March 21, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.

The Ballroom at Artisphere

Just what the doctor ordered – a Self-Help opera! UrbanArias presents a public reading of the World Premiere opera Positions 1956.

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.

Charles AtlasPart 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.”

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.”

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. At the March 21 Workshop, our intrepid cast will sing through the opera – no staging, no orchestra (yet!) – just words, music, voices, and your reactions. This is the first time the full opera will be heard in public – don’t miss this opportunity to see a new work in progress. You can even suggest changes you’d like to see in the staged production in April! The sing-through will be followed by a brief Q&A with composer Conrad Cummings, Tony Award-nominated librettist Michael Korie, and singers Vale Rideout, Jesse Blumberg and Amedee Moore.


Click HERE to purchase.

This is also a great opportunity to demonstrate your support for UrbanArias!

The performance will be followed by a donor reception with the performers and creators in Artisphere’s Upper Town Hall.

Enjoy wine, beer, and dessert as you mingle with the composer, lyricist, and singers from the evening’s performance. Revel in conversation with these fantastic artists, Including Tony-Award Nominee Michael Korie!

Tickets are $120 for the performance and fabulous reception ($200 per couple).
Be recognized at the reception as an event sponsor with your gift of $250!

If you wish to attend the performance AND the reception, please send your check for $120 ($200 for couples, $250 for event sponsors) made out to UrbanArias to: Robert Wood, 1322 N. Adams Ct., Arlington, VA 22201. UrbanArias will purchase your show ticket, which you can pick up at the Artisphere box office, and your name will be on the guest list for the reception.

All proceeds benefit UrbanArias, and your gift is tax-deductible to the extent provided by law.

Check out our publicity for Positions 1956 on Playbill!


Conrad CummingsCONRAD CUMMINGS composes opera, symphonic music, chamber music, and music for his ensemble of amplified instruments and voices. His works have been performed at Carnegie Hall, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, and numerous clubs and alternative performance spaces. Groups performing his music include Brandywine Baroque, Avian Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Louisville, New Jersey, and Indianapolis Symphonies, and the San Francisco Opera Center. 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 and was named one of the best operas of the 21st century by Opera News.

His first opera, Eros and Psyche (“I can’t think of anybody else who’s doing what he’s doing right now.” — Andrew Porter) was commissioned and premiered by Oberlin Conservatory. Photo-Op (“The music is hard-hitting in its clarity” — Kyle Gann, Village Voice) received a three-week Off-Broadway run at La MaMa ETC. in a collaboration with Ridge Theater. Tonkin (“Mr. Cummings samples musical history for techniques and sonorities the way rappers sample pop rhythms” — James R. Oestreich, The New York Times) was commissioned and produced by Opera Delaware with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Opera America, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

“I Wish They All Could Be. . .” for instrumental octet was commissioned by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players and premiered at the Cheltenham International Festival of Music (UK). It received further performances at the 92nd Street Y in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Cummings conducted five performances with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players in a collaboration with choreographer Brenda Way, the Oakland Ballet, and painter Wayne Thiebaud. A revised version (2002) is scheduled for New York premiere this summer, details tba. There is also a solo piano version, recorded by Blair McMillen for Avian Music. “Denouement” for large orchestra received its premiere with Robert Spano and the New Jersey Symphony; Spano also led the work with the Louisville Orchestra. Recent commissions include “Shakespeare in Loves,” settings of the sonnets for Brandywine Baroque, “In Memoriam, Marge Laszlo,” a tribute to the Roller Derby star for Avian Orchestra’s All-Sports event, “The Passing Months” for French soprano saxophonist Daniel Gremelle, premiered in Taiwan, and Reunion for P and J for pianist James Baker and clarinetist Paul Green.

Cummings was born in San Francisco and trained at Yale, SUNY Stony Brook, and Columbia where he received a doctorate. Principal teachers include Bulent Arel, Mario Davidovksy, and Jacob Druckman. He did post-doctoral research at IRCAM in Paris under Pierre Boulez before returning to the U.S. to direct the music and media program at Oberlin Conservatory. Since the early 1990’s he has worked as a freelance composer, director, and interactive media producer in New York City. He’s particularly proud of the award-winning games for kids he has produced at Hyperspace Cowgirls. Conrad Cummings serves on the faculty of the Juilliard School where he teaches composition in the Evening Division. Among his many honors are MacDowell, Djerassi, and Tanglewood Fellowships and grants from the Ditson Fund, the Martha Baird Rockefeller Foundation, Opera America, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

CRI’s Emergency Music label has released four recordings of Cummings’s music.

Michael KorieFor his lyrics, Michael Korie was nominated for Tony and Drama Desk Awards and won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Broadway’s Grey Gardens composed by Scott Frankel, book by Doug Wright. Directed by Michael Greif, it was developed at Sundance, produced Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, transferred to Broadway and subsequently produced at leading theaters around America and abroad in Japan, Australia and Brazil. The musical’s route to Broadway was profiled in a documentary film by Albert Maysles broadcast on PBS. Also with composer Frankel, Korie created lyrics to Happiness with book by John Weidman and direction and choreography by Susan Stroman, produced by Lincoln Center Theater. Korie and Frankel have two new upcoming musicals in 2012: Far From Heaven with a book by Richard Greenberg opens in a preview production at the Williamstown Festival and will be produced in New York the following season directed by Michael Greif; and Finding Neverland with book by Allan Knee and direction and choreography by Rob Ashford scheduled for production in London produced by The Weinstein Company.

As an opera librettist, 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 to acclaim 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 where he also chairs the Awards Committee, contributes articles to The Dramatist magazine, 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, sopranoAmedee 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 theatre 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, Mr. Himmelstein directed the cover cast for Kevin Newbury’s critically acclaimed 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 in Downtown Manhattan as part of the NY International Fringe Festival and in recent months presented a second workshop of the new opera, Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner by Zachary Redler and Sara Cooper. The piece, previously seen at Metropolis Opera Project and the Virignia Arts Festival will be given a full-scale workshop this spring at NYU. Upcoming projects also include a song cycle exploring the Islamic-American experience and a series of monodramas with American Opera Project.

Additional directing work includes Danny Mitarotondo’s 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 Kathleen Butler and Patricia Hodges, the new comedy, Underneath with Oberon Theatre Ensemble, 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 musical, Little Fish. He has assisted directors Kevin Newbury, Victoria Clark, Eric Simonson and Stuart Howard and is the recipient of an SDC Fellowship Grant for Doug Hughes’ production of A Man for All Seasons starring Frank Langella. In 2009, he led an educational panel with Baltimore’s Center Stage for their production of Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s Caroline, or Change. Furthermore, he has been an associate to Bernadette Peters and Adam Guettel and was the Assistant Producer on Steppenwolf’s August: Osage County, the recent revival of The Homecoming, David Mamet’s November and the musical Spring Awakening during the 2007-2008 Broadway Season. Mr. Himmelstein is a graduate of Emerson College.