Things are hopping at West Edge Opera, which found the perfect partner for their 2021 season in California Shakespeare Festival. Producing socially distanced, outdoor performances at the Bruns Amphitheater, the small company with huge ambitions is kicking things off this weekend in two performances of the annual Snapshot Festival of scenes from new works in development. If you haven’t got tickets, there may be a few left but given the size of the Bruns and distancing requirements, no tickets will be sold at the “door” on the day of performance.
Those who have been to Snapshot before will recognize the names of some of the local talent that has been tapped to create new music theater works for the 2021 edition. They begin with Nathaniel Stookey, of The Composer Is Dead fame, as well as 2019’s audience fave, Ivonne. His new opera, commissioned by WEO, is Bulrusher, based on Eisa Davis’s Pulitzer nominated drama of the same name. Davis, by the way, is a hugely talented performer who sang vocals in the Oakland Symphony’s 2008 premiere of Stookey’s song cycle Zipperz. She’s the librettist for this opera, a coming-of-age story about an African American girl growing up in Northern California’s remote Anderson Valley in 1955.
Following information on the WEO website, here are the other operas that will share the stage at this year’s festival:
Librettist Marella Martin Koch returns to Snapshot after authoring the text for Gilberto, performed at the beginning of 2020. A collaboration with composer Tyler J. Rubin, Ten Minutes in the Life or Death Of... is a collage of memories from a dying man as he recalls the major moments of his life.
Composer Guang Yang and librettist Paula Cizmar offer Invisible, an original story about an art restorer and her assistant as they discover parallels between the women of classic mythology and their own frustrating and unjust circumstances.
Mark Campbell, with a Pulitzer Prize and 40-plus librettos to his credit, joins forces with playwright Chiori Miyagawa to craft a libretto based on Miyagawa’s play on Buddhist themes, This Lingering Life. The opera features a score by CalArts professor Anne LeBaron. Using characters from traditional Noh plays, the opera weaves together timeless narratives to make wry and humorous commentary on the concept of karma through the ages.
The Promise is a family drama from George Pfirrmann and Peter B.Allen about an inheritance, a wife's dying wish, and the call of the ocean.
The Glass Cage is a rock infused musical theater piece from Noah Fram. Set during the Afghanistan conflict, it explores repressed memories, PTSD, and sexual assault as well as the echoes of violence that reverberate long after combat ends.
As always, Berkeley new music group Earplay will take on the instrumental parts for these scores, conducted by Earplay Music Director Mary Chun, WEO Music Director Jonathan Khuner, and Emily Senturia.