The Industry teamed with wild Up to present the only West Coast workshop of new American opera. FIRST TAKE has established itself as one of the most compelling platforms for the exploration of new American opera.
FIRST TAKE was conducted by Marc Lowenstein, Music Director of The Industry, and Paolo Bortolameolli, the 2017 Dudamel Conducting Fellow for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
The operas selected for First Take explore themes ranging from gender equality – Laura Karpman’s Balls, about the legendary tennis match between Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs – to ecological anxieties, in John Hastings’ The Former World, adapting texts by pioneering land artist Robert Smithson. First Take also features an innovative exploration of real-time animation with opera – All is for the Best by William Gardiner and Thomas Rawle – and a family opera by The Industry’s Music Director, Marc Lowenstein. Nicholas Deyoe’s darkly funny puppet opera Haydn’s Head recounts a gruesome true story, and Dylan Mattingly’s expansive meditation on love, Stranger Love, rounds out the works presented.
Twenty-minute excerpts of each piece were presented unstaged, enabling the audience to focus on the music and libretto; each was introduced by a short video, featured above.
About First Take
First Take is a biennial West Coast workshop of new American operas designed to give audiences a taste of the wide range of ideas in opera today. The inaugural run of First Take took place at the Hammer Museum in 2013 and featured works by Pauline Oliveros, Mohammed Fairouz, David Brynjar Franzson, Ellen Reid, Aaron Siegel, and Alexander Vassos. Our next iteration took place at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts in 2015 and featured the legendary Joan La Barbara to perform works by Jason Thorpe Buchanan, Nomi Epstein, Jenny Olivia Johnson, Anne LeBaron, Andrew McIntosh and Paul Pinto.
First Take is curated by The Industry’s Artistic Director, Yuval Sharon, in collaboration with wild Up’s Artistic Director Christopher Rountree, The Industry’s Music Director Marc Lowenstein, and The Industry’s Executive Director Elizabeth Cline. First Take is modeled on the format Sharon created during his four years as Project Director of New York City Opera’s influential VOX program between 2005-09. Under his leadership, VOX became the most important crucible for new opera in the country: of the 40 works Sharon workshopped at VOX, 25 have gone on to future life in companies around the world, including the first two operas produced by The Industry: Anne LeBaron’s Crescent City and Christopher Cerrone’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated Invisible Cities.
Music and libretto by Marc Lowenstein
A family opera from the Music Director of The Industry, Little Bear explores what fairy tales reveal about the psychology of time, change, loss, and love.
Music by Dylan Mattingly (Berkeley, CA)
Libretto by Thomas Bartscherer
Inspired by Plato’s Symposium and drawing on diverse literary sources and the polyphonic vocal music of Polynesia and Central Africa, Stranger Love employs narrative and abstract motifs to tell a love story that culminates in “a moving image of eternity.”
The Former World
Music by John Hastings (New York)
Text by Robert Smithson, Augustine, and others
More an installation than an opera, The Former World creates an artistic unfolding of geologic time in two time scales: earth and humanity. Musical layers are developed like the striations found in geology as four singers create a tapestry of text.
All Is For The Best
Music by William Gardiner (New York) and Thomas Rawle (London, UK)
Animation and text by Thomas Rawle
Real-time animations accompany music that explores the mentality of the modern Western mind.
Music by Laura Karpman (Los Angeles)
Libretto by Gail Collins (New York)
Balls dramatizes the tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs and draws on the comedic, dramatic, and hugely political nature of this match. “The Battle of the Sexes” changed not only the perception and treatment of women in sports forever, but substantially advanced the women’s rights movement.
The development of Balls received funding from OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.
Music by Nicholas Deyoe (Los Angeles)
Libretto by Rick Burkhardt (New York)
Haydn’s Head is intended as a puppet opera. It is based on a true episode: four days after Haydn’s death, composer Johann Nepomuk Peter and a friend of Haydn’s, Joseph Carol Rosenbaum, opened the departed composer’s grave at night and stole his head. Their quest was fueled by the vogue for phrenology, the pseudo-scientific study of skull shapes.