Laura Kaminsky, New York-based composer of contemporary chamber, vocal, and orchestral music, with social-political topics like environment and war

Kaminsky’s Opera, As One, to premiere at BAM in September 2014

As One: The Transgender Chamber Opera/Film Project

Laura Kaminsky’s opera, As One, commissioned by American Opera Projects, with libretto by Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed, and film by Kimberly Reed, to premiere at BAM in September 2014.

post-as-one

From left to right: Kimberly Reed, Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell

What: As One is a 75 minute multi-media chamber opera.

Who: Creative Team
Conceived by composer Laura Kaminsky, the creative team consists of Laura Kaminsky, librettist Mark Campbell, and filmmaker/writer/editor Kimberly Reed. Kaminsky, Campbell and Reed co-created the narrative; Campbell and Reed have co-created the libretto; Kaminsky is now composing the score; Reed is now producing the film that interacts with the characters on stage and serves as the set. The director is Ken Cazan.

Cast: As One is scored for mezzo soprano Sasha Cooke and baritone Kelly Markgraf, and the Fry Street Quartet. The cast will also be part of a digital film that is integrated as a layer of the production.

Raison D’etre

As One explores the revelatory and redemptive journey of a transgender individual wrestling with profound ontological issues. As One challenges normative performance modalities while addressing the complex and multifarious concerns confronted by a significant outsider population.  It will be an impactful and artistically compelling response to a matter that resonates loudly today across the LGBT community specifically, and the rest of society more generally.  As One provides insights into both the personal and philosophical questions at the core of how personhood is defined, as well as into the compromised civil and humans rights of transgender individuals in the broader societal framework.

Much of Kaminsky’s work is derived from timely, politically charged extra-musical themes such as Rising Tide and Terra Terribilis, both of which address climate change; her monodrama And Trouble Came: An African AIDS Diary (NEA and Meet the Composer supported); and Vukovar Trio, inspired by her Human Rights Watch-sponsored journey to that devastated Croatian city. Campbell’s recent libretto for Kevin Puts’ Pulitzer-prize-winning opera, Silent Night, is a passionate statement for peace in the wake of wartime. Similarly, Reed’s work (Prodigal Sons) bravely and honestly tackles important social and personal issues of identity and family. The topicality of As One resonates loudly in these times; it will be a powerful and significant artistic statement, and represents a new direction for AOP (American Opera Projects).

AOP is developing and producing the work, which is to be presented at BAM’s Fishman space September 4–7, 2014, supported by a BAM/Kennedy Center De Vos Institute Development Award.  A first draft of the libretto occurred in fall 2013, a musical workshop in spring 2014, a concert reading with the cast for early summer 2014, and the premiere production in September 2014.

LAURA KAMINSKY is a composer with “an ear for the new and interesting” whose works are “colorful and harmonically sharp-edged” (The New York Times) and whose “musical language is compounded of hymns, blues, and gestures not unlike those of Shostakovich” (inTune). Social and political themes are common in her work, as is an abiding respect for and connection to the natural world. The visual is made manifest in sound, with color and image often serving as underlying inspiration. American Record Guide (May/June 2013) asserts that her “music is full of fire as well as ice, written in an idiom that contrasts dissonance and violence with tonal beauty and meditative reflection. It is strong stuff.”

Kaminsky has received commissions, fellowships, and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Koussevitzky Music Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, Aaron Copland Fund, Chamber Music America, American Music Center, USArtists International, CEC ArtsLink International Partnerships, Kenan Institute for the Arts, Artist Trust, and Meet the Composer, among others. She has received six ASCAP-Chamber Music America Awards for Adventuresome Programming and is the recipient of the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage 2010 Chopin Award. She has been a fellow at artists’ communities including the Hermitage Artist Retreat Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Centrum Foundation, Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She is a Professor at the Conservatory of Music and Faculty-at-Large for the School of the Arts at Purchase College/SUNY.

MARK CAMPBELL was recently profiled in Opera News as one of twenty-five artists “poised…to become major forces in opera in the coming decade.” In his ten years as a librettist, Mark has written nine operas and collaborated with such notable composers as Mark Adamo, Lembit Beecher, William Bolcom, Ricky Ian Gordon, Jake Heggie, John Musto, Paul Moravec, Richard Peaslee and Kevin Puts. Mark’s most recent work, Silent Night, which he wrote with composer Kevin Puts for Minnesota Opera, received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music. Other successful operas include: Volpone, Later the Same Evening, Bastianello/Lucrezia, and Rappahannock County. As a lyricist, Mark penned the lyrics for Songs from an Unmade Bed, a theatrical song cycle with music by 18 composers. The show premiered at New York Theatre Workshop and has since been produced around the world, most recently in Mexico City. Other musicals for which he has written lyrics include: The Audience, Chang & Eng, and Splendora.

Recordings: the Grammy®-nominated Volpone,  (Wolf Trap Recordings), Later the Same Evening  (Albany Records), The Inspector  (Wolf Trap Recordings), Bastianello/

Lucrezia  (Bridge Classical), Rappahannock County (Nonesuch) and Songs from an Unmade Bed  (Sh-k-Boom Records).

Other awards: first recipient of the Kleban Foundation Award for Lyricist, two Richard Rodgers Awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a New York Foundation for the Arts Playwriting Fellowship, three Drama Desk Award nominations, a Rockefeller Foundation Award, and a Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Award.

KIMBERLY REED is a filmmaker living in New York City. Her work has been featured on media outlets such as the Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, NPR, Details magazine, and The Moth Radio Hour.  Her work has made her one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” a New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) fellow, and has led to multiple fellowships at the Yaddo Artists’ Community and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.

Kimberly Reed directed and produced PRODIGAL SONS, a “whiplash doc that heralds an exciting talent.”  PRODIGAL SONS, a co-production with BBC Storyville and Sundance Channel, premiered at the prestigious Telluride Film Festival.  The film has gone on to be shown around the globe in theaters, at over a hundred film festivals, and on worldwide television. The film landed on multiple Best of the Year lists and garnered 14 Audience and Jury awards, including the esteemed International Film Critics’ FIPRESCI Prize.  Ms. Reed was recognized as Towleroad’s “Best LGBT Character of the Film Year,” The Advocate’s “Five to Watch,” and OUT Magazine’s “Out 100.”  She was also the producer/editor/writer for PAUL GOODMAN CHANGED MY LIFE, released theatrically by Zeitgeist Films. Kim is a proud GLSEN and NewFest board member, a Queer/Art/Film mentor, a summa cum laude graduate of UC Berkeley, and a Montana native.

SASHA COOKE most recently played the lead role in Mark Adamo’s new opera The Opera of Mary Magdalene at San Francisco Opera. She opened the 2009/10 season of the Milwaukee Symphony with Bernstein’s “Jeremiah” Symphony in the inaugural concerts of new music director Edo de Waart. She performed two engagements with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony—Stravinsky’s Pulcinella and Berlioz’s Les nuits d’Été; joined Bernard Haitink and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and made her debut with the Hong Kong Philharmonic in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde under the baton of Maestro de Waart. She also sang Ravel’s Shéhérazade and Cinq mélodies populaires grecques with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; Handel’s Messiah with the Seattle Symphony; Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony with Jaap van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony; Beethoven’s Ninth with Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony; Mozart’s Requiem with the San Diego Symphony; and Haydn’s “Lord Nelson” Mass with the Kansas City Symphony. On the opera stage, she made her Seattle Opera debut as Meg Page in Falstaff , conducted by Riccardo Frizza; and sang Medea in Cavalli’s seldom-performed Giasone at Chicago Opera Theater.

A dedicated recitalist, Ms. Cooke was presented by Young Concert Artists in her widely acclaimed New York and Washington debuts at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall and at the Kennedy Center, as well as in concerts throughout the U.S.  She has performed frequently with the New York Festival of Song at Merkin Concert Hall, and gave a duo recital with her husband, baritone Kelly Markgraf at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall under the auspices of the Marilyn Horne Foundation.

During the 2008/09 season, Ms. Cooke reprised her critically-acclaimed portrayal of Kitty Oppenheimer in John Adams’ Dr. Atomic for her European debut at English National Opera. Concert engagements included Handel’s Messiah with the Baltimore Symphony and with the Oratorio Society of New York at Carnegie Hall; Brahms’s “Liebeslieder Walzer” accompanied by James Levine and Daniel Barenboim; Mahler’s Second Symphony with the Colorado Symphony under Jeffrey Kahane; Das Lied von der Erde at the Spoleto Festival; Harbison’s Fifth Symphony at the Aspen Music Festival; and  Les nuits d’Été with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in the Young Concert Artists Gala Irene Diamond Concert at Alice Tully Hall. She also took on the title role in Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe in semi-staged concerts with George Manahan and the San Francisco Symphony. Highlights of recent seasons include the world premieres of John Musto’s “Bastianello” and William Bolcom’s “Lucrezia” with the New York Festival of Song.

In 2010, she was awarded First Place and the American Prize in the José Iturbi International Music Competition, Top Prize in the Gerda Lissner Competition, and the Kennedy Center’s Marian Anderson Award. Additionally, Ms. Cooke earned First Prizes in the 2007 Sun Valley Opera Vocal Competition and the 2006 Bach Vocal Competition sponsored by the American Bach Society and The Bach Choir of Bethlehem, as well as Third Prize in the 2006 Licia Albanese-Puccini Competition.

Possessing a voice that the New York Times calls “heart-stirring” as well as a “charismatic” and “powerful” stage presence, American baritone KELLY MARKGRAF is rapidly distinguishing himself on the opera and concert stages. The baritone’s 2012 summer season brought appearances with the New York Philharmonic for concerts with Music Director Alan Gilbert, the Oklahoma Mozart Festival, Chamber Music Northwest, and the Music@Menlo Festival with acclaimed pianist Gilbert Kalish. Highlights of his 2012-2013 season are appearances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for Le rossignol andL’enfant et les sortilèges under Charles Dutoit; the Los Angeles Philharmonic, for Bach’s O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel; Madison Opera, for the title role in Don Giovanni; a recital with the Marilyn Horne Foundation at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, and an art song program, “Love Songs”, with the The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. He returns to Aspen Music Festival in summer 2013, as Swallow in a semi-staged performance of Peter Grimes, conducted by Robert Spano.

In the 2011-2012 season he took the stage as Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro with Kentucky Opera, made his role debut as Malatesta in Don Pasquale at Hawaii Opera in Honolulu, and sang Papageno in Die Zauberflöte with Apollo’s Fire Baroque Orchestra. In concert, he joined the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for Ned Rorem’s Aftermath. His 2010-2011 season included the US Premiere of Shostakovich’s War Front Songs at Symphony Space, Escamillo opposite mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke with Brazos Valley Symphony, the title role in Don Giovanni with Opera Omaha, Allazim in Mozart’s Zaide at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall with Maestro David Robertson, and the role of Zebul in Handel’s Jephtha with Kent Tritle for Sacred Music in a Sacred Space. He also appeared in a leading role in a workshop of Michael Torke’s opera Senna as part of the Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theater Opera/Theater Commissions Program, sang Mahler and Brahms at the Caramoor International Music Festival, and Schumann Lieder at the Music@Menlo Festival with pianist Wu Han.

In the 2009-2010 season, Mr. Markgraf made his New York City Opera debut as Masetto in Christopher Alden’s new production of Don Giovanni, followed by Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro with Opera Omaha and the Crested Butte Music Festival. He also made his role debut as Escamillo alongside Kate Aldrich as Carmen with Pittsburgh Opera. In concert, he appeared as the baritone soloist in Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, Paul Moravec’s Songs of Love and Warwith Princeton Pro Musica, followed by Schumann’s Dichterliebe at the La Jolla Music Festivalwith pianist Ken Noda. In recital, he appeared at Carnegie Hall as part of the Marilyn Horne Foundation’s The Song Continues series.

Kelly Markgraf is a graduate of the Juilliard Opera Center, where his work included the roles of Mamoud in a staged concert of John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer, conducted by the composer, and Ford in Verdi’s Falstaff in a production directed by Stephen Wadsworth and conducted by Keri-Lynn Wilson. In fall 2008, he participated in theWest Side Story portion of the all-Bernstein program, which opened Carnegie Hall’s season and was nationally televised under Michael Tilson Thomas. Mr. Markgraf also made his Pittsburgh Opera debut as Ragged Man in Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath, a role he created at Minnesota Opera in 2007.

Hailed as “a triumph of ensemble playing” (New York Times), FRY STREET QUARTET has perfected a “blend of technical precision and scorching spontaneity” (Strad). Since securing the Millennium Grand Prize at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, Fry Street Quartet has reached audiences from Carnegie Hall to Sarajevo and Jerusalem, exploring the medium of the string quartet and its life-affirming potential with “profound understanding, …depth of expression, and stunning technical astuteness” (Deseret Morning News).

Early Endeavors

Founded in Chicago in 1997 under the mentorship of Marc Johnson, cellist of the Vermeer Quartet, Fry Street received rave reviews as prizewinners at the Yellow Springs Competition and the Banff International String Quartet Competition. The quartet traveled to Israel to participate in the International Encounters Chamber Music Seminar in 2000, where they studied with Isaac Stern. He invited the quartet to the Isaac Stern Chamber Music Workshop in New York City and subsequently arranged for the quartet’s Carnegie Hall debut in 2001.

The Quartet’s early years were also defined by a three-year “Rural Residency” in Hickory, NC, sponsored by Chamber Music America and the National Endowment for the Arts. It was during this period that the quartet cut its teeth winning competitions, building a local audience for the first time, and becoming relevant to the community with music making. The FSQ is proud that the residency in Hickory continues to this day without national grant support.

Milestones

Fry Street Quartet began its international career as cultural ambassadors to the Balkan States, sponsored by Carnegie Hall and the U.S. Department of State. This tour featured the European debut of J. Mark Scearce’s Y2K, commissioned for Fry Street with a grant from Meet the Composer. Subsequent international appearances have included the ProQuartet Academy at Pont-Royal, France, the Prague Chamber Festival and Trutnov Autumn Festival in the Czech Republic, Kulturvereinigung Oberschützen in Austria and three visits to the Oficina de Musica de Curitiba, Brazil.

A recent defining endeavor was the quartet’s first complete Beethoven Quartet Cycle. “These works put players to the test in terms of interpretation, technique and musicianship. And the Fry Street Quartet made it look easy. They exhibited the highest standards of their craft both weekends. Solid technique, wonderful musicality and fabulous artistry combined to make the six concerts they played special. The Fry Street Quartet is without question to be reckoned with among today’s quartets. It has arrived” (Deseret News). A sold-out event with pre-concert lectures by renowned scholar Robert Winter, the Cycle was presented at Utah State University over the course of two weeks, offering the audience a Beethoven-immersion experience.

“Equally at home in the classic repertoire of Mozart and Beethoven or contemporary music” (Palm Beach Daily News), the quartet created an innovative series called From Prodigy to Master, pairing early and late works of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Mendelssohn with engaging modern compositions inspired by these masters of the quartet genre. Modern works included complete string quartets of Benjamin Britten, as well as a world premiere of st qt, dedicated to Fry Street by composer Thomas McFaul.

New Works, Ideas, and Collaborations

In response to the issues of global sustainability, the Fry Street Quartet, alongside physicist and educator Dr. Robert Davies, present The Crossroads Project.  At the heart of the project is an evocative performance blending music, information, imagery — and a dash of theater. Crossroads is a deep-seated and visceral contemplation of the choices before us, the paths they forge, and the dramatically different landscapes to which they lead. A full-length concert version features composer Laura Kaminsky’s string quartet, Rising Tide, alongside projections of paintings created for the project by artist Rebecca Allan, and photographs by Garth Lenz.

The Fry Street Quartet enjoys a continuing residency with the Salt Lake City based series which has partnered with the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music to sponsor the commission of composer Michael Ellison’s latest string quartet, Fiddlin’.  The work is inspired by combining traditional Turkish and American themes and was premiered in December 2013.

Also this season, the FSQ will be touring with a program that highlights connections between music and Theosophy as part of the Leverhulme-funded network titled Enchanted Modernities: Theosophy and the Arts, 1875-1960.This will include rarely heard works from the twentieth-century British composers Cyril Scott and John Foulds. Scott found inspiration in the writings of Theosophical Society founder Helena Blavatsky, and Foulds worked for a time on behalf of the Society as director of music at the London headquarters. The concert will close with the music of Beethoven, a favourite musical topic in Theosophical journals and one of the composers often celebrated by Theosophists.  This program will be part of a tour of the UK in May of 2014.

Teaching

In 2002, at the invitation of Utah State University and the Caine Foundation, the Fry Street Quartet arrived in Logan. The task was to build a performance-based approach to a string program in its infancy. Years later, the area has transformed into a vibrant center for string performance in the Intermountain Region.  The Fry Street Quartet is pleased to hold the Endowed String Quartet Residency at the Caine College of the Arts at Utah State University. Cultivating authentic and creative artistic voices alongside collaborative skills through chamber music is central to the quartet’s teaching. As guest faculty, the quartet has made repeated visits to Madeline Island Music Camp, the Oficina de Musica in Curitiba, Brazil, The Virginia Suzuki Institute, the David Einfeldt Chamber Music Seminar, and the Intermountain Suzuki String Institute, and Credo at Oberlin.

KEN CAZAN is Resident Stage Director for the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California.  One of America’s most sought after directors, he has directed more than 100 productions for more than 40 opera companies, including the Santa Fe Opera (Salome, Intermezzo, Die Scheigsame Frau, Die Zauberflöte, and Le Nozze di Figaro), Central City Opera (West Side Story, Three Decembers, The Seven Deadly Sins, Gianni Schicchi L’Incoronazione di Poppea, Gloriana, Paul Bunyan, Dialogues of the Carmelites, Summer and Smoke, Jongleur de Notre Dame), Atlanta Opera (Lucia di Lammermoor, Un Ballo in Maschera, Don Giovanni, Cavalleria Rusticana, I Pagliacci, Nabucco, Il Trovatore, and Carmen), Canadian Opera (Werther, Suor Angelica, and I Pagliacci), Seattle Opera (Don Pasquale, Die Zauberflöte, Madama Butterfly and La Boheme), Opera Theater of St. Louis(Mithridate, Il Turco in Italia, and Il Barbiere di Siviglia), Opera Omaha (The Turn of the Screw, Faust, La Boheme, The Juniper Tree, and Rigoletto), Opera Pacific and Michigan Opera (Faust, Don Giovanni, Giovanni, and Madama Butterfly), Austin Lyric Opera (Elektra and Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk), Chicago Opera Theater (Death in Venice, Bluebeard’s Castle, Etwartung and Shining Brow), Opera Hamilton (Un Ballo in Maschera, Faust, and Don Giovanni), Portland Opera (Die Fledermaus, Giulio Cesare, and Die Zauberflöte), Austin Lyric Opera (Lucia di Lammermoor and Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Kentucky Opera (Cosi fan tutte and Otello), Madison Opera (Tosca and Faust) Orlando Opera (L’Elisir d’Amore and Die Fledermaus)Virginia Opera (Rigoletto and Un Ballo in Maschera), Academy of Vocal Arts (Faust and Pelleas et Melisande), Skylight Opera (Postcard from Morocco, The Cradle Will Rock, Cosi fan tutte,and The Fantasticks), Florida Grand Opera and Opera Festival of New Jersey (Faust),, Calgary Opera (The Mikado), Edmonton Opera (Romeo et Juliette), Wolf Trap Opera (Le Nozze di Figaro), Chautauqua Opera (The Turn of the Screw), Tulsa Opera and Nashville Opera (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), Fort Worth Opera (Agrippina),Lyric Opera of Kansas City (Die Fledermaus), Syracuse Opera (Fidelio), Utah Opera (Faust), Mobile Opera (La Traviata).

In Italy, he directed Gershwin’s Lady Be Good for the Teatro Fenice in Venice, Italy and, for the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, a collaboration with Leonard Bernstein directing a semi-staged production of La Boheme which was recorded and released on Deutsche Grammaphon, videotaped by RAI and broadcast across Europe.

Recent engagements include the world premiere of Lowell Lieberman’s Miss Lonely Hearts for the Juilliard School to critical acclaim, with subsequent productions in Los Angeles and in Cincinnati, West Side Story and Oklahomoa for Central City Opera and Owen Wingrave for Chicago Opera Theater, West Side Story for Vancouver Opera and in Agder, Norway.  This past season, he directed Glass’ The Fall of the House of Usher for Chicago Opera Theatre and Long Beach Opera and Our Town for Central City Opera.  He will return to Central City next summer to direct Dead Man Walking and The Sound of Music.

In theater, Mr. Cazan has directed Lettice and Lovage, Not About Heroes (Macdonald), Waiting for Godot, and The Inca of Perusalem for Milwaukee Chamber Theater, To Gillian on her 37th Birthday for Cain Park Theater in Cleveland, The Anastasia Affair for Peninsula Productions in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Of Thee I Sing for the 1996 Olympic Cultural Festival in Atlanta.

AOP’s mission is to identify, develop and present new and innovative works of music theater by emerging and established artists and to engage our audiences in an immersive, transformative theatrical experience.

For 25 years, AOP has been creating, developing and presenting new American opera and music theatre projects. AOP, based in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, has produced over 20 world premiere operas including Patience & Sarah (1998), Stefan Weisman’s Darkling (2006), Lee Hoiby’s This is the Rill Speaking (2008), and Phil Kline’s Out Cold (2012), part of BAM’s 30th Next Wave Festival.  AOP produces concerts and events including presentations of new music at Works and Process at the Guggenheim, the Rubin Museum of Art, and Carnegie Hall. AOP-developed projects include Stephen Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon (New York City Opera, 2011), Jorge Martín’s Before Night Falls (Fort Worth Opera, 2010), Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness (Royal Opera House (UK), 2011), and Jack Perla’s Love/Hate (ODC Theater and San Francisco Opera, 2012). UPCOMING: Gregory Spears’s Paul’s Case (UrbanArias, 2013), Lera Auerbach’s The Blind (Lincoln Center Festival, 2013).

[as of Feb 2014]