Hunter Opera Theater produced The Richard Burke Pocket Opera at Hunter College

in collaboration with

American Opera Projects.

NEW YORK, NY—In May of 2018, students of Hunter Opera Theater (HOT) produced the Richard Burke Pocket Opera at Hunter College  premiering three one-act operas. Hunter’s Music Department selected two student-composed works, OPERAbbit by composer Mariel Mayz and MarShawn by composer Joe Young, to be premiered alongside an opera entitled The Bone Keepers, by composer Casey O’Neil and librettist Sophia Chapadjievcreated in collaboration with Brooklyn-based contemporary opera producer American Opera Projects (AOP) under the guidance of then AOP General Director Charles Jarden. The performances feature the renowned Talea ensemble, conducted by David Fulmer, and projections by Monica Duncan.

The Richard Burke Pocket Opera at Hunter College was developed for Hunter by Richard Burke, to bring the creative and mentoring process of developing opera to the educational level, while creating a through-line to the professional world. A renowned composer in his own right, Burke drew from his professional experience and worked with the English department to create an interdisciplinary project. He enjoyed five seasons of successful stagings until his passing. Director Susan Gonzalez now continues the tradition, with funding by the family and friends of Professor Richard Burke.

 

ABOUT THE OPERAS

 

The Bone Keepers is a one-act about the Revolutionary War-era tomb at Fort Greene Park. The Bone Keepers was developed by the creators, both of whom are NYU graduates, as part of a program that offered NYU alumni the opportunity to workshop their pieces with the university and AOP.  

 

One body amounts to 206 bones. 10,000 bodies amount to 2.06 million (give or take a bone or two).

The odds of finding the matching set of just one single soldier out of the remains of 10,000 men are…

not good. And yet, Abigail and Winifred, the two otherworldly Fort Greene Park Crypt Bone Keepers,

have an eternity in which to do just that. On the verge of completing a human puzzle, all they need is

one… last… bone.

 

OPERAbbit takes place in an unknown country with unnamed characters who are struggling for basic

necessities amongst a political, social, and economic crisis. Questions of loyalty, trust, and nationalism

are brought to the foreground as our Protagonist receives an unconventional government hand-out: a

bunny.

 

This fictional story by composer Mariel Mayz, with a libretto by Ms. Mayz’ brother, Andrew Mayz, is met with humor and the liveliness of Latin American culture. The underlying truth, however, is more tragic. Many countries in Latin America have faced deep political, economic, or societal problems throughout their histories. None, however, have faced them all simultaneously as the country of Venezuela is facing right now. Inspired by actual events in Venezuela, this chamber opera questions the current social climate of today’s bizarre political reality.

 

MarShawn is based on the life of MarShawn McCarrel, a young political activist and talented poet from Columbus, Ohio. In his hometown of Columbus, he formed nonprofit organizations such as Pursuing Our Dreams, providing youth programming throughout the city, and Feed The Streets , a campaign that fed the homeless in and around his community. Active in the Black Lives Matter movement, he was a leader in community engagement and was awarded the NAACP Hometown Hero Award. MarShawn also suffered from depression and ultimately took his life on the steps of the Ohio State House on February 8, 2016.

 

MarShawn’s story is told through his own words. Using posts from Twitter and Facebook, along with his poetry and quotes from news articles, we see the passion and courage of a talented young man who fought for justice and believed in the power of the people.

 

COMPOSER AND LIBRETTIST BIOS

Composers

 

Casey O’Neil  is a composer, lyricist, and writer native to the NYC area. He received a BM in Trombone Performance from the Eastman School of Music and an MFA from the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. His writing can be found in concert works, films, podcasts, song cycles, operas, comics and musicals, and has been presented at TheatreWorks, The Bruno Walter Auditorium, 54 Below, The Buffalo Film Festival, Barrington Stage Company, and Lauren Flanigan’s living room. Selected credits include: The Essentials, a feature film; Soft & Salty Winds, orchestral tone poem (winner of the CCO composition competition); Danny & The Rocket, a new musical (Marella Martin Koch, book & lyrics ); Hank & Elodie’s Magic Book Adventures, a comic series (Joel Golombeck, illustrations); The Great Cat Massacre, a new musical (Greg Moss, Co-Author); The Elephant in the Room, a song cycle. He is also a two time recipient of the Tisch I.P.A. Staff Grant (The Elephant in the Room, The Great Cat Massacre).  He is currently producing and scenic designing the off-off broadway premiere of The Great Cat Massacre in the Frigid Festival.

 

New York native Mariel Mayz is a pianist and composer. She is currently working on the publishing and recording of her solo piano compositions, as well as preparing her upcoming recitals in the U.S., Portugal and Spain. Mariel was recently appointed the Assistant to the Director of the Gijon International Piano Festival. She is also the Vice Director and Co-Founder of Porto Pianofest, held each August in Portugal. Ms. Mayz made her debut with the Rockland Symphony Orchestra at the age of sixteen, and thereafter continued to perform in places such as Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, Lincoln Center, Tenri Cultural Institute, the Essex House, and other venues. Mariel received her Bachelor’s degree from New York University under the instruction of Jose Ramon Mendez and Seymour Bernstein. She began pursuing composition in 2016 under the mentorship of Justin Dello Joio, and this Spring she will receive a dual Master’s degree in composition and piano from CUNY Hunter College under the instruction of Suzanne Farrin, Shafer Mahoney, and Geoffrey Burleson.

 

Originally from Indianapolis, IN, Joe Young currently resides in New York City. A prolific composer, he writes and performs original music inspired by both classical and contemporary artists. His music has been performed throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Additionally, Joe is a traveling musician and member of the United States Army Band. He has had the privilege of performing across the country and world. As a performer his primary instruments are guitar, trumpet, banjo, and mandolin. Joe received his Bachelor's degree at Ball State University. He was twice a composer fellow at the Zodiac Music Academy & Festival and currently studies composition with Shafer Mahoney. Former teachers include Yevgeniy Sharlat, Andrew List, with additional lessons with Missy Mazzoli and Gabriel Kahane.
 

Librettists

 

Sophia Chapadjiev is a first-generation American writer originally from Chicago now dividing her time between the US and UK. As a playwright, she has had her work performed in New York, London, Toronto and Sydney. Her play, Over the Moon won Best Play, plus Audience Favorite at the American Globe Theater and In This House was selected as part of London’s Dark Horse Festival. Selected musical works of hers include: the one-act opera Aloha Flight 243 (music: A. Leyton-Brown) at HERE Arts Center; Tobias Bentley’s World Cello Tour: of the Lesser-Known Nether Regions (music: N. Barstow) at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Other Palace (fka The St. James); next up is a developmental workshop of Mouth Pieces (music: A. Leyton-Brown) at Wagner, slated for production in 2019. Sophia teaches script analysis at the National Theater Institute and since 2007, she has been the Artistic Director of the Young Playwrights Festival at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. Sophia is also the author of Teaching Playwriting: A Step-by-Step Guide to Fostering Creativity in Your Classroom. The Bone Keepers was written with support from American Opera Projects and Randall Eng’s NYU’s Opera Lab.

 

Andrew Mayz is currently a student at New York University's School of Professional Studies studying Creative Writing and Sports Management. He has been an opera enthusiast for over five weeks. Although Andrew has never owned a rabbit, he was quite fond of his friend's rabbit, who acted like a dog. Andrew is a poet and storyteller who looks forward to a long career in rabbit-centric fine arts.

 

ADDITIONAL HUNTER OPERA THEATER ARTISTIC STAFF BIOS FOR 2018

Coach/COllaborator Noby Ishida was on the faculty of Hunter College from 2009 - 2019, where he has spent the past nine years coaching the wonderful young artists of the Hunter Opera Theater. Mr. Ishida is the founder and artistic director of Satori Opera, and Assistant Conductor, Chorus Master, and Vocal Coach for Martina Arroyo’s Prelude to Performance program. He was formerly the musical director of the Remarkable Theatre Brigade, and conductor for the Opera Management Corporation. An accomplished solo and collaborative pianist, Mr. Ishida has performed in numerous distinguished venues including Merkin Concert Hall, Carnegie Hall, and Alice Tully Hall, among others, and works with artists from several major opera companies such as the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and San Francisco Opera. Prior to his work at Hunter College, Mr. Ishida served on the vocal coaching staffs of Temple University, the University of Miami, Bennington College, The New School University, and the International Academy of Rome. In addition to his work in opera, Mr. Ishida is the Director of Music and Organist at the historic Setauket Presbyterian Church on the North Shore of Long Island.

Mr. Ishida’s recent engagements include serving as the Assistant Conductor for Henry Mollicone’s The Face on the Barroom Floor and Emperor Norton (NY Premiere) with Chelsea Opera, and Conductor for Mozart’s Così fan tutte with NYC’s Opera Cooperative and Assistant Conductor and Keyboardist for the same opera with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra. He was Assistant Conductor and Chorus Master for Prelude to Performance’s Summer 2017 performances of Puccini's Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, and Bizet's Carmen.

 

ABOUT TALEA, PERFORMANCE ENSEMBLE

Heralded as “a crucial part of the New York cultural ecosphere” by the New York Times, the Talea Ensemble is comprised of nineteen of New York City’s finest musicians, with a mission to build communities through innovative musical experiences, cultivate curious listeners, and engage audiences in musical creativity and cultural exploration.

 

Recipients of the 2014 CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, Talea has brought to life more than 30 commissions of major new works since it was founded in 2008. Partnering with institutions like the Austrian Cultural Forum or the French American Cultural Exchange, Talea has helped introduce NYC audiences to important works of such esteemed composers as Pierre Boulez, Georg Friedrich Haas, Beat Furrer, Pierluigi Billone, or Georges Aperghis.

 

Praised for their “verve and immaculate virtuosity” by the Washington Post, the Talea Ensemble is sought after both in the U.S. and Europe for its range, precision, risk-taking, and superior performance quality. Recent festival engagements include performances at Lincoln Center Festival, Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt, the Fromm Concerts at Harvard University, Warsaw Autumn Festival, Wien Modern, Chicago’s Contempo series, Royaumont Voix Nouvelles, Vancouver New Music, and many others. Talea’s recordings have been distributed worldwide on the Wergo, Gravina Musica, Tzadik, Innova, and New World Records labels, and been radio-broadcast on ORF (Austria), HRF (Germany), and WQXR’s Q2.

 

Talea assumes an ongoing role in supporting a new generation of composers, and has undertaken residencies in music departments at Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, New York University, and many others. For more information, please visit: www.taleaensemble.org

 

ABOUT AOP

Founded in 1988, American Opera Projects (AOP) is at the forefront of the contemporary opera movement through its commissioning, developing, and producing of opera and music theatre projects, training programs for student and emerging composers and librettists, and community engagement. Recent AOP world premieres include As One (BAM, 2014), Ashes & Snow (Pittsburgh Opera, 2018), The Echo Drift (PROTOTYPE Festival 2018), Three Way (Nashville Opera & BAM 2017), Hagoromo starring Wendy Whelan (BAM, 2015), Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (Irondale Center, 2014), and The Blind (co-production with Lincoln Center Festival, 2013). AOP-developed operas that premiered with co-producers include The Summer King at Pittsburgh Opera (2017) and Michigan Opera Theatre (2018), Lucy and Independence Eve at Urban Arias (2017),  The Scarlet Ibis at PROTOTYPE Festival (2015), Paul's Case at Urban Arias (2013) and PROTOTYPE Festival and Pittsburgh Opera (2014), Séance on a Wet Afternoon at New York City Opera (2011), and Heart of Darkness at London's Royal Opera House (2011) and Opera Parallèle (2015).  www.aopopera.org

 

AOP received a multi-year award from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and an OPERA America

Innovation award to support AOP’s training program, Composers and the Voice.

 

Funding for this production has been provided by the family and friends of Professor Richard Burke.

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