New York, NY — Experiments in Opera announces the premiere of Brother Brother, the final production of their 2013-14 Season at Abrons Arts Center, with music and libretto by Aaron Siegel. This 90-minute opera, which has been in development with Experiments in Opera for the last two seasons, explores the relationship between Orville and Wilbur Wright following their first flights in 1903. Scored for 2 vibraphones, glockenspiel, strings, flute, vocal soloists, actors and chorus, Brother Brother will be premiered on Friday May 2 and Saturday May 3, 8pm in the Playhouse at Abrons Art Center, 466 Grand Street, New York. For tickets ($20 general, $15 student), patrons should call Theatermania at 212-352-3101 or visit www.AbronsArtsCenter.org.
This production of Brother Brother will be directed by Mallory Catlett, with scenic design by Obie Award-winning designer Mimi Lien, and musical direction by David Bloom. The involved musicians have been collaborators in the development of Brother Brother over the last four years and include Mantra Percussion, Cadillac Moon Ensemble, soprano Michelle Kennedy, countertenor Patrick Fennig, tenor Marc Day, and actor Julian A Rozzell, Jr.
Prior to each Brother Brother performance, Experiments in Opera will share two “Opera Trailers,” 90-second videos that offer a sneak peek at new opera ideas and characters. Featured artists include Jason Cady, Dave Ruder, Matthew Welch and the partnership of Daniel Kushner, Noelle Evans and Jascha Narveson. Additionally, in partnership with CultureBot.org, composers and collaborators featured on Brother Brother will take part in a free public discussion — Opera in Dialogue #3 on Saturday May 3, 2014, 5:00 PM, at the Playhouse, Abrons Arts Center — exploring the ideas and motivations behind this premiere production.
The Wright Brothers’ fascinating story of family drama, business struggles and legal fights is layered over a secondary story about the fictional characters, Red and Blue, which details the challenges of contemporary brotherhood and the complexities of growing up with an unusual idea of brotherly intimacy. Aaron Siegel drew on his own experiences as a twin while writing the libretto that provides both sets of brothers a range of coded language to express their wonder in the world and in each other. The music for Brother Brother draws on Siegel’s wide range of experiences with percussive minimalism, early music, American shape-note singing, ambient electronic music and improvised jazz. Brother Brother is a timely look at the personal side of innovation and entrepreneurial optimism in America.
From the Composer:
“I’ve always been more drawn to consonance than to dissonance. This musical impulse has dramatic implications as well, and you could say that Brother Brother is really an argument for hopefulness — the kind I have always felt when I am around my brother. I know this sounds sentimental, and that it bucks against the notion that great drama is by its nature more of a downer. The historical period that the Wright Brothers emerged from was defined by a sense of promise and possibility and I think it is a message we need to hear more about nowadays, despite our reservations.
“Rather than try to speak in an authoritative voice about history or ideas, it was very important to me that Brother Brother be a personal story in my own words. For better or for worse, I am eager to share a holistic vision of the sounds I hear and the words I use to create meaning in my life. This ‘auteur’ approach is more common these days in film and indie culture, where a do-it-yourself aesthetic is the norm, but it once was also an important part of opera culture. Why shouldn’t it still be?”
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Aaron Siegel’s inquisitive and playful work represents a personal vision of how we live with and respond to the sounds in our world. Brother Brother, his second opera, has been showcased in events produced by Experiments in Opera and at The Industry’s First Take Production in Los Angeles in June 2013. His CD Science is Only a Sometimes Friend for eight glockenspiels and organ was released in May 2011 on LockStep Records and hailed as “one continuous ecstatic sonic event,” and as one of the best records of 2011 by Time Out New York. In the past year, Science is Only a Sometimes Friend has been performed around the country by Mantra Percussion, Tigue, and the UNC-Pembroke and Eastern Kentucky University percussion ensembles. Siegel is currently working on a commission for the Young People’s Chorus of New York City’s Radio Radiance Series. A recording of his solo storytelling project Call Us Your People will be available in Spring 2014 on LockStep Records.
In addition to his work as a composer and organizer, Siegel has performed with Memorize the Sky, Anthony Braxton and Robert Ashley. His work can be found on numerous recordings including Cabinet for solo percussion and Every Morning, a History for chamber ensemble and solo piano. Siegel is manager of secondary school programs at the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall. For more information visit: aaronsiegel.net.
Mantra Percussion has been featured at festivals, venues, and universities throughout North America including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Carlsbad New Music Festival, the Bowling Green New Music Festival, MIT with Bang on a Can All-Stars, Percussive Arts Society International Convention, X Avant Festival, New Music New College, Moving Sounds Festival, Ear Heart Music, Hi Fi Music Festival, and Make Music New York. Mantra co-commissioned Michael Gordon’s recent evening-length percussion sextet Timber, and gave the work’s United States premiere in October 2011 at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and its New York premiere of at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival in December 2012.
The “commission-crazed” Cadillac Moon Ensemble is one of New York’s most visible new music groups, performing not just in traditional venues such as Roulette and the DiMenna Center, but in non-traditional spaces such as the High Line as well as in collaborations with dance, theater, and cabaret artists. The group strives to present a cross-section of contemporary music styles, tying together both uptown and downtown aesthetics with the creative use of thematic programming. Recent commissions have included works by Timothy Andres, Caleb Burhans, Shawn Allison, Nicholas Deyoe, Rick Burkhardt, Osnat Netzer, and Alex Weiser.
ABOUT EXPERIMENTS IN OPERA
Co-founded by composers Matthew Welch, Jason Cady, and Aaron Siegel, Experiments in Opera is a composer-driven initiative, featuring recent and new works with innovative answers to the traditional questions about how to connect words, story and music. Our activities respond to the pronounced need to nurture composers who are exploring musical work beyond a strictly concert setting, but furthermore into the hybrid genre of opera. Additionally Experiments in Opera builds supportive and informed audiences that are capable of contributing to its work.
In its first two programming seasons, Experiments in Opera has presented the work of more than 12 composers in three large-scale presentations aimed at expanding the collective understanding of experimental opera. Venues have included Le Poisson Rouge, Roulette, and Issue Project Room, and have featured works by composers Jason Cady, Aaron Siegel, Matthew Welch, Georges Aperghis, John Zorn, Robert Ashley, Joe Diebes, Ruby Fulton, Gabrielle Herbst, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Justin Tierney, Leaha Maria Villarreal and the Cough Button collective. Also featured were performances by pianist Emily Manzo, singer Erin Flannery, drummer Brian Chase, Hotel Elefant, and the performance collective Why Lie?
Experiments in Opera’s 2013-14 season residency at Abrons Arts Center began with Chorus of All Souls in November 2013 featuring choral works by Jessica Pavone, Matthew Welch, Jason Cady and John Zorn. The residency continued with Radio Operas on February 28 and March 1, 2014 featuring works by Jason Cady, Paul Pinto, Aaron Siegel, John King, Jonathan Mitchell and Matthew Welch.
All of the work developed with Experiments in Opera is documented extensively in videos, images and writings that are available in an online catalogue at www.experimentsinopera.com. These insightful looks into the origins of artists’ ideas and their working habits help to support EIO’s mission of building a more robust conversation about how and why opera works the way it does.
The Abrons Arts Center, located at 466 Grand Street, New York, NY, is the performing and visual arts program of Henry Street Settlement. The Abrons supports the presentation of innovative, multi-disciplinary work; cultivates artists in all stages of their creative development through educational programs, commissions, and residencies; and serves as an intersection of cultural engagement for local, national, and international audiences and arts-workers. For more information, call (212) 598-0400 or visit www.AbronsArtsCenter.org.