Words First: Talking Text in Opera

THE NEWS YOU NEED #1

August 26, 2020 Keturah Stickann Season 1
Words First: Talking Text in Opera
THE NEWS YOU NEED #1
Chapters
Words First: Talking Text in Opera
THE NEWS YOU NEED #1
Aug 26, 2020 Season 1
Keturah Stickann

In this Bonus episode, Keturah speaks with Alejandra Valarino Boyer at Seattle Opera, librettist Mark Campbell speaking for Fort Worth Opera, and Mark Streshinsky at West Edge Opera, all about upcoming libretto and composer/librettist workshops and residencies taking place this fall.  She also speaks to Campbell about the Campbell Librettist Prize offered through Opera America, and gives a shout out to Guerilla Opera, who recently had their presentations from their summer Libretto Lab.

Show Notes Transcript

In this Bonus episode, Keturah speaks with Alejandra Valarino Boyer at Seattle Opera, librettist Mark Campbell speaking for Fort Worth Opera, and Mark Streshinsky at West Edge Opera, all about upcoming libretto and composer/librettist workshops and residencies taking place this fall.  She also speaks to Campbell about the Campbell Librettist Prize offered through Opera America, and gives a shout out to Guerilla Opera, who recently had their presentations from their summer Libretto Lab.


00:01

[Mozart playing on a piano]

 

Keturah (00:28):           

 Hello, and welcome to The News You Need, a bonus episode of my podcast, Words First: Talking Text in Opera.  I’m Keturah Stickann, and we have a lot to get to, so let’s get started.  There are a number of programs and calls for submissions this fall for librettists alone, and composer/librettist teams, and I spoke with three people involved with three different programs that I think you should hear about.  First up was Alejandra Valarino Boyer, the Director of Programs and Partnerships at Seattle Opera.  She talked to me about two programs that Seattle Opera is offering this fall.  The first is The Creation Lab, which is open to residents of Washington State, and is hoping to find the next generation of opera composers and librettists in the community.  The second is Opera in the Making, which is a creative libretto writing class taught on line by librettist, Jessica Murphy Moo, working alongside composer Damien Geter, who will set some of the students’ work to music.  Here’s Alejandra with more.  Alejandra, welcome to Words First.  You’re here to discuss two programs at Seattle Opera today, is that correct?

 

Alejandra (01:31):         

 That’s correct.  Thanks for having me.

 

Keturah (01:33):           

 Absolutely!  Can you talk to us a little bit about Seattle Opera’s Creation Lab?

 

Alejandra (01:39):         

 Absolutely.  Creation Lab is a new program that we are launching this year, and we are so excited to actually be able to launch something new in the middle of what we’re dealing with, with Covid.

 

Keturah (01:52):           

 Absolutely.

 

Alejandra (01:53):         

 It’s kind of a blessing, yeah.  And so the Creation Lab is really born out of a passion of our General Director, Christina Scheppelmann, who is always really interested in developing young artists and new artists to create new operas and things for opera companies to present.  And so the Creation Lab will be seeking Washington State composers and librettists, and being pretty broad about the genre that these individuals come from, but really focusing on folks who are either writing music that utilize the voice or are really strong storytellers, right, and then bringing them into a program that will walk them through the creation process for a small piece, just starting them off with a twenty-minute opera.  That’s something that’s manageable that they can use as an opportunity to learn and grow.  They’ll go through the typical steps of a table reading, a libretto review, music workshop, rehearsal, and then a public performance of their work: a concert version of that.  And then, in addition, we’ll also pair them up with some mentors, some folks that are working professionally in the field, so that they can have that perspective on their work, and they can have somebody to go through to say, “Hey,” you know, either “I’m struggling with this,” or “what do you think about this idea?” And get some feedback from them, and we’ve got some fantastic folks like Tazewell Thompson, Kamala Sankaram, Jerre Dye, Zach Redler, and Aisha KT, who will be joining us for that program. And I’m just really excited to have such a fabulous group of mentors to be working with the individuals.

 

Keturah (03:31):           

 I think that’s so fantastic, and you know, I’ve just been reading so much about this sort of thrust towards community that I’m seeing with so many different companies in different ways, but I think fostering this kind of talent in Washington State is just such a new way of looking at things for opera companies especially, I think.  And so I think it’s so great that you all are focusing on people that basically are in your local area and in your community to find people who are interested in writing.  That’s wonderful.

 

Alejandra (04:07):         

 Thank you.  We’re also excited about that too.  I mean, there’s a plethora of talent here locally, as I think anybody could say for their region.  But as you have programs where you’re competing on a national or global market, it makes it hard sometimes for us to really find those new and exciting voices that might otherwise not emerge because it’s just so saturated.  So this allows us to really, like your were saying, just look locally, see who is here, and maybe folks who might not have normally seen themselves as participating in the operatic art form to also take a chance on that, right?  Because it’s an opportunity that’s near home and close to them, and so, I’m really excited by what that will bring to the project.

 

Keturah (04:58):           

 So can you tell us, how does someone apply, and then what are the deadlines for application for this program?

 

Alejandra (05:03):         

 Yeah, absolutely.  So, we are currently accepting applications.  You can go to our website at Seattleopera.org/creationlab, and that will take you straight to the page, and it will tell you what you need for your application.  We ask for a basic application form that we have, as well as a resume and some examples of your work.  So we really just kind of want to see some examples of things that folks have been doing.  It doesn’t have to be anything that’s already been publicly performed.  It could just be something that you’ve been working on, right, so we really are looking for young talent in that way.  And we are currently accepting applications through September 15th.

 

Keturah (05:41):           

 Fantastic, thank you.  Can you also speak to us about the libretto writing class that you are offering?

 

Alejandra (05:49):         

 Yes, absolutely.  So, Opera in the Making is a course that we are offering this fall.  It begins in the first week – Er – second week of September, right after Labor Day, and that is a class that will be taught by Jessica Murphy Moo, who is the librettist for “An American Dream” and “Earth to Kenzie.”  And she’s actually taught this course before, prior to my being in this position, and so as we were looking for some online offering knowing that folks were at home and might be looking at some more creative ways to engage in art making or just kind of expanding from their day-to-day work, we reached back out to Jessica about this class.  And so, in the class, individuals will be learning about writing a libretto.  They’ll look at examples, a lot of modern examples, modern operas, contemporary operas, and they will also be writing, of course doing a lot of writing on scene and solo work.  And then, part of the class will be – they’ll write some short text that will be set to music, so they’ll really have the opportunity to see what it sounds like then, right?

 

Keturah (07:02):           

 Great!

 

Alejandra (07:03):         

 How your words that you’re putting on the page, cause, you know, it will suddenly start to look very different when you put music to it.  And so, what are the adjustments that the composer has to make, what are the adjustments that a librettist has to make after the composer’s been thinking of the music that might go along with it.  So they’ll have an opportunity to go through that process.  We have a composer, Damien Geter, who is currently in Portland, who will be a part of that course too, and so he’ll set some of that text to music.  It’s an eight-week course, and you can register on line at Seattleopera.org.

 

Keturah (07:38):           

 Fantastic.  Alejandra, thank you so much for coming on and talking about these two programs.  It’s so exciting to see so many companies embracing the creation of opera in America.  We’re creating the canon as we speak, and I love that so much.

 

Alejandra (07:53):         

 Well, thank you for having me.  I’m so delighted to be able to share information about this, and thank you for your interest in it.

 

Keturah (07:59):           

 Yes, of course.  Thanks.  Again,  you can go to seattleopera.org for more information about both Opera in the Making, which runs from September 13 to November 1st, and costs $350, and The Creation Lab, which is open to any Resident of Washington State.  Applications close on September 15.  The second person I spoke to was librettist, Mark Campbell, who is running the Frontiers Libretto Workshop at Fort Worth Opera.  The website, fwopera.org/frontiers-libretto-workshop states that Fort Worth Opera wanted to, “provide librettists with a platform  for dramaturgical development and assure the industry and opera lovers everywhere that the storytellers within this incredible art form would not be neglected during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Here’s Mark, to tell us more.  Mark, welcome back to Words First.

 

Mark Campbell (08:57):

 Thank you for having me.  It’s great to be back.

 

Keturah (09:00):           

 Awesome.  Can you tell us a little bit about the Fort Worth Opera’s Libretto Writing Workshop?

 

Mark Campbell (09:05):

 I don’t know that much about it because we’re still organizing it and conceiving it, but we intend to be working with local, meaning local Fort Worth, theater artists to read through a few librettos.  And then there’s a committee of singers, directors, and librettists, and composers who will be listening to these reading of the libretti and offer suggestions for improving them, improving the dramaturgy of them, making sure they feel like they sing.  Which is an important aspect of a libretto is that it’s not just a play. It has to feel like it could be set to music and sung by a singer.  

 

Keturah (09:51):           

 Right.

 

Mark Campbell (09:53):

 And, yeah.  It’s an exciting opportunity for librettists, and it’s something I really praise Fort Worth Opera for doing this because usually….libretto readings are often private affairs with the librettist and a composer, and maybe a stage director if you’re lucky.  And this is offering a chance to get some of these new operas out there and also to say, “we will continue to be writing new operas and produce new operas even as we struggle with this pandemic.”

 

Keturah (10:33):           

 Right. Can you tell us a little about the application process or who can apply to this?

 

Mark Campbell (10:39):

 Anyone.  We encourage all librettists: experienced librettists, beginning-of-their-career librettists. Anyone who wants to apply just to see how…. I think it will be a good education for librettists to learn what makes a good libretto.  One thing that I think I will be bringing to this initiative is that I’ve helped create libretto writing programs at the American Opera Initiative – Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative, the American Opera Project, and American Lyric Theater, so I have a lot of experience with the mentorship of up-and-coming librettists, and I’m fortunate in that I’ll be sharing it with a lot of…I’ll be on a panel with a number of other really experienced people in the business.  I mean, people like Blythe Gaissert who is a singer, but she has premiered so many new works.

 

Keturah (11:43):           

 Right.  Talise Trevigne is there as well, correct?

 

Mark Campbell (11:46):

 Yes, exactly.  And Kelley Rourke, who is a dear friend of mine, and a brilliant brilliant librettist, but also someone who has worked at Glimmerglass and brings her experience to the table.  So it’s a very exciting group of individuals on this panel.  I’m glad, for example, that it’s not all librettists.  That the critique is coming from many different angles.  And, as you know, when we work on opera, it’s the most collaborative art form, I think, of all the performing arts.  And it’s not just a libretto, and it’s not just a librettist in the room. There is the singer, there’s a composer, there’s a director, there’s a conductor.  And there’s a producer.  And so I think that any librettist who will be involved in this program is very fortunate because they’ll be getting expertise from many different places.

 

Keturah (12:46):           

 Fantastic.

 

Mark Campbell (12:47):

 Fort Worth Opera has had a tradition of creating new operas with the Frontiers program that has gone on, I don’t know how long, maybe a decade?

 

Keturah (12:59):           

 That sounds about right.

 

Mark Campbell (13:01):

 Yeah, and it was a really exciting program that will continue when Fort Worth Opera has kind of made this adjustment going forward, and it was started by Darren K. Woods, and I’m just excited to be part of the tradition that they started at Fort Worth Opera of creating new operas and doing what they can to bring new operas to new audiences, or old audiences, whoever wants to see them.

 

Keturah (13:30):           

 Right. I think…I’m so impressed with all these different companies that have started to understand how important it is to foster the American opera canon.  I think it’s really valuable.

 

Mark Campbell (13:41):

 I do too.

 

Keturah (13:42):           

 So I spoke a little about Opera America’s new Campbell Prize for Librettists on an episode a few weeks ago.  So this is such a generous and amazing thing that you’re doing.  Can you tell us a little bit more about this prize?

 

Mark Campbell (13:54):

 Sure.  Like, about six months ago, I spoke to Marc Scorca.  I emailed him and I said…to be totally frank, Keturah, I was doing my will.  And as I was doing my will and thinking about how to leave stuff to my husband and my dog, and whoever else, I started thinking, well, what else?  What about opera?  What can I contribute to opera, and I conceived of creating the first and only award for opera librettists that money goes directly into the opera librettist’s pocket.  It’s not…all the other awards out there that even kind of mention opera librettists, and some of them don’t even mention them, usually go to companies or something like that.  I wanted to create an award for opera librettists to encourage them and to feel that their work is being honored in the field.  We are in such a great stage of contemporary opera.  Once we get back to it, I think it’ll be stronger than ever.  I wanted to insure that we continue to attract good storytellers, and we can’t do that if we don’t have…if there are no awards for them.  There are plenty of awards for composers who want to write opera, who want to write a string quartet, but there are not awards for librettists, and I wanted to break that sad tradition.  And yeah, I’m funding it myself, which was a lot easier to do before all of this happened.

 

Keturah (15:37):           

 Of course, always.

 

Mark Campbell (15:38):

 But I’ll find a way and, one thing I wanted to mention was that this year the award is $5000, but I hope to increase that in the next years, you know, when we get back to everything.  I had a lot of cancellations, and it was kind of…there was one point when I said, “I don’t even think I can go forward with this,” but I decided to, and in the next years, if I have a good year or we all have good years, whatever, I’ll be able to increase that amount.

 

Keturah (16:10):           

 I think this is so wonderful, and it’s just such an important part of the creative process just to have these…this ability to not worry as much about outside finances while you’re just trying to get something created, so I think this is really, really important.

 

Mark Campbell (16:27):

 Yeah, you know, when I…a long time ago, we’re talking 1990, I received the first Kleban award for lyricists from Stephen Sondheim, and that meant everything to me. I mean, financially it was a lot of money, it was more money that… it was 150 k over three years, which was really incredible, so I feel kind of embarrassed with my little 5k and my little name attached to it.  But Ed Kleban, who wrote the lyrics to A Chorus Line, among many other things, and was a brilliant lyricist, identified that in American Theater there were no awards specifically for lyricists, and so he created it…created this very generous award based on that.  And I just kind of thought, well, what can I do for opera?  Fortunately there are so many great brilliant librettists around that there’s a market for it.  There are people out there who would benefit from this prize.  So, I feel very lucky.  A few of my operas have been what you’d call hits, and so it’s…I’ve been lucky to be able to take some of that money and kind of…and I don’t know, as Ned Canty said at Opera Memphis, I’m putting my money where my mouth is, so I’m happy to do that.

 

Keturah (17:58):           

 We are very appreciative of your generosity, and I can’t wait to see who ends up with the prize this year.  I’m really excited about it.

 

Mark Campbell (18:08):

 Oh, me too.

 

Keturah (18:09):           

 Mark, thank you so much for coming on and speaking with me about these two things.  I’m just thrilled that so much is happening out there even as we’re all reeling a little bit from how much has disappeared for us for the time being.

 

Mark Campbell (18:24):

 It is, but also I want to praise you for continuing with the conversation and the discussion.

 

Keturah (18:29):           

 Thank you.

 

Mark Campbell (18:30):

 No, it just means a lot to me, and also that you’re focusing not only on composers but on librettists, and not…the industry needs to learn from you.

 

Keturah (18:41):           

 Thank you.  You know, I love composers, but I love librettists too and I want to make sure that everyone’s voice gets to be heard in this industry because it’s important.  Thank you again.  To recap, submissions will be accepted through Monday, September 14, 2020.  The workshop showcase will be held October 7th and 8th and there is no fee to apply or participate.  Go to fwopera.org/frontiers-libretto-workshop for more information.  Next up, I spoke with Mark Streshinsky, the artistic director of West Edge Opera in the Bay Area. West Edge has just announced the launch of a program they’re calling Aperture, which they’re describing as a virtual residency.  Here’s Mark describing this exciting new endeavor.  Mark, welcome to Words First.  Thank you so much for speaking with me today.

 

Mark Streshinsky (19:37):

 Thank you for having me.

 

Keturah (19:39):           

 Can you tell us a little bit about West Edge Opera’s Aperture program?

 

Mark Streshinsky (19:44): 

 Sure.  West Edge Opera has always been known for doing off the beaten path operas, and we’ve done a bunch of new operas.  We rarely do premieres.  We do mostly second productions of new operas, and because of that, we have a pretty good network of composers and librettists.  And so when we decided to postpone our festival that would have just been wrapping up last weekend normally, we started thinking about what we were going to do for an online presence because we are not terribly interested in streaming any of our previous shows, so we started thinking about something that could use our talents in an online situation during this time when we can’t gather.  And we started just bandying about this idea of doing something with composers and librettists, something with development, maybe something with commissioning.  I’ve also been really interested to think about how companies are monetizing their programs.  So much out there is free, and that doesn’t make it easy for us while we’re putting programming together, so I started thinking about what I was doing during the shelter in place, and what kind of, you know, content I was consuming.  And of course it’s Netflix, Amazon, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, which I pay for every month, and I don’t even think about the fact that I pay for every month, and in fact, I don’t think we’ve watched Hulu in a couple of months, but we still pay for it.  So, I thought to myself, this is what I need to do.  If I’m going to do something that gets monetized, it needs to be something that is a membership driven program.  Then I thought to myself, “What is giving me joy during this time of shelter in place that I never have before?”  And I don’t know if you know of a comedian named Leslie Jordan.

 

Keturah (21:38):           

 Um, yes.

 

Mark Streshinsky (21:39):

 Leslie Jordan, every day, picks up his phone, hits record, records about 45 seconds of wonderfulness, and sends it out into the world, and he now has over 5 million followers for these little videos.  And so, I was talking to my friend Clint Borzoni, composer, and just kind of like brainstorming, and saying, “What if composers and librettists were asked to send in ideas and we take them through the whole process but they have to tell us about these ideas and their creative journey through these little short videos that…”. I’m a person with a very short attention span, so I was thinking it would be really interesting to find out, like, how they make their pieces and what they’re doing through these little videos, Leslie Jordan style, that are very casual and very, hopefully, interesting, and hopefully, maybe a little funny?  And so we decided that this might be something really interesting to do.  And then the joke came up that Clint has always wished that there was America’s Got Talent for opera composers, and I said “ooh, maybe we should do something that’s like they get voted off the island,” and then we both laughed and said that’s the worst idea we’ve ever heard.

 

Keturah (22:58):           

 [Laughter]

 

Mark Streshinsky (22:59):

 But it kind of leant me to start thinking about an audience participation aspect, and I thought it would be really interesting – because I do spend a lot of time around new operas, and talking to people in the lobby in between.  People have great opinions, especially opera people have seen a lot of stuff and they know what they like and they know what they don’t like.  And I thought it would be really interesting to start thinking about the gate keeping of who gets to do a new opera, and who gets to choose which operas get done.  Now the idea of having the general public connected directly to composers and librettists and being able to tell them what they like and they don’t like seemed to horrify me, so we put together a staff of eight curators to kind of be a buffer in between the composer and the librettist, and the general public.  And those are four members of our staff, as well as four members of the artistic community in the Bay Area.  And that’s Michael Morgan from the Oakland Symphony, Mary Chung from Ear Play, Alexa Anderson from Opera Cultura in San Jose, which focuses on Latinx operas, and I think one of our most interesting members  is Leigh Ronden Davis, who is a dramaturge at several of the Bay Area theaters.  So Lee is a theater person, not an opera person, but working in dramaturgy, and has worked on a lot of new works.  And it was very important to us that all four of our outside curators were people of color because we wanted that to be a major aspect of the gate keeping of the new opera program that we were doing.  So, what we’ve decided is that we’re going to ask people to send in simple videos about their ideas, and along with that we’d like them to send in previous work in the form of a short video…

 

Keturah (25:00):           

 Got it.

 

Mark Streshinsky (25:01):

 …so that we can package these together, and once this is launched in November, we’re going to spend two months simply presenting the sixteen best ideas to the public, and we’re going to ask the public…at certain levels.  Memberships range from 15 dollars up to 90 dollars.

 

Keturah(25:19):            

 Okay

 

Mark Streshinsky (25:20):

 And so, at I think the second level up, we’re doing little kind of surveys.  It’s very simple.  “Do you find this compelling?”  Scale of 1 to 5.  “Would you go see this opera?”  Scale of 1 to 5.  “Do you like this kind of thing?” “This style of music” or “This style of writing?” Scale of 1 to 5, and then maybe like 140 characters for some simple comments.  And then that information is going to go through the curators, and the curators will take the information that they get from the audience to help make their decisions on a professional basis about the projects that were presented.  Out of the sixteen, eventually we will choose four to go into a paid residency where some bit of content is hoped to be created, and during that time we will have, probably, short libretto readings.  We’re thinking about, in fact we’re not thinking about, we’re definitely going to hire singers to actually learn some of the music.  For instance, if a composer creates ten minutes of music, the singers will learn it and record it, and then the composer and librettist will have a chance to put it into context and use it as a temperature check to see if they’re on the right track.  

 

Keturah (26:35):           

 Interesting.

 

Mark Streshinsky (26:36):

 And so, when we send that out to the audience, that will be…there’ll be context.  So they’ll be able to say, “Oh, I feel like I wrote…that tessitura is a little too high.  So that was hard for me to figure this out…”

 

Keturah (26:49):           

 So it feels like it’s sort of like an elongated, like a continual workshop process for people to…does it fit into that space?  Or…

 

Mark Streshinsky (27:01): 

 I don’t think so.

 

Keturah (27:02):           

 Okay.

 

Mark Streshinsky (27:03): 

 For me, a workshop is showing up with some music, working on it for a week or so, having the composer there, making changes, after it’s complete.  

 

Keturah (27:14):

 Okay.

 

Mark Streshinsky (27:15): 

 Or maybe at least two acts are complete.

 

Keturah (27:17):           

 Right.

 

Mark Streshinsky (27:18):

 This is much more…I think a real…I was definitely interested in the program at Here in New York City.  I don’t know if you know…

 

Keturah (27:27):           

 I do, yep.

 

Mark Streshinsky (27:29):

 And that’s very much a bring artists together, make something.  They meet once a month together, which we’re going to be doing virtually.  All four teams will have sessions where they compare…talk…help each other with their work and they talk about their work.  Those are going to be filmed for the audience but will be edited because we want to make sure it’s a safe space and people have a chance to feel [inaudible] struggling or something they don’t want the public to see it.

 

Keturah (27:57):           

 Right

 

Mark Streshinsky (27:58): 

 I would say that…you know I’ve had talks about this.  I’ve kind of bounced all these ideas off of several composers and librettists that I know, and I’ve heard a lot about the creative process, how for some people it’s extremely private.  And so I think the curators will be really focused on…I know for some composers and librettists, this will not be right because they don’t want people to have an insight into work in progress.  So it’s really for people who are comfortable talking into a camera.  We did a two-week lab where we actually asked two composers to create content based on the projects they were working on, and that was eye-opening.  So, we learned for instance, we’re probably going to have to send around some lights to people.

 

Keturah (28:46):           

 [laughter] Right!

 

Mark Streshinsky (28:49):

 We might have to send them a microphone.  Definitely…

 

Keturah (28:52):           

 Sure.

 

Mark Streshinsky (28:54):

 So, the idea really is…the ultimate goal of this is to get a public performance when there’s a vaccine.  So the winner…I don’t want to say winner because I don’t like the…there is a competitive nature to this, but it’s really at the end of the first, we call it a “sprint” of the online residency.  Someone is going to get a commission for their full opera of 60,000 dollars.  And that number was landed on so that we could have both experienced people applying for this as well as new and deserving people who haven’t gotten a chance yet.  And so, once they’re given that commission fee, they’ll have about a year – we’ll negotiate – to write the piece, after which there will be a concert, like a staged concert of it.  And then it can go off into the world.  Remember, we didn’t want to do the “who gets voted off the island thing,” so if you don’t get picked for the commission, we take two months off and then we’re going to have another sprint…

 

Keturah (29:56):           

 Ah, okay.

 

Mark Streshinsky (29:57):

 …another online residency.  And then you can choose to keep your project in that sprint while other new ones are coming in.  And at the end of that sprint, another three months, with a simple stipend each month, another project will get chosen.  This is the most weird, round-about budget I’ve ever worked on.

 

Keturah (30:18):           

 [laughter] Sure.

 

Mark Streshinsky (30:21): 

 It’s all based on [inaudible].  We’re really focused on keeping this project…you know, we have an incredible donor base at West Edge, and we need them for our festival.  So, I didn’t want to rob the festival fundraising…

 

Keturah (30:37):           

 Sure.

 

Mark Streshinsky (30:38):

  …to fundraise for this.  We’ve really built it so that it can be self-supporting with the members, and maybe a little bit of foundation money.  We’ll see if anyone’s interested in it, but yeah, it’s really something. It’s grown from brainstorming, and just, you know, working as a team to develop this idea based on what the membership might find compelling, as well as what will work for composer/librettist teams.

 

Keturah (31:07):           

 So, where does a team need to be on their journey of creation with a piece in order to be able to apply for this?

 

Mark Streshinsky (31:17):

 I would say they need to be in a place where they can clearly present, you could even call it a pitch. In fact, at one point I thought about calling this project “Pitch,” which would be a funny little dad joke, you know: [sings the word “pitch” at different pitches]

 

Keturah (31:30):           

 [laughter] yes.

 

Mark Streshinsky (31:32): 

 But we decided that was too silly.  They need to be able to succinctly, within about two minutes, give a pitch into their..short video where the two…the librettist, the composer, could also be one person, that happens frequently, really explain the project and in a compelling way.  I do think that, I mean we have talked a lot about, as I said, some people are better at this than others.  If we get a submission of a video that’s just kind of boring, we’ll probably call the people up and say, “Hey, let’s do this interview style.  Let me help you.” 

 

Keturah (32:12):           

 Right.

 

Mark Streshinsky (32:13): 

 Because some people are very comfortable just kind of talking about their project and some people need a little help.  And over the years…we have another program at West Edge that’s coming into its fifth year called “Snapshot,” and that’s focused on showcasing short excerpts from works that are in progress that are from West Coast librettists or composers.  And I always interview the composers and librettists for that for a short video that I show before every excerpt which is really great.  It really gives the piece context…

 

Keturah (32:43):           

 Sure.

 

Mark Streshinsky (32:44):

 …and it makes the audience feel like they know the people, and then they meet them in the lobby afterwards and they already kind of know them.  So I’ve gotten used to kind of dragging information with hopefully slightly self deprecating cuteness, which will maybe make people laugh.

 

Keturah (33:00):           

 So if people have a great idea and they want to apply, where should they go, and what’s the deadline for getting in an application.

 

Mark Streshinsky (33:07): 

 Well, we have a page on our website, westedgeopera.org that will direct applicants to an online portal called Submittable that we’ve been using for a long time.

 

Keturah (33:21):           

 Okay.

 

Mark Streshinsky (33:22): 

 There’s about a month ‘til we’ll close the applications.  I want to say that it’s September 28th, can’t remember, but it’s clearly there if they go to our website and they click through to the Submittable page, which is like…there’s just a one-pager.  We’re getting ready…we have quite a fancy website coming, and we’ve been doing a lot of work with the visuals on this, and that’s going to launch in October when we start collecting members.  But for now, we just have something on our website that will lead the composer/librettist teams to the Submittable page.

 

Keturah (34:01):           

 Fantastic.  Thank you so much for speaking with me, Mark.  I can’t wait to see all of the wonderful work that comes out of Aperture.  This sounds like a really exciting program.

 

Mark Streshinsky (34:08): 

 Thank you.  My pleasure.

 

Keturah (34:11):           

 If you’re interested in submitting a proposal, you can go to westedgeopera.submittable.com and click on the Aperture link.  The project criteria is listed there and submissions are due by September 13, 2020.  Finally, I had the great pleasure of attending one of the Guerrilla Opera salons last week, highlighting the libretto work that had been created during their libretto writing workshop headed by Brenda Huggins, who was the first guest on this podcast.  I want to give a shout out and kudos to this giant list of participants.  It was wonderful to hear all of these seeds of new work, and I’ll be curious to see what gets developed further as time goes on.  Congratulations. Join me next Monday for my conversation with librettist, Lila Palmer, until then, thanks for listening.  I’m Keturah Stickann.

 

[Mozart playing on a piano] 35:20