addition to her numerous soloist appearances at Carnegie Hall and David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center in New York, she has appeared with the Opera Company of Philadelphia, Opera Roanoke, Des Moines Metro Opera, Utah Festival Opera, Opera on the James, Opera in the Heights, Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra, Oklahoma Philharmonic, Rapides Symphony Orchestra, and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, among many others.

Christopher Besch

Christopher Besch

Bass-baritone

Bass-baritone Christopher Besch (Apollo) has performed in eight countries on three continents with conductors such as Lorin Maazel, Leonard Slatkin, and Jeffrey Thomas. Besch has been described as having “a commanding stage presence and rich resonance of deep bass sound” (DC Theatre Scene). Recently, he sang Nourabad in Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles with Opera in the Heights and created the role of Peter Gray in the world premiere of What Wings They Were: The Case of Emeline with Houston Grand Opera (HGOco).

As a frequent performer of concert repertoire, Besch has recently sung Verdi’s Requiem with the Green Bay Civic Symphony, Haman in Handel’s Esther with Ars Lyrica, Handel’s Messiah with the Texas Master Chorale, and Mars in the American premiere of Handel’s Parnasso in Festa with the American Bach Soloists. Additionally, he is a frequent soloist with Bach Society Houston and appeared with them at the 2017 Leipzig Bach Festival in Leipzig, Germany. More information on upcoming performances can be found on his website, www.christopherbesch.com.

Megan Berti

Megan Berti

Mezzo-soprano

Mezzo-soprano Megan Berti (Ty) is a Houston-based performer of opera and oratorio. She sings often with Houston Grand Opera, and recently performed as a soloist in O’Regan’s The Phoenix and Female Emilia in Floyd’s Prince of Players. Berti has appeared with Opera in the Heights, Miami Lyric Opera, and Painted Sky Opera as Angelina (La Cenerentola), Dinah (Trouble in Tahiti), Prince Orlovsky (Die Fledermaus), Hänsel (Hänsel und Gretel), and Flora (La traviata).

Other roles include Rosina (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Isabella (L’italiana in Algeri), Concepción (L’heure espagnole), Nicklausse (Les contes d’Hoffmann), Maddalena (Rigoletto), Amelia (Amelia), Magali (Salsipuedes), and Sesto (La clemenza di Tito). Berti has performed in Handel’s Messiah, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, Verdi’s Requiem, Bach’s Mass in B minor and St John Passion, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor and Requiem, Dvořák’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Missa solemnis and 9th Symphony, Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle, and Vivaldi’s Gloria.

Albert Stanley

Albert J. Stanley

Tenor

Singaporean-American tenor Albert J. Stanley (Al) is honored and delighted to reprise his role as Al for the recording of Kassandra. Since graduating from Carnegie Mellon University’s prestigious voice program, Stanley has focused his career on new music and is glad to be returning to that world after so much time away during the pandemic. In particular, Stanley would like to thank Anthony Brandt and Maestro Eiki Isomura for giving him the chance to help bring such incredible music to life. A highlight of the 21-22 season includes Willy in the world premiere of Laura Schwendinger’s chamber opera Cabaret of Shadows with the contemporary music ensemble Musiqa.

Aidan Smerud

Aidan Smerud

Bass-baritone

Originally from La Crosse WI, Aidan Smerud (Artie) is earning his Doctor of Musical Arts study at the University of Houston. While attending school, Smerud has remained an active artist, collaborating with secular and sacred ensembles as well as performing with opera companies locally and nationally. His other performing credits include Amarillo Opera: Marquis d’Obigni–La Traviata; Bartolo–Le nozze di Figaro. Opera Saratoga: Innkeeper–The Man of La Mancha; Bartolo–Le nozze di Figaro; chorus–Il Postino, Dido and Aeneas, and La Cenerentola.

Opera Iowa: Alidoro–La cenerentola; The Troll–The Billy Goats Gruff. University of Houston: Oliver Jordan–Dinner at Eight; Gianni Schicchi–Gianni Schicchi; Dr. Dulcamara–L’elisir d’amore; Dr. Miracle–Les contes d’Hoffmann; Rucker Lattimore–Cold Sassy Tree; Don Basilio–Il barbiere di Siviglia; Nonancourt–Il cappello di paglia di Firenze. Ohio Light Opera: Pirate King–Pirates of Penzance; Emile deBecque–South Pacific.

Eiki Isomura

Eiki Isomura

Conductor

Japanese-American conductor Eiki Isomura is artistic director and principal conductor of Opera in the Heights (OH) in Houston, where he has led over a hundred performances of over twenty-five operas, drawing consistent praise for elevating the company’s performance standard. Isomura previously served on the music staff as conductor and pianist with HGOco and Opera in the Ozarks.

A devoted advocate for new music, he has co-produced and music directed several world premieres with OH through partnerships with MUSIQA, the American Center for New Works Development, and the Decameron Opera Coalition. Isomura serves on the Artistic Services Council of Opera America. Prior to his appointment as artistic director at OH, Isomura served as director of orchestral activities at Lone Star College-Montgomery and remains a passionate educator. Isomura holds a doctorate in orchestral conducting from the University of Michigan. He resides in Houston with his wife and most trusted collaborator, mezzo-soprano Monica Isomura, and their two children.

William Yeh

Flutist

Praised for his “astounding dexterity”(Sarasota Observer News), flutist William Yeh is a master’s student at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. He received his bachelor’s degree in music and minor in accounting at the University of California, Los Angeles. Yeh has performed with the Fort Worth Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic, and held the 3rd flute/piccolo position of the American Youth Symphony and Young Musicians Foundation’s Debut Orchestra, both pre-professional training orchestras in Los Angeles, for two seasons.

He has been an instrumental fellow at the Sarasota Music Festival, Conducting Institute Lab Orchestra, and Eastern Music Festival, where he was selected as a concerto competition finalist. While in Los Angeles, Yeh participated in numerous recording sessions including AANMI Los Angeles Ensemble’s CD Transcendent. Yeh was awarded honorable mention for UCLA’s All-Star concerto competition in 2017 and is a recipient of UCLA’s Shera and Peter Falk/Lt. Columbo Memorial Scholarship.

Roy Park

Clarinetist

Clarinetist Roy Park began his musical studies at the age of seven and has since earned degrees from Indiana University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Rice University. As an orchestra musician, Park has performed with the Louisiana Philharmonic, San Antonio Symphony, Victoria Symphony, and Corpus Christi Ballet Orchestras.

He was also a member of the Orchestra of the Americas in their 2017 and 2018 summer tours and was a prize winner in the Vandoren Emerging Artists Competition. Currently, Park is pursuing a Doctorate at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, where he is also active as a studio teacher in Houston and a member of the Houston-based contemporary music ensemble Loop38.

Thomas Frey

Clarinetist

A clarinet soloist and orchestral player, Thomas Frey performs widely through classical music and other music mediums. He has performed with the San Antonio Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony, Opera in the Heights, Musiqa, Loop38 and Hear&Now. Frey has toured throughout Texas as part of an electronic music and dance collaborative, as well as performing in Houston’s Rothko Chapel, Match Theater, CAMH and Madison Wisconsin’s Museum of Contemporary Art. His recordings appear in the documentary soundtrack for Saving the Great Swamp as well as Karim Al-Zand’s Studies in Nature.

Ting-Ting Yang

Pianist

Ting-Ting Yang is a multi-genre composer and collaborative pianist whose musical journey began in Taiwan. A composition graduate from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (Singapore), her compositions were premiered in the USA, Taiwan, Singapore, and she was invited to speak in composition colloquium in East Carolina University (2019). While avidly composing, Yang was invited by many orchestral musicians to join them as a recital pianist globally. These constant invitations solidified her confidence which eventually led her to pursue a master’s degree in piano accompaniment and chamber music with Virginia Weckstrom at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

Alexander Garde

Percussionist

Percussionist Alexander Garde is a member of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band. Garde holds a Bachelor of Music Degree from the New England Conservatory, where he was a recipient of the 2020 George Whitefield Chadwick Medal. He pursued graduate studies at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

A strong proponent of contemporary music, Garde is a founding member of the Alinéa Ensemble, a new music ensemble based in Boston, which was recently a finalist for the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Ensemble Award. Garde has premiered numerous works, including Small for solo percussion by Joan Tower, and commissioned a variety of solo and chamber repertoire. An advocate for community outreach and music education, Garde has worked with DaCamera of Houston as a Young Artist, with NEC’s Preparatory School as an ensemble manager and percussion coach, and with the Houston Youth Symphony as a percussion intern to help inspire the next generation of musicians.

Jacob Schafer

Violinist

Violinist Jacob Schafer is a multifaceted performer dedicated to compelling, thoughtful presentations of works old and new. Based in Houston, Texas, he is a core member of Loop38 and Kinetic Ensemble and regularly performs with MUSIQA, Da Camera of Houston, and Mercury Chamber Orchestra.

Recent performance highlights include a world premiere by Du Yun, piano trio concerts in Leipzig, Germany, collaborations with pianists Lisa Moore and the late Leon Fleisher, American premieres by Julian Anderson and Oliver Knussen, and engagements with the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble and Tanglewood’s New Fromm Players. Originally from Nashville TN, Schafer holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.M. from Rice University, and is currently completing his D.M.A. at Rice under the tutelage of Paul Kantor.

Julia Kirk

Violist

Julia Kirk is a violist, violinist, and pianist from Jackson MS. She has performed in the National Youth Orchestra of the USA, Interlochen Summer Arts Camp, and Aspen Music Festival. Kirk has been a substitute violinist and violist for the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra since 2013. Kirk has had solo engagements with the Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra, the Master Camerata, and the Symphonic Orchestra of Cuzco. In 2017, she won First Prize of the International Viola Competition of Mississippi. Kirk has a Bachelor of Arts in Conducting and Theatre from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. She currently studies with James Dunham at Rice University, pursuing a Master of Music in Viola Performance.

Max Geissler

Cellist

Praised for his “superb artistry and beautiful sound,” cellist Max Geissler is currently a Doctoral Candidate at Rice University under the tutelage of Desmond Hoebig. Currently, Geissler serves as the cellist and Co-Artistic Director of the mixed instrumentation new music ensemble Latitude 49 and is a highly sought-after chamber collaborator and educator. Before his studies at Rice, Geissler earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan working with Richard Aaron.

Geissler is currently the Artistic Director for Kalmia Gardens Chamber Music, a summer chamber festival hosted in a farmhouse in Durham CT, as well as a regular performer at the Geneva Music Festival. He spends his summers on faculty at ENCORE Chamber Music in Cleveland, working closely with aspiring cellists and performing alongside good friends and colleagues. In addition to these festivals, Geissler has appeared as a Young Artist at La Jolla SummerFest, and performed as a part of the Taipei Music Academy and Festival in Taiwan.

Notes

In Greek myth, the god Apollo tries to seduce the Trojan princess Cassandra by offering her the gift of prophecy. When she spurns him, Apollo places a curse on her: she will be able to foretell the future, but no one will believe her.

The myth is a #MeToo story from early in Western culture. Apollo’s harassment continues to resonate, with professional standing making little difference—even women in high profile positions regularly report unwanted sexual advances.

Apollo’s curse is also more relevant than ever. Thanks to advances in computing, this is the first time in history that humans can make the type of long-term predictions that the myth describes. This is especially true about climate change. In spite of scientific consensus, not enough people are heeding warnings about our warming planet—at the 2020 Davos Forum, one politician referred to climate scientists as “the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers.”

In her opening monologue, Kassandra mentions the Antikythera—discovered in a shipwreck in the Greek isles, it likely dates from the 1st century B.C. and is widely regarded as the world’s first functional computer.

The opera opens with a TED talk, in which Kassandra describes her goal of building a computer that can predict far into the future. Afterwards, Apollo, a venture capitalist, introduces himself and offers to fund her innovative work. Scene 2 takes place at Apollo’s lab where, to the surprise of skeptical assistants, Kassandra runs her first successful test. When she and Apollo are left alone to celebrate, he attempts to seduce her, but she rejects him. In scene 3, an HR employee suggests that Kassandra can keep her job in exchange for her silence. When she refuses, he fires her. Scene 4 takes place in multiple offices and conference rooms—as Kassandra seeks new employment, Apollo sets out to discredit her, blocking her at every turn. Meanwhile, as Kassandra looks deeper into the future, her predictions become more dire—but Apollo succeeds in getting everyone to ignore her. Scene 5 takes place by the sea, where a solemn Kassandra warns of the impending havoc created by climate change—to those around her, her words amount to no more than the tweeting of the birds. At the opera’s close, the ancient myth and modern story are brought together.

KASSANDRA was commissioned by Opera in the Heights and Musiqa with the support of a grant from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance. The recording was supported by a grant from Rice University’s Scholarly and Creative Works Subvention Fund.

KASSANDRA is dedicated to Anne Chao.

Libretto

Kassandra

Read