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
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.
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Track Listing & Credits
|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
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.
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.
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).
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).
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).
Albert J. Stanley
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.