Local opera fans can reserve seats for two shows being workshopped this winter through Cincinnati Opera and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music‘s Opera Fusion: New Works program.
Started in 2011, Opera Fusion: New Works – also known as OF:NW – provides composers and librettists come to Cincinnati to refine their operas-in-progress. During their 10-day residency, the creative teams have access to the facilities, personnel and talent of both Cincinnati Opera and CCM. The workshops are cast with a combination of CCM students and professional artists, and each workshop concludes with a free public presentation of excerpts followed by an audience question-and-answer session.
In December 2023, OF:NW will host a workshop for “Two Corners,” with music by B.E. Boykin and libretto by Jarrod Lee. Commissioned by Finger Lakes Opera and slated for a 2024 world premiere, “Two Corners” explores the evolving friendship of a Black woman, Florine, and a white woman, Sarah, during the unrest of the Civil Rights movement. Told through a series of flashbacks, Florine and Sarah reflect on their different perspectives of race, friendship, and the status quo.
To kick off the new year, OF:NW will mount a second stage workshop: “Bulrusher,” featuring music by Nathaniel Stookey and a libretto by Stookey and Eisa Davis. The work was commissioned by West Edge Opera and received an initial OF:NW workshop in 2021.
The opera is a coming-of-age story about an African American girl growing up in Northern California’s remote Anderson Valley in 1955. Found in a basket by the river, she is raised by the local schoolteacher and has never seen anyone who looks like her until a young Black woman from Alabama comes to town. Meeting someone like herself provokes her political, sexual, and identity awakening. The opera is a reimagining of Davis’s play of the same name, which made the shortlist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2007.
There will be a public performance of excerpts from both shows at Cincinnati Music Hall’s Wilks Studio. The staging of “Two Corners” is Sunday, Dec. 17 at 4 p.m., and “Bulrusher” is Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, at 7:30 p.m.
Admission to both performances is free, though seating is limited and reservations are required. Reservations are available by calling 513-241-2742 or on the Cincinnati Opera’s website.
Since its founding more than a decade ago, Opera Fusion: New Works has grown into a nationally recognized effort to foster the development of new American operas.
The project is led by the co-directors Robin Guarino, professor of opera at CCM, and Evans Mirageas, artistic director of Cincinnati Opera. The company has hosted 21 workshopped performances so far, including “Lincoln in the Bardo,” The Righteous” and “Robeson (II)” earlier this year.
The program receives funding through the Mellon Foundation.