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Pittsburgh Opera: American Opera Composer Residency

Pittsburgh Opera presents Paul's Case, a 2013 opera by Gregory Spears, and hosts composer residency to promote contemporary American opera.

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Pittsburgh Opera hosts a residency by composer Gregory Spears.

Posted on May 30, 2014 by Pittsburgh Opera, Inc.

Pittsburgh Opera presented Paul’s Case as the inaugural production of its Second Stage Project dedicated to performances of recent American operas and as part of the American Opera Series, which featured performances of operas by three living American composers.

The residency by Gregory Spears, the composer of Paul’s Case, created unique opportunities for community engagement and creative collaboration. A trip to Pittsburgh also allowed the composer to personally visit the landmarks and places mentioned in a short story by Willa Cather that the opera is based on.

The residency included several engagement activities that offered our community opportunities to explore the creative process of composing, staging, and performing the contemporary chamber opera and discuss the connection between the literary and music works. The composer’s participation in technical rehearsals during the week leading up to the opening night allowed Pittsburgh Opera to create a musical and theatrical experience that was true to composer’s intentions.

Key events of the residency included:

Community Engagement:

  • An expanded Opera Up Close seminar, featuring panel discussions with composer Gregory Spears, experts on Willa Cather’s works Dr. Timothy Bintrim (Department Chair, Assistant Professor of English at St. Francis University) and Dr. James Jaap (Senior Instructor in English at Penn State University), stage director George Cederquist, and members of Pittsburgh Opera’s artistic staff;
  • Masterclasses for composition students from Carnegie Mellon University and Duquesne University. The students also had an opportunity to attend technical and final dress rehearsals;
  • A featured interview with Gregory Spears on WESA 90.5.

Audience Engagement:

  • Open dress rehearsal with the composer;
  • Discussions with the composer and guest artists at the opening night performance. The audience included members of Pittsburgh Opera High School Apprentices program for students interested in careers in performing arts.

Featuring Paul’s Case as part of Pittsburgh Opera’s 75th Anniversary Season and the special American Opera Series that included works by three living American composers (together with Dark Sisters by Nico Muhly and Orphée by Philip Glass) exemplified Pittsburgh Opera’s commitment to the future of American opera.

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“Opera was the perfect way to tell [Paul’s] story”

Posted on May 30, 2014 by Pittsburgh Opera, Inc.

During his residency, composer Gregory Spears discussed his opera Paul’s Case with Paul Guggenheimer of WESA 90.5. Tenor Daniel Curran, a member of Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist program and performer of the role of Paul, participated in the discussion.

Composer Gregory Spears visits Pittsburgh universities.

Posted on May 30, 2014 by Pittsburgh Opera, Inc.

During his residency in Pittsburgh (February 2014), composer Gregory Spears visited music students at Duquesne University and Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to offering the students a rare opportunity to participate in a conversation with a visiting American composer, these visits also became a starting point for planning an expanded collaboration among the universities and Pittsburgh Opera to workshop the student projects with Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist program.

Overview

Celebrating this season its 75 years as a cultural force and engaged partner in our region, Pittsburgh Opera presents a season that showcases the remarkable richness and artistic diversity of our art form and the wide range of opera experiences that Pittsburgh Opera has the capacity to create.

Featuring Paul’s Case as part of an American Opera Series that includes works by three living American composers (together with Dark Sisters by Nico Muhly and Orphée by Philip Glass) exemplifies Pittsburgh Opera’s commitment to the future of our art form and establishes the company as a contributor to the expansion of the canon of American opera.

A new chamber opera by the accomplished young American composer Gregory Spears, Paul’s Case is based on a famous short story by Willa Cather about a young man’s defiance and fragility. The setting of the story in turn-of-the-20th century Pittsburgh – and the prominence of the Carnegie Music in Oakland as a location – promise a special connection between this opera and Pittsburgh’s opera lovers. (Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland was the site of Pittsburgh Opera’s first performance, as well). We are eager to bring Paul’s Case, anarresting” new work that has been lauded for distinctive and pungent musical language” and “powerful” imagery, to Pittsburgh.

Paul’s Case will be presented in a production by Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artists, members of the highly acclaimed training program for emerging opera artists and will strengthen Pittsburgh Opera’s commitment to creating transformative opera experiences for diverse audiences.

Pittsburgh Opera is thrilled to host a residency with the composer Gregory Spears. His visit to Pittsburgh during the week leading up to the opening night on February 22, 2014 will create unique opportunities for community engagement and further elevate the artistic significance of this production. The activities of the residency will include:

Community Engagement:

  • An expanded Opera Up Close seminar, featuring panel discussions with Gregory Spears, the guest artists, members of Pittsburgh Opera’s artistic staff, and experts on Willa Cather’s works;
  • Masterclasses for composition students from Carnegie Mellon University and Duquesne University. The students will also be invited to attend a technical and final dress rehearsals;
  • A featured interview with Gregory Spears on Classical WQED-FM 89.3;
  • Video and audio excerpts from these events will be available at Pittsburgh Opera’s website.

Audience Engagement:

  • Open dress rehearsal including question and answer sessions with the composer and guest artists;
  • Pre- and post-performance discussions with the composer and guest artists at the opening night performance. The participants will include nearly 100 high school students from Buffalo, NY, who are traveling to Pittsburgh with a purpose of attending the performance of Paul’s Case, as well as members of Pittsburgh Opera High School Apprentices program for students interested in careers in performing arts.

Artist Engagement:

The members of the production team and the cast will benefit from the composer’s participation in the technical rehearsals. This will ultimately benefit Pittsburgh Opera audiences by offering them a musical and theatrical experience that is true to composer’s intentions.

Start and End Dates

02/15/201402/23/2014

Location

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

3 updates
Last update on May 30, 2014

Project Created By

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The seventh oldest opera company in the country, Pittsburgh Opera strives to create transformative opera experiences for the community – by presenting artistically excellent productions and featuring many free performances in traditional and new settings throughout the region, and with the community – by creating relevant and engaging programming through partnerships with other stakeholders in…

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Composer
Brooklyn, New York

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