CCM Opera and Cincinnati Opera are pleased to announce the selection of two new American operas, Champion and Morning Star, for the Opera Fusion: New Works program’s second year of residencies. The operas were selected through a national application process from a pool of more than 30 applicants.

Champion, composed by Terence Blanchard with a libretto by Michael Cristofer, will receive a workshop from October 18 to 28, 2012. A co-commission of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Jazz St. Louis, the piece is scheduled for a world premiere at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis on June 15, 2013. The Cincinnati workshop will be directed by James Robinson, the artistic director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, who will also direct the world premiere. Robinson previously directed Cincinnati Opera’s productions of Carmen (2004) and Nixon in China (2007). The workshop will be conducted by Greg Ritchey, assistant conductor at both Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Palm Beach Opera.

Ricky Ian Gordon and William M. Hoffman, creators of the opera Morning Star, will be in residency from November 26 through December 5, 2012. The pair began work on the opera over a decade ago, while Mr. Gordon was the Freeman Composer in Residence at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Mr. Hoffman’s libretto is adapted from Sylvia Regan’s play of the same name, which premiered in New York in 1940. The workshop will be directed by Ron Daniels, who staged the world premiere of the new American opera Il Postino at LA Opera in 2010. Metropolitan Opera regular Steven White will conduct the piece.

Said Gordon of the opera, “It is a musical melting pot of any number of American styles I absorbed from my mother, a famous Borscht Belt performer. It is a piece about immigration, about the tenements, about sisters, about longing, and loss…about being Jewish, about being marginalized, about being Black…I love Morning Star.”

“I am excited to revisit this piece with fresh eyes after all these years,” said Hoffman. “The Opera Fusion: New Works residency will provide an excellent opportunity for us to focus on what works, and create a final version ready for the professional stage.”

Opera Fusion: New Works, a unique collaboration between CCM Opera and Cincinnati Opera, was created in 2011 to foster the development of new American operas. The program offers composers or composer/librettist teams the opportunity to workshop an opera during a 10-day residency in Cincinnati, utilizing the talent, personnel, and facilities of both organizations. The workshops are cast with a combination of CCM students and professional artists who have appeared in Cincinnati Opera’s mainstage productions, and each workshop concludes with two free public performances. The program is led by co-artistic directors Marcus Küchle, Director of Artistic Operations of Cincinnati Opera, and CCM’s Robin Guarino, the J. Ralph Corbett Distinguished Chair of Opera. Opera Fusion: New Works is generously funded by a $300,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“In just one year Opera Fusion: New Works has distinguished itself as the preeminent program focused on the development of new operatic works,” said Robin Guarino, co-artistic director of Opera Fusion: New Works. “Wherever I travel throughout the country, I am met by composers, librettists, heads of companies, and opera enthusiasts, who are excited by what is happening as a result of Opera Fusion: New Works in Cincinnati. Our second round of workshops brings together some of the most exciting composers, librettists, and stage directors of our times. Not only is this a thrill for the academic community at CCM and the Cincinnati Opera audience, this is a chance for the entire Cincinnati community to be at the front line of the creative process of great artists such as Terence Blanchard and Ricky Ian Gordon.”

“This program provides an inspiring, collaborative environment for composition,” said co-artistic director Marcus Küchle. “Best of all, the creative team can hear the work performed live almost immediately. What they write in the morning, the cast will sing in the evening.”

In 2011, Opera Fusion: New Works awarded its first workshop to composer Douglas J. Cuomo and librettist John Patrick Shanley in support of their new opera Doubt. Applications for the 2012 residencies were accepted beginning in March. The program is open to American composers and composer/librettist teams of proven merit, with no age restrictions. Eligibility is restricted to operatic works, either completed or in progress, which have not yet received a professional premiere. Opera Fusion: New Works will continue to offer residencies through 2014. The program will begin accepting applications in spring 2013 for the residencies to be held in October and November 2013.

About Champion
Champion, an opera with a unique fusion of jazz and operatic styles, is based on the true story of boxer Emile Griffith. A world champion prizefighter, Griffith experienced both triumph and tragedy; in winning the Welterweight Championship in 1962, his punches put opponent Benny “The Kid” Paret in a coma from which he never recovered. Just before the match, Paret had mocked Griffith using homosexual slurs. Years later, Griffith’s homosexuality was revealed when he was nearly killed by a gang outside a gay bar. Champion presents a modern tragic hero who is ultimately consumed by rage, regret, and the terrible consequences of his actions. The world premiere at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in June 2013 will star Denyce GravesAubrey AllicockArthur Woodley, and Robert Orth.

Renowned for his work as a composer of jazz pieces for small ensembles, symphonic settings, film, and stage, Terence Blanchard has received five Grammy Awards, including the 2007 Large Ensemble Grammy for A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina). Most recently, he wrote the scores for the film Red Tails and the new Broadway production of A Streetcar Named DesireChampion is Blanchard’s first opera.

Playwright, filmmaker, and actor Michael Cristofer received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play for The Shadow Box in 1977. His work on such films as The Witches of EastwickFalling in LoveThe Bonfire of the Vanities, and HBO’s Gia has earned him a Golden Globe, a Writer’s Guild Award, two Emmy nominations, and a best director award from the Director’s Guild of America. He currently appears on the NBC drama SmashChampion is Blanchard’s first opera libretto.

About Morning Star
Morning Star is the story of a Jewish mother who brings her four children from Russia to New York City in hopes of a better life. The action follows the immigrants through the early years of the twentieth century as they adapt to their new country, enduring both the First World War and the Great Depression. Through their struggles, the work addresses such issues as political ideology, race, religion, and identity with humor and humanity.

After studying composition at Carnegie Mellon University, Ricky Ian Gordon settled in New York City, where he quickly emerged as a leading writer of vocal music that spans art song, opera, and musical theater. Gordon’s songs have been performed by such internationally renowned singers as Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Nathan Gunn, Kelli O’Hara, Audra MacDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, and Nicole Cabell. He is the composer of the 2007 opera The Grapes of Wrath, adapted from the novel by John Steinbeck.

Playwright William M. Hoffman is Associate Professor of Journalism, Communications, and Theatre at City University of New York. His play about the AIDS epidemic, As Is, won an Obie Award and three Tony nominations in 1985. Aside from his numerous plays, Hoffman also wrote the libretto for the opera The Ghosts of Versailles, with a score by John Corigliano, through a commission by the Metropolitan Opera.

Opera Fusion: New Works presents Public Performances of Works in Progress

Music by Terence Blanchard
Libretto by Michael Cristofer 

University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
Saturday, October 27 at 8 p.m.
Where: Patricia Corbett Theater, CCM Village
Admission: Free, but reservations are required. Tickets available beginning Monday, October 22 at noon. Please visit the CCM Box Office or call (513) 556-4183 to reserve. Limit two tickets per order.

School for Creative and Performing Arts
A reception with the composer and librettist will follow the performance.
When: Sunday, October 28 at 3 p.m.
Where: Mayerson Theater, 108 W. Central Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45202
Admission: Free, but tickets are required. Tickets available beginning Monday, October 8 at 9:30 a.m. Please contact the Cincinnati Opera Box Office at 513-241-2742 to reserve. Limit two tickets per order.

Morning Star
Music by Ricky Ian Gordon
Libretto by William M. Hoffman

Memorial Hall
Tuesday, December 4 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: 1225 Elm Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202
Admission: Free, but tickets are required. Tickets available beginning Monday, October 8 at 9:30 a.m. Please contact the Cincinnati Opera Box Office at 513-241-2742 to reserve. Limit two tickets per order.

University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
Wednesday, December 5 at 8 p.m.
Where: Cohen Family Studio Theater, CCM Village
Admission: Free, but reservations are required. Tickets available beginning Monday, December 3 at noon. Please visit the CCM Box Office or call 513-556-4183 to reserve. Limit two tickets per order.

Opera Fusion: New Works is sponsored by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


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