mannes opera announces the 2023-2024 season featuring contemporary american composers: adams, soper, peters, adamo

Opens November 17 with Mermaid in the Jar, music by Rachel J. Peters, libretto by Royce Vavrek, adapted from the short story "Mermaid in the Jar" by Sheila Heti

Paired with Colette and Ravel's L'Enfant et les Sortilèges: Fantaisie lyrique en deux parties

NEW YORK, October 23, 2023 – Mannes Opera announces a season featuring contemporary American operas, including works by composers on the forefront of today’s opera scene: Kate Soper, Rachel J. Peters, Mark Adamo and John Adams. Sirens, mermaids, war, love and earthquakes: these stories center on myth and archetype and examine the human condition through the exploration of ideas both human and mythic. This groundbreaking season displays the virtuosity, thrill and innovation that marks the current explosion of new American work and explores the myths, archetypes, events and trends that inform our zeitgeist. Mannes Opera’s 2023-2024 season opens on November 17 & 18 with Mermaid in the Jar and L'Enfant et les Sortilèges: Fantaisie lyrique en deux parties, in John L. Tishman Auditorium at 63 Fifth Avenue. Christopher Allen conducts, Rose Freeman directs.  This event is open to the public and free with registration.

"We have spent a lot of time building our practice in contemporary and experimental music at Mannes, including our composition faculty, ensembles in residence, and the repertoire being chosen for our major productions and performances. So, we are excited to see the 2023 season of the Mannes Opera focus on such wonderful contemporary works," said Richard Kessler, Dean of Mannes.

We start with two fantastical stories - written 100 years apart - about the imaginative power of children: Mermaid in the Jar, the first short chamber opera in the Peters and Vavrek’s Wild Beast of the Bungalow triptych (Mermaid in the Jar, Prairie Dogs, and Fine and Dandy), takes place entirely within an eleven-year-old girl’s bedroom as she overhears her parents’ volatile conversations. After the Girl captures a Mermaid, she is forced to confront what it means to care for others and to be cared for herself. 

Amidst the contemporary works is one French opera, the much loved L'enfant et les sortilèges: Fantaisie lyrique en deux parties (The Child and the Spells: A Lyric Fantasy in Two Parts). Written almost 100 years ago by the writer Collete and composer Maurice Ravel, L’Enfant et les sortilèges also explores the world of a discontented child and their vivid imaginary landscape. After a bout of bad behavior, the items in the Child’s nursery come to life to chastise, terrorize, and teach the Child the value of compassion. 

Next up is Kate Soper’s Here Be Sirens, described by the New Yorker as "an erudite, hilarious, furiously inventive meditation on the siren myth."  Written in 2014, Here be Sirens is Kate Soper's first piece for the stage and is scored for three singers and a piano (without a conductor), much like her recent - widely acclaimed - opera The Hunt. This earlier piece presents the daily life of three sirens, who kill time on their island as they await an endless procession of doomed sailors and plumb the depths of their own origins in this work of "audacious, genre-bending music theatre" (Wall Street Journal).  "...Inspired and strangely one interested in smudging the boundaries of contemporary opera and theater should miss it," (The New York Times). Mannes Opera’s production is the second ever production of this widely acclaimed work. Performing February 16 & 17, 2024 at the 12th Street Auditorium,  66 West 12th Street. Jen Pitt directs, with original cast member Gelsey Bell as Musical Advisor.

Returning to the rich landscape of Greek storytelling - we are thrilled to present Mark Adamo's wild romp Lysistrata, or The Nude Goddess.  Premiering at Houston Grand Opera in 2005, and last seen in New York in 2006 with NY City Opera, Adamo uses Aristophanes 411BC anti-war comedy as the jumping off point to construct a truly modern version of the tale - “Delivering more genuine laughs than just about any comic opera since Gianni Schicchi” (Variety). Through all the comic zing, the questions of war and love emerge. Adamo posits the very modern paradox: "Each of you will tell the truth; neither will agree." Performing March 7-10, 2024 at The Gerald W. Lynch Theater. Geoffrey McDonald conducts, Laine Rettmer directs.

The season concludes with John Adams' genre bending I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw The Sky, written in collaboration with poet June Jordan in 1995 about the LA earthquake. John Adams writes “Ceiling/Sky is a polyphonic love story in the style of a Shakespeare comedy. The characters, all inner-city young people in their twenties, play out their personal dramas against the backdrop of specific social and political themes that were of importance not only to me but to June Jordan. They include racial conflict, relations with the police and authority in general, the persecution of immigrants (so large an issue in Southern California), and sexual identity.” We are thrilled to be presenting this rarely-produced work by one of America’s greatest composers. Performing April 12 & 13, 2024 at Ernst C. Stiefel Hall, 55 West 13th Street.

Under the leadership of Managing Artistic Director Emma Griffin, Mannes Opera is a training program with a curiosity for the new and a devotion to craft for operatic artists. As part of the College of Performing Arts, the program uses the medium of opera to innovate, improvise, and create, and offers young artists extensive performance practice and opportunities. Our program offers young artists a flexible and strong vocal technique, intensive investigation of classical repertoire, exposure to the wealth of new forms and material in new opera, and extensive performance practice with classes and a variety of on-stage experience.

The program engages with the rich tradition of classical repertoire as a lens with which to better understand today’s world and trains students to be professional artists with agency and control over what they do and how they do it. Mannes Opera draws on the best opera and theater makers that NYC has to offer.

The College of Performing Arts at The New School was formed in 2015 and draws together the Mannes School of Music, the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, and the School of Drama. With each school contributing its unique culture of creative excellence, the College of Performing Arts is a hub for cross-disciplinary collaboration, bold experimentation, innovative education, and world-class performances.

The 1,000 students at the College of Performing Arts are actors, performers, writers, improvisers, creative technologists, entrepreneurs, composers, arts managers, and multidisciplinary artists who believe in the transformative power of the arts for all people. Students and faculty collaborate with colleagues across The New School in a wide array of disciplines, from the visual arts and fashion design, to the social sciences, public policy, advocacy, and more. 

The curriculum at the College of Performing Arts is dynamic, inclusive, and responsive to the changing arts and culture landscape. New degrees and coursework, like the new graduate degrees for Performer-Composers and Artist Entrepreneurs are designed to challenge highly skilled artists to experiment, innovate, and engage with the past, present, and future of their artforms. New York City’s Greenwich Village provides the backdrop for the College of Performing Arts, which is housed at Arnhold Hall on West 13th Street and the historic Westbeth Artists Community on Bank Street.

Founded in 1919, The New School was established to advance academic freedom, tolerance, and experimentation. A century later, The New School remains at the forefront of innovation in higher education, inspiring more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students to challenge the status quo in design and the social sciences, liberal arts, management, the arts, and media. The university welcomes thousands of adult learners annually for continuing education courses and public programs that encourage open discourse and social engagement. Through our online learning portals, research institutes, and international partnerships, The New School maintains a global presence.


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