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New York City Opera presents the world premiere production of new American opera, Ricky Ian Gordon’s “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis” – libretto by Michael Korie, based on the novel by Giorgio Bassani, directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford, a co-production with National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene
This January, New York City Opera (under the direction of Michael Capasso, General Director) will produce its latest world premiere of a new American opera, Ricky Ian Gordon’s THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS, a co-production with the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (Zalmen Mlotek, Artistic Director, Dominick Balletta, Executive Director). With a libretto by Michael Korie, based on Giorgio Bassani’s 1962 novel, THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS will be conducted by James Lowe, directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford, and will open on Wednesday, January 19 at Edmond J. Safra Hall in the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.
THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS is set on the eve of World War II and tells the story of an aristocratic Italian-Jewish family, the Finzi-Continis, who believe they will be immune to the changes happening around them. As they make a gracious haven for themselves in their garden, walling out the unpleasantness of the world outside, Italy forms its alliance with Germany and begins to enforce anti-Semitic racial laws. But the Finzi-Continis discover too late that no one is immune, no one is untouchable.
“THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS not only continues New York City Opera’s mission to produce new and important works by American composers, it will also continue NYCO’s tradition of showcasing outstanding talent,” said Mr. Capasso, adding “I am very excited about our cast which includes many young and emerging artists in leading roles alongside established NYCO stalwarts.”
“We are proud to co-produce the world premiere of THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS,” by said Mr. Mlotek. “This important new work illuminates an important part of Italian Jewish history, and sadly, its themes of discrimination and antisemitism still resonate in our world today.”
Rachel Blaustein, Brian James Myer, Mary Phillips, Stephen Powell and Victor Starsky will head the cast of THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS, which will feature production design by John Farrell, costume design by Ildiko Debreczeni, and lighting design by Susan Roth.
Tickets for this limited engagement, which will play eight performances only through Sunday, January 30, are available at NYTF.org or by calling the box office at 855-449-4658. For additional information call 212-655-7653.
This January, composer RICKY IAN GORDON will see two of his works have their world premieres in New York. In addition to THE GARDEN OF FINZI-CONTINIS, Gordon’s INTIMATE APPAREL, with a libretto by Lynn Nottage, based on her acclaimed play, will premiere at Lincoln Center Theater. Gordon’s other works include the operas The Grapes of Wrath, Ellen West, The House Without a Christmas Tree, 27, Morning Star, A Coffin In Egypt , Rappahannock County, Green Sneakers, The Tibetan Book of The Dead, and Orpheus and Euridice. For theater, he has composed the music for the musicals Sycamore Trees, My Life with Albertine, and Dream True. His honors include an Obie, the Helen Hayes Award, the AT&T Award, Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Music Theater Foundation Award), and the Richard Rodgers Award. Upcoming productions include the musical Private Confessions with playwright Richard Nelson.
Librettist-lyricist MICHAEL KORIE‘s librettos include: The Grapes of Wrath, Harvey Milk; Hopper’s Wife; Where’s Dick; Kabbalah (music by Stewart Wallace); and the upcoming SuperMax (music also by Stewart Wallace). He wrote the lyrics to Scott Frankel’s music for the musicals Grey Gardens (Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Musical; Tony, Drama Desk, Grammy nominations; London Offie Award for Best Musical), War Paint (Drama Desk Award nomination), Far from Heaven, Happiness, and Doll (Ravinia Festival). He was also co-lyricist with Amy Powers Doctor Zhivago (music by Lucy Simon on Broadway, London and internationally).. He is the winner of a Marc Blitzstein Award, the Edward Kleban Prize, the Jonathan Larson Award, and the ASCAP Richard Rodgers Award. He serves on the Dramatists Guild Council where he is a mentor for their DGF Fellows Program, and teaches theater at Yale and Columbia. Upcoming projects include the lyrics for the new musical Flying Over Sunset, with a book by James Lapine and music by Tom Kitt, scheduled to open at Lincoln Center Theater in December.
Maestro JAMES LOWE, a Grammy-nominated music director and conductor, has appeared at Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera and Houston Grand Opera, where he recently led La bohéme and Sweeney Todd. He made his European debut conducting Candide at the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse and Opéra National de Bordeaux. He arranged, orchestrated and conducted Songbird, a new adaptation of Offenbach’s La Périchole in the style of 1920’s New Orleans jazz for the Glimmerglass Festival. On Broadway, Mr. Lowe was the music director and conductor of the recent revivals of Les Misérables and Anything Goes. His U.S. national tour credits include the Cameron Mackintosh/National Theatre production of My Fair Lady (music director and conductor) of, The Light in the Piazza (conductor) and The Phantom of the Opera music (music supervisor) Mr. Lowe has appeared in concert with Sir Elton John, conducting his own orchestrations and choral arrangements of Elton’s classic songs, as well as with singer-songwriter Randy Newman and the legendary Booker T. Jones. His arrangements have been performed by Joyce DiDonato (Lincoln Center and Wigmore Hall), Isabel Leonard, Ailyn Pérez and Nadine Sierra (Metropolitan Opera’s “Three Divas at Versailles” concert), as well as at the Glimmerglass Festival and Utah Opera.
RICHARD STAFFORD directed and choreographed NYCO’s productions of Los Elementos, the double bill of Rameau’s Pigmalion and Donizetti’s Pigmalione, and choreographed NYCO’s world premiere productions of Dear Erich, Stonewall. On Broadway, he was the choreographer for My Life, associate choreographer for Aspects of Love, and dance supervisor for Cats. Off-Broadway, he choreographed A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at St. Clements and directed and choreographed Castle Walk for the New York Music Festival. Internationally he directed and choreographed The Full Monty and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Mexico City, Cats in Copenhagen, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro; and choreographed productions of Jesus Christ Superstar in Mexico City, Evita in Sydney; and Cats in Buenos Aires. He has also choreographed national tours of Cats, My Fair Lady and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. His awards include a Barrymore Award for outstanding choreography for La Cage aux Folles at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre.
Soprano RACHEL BLAUSTEIN (who will perform the role of Micòl Finzi-Contini) will make her NYCO debut after performing this fall for the first time with Tulsa Opera as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi. Her Chicago Opera Theater credits include roles in Taking Up Serpents, La Hija de Rappaccini, and their upcoming production of Carmen. Baritone BRIAN JAMES MYER (Alberto Finzi-Contini) created leading roles in two NYCO 2019 premieres: as young Erich in Ted Rosenthal’s jazz opera Dear Erich and as the schoolteacher Carlos in Iain Bell and Mark Campbell’s Stonewall. He has created other roles in new works for Florida Grand Opera, American Lyric Theatre, Opera San Jose, and Opera Las Vegas. Mezzo-soprano MARY PHILLIPS (Mamma) is closely associated with the music of Wagner having won acclaim singing many mezzo roles in the Ring cycle with Seattle Opera, Canadian Opera, and at the MET, where she has also performed in works by Giuseppe Verdi, Richard Strauss, Anton Dvorak and Philip Glass. Baritone STEPHEN POWELL (Papà) is familiar to New York opera audience from his numerous appearances at both NYCO (in countless productions including The Magic Flute, Madama Butterfly, Der Rosenkavalier, La Traviata) and the MET (Carmen, Turandot, Boris Godunov), as well as nationally with San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Diego Opera and Glimmerglass Opera. Tenor VICTOR STARSKY (Giorgio) has appeared in the NYCO productions of La fanciulla del West and La Bohème and was a participant in the 2019 Merola Opera Program and a 2020 San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow. His other credits include performances with Opera Modesto, Opera Tampa, Long Island Opera, and made his Carnegie Hall debut as the tenor soloist in Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass.
ABOUT NEW YORK CITY OPERA
Since its founding in 1943 by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia as “The People’s Opera,” New York City Opera (NYCO) has been a critical part of the city’s cultural life. During its history, New York City Opera launched the careers of dozens of major artists and presented engaging productions of both mainstream and unusual operas alongside commissions and regional premieres. The result was a uniquely American opera company of international stature. For more than seven decades, New York City Opera has maintained a distinct identity, adhering to its unique mission: affordable ticket prices, a devotion to American works, English-language performances, the promotion of up-and-coming American singers, and seasons of accessible, vibrant and compelling productions intended to introduce new audiences to the art form. Stars who launched their careers at New York City Opera include Plácido Domingo, Catherine Malfitano, Sherrill Milnes, Samuel Ramey, Beverly Sills, Tatiana Troyanos, Carol Vaness, and Shirley Verrett, among dozens of other great artists. New York City Opera has a long history of inclusion and diversity. It was the first major opera company to feature African-American singers in leading roles (Todd Duncan as Tonio in Pagliacci, 1945; Camilla Williams in the title role in Madama Butterfly, 1946); the first to produce a new work by an African-American composer (William Grant Still, Troubled Island, 1949); and the first to have an African-American conductor lead its orchestra (Everett Lee, 1955). A revitalized City Opera re-opened in January 2016 with Tosca, the opera that originally launched the company in 1944. Outstanding productions during the four years since then include: the world premieres of Iain Bell and Mark Campbell’s Stonewall, which NYCO commissioned and developed, legendary director Harold Prince’s new production of Bernstein’s Candide; Puccini’s beloved La Fanciulla del West; and the New York premiere of Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas — the first in its Ópera en Español series. Subsequent Ópera en Español productions include the New York premiere of the world’s first mariachi opera, José “Pepe” Martinez’s Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, Literes’s Los Elementos, and Piazzolla’s María de Buenos Aires. In addition to the world premiere of Stonewall, the productions in NYCO’s Pride Initiative, which produces an LGBTQ-themed work each June during Pride Month, include the New York premiere of Péter Eötvös’s Angels in America and the American premiere of Charles Wuorinen’s Brokeback Mountain. New York City Opera has presented such talents as Anna Caterina Antonacci and Aprile Millo in concert, as well as its own 75th Anniversary Concert in Bryant Park, one in a series of the many concerts and staged productions that it presents each year as part of the Park’s summer performance series. City Opera’s acclaimed summer series in Bryant Park brings free performances to thousands of New Yorkers and visitors every year.
New York City Opera continues its legacy with main stage performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater and with revitalized outreach and education programs at venues throughout the city, designed to welcome and inspire a new generation of opera audiences. City Opera’s acclaimed summer series in Bryant Park brings free performances to thousands of New Yorkers and visitors every year.
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ABOUT THE NATIONAL YIDDISH THEATRE FOLKSBIENE
Now celebrating its 107th season, Tony Award-nominated and Drama Desk Award-winning National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF) is the longest consecutively producing theatre in the U.S. and the world’s oldest continuously operating Yiddish theatre company. NYTF, which presented the award-winning Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, directed by Joel Grey, to sold out audiences before it moved to Off-Broadway uptown, is in residence at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek and Executive Director Dominick Balletta, NYTF is dedicated to creating a living legacy through the arts, connecting generations and bridging communities. NYTF aims to bring history to life by reviving and restoring lost and forgotten work, commissioning new work, and adapting pre-existing work for the 21st Century. Serving a diverse audience comprised of performing arts patrons, cultural enthusiasts, Yiddish-language aficionados, and the general public, the company presents plays, musicals, concerts, lectures, interactive educational workshops, and community-building activities in English and Yiddish, with English and Russian supertitles accompanying performances. NYTF provides access to a century-old cultural legacy and inspires the imaginations of the next generation to contribute to this valuable body of work. Learn more at www.nytf.org.
ABOUT THE MUSEUM OF JEWISH HERITAGE – A LIVING MEMORIAL TO THE HOLOCAUST
The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is New York’s contribution to the global responsibility to never forget. The Museum is committed to the crucial mission of educating diverse visitors about Jewish life before, during, and after the Holocaust. The third largest Holocaust museum in the world and the second largest in North America, the Museum of Jewish Heritage anchors the southernmost tip of Manhattan, completing the cultural and educational landscape it shares with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The Museum of Jewish Heritage maintains a collection of more than 40,000 artifacts, photographs, documentary films, and survivor testimonies and contains classrooms, a 375-seat theater (Edmond J. Safra Hall), special exhibition galleries, a resource center for educators, and a memorial art installation, Garden of Stones, designed by internationally acclaimed sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. The Museum is the home of National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. The Museum receives general operating support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and New York State Council on the Arts. For more information, visit mjhnyc.org.