Resonance Works elects first government director and publicizes return to the stage for its ninth season
Resonance Works has its 2021-22 season, Bridging Time, Space, and Tradition, and the appointment of Dr. Clare Longendyke announced as the organization’s first Executive Director. The ninth season of Resonance Works combines virtual and face-to-face performances in line with the organization’s mission to enrich the Pittsburgh community with innovative music experiences that excite audiences and empower artists.
The season kicks off October 1 with HEROES, a series of world premiere operatic films created by member firms of the Decameron Opera Coalition that explore the meaning of heroism. In November, Back to the Future presents an exclusively female composer line-up and the soloist Jeffrey Turner, the former solo bassist of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, with the Resonance Chamber Orchestra. A family-friendly film by Engelbert Humperdinck’s beloved Hansel & Gretel will debut in December, followed by a concert by the Metropolitan Opera Grand Final 2021 soprano Raven McMillon in February. Verdi’s iconic masterpiece Rigoletto closes the season with performances at the end of May.
The Decameron Opera Coalition presents HEROES
The new season of Resonance Works starts on October 1st, 2021 with the virtual premiere of HEROES, the second project of the Decameron Opera Coalition. Resonance Works co-founded this unprecedented partnership of nine indie opera companies from across the United States who have come together to cultivate new works and reshape the way opera is created and enjoyed. The coalition’s inaugural series, Tales from a Safe Distance, was hailed as “an unbridled success” (Houston Journal) and was recognized by Fred Plotkin and WQXR New York Public Radio with the 2020 Freddie Excellence in Opera Award, which was named one of the Industry Greats was awarded – Defining the Moments of the Year by Operawire and has been archived in the Library of Congress. The film series is still available for public streaming in the IDAGIO Global Concert Hall.
The coalition returns with renewed zeal for HEROES, seven world premiere opera shorts presented in three episodes that explore the meaning of heroism and portray unsung, unconventional, or misunderstood heroes from different eras and geographies. Each DOC company has a chapter honoring a different hero: from Hazel M. Johnson (the mother of environmental justice) and Sacajawea to the everyday heroes of Pittsburgh, New York City and Duluth. The series is framed by “Hero Songs”, a new cycle of art songs by DOC co-founders Peter Hilliard and Matt Boresi. The headlining of the project is the renowned soprano Karen Slack (Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago), who was recently awarded the Sphinx Medal for Excellence 2022. Slack is accompanied in the song cycle by the former Pittsburgh Opera resident artist-tenor Javier Abreu, the mezzo-soprano Tesia Kwarteng and the baritone John Castillo.
The “Letter to Our Children” chapter of Resonance Works is the creative product of composer Justine F. Chen, who received the 2020 Opera America Discovery Grant, and award-winning playwright Jacqueline Goldfinger. The piece is framed as a touching letter from the composer to her twin sons about her late father’s heroism in looking after his family. Mezzo-soprano Laurel Semerdjian, a graduate of the Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist Program, brings the world premiere to life with an ensemble from the Resonance Chamber Orchestra.
The DOC is holding a live streaming premiere night virtual party on October 1st at 8 p.m. with artist interviews and insights into all chapters. Episode-specific parties will take place virtually on October 3rd, 5th and 7th and will be streamed on all virtual platforms. All three HEROES episodes premier on October 1st and tickets are now available at https://bit.ly/DOCHeroes. Following the immense success of Tales, HEROES promises a dynamic start to the Resonance Works season.
Back to the Future
On November 13th and 14th, the company will return to the stage for their first personal mainstage appearances since December 2019. With Back to the Future, the Resonance Chamber Orchestra debuts at Greer Cabaret at Theater Square with a string orchestra program, works that are inspired by past musical traditions from around the world. The program includes guest soloist and former solo double bassist of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Jeffrey Turner, in the Pittsburgh premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s Dark with Excessive Bright (2018). Also on the program is Chen Yis Shuo (1995), a “shimmering, sparkling amalgam made of folk song [the composer’s] Heimat China “, Jessie Montgomery’s Source Code (2013), which is based on a syntax derived from black spirituals, and Gabriela Lena Frank’s Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout (2003), a work that contrasts Western classical music and the folk music traditions of the Andes. Tickets for these performances will go on sale later this month.
Hansel and Gretel
In December, Resonance Works cooperates with Opera Ithaca to ring in the Christmas spirit with a new film adaptation of Engelbert Humperdinck’s beloved opera Hansel & Gretel. The film is an innovative reinterpretation of the original from the 19th century. The star cast of the film includes the sopranos Meghan Kasanders (Staastoper Hannover, Opera Theater of Saint Louis) and Marlen Nahhas (Washington National Opera Cafritz Young Artist), the mezzo-soprano Annie Rosen (Metropolitan Opera , Lyric Opera of Chicago) and the baritone Mario Diaz-Moresco (Chautauqua Opera) and a special partnership with the Pittsburgh Youth Chorus. The Artistic Director of Resonance Works, Maria Sensi Sellner, leads an octet of Resonance Chamber Orchestra players.
Resonance Works and the Pittsburgh Youth Chorus are holding a personal film premiere on December 18th at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. The adorable new movie will be streamed online during the Christmas season.
Raven McMillon in concert
February brings a one-off concert from one of the opera’s brightest rising stars. Soprano Raven McMillon, winner of the 2021 Grand Finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and Carnegie Mellon alum, returns to Pittsburgh on February 20, 2022 at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater with a multi-genre program of art song, opera and jazz. A sophomore at the Houston Grand Opera Studio this season, she will take on the roles of Frasquita in Carmen, Peter in the world premiere of Joel Thompson’s The Snowy Day, and Papagena in The Magic Flute, making her house and role debut at the Philadelphia Opera as Gilda in Rigoletto.
Resonance Works closes the season on May 20th and 22nd with the long-awaited staging of one of the opera’s most beloved and heartbreaking stories, Giuseppe Verdi’s masterpiece Rigoletto. An intimate reinterpretation by returned director Valerie Rachelle (On the Town) updates the story into the 1930s and brings the relevance of Gilda’s experience closer. The baritone Andrew Cummings takes on the role of Rigoletto and gives the character his “powerful voice and impressive presence” (Houston Chronicle). Soprano Joanna Latini (Glimmerglass Opera, Santa Fe Opera, alumna of Carnegie Mellon University) makes headlines in her role debut as Gilda, with Puerto Rican tenor Ángel Vargas (Dallas Opera, Opera Theater of Saint Louis) in his role debut as Duke of Mantua. The mainstage production will be accompanied by a streaming world premiere of L’assassino, a hip-hopera creation by the composer and performing artist KF Jacques. As a prequel to the Rigoletto story, L’assassino tells of the dark beginnings of the assassin Sparafucile through Jacques’ unique fusion of hip-hop and opera. Jacques’ “Corsair” premiered in Tales from a Safe Distance last season and was named Best New Local Opera Production of 2020 by Chicago Reader.
Longendyke, an “administrator” of the Resonance Works mission
Executive Director Clare Longendyke, who is moving to Resonance Works from the University of Chicago, where she was Artist in Residence and Director of Chamber Music, exudes an infectious passion for inspiring audiences to make deeper connections with classical music. In her work as an art administrator and entrepreneur, Longendyke has advocated creative placemaking and broken new ground to connect artists and audiences with their communities. Longendyke’s efforts to bring innovative music experiences to public spaces and historic sites earned her a 2019 nomination for the Indianapolis Business Journal’s Women of Influence Award. She combines an active international career as a concert pianist with her work as an administrator. “Resonance Works has been a model of resilience for artists and art organizations across the country at this challenging time,” commented Longendyke. “I am proud to work with Artistic and General Director Maria Sensi Sellner to advance the organization as we continue to find new and unique ways to engage audiences and artists in Pittsburgh.”
Information about the season ticket
Tickets for HEROES are currently available at bit.ly/DOCHeroes. Single tickets for the remainder of the Resonance Works season are sold throughout the season. Live performances have a virtual ticket option for a digital addition after the personal event.