Positions 1956


Just what the doctor ordered – a Self-Help opera!


Positions 1956 is a 90-minute opera in three parts which explores the “positions,” both sexual and societal, of the mid-1950s, as a newlywed Bride and Groom educate themselves with instructional manuals.

Part One, “Marriage Manual,” is set in a bedroom over the first few months of the Bride and Groom’s marriage as they explore positions and begin to learn about each other. Source material includes titles like “How to Please Your Husband,” and “You and Your Sex Life: an Illustrated Guide for Men.”

Jesse Blumberg and Amedee Moore. clintonbphotography.com

Part Two, “Physique,” is set in a gym where the Groom goes to a Trainer to receive a course in physical fitness based on exercises from 1950s men’s physique magazines. Think 98-pound weaklings, Charles Atlas, and titles like “Physique and Delinquency.”

Jesse Blumberg, clintonbphotography.com

Part Three, “Social Dancing,” is set in a dance studio where the Bride and Groom learn how to dance from an Instructor using methods from “How to Dance” manuals of the 1950s. Think Arthur Murray’s famous “footprints” – and imagine where those “steps” might lead if a third party were involved.

Positions 1956 is both a scathingly funny and heart-breakingly bittersweet look at our American self-help culture, and how it continues to resonate today.

By composer Conrad Cummings and Tony Award-nominated librettist Michael Korie.


The Bride – Amedee Moore
The Husband – Jesse Blumberg
The Instructor – Vale Rideout

Director – Noah Himmelstein

Lighting and Scenic Design – David Arsenault
Costume Design – Rhonda Key

April 13 at 8 p.m., April 15 at 2 p.m., April 17 at 8 p.m., April 19 at 8 p.m., April 21 at 7 p.m. and April 22 at 7:30 p.m.

All performances are in the Black Box Theatre at Artisphere in Arlington, VA (near the Rosslyn metro.)

Tickets are $22. Click HERE to purchase (Artisphere’s ticketing site will open on a new page. Scroll down the performances, select your date, and click “buy tickets.”)


Conrad Cummings PhotoA versatile composer on the faculty at The Juilliard School Evening Division, Conrad Cummings has received the following praise from the NYTimes: “Mr. Cummings is his own man;…[with an] impressive ability to change styles…while retaining a compositional image.” His works have been performed at Carnegie Hall, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, and by the New Jersey, Indianapolis, and Louisville Orchestras. Commissions include Canadian Brass, Opera Delaware, and San Francisco Opera Center. Music for his ensemble of amplified instruments and voices appears frequently at alternative clubs and performance spaces, including by Avian Ensemble at New York’s (le) Poisson Rouge.

Currently in the works, The Golden Gate (“Intensity more often encountered in Stephen Sondheim’s musicals than in the opera house.” – Steve Smith, The New York Times) with libretto adapted from Vikram Seth’s novel in verse, received a staged workshop at Lincoln Center’s Rose Studio in January 2010 produced by American Opera Projects and LivelyWorks. It was recently named one of the best operas of the twenty-first century by Opera News.

Prior operas include Eros and Psyche, libretto by the composer, Oberlin Opera Theater (“I can’t think of anybody else who’s doing what he’s doing right now.” the New Yorker’s Andrew Porter); Photo-Op, libretto by James Siena, La Mama with Ridge Theater (“The music is hard-hitting in its clarity,” Kyle Gann, the Village Voice); and Tonkin, libretto by the composer with Thomas Bird, Opera Delaware (“Mr. Cummings samples musical history for techniques and sonorities the way rappers sample pop rhythms.” James R. Oestreich, The New York Times).

Cummings trained at Yale, Stony Brook, and Columbia and did post-doc work at IRCAM in Paris. Prior to teaching composition in the Evening Division at The Juilliard School he served on the faculty of Oberlin Conservatory where he directed the music and media program. Recordings are available on CRI’s Emergency Music label; honors include MacDowell, Djerassi and Tanglewood fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Opera America, and The Rockefeller Foundation. For more information: www.conradcummings.com

Michael Korie PhotoMichael Korie was nominated for Tony and Drama Desk Awards and won the Outer Critics Circle Award for his lyrics to Broadway’s Grey Gardens composed by Scott Frankel, book by Doug Wright. Korie and Frankel have two new upcoming musicals in 2012: Far From Heaven with a book by Richard Greenberg opens this summer at the Williamstown Festival and will be produced in New York at Playwrights Horizons the following season directed by Michael Greif. Finding Neverland with book by Allan Knee and direction and choreography by Rob Ashford will be produced this Fall in London produced by The Weinstein Company. Writing librettos for opera, Korie collaborated with composer Stewart Wallace on Harvey Milk (San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, New York City Opera); and Hopper’s Wife (Long Beach Opera California), both directed by Christopher Alden. Kabbalah was a co-production of Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival and Dance Theatre Workshop. Where’s Dick? premiered at Houston Grand Opera directed by Richard Foreman. Adapting Steinbeck’s novel, Korie wrote the libretto to composer Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath. Directed by Eric Simonson and conducted by Grant Gershon, the opera premiered at Minnesota Opera followed by productions at Los Angeles Disney Concert Hall, Carnegie Hall, and Pittsburgh Opera as well as other American opera companies. Upcoming with Gordon is The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, adapted from Bassani’s novel. Korie has been commissioned to create the libretto to Senna composed by Jeanine Tesori and directed by Des McAnuff. Korie’s lyrics have received The Kleban Award, Jonathan Larson Foundation Award, and ASCAP Richard Rodgers New Horizons Award. His songs with Frankel were spotlighted at The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage Broadway Today. He serves on the council of The Dramatists Guild and is a mentor of The Fellows Program. He is on the faculty of the Yale School of Drama where he teaches lyric writing.

Jesse BlumbergBaritone Jesse Blumberg is an artist equally at home on opera, concert, and recital stages. Last season he performed the role of the Celebrant in Bernstein’s Mass at London’s Royal Festival Hall under the baton of Marin Alsop, debuted with Boston Lyric Opera as Harlekin in Ariadne auf Naxos, and performed recitals in Paris with the Mirror Visions Ensemble. In 2007 he created the role of Connie Rivers in The Grapes of Wrath (recorded by P.S. Classics) at the Minnesota Opera, and later made his Utah and Pittsburgh Opera debuts in the same production. Other recent appearances include leading and featured roles with Annapolis Opera, Opera Delaware, Opera Vivente, and the Boston Early Music Festival.

In concert, Mr. Blumberg has been a featured soloist with American Bach Soloists, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Sacred Music in a Sacred Space, and the Berkshire Choral Festival. He has also given the world premieres of two important chamber works: Ricky Ian Gordon’s Green Sneakers (recorded by Blue Griffin Recording) and Lisa Bielawa’s The Lay of the Love and Death, the former at the Vail Valley Music Festival, and the latter at Alice Tully Hall. He has toured with the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Waverly Consort, and given recitals for the Marilyn Horne Foundation. Last season, he and pianist Martin Katz performed Schubert’s two monumental song cycles, Die schöne Muellerin and Winterreise, over one weekend in Ann Arbor, and they repeated this pairing in 2011 at Bargemusic in New York City. Jesse has been recognized in many song and opera competitions, and in 2008 was awarded Third Prize at the International Robert Schumann Competition in Zwickau, becoming its first American prizewinner in over thirty years.

His 2010-2011 engagements include song recitals in New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C., debuts with New York Festival of Song, Clarion Society, University Musical Society, Green Mountain Project, and Apollo’s Fire, and returns to American Bach Soloists, Minnesota Opera, and the Boston Early Music Festival. Jesse received a Master of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and undergraduate degrees in History and Music from the University of Michigan. Mr. Blumberg is also the founder and artistic director of the Five Boroughs Music Festival, a new concert series in New York City.

Amedee Moore PhotoAmedee Moore is honored to be premiering the role of the “Bride” in Positions 1956 which will be showcased in Urban Arias’ 2012 season. She is currently pursuing her G.P.D at Peabody Conservatory of Music under the direction of Stanley Cornett. She recently covered the role of Anne Trulove in The Rake’s Progress and sang the role of Abigail in The Crucible for Peabody Opera Theater. Last summer, Ms. Moore sang the role of Clorinda in La Cenerentola and covered the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro at Opera North. Other roles include Clotilde in the Western Hemisphere premiere of Handel’s Faramondo, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, Jenny in Three Sisters who are not Sisters, Madame Pompous in Too many Sopranos, Meg in Little Women, and Frou Frou/Praskowia in The Merry Widow. Ms. Moore received her M.M. from The Ohio State University in 2010, and her B. M. in vocal performance from Wheaton College’s Conservatory of Music in 2008. In 2011, Ms. Moore became a finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in Washington D.C. This summer, Ms. Moore will be a young artist with Des Moines Metro Opera for their 2012 season.

Vale RideoutAmerican tenor Vale Rideout has garnered critical acclaim for his musical artistry and superb stagecraft throughout the United States and Europe. The Colorado native can be heard on recently released live recordings of Rio de sangre (Albany Records) and Elmer Gantry (on Naxos, nominated for three Grammy awards, and voted No. 1 by Opera News “Best of the Year”), both produced by Florentine Opera. He is the tenor soloist in a live recording of Carmina Burana with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. He can also be heard on the Newport Classics recording of The Ballad of Baby Doe, the world premiere recording of Kurt Weill’s The Eternal Road and David Schiff’s Gimpel the Fool (both on Naxos). He is featured on upcoming recordings including The Inspector by John Musto and, singing the role of Robert MacNamara in Steven Stucky’s August 4th, 1964, with Jaap Van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Vale Rideout’s 2011-12 season includes singing the title role in Faust with Opera Coeur d’Alene; Nadir in Les pêcheurs de perles with Hawaii Opera Theatre; as soloist in Messiah with Nashville Symphony Orchestra, and with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra; in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Greenville Symphony; as the Duke in selections from Rigoletto with Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra; Count Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia in a fully staged production with Imperial Symphony Orchestra; as Prologue/Peter Quint in The Turn of the Screw in a return to Central City Opera; and as soloist in Berlioz’ Te Deum with Colorado’s “Summer Choralfest.” In 2010-11 he returned to Florentine Opera as Igneo in the world premiere of Don Davis’ Rio de Sangre; sang Camille in The Merry Widow with Opera Tampa; Tamino in Die Zauberflöte with Phoenix Opera and Chautauqua Opera; Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni with Tulsa Opera; Male Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia for Cal Performances under Lorin Maazel; created the role of Tancredi in the world premiere of John Musto’s The Inspector at Wolf Trap Opera; appeared in concert as soloist in Messiah with the Louisiana Philharmonic; and in Stucky’s August 4, 1964 with the Dallas Symphony at Carnegie Hall.

Recent highlights include Peter Quint in The Turn of the Screw with Boston Lyric Opera; Roderick in Glass’ The Fall of the House of Usher with Nashville Opera; Alfredo in La traviata with Pacific Opera Victoria; Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni with Palm Beach Opera; Egeo in Cavalli’s Giasone with Chicago Opera Theater; soloist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in “A Christmas Celebration”; Haydn’s Paukenmesse with the Berkshire Choral Festival; his debut with the New York Philharmonic and the continuation of his ongoing collaboration with Lorin Maazel in Britten’s War Requiem; Gernando in Haydn’s L’isola disabitata with Gotham Chamber Opera; and Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor with Central City Opera.

Performances of note include Ferrando in Così fan tutte with Boston Baroque; Atis in Keiser’s Croesus with Minnesota Opera; and as soloist in Britten’s War Requiem with Maestro Maazel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic as well as with the Grand Rapids Symphony. Following performances as Peter Quint at Lorin Maazel’s Chateauville Foundation in Virginia, Mr. Rideout returned the following summer to appear as Male Chorus conducted by Maestro Maazel. He was soon after invited to perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Maazel’s Symphonica Toscanini in both Rome and Brussels.

Other highlights include his debut at the San Francisco Opera performing Alfred in Die Fledermaus; Le Prince Charmant in Cendrillon with Central City Opera; Roméo in Roméo et Juliette with the Tampa Performing Arts Center; George Gibbs in the professional premiere of Ned Rorem’s Our Town with Lake George Opera; and both Martin in Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land and the world premiere of Mel Marvin’s Guest from the Future at the Bard SummerScape Festival. Concert highlights include appearing as soloist in Messiah with the Seattle and Pensacola symphonies as well as with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, Carmina Burana with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and Mozart’s Mass in C Minor with the Huntsville Symphony. He made his Carnegie Hall debut singing Bach’s Magnificat and later returned to sing Mozart’s Requiem. Other concert highlights include his American Symphony Orchestra debut in a program of Hindemith one-act operas, and his return to the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra as soloist in Mozart’s Requiem and Haydn’s The Creation. Mr. Rideout has been a featured soloist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chorus, Naples Philharmonic (FL), BBC Singers, and symphonies in California, Colorado, and New York.

An avid recitalist, Vale Rideout has appeared most recently in a recital at UNC, his alma mater, a recital of British song at Vassar College and a recital benefiting the Loveland Opera Theater in Colorado where he performed Schubert’s Winterreise. He has also appeared at the Middle Collegiate Church in New York City. Mr. Rideout was awarded first prize in Savannah Music Festival’s 2006 American Traditions Competition and was a 2003 regional finalist in the Metropolitan National Council Auditions.

Noah HimmelsteinNoah Himmelstein is a theater and opera director based in Manhattan. He is thrilled to return to UrbanArias where he was part of the directing team for the double bill of Ricky Ian Gordon operas for the inaugural festival in 2011. Most recently, Noah directed the cover cast for Kevin Newbury’s new production of Hansel and Gretel for Virginia Opera. He also staged the world premiere of Dan Heching’s surrealist drama, Sammy Gets Mugged! at the experimental Living Theatre as part of the NY International Fringe Festival and in recent months presented a workshop of the opera, Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, which he commissioned. He will direct the piece, previously seen this past year at Metropolis Opera Project and the Virginia Arts Festival this spring at NYU’s Steinhardt School.

Additional directing work includes The River Has No Water, a new drama he conceived inspired by August Strindberg’s The Stronger and Jean Cocteau’s The Human Voice, which starred renowned actors Kathleen Butler and Patricia Hodges; the solo-piece, Carly Jibson: Not a Bitch Not Yet a Woman which premiered at Joe’s Pub/ThePublic Theatre; and the New England Premiere of Michael John LaChiusa’s Little Fish.

Upcoming projects include a song cycle exploring the Islamic-American experience, world premieres of new plays by Public Theatre Emerging Writer, Sevan Greene and Edward Albee fellow, Danny Mitarotondo, and a series of monodramas with American Opera Project. He will also work with directors Victoria Clark on a new music theatre piece at Playwrights Horizons and Bartlett Sher on two upcoming productions, including the Broadway revival of Golden Boy in the fall of 2012. Additionally, Noah is the recipient of an SDC Fellowship Grant for Doug Hughes’ production of A Man for All Seasons starring Frank Langella. He is a graduate of Emerson College.

David Arsenault PhotoDavid L. Arsenault is a theatrical designer based out of New York City. NYC credits include: Call Me Waldo (Working Theatre), As Wide As I Can See (HERE) A Charity Case (Theatre Row), Friends & Relations (June Havoc Theatre), First Prize (Arclight Theatre, Hewes Design Award Nomination), Brilliant Traces,Chekhovek (Arclight Theatre), Sammy Gets Mugged! (FringeNYC, directed by Noah Himmelstein), Baltimore in Black and White (Cell Theatre), How I Fell In Love, Lifeline (Abingdon Theatre Company), Brian Dykstra’s Ho! (The Drilling Company), among others. Regional credits include Broke-ology, Circle Mirror Transformation, Mary’s Wedding, The Brothers Size, Floyd Collins, Children of Eden, Metamorphoses, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Romeo & Juliet, The Last Five Years, and After the Revolution. Upcoming projects include Oklahoma, Urinetown, My Fair Lady, and Methtacular. He has assisted on productions at the Minnesota Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Canadian National Opera and on Broadway. While studying design at Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY, David spent summers at the Barrington Stage Company and Tony-winning Williamstown Theatre Festival. To view more of his work, please visit: www.davidarsenaultdesign.com

Rhonda Key PhotoCostume Designer, Rhonda Key is pleased to be working with UrbanArias. She was The Resident Costume Designer for Cherryred Productions from 2001-2011, during which time she also designed for many other local theater, opera and dance companies. In addition, she worked as a Costume Coordinator for the Washington National Opera for many years. She will continue to freelance as a designer and also has also formulated a new career as a Yoga Instructor and owns her own small business , EnergyThreads, which sells Eco-friendly yoga accessories.