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Opera Triple Bill to be Presented by the Bard College Conservatory of Music's Vocal Arts Program

February 26 and 28 Program in Bard’s Fisher Center Features World Premieres of Two Commissioned Operas

Mark Primoff

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.The Graduate Vocal Arts Program of The Bard College Conservatory of Music presents an evening and matinée of opera in the Sosnoff Theater of The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, February 26, at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, February 28, at 3:00 p.m. The triple bill features three fully staged one-act operas, including the world premieres of two Conservatory-commissioned operas—Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt by Missy Mazzoli and Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera by David T. Little, with libretto by Royce Vavrek—and the 1925 French opera L’Enfant et les sortilèges (The Child and the Magic Spells) by Maurice Ravel, with libretto by Colette. Tickets are $20, $30, and $75 (the latter includes priority seating and an invitation to the February 26 postperformance champagne reception with the artists). To purchase tickets, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or go to


“We are delighted to be presenting world premieres by David T. Little and Missy Mazzoli, two young New York–based composers who came to my attention by way of the Composing Song workshop that Bard undertakes with The Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall,” says Dawn Upshaw, artistic director of the Graduate Vocal Arts Program. “Collaborating with composers is a joy that I wish to pass on to the students in the Vocal Arts Program. We’re thrilled David and Missy agreed to be part of our opera program, and look forward to working with them, conductor James Bagwell, and director Dan Rigazzi on these new works. Together with Ravel’s ravishing ‘L’Enfant,’ it promises to be a rich and varied theatrical triple bill, and a key part of the Vocal Arts Program offering for our young artists.”

Rigazzi directs the operas with scenic design by John Pollard, costume design by Melissa Schlachtmeyer, lighting design by Andrew Hill, puppet design by Lake Simons, and choreography by Jean Churchill. James Bagwell conducts the Bard College Conservatory Orchestra and Bard College Chamber Singers. All roles are sung by master’s degree students in the Conservatory’s Graduate Vocal Arts Program. Performing in the operas are: Mary Bonhag (soprano), Julia Bullock (soprano), Jeongcheol Cha (baritone), Leroy Davis (bass-baritone), Ariadne Greif (soprano), Jeffrey Hill (tenor), Clarissa Lyons (soprano), Celine Mogielnicki (soprano), Matthew Morris (baritone), Madyson Page (soprano), Katarzyna Sadej (mezzo-soprano), Megan Taylor (soprano), Nian Wang (mezzo-soprano), and Ilana Zarankin (soprano).


Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt, by Missy Mazzoli, was inspired by the journals of Isabelle Eberhardt (1877–1904), an explorer, journalist, novelist, passionate romantic, Sufi, and one of the most unusual women of her era. At age 20, distraught over the sudden deaths of her mother, father, and brother, she left Switzerland for a nomadic existence in the deserts of North Africa. Song from the Uproar immerses the audience in the surreal landscapes of Isabelle’s life; we watch her describe the death of her family, the thrill of her arrival in Africa, her tentative joy at falling in love, the elation of self-discovery, and the mystery of death.


Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera, by David T. Little with libretto by Royce Vavrek, is about finch-sitting (or Vinkensport in Flemish), a sport that developed around birdsong in the late 1500s in Flanders. Little says, “[P]eople who play it get completely obsessed; or at least it would seem so based on the numerous reports of people getting busted for cheating. These incidents—including someone injecting testosterone into their bird!—made us ask, what is it about the need to win that would push people to such an extent? We get into their lives and experience their joys and sorrows, delusions and all-too-stark realities. Still, at its core, Vinkensport is a comedy. We hope you will laugh.”


The genesis of L’Enfant et les sortilèges, by Maurice Ravel with libretto by Colette, began in 1914 when Jacques Rouché, the head of the Paris Opéra, approached the French writer Colette about creating a story line for a fairy ballet. Colette, best known for her novels, quickly produced a scenario. Ravel, asked to write the score, envisaged the story as an opera rather than a ballet, and appealed to Colette to write a libretto. She enthusiastically completed one in only eight days. Ravel put pen to paper in 1924 and finished composing just in time for the opera’s successful premiere on

March 21, 1925, in Monte Carlo. Despite the fantastical story line, Ravel treated the music with the utmost seriousness, explaining that “this lyric fantasy calls for melody, nothing but melody… a very smooth blending of all styles from all epochs.”




Missy Mazzoli, Composer

Missy Mazzoli’s music has been performed all over the world by orchestras and chamber ensembles such as the Kronos Quartet, Minnesota Orchestra, Eighth Blackbird, Spokane Symphony, South Carolina Philharmonic, Ensemble ACJW, and Now Ensemble. She writes for melodicas, out-of-tune guitars, and electronics, as well as orchestras and string quartets, to create a unique and personal sound. Mazzoli is also active as an educator, arts advocate, and performer. She is executive director of the MATA Festival of New Music in New York, which was founded by Philip Glass, Lisa Bielawa, and Eleanor Sandersky, and is devoted to young composers. She recently taught beginning composition at Yale University and has been a composer in residence with the Carnegie Hall Academy Program and SUNY Fredonia New Music Festival. Mazzoli’s recent commissions include works for the League of Composers Chamber Players, Whitney Museum of American Art, Santa Fe Chamber Players, Nadia Sirota, Jody Redhage, and Carnegie Hall.


David T. Little, Composer

David T. Little’s work fuses classical and popular idioms to dramatic effect. Little’s music has received awards and recognition from Tanglewood, Aspen, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Harvey Gaul Competition, BMI, and ASCAP. He has been commissioned by Carnegie Hall, the Albany Symphony, Gallery I-20, New World Symphony, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, and University of Michigan. An active drummer in New York City, Little performs regularly with his ensemble Newspeak and with the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). He holds degrees from Susquehanna University, The University of Michigan, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in composition at Princeton University. He teaches music through Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections program. His primary teachers include Osvaldo Golijov, Steven Mackey, Paul Lansky, William Bolcom, and Michael Daugherty.


James Bagwell, Conductor

James Bagwell, director of the Music Program at Bard College, was appointed music director of The Collegiate Chorale in 2009 and leads that group in concerts at Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall. He was named principal guest conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra in New York City. He has prepared the Concert Chorale of New York for performances with the American Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Mostly Mozart Festival. In 2005, he was named music director of the Dessoff Choirs in New York, who, under his leadership, have made numerous appearances at Carnegie Hall. Since 2003, he has been director of choruses for the Bard Music Festival. For 11 seasons, he has been music director for the May Festival Youth Choir in Cincinnati. He has conducted some 25 productions as music director of Light Opera Oklahoma. He frequently appears as guest conductor for orchestras around the country and abroad, including the Jerusalem Symphony, Tulsa Symphony, and Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. He holds degrees from Birmingham-Southern College, Florida State University, and Indiana University.


Dan Rigazzi, Director

Dan Rigazzi has just finished a production of Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia for Pittsburgh Opera. He was the recipient of the 2009 Boris Sagal Fellowship at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, where he directed the workshop premiere of Golden Gate, a musical by Chris Dimond and Michael Kooman. He is an assistant stage director at the Metropolitan Opera, where he has worked with directors Jack O’Brien, Mary Zimmerman, and David McVicar. He also assisted director Diane Paulus with her production of Hair for the New York Shakespeare Festival. He directed Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas for the Bard College music program in 2008. He is an alumnus of the Drama League Directors Project, Carnegie Mellon School of Drama, and University of the South.




Now in its fifth year, the Conservatory’s five-year undergraduate program is guided by the principle that musicians should be broadly educated in the liberal arts and sciences to achieve their greatest potential. While training and studying for the bachelor of music degree with world class musicians and teachers and performing in state-of-the-art facilities, such as the Frank Gehry–designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Conservatory students also pursue a bachelor of arts degree at Bard, one of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges. Robert Martin serves as director of the Conservatory, Melvin Chen as associate director.


In 2006, artistic director Dawn Upshaw and head of program Kayo Iwama launched the Graduate Vocal Arts Program, a two-year master of music degree within the Conservatory. Course work extends from standard repertory to new music, alongside training in acting, core seminars that provide historical and cultural perspectives, analytical tools, and performance skills for vocal and operatic performance at the highest levels. The students—only eight are admitted each year—have performed at Weill Recital Hall, Zankel Hall, and at Bard’s Fisher Center in recitals and as soloists with the American Symphony Orchestra. The students offered world premiere performances of David Bruce’s opera A Bird in Your Ear and twice participated in Composing Song Professional Training Workshops led by Dawn Upshaw and composer Osvaldo Golijov in collaboration with Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. Alumni/ae have distinguished themselves in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Los Angeles Opera Young Artists Program, and as prizewinners at a host of other national and international vocal competitions.




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This event was last updated on 01-27-2010