Press Released: 07 Nov 2022

OPERA America Announces Winners of the Inaugural Awards for Digital Excellence in Opera

Operas Available to Watch for Limited Time

Supported by the Joseph Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation

OPERA America announces the winners of the inaugural Awards for Digital Excellence in Opera. The Awards for Digital Excellence in Opera recognize the best work created for digital platforms by individual producers and organizations in the U.S. and Canada, in four categories: Artistic Creation, Education/Enrichment Material, University/Conservatory Projects, and Noteworthy Projects.

The 2022 winners, selected from over 100 submissions and 14 finalists, are:\

  • Soldier Songs
    Submitted by: David T. Little with Opera Philadelphia
    Category: Artistic Creation

  • Verdi by Vegetables: The Movie
    Submitted by: Resonance Works
    Category: Education/Enrichment Material

  • Please Look: A Cinematic Opera Experience
    Submitted by: Opera ND, University of Notre Dame
    Category: University/Conservatory Project

  • Messiah/Complex
    Submitted by: Against the Grain Theatre
    Category: Noteworthy Project

Audiences are invited to watch the winning projects at operaamerica.org/DigitalAwards. Videos will be available for a limited time through February 5, 2023. Videos of the finalist projects will be available through December 7, 2022.

The Awards for Digital Excellence in Opera are made possible by a generous and deeply appreciated grant from The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, with special gratitude to foundation trustees, Joe Erdman and Melissa Young.

“With the Awards for Digital Excellence in Opera, we celebrate a new vehicle for creating, distributing, and experiencing opera,” stated Marc A. Scorca, president and CEO of OPERA America. “Opera on digital platforms — a necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic — has proven to be an invaluable addition to the field, inviting new levels of innovation and service to audiences. We are pleased to be able to share these remarkable projects with the public.”

OPERA America received applications from 93 organizations and 24 individuals for the inaugural awards, representing work from 24 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. Expert judges reviewed the submissions and identified 14 finalists across the four categories.

The 2022 finalists were:

Artistic Creation

  • Garden of Vanished Pleasures | Submitted by Soundstreams
  • The Knock | Submitted by The Glimmerglass Festival, Helio Arts
  • Sāvitri | Submitted by Against the Grain Theatre
  • Soldier Song | Submitted by David T. Little with Opera Philadelphia*

Education/Enrichment Material

  • Boston Baroque for Kids: The Four Seasons | Submitted by Boston Baroque
  • Playground Opera’s La Cenerentola | Submitted by Opera on Tap
  • Verdi by Vegetables: The Movie | Submitted by Resonance Works*

University/Conservatory Projects

  • Gianni Schicchi, An Animated Opera | Submitted by CSUN Opera, California State University, Northridge
  • Please Look: A Cinematic Opera Experience | Submitted by Opera ND, University of Notre Dame*

Noteworthy Projects

  • desert in | Submitted by Boston Lyric Opera
  • The Island We Made | Submitted by Opera Philadelphia
  • Messiah/Complex | Submitted by Against the Grain Theatre*
  • Sweet Land | Submitted by The Industry
  • Twilight: Gods | Submitted by Lyric Opera of Chicago

*Indicates category winners

See below for project descriptions. 

The awards were selected by independent experts including:

  • Jonathan Allen, recording producer
  • Aubrey Bergauer, chief executive officer, Changing the Narrative
  • Mary Birnbaum, director, producer, The Juilliard School
  • MaryClare Byzytwa, electronic musician, producer, improviser, and educator
  • Cara Consilvio, opera and film director
  • Charlie Corcoran, scenic and production designer
  • Trey Costerisan, rehearsal department director, The Metropolitan Opera
  • Jane Cox, Lewis Center for the Arts, director of Princeton University’s Program in Theater
  • Greg Emetaz, filmmaker and video designer
  • Phil Gutierrez, production manager, New York Philharmonic
  • Ian Kagey, director of operations, Power Station at Berklee NYC
  • Lisa Kay Hanson, senior director of producing operations, Boston Lyric Opera
  • Ishan Johnson, associate director, philanthropy, Art Institute of Chicago
  • Peter Kazaras, director of opera, UCLA, Distinguished Professor of Music, stage director
  • Taylor Long, production manager, Canadian Opera Company; freelance photographer and videographer
  • Joshua Lubensky, visual and video artist
  • Justin Partier, lighting director, San Francisco Opera
  • Katie Preissner, producer, administrator, stage manager, and alum of OPERA America’s Women's Mentorship Program
  • Jamie Sharp, communications and publications manager, Grantmakers in the Arts
  • Michael Solomon, director of media relations, Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Susan Zeeman Rogers, scenic designer and co-creator, PRECIPE

For more information about OPERA America’s grant and award programs, visit operaamerica.org/Grants.

ABOUT THE WINNERS

Soldier Songs
Submitted by: David T. Little with Opera Philadelphia
Category: Artistic Creation

In Opera Philadelphia’s Grammy-nominated 2021 film of David T. Little’s opera Soldier Songs, baritone Johnathan McCullough directs and stars as the Soldier. Soldier Songs was filmed on location at the Brandywine Conservancy in Chester County, Pennsylvania, by the site of a significant Revolutionary War battle of 1777, and its music was recorded on a soundstage with Corrado Rovaris leading McCullough and the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra.

The New York Times called the film “a worthy addition to the far-too-slight catalog of opera presented in cinematic form. Many critics praised the film, and some found the cinematic version even more powerful than the original. McCullough’s “arresting adaptation,” Steve Smith wrote in The New Yorker, “vividly amplifies and extends the impact of Little’s words and music.”

Opera Philadelphia, the only American finalist for both the 2016 International Opera Award for Best Opera Company and the 2020 International Opera Award for Best Festival, is “the very model of a modern opera company” (Washington Post). Committed to developing opera for the 21st century, the company is recognized as “a hotbed of operatic innovation” (New York Times).

Opera Philadelphia’s digital practice focuses on three areas: Opera on Film, a series of cinematic opera screenings as part of the annual Festival O; film screenings at movie theaters throughout the year; and streaming on the Opera Philadelphia Channel, a digital space in which artists can perform and explore, through a series of new commissions by visionary composers and dynamic performances produced for the screen.

The company’s most celebrated film to date is Soldier Songs by composer and librettist David T. Little, released in 2021 in a new, cinematic production directed by and starring baritone Johnathan McCullough. With a screenplay by James Darrah and Johnathan McCullough, Soldier Songs is produced by James Darrah and John Toia. Executive producers are David B. Devan and David Levy. Post-production on the film is by FreshFly, with Anderson Nunnelley as associate producer and audio mixing by Lewis Pesacov. Vic Carreno is editor and Phil Bradshaw is director of photography. The film was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording and an International Opera Award for Best Digital Opera.

Verdi by Vegetables: The Movie
Submitted by: Resonance Works
Category: Education/Enrichment Material

The very first vegetable puppet opera movie (that we know of), Verdi by Vegetables is a feature-length film that explores Giuseppe "Joe Green" Verdi’s life, loves, and losses in a time of Italian political upheaval and his music's profound impact on opera history. The film takes the viewer on a tour through Verdi’s entire catalog of works, interwoven with Verdi’s life story, all beautifully performed by over 100 puppets made of produce. Voiced by 38 of our favorite Resonance Works artists from their own homes across the country, this pandemic creation is a hilarious madcap journey through opera and the produce section. Appealing to opera aficionados, novices, and vegetarians alike, this one-of-a-kind film has been described as “zero percent boring and 100% hilarious!”

Resonance Works is a Pittsburgh-based performing arts nonprofit that empowers musicians and inspires audiences with intimate, genre-defying productions featuring everything from opera and musical theater to orchestral, choral, and chamber music. Through a mix of evocative new works and timeless classics, we challenge traditional assumptions about classical music and invite audiences to connect with the work in fresh and unexpected ways.

Our Work: 
Performed in the intimacy of small theaters, churches, art galleries, and even cemeteries, our productions heighten the soul-stirring experience of live music by bringing audiences and artists into close proximity. Grounded by our exceptional Resonance Chamber Orchestra, each season incorporates multiple genres and performance styles, ranging from fully staged opera to orchestral and chamber music. 

Our work is shaped by collaborations with nationally and internationally recognized artists, whose creative vision and immense talents generate the foundation for each Resonance Works production. Through these dynamic partnerships, we create musical experiences that highlight the artists’ voices and speak to urgent contemporary issues. We also partner with a variety of performing arts organizations to create cross-genre productions that bring classical music into conversation with dance, contemporary music, theatre, and more.

Resonance Works harnesses the transformational power of music to engage audiences, spark conversations, and connect people across generations. We are committed to programming at least half of the works in a season by women and a third by creators who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, with the goal of normalizing equity, diversity, and inclusion in our work and in the industry as a whole. 

Our History:
Resonance Works was founded in 2013 by Pittsburgh native Maria Sensi Sellner, a versatile and innovative classical conductor praised for bringing a “welcome infusion of sophistication and diversity” to Pittsburgh’s cultural landscape. Since its inception, Resonance Works has been instrumental in maintaining a rich and vibrant community of professional musicians in the region. Our cross-genre programming has led to numerous artistic partnerships in dance, theater, photography, and visual art, as well as collaborations with community organizations. Resonance Works has produced beloved operas, rare and new concert works, and performances, including 12 world premieres and dozens of regional premieres, living out its mission to bring inspiring musical experiences by globally renowned performers to Pittsburgh stages.

Please Look: A Cinematic Opera Experience
Submitted by: Opera ND, University of Notre Dame
Category: University/Conservatory Project

For its spring 2021 production, Opera Notre Dame produced Please Look: A Cinematic Opera Experience, a series of conceptual music videos featuring a sampling of the vocal repertory of the so-called American "Minimalist" and "Post-Minimalist" styles. Taking a capacious view of what is considered "operatic," the project highlights excerpts from El Niño, Doctor Atomic, and Nixon in China (John Adams); The Holy Presence of Joan of Arc (Julius Eastman); Akhnaten (Philip Glass); Lost Objects (Michael Gordon, with David Lang and Julia Wolfe); the little match girl passion (David Lang); and Atlas and Three Heavens and Hells (Meredith Monk). With no prescribed narrative, the project explores the ways in which dramatic, visual, and (especially) musical inertia challenge contemporary sensibilities and questions whether abstraction clarifies truth. The work was designed for two viewing experiences: 1) six film shorts, whereby the viewer can stream the films "choose your own adventure" style, or 2) in a "theatrical cut" version, which features a continuous, edited, 50-minute version and which is under consideration for OPERA America’s Awards for Digital Excellence in Opera.

Opera Notre Dame seeks to produce compelling works of lyric theater that innovate, provoke, and inspire, with the ultimate goal of connecting diverse communities through a shared artistic experience. Embodying the spirit of the liberal arts, Opera ND not only invites students to engage fully with opera’s dynamic interplay of music, theater, visual art and design, movement, and technology, but also to explore its intersection with culture, society, identity, aesthetics, and ritual via analysis and critical discourse.

Opera Notre Dame embraces opera’s rich legacy of historic works alongside contemporary composition, with a keen interest in challenging genre, narrative, production, and musical norms. In addition to its recent stagings of Proving Up, The Magic Flute, Dialogues of the Carmelites, and The Pirates of Penzance, Opera ND is particularly proud of its 2021 film collaboration with Kevin Eikenberg and Evan Chapman of Four/Ten Media, Please Look: A Cinematic Opera Experience. This unusual series of conceptual short films featuring the work of so-called American “Minimalists” and “Post-Minimalists” John Adams, Julius Eastman, Philip Glass, Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Meredith Monk was recently named a Finalist for the Conservatory/University category of OPERA America’s Awards for Digital Excellence in Opera.

In the coming spring, Opera ND will travel to the other end of the operatic spectrum with a radical reimagining of Monteverdi’s groundbreaking The Coronation of Poppea.

Messiah/Complex
Submitted by: Against the Grain Theatre
Category: Noteworthy Project

Hailed by the New York Times as “a rousing and decidedly Canadian version of Handel’s Messiah,” Against the Grain Theatre’s Messiah/Complex is a bold interpretation of Handel’s Messiah, created in partnership with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

A daring, 78-minute film, Messiah/Complex was captured against iconic Canadian landscapes and locations. It showcases multilingual translations and a diverse cast of soloists and choirs from every province and territory across Canada, and is accompanied by the exceptional Toronto Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Johannes Debus.

Garnering over 130K views in its initial limited run, Messiah/Complex has been watched by audiences from more than 40 countries worldwide. The soundtrack of the film was nominated for a 2022 JUNO award.

Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) is a multi-award-winning Canadian experimental opera company dedicated to creating boundary-breaking, genre-defying vocal works and films staged in surprising locations emphasizing innovative storytelling and memorable artistic experiences. AtG is the creator of the internationally acclaimed film Messiah/Complex and the ongoing Opera Pub series.

Established in 2010 and still evolving, AtG is committed to revitalizing the operatic art form by introducing diverse audiences to outside-the-box opera experiences, creating daring reinterpretations of classical repertoire, and offering thrilling, intimate, and unforgettable experiences shared between artists and audiences.

Messiah/Complex was presented in partnership with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. This work features several incredibly gifted soloists and choirs; to learn more about them visit our website at atgtheatre.com.

ABOUT THE FINALISTS

Garden of Vanished Pleasures
Submitted by Soundstreams
Category: Artistic Creation

In response to theater closings caused by the pandemic, Soundstreams' artistic director, Lawrence Cherney, sought out renowned opera director Tim Albery, a trusted colleague and collaborator. Albery responded with a proposal to create a work inspired by the life and work of English author, filmmaker, stage designer, experimental gardener, and queer rights activist Derek Jarman, who died at age 52 in 1994 from AIDS-related complications. While parallels can easily be drawn between the AIDS epidemic and the pandemic, Jarman was preoccupied with the universal themes of love, loss, and resurrection.

Garden of Vanished Pleasures takes us on an emotional journey guided by the diverse writings in Jarman’s journals, some already set by British composer Donna McKevitt in her Translucence song-cycle. Albery complemented them with others by Canadian Cecilia Livingston exploring similar universal themes, all scored for various combinations of two sopranos, mezzo, countertenor, viola, cello, and piano. These searingly poignant settings were brought to life using a full range of digital stagecraft techniques.

Soundstreams is celebrating its 40th anniversary season this year. The Toronto-based company is a leader in the production and dissemination of new music and opera and the largest global presenter of new Canadian music. We are a springboard for excellence in the work of Canadian composers, whose music is featured on our stages in combination with that of their international counterparts. Soundstreams’ programming places a strong focus on themes of social justice that resonate with our time and place, and we aim to create and foster an enduring legacy for that music.

Our annual Main Stage series curates a spectrum of cross-genre programming: chamber music up to chamber orchestra; vocal and choral music; and contemporary music theater and opera. This performance arc is in turn supported by free outreach programs designed to engage with diverse communities in their own neighborhoods: Encounters, Town Halls, and Inside Look. We also offer intensive educational and professional development activities for emerging creators, including the New Voices mentorship program for aspiring curators and the RBC Bridges Emerging Composer Program. Soundstreams is a driving force for cultural exchange, having fostered collaborations between Canadian and international artists for nearly 30 years. Over those years, we’ve brought nearly 1,500 composers and performers to Canada to appear on our stages with their Canadian counterparts, many inspired afterward to perform Canadian works in their home countries.

Garden of Vanished Pleasures

Tim Albery, devisor and director; Cecilia Livingston, composer; Donna McKevitt, composer; Rachael Kerr, music director and piano; Mireille Asselin, soprano; Lindsay McIntyre, soprano; Rebecca Cuddy, mezzo-soprano; Daniel Cabena, countertenor; Brenna Hardy-Kavanagh, viola; Amahl Arulanandam, cello; Lawrence Cherney, Soundstream’s artistic director; Michelle Tracey, production designer and camera; Cameron Davis, projection designer and video editor; Wesley McKenzie, lighting designer; Dennis Patterson, sound engineer; David Jaeger, sound producer.

The Knock
Submitted by The Glimmerglass Festival, Helio Arts
Category: Artistic Creation

The Knock is a one-act opera, composed by Aleksandra Vrebalov, that tells the story of a group of military wives awaiting news of their deployed husbands. The Knock is an expression used by military spouses for a death notification. The libretto is based on years of interviews conducted by librettist Deborah Brevoort with spouses of soldiers and takes the audience into the lives of America's military spouses, a group not yet seen on the opera stage. The Knock was originally slated for a stage production, but when everything shifted due to the pandemic, the company pivoted. Ryan and Tonya McKinny were tapped to serve a director of photography and a line producer. Alison Moritz, original director for The Knock, directed the work in this new format, and Lidiya Yankovskaya conducted recording sessions with The Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra.

The internationally renowned Glimmerglass Festival, located in Cooperstown, NY, presents new, little-known, and familiar operas and musical theater in repertory each July throughAugust. The summer festival also includes talks, second-stage events, and a youth opera (typically commissioned by Glimmerglass). The company is known for its decades-long professional training programs for young artists (singers, musical theater performances, pianists, and directors) and apprentices in the fields of administration, artistic, and production. The company is deeply invested in expanding its educational offerings to include equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) training for staff and artists. Executive Producer Francesca Zambello was artistic and general director of Glimmerglass from 2010 to 2022. She is an internationally acclaimed stage director and serves as artistic director of Washington National Opera. Producer Tonya McKinny is vice president of partnerships for Helio Arts. She is also a director, writer, actor, and co-founder of Keep the Music Going Productions. Producer Dustin Z West is a sought-after freelance stage manager based in New York who regularly works with Glimmerglass.

Sāvitri
Submitted by Against the Grain Theatre
Category: Artistic Creation

Sāvitri is based on the ancient Hindu legend from The Vana Parva (The Book of the Forest) of the Mahābhārata. A contemporary 40-minute film of the outdoor chamber opera by Gustav Holst, Sāvitri was directed by Miriam Khalil, conducted by Simon Rivard, and stars Meher Pavri, Andrew Haji, and Vartan Gabrielian.

The story of Sāvitri is based on the ancient Indian legend of a powerful female princess who falls in love with Satyavān, an exiled prince who is prophesied to die young. She marries him with this looming knowledge. Exactly one year into their marriage, she is visited by the God of Death — Yama — who informs her that he has come to claim Satyavān’s life.

Against the Grain Theatre (AtG) is a multi-award-winning Canadian experimental opera company dedicated to creating boundary-breaking, genre-defying vocal works and films staged in surprising locations, emphasizing innovative storytelling and memorable artistic experiences. AtG is the creator of the internationally acclaimed film Messiah/Complex and the ongoing Opera Pub series.

Established in 2010 and still evolving, AtG is committed to revitalizing the operatic art form by introducing diverse audiences to outside-the-box opera experiences, creating daring reinterpretations of classical repertoire, and offering thrilling, intimate, and unforgettable experiences shared between artists and audiences.

Boston Baroque for Kids: The Four Seasons
Submitted by Boston Baroque
Category: Education/Enrichment Material

Boston Baroque for Kids was born from the desire to introduce children to some of classical music’s most treasured gems in a way that is both captivating and fun. The program features an animated, 20-minute chamber music version of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, performed by Boston Baroque’s principal string players with Founder and Music Director Martin Pearlman on harpsichord. In the video, Mia — the main character, a child of color — walks her young audience through the piece with the help of her “friends,” anthropomorphized musical instruments who bring Vivaldi’s masterpiece to life. Audience members are treated to Mia’s rendition of the story behind Vivaldi’s composition in a manner that is engaging, intelligent, and age-appropriate. Launched in fall 2021 and designed to be an evergreen piece, the video is available to audiences of all ages, in all locations, for free via Boston Baroque’s website.

Boston Baroque is proud to be the producer of Boston Baroque for Kids. The first period instrument orchestra established in North America, Boston Baroque is among the world’s leading period instrument ensembles. Founded in 1973 by Music Director Martin Pearlman and celebrating its 50th season in 2022–2023, the orchestra includes some of the most accomplished period instrument players in the country. The ensemble is joined by a professional chorus and world-renowned guest soloists. This season, Boston Baroque will present five productions and ten performances in three locations: GBH’s Calderwood Studio, a state-of-the-art studio that can be configured to fit a variety of programs; New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall; and Cambridge’s Sanders Theatre. Additionally, each GBH program is livestreamed to Boston Baroque’s global audience, which spans 17 countries on five continents.

Throughout Boston Baroque's history, it has been important for the orchestra to make its performances accessible to audiences of all ages and demographics. Today, Boston Baroque strives to provide access in the places — both in person and virtual — where people seek to enjoy art. Key individuals in the production of Boston Baroque for Kids include Jennifer Ritvo Hughes, executive director of Boston Baroque; Emily Kirk Weddle, director of marketing and digital content; animator David “Peaches” Goodrich; and voice artist Alex Parker, who helped create the role of Mia.

 

Playground Opera’s La Cenerentola
Submitted by Opera on Tap
Category: Education/Enrichment Material

La Cenerentola: A Playground Opera Movie is Opera on Tap’s adaptation of Rossini’s opera for third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade student participants. Conceived in spring 2020, when Opera on Tap learned that the live version of its Playground Opera program would not be possible to present in schools, the company created a digital version of the program. In this program, which was designed to promote interactive learning rather than passive viewing, students work with Opera on Tap teaching artists and their classroom teachers to learn everything that goes into the creation, production, and performance of an opera. Through the 6 to 10 classroom sessions, students became production collaborators — creating costume pieces, drawing background scenery, and creating videos of themselves singing and dancing as part of the cast. The culmination of the program is a virtual "red carpet" event where students, their peers, and families watch the full opera film that features their work integrated alongside the work of opera and film professionals.  

Opera on Tap (OOT) was born in 2005 in Brooklyn and operates with the vision of making the drama, beauty, and exhilaration of opera truly accessible to new communities everywhere. What began as a small monthly gathering of ambitious, classically trained singers looking for more performance opportunities has grown into a producing and community-based organization that has gained a broad audience base and national recognition as an innovative force on the classical music scene. Through its Chapter program, which now has 28 vibrant national (and international) chapters, OOT has created a large network of performers, creators, and supporters. A predominantly women-led organization, OOT has a mission to engage and enrich communities through culture and the arts and to empower singers, instrumentalists, composers, and other artists through opportunities for paid performance, commissions, leadership, and safe creative practices.

Gianni Schicchi, An Animated Opera
Submitted by CSUN Opera, California State University, Northridge
Category: University/Conservatory Projects

CSUN Opera produced Gianni Schicchi, an Animated Opera in times of quarantine and isolation.

In order to create this unique and cutting-edge idea, three CSUN departments collaborated over a year: the Music, Animation, and Theatre departments. This provided a variety of seemingly disparate artistic disciplines to come together and enrich each other through the cross-pollination of ideas and techniques. We gave our singers the opportunity to learn how to work on film, using playback and the technique of lip-synching to their own voice. They worked with green screen and learned how post-production and animation can enhance their performances and bring a production to life. They learned to work, not only with a conductor and a stage director, but also with a camera. They performed not only to an imaginary audience but also to an imaginative world being created around them. They gained understanding of how to translate an art form traditionally experienced in a big theater to one captured in a studio.

About the Producers:

A seasoned pianist and conductor, and winner of the 2012 Solti Foundation Award as well as the 2011 Mozarteum Argentino, Mercedes Juan Musotto has extensive experience as a conductor and pianist, performing in and around Argentina, North America, and Europe. A native of Argentina, Mercedes began piano studies at the National University of Cuyo’s School of Music and graduated from the National University of La Plata with a Bachelor of Music in orchestra conducting. She furthered her studies at the Teatro Colón Art College, where she received a Master of Music in opera conducting. Relocating to Los Angeles in 2013, she pursued her master's degree in orchestra conducting at California State University Northridge. She is currently the conductor of the Santa Monica College Orchestra, and musical director and coach for the Opera Program at California State University Northridge.

Maurice Godin has been acting in theater, television, and film for 50 years. His theater work runs the gamut of modern, classical, and musical plays, from the Stratford Festival to Broadway. His film and television work includes hundreds of productions both internationally and in Hollywood. He has garnered awards, nominations, and national as well as international praise for his acting work. He began teaching and directing at CSUN in 2008. He continues to act, direct, and teach in Canada and United States, as well as abroad.

Mark Farquhar is a character animator and visual effects artist who has worked on feature animated films at DreamWorks, Disney, Warner Bros., Pixar, and Sony Animation studios. He has animated on The Iron Giant, Toy Story 2, Shark Tale, Beowulf, and Open Season. Since 2008, he has taught and overseen the animation area at the California State University of Northridge. Notable animation faculty professors Michael Bonitatis and Noah Amrani collaborated and helped manage this amazing student production.

Mercedes, Maurice, Mark, Michael, and Noah joined forces to create Gianni Schicchi, an Animated Opera during COVID times, giving opportunities to hundreds of young artists. They hope to inspire the opera industry so it can continue expanding toward the digital world.

desert in
Submitted by Boston Lyric Opera
Category: Noteworthy Project

desert in is a groundbreaking opera television miniseries commissioned and produced by Boston Lyric Opera, in association with Long Beach Opera, that tells the story of a mysterious motel and its lovelorn inhabitants in the American West. The show combines the talents of eight extraordinary, award-winning composers (led by Pulitzer Prize-winner and co-creator Ellen Reid), interlocking stories from a team of eight rising and veteran screenwriters (led by playwright and co-creator christopher oscar peña), and a team of directors bringing to life a visual world imagined by opera/film director and co-creator James Darrah. Part supernatural love story, part dazzling long-form music video, desert in reveals the mysteries of people who will “do anything to keep love safe.” Anchored by a starry cast of opera and film artists, the work is driven by a blend of striking new music that ranges from lush classical to jazz, from electronic soundscape to sweepingly cinematic. The series premiered in June 2021 on BLO’s streaming service, operabox.tv. 

Now in its 46th Season, Boston Lyric Opera (BLO) and its programming remain faithful to tradition while blazing new ground, building audiences, and creating new ways to enhance the operagoing experience. Since its founding in 1976, BLO has celebrated the art of the voice through innovative productions and public programming. The company has produced world and U.S. premieres, commissions, and co-productions of note, ranging from live stage productions to films streamed worldwide on its platform, operabox.tv.

Established in 1979, Long Beach Opera (LBO) stands as the longest-running opera organization in the greater Los Angeles region. Having presented well over 100 productions in that time, LBO has carved out its space as a leader in innovating opera from its founding through the 21st century. With repertoire ranging from the early Baroque to the commissioning of contemporary works and world premieres, the company embraces the idea that no experience will be standard or traditional.

Executive producers for desert in are Bradley Vernatter and Jessica Johnson Brock for Boston Lyric Opera. Co-executive producers are Jennifer Rivera and James Darrah for Long Beach Opera. Consulting producer is Joy Kecken. Producer is Theory & Practice Productions (Tony Shayne, Pranav Shah; Assistant Producer Kerstin Heinrich), and Bailey Costa for Boston Lyric Opera. Michael Elias Thomas is the director of photography for desert in. Production designer is Yuki Izumihara. Costume designer is Molly Irelan. Gaffer/lighting designer is Pablo Santiago. Art directors are Naomi González Kahn and James Maloof. Executive production sponsorship (Episode 1) is from Willa and Taylor Bodman.

Music director for desert in is David Angus and music supervisor is Vimbayi Kaziboni. Audio recording engineer and music mixing by Daniel Neumann. Studio recording engineering by Immersive Music Project. More information about the Boston Lyric Opera orchestra and additional players is available here.

Critical reaction to desert in has been enthusiastic. The Wall Street Journal called it “lush and expansive ... a highly original marriage of opera and series television.” NPR said desert in is “a sexy mysterious streaming series assembled by a starry cast and crew.” And Opera News raved that “desert in hooks you immediately. Opera may never be the same!”

The Island We Made
Submitted by Opera Philadelphia
Category: Noteworthy Projects

The Island We Made combines ethereal electronic music and the transformative art of drag lip-sync to explore familial relationships and a multi-generational depiction of “Mother.” A haunting lullaby formed from the memories and individual relationships of its collaborators — acclaimed composer Angélica Negrón, drag superstar Sasha Velour, and renowned filmmaker Matthew Placek — The Island We Made is a uniquely intimate art-opera film.

The Island We Made was created for the first season of the Opera Philadelphia Channel. The New York Times highlighted that “one of the great treasures of the pandemic has been Opera Philadelphia’s digital shorts.” The Island We Made captivated audiences with “an enormity of feeling,” said NPR. A one-of-a-kind journey accentuating all that opera is and can be is poignantly described by The New Yorker as “a gracious observation of love.”

Music, Lyrics, and Electronics: Angélica Negrón
Narrator: Sasha Velour 
Director: Matthew Placek
Creative Producer: Sarah Williams
Commissioned by: Opera Philadelphia
Executive Producer: Opera Philadelphia & Matthew Placek

Sweet Land
Submitted by The Industry
Category: Noteworthy Projects

On February 29, 2020, The Industry premiered Sweet Land, a collaborative and multi-perspectival opera taking on the myths of American identity, at Los Angeles State Historic Park. Despite rave reviews and sold-out performances, the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered over half of the performances. While LA was shutting down, The Industry quickly pivoted, filmed, edited, and recorded the work and released a Sweet Land video experience on Vimeo, where over 10,000 people viewed it online. It was named the Best Opera of 2020 by the Music Critics Association of North America. To extend the reach of this production, we collaborated with KCET/PBS SoCal/LINK TV and funder Vision Maker Media to create and release an hour-long Sweet Land documentary, The Making of a Myth, which premiered in September 2021, along with a Sweet Land album for streaming platforms.

This one-hour Artbound documentary episode, The Making of a Myth, allows television and online viewers to experience The Industry’s 2020 site-responsive opera, Sweet Land, and explore the challenging themes the opera confronts. We captured live performance footage at Los Angeles State Historic Park from the perspective of the audience along with a combination of interviews and direct observation of the creative process as well as performance footage throughout the episode in a loosely chronological fashion to provide the audience with a visceral first-hand experience.

The Industry is an independent, artist-driven multidisciplinary opera company creating experimental productions that expand the definition of opera. Through ambitious interdisciplinary collaborations in new contexts, we produce works that defy boundaries and inspire new audiences for the art form. We see our role in the art community as both providing a platform for large-scale artistic experiments that provoke questions and dialogue and serving as an incubator for emerging artists, composers, and musical talent predominantly based in Los Angeles County.

Some of the creative voices who brought Sweet Land to life include Co-Directors Cannupa Hanska Luger and Yuval Sharon; Composers Raven Chacon and Du Yun; Librettists Aja Couchois Duncan and Douglas Kearney; and a team of over 100 artists, singers, instrumentalists, and technicians including Costume Designer E.B. Brooks, Choreographer Tonantzín Carmelo, and Executive Director Elizabeth Cline. Documentary credits include KCET/PBS So-Cal, Executive Producer, Juan Devis, Nic Cha Kim, Jonathan Stein; Co-Producers, Angela Boisvert, Jhane Myers, Adam Piron.

Twilight: Gods
Submitted by Lyric Opera of Chicago
Category: Noteworthy Projects

After only three days of presale ticketing, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s premiere of Twilight: Gods, a radical reimagining of the final chapter of Wagner’s epic Ring cycle set in the largest underground parking complex in the country, completely sold out.

Due to the high interest and limited availability of the production, and to make sure as large an audience as possible could experience this wildly inventive production, Lyric immediately set upon the idea of creating a film out of this unique drive-through experience. Featuring a new English translation of Wagner’s libretto, new orchestrations of his music, and new poetry by one of Chicago’s leading poets — all captured through the lens of an innovative filmmaking team — Twilight: Gods stands alone as a unique digital experience that defies categorization. 

Lyric Opera of Chicago is committed to redefining what it means to experience great opera. The company is driven to deliver consistently excellent artistry through innovative, relevant, celebratory programming that engages and energizes new and traditional audiences.

Under the leadership of General Director, President, and CEO Anthony Freud, Music Director Enrique Mazzola, and Special Projects Advisor Renée Fleming, Lyric is dedicated to reflecting, and drawing strength from, the diversity of Chicago. Lyric offers, through innovation, collaboration, and evolving learning opportunities, ever-more exciting, accessible, and thought-provoking audience and community experiences. We also stand committed to training the artists of the future through The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center; and to becoming increasingly diverse across our audiences, staff, programming, and artists — magnifying the welcoming pull of our art form, our company, and our city.

Through the timeless power of voice, the splendor of a great orchestra and chorus, theater, dance, design, and truly magnificent stagecraft, Lyric is devoted to immersing audiences in worlds both familiar and unexpected, creating shared experiences that resonate long after the curtain comes down.

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