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Words First: Talking Text in Opera
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Words First: Talking Text in Opera

Author: Keturah Stickann

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Conversations between host, Keturah Stickann, and opera librettists about storytelling in opera, and a life in the arts.
30 Episodes
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Keturah speaks with librettist and producer, Cerise Jacobs, and director and playwright, Lillian Groag.  As Keturah says, “On the surface, these women couldn’t be more different, both in the type of work they make, and in their approach to putting work on stage.  What made me think of them as a perfect pairing for this episode is in the way they convey their thoughts, the strength of their conviction, and the absolute tenacity with which they hold and express their opinions.”First up is Lillian Groag, who, with Keturah, analyzes oft-missed and mistaken moments in various operas, including Le Nozze di Figaro, Tosca, Il Trovatore, Aida, Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan Tutte.  Lillian is a champion of directing “On the word,” and her knowledge of these great libretti shine through in this conversation.Find a bio of Lillian Groag here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lillian_Garrett-GroagShe talks more about Tosca here: https://youtu.be/wQkip1y43okShe talks more about Aida here: https://youtu.be/b3iaAup_uMQAnd here’s an interview about her Don Giovanni: https://youtu.be/wz5RurCIxa8Next is Cerise Jacobs, who speaks of her most recent upcoming work with her production company, White Snake Projects.  We discuss Alice in the Pandemic, I am A Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams, and Death by Life, among others.  Cerise also talks extensively about her philosophy as a librettist, and her work as a producer.Find more information about Cerise Jacobs and White Snake Projects here: https://www.whitesnakeprojects.org/
Keturah begins this episode chatting with General Director of Palm Beach Opera and former countertenor, David Walker (https://pbopera.org/about-us-2/general-director/).  They discuss the aria Voi Che Udite (Here’s a link of David singing this aria on a set by John Conklin: https://youtu.be/cEQy5sfbs68  ) from Handel and Calzabigi’s Agrippina.  They also talk about the pangs of leaving performing, and briefly touch on Akhnaten, Partenope, and The Elephant Man.Keturah’s second interview is with librettist and dramaturge, Kelley Rourke (https://www.kelleyrourke.com/about-1).  Kelley is the author of numerous song cycles, operas, and translations, and is also the resident dramaturge at Washington National Opera (https://www.kennedy-center.org/wno/home/) and The Glimmerglass Festival (https://glimmerglass.org/).  They discuss how John Conklin (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Conklin) helped her find her way in the business, what it’s like working as a collaborator, and where the inspiration for her writing comes from.Here’s a link to works by Kelley Rourke: https://www.kelleyrourke.com/projects-1
In this episode, Keturah speaks with singers, composers, and directors about the words and collaborative spirit of librettist, Gene Scheer.In order of appearance:Efrain Solis (https://www.efrainsolis.com/)Frederica Von Stade (http://www.fredericavonstade.com/)Emily Fons (https://www.emilyfons.com/)Jonathan Lemalu (https://jonathanlemalu.com/)Morgan Smith (https://www.baritonemorgansmith.com/)Stephen Costello (https://stephencostellotenor.com/)William Burden (https://www.opus3artists.com/artists/william-burden/)Jake Heggie (https://jakeheggie.com/)Leonard Foglia (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Foglia)Pieces with a libretto by Gene Scheer mentioned in this episode:American Anthem (https://youtu.be/RIGnlIymhUU)Cold Mountain (https://operawire.com/opera-profile-jennifer-higdon-gene-scheers-cold-mountain/)Everest (https://dallasopera.org/performance/everest/)For A Look Or A Touch (https://jakeheggie.com/for-a-look-or-a-touch-2013/)If I Were You (https://jakeheggie.com/if-i-were-you-2019/)It’s A Wonderful Life (https://jakeheggie.com/its-a-wonderful-life-2016/)Moby-Dick (https://jakeheggie.com/moby-dick-2010/)Statuesque (https://genescheer.com/project/statuesque/)Three Decembers (https://jakeheggie.com/three-decembers-2008/)To Hell and Back (http://genescheer.com/project/to-hell-and-back/)
Keturah speaks with Ricky Ian Gordon about how he collaborates with multiple composers, as well as compositions for which he has written the libretto.The episode begins with clips from last season:  Michael Korie discussing how Ricky helped convince him to collaborate on The Grapes of Wrath (https://www.buzzsprout.com/1180661/5613223), and Leonard Foglia talking about Ricky’s phrase “Boil it down to stock,” and how it helped him as a writer. (https://www.buzzsprout.com/1180661/5280550).  We also hear mezzo-soprano, Frederica Von Stade talking about how meaningful it was to work on A Coffin in Egypt.  (http://www.fredericavonstade.com/)List of  Ricky’s works in order they are mentioned:Orpheus & Euridice  (https://www.rickyiangordon.com/project/orpheus-euridice/)Green Sneakers (https://www.rickyiangordon.com/project/green-sneakers/)Sycamore Trees (https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-2010-05-27-bs-ae-arts-sycamore-trees-20100527-story.html)Ellen West (https://www.brightshiny.ninja/ellen-west)My Life with Albertine (https://www.rickyiangordon.com/project/my-life-with-albertine/)Intimate Apparel (https://www.lct.org/explore/blog/lemon-ia-ricky-ian-gordon-crafting-intimate-apparel/)Garden of the Finzi-Continis (https://nycopera.com/shows/finzi/)The House Without A Christmas Tree (https://www.rickyiangordon.com/christmas-tree-wsj2017/)The Tibetan Book of the Dead (https://www.rochestercitynewspaper.com/rochester/interview-ricky-ian-gordon/Content?oid=8573366)The Grapes of Wrath (https://www.rickyiangordon.com/project/the-grapes-of-wrath/)Rappahannock County (https://www.rickyiangordon.com/project/rappahannock-county/)A Coffin in Egypt (https://www.rickyiangordon.com/project/a-coffin-in-egypt/)27 (https://www.rickyiangordon.com/project/27/)Other people/places mentioned:UCross Artists’s Colony - https://www.ucrossfoundation.org/Richard Nelson - https://www.broadwayplaypub.com/play-authors/richard-nelson/Lynn Nottage - http://www.lynnnottage.com/Frank Bidart - https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/frank-bidartAriel by Sylvia Plath - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/395090.ArielBravo! Vail Valley Music Festival - https://www.bravovail.org/Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056663/
This episode begins with a short interview with Dutch soprano, Eva Maria Westbroek (https://www.evamariawestbroek.com/). She and Keturah talk about Eva’s creation of the title role in Mark Anthony Turnage (https://www.boosey.com/pages/cr/composer/composer_main?composerid=16405&ttype=BIOGRAPHY) and Richard Thomas’ (https://www.richardthomascreative.com/) opera, Anna Nicole, which premiered at Covent Garden in 2011.the second part of the episode is an interview with British librettist, composer, and lyricist, Richard Thomas.  Keturah and Richard also speak about Anna Nicole (https://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/19/arts/music/19nicole.html) throughout the interview, but delve into his other works as well.  His most recent operatic endeavor is a new translation of The Merry Widow at ENO (https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/mar/03/the-merry-widow-review-english-national-opera-coliseum-london).Keturah and Richard move on to his - arguably - most well-known work, Jerry Springer - The Opera (https://www.guidetomusicaltheatre.com/shows_j/jerryspringer.htm), which was originally shown at the Battersea Opera Festival, run by Tom Morris in South London: http://www.bacarchive.org.uk/.  They then go into a deep conversation about Anna Nicole, and backtrack to discuss Richard’s first move into the opera genre: Tourette’s Diva.Here are a few more links about various topics of conversation:Tourette’s Diva: http://www.bacarchive.org.uk/items/show/5113Tourette’s Syndrome: https://tourette.org/about-tourette/overview/what-is-tourette/Kombat Opera Presents: http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/kombatopera/
We start out this episode with a short quip from Mezzo-soprano, Emily Fons, talking about not waiting for the ideal moment to create.  (https://www.emilyfons.com/).Next, is a brief interview with San Francisco based conductor and prompter, Robert Mollicone (https://www.robertmollicone.com/).  We discuss the ending of Offenbach and Barbier’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, and how it relates to the paralysis so many artists have felt while trying to navigate the pandemic.  For more information about Offenbach’s opera, check out this Britannica entry: https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Tales-of-Hoffmann/Setting-and-story-summaryThe major interview of the episode is with librettist, Matt Boresi, who writes most often with composer, Peter Hilliard.  (https://www.hilliardandboresi.com/#home-section). We discuss the nature of comedy in opera, as well as making opera during the pandemic, at which he and Peter have been hard at work, both with Verdi by Vegetables (https://www.resonanceworks.org/verdi-by-vegetables) and The Decameron Opera Coalition (https://decameronoperacoalition.org/).Here are some links to other productions, people, and organizations mentioned in this episode:•Don Imbroglio with Beth Morrison Projects: https://www.bethmorrisonprojects.org/don-imbroglio•The Filthy Habit at Urban Arias: https://www.urbanarias.org/the-filthy-habit/•Victorian Toy Theater: https://craftsmanship.net/the-rise-and-fall-of-toy-theatre/•Great Small Works: https://greatsmallworks.org/index.html•The Last American Hammer: https://www.urbanarias.org/lastamericanhammer/•The American Toby Jug Museum: https://www.tobyjugmuseum.com/•Blue Viola : https://www.urbanarias.org/blue_viola/
Talking About Words

Talking About Words

2021-01-0428:22

Keturah starts her Second Season talking to a myriad of singers, conductors, and directors about how opera text affects them.Sound bites from:Joseph Mechavich https://www.ada-artists.com/conductor-joseph-mechavichStephen Costello https://stephencostellotenor.com/Karen Kamensek https://www.karenkamensek.com/Daniel Kramer http://www.danielkramerdirector.com/indexAlexandra Deshorties https://www.opera-arias.com/singers/alexandra-deshorties/Emily Fons https://www.emilyfons.com/Frederica Von Stade http://www.fredericavonstade.com/Efrain Solis https://www.efrainsolis.com/Thaddeus Strassberger https://www.tstrassberger.com/Patrick Summers https://www.opus3artists.com/artists/patrick-summers/Jonathan Lemalu https://jonathanlemalu.com/Steven Osgood http://www.srosgood.com/Alexandra LoBianco https://imgartists.com/roster/alexandra-lobianco/Crystal Manich https://www.crystalmanich.com/David Walker https://pbopera.org/about-us-2/general-director/Alexandra Loutsion https://www.alexandraloutsion.com/Ned Canty https://operawire.com/qa-opera-memphis-general-director-ned-canty-on-equity-in-the-arts-and-30-days-of-opera/Eva Maria Westbroek https://www.evamariawestbroek.com/William Burden https://www.opus3artists.com/artists/william-burden/
Keturah begins this episode chatting with baritone, Zachary Nelson (http://www.zacharynelsonbaritone.com/), who speaks with her about Mozart and DaPonte’s Le nozze di Figaro, the Beaumarchais plays, and their tie to the French Revolution.  You can read more about these connections here: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2006/jan/06/classicalmusicandopera, and here: https://sfopera.com/blog/the-marriage-of-figaro-fomenting-the-french-revolution/.Next, Keturah speaks with Chicago based opera singer and hip-hop artist, Khary “K.F. Jacques” Laurent. (https://www.kfjacques.com/).  They discuss genre mixing with hip hop and opera, crafting words for hip hop, and his work for Chicago Fringe Opera (https://www.chicagofringeopera.com/) on both The Rosina Project (https://www.gjcederquist.com/projects/6849633), and Corsair, which was created for the Decameron Opera Coalition (https://www.chicagofringeopera.com/event/corsair/).Other interesting things that come up in Keturah’s conversation with Khary:Merit Music - https://meritmusic.org/Chicago Academy of the Arts - https://www.chicagoacademyforthearts.org/Roosevelt University - https://www.roosevelt.edu/Pivot Arts - https://pivotarts.org/James Marvel - https://jamesmarvel.com/Kechi - https://www.buzz-music.com/post/r-b-soul-artist-kechi-is-captivating-his-audience-with-latest-single-justRapper’s Delight - https://youtu.be/mcCK99wHrk0Hans Zimmer - https://hans-zimmer.com/Sledgehammer - https://youtu.be/OJWJE0x7T4QA Promised Land, by Barack Obama - https://www.amazon.com/Promised-Land-Barack-Obama/dp/1524763160
Anna Chatterton

Anna Chatterton

2020-11-0940:30

In the season 1 finale, Keturah speaks with Canadian playwright and librettist, Anna Chatterton about her operas Stitch, and Sweat (about the garment industry), Crush, and Swoon (Da Ponte/Mozart adaptations), and Rocking Horse Winner, as well as surviving as an artist during Covid19, and the joys of adapting work for the stage.More information about Anna Chatterton and her work can be found here: https://www.ludwig-van.com/toronto/2020/09/08/feature-anna-chatterton-independent-theatre-artist-time-plague/, here: https://www.playwrightscanada.com/Authors/C/Chatterton-Anna, and here: https://www.canadiantheatre.com/dict.pl?term=Chatterton%2C%20Anna
Anna Pool

Anna Pool

2020-11-0256:10

Keturah speaks with English director, librettist, and composer, Anna Pool.  They discuss her love of musical theater, her work with devised work, puppetry, and multi-sensory work, and how the commissioning process could be more open.
Keturah talks about her work on San Diego Opera’s reimagined La Bohéme, and how the circumstances surrounding Covid 19 forced her and the singers to look at the piece in a completely different way.  She also interviews librettist, Jerre Dye, about his life in Chicago, his work with Frances Pollock at Chautauqua, and working with Zachary Redler, Kamala Sankaram, and Jennifer Higdon.
David Cote

David Cote

2020-10-1950:36

Keturah speaks with librettist and journalist David Cote, about his works, including Blind Injustice, Three Way, the Scarlet Ibis, and Invitation to a Die-In.  They also discuss the hardships of getting work produced, and how this differs in the opera world and theater world.
Emily Koh

Emily Koh

2020-10-1236:54

Keturah speaks with composer, librettist, and double bassist, Emily Koh about her upcoming opera, Her: Alive/Un/Dead, and writing words AS music.
Jessica Murphy Moo

Jessica Murphy Moo

2020-10-0540:22

Keturah speaks with librettist and teacher, Jessica Murphy Moo.  They discuss her two operas, Earth to Kenzie and An American Dream, the pitfalls and joys of writing a children’s opera, how composer Frances Pollock convinced her to rhyme, and the differences between teaching fiction writing and libretto writing.
In this second BONUS episode, Keturah speaks with librettist, Matt Boresi, about The Decameron Opera Coalition, which was put together by him and composer, Peter Hilliard.  Joining Boresi are three librettists from the coalition, John de los Santos, Gilda Lyons, and Deborah Brevoort.  They discuss their roles in the upcoming serial piece “Tales From A Safe Distance,” and how people can access the performances.  Also, CORRECTION: The performances all begin at 8pm, NOT 8:30, as listed in the podcast.
Michael Korie

Michael Korie

2020-09-2855:20

Keturah speaks with Lyricist and Librettist, Michael Korie, about his musicals and operas over the years, his thoughts on politics and art, and writing about real people.
Lorene Cary

Lorene Cary

2020-09-2152:10

Keturah chats with author, activist, and librettist, Lorene Cary.  They discuss her memoir, Ladysitting, her work at Art Sanctuary and Vote The Jawn, and her experience at ALT’s Composer Librettist Development Program.
Lawrence Edelson

Lawrence Edelson

2020-09-1458:47

Keturah sits down with Lawrence Edelson, founder of the American Lyric Theater, and Artistic Director of Opera Saratoga.  They discuss the Composer Librettist Development Program (CLDP), what makes a good librettist, the art of dramaturgy, and creating new opera in America.
Leonard Foglia

Leonard Foglia

2020-09-0757:16

Keturah speaks with librettist and director, Leonard Foglia about directing new work, working with Ricky Ian Gordon, Jake Heggie, Gene Scheer, and Horton Foote, working as a dramaturge on Moby-Dick, and writing/creating the genre of the Mariachi Opera.
Lila Palmer

Lila Palmer

2020-08-3148:45

Keturah has a conversation with librettist, Lila Palmer, about a number of her operas, including Dead Equal and The Selfish Giant.  She also ruminates about the recent announcement of CAMI’s imminent closing, and the state of the arts today.
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