Words First: Talking Text in Opera

Words First: Talking Text in Opera

Conversations between host, Keturah Stickann, and librettists, lyricists, producers, and performing artists about opera text and storytelling to music.


December 12, 2022 34 mins

Keturah speaks with director, creator, and Executive Artistic Director of Loose Tea Music Theatre, Alaina Viau, about her creative work and Loose Tea’s BIPOC Composer Librettist Development Program.

Alaina Viau: https://www.alainaviau.com/
Loose Tea Music Theatre: https://looseteamusictheatre.com/
Highlands Opera Studio: https://www.highlandsoperastudio.com/

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Kate Holland and Susan Werbe were co-librettists on Letters That You Will Not Get, composed by Kirsten Volness, and produced by American Opera Projects.  In this episode, I speak to them both about their collaboration, and what it was like finding women’s voices from across the continents and weaving them together.

Letters You will Not Get: https://www.aopopera.org/events/2022/letterspremiere

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Keturah speaks with General and Artistic director of OnSite Opera, Eric Einhorn, about his relationship to text with site specific work.  They also discuss Rhoda and The Fossil Hunt, which he wrote with John Musto for presentation at the Museum of Natural History.

On Site Opera: https://osopera.org/

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Keturah speaks with Matthew Jocelyn, the celebrated director, writer, and theater administrator, who wrote the libretto for Brett Dean’s Hamlet, originating in Glyndebourne in 2017, and currently playing at the Metropolitan Opera.

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Keturah interviews playwright and librettist, Deborah Brevoort, about her early political career in Alaska, her switch to theater, and her more recent work writing opera libretti.  They go in depth on three operas: STEAL A PENCIL FOR ME, that had its stage premiere at Opera Colorado, THE KNOCK, that was presented as a film for the Glimmerglass Festival last year, and QUAMINO’S MAP, which is about to get its premiere at Chicago Oper...

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Keturah interviews director, dramatist, and librettist, Amy Stebbins, about the differences between libretti in the United States and libretti in Europe (particularly new work being written in Germany and Austria).  They discuss the different ways of crafting a piece, why there isn’t a lot of cultural exchange of new works, and what to do about it.  They also talk about some of Amy’s recent libretti, including a work in progress, e...

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Keturah interviews playwright and librettist, Catherine Filloux about her many works tackling social justice issues, as well as her work with Olga Neuwirth on the new opera, Orlando.

Catherine Filloux: https://www.catherinefilloux.com/
Orlando: https://www.ricordi.com/en-US/News/2021/12/Neuwirth-Grawemeyer.aspx

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Keturah speaks with singer and librettist, Jennifer Cresswell, and conductor and librettist, Kathleen Kelly about the creation of their new work with Kamala Sankaram, Interstate.  They co-wrote them libretto and performed in the filmed work about a women who writes her former friend after she’s been sent to prison.

Interstate: https://mnopera.org/season/2021-2022/interstate/
Jennifer Cresswell: https://mnopera.org/biog...

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January 17, 2022 36 mins

Keturah speaks with British Swiss director, translator, and librettist, Max Hoehn, about the development of his new opera laboratory: Opera21, and the state of new opera in Europe.

Max Hoehn: https://www.maxhoehn.com/
Opera21: https://www.opera-21.org/about/

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Keturah speaks with librettist, playwright, and director, Marella Martin Koch, who recently won the inaugural West Edge Opera Aperture commission, alongside her writing partner, composer Nicolas Lell Benavides.  Their work, DOLORES, about worker’s rights fighter, Dolores Huerta, will hopefully have its debut at West Edge in 2023.  They discuss the genesis and creation of this opera, as well as her time at the American Opera Initiat...

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Keturah speaks with librettists: Matt Boresi, Bilal Dardai, Briana Hunter, and Steve Wallace about the currently streaming “Heroes” with the Decameron Opera Coalition.  All, saving Matt, are new librettists, and we talk about the inspiration behind their pieces as well as what it was like to write in this medium.

Decameron Opera Coalition: https://www.decameronoperacoalition.org/
Hilliard and Boresi: https://www.hillia...

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Keturah speaks with composer and lyricist, Taura Stinson, about her first foray into opera with “On The Edge,” composed by Laura Karpman for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis last season.  They also discuss Taura’s life as a songwriter for the film industry, and how to make opera more open and welcoming to everyone.

Taura Stinson:  http://www.taurastinson.com/about/
Laura Karpman:  http://www.laurakarpman.com/about

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November 15, 2021 57 mins

Keturah speaks with multi-faceted composer, librettist, and performer, Rinde Eckert.  They discuss the state of opera today, how much it’s changed (or hasn’t), and Rinde’s recent works as a librettist:  Moon Tea with Steven Mackey for OTSL, and The Aging Magician with Paola Prestini with Beth Morrison Projects.

Rinde Eckert: https://www.rindeeckert.com/
Steven Mackey: https://stevenmackey.com/
Paola Prestini: https...

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Keturah interviews music theorist and Puccini expert, Deborah Burton, about the many librettists Puccini worked with throughout his career, with special emphasis on Giacosa and Illica, as well as Fontana, who started it all with Edgar, a disaster that taught Puccini to be very involved with how his libretti were crafted.

Librettists mentioned:
Ferdinando Fontana
Giuseppe Giacosa
Luigi Illica
Ruggero Leoncav...

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Keturah interviews Douglas Kearney, a renowned poet and librettist who is the inaugural recipient of the Campbell Libretto Prize through Opera America.  They talk about his work with Yuval Sharon and The Industry in LA, his work as a poet, and his philosophy of writing performative text.

Douglas Kearney: https://www.douglaskearney.com/
Anne LeBaron: https://www.annelebaron.com/
The Industry LA: 

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October 4, 2021 59 mins

Keturah speaks with Bay Area librettist and composer, Tony Asaro, about his work in musical theater, how he found opera, and the two operas he’s currently working on: Zheng, and The Halloween Tree.

Tony Asaro: https://www.altnyc.org/tony-asaro
Theo Popov: http://www.theopopov.com/
Shinji Eshima: https://sfopera.com/about-us/people/bios/orchestra/shinji-eshima/
Zheng: https://www.zhengopera.com/
The Hallowee...

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September 20, 2021 26 mins

Keturah talks to playwright, librettist, and actor, Amanda Quaid about her left turn into writing opera libretti, and her new adaptation for Heartbeat Opera, The Extinctionist with Daniel Schlosberg.

Amanda Quaid: http://www.amandaquaid.com/
Daniel Schlosberg: https://danschlosberg.com/
The Extinctionist: https://www.heartbeatopera.org/extinctionist

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September 7, 2021 36 mins

Keturah speaks with librettist, playwright, and actor, Karen Chilton, about her collaboration with Damien Sneed on THE TONGUE AND THE LASH at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis for this year’s NEW WORKS, BOLD VOICES LAB.

Karen Chilton - https://www.karenchilton.com/bio
Damien Sneed - https://www.damiensneed.com/
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis - https://opera-stl.org/nwbv-lab

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August 23, 2021 52 mins

Keturah interviews composer and librettist, Nicolas Reveles, about some of his past work, as well as several upcoming pieces.  They end up talking about the physicality of trauma, a theme that shows up in a number of his pieces.

A recent interview with Nic in his role as opera educator: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/entertainment/classical-music/story/2020-05-23/nicolas-reveles-on-discovering-and-rediscovering-the-m...

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In this first episode of Season 3, Keturah interviews composer and librettist, Rachel J. Peters.  They discuss a number of her works, including the recently premiered STAGGERWING, composed by Lisa DeSpain, and MEN I’M NOT MARRIED TO, which will premiere soon at Cleveland Opera Theater.  Rachel talks about always looking for the women in any given topic, which informs much of her writing.


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