For those who did not get wrapped up in the results of West Edge Opera’s innovative Aperture program, here’s some closure: the opera that took the first commission was Marella Martin Koch and Nicholas Lell Benavides’s Dolores.
That opera tells the story of union organizer Dolores Huerta over the 24 hours after the assassination of Bobby Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, June 5, 1968. One day earlier, Kennedy had won the California primary due in large part to the work of Huerta and the United Farm Workers. Benavides, the composer, had been researching the story since 2016, and, if he and Koch write the piece fast enough, Huerta may be around to see its premiere.
But there’s more news on the Aperture front. As forecast, the company has announced a third eight-week sprint that will result in a second commission from the company. All four writing teams have been named so far: returning from last season’s sprints are composer Matthew Recio and librettist Stephanie Fleischmann with L’autre moi, in which gender-bending artists Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore stage “a massive covert resistance against the Nazi occupation of Jersey Isle from 1941 to 1944.” Also returning are composer Ryan Suleiman and librettist Christina Fries with The School for Girls Who Lost Everything in the Fire about a group of girls struggling to rebuild their lives after a fire destroyed their town.
The first newcomers are composer Clint Borzoni and librettist John de los Santos, working on an original comedy called Niceville about a couple who move to Niceville, Florida just before the 2000 election and “become completely entangled in all of the gossip and scandals and felonies being committed by their new friends and neighbors.” Says librettist de Santos, “I’ve always loved the films of Robert Altman, like Nashville, and Christopher Guest, like Best in Show —what they both do is take several over the top characters and put them into a tight community, all going towards the same goal.”
Tying in with Michael Morgan's memorial concert last Tuesday, the fourth writing team was suggested to WEO's team by Morgan himself, who was one of the expanded decision-making team that evaluated the works. Before he died, Morgan commissioned composer Carlos Simon and writer Dan Harder to create an opera based on the legendary bass-baritone and political activist Paul Robeson. The work is tentatively scheduled for a concert premiere in 2023, but the team has enthusiastically joined this Aperture sprint cohort, and will maybe get a fully staged production out of it as well as advice.
This sprint starts in November, and as always, you can watch it unfold by subscribing to the Aperture website where you can see these works develop behind the scenes.