“No company, large or small has a better track record of service to American opera”
-The New York Times
J. Mark Scearce Commissioned by the Center for Contemporary Opera
Through a grant from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, the Center for Contemporary Opera has commissioned an opera, “Falling Angel” by J. Mark Scearce with libretto from Lucy Thurber based on the classic novel by William Hjorstberg. Falling Angel will receive its world premiere by the Center for Contemporary Opera in the fall of 2015 in New York with the possibility of subsequent performances in North Carolina and Europe.
Made into the movie “Angel Heart” in the 1980s, “Falling Angel” is the classic genre-crossing novel by William Hjorstberg—part mystery, thriller, horror, and hard-boiled detective story. Harry Angel is a private investigator in 1950s New York City. Hired by a mysterious stranger to find a Big Band crooner named Johnny Favorite, wildly popular during World War II but wounded in an air raid during the early years of the war. Institutionalized for a time in upstate New York, Favorite has disappeared, and no one has seen him for more than a decade. As Harry Angel follows the leads, it seems Favorite is right behind him, cleaning up loose ends. From old jazz musicians, to secret lovers and forgotten daughters, Favorite eludes Angel until coming face to face—the hunter and the hunted—in a climax of cinematic horror in this opera noir.
In the Center for Contemporary Opera’s thirty year history, this is only the third opera it has commissioned. “We are delighted to commission this important new opera and look forward to bringing it to life through our development series leading to the premiere”, said CCO’s General and Artistic Director, Jim Schaeffer. “I have previously worked with both composer and librettist and know how talented they are. This opera promises to be something special.”
“To be among that handful of American composers commissioned to write opera is a great honor,” said Scearce. “CCO’s reputation for promotion and dissemination of American opera makes this an exceptional opportunity.”
Founded in 1982, The Center for Contemporary Opera is the leading proponent of new opera in the United States. Based in New York City, the company focuses on producing and developing new opera and music theater works and reviving rarely seen American operas written after the second World War. The Center for Contemporary Opera has staged the premieres of over seventy works and released five commercial recordings. It has toured Austria, Latvia, Hungary and France and its productions have been viewed by hundreds of thousands across Europe. In addition to its productions, an important part of its work is the development of new operas. Works are presented at all stages from libretto readings, ateliers, concert versions, to full productions. In line with its mission to promote an interest in new operatic and music-theater culture among the American public, the company presents colloquia and publishes the magazine “New Music Connoisseur” which is one of the very few periodicals in
the world devoted to contemporary classical music.
J. Mark Scearce is one of our nation’s most recognized and performed composers. Recipient of the 2010 Raleigh Medal of Arts and the 2009 International Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in Music Composition, Scearce has sixty active titles in his catalogue, including musical settings of more than two hundred texts by forty poets. Scearce’s many works for orchestra, band, chorus, opera, chamber, and ballet have been performed throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and the Pacific. The recipient of five advanced degrees in music, philosophy and religion, including the doctorate in composition from Indiana University, Scearce has won six international music competitions and his music is available on seven commercial recordings. Having taught on the music faculties of the Universities of Hawaii, North Texas, and Southern Maine, he is presently Director of the Music Department at NC State University where he is a tenured professor in the College of Design.
Lucy Thurber is the author of ten plays performed across the country. She was the recipient of the 2000-01 Manhattan Theatre Club Playwriting Fellowship. She was a guest artist at Alaska’s Perseverance Theatre twice and was one of three playwrights in residence at The Orchard Project, summer 2007. She is published by Dramatists Play Service. Thurber is a member of New Dramatists, 13P, MCC Playwrights’ Coalition. She has been commissioned by Playwrights Horizons, and she is currently writing a new play under a commission from Yale Rep. Thurber was also the librettist for the opera “Faustine” by Arlene Sierra which was presented by CCO as part of its Development Series. She is the recipient of the 1st Gary Bonasorte Memorial Prize for Playwriting 2008 and a proud recipient of a Lilly Award. Lucy currently teaches at NYU and Sarah Lawrence College.
The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, named after its founder, who died in 2010, commissions new works in opera, symphony, theatre and dance, as well as supporting selected performing arts organizations in Florida, Ohio, New York and nationally. The foundation¹s other programs include supporting children and youth and the provision of health care.
Coming this spring! The CCO Development Series continues with Jane Eyre by Louis Karchin, News from Poems by Susan Kander, Night of the Living Dead by Todd Goodman, Snake, Scholar, Monkey by Jue Wang, and The Reef by Joan Sorkin. We are also proud to present works by two European composers: Jiri Kaderabek (Czech Republic), Kafka’s Women and Line Tjørnhøj (Denmark) Mirandolas: Oration which will be a world premiere. Details including dates, times and locations will be announced very soon.
We are proud to announce that the Center for Contemporary Opera’s production of William Mayer’s, A Death in the Family was named Best Production of the Armel Opera Festival and Competition. We also received the Audience Favorite Award cast by thousands of opera lovers across the world who had the opportunity to see the opera via the web cast at Arte Live Web or by watching the production’s live television broadcast on the Duna and Mezzo networks.
Our male lead, Phillippe Brocard, who sang the role of “Jay Follet” was awarded best male singer and received a recording session with orchestra as his prize. Our female lead and now CCO “veteran” Adrienn Miksch was awarded a special prize
as best Hungarian artist. For this, she will be singing a leading role with the world famous Hungarian National Opera at Budapest. We are very proud of both of them!
We are also proud of our cast, designers, and directors Robert Alfoldi and Sara Jobin for their superb work. I would also like to thank the Szeged National Theatre, Sandor Gyudi, General and Artistic Director, for their assistance and expertise. It is always a pleasure to perform in their house.
In addition to our production, there were four other companies who presented works. They were all of a very high standard and I would like to recognize them as well: The Serbian National Theatre, The Slovak National Theatre, The Josef Tyl Theatre of Pilsen, Czech Republic and our friends from the Szeged National Theatre.
Agnes Havas, the Director of the Armel Opera Festival and Competition deserves special recognition. We sometimes call her “Wonder Woman” and that label is not far fetched.
We appreciate our donors, friends and all those who watched the production and voted for us
Finally but most importantly, we thank the composer, William Mayer, who brought to life such a compelling and powerful work. Bravo!
After the dust settles a bit, we will be announcing the remainder of our season. It promises to be something special.
- Jane Eyre Music and libretto by Louis Karchin
- Night of the Living Dead Music by Todd Goodman, libretto by Stephen Cartanzarites
- Scholar, Monk, Snake Music and libretto by Jue Wang
- The News from Poems Music and libretto by Susan Kander
- The Reef Libretto by Joan Ross Sorkin (Prima le Parole libretto reading series)
October 8, 2012. The Center for Contemporary Opera opens its 30th season with the European premiere of William Mayer’s opus, A Death in the Family and we hope you can join us either in person or via the web. For our European friends, the work will be broadcast live across Europe over the Mezzo cable network. For our friends in the US and elsewhere, you may watch the live stream on the Arte network beginning at 1pm est by following this link.. The web cast will be available throughout the week so if you can’t watch the live performance, you may watch this anytime at your convenience. Let me also encourage you to vote for us as best production. Instructions for doing so are found on the same link.
To my mind, A Death in the Family is one of the most beautiful and powerful operas ever written. Our directors, Robert Alfoldi and Sara Jobin, have put together an amazing production featuring a very strong cast. We hope you will join us.
August 23, 2012. Did you know that The Center for Contemporary Opera is the publisher of New Music Connoisseur? The only magazine in print devoted to modern music. The summer issue is nearing publication and look at what we offer:
Live Reviews of
- Women’s Work concert at the Player’s Theater: Produced by composer Beth Anderson, works by women between 1991 and 2012, including Judith Shatin, Luo Jing Jing, Katherine Hoover, Stefania de Kenessey, Jennifer Higdon,and Vivian Fung.
- NY Philharmonic concert performance of excerpts from Hans Werner Henze’s grand opera “The Bassarids”
- Performances of 2 one-act operas, “My Last Duchess” by Theodore Wiprud and “The Clever Mistress” by Robert Sirota on the Cutting Edge series.
- ”The Other Borges”, a multi-media opera by Matthew Welch at Roulette.
- An article on two works based on the life of Lord Byron’s daughter,Ada Lovelace, one of Boston performance at the American Repertory Theater of an opera-musical called “Futurity”; the other a reading of work-in-progress by the Center for Contemporary Opera called “Ada”
- Leo Kraft’s 90th birthday concert at Queens College
- Short reviews of about a dozen other events around town, ranging from
- Symphony Space’s Gertrude Stein festival, to the concert of Bright Sheng and
- David DelTredici pieces at Poisson Rouge.
- A review of Amahl and the Night Visitors
- besides a number of short reviews of about a dozen CDs, longer reviews on retrospectives of Pauline Oliveros and Stefan Wolpe.
- one a memorial to Milton Babbitt by Benjamin Boretz, the founder of
- Perspectives of New Music and the other about the composer Osvaldo Golijov and recent accusations of plagiarism made against him
May 3, 2012: CCO’s performance of The Secret Agent in Avignon was a huge success; Here is a translation of the first of many reviews to come:
Production of the Center for Contemporary Opera, New YorkMusical Direction: Sarah (sic) Jobin
Stage Direction: Sam HelfrichWinnie: Adrienn MIKSCH (Hungary)
Verloc: Nicolas RIGAS (France)and Jodi Karem, Deborah Lifton, Courtney Huffman, Sarah Miller, Cherry Duke, Rick Piersall, Jason Detwiller, Mark Zuckerman, Jonathan Blalock, Matthew Garrett, Aaro Themo, Nathaniel Baer, David Neal, Jason PapowitzWith the participation of the dancers of the Ballet of the Opera-Theatre of AvignonSymphony Orchestra of SzegedThe novel on which this opera is based was written in 1907 by Joseph Conrad. This work has remained current since it was filmed by Hitchcock in 1936. In 1996, Christopher Hampton was inspired to make another film version starring Gérard DepardieuThe recent terrorist madness everywhere is a non-stop reminder of this reality which the composer Michael Dellaira has now put on the opera stage. In 2011, this work, The Secret Agent, was performed with four other works at the “Armel Opera Competition” and was cited by the jury. It should be noted that this competition has been in existence for four years with the mission of showing the worth of contemporary creations. The Avignon Opera had the pleasure of presenting it to its public in its French premiere.The action takes place in London. A unique staging, based on a changing play of light. showing in turn the office of an ambassador, a rich London dwelling, and a mean shop where terrorists and secret agents meet, was beautifully conceived, never interfering with the unfolding action.The pit contained 14 musicians, members of the Szeged Symphony Orcestra under the direction of Sarah Jobin, a young conductor who combines feminine grace with firmness in the direction of a modern (but not excessively modern) score. This music is well in the style of 20th century North American music. Sarah Jobin knew how to make it flow and sound very pleasing.The subtitles were worthy of a ‘wikipedien’ translation, an approximation that sometimes produced a smile – a contrast to the darkness of the ambiance of anarchists, terrorists, murderers and swindlers of every sort.Among the singers, we must single out the sweet and warm voice of Adrienn Miksch in the role of Winnie, even if her low notes were often covered by the orchestra. She sang with deep feeling in the scene where she puts her young brother to bed, the sole moment of love in this violent universe.The principal role of the secret agent Verloc was taken by the young French baritone Nicolas Rigas: a fine scenic presence and a very well placed voice that make one wish a breakthrough for him in this difficult singing business.The other roles are secondary but were nevertheless performed with conviction in both their scenic and vocal commitment.The Avignon public had some hesitations coming to hear this contemporary opera but those in attendance had no cause to regret their presence
December 1, 2011: The Center for Contemporary Opera was honored with an invitation from the Armel Opera Festival to present The Secret Agent on April 18, 2012 at the Avignon Opera Theatre, Avignon, France. We are most appreciative of the financial support from the Armel Festival towards making this performance a reality.
October 30, 2011: Congratulations to Robert Ward, co-founder of the Center for Contemporary Opera who received lifetime honors from the National Endowment of the Arts. His citation may be found here.
October 18, 2011: The Center for Contemporary Opera has returned from the Armel Opera Festival and Competition were it presented Michael Dellaira and J.D. McCLatchy’s The Secret Agent to great acclaim. The performance took place at the Szegedi National Theatre in Hungary and was heard by a very appreciative audience in the theatre in addition to over one million viewers across Europe via the Mezzo Fine Arts Network of France and the Arte Live Web. In case you missed the performance, the webcast will be available on the Arte Live network here. for the next three months. In addition to the performance, General Director Jim Schaeffer gave a lecture at the University of Szeged on the topic Cultural Arts Management in the United States and the cast enjoyed a day off following the performance with many traveling to Budapest to visiting that amazing city. There is only one opera company in the United States that brings American opera to Europe and that is CCO. We are very proud to do this.
September 23, 2011: CCO has a new mailing address: P.O.Box 3169, New York, NY 10163. Please contact our office for instructions for Fedex or UPS deliveries.
September 21, 2011: General Director Jim Schaeffer is a guest panelist at Opera America’s Making Connections Series and is joined by composers Nico Muhly, John Glover and director Beth Greenberg. The topic is “The development of new operas”.
August 30, 2011: The Center for Contemporary Opera welcomes Eugene Rotberg to our distinguished Board of Directors. Mr. Rotberg has enjoyed a very distinguished career in finance and government and was the former Vice President of the World Bank. He is a great lover of opera and sees an average of 60 operas a year all over the world. A long time Board member at Washington Opera , his expertise will be invaluable to us.
August 22, 2011: The operas and libretti selected for the CCO Development Series were announced today.
August 1, 2011: Due to the extremely large number of scores submitted to us for the CCO Development Series, we will not be able to announce the results today as originally planned! We have narrowed the submissions to forty-three and hope to have our decisions within several weeks. We appreciate your patience!
June 14, 2011: General Director Jim Schaeffer and Stage Director Sam Helfrich traveled to Szeged, Hungary to judge the second round of the Armel Opera Competition and Festival. Their task was to select a “new” Verloc and Winnie for the The Secret Agent‘s reprise in Szeged on October 14 and in New York in August. We are proud to announce that Hungarian soprano Adrienn Miksch will be singing the role of Winnie and Nicolas Rigas from France will sing the role of Verloc. Congratulations to both of them! The Hungarian television network, Duna, produced a program about the competition which has been posted to You Tube. You can see Sam Helfrich in action at the 16:00 mark as he works with some of the competitors.
May 21, 2011: CCO now has a “new and improved” phone number: 646 481-8110.
April 8, 2011. Operaticus weighs in with a review of The Secret Agent. To read, please click here.
March 20, 2011: Thank you for attending the world premiere of The Secret Agent by Michael Dellaira and J.D. McClatchy. Here are two reviews and an interview that you will enjoy: http://bit.ly/fKnjRc , http://bit.ly/fmO6d1
February 23, 2011: We are now accepting applications for the Armel Opera Competition First Round auditions. These will be held in New York City on April 18/19. To receive an application or for more information, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Armel website. Winners from the First Round will receive a stipend to travel to Budapest for the Second Round on May 29. You may then be chosen for a leading role in one of five (four in Europe and CCO from the US) productions. These roles will be performed both in the opera company’s home theatre and at the Armel Festival itself in October, 2011. At the Festival, two grand prize winners will be selected and receive 10,000 Euros each. In addition, each company’s production will be broadcast live across Europe via the French Mezzo network.
February 14, 2011: Thanks to all of you who attended our gala this past weekend. We have received a number of comments from attendees telling us how much they enjoyed the evening. One patron described it as “perfect”! Thank you as well to the Frost Opera Theater from the University of Miami. They students did an outstanding job by any measure and we certainly appreciated their participation. The only disappointment for the evening was the lack of donations. We established a goal of $30,000 to be raised but have received less than $500! As you could imagine, the $35.00 charge for admission did not even cover the cost of the evening. Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you can see that CCO is worthy of your support and that we are doing more for American opera than any other company. We sincerely need and appreciate your support. Please donate safely on line by visiting our Support page. Thank you for your consideration and thank you for attending our gala!
February 10, 2011: The Gala Evening to Benefit the Center for Contemporary is officially sold out, but the National Arts Club is very resourceful in comfortably seating additional attendees. If you have not purchased your ticket or made a reservation, we hope you will still attend.
February 7,2011: Elliott Forrest (Classical WQXR, Live from Lincoln Center, Breakfast with the Arts, etc.) has graciously agreed to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for our Gala on Feb 10.. Please read more about him