Orpheus and Euridice

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Orpheus and Euridice Cover Art

Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 8 p.m.

Friday, April 1, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. (part of Series I)

Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 2 p.m.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. (part of Series II)

Orpheus plays the clarinet.

Euridice is dying of a virus.

Ricky Ian Gordon’s soaring score and intimate poetry bring us a very modern telling of this ancient story; winner of the 2006 OBIE Award, this is Orpheus for the 21st century.  UrbanArias is proud to present the trio who debuted the opera at Lincoln Center, and who  are featured on the Ghostlight recording.

Elizabeth Futral, soprano   Todd Palmer, clarinet   Melvin Chen, piano

Directed by Kevin Newbury

Production Design by D.M. Wood; Costume Design by Paul Carey

About the Artists

Elizabeth FutralElizabeth Futral has established herself as one of the major coloratura sopranos in the world today. With her stunning vocalism and vast dramatic range, she has embraced a diverse repertoire that includes Vivaldi, Handel, Mozart, Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini, Verdi, Glass, and Previn.

The 2010-2011 opera season has featured Elizabeth Futral in a wide variety of venues throughout North and South America. With the Teatro Municipal de Santiago in the Chilean capital she has performed the title role in Thaïs, and she sang the four heroines in Les Contes d’Hoffmann with the Florida Grand Opera. In the spring she is set to perform as Violetta in La traviata with the Minnesota Opera. She also sang recitals with Opera Birmingham, The Vocal Arts Society in Washington DC, and the George London Foundation alongside bass-baritone Kyle Ketterson.

Ms. Futral has appeared at the major opera houses of the world, including the Metropolitan Opera (the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor, Princess Eudoxie in La juive, Elvira in I Puritani, and most recently, Princess Yueyang in the world premiere of The First Emperor), Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (Musetta in La bohème), San Francisco Opera (Stella in the world premiere of A Streetcar Named Desire, Violetta in La traviata), Bayerische Staatsoper (Nannetta in Falstaff), Gran Teatre del Liceu (Gilda in Rigoletto), and Berlin State Opera (Violetta in La traviata). Ms. Futral enjoys particularly close relationships with Lyric Opera of Chicago, where recent projects have included Violetta and the title role in Partenope, and Washington National Opera, where she has bowed as Ophélie in Hamlet, Adina in L’elisir d’amore, Violetta and Lucia.

Ms. Futral’s extensive discography includes Meyerbeer’s L’Etoile du nord for Marco Polo, Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire, and Ravel’s L’Enfant et les sortilèges conducted by Maestro Previn for Deutsche Grammophon, Philip Glass’s Hydrogen Jukebox for Euphorbia Records, a recording of Bach solo cantatas with J. Reilly Lewis and the Washington Bach Consort, and Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Euridice for Sh-K-Boom Records.

Todd PalmerHaving been involved in an array of creative and diverse artistic presentations throughout his career, clarinetist Todd Palmer has appeared as soloist, recitalist, chamber music collaborator, educator, arranger, and presenter in a variety of musical endeavors around the world. He has appeared with many symphony and chamber orchestras including those of Houston, Atlanta, St. Paul, Cincinnati, Montréal, BBC Scotland, and has collaborated with many of the worlds finest string ensembles such as the St. Lawrence, Brentano, Borromeo, Daedalus, Pacifica and Ying quartets. Palmer has also shared the stage with sopranos Kathleen Battle, Renée Fleming, Heidi Grant Murphy, Dawn Upshaw, and appeared in the world premiere of composer Ricky Gordon’s theater work, Orpheus and Euridice, with coloratura Elizabeth Futral on Great Performers at Lincoln Center in 2005. A major contribution to the 20th century clarinet and song literature, this work has been released on Ghostlight Records featuring the original artists for whom it was written.

Since winning the Young Concert Artist International Auditions, Mr. Palmer has appeared as recitalist and lecturer at major performing arts centers and universities in 48 States. His appearances abroad have included concerto, recital and chamber music performances in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, England, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, the Caribbean, Japan and China. In addition to Ricky Gordon, Mr. Palmer has been closely associated with composer Osvaldo Golijov, and is regarded as the champion of his great klezmer clarinet quintet The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind.  More recently, he gave the 2008 world premiere of David Bruce’s Gumboots, a Carnegie Hall commission for clarinet and string quartet, at Zankel Hall with the St. Lawrence Quartet; and appeared as soloist in Robert Lepage’s staging of Stravinsky’s The Nightingale and other Fables at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in March 2011.

He has been a participant for 16 years at Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston SC, and for 10 years a member of the highly popular touring group Spoleto Chamber Music USA. He has attended many other summer music festivals in the US and Canada  including Ravinia, La Jolla SummerFest, Bravo!, the Caramoor, Cartagena, Bridgehampton, El Paso, Music@Menlo, Portland, Rockport, Scotia and the Vancouver Chamber Music Festivals.  He has held principle clarinet positions in the Minnesota Orchestra, the Gotham Chamber Opera, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and the Grand Teton Festival as well as principle clarinet in the Lincoln Center revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific.

An avid arranger, Palmer has had many of his arrangements performed at various venues throughout the country and broadcast on NPR’s Performance Today – the most notable being chamber versions of Debussy’s Première Rhapsodie, published by Boosey & Hawkes, Weber’s Invitation to the Dance, and two suites from André Messager’s ballet The Two Pigeons. Mr. Palmer has recordings on EMI, DG, Koch and Ghostlight Records.

Melvin ChenA native of Tennessee, pianist Melvin Chen is recognized as an important young artist, having received acclaim for performances throughout the United States and abroad. As a soloist and chamber musician Mr. Chen has performed at major venues in the United States, including Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, the Kennedy Center, and Boston’s Jordan Hall, in addition to other appearances throughout the United States, Canada, and Asia. Among the past season’s highlights were concerto appearances in New York City and Houston, performances with the Long Beach Opera, quintets with the Shanghai quartet, and a recording of chamber music by composer George Tsontakis. In recent seasons Mr. Chen’s concerts have included two solo recitals at Weill Recital Hall, and concerto performances with the American Symphony Orchestra, Marin Symphony, Springfield Symphony, and the Paducah Symphony.

Mr. Chen’s recordings include Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations on the Bridge label, praised as “a classic” by the American Record Guide, and a recording of Joan Tower’s piano music on the Naxos label. Recordings of the Shostakovich piano sonatas and Gordon’s Orpheus and Euridice were released to great acclaim in 2006.

An enthusiastic chamber musician, Mr. Chen has collaborated with such artists as Ida Kavafian, David Shifrin, Pamela Frank, and Peter Wiley and with the Shanghai, Tokyo, Miami, and Miro quartets. A performer in numerous music festivals, he has performed at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, Music Mountain, Bard Music Festival, and Music from Angel Fire, among others.

Mr. Chen completed a doctorate in chemistry from Harvard University, and also holds a double master’s degree from The Juilliard School in piano and violin, where he studied with Seymour Lipkin and Glenn Dicterow, respectively. Previously, he attended Yale University, receiving a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and physics. During his tenure at Yale he studied with Boris Berman, Paul Kantor, and Ida Kavafian.

Mr. Chen is on the piano faculty of the Bard College Conservatory of Music, where he is associate director, and has previously been on the piano faculty of the Yale School of Music. He is also the artistic director of the chamber music program at the Hotchkiss Summer Portals.

About the Composer

Ricky Ian GordonRicky Ian Gordon was born on May 15, 1956 in Oceanside, NY and raised on Long Island. After studying composition at Carnegie Mellon University, he settled in New York City, where he quickly emerged as a leading writer of vocal music that spans art song, opera, and musical theater. Mr. Gordon’s songs have been performed and/or recorded by such internationally renowned singers as Renee Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Audra MacDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Frederica Von Stade, Andrea Marcovicci, Harolyn Blackwell, and Betty Buckley, among many others. Recent productions of his work include:

2010: Sycamore Trees, directed by Tina Landau, book by Ricky Ian Gordon and Nina Mankin, at Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA.
2010: The Grapes of Wrath – A Two Act Concert Version of the Opera with a libretto by Michael Korie, at Carnegie Hall. Narrated by Jane Fonda, with a cast that included Victoria Clark, Nathan Gunn, Christine Ebersole and Elizabeth Futral, with The Collegiate Chorale and The American Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ted Sperling.
2008: Green Sneakers, a theatrical song cycle for Baritone, String Quartet, and Empty Chair, with a libretto by the composer, at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival in Vail, CO, with baritone Jesse Blumberg and the Miami String Quartet.
2007 & 2008: The Grapes of Wrath, a full-scale opera with libretto by Michael Korie, premiered at the Minnesota Opera in a production that then traveled to Utah Opera and Pittsburgh Opera. Musical America called the work, “The great American opera”. The full opera, live from the Minnesota premiere, is now available on a 3 CD set with libretto liner notes on PS Classics.
2005: Orpheus and Euridice, an hour-long song cycle in two acts, premiered at Lincoln Center. Directed and choreographed by Doug Varone and performed by Elizabeth Futral, Soprano, Todd Palmer, Clarinet and Melvin Chen, Piano, it won an OBIE Award and is recorded on Ghostlight Records.
2003: My Life with Albertine, written with Richard Nelson and based on Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, premiered at New York’s Playwrights Horizons
2001: Bright Eyed Joy: The Music of Ricky Ian Gordon, was presented at Lincoln Center as part of the American Songbook Series.
Other works include, Dream True, written with Tina Landau and premiered in 1999 at The Vineyard Theater, States Of Independence, also with Ms. Landau, for The Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia, and Only Heaven, based on the works of Langston Hughes and premiered in 1995 at Encompass Opera. The Tibetan Book of the Dead, written with Jean Claude Van Itallie, premiered at the Houston Grand Opera in 1996 and Morning Star, written with William Hoffman was premiered at The Lyric Opera of Chicago, where Mr. Gordon was a composer in residence. He is currently working on commissions for New York’s Metropolitan Opera (Adele Hugo) with librettist Michael Korie, a co-commission for a new work about the Civil War with librettist Mark Campbell, for Virginia Opera and The Virginia Arts Festival, and a new opera for the 50th anniversary of the Minnesota Opera (Garden of the Finzi Continis) with librettist Michael Korie. Mr. Gordon has taught both Master Classes and Composition Classes at Yale, NYU, Northwestern, Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, Catholic, Bennington, Vassar, Carnegie-Mellon, Elon, Michigan State, U of Michigan, and San Francisco Conservatory. He has been the featured Composer-in Residence at The Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, Songfest at Pepperdine University, Chatauqua, Aspen Music Festival, and Ravinia. Among his honors are the 2003 Alumni Merit Award for exceptional achievement and leadership from Carnegie-Mellon University, the Shen Family Foundation award, the Stephen Sondheim Award, The Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Theater Foundation Award, The Constance Klinsky Award, and many awards from ASCAP, of which he is a member, The National Endowment of the Arts, and The American Music Center.

About the Production Team

Kevin Newbury is a theater and opera director based in New York City. Recent opera credits include Maria Stuarda (Minnesota Opera), El Nino (San Francisco Symphony, with John Adams conducting), Roberto Devereux (Minnesota Opera and L’Opera de Montreal), the world premiere of Life is a Dream (Santa Fe Opera), Eugene Onegin (Opera Theatre of St. Louis), La Cenerentola (Glimmerglass Opera), La bohème (Wolf Trap Opera), Bernstein’s Mass (Carnegie Hall, Baltimore Symphony, Kennedy Center), Falstaff (Santa Fe Opera), Il barbiere di SivigliaLe nozze di Figaro and Il trovatore (Minnesota Opera), Die Zauberflöte (Opera Colorado, Houston Grand Opera) and Nixon in China (revival director: Chicago Opera Theatre, Portland Opera, Cincinnati Opera). Recent New York theatre credits include the world premieres of Candy and Dorothy (GLAAD Media Award Winner, Drama Desk Nominee), The Second Tosca, The Black Monk and Kiss and Cry (GLAAD Nominee).

Upcoming projects include: Anna Bolena and Werther (Minnesota Opera), Die Liebe der Danae (Bard Summerscape), Galileo Galilei (Portland Opera), the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon and Mark Campbell’s Rappahannock County (Virginia Opera and Virginia Arts Festival), and the world premiere of a new musical by Jeremy Schoenfeld and Nicole Parker. Kevin is also in pre-production for a film adaptation of David Johnston’s Mothra is Waiting.

D.M. WoodLighting and Production Designer D.M. Wood’s recent design credits include:  Anna Nicole (world premiere co-design: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden), Maria Stuarda, Roberto Devereux, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Il Trovatore (Minnesota Opera), Roberto Devereux (Opéra de Montréal), A History of the American Film (Krannert Center), Annie Get Your Gun (Co-design: Young Vic, London), La Cenerentola (Glimmerglass Opera), Die Zauberflöte (Houston Grand Opera), The Sound of a Voice/Hotel of Dreams (Long Beach Opera), Die Zauberflöte (Opera Colorado), Les Misérables (Copenhagen, Denmark), Tosca (Canadian Opera Company), La Cleopatra/Oedipus Rex (Opern-Haus Graz, Austria), Tristan und Isolde (Savolinna Opera, Finland), and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Lyric Opera of Kansas City). Ms. Wood’s work in theater includes designs for American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.), Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF), Primary Stages (NYC), NYSF – The Public Theatre, Children’s Theatre Company – Minneapolis, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Baltimore Centerstage, Trinity Repertory Company and Philadelphia Theatre Company.

Upcoming designs include: Moskva, Cheremushki (Lon Beach Opera), The Insurgents and Ages of the Moon (Contemporary American Theater Festival), Die Liebe der Danae (Bard Summerscape), Il Trittico(Royal Opera House, Covent Garden), Hansel and Gretel (Virginia Opera), Werther and Anna Bolena (Minnesota Opera).