UC Santa Cruz to present New Directions in Contemporary Opera, a symposium of panels and performances-April 3-7

UC Santa Cruz opera director Brian Staufenbiel and professor of music Nicole Paiement (Photo by Jim Mackenzie)

The UC Santa Cruz Music Department will present a week-long opera symposium titled New Directions in Contemporary Opera, April 3-7, on the university campus.

Conceived and coordinated by music professor/conductor Nicole Paiement and UC Santa Cruz opera director Brian Staufenbiel, the series of panels and performances will bring together scholars, composers, and performers from the professional world, as well as from such institutions as UCLA, UC Irvine, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and the University of Washington in Seattle.

Events will kick off on Tuesday, April 3, with a reprise performance of renowned composer Lou Harrison's opera, Young Caesar, by Ensemble Parallèle, under the baton of Paiement and director Staufenbiel, at 8 p.m. in the UC Santa Cruz Music Center Recital Hall. The final version of the opera had its world premiere last month at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. UC Santa Cruz professor of music Leta Miller will give a pre-concert talk beginning at 7:15 p.m.

On Wednesday, April 4, Paiement and Staufenbiel will be joined by librettist Robert Gordon, composer/conductor Robert Hughes, and musicologist Leta Miller for a panel discussion titled "Harrison's Young Caesar: Opening the Door to a New Aesthetic," from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. Admission is free.

Internationally acclaimed tenor John Duykers will also present a vocal masterclass open to the public on Wednesday, April 4, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the UC Santa Cruz Music Center, Room 131. And on Friday, April 6, there will be a roundtable discussion from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the same venue on "Gender Issues and Politics in Contemporary Opera," with scholars Mitchell Morris from UCLA, Byron Adams from UC Riverside, Judy Tsou from the University of Washington, and UCSC's Nina Treadwell and Leta Miller. Later that evening, the UC Santa Cruz Opera Program will present selected opera scenes with music by Poulenc, Britten, Vinci, Susa, and Puccini, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the UCSC Music Center Recital Hall. Admission is free.

Other highlights of the symposium will include a composer's panel discussion on Saturday, April 7, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. moderated by UC Santa Cruz music professor David Cope with Conrad Susa, Paul Dresher, David Evan Jones, and David Conte, titled "Challenges in Composing New Theater Pieces Today"; as well as a presentation by Clifford Cranna from the San Francisco Opera titled "Commissioning New Opera," later that same afternoon from 4 to 5 p.m. Both of these events will take place at the UCSC Music Center, Room 131, and are free to the public.

The symposium concludes in the evening of April 7 with a gala concert of contemporary arias featuring soprano Sheri Greenawald, mezzo-soprano Wendy Hillhouse, tenor Joseph Meyers, and Adler Fellow Eugene Brancoveanu as baritone. Pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi will accompany the singers in an evening of music by Stravinsky, Bolcom, Susa, Menotti, Weill, Dresher, Conte, Harrison, Adams, and UCSC composer David Evan Jones.

Paiement--the founder/director of Ensemble Parallèle--said that she hopes the symposium will help people appreciate contemporary opera, understand how diverse the genre has become, and recognize the great possibilities that lie ahead for opera in the future.

"Working on Harrison's Young Caesar, as well as other contemporary operas in the last five years, I realized that opera is quickly expanding its shape and borrowing from other art forms and cultures," said Paiement. "In many ways, opera has become much more involved in commenting on society, and it continues to be a leading musical art form. So, a symposium to reflect on where opera is going felt essential."

Tickets are available for the April 3 performance of Young Caesar and the April 7 Closing Gala Concert. All other events are free. All events are open to the general public. For more information, contact the UC Santa Cruz Ticket Office, (831) 459-2159, or visit: www.santacruztickets.com. The symposium is sponsored by the generous support of Porter College at UC Santa Cruz.