MOR-Commissioned Opera, After Life, receives National Opera Association Award
SEATTLE, WA—January 9, 2017
Music of Remembrance’s (MOR) 2015 opera commission After Life, by composer Tom Cipullo and librettist David Mason, was awarded the prestigious Domenick Argento Chamber Opera Award from the National Opera Association. Over 45 new operas competed for the award, and the winner was announced on January 6, 2017 at the association’s convention in Santa Barbara, CA following performance of excerpts from the three finalist operas. The singers, young artists in the UCSB Opera Theatre program, were under the musical direction of UCSB faculty member Benjamin Brecher and stage director Sara Widzer.
After Life is an intense one-act opera that explores the role of art in a troubled world through a confrontation between the ghosts of Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein. In life, the two maintained a fraught friendship, complicated by their starkly divergent ideas about art and politics. When their spirits meet in the opera, they argue over their legacies until a nameless young victim of the Holocaust enters and challenges them to think further about life and death, and about how they responded to evil in the world through their art. “From verbally combative and scathingly accusatory to contemplative and reflective, with music that soars and roars, sears and weeps . . . this imaginatively conceived hypothetical meeting is operatic in both the most elevated, and most elemental sense of the word.” (DC Metro Theater Arts)
Music of Remembrance produced the world premiere of After Life in Seattle and San Francisco. The stellar cast showcased baritone Robert Orth as Picasso, mezzo soprano Catherine Cook as Stein, and soprano Ava Pine as the youth. The production was directed by Erich Parce, and conducted by Stilian Kirov with MOR’s instrumental ensemble drawn primarily from the Seattle Symphony. MOR’s CD recording on the Naxos label features the same artists. Gramophone Magazine’s review of the recording commented: “Cipullo weaves David Mason's ingenious, rhapsodic libretto into an absorbing, often lively . . . narrative told in words and music that is translucently scored and makes full use of the five-member ensemble's colours, astonishingly vocal at times in their effect.”
As winner of the Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition, After Life will be presented in its entirety at the 2018 National Opera Association convention in New Orleans. We hope that the award will help this important work gain the prominent place it deserves in the contemporary opera repertoire.
Music of Remembrance (www.musicofremembrance.org), founded in 1998 by Mina Miller, remembers the Holocaust and communicates its lessons through music. It launched After Life through its “Testimonies for Tomorrow” initiative that has commissioned and premiered more than 20 new Holocaust-inspired works by leading composers who also include Jake Heggie, Lori Laitman, Betty Olivero, Thomas Pasatieri, Paul Schoenfield and David Stock. MOR’s next commission, to open myself, to scream by rising American composer Mary Kouyoumdjian, explores the fate of Europe’s Roma under Nazi rule. The multi-media work will be premiered at MOR’s concerts at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall on May 21, 2017, and at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on May 24, 2017.
“Creating the music for After Life was one of the most exciting and rewarding artistic experiences of my career,” Cipullo has remarked. “David Mason's brilliant libretto was truly an inspiration, and the work had a spectacular birth with the superb production by Music of Remembrance.” Cipullo and Mason are currently collaborating on another MOR commission, The Parting, scheduled for late 2019.