Opera Philadelphia, in collaboration with Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group in New York, has announced that composer David T. Little has been selected as its fourth composer in residence. Funded by a $1.7 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the program fosters new American opera through personalized creative development and intensive, hands-on composition opportunities. The composer in residence position combines its individualized plan of study with a living stipend and health benefits. Little was chosen from among more than 100 applicants for the position and now has the opportunity to follow a personalized development track focused on the advancement of his skills as an operatic composer. Little will begin his appointment on June 1, 2014. He joins composers in residence Missy Mazzoli (who was appointed in September 2012), Andrew Norman (appointed in September 2013), and Lembit Beecher (who was the first composer appointed to the program in September 2011).
“I stumbled backwards into opera,” said Little. “I have learned almost entirely by doing, writing pieces like Dog Days, Soldier Songs, and Vinkensport by following my instincts. These projects excited me to explore the vast potentials of opera in the 21st century. I am looking forward to working with and within these three terrific companies to explore all that opera can be.
“David T. Little is a true 21st century composer with a unique voice. We were immediately taken with his musical insight, melodic textures, and unorthodox operatic structure,” said David B. Devan, general director and president of Opera Philadelphia.
Diane Wondisford, producing director of Music-Theatre Group, added, “David T. Little’s writing for the music theatre already demands and ultimately commands our attention. I am very excited to accompany him on this three-year journey in the opera world.”
Little recently completed two songs from Artaud in the Black Lodge (a theatre work in progress for tenor and chamber ensemble, commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects) for the 21C Liederabend at BAM. A new production of Soldier Songs with film by Bill Morrison premieres this weekend in Washington, D.C., and will make its international debut on the Holland Festival next month. He is currently working on a new opera about the last day of John F. Kennedy’s life, with a libretto by Royce Vavrek, commissioned by the Fort Worth Opera and American Lyric Theater to premiere in 2016. He was mostly recently awarded a commission from The Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Theater as part of their new works program.
The other three composers in residence will also continue their creative development this season with Opera Philadelphia, Gotham Chamber Opera, and Music-Theatre Group. Beecher, whose work I Have No Stories to Tell You received its world premiere in February with Gotham Chamber Opera, is working on a studio recording of the opera and returns to Philadelphia in May for a final workshop with Pig Iron Theatre for an opera he is writing about characters with Alzheimer’s disease.
Norman will be back in residency in Philadelphia from May 18-June 8, during which he is observing a workshop for Daniel Schnyder’s new opera Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD and rehearsals for the East Coast premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s A Coffin in Egypt with Opera Philadelphia and the U.S. Premiere of The Raven by Toshio Hosokawa with Gotham Chamber Opera. He is also taking voice lessons and meeting with composer Jennifer Higdon and librettist Mark Campbell.
Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek are currently writing a chamber opera based on the Lars von Trier’s Oscar-nominated 1996 film Breaking the Waves. They are working with director Stephanie Havey, soprano Ashley Milanese, baritone Sean Michael Plumb, and conductor Teddy Poll on two scenes scheduled to be performed in June during the New Works Sampler at the annual Opera America conference. Mazzoli and Vavrek will also be traveling to Scotland this summer to continue their research and writing of Breaking the Waves.
(—from the press release)