Thursday, November 1, 2012

American Lyric Theater Announces Three New Opera Commissions; Sexy Don Giovanni in Portland

Daniel Okulitch as Willie Wonka

American Lyric Theater (ALT) has announced three newly commissioned operas and the release of the company's first recording with barihunk Daniel Okulitch.

Three new opera commissions are being developed under the auspices of ALT's Composer Librettist Development Program - with themes ranging from the war on drugs in Mexico, to the national disavowal of a scientific genius because of his sexuality, to the true story of the effects of war and homecoming on an American soldier who served as an officer in an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit.

Lawrence Edelson, ALT's Producing Artistic Director, said of the new commissions, "I am very proud to announce these three new operas. Many opera companies commission new works from established composers. Here at ALT, we are deeply committed to identifying gifted emerging operatic writers and providing them with both mentorship and financial support as they develop new works. The three operas being commissioned by ALT this season are also part of our initiative to develop works that expand the traditional audience base for opera while confronting critical contemporary issues."

The casts have not been announced, but we've been assured that at least one role is for a barihunk. Check out the video previews below and see if you can figure out which one. 

Composer: Jorge Sosa; Librettist: Laura Sosa Pedroza

La Reina draws its narrative from the drug trade in Mexico and the United States. The story of revenge and corruption on both sides of the border is inspired by some of the most vivid real life players in this increasingly violent war from the past and present, including Sandra Ávila Beltrán, El Guero Palma, El Pozolero, DEA agent Enrique Camarena, Mexican President Felipe Calderón, and US Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North. The opera is being written for classically trained singers and a chamber orchestra of acoustic and electronic forces. The libretto for La Reina is being written in both Spanish and English, reflecting the symbiotic relationship between Mexico and the United States, and the shared responsibility of the current drug conflicts.

Based on the book, The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life that Follows, by Brian Castner
Composer: Jeremy Howard Beck; Librettist: Stephanie Fleischmann

A solider comes home from war and must adapt to a world that is forever changed. This is a timeless story, though the context continues to change. Based on the critically acclaimed 2012 memoir by Brian Castner, The Long Walk dives deep into the mind of a American soldier who has returned from Iraq after serving as an officer in an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit. Castner's battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which he calls "the Crazy with a capital C," is at the center of this moving personal story of a man struggling to reintegrate himself back into his family life upon his return from the war.

THE TURING PROJECT (title to be announced)
Composer: Justine F. Chen; Librettist: David Simpatico

Commissioned in honor of the Turing Centennial, The Turing Project is a historical fantasia based on the life of the English scientist Alan Turing. The opera explores Turing's extraordinary contributions to mankind, his county's disavowal of him because he was gay, and the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. The opera imagines the man inside the legend, the unique perspective he had on the universe, the public and unashamed view he had of his own homosexuality, and the impact he had upon the future of civilization.

Jason Hardy (left) and Daniel Okulitch in NYCO's Don Giovanni
ALT has also announced the release of its first CD on Albany Records "The Golden Ticket." The comic opera by Peter Ash and Donald Sturrock is based on Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and was commissioned by the American Lyric Theater and Felicity Dahl in 2006.

The Golden Ticket received its world premiere in partnership with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in June 2010, and its European debut in partnership with the Wexford Festival in October 2010. A live recording, conducted by composer Peter Ash, was produced by ALT in partnership with The Atlanta Opera during performances in Atlanta in March 2012. The cast is lead by barihunk Daniel Okulitch and also includes fellow barihunk Jason Hardy as Grandpa George and Mr. Beauregard.

The CD will be available after December 1st on,,,, and at other classical music retailers. Digital downloads will be available from iTunes and other similar services shortly thereafter.

Daniel Okulitch's "New American Art Songs" is currently available at GPR Records

Nicholas Nelson
If you're on the West Coast, you'll be thrilled to know that the aforementioned Jason Hardy and Daniel Okulitch will be reprising their successful portrayals of Leporello and Don Giovanni from New York City Opera at the Portland Opera. They will be joined by another barihunk, Nicholas Nelson as Masetto. Performances will run from November 2-10. Tickets and additional performance information are available online.

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