Roscoe New Opera Workshop
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Discussing Collaborations between Opera and Literature
The second public event as part of Opera Saratoga’s Roscoe workshop engaged an audience of novelists and authors from around the country. Each year the literary community travels to Saratoga Springs to participate in the programs of the Skidmore Writer’s Institute, which on July 17 offered a free round-table discussion on developing opera from literature.
The Skidmore Writer’s Institute offers a series of discussions from Pulitzer-prize winning author William Kennedy each year. The new opera Roscoe, which is based on his novel of the same title, provided an exceptional backdrop for discussing this topic. The operatic form provides a powerful medium for developing literary concepts, presenting many unique opportunities and also distinct challenges for creative artists.
The digital recording produced in phase 1 of the project directly contributed to the success of program. Whenever the discussion referenced the workshop, we could present high quality video clips as examples. In addition to the digital clips, Opera Saratoga brought in baritone Mitchell Hutchings and soprano Jessica Jones to perform select arias from the work and expand the performance component of the program
Once again, the buzz and energy was truly remarkable! Last year William Kennedy produced a program discussing the collaboration of literature and traditional theater – many in the audience were looking forward to the application of those past topics to the operatic form. Moderated by newly appointed Opera Saratoga Artistic and General Director Lawrence Edelson, the program not only presented on stage, included both performance and discussion elements, it also directly engaged its audience, allowing the audience to ask questions and shape the direction of the discussion.
With support from New Music USA, Opera Saratoga, Evan Mack and his creative team inspired this influential group to consider their own creative inspirations in the context of theater, opera, and music. We helped illustrate how new music is alive! New music is everywhere! And there are resources out there to help bring their inspiration to life.
Getting to workshop Act 1 of Roscoe with Opera Saratoga was a tremendous experience. Act 1 was composed in a span of 9 months. Knowing that the work was going to be performed shaped the compositional process. The insights of Music Director, Laurie Rogers, was incredible. Her background in getting other new operas off the ground provided great insight into the process and allowed me to rewrite and edit during the lead up to the performance. The talented cast made for a great performance. Their feedback was extremely helpful in the revision process. Since June 8th, 2 new songs have been added to Act 1.
Get a taste of Roscoe first at New Music USA
Please enjoy this excerpt from the Roscoe Workshop Concert of Act 1 featuring tenor Brad Raymond and baritone Mitchell Hutchings.
We want to thank Skidmore College for donating the use of their outstanding performance venue, The Helen Filene Ladd Hall at Zankel Music Center. Ladd Hall offers state-of-the-art recording equipment that enabled the production of this high quality digital archival recording that composer Evan Mack and his creative team can use when promoting their new work.
While only an excerpt is provided here, a digital copy of the entire performance has been produced and can be provided for interested parties upon request. Please feel free to contact composer Evan Mack for more information.
Workshop Performance and Archival Recording Complete!
With support from New Music USA, Opera Saratoga engaged thirteen professional singers to work with the composer Evan Mack and his creative team for an extensive workshop of Roscoe, a new opera based on the novel of the same name by William Kennedy. Opera Saratoga’s performers arrived on May 21st and immediately began working with Music Director Laurie Rogers for eighteen days of rehearsals, including many sessions with the full creative team; composer Evan Mack, librettist Joshua McGuire, and author/dramaturg William Kennedy. The sessions provided opportunities for the creative team to make changes to what they have written, a collaborative effort drawing upon the combined experience of our entire team of talented singers and artists.
On June 8, the workshop culminated in a concert performance of Act 1 of Roscoe by Opera Saratoga at the state-of-the-art Helen Filene Ladd Hall at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. A reception followed the performance and the interest and enthusiasm was contagious. It was a special evening for the composer, librettist, and all of the artists who were involved – the culmination of an incredible effort by an inspiring group of people. So much hard work went into making this project possible!
Funding from New Music USA also allowed for the production of a digital video recording of the concert performance. This tool will be a invaluable resource for Mack and his team, with the potential to lead to new audiences and new funding opportunities and resources.
New Music USA enabled the Roscoe team to hear their new work in progress and share their work with the public, reaching new audiences, building interest and establishing a foundation that will aid the team through the next stages of the opera’s development. It also provided the opportunity for Opera Saratoga to share the process behind developing a new opera, building excitement and interest in contemporary opera in the community.
Between May 21 and June 8, Opera Saratoga will hold a developmental workshop of Roscoe, a new opera by composer Evan Mack and librettist Joshua McGuire. The workshop provides a living laboratory where composer and librettist can hear their work-in-progress performed by professional singers, providing the time and resources necessary to experiment and make changes to what they have written. The workshop includes eighteen days of rehearsal and working sessions culminating in a public performance of Act 1 of the new opera at Filene Ladd Hall at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY on June 8 at 2:00 pm.
A month later, on July 17, the creative team will meet again for a public panel discussion on the workshop process, a program of Skidmore College’s Summer Writer’s Institute. They will provide insight into the unique challenges and creative opportunities of developing works of literature for opera, which will include a brief performance of excerpts from the new work.
True to the novel, the new opera breaks the boundaries of time, where past and present can exist simultaneously, as well as where the dead and living can exist and comment in both timescapes. Roscoe Conway, after twenty-six years as the second in command of Albany’s notorious political machine, decides to quit politics forever. He wanted to quit the life he had learned from his father and practiced for decades, but he couldn’t because of his allegiances, his love, and his need to fight the good fight again.
The workshop will produce a high quality archival recording that can be used when approaching potential producing partners around the country. Mack’s opera Beach and Moan was the 2013 winner of Atlanta Opera’s 24-hour Opera Project, and his Choral Suite Langston Hughes’ Dream of Freedom was a Selection Winner of the National Association of Composers, San Francisco and the UCM New Music Festival. He will be a composing fellow at the John Duffy Composers Institute and a resident artist of at Yaddo starting mid-2014.
Roscoe is Mack’s largest scale opera to date. He will be collaborating with librettist Joshua McGuire, who he previously worked with on his second full-length opera, The Secret of Luca. Music Director Laurie Rogers brings extensive experience with new works projects. She was directly involved with the composers and commissioning companies for the world premieres of Heggie’s Moby Dick and Danielpour’s Margaret Garner, to name a few. The creative team will also solicit feedback from Roscoe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Kennedy.
Opera Saratoga’s General Director Curtis Tucker has a long history of producing contemporary American works. From 2006 – 2010, the company produced an opera by a living American composer every year, including the professional premiere of Ned Rorem’s Our Town, new productions of Kirke Mechem’s Tartuffe, Michael Ching’s Buoso’s Ghost, and Lee Hoiby’s Bon Appetit, and a workshop performance of Persis Vehar’s Eleanor. In 2012, the company produced The Mighty Casey by American composer William Schuman.
Beginning with this summer workshop of Roscoe, Opera Saratoga will include contemporary American operatic programming as part of every summer festival moving forward.
Kevin Kees, baritone | Evan Mack, piano
Start and End Dates
05/21/2014 — 07/17/2014
Saratoga Springs, New York