SUMMER 2017 $5.99
Repertoire and Race Phone Apps Millennial Habits
Ryan Speedo Green Stephen Lord’s First Opera Virtual Reality
Photo by Cory Weaver
Francesca Zambello, Artistic Director
Nothing could hold her captive… except his heart.
Giuseppe Verdi/Antonio Ghislanzoni
September 9–23, 2017 | Kennedy Center Opera House In Italian with Projected English Titles New Co-Production with San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera, and Minnesota Opera
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S U M M E R 2 O17
The magazine of OPERA America – the national service organization for opera, which leads and serves the entire opera community, supporting the creation, presentation and enjoyment of opera
A RT DIRECTION
Made Visible Studio A S S O C I AT E E D I T O R
NWise@operaamerica.org A DV E R T I S I N G M A N AG E R
VCovatto@operaamerica.org DIRECTOR OF M A RKETING A N D C O M M U N I C AT I O N S
Patricia Kiernan Johnson
O N T H E COV E R Janinah Burnett as the title character in American Opera Project’s 2014 world premiere of Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom by Nkeiru Okoye (photo: Richard Termine)
Opera America (ISSN – 1062 – 7243) is published in September, December, March and June. Copyright © 2017 by OPERA America. All rights reserved. This publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission. Editorial policy: The views expressed in this publication are those of the various authors for the purpose of encouraging discussion. Unless expressly noted, they do not reflect the formal policy, or necessarily the views, of OPERA America. To contact the editor, e-mail Editor@operaamerica.org. The deadline for advertising submissions is 45 days before publication date. The presence of advertising implies no endorsement of the products or services offered.
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REPERTOIRE AND RACE By CELESTE HEADLEE
THE DISCOURSE CONTINUES By M ARC A . SCORCA
A CONVERSATION WITH RYAN SPEEDO GREEN By M ARC A . SCORCA
AN APP FOR THAT By JED GOTTLIEB
MY FIRST OPERA By STEPHEN LORD
WHAT DO MILLENNIALS WANT?
Findings from The Wallace Foundation SU M M E R 2 017 1
OFFICERS Timothy O’Leary Opera Theatre of Saint Louis CHA I R MAN
Frayda B. Lindemann, Ph.D. Trustee, The Metropolitan Opera I MM E DI ATE PA ST CHA I R MAN
Perryn Leech Houston Grand Opera V I CE - CHAI R MA N
Susan F. Morris Trustee, The Santa Fe Opera
Carol Lazier Trustee, San Diego Opera Barbara Leirvik Charles MacKay The Santa Fe Opera Denyce Graves Montgomery Zizi Mueller Boosey & Hawkes Esther Nelson Boston Lyric Opera John F. Nesholm Trustee, Seattle Opera
V I CE - CHAI R MA N
Nicole Paiement Opera Parallèle
Kathryn Smith Madison Opera
Bill Palant Étude Arts
V I CE - CHAI R MA N
Jane DiRenzo Pigott Trustee, Lyric Opera of Chicago
Evan J. Hazell Trustee, Calgary Opera TR E A S U R E R
William Florescu Florentine Opera Company S E CR E TA RY
Marc A. Scorca P R E S I DE N T/ CE O
BOARD OF DIRECTORS John E. Baumgardner Jr. Sullivan & Cromwell LLP Daniel Biaggi Palm Beach Opera Wayne S. Brown Michigan Opera Theatre Ned Canty Opera Memphis
Yuval Sharon The Industry Matthew Shilvock San Francisco Opera Jill Steinberg Trustee, VisionIntoArt John Turner Trustee, Houston Grand Opera Dona D. Vaughn PORTopera, Manhattan School of Music Francesca Zambello The Glimmerglass Festival, Washington National Opera EX-OFFICIO MEMBERS Christina Loewen, Opera.ca
Rena M. De Sisto Bank of America
Nicholas Payne, Opera Europa
Larry Desrochers Manitoba Opera
NATIONAL OPERA CENTER BOARD OF OVERSEERS
David B. Devan Opera Philadelphia
Robert Tancer, CHAIRMAN James M. Barton John E. Baumgardner Jr. L. Henry Cox III Douglas Cuomo Elizabeth Eveillard Jeanne Goffi-Fynn, Ed.D. Jane A. Gross Karen Kriendler Nelson Frederick W. Peters Jane A. Robinson Anthony Rudel Michael Scimeca, M.D. Jeri Sedlar Thurmond Smithgall Brett Stover Gregory C. Swinehart Barbara Augusta Teichert Darren K. Woods Carole Yaley
Carol Domina Michael Egel Des Moines Metro Opera Robert Ellis Trustee, San Francisco Opera, Opera Parallèle James Feldman Trustee, Washington National Opera Barbara Glauber Trustee, New England Conservatory Christopher Hahn Pittsburgh Opera Laura Kaminsky
2 O P E R A A M E R I C A
ANTONY WALKER ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/CONDUCTOR
CONCERTOPERA.ORG | 202-364-5826
The Discourse Continues
he deep, engaged discussions begun at Opera Conference 2017 have continued to inform meetings and casual conversations. The topics that arose — race in opera, the total audience experience, the centrality of collaboration to building public value — will shape our work through the coming year and beyond. It was particularly rewarding that this year’s conference hosted the largest-ever participation of artists in our history. Their creative visions shape our field, and their aspirations for the art form are a source of inspiration for all of us. Highlights from the conference are threaded through this issue of Opera America; you can watch select sessions on our YouTube channel. No reference to the conference can be complete without thanking Keith Cerny, Holly Mayer and the entire staff and board of The Dallas Opera for their outstanding hospitality during our stay. The cultural facilities in the Dallas Arts District are architecturally stunning and the work inside them equally remarkable. Between The Dallas Opera and Fort Worth Opera, members could choose to attend performances of completely new works, works that have premiered recently, a mariachi opera and two masterpieces from the canon. This repertoire demonstrates the progress we have made to define opera as a vibrant, varied and contemporary art form that continues to use universal human stories to provoke and console audiences. The annual conference’s “festival of opera” anticipated an exciting summer season that is equally representative of opera’s energy. Long gone are the relatively quiet summers of the past: 36 companies are reporting performances between June 1 and September 1. Productions of Rameau and Handel represent the Baroque literature. Mozart, Donizetti, Puccini and Verdi are predictably ever-present, but noteworthy, too, is the preponderance of works by American composers — nearly two dozen titles by more than 20 composer/librettist teams! Productions of classic American musicals, works by Sondheim and the comedies of Gilbert & Sullivan enliven the season. The progress of our field over recent decades inspires us with confidence that we can broaden the repertoire still further to include works by creators from communities that have been underrepresented in opera. Our stages must tell their stories, for the enrichment of all of us. Summer is a busy time at OPERA America. We are managing the early stages of our new Innovation Grants program, an initiative made possible by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation that will deliver benefits to all members. We are organizing the second year of our Civic Action Group, accepting a new class of participants into our Leadership Intensive and selecting artists for our Career Blueprints for Singers program. We are getting ready to head to Bogotá, Colombia, this September as part of our new partnership with Ópera Latinoamérica, and working with our great colleagues at Opera Europa to plan the World Opera Forum scheduled for April in Madrid. All this while we prepare for this fall’s Opera Fund: Repertoire Development Grants, for a full schedule of forums and for strategy sessions advocating in support of continued generous funding for the nation’s cultural agencies. OPERA America’s strength reflects the strengthening of our field and the active participation of members in all our programs. For those who are involved with summer festival seasons: Toi toi. For others: Reflect and refresh, and let us know how we can support your efforts on behalf of opera across the United States and Canada.
Marc A. Scorca President/CEO SU M M E R 2 017 3
I N N OVAT I O N S
Horror show: Kacey Cardin in The Parksville Murders
COURTESY OPERA ON TAP
Virtually Operatic A
lthough virtual reality — “VR” for short — has rapidly gained traction in the gaming and animation worlds, it is only just starting to play a role in the performing arts. Still, it makes perfect sense that the technology should be making inroads into the original multimedia art form: opera. “The more I learned about VR, the more I felt like it was an ideal place to present an opera,” says Anne Hiatt, cofounder of the Brooklyn-based Opera on Tap, which has produced the episodic VR horror opera The Parksville Murders. Written by Kamala Sankaram and Jerre Dye, with video direction by Cari Ann Shim Sham, the work requires viewers to don a VR head set, with an Androidbased smartphone inserted into it, along with headphones. The apparatus lets viewers track the paths of two young women (sopranos Kacey Cardin and Mikki Sodergren) who’ve awakened to find themselves in what appears to be a crime scene, with creepy, blackcloaked figures observing them. Throughout the narrative, you can turn your head to view any part of the setting. Meanwhile, “spatialized audio”
technology offers sound cues from different parts of the virtual landscape. The technology essentially allows viewers to shape their own journeys through the piece, based on where and when they turn their heads. “We loved the idea of a choose-your-ownadventure experience,” says Hiatt. “You can go back and rewatch the episode and see more of the story.” Collaborating with the production company Light Sail VR, Opera on Tap has filmed the pilot episode of the series, which was honored in May at the NYC Independent Film Festival as best virtual reality video. Later this summer, the company plans to announce a distribution partner and share its plans for a series of future episodes, available on demand.
“Binge-watching is what’s trending on television,” she says, “and that’s our idea of how this will work.” Some companies are meanwhile using VR technology to enhance the traditional opera-going experience. Boston Lyric Opera has invested in a 360-degree camera, which it used to record a studio rehearsal of The Rake’s Progress and a dress rehearsal of The Marriage of Figaro, publishing the videos on Facebook and YouTube. “A lot of our regular fans were excited by it because they got to see what goes into a creating an opera,” says Jeila Irdmusa, BLO’s communications manager. “We also got a lot of buzz on Twitter just for the fact that virtual reality is so cool right now. It gets us attention from people who aren’t normally opera-goers.” Although the idea of using VR to promote the world premiere of the Stewart Copeland work The Invention of Morel came from Chicago Opera Theater’s marketing department, the technology eventually drew in Jonathan Moore, the sci-fi opera’s colibrettist. He steered the team toward an expository scene that had been cut when the opera was in development. Partnering with the video and animation firm Reel Captivation, which donated its time and resources, COT brought the scene to life through an app that featured a VR tour of the opera’s island setting, along with a 360-degree video that could be watched without special goggles. Upon arrival at the theater, audience members were shepherded into a special viewing room, where they sat in wooden boats (mimicking the imaginary one in the VR tour), put on goggles and watched the video. Their reactions? “Mostly it was people going, ‘Wow—that was an experience I had not had before, and it was one I was not expecting to have at the opera,’” says Douglas Clayton, COT’s general director designate. “It was a surprise and an adventure — and that’s the spirit of our company.” —Nicholas Wise
“The more I learned about VR, the more I felt like it was an ideal place to present an opera.” —Anne Hiatt SU M M E R 2 017 5
I N N OVAT I O N S
Decision Time in D.C. BY BR ANDON GRYDE
he subject of the arts barely came up during Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign. So it was a shock when, in January, the insidethe-Beltway publication The Hill reported that the incoming president planned to eliminate 19 federal agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Still, this initial “skinny” budget was not much different from previous nonbinding budget resolutions proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives. For several years, in fact, the House Budget Committee, under then-Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), proposed elimination of the cultural agencies, arguing that they represented a transfer of funds from the government to the wealthy. Yet each year, Congress came through with NEA funding — even after significant cuts to the budget due to sequestration — and in FY2016, it authorized a $2 million increase. Though the administration
urged a $15 million cut to the FY2017 budgets of both the NEA and the NEH, Congress appropriated a $2 million increase. Nonetheless, the Trump administration is moving forward with its proposal to eliminate the NEA. The full FY2018 budget proposes just $25 million for the agency: merely enough funding to close out programs and pay staff. But strong advocacy for the agency continues. OPERA America is working in coalition with national arts service organizations, including the Performing Arts Alliance and the ad hoc Cultural Advocacy Group, to lobby Congress and to engage its members
in grassroots advocacy efforts. In the past year, individuals from the field of opera sent more than 2,500 letters to members of Congress, urging support for the agency. The NEA is not allowed to advocate on its own behalf, but it can educate Congress and the public about its work and accomplishments. It has released a video detailing its funding process, an FAQ sheet about the community impact of its projects and even an infographic detailing the federal budget process, reminding us that the president’s budget proposal is just a step along a long legislative road. I have heard many comments over the years along the lines of “I don’t need to write to my lawmakers because they always support the arts,” or “Why should I contact my lawmakers? They never support the arts.” But now is a key time to advocate for ongoing support for the NEA, letting lawmakers know the value offered by the agency and the access it provides to the arts. It helps to build relationships in congressional offices: an important step before asking for support. Opera companies can invite lawmakers and their staff to attend or speak at public events, to witness rehearsals and to receive backstage tours. For lovers of opera not connected to a company, making a phone call to your congressional office to urge support for the agency is a terrifically effective form of advocacy. Share stories about how you and your community have benefitted from opera performances and programs. When it comes to advocating for the NEA, no congressional office is out of bounds, and no action is too big or too small. Brandon Gryde is the director of government affairs for OPERA America and Dance/USA. Find additional advocacy resources online at operaamerica.org/Advocacy.
Now is a key time to advocate for ongoing support for the NEA, letting lawmakers know the value offered by the agency and the access it provides to the arts. SU M M E R 2 017 7
P E O P L E
TRANSITIONS At OPERA America, Kirk A. Curtis has been hired as director of finance and operations, and Sarah McCann has been promoted to director of the Opera Center.
Henry Akina has retired after 20 years as artistic director of Hawaii Opera Theatre.
Paul Deckard, formerly chief financial officer at The Atlanta Opera, has joined Opera Colorado as managing director. Austin Opera has hired Nathan DePoint as director of operations, Jennifer Dubin as chief development officer and Melysa Rogen as director of marketing and communications.
Jessica Kiger has joined The Atlanta Opera as its audience development and education manager. Pacific Opera Victoria has hired Mark Leigh as one of its two technical directors.
Marita Altman, formerly director of major gifts at the Metropolitan Opera, has become Opera Philadelphia’s vice president of development. Lawrence Brownlee has joined Opera Philadelphia as artistic advisor. He will advise the company on repertoire, consult on diversity issues and collaborate with senior management on fundraising efforts.
On Site Opera has named Piper Gunnarson as its executive director.
Michael L. Mael, executive director of Washington National Opera, has announced his departure from the company.
8 O P E R A A M E R I C A
Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham will serve as an advisor to Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, beginning next season.
Pacific Opera Project’s artistic director Josh Shaw has taken on the additional role of executive director.
Caramoor has announced that its Bel Canto at Caramoor series, led by Will Crutchfield, will come to an end after this summer, its 20th season. In summer 2018, Crutchfield will launch Teatro Nuovo, a nine-day bel canto festival at SUNY Purchase in Purchase, NY.
American Lyric Theater has appointed David Rubeo as executive director. Most recently associate director of individual giving at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Rubeo was associate director of Gotham Chamber Opera from 2010 to 2015.
Tulsa Opera has hired Sandra Willmann as its director of development.
Samuel Mungo has been appointed managing director of Peabody Opera Theatre.
The Glimmerglass Festival has appointed bass-baritone Eric Owens as artistic
Dawn Wolski has joined Opera Coeur d’Alene as general director. Aaron Nicholson, who previously served as both general director and artistic director, retains the latter role.
HAWAII OPERA THEATRE (AKINA), OPERA PHILADELPHIA (ALTMAN), CAMILLE BOUGERIE (CRUTCHFIELD), YOLANDA PEREZ (GUNNARSON), B. EALOVEGA (GRAHAM), SCOTT SUCHMAN (MAEL), DARIO ACOSTA (OWENS), CHEZLEY ROYSTER (KIGER), COURTESY ALT (RUBEO), CORI KOGAN (WOLSKI)
advisor. Among his other duties, Owens will consult on repertoire and casting.
P E O P L E
KUDOS PHOTOS: JEN JOYCE DAVIS (ARROYO), JEFF REEDER (LINDEMANN), MIRANDA LOUD (WARSHAW), DAVID WHITE (BROWNLEE), MATTHEW JELACIC (YUN), HENRY GROSSMAN (PRICE), GREG GORMAN FOR LA OPERA (DOMINGO), IN MEMORIAM PHOTOS: UT AUSTIN’S BRISCOE CENTER FOR AMERICAN HISTORY (CONRAD), METROPOLITAN OPERA ARCHIVES (CREECH, JEPSON, MOLL, PRÊTRE), EDIN HOFFMAN (HOFFMAN)
The Juilliard School conferred honorary doctorates upon composer Thomas Adès, soprano Martina Arroyo, and philanthropist and musicologist Frayda B. Lindemann (OPERA America’s board chairman from 2012 to 2016), among others. The American Academy of Arts and Letters gave its 2017 Awards in Music, totaling $195,000, Warshaw to sixteen composers. Included were Lisa Bielawa, composer of the episodic video opera Vireo; and Dalit Warshaw, who is developing a new opera, her first, with support from OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers program. Patricia Racette received an honorary doctorate from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Among the winners of the 2017 International Opera Awards were tenor Lawrence Brownlee, Brownlee named male singer of year, and the Metropolitan Opera, honored for its Robert Lepage production of Kaija Saariaho and Amin Maalouf’s L’Amour de loin. Composer Du Yun won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Music for her opera Angel’s Bone, written Yun with librettist Royce Vavrek. The work received its world premiere at the 2016 Prototype Festival in a co-production from Beth Morrison Projects, HERE and Trinity Wall Street. Mississippi Opera was one of six recipients of the 2017 Governor’s Award for Artistic Excellence, administered by the Mississippi Arts Commission in partnership with the Governor’s Office. The top awards at the 29th annual Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition, held in May, went to mezzo-soprano
Samantha Hankey (first prize), soprano Laura Wilde (second prize) and soprano Mane Galoyan (third prize). The United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) has honored director/stage manager Ellen Douglas Schlaefer with its 2017 Wally Russell Mentoring Award.
Leontyne Price and Plácido Domingo were inaugural inductees into the Performing Arts Hall of Fame at Lincoln Center, along with Louis Armstrong, Yo-Yo Ma, Audra McDonald and Harold Prince. The honorees were recognized at a June 6 gala at Alice Tully Hall, which featured a performance by mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves. OPERA America President/CEO Marc A. Scorca, who serves on the Hall of Fame’s nomination and selection committees, presented Domingo with his award.
IN MEMORIAM The mezzo-soprano and civil rights figure Barbara Smith Conrad died on May 22 at age 79. Conrad was a member of the “Precursors” — the first African-American students to attend the University of Texas at Austin — and she became a focal point of controversy in 1956, when she was cast as Dido opposite a white Aeneas in a university production of Dido and Aeneas. Under pressure from state legislators, the university ultimately pulled her from the production, an ordeal recounted in the 2010 documentary When I Rise, about Conrad’s life. Conrad would go on to sing at opera houses around the world, including Houston Grand Opera, New York City Opera and the Met.
The American conductor Fiora Corradetti Contino, a specialist in verismo opera, died on March 5 at age 91. The daughter of baritone Ferruccio Corradetti, Contino received a degree in piano performance at Oberlin before studying conducting in France and Austria. In the U.S., she led performances at companies such as San Francisco Opera, Chicago Opera Theater and Anchorage Opera. She also served as artistic director of Opera Illinois for two decades, retiring in 2005, and was a longtime professor and choral department chair at Indiana University School of Music.
Tenor Philip Creech died on February 17 at age 66. Creech performed more than 250 times with the Met, from his company debut in 1979 as Beppe in Pagliacci to his final performance in 1997 as Pong in Turandot. He was also frequently heard as Edmondo in Manon Lescaut and Pedrillo in Die Entführung aus dem Serail. The playwright William M. Hoffman died on April 29 at age 78. Perhaps best known for his 1985 work As Is, one of the first plays to address the AIDS epidemic, Hoffman also wrote two notable opera librettos: The Ghosts of Versailles, with music by John Corigliano, which premiered at the Met in 1991; and Morning Star, with music by Ricky Ian Gordon, which bowed at Cincinnati Opera in 2015. SU M M E R 2 017 9
A C O N V E R S AT I O N W I T H
RYAN SPEEDO GREEN
Green as Colline in La bohème at the Met
12 O P E R A A M E R I C A
The gifted bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green has starred at the Met and the Vienna State Opera, among other international opera houses. The story of his rise from poverty and juvenile delinquency to the world’s great stages is the subject of Daniel Bergner’s book Sing for Your Life: A Story of Race, Music and Family. At the closing session of Opera Conference 2017, Green chatted with OPERA America’s president and CEO, Marc A. Scorca, about his extraordinary life journey. Here is an edited version of that conversation.
MARTY SOHL/METROPOLITAN OPERA
SCORCA: Let’s start at the beginning: Who brought you to your first opera? GREEN: I was 15 and I was at a magnet school in Norfolk, Virginia, called Governor’s School for the Arts. We took a field trip to New York City and saw Carmen at the Met. Just walking into the Met was a huge experience for a kid like me, coming from a trailer park in Virginia. But what made it even more special was the fact that the title role was played by an African-American woman by the name of Denyce Graves. I thought opera was something that was sung by a ginormous white Viking lady, breaking windows with her voice. But seeing this person who looked like me on stage opened a huge door in my mind to what I could do as a musician, as an artist and as an African-American. Afterward, we got to go backstage and meet her. I had seen this diva on stage performing one of the great roles, but backstage she greeted all of us, 40 high school kids, like we were her best friends. This fall, when I had my first major role at the Metropolitan Opera, Colline in La Bohème, I went into the green room to greet my family and friends, and who was there but Denyce Graves. She had heard about my story and how much she meant to me, so she came to see me and tell me how much that meant to her.
Do you think you, in particular, were naturally drawn to opera? Or do you think that it has the potential to draw in anybody who walks into the opera house? I think if someone my age or younger walks in and sees a production that could come from the 1920s, they could be put off. But modern productions, placed in different periods with different plotlines, are giving it a more diverse appeal. And it helps that there are so many composers now who are writing modern operas with modern stories. Have you done any new operas? Have you ever heard of The Death of Klinghoffer? I was in the Met production that was so welcomed by the New York community [laughter]. Actually, I think the problems were partly our fault and partly the fault of the protesters. We should have had more discussions with the community, and the protesters should have done more research on the piece itself. One three-minute aria is not an entire opera. And operas have bad guys — Scarpia did some awful things! In Sing for Your Life, you talk about the people who have mattered to you. You’ve got a great quote in there from
your high school teacher Robert Brown: “Education without application is useless information.” He was a chorus master and voice teacher, and sort of a father to so many of the young singers. When I first got into the program, I was not the best of musicians: I could barely read music. Also, I had a really horrible stage-fright problem. My first opera role was the Ghost in Ballad of Baby Doe and I had two lines. I practiced them for weeks, but at the final dress, the conductor had to stare at me and speak the words, because I could not get them out of my mouth. They thought about taking the part away from me, but Robert Brown told them he would be my voice teacher and he would make sure that by the end of my sophomore year I had all the tools to be a part of the program. He kicked my butt. We were having voice lessons once a week, but he told me that I would need at least three a week. My mother was raising me by herself, and she said, “I can’t afford that.” And so he said, “Okay, I’ll do it for free.” He took it upon himself to drive 40 minutes to my trailer and 40 minutes back home three times a week so I could learn the rudimentary skills that most high school musicians knew already. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. What an investment he made in you to recruit you into the art form he loved so much! Yes. He comes across just magnificently in the book. The book can’t even give him justice. I didn’t know my father, but he was a father figure to me. After that first Carmen, I walked out of the Met and told him that I wanted to sing there. It was the first time I had ever spoken a dream out loud and the first time I had a focused motive in my life. And Mr. Brown told me I could do it. But he gave me this really long list of things that I had to do first, like going to multiple schools and to young artist programs and learning how to play piano and learning a foreign language. I was a 15-year-old kid who could barely read music, but I took S U M M E R 2 0 1 7 13
AN APP FOR THAT Phone and tablet apps can be a boon to audiences and organizations alike — but only if they’re needed. By Jed Gottlieb
16 O P E R A A M E R I C A
pera and innovation have gone hand-in-hand since Venice’s Teatro San Cassiano came up with the crazy idea of selling tickets to the public in 1637. In his 1888 patent claim, Thomas Edison wrote that he invented his motion picture technology so “we may see and hear a whole opera as perfectly as if actually present.” In 1976, a Santa Fe Opera performance
became the first live digital recording. Yet, despite being an early adopter of electric light, radio transmissions and televised broadcasts, the world of opera has been circumspect in its embrace of mobile applications — commonly known as apps — for smartphones and tablets. Not that the industry has turned its back on apps altogether. Some companies are finding innovative ways to use them to connect with their audiences. Opera Philadelphia is launching a location-sensitive app in tandem with its upcoming citywide O17 festival. New York’s Prototype Festival offers an app that lets users browse events, listen to live recordings, watch videos and follow festival-related news. And at Lyric Opera of Chicago, the company is addressing long concession lines with an app that enables audience members to pre-order drinks with Uber-like simplicity. Research by the analytics company Flurry shows that the average American now spends an astounding five hours a day on mobile devices, with 92 percent of that time devoted to apps. Still, some opera companies see apps as offering no clear advantage over mobile-friendly websites — not worthy of the precious financial and staff resources that they would demand. San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera and Los Angeles
Opera have all skipped apps to concentrate on their websites and social-media channels. Opera Saratoga, which had planned to launch a loyalty-program app, discarded the idea after discovering that many audience members were resistant to the idea of downloading the app to their phones. “Unless you are building an app that’s going to drive consistent engagement and give an added value to patrons, it’s hard to justify the cost and the time,” San Francisco Opera’s chief information officer, Jarrod Bell, says. “If I want to buy a single ticket or figure out where to park, I don’t want to have to download a whole app just to do that.” When Bell joined SFO in 2013, he inherited an app that essentially served as a mobile version of the company’s website. After Bell spearheaded an overhaul of the website to make it “responsive” — in other words, optimized for tablets and phones, as well as computers — the app seemed superfluous. “You need a responsive website and you need a Facebook page, but an app isn’t something an opera company automatically needs,” says arts-marketing consultant Ceci Dadisman. “Having one for the sake of having one is not a responsible thing to do in terms of budget or time. Your app has to have a very specific purpose.” In 2010, when Dadisman was direc-
tor of communications for Palm Beach Opera, she launched one of opera’s first apps, providing ticket access, schedules, artist bios and program notes, among other offerings. The app became a minor sensation: Within weeks, it received 300 downloads from people in 34 countries. But when PBO launched a responsive website shortly afterward, it made the app redundant, so Dadisman saw no reason to pay for the upkeep. Still, she wasn’t done with the technology. She saw a “specific purpose” in 2013, when PBO mounted its first Opera @ the Waterfront program, aimed at novice operagoers. The concert would be staged outdoors in the middle of the day, so supertitles were out of the question; the initial PBO app, called Opera Live Cue, flashed fun facts and libretto translations to let newbies (and others) track what they were seeing and hearing. “It got people engaged,” Dadisman says. The next year, using a $30,000 Building Opera Audiences grant from OPERA America, PBO offered an expanded version that included ticket services, performance schedules, artist bios and program notes, and streaming music. “It’s a very personal thing to download an app,” Dadisman says. “If you’re going to do it, the app must be amazingly good. You have to make sure the content is something that patrons not only want, but need.” S U M M E R 2 0 1 7 17
Racially themed works bring new perspectives to opera’s stages. BY CELESTE HEA DLEE
20 O P E R A A M E R I C A
DOMINIC M. MERCIER (CHARLIE PARKER’S YARDBIRD); RICHARD TERMINE (HARRIET TUBMAN: WHEN I CROSSED THAT LINE TO FREEDOM); SCOTT SUCHMAN (CHAMPION)
From top: Lawrence Brownlee in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird; Nicole Mitchell, Janinah Burnett and Briana Hunter in Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom; Aubrey Allicock and Victor Ryan Robertson in Champion
he problem isn’t that black people don’t like opera — the problem is that black people haven’t had their stories told in opera,” says playwright and librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph. “How many times can I see Porgy and Bess?” As if in answer to that question, a number of recent and upcoming American operas take a sharp look at the African-American experience. Joseph’s own We Shall Not Be Moved, with music by Daniel Bernard Roumain, premieres at Opera Philadelphia this fall; the work focuses on five Philadelphia teens who take refuge in an abandoned house with a tragic civil rights past. Terence Blanchard and Michael Cristofer’s Champion, presenting the life of boxer Emile Griffith as he battles the twin scourges of racism and homophobia, has proved to be among the most enduring of recent operas, with two important productions since its 2013 Opera Theatre of Saint Louis premiere, most recently at Washington National Opera. Frances Pollock’s Stinney: An American Execution, which bowed in 2015 at Baltimore’s 2640 Space, chronicles the true story of a 14-year-old African-American boy who was railroaded into a murder conviction and executed in South Carolina in 1944. These works are notable not only for their focus on black characters, but also for their use of opera as a means of grappling with pressing social issues. Although the art form is often seen as
apolitical, political engagement is in fact a thread running through much of opera’s history. “In Marriage of Figaro,” Frances Pollock notes, “Mozart is addressing issues of class and power.” “From the Greeks to Shakespeare and Tony Kushner, theater has been a place where you can take large moral stances and defend them,” says librettist David Cote, who collaborated with composer Nkeiru Okoye on Invitation to a Die-In, about police shootings in African-American communities. “I love creating drama by putting a range of conflicting viewpoints on stage. Let them fight it out: That’s polyphony. That’s music.” Cote and Okoye’s performance art piece, which had its premiere this January in performances by the Mount Holyoke Symphony Orchestra, reaches its shocking conclusion with a coup de théâtre inspired by the finale of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites: “We thought it would be effective if the band itself were gunned down, one by one,” Cote explains. “Each instrument, each voice, drops out as the piece winds down.” Some audience members complained about Invitation to a Die-In’s harsh ending. But composer Ted Hearne argues that the niche status of classical music makes it a relatively safe arena for bold political statements. “I can explore ideas that are provocative for an audience, and I can do that without worrying too much about selling tickets,” he says. “It’s not about going platinum.” Hearne is developing the oratorio Place — “part memoir, part flash documentary” — examining the intersection of location, history and personality in inner-city Chicago, collaborating on the libretto with poet and musician Saul Williams. Marc Bamuthi Joseph sees the new breed of racially themed operas as a way for companies to move past the standard S U M M E R 2 0 1 7 21
WHAT DO MILLENNIALS WANT?
n 2015, The Wallace Foundation launched Building Audiences for Sustainability, a six-year, $52 million initiative aimed at strengthening the audience-building efforts of 25 performing arts institutions, as well as providing insights to the field in general. Over the next two years, OPERA America will share the foundation’s research with members, and will work with opera company staff and outside experts to develop strategies that respond to what has been learned. It will be a collective effort that strengthens the field.
24 O P E R A A M E R I C A
Many of the participating organizations are specifically targeting millennials: people who are roughly 18 to 34 years old. The report “Building Millennial Audiences: Barriers and Opportunities” gathers research from participating arts organizations about members of the millennial generation: their tastes, their habits, their aspirations. Here are some key findings. Analysis for the report was conducted by Marketing Research Professionals Inc. for The Wallace Foundation. The full report can be found at wallacefoundation.org/MillennialsinArts.
43% 73% of millennial adults are non-white, the highest share of any generation.
of millennials are likely to move in the next five years.
ANNUAL EARNINGS (MEDIAN)
STUDENT LOAN COMPARISON 2002 TO 2012
I TA LS G I D IVE T A N
Volume of loans is up 77%. Average full-time student debt is up nearly 60%.
Millennials face more financial challenges than prior generations. Many may never catch up, creating a permanently more difficult environment for arts organizations.
NET WORTH (MEDIAN)
90% 73% 87% use social-media networking sites.
check their phones a few times per hour.
keep their smartphones constantly by their side, day and night.
S U M M E R 2 0 1 7 â€ƒ 25
N E W S
Change in the Air Opera Conference 2017 guided industry professionals in new directions.
he issue of equity in the performing arts took center stage at Opera Conference 2017: Creating Collaborative Change. “There is a growing awareness that diversity, equity and inclusion can no longer be a mere consideration, but now is a reality of absolute necessity for all of us to survive,” said Zenetta S. Drew, executive director of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre at the general session “Creating Change: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.” Her words could have served as a motto for the annual conference, which from May 4 to 8 drew nearly 500 opera professionals from across North America to Dallas. The conference included many conversations about inclusivity and collaboration — from a general session on the cultural ecosystem of Dallas’ Arts District, to a seminar about how to be an ally for social equity, to a conversation with bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green that included reflections on the role of race in his life and career (see “A Conversation with Ryan Speedo Green,” page 12). In addition to addressing the bigpicture issues facing the field, the conference also provided sessions tailored to the full range of opera specialties. For marketers there was “The Power of Dynamic Pricing” (see p. 6), while for development staff there was “How to Get More Money from Individuals.” Roundtable discussion for the various professional specialties also provided an informal setting for people to share common concerns and best practices. With The Dallas Opera as the host company of the conference, attendees were treated to several performance opportunities, including Norma and semi-staged versions of Joby Talbot and Gene Scheer’s Everest and Douglas Cuomo’s Arjuna’s Dilemma. Close proximity to Fort Worth Opera also 30 O P E R A A M E R I C A
allowed them to take in that company’s productions of Carmen, José “Pepe” Martínez and Leonard Foglia’s Cruzar la Cara de Luna, and the world premiere of Matthew Peterson and Jason Zencka’s Voir Dire. The conference served as the occasion for electing seven new members to OA’s board of directors: Rena De Sisto, global arts and cultural executive at Bank of America; David Devan, general director of Opera Philadelphia; Carol Domina, former board member of Opera Omaha
and Opera Volunteers International; Carol Lazier, board president of San Diego Opera; mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves Montgomery; John Nesholm, board president of Seattle Opera; and Matthew Shilvock, general director of San Francisco Opera. To view select sessions from the conference, visit youtube.com/ OPERAAmerica. Next year’s conference will take place June 20 to 23, 2018, in St. Louis, with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as host company.
K AREN ALMOND
Speakers at the Opening Session (clockwise from top left): Ann Meier Baker, director of music and opera at the NEA; Timothy O’Leary, general director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and board chairman of OPERA America; composer Kamala Sankaram, with panel of artists
O P E R A
CO N F E R E N C E
Wish Lists Attendees at the Opening Session of Opera Conference 2017 received 4x6 notecards and were asked to write down their visions for opera’s future. The cards were then put on display in the conference’s networking space. Here are some of those shared thoughts: NIMBLE …NOW …TODAY...HOT … ALIVE ...F UNN Y…FRUIT F UL… SE XY…HARD TO GET A TICKET TO...DE LIGHTF UL... THOUGHTF UL
The truth: on timnee in tu
some of the words I would like to see opera own: Entertaining, Inspiring, Shorter
To be # relevant To be human To be part of the conversation
Op era is the summer blockbuster of live theater. It can hand le blowing things up.
….proud of its heritage, but knocked off its high horse That audiences will see opera in the same light and with the same excitement as a Broadway musical
I want opera to T HRIVE… … socia … financiallylly … artistically
A voice for humanity
I would like for opera from people of color to be performed year-round instead of only during designated months.
take — r a e f o N your passion ! al l the way
I want opera to be an experience that moves beyond beliefs and ideologies and connects us all as human beings.
Celebrate American Music & Opera
ng, i t i c x e e Mo r ous i c e r p s s le STORIES TOLD BY AND FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
CONFERENCE TAKEAWAYS THE POW ER OF “NO” ›› Fundraisers should never be afraid of the word “no.” That was a key insight that Greg Robertson, chief advancement officer of Houston Grand Opera, offered in the session “Fundraising vs. Sales.” He argued that a refusal doesn’t represent a failure: Donors will like certain opportunities but not others; if you treat them with respect and don’t pressure them to say “yes,” you’ll only strengthen the relationships. Moreover, if every solicitation gets a positive response, you’re probably leaving money on the table: You simply aren’t making enough “asks.”
M I X ED M ESSAGES ›› At the general session “Opera’s Paradox: Mission and Business Model,” Marc A. Scorca examined the confusing signals that the field often sends to potential new audiences. Companies are eager to draw in younger and more diverse audiences. But marketing materials often stress the perks available to high-level donors, while program books highlight high-society galas. While hoping to broaden their audience base, companies often project an image of opera as an exclusionary art form.
A LIVING ART FORM ›› “If we accept opera as a dying art form, we are going into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The truth is, there’s no reason to believe that opera is anything other than an emerging art form. There’s a whole new generation of artists who are fascinated by this hybrid art form and are taking the genre into their own hands. What is powerful and relevant and necessary about opera is its ability to embrace difference. For what is opera, if not the highly unstable, heterogeneous nexus of so many different art forms?” — Yuval Sharon, artistic director of The Industry, at the Opening Session S U M M E R 2 0 1 7 31
N E W S JATI LINDSAY
Brazelton, Henry, Johnson, Reed and Kaminsky at the premiere of Fierce Grace
I. ION 1917 — A MILLINER Y RESOLUT (ELLEN REID)
II. BELLOWI NG 1941 — JUST LISTEN FOR THE (KITTY BRAZELTON ) III. 1968 — 10,000 GO-GO BOOTS (LAURA KAMINSKY)
IV. THANK PRESENT DAY — THINK IS TO (LAURA KARPMAN) T E X T B Y K I M B E R LY R E E D
RK, NY 10001 VENTH AVENUE, NEW YO OPERA AMERICA | 330 SE
ARE NOT TO BE AND ITS ACCOMPANYING TEXT ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS ALBUM OPERA AMERICA. COPYRIGHT © 2017 OPERA AMERICA. THE WRITTEN PERMISSION OF IN WHOLE OR IN PART, WITHOUT SOLD, DISTRIBUTED OR REPRODUCED,
MADE IN USA
largest corporate contributor to the arts. The creators of the cycle are all multiple-time recipients of OA’s Opera Grants for Female Composers, a program supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation that funds opera compositions by women.
. A SONG CYCLE IN FOUR PARTS
work to a colleague, letting it serve as the germ for the next song in the cycle. The resultant work presents three vignettes from Rankin’s career: the 1917 vote on whether she should be allowed to wear her hat on the House floor; the uproar in 1940 when she cast the lone vote in opposition to entering WWII; and the 1968 anti-Vietnam War march she led on Washington. A final song captures a present-day woman’s musings, many inEtext-message GRACE: FIERC KIN MezzoNETTE RAN form, about JEAN Rankin’s legacy. soprano Heather Johnson and pianist Mila Henry were the performers at the premiere. A recording of the performance and a copy of the score will be incorporated into the Library of Congress’ holdings. OPERA America commissioned Fierce Grace as a tribute to Bank of America, which has been a generous supporter of OA since 2008, as well as the world’s
FIERCE GRACE: JEANNETTE RANKIN
eannette Rankin was a suffragette leader and outspoken pacifist who in 1916 — before women had even won the right to vote — became the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. Her inspiring story is the subject of Fierce Grace: Jeannette Rankin, a song cycle commissioned by OPERA America with a text by Kimberly Reed and contributions by four composers: Kitty Brazelton, Laura Kaminsky, Laura Karpman and Ellen Reid. On April 7, OPERA America and the Library of Congress co-presented the cycle’s world premiere at the library’s Coolidge Auditorium. It was almost 100 years to the day after Rankin was sworn in as a Republican representative from Montana. The cycle’s creators used the Surrealist “exquisite corpse” technique to craft their four songs: One composer would pass the final phrases of her
FIE RCE GRACE: JEANNETTE RANKIN
A SONG CYCLE IN FOUR PARTS F AMERICA D E D I C AT E D T O B A N K O FEBRUARY 24, 2017
T E X T B Y K I M B E R LY R E E D N REID LAURA KARPMAN & ELLE O N , L A U R A K A M I N S K Y, M U S I C B Y K I T T Y B R A Z E LT MEZZO-SOPRANO PEABODY SOUTHWELL, M I L A H E N R Y, P I A N O
Rankin speaks before the House the White House, 1917. Above: Cover: Jeannette Rankin leaving forces, February 7, 1939. an increase in the nation’s armed 26014) Naval Affairs Committee, protesting of Congress, hec 09164 and hec & Photographs Division, Library (Harris & Ewing Collection, Prints
S U M M E R 2 0 1 7 33
P U B L I C AT I O N S
Divas: Mathilde Marchesi and Her Pupils
By Roger Neill University of New South Wales Press
William Kentridge: Being Led by the Nose By Jane Taylor University of Chicago Press
From the mid-19th to early 20th century, Mathilde Marchesi trained an unprecedented number of international opera stars, most notably the Australian soprano Nellie Melba. Tracing Marchesi’s life in London, Vienna and Paris, the author describes the remarkable cast of characters she encountered, including Felix Mendelssohn and Franz Liszt, as well as the many pupils who crossed the globe to study with her.
Writer Jane Taylor here takes a look at her friend and frequent collaborator William Kentridge, and his work on the Metropolitan Opera’s much-lauded video-centric 2010 production of Dmitri Shostakovich’s The Nose. Analyzing Kentridge’s etchings, sculptures and drawings, she illustrates the communication that occurs between the artist’s mind and hand during the creative process, while also considering Kentridge’s unique status as a narrative and political artist.
Painting the Stage: Opera and Art
The Politics of Opera: A History from Monteverdi to Mozart
By Denise Wendel-Poray (editor) Skira
Ever since Wagner, the concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk — the ideal theater piece synthesizing music, drama, dance, poetry and figurative arts — has influenced the world’s operatic stages. This volume looks at seminal operatic productions designed by artists ranging from Matisse and Dalí to de Kooning, Nevelson and Hockney. The book also features interviews with some of today’s key experimental theater artists.
By Mitchell Cohen Princeton University Press
Cohen, a professor of political science, takes readers on a journey into the entwined development of opera and politics, from the Renaissance through the turn of the 19th century. Delving into the works of composers such as Monteverdi, Lully, Rameau and Mozart, the author reveals how operas, through story lines, symbols, harmonies and musical motifs, have spoken of politics — sometimes loudly, sometimes sotto voce.
The Real Tales of Hoffmann: Origin, History and Restoration of an Operatic Masterpiece By Vincent Giroud and Michael Kaye Rowman & Littlefield
Of all operas in the standard repertory, few have as complicated a textual history as Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann. Left uncompleted at the composer’s death in 1880, it has routinely been subject to cuts and rearrangements. The book examines the opera’s sources, then wends its way through the work’s complicated performance history, from its 1881 premiere at the Opéra-Comique to recent attempts to adhere to the composer’s original intentions.
Singing in Brazilian Portuguese: A Guide to Lyric Diction and Vocal Repertoire By Marcía D. Porter Rowman & Littlefield
While popular forms of Brazilian music include bossa nova and samba, Brazil also has a rich classical music tradition dating back to the 1500s. This volume makes Brazilian modinhas and canções accessible to singers through an overview of the history of the language and music, brief biographies of major composers, and a sampling of selected texts transliterated into the International Phonetic Alphabet. S U M M E R 2 0 1 7 35
F I R S T
O P E R A
BY STEPHEN LORD
44 O P E R A A M E R I C A
I was shocked that the body could do that — that a human being could make that particular noise. That guy saved my life. He was the first person to show he had confidence in me. Because I didn’t have any confidence in myself. I was at a highly competitive music school with kids who had a lot more experience than me — I had only started taking piano at age 15. But Professor Suskin gave me the courage to start looking at music and looking inside it. Roy Lazarus, who headed Oberlin’s opera program, started using me at coaching sessions. It was a trial by fire — a piece like the Flower Duet from Butterfly is a hard sight-read if you’ve never heard it before. But that led to me playing for the Met National Council Auditions. I started there on the wrong foot — I opened a door, not seeing the person on the other side, and knocked down Eleanor Steber. Still, Kurt Adler,
who was the chorus master at the time, invited me to become his assistant. But my parents told me I had to finish school instead. I still wonder how my career would have been different if I’d done that. In those days, I wanted to be what today they call a “collaborative pianist,” but back then we called an accompanist. I sent an audition tape to Gerald Moore, and he agreed to take me on as a student. I couldn’t afford Moore’s fee, but John Wustman, who worked with people like Birgit Nilsson and Regine Crespin, got me a scholarship to a program he was launching. Before I started, though, I got a job as a rehearsal pianist on The Barber of Seville at Michigan Opera Theatre. Christopher Alden was the director, Rockwell Blake was the tenor, and we were all just starting out. Wustman told me it was okay to skip his program. “Jobs in music are almost impossible to get,” he said. “If you take this job and it goes well, you’ll start working.” And he was right. Conductor Stephen Lord is music director emeritus of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, having just concluded his 25-year tenure as the company’s music director. He has started a two-year appointment as principal conductor of Michigan Opera Theatre.
METROPOLITAN OPERA ARCHIVES
wasn’t one of those kids who spent Saturday afternoons listening to the Met broadcasts. Because of where I grew up, outside of Boston, I had no exposure to opera other than Amahl and the Night Visitors. Then when I was around 10, my parents got a stereo, and they bought an RCA compilation called “60 Years of Music America Loves Best.” The opening cut on Side One was Caruso singing “Vesti la giubba.” I remember the first time I heard it: This thing happened. This incredibly virile, athletic sound was coming out of the speakers. My mother was ironing, and I asked her, “What is that?” She said, “That’s a famous person named Enrico Caruso.” I was shocked that the body could do that — that a human being could make that particular noise. It was only when I got to Oberlin as an undergraduate that I really started listening to opera. I learned a lot from my friend Vincenzo Manno, a tenor who now teaches voice in Italy. I’d go to his room for the Met broadcasts, and he’d have two scores there so we could both follow along while he critiqued the performance. We’d also go into one of the school’s listening booths where he’d play things like Renata Tebaldi singing “E questo” at the moment when Butterfly brings her baby out. Or the whole Tosca with Maria Callas. I could listen to these records and imagine what was happening in the theater. Singers in those days had theater in their throats. That still didn’t prepare me for the first opera I heard live: an Oberlin
production of Don Pasquale with my friend Vincenzo and Alma Jean Smith, who went on to become a comprimario at the Met. I couldn’t believe that the orchestra could make that sound, or that the singers could reach those high notes right in the moment. It was nothing like hearing a record. I was a total scrub in college — a kid mess, more interested in partying than studying. I signed up for an opera history course because I thought it’d be an easy A. The teacher was a man named Sylvan Suskin. I wrote a paper on Cherubino’s “Voi che sapete,” and he gave me a strange grade: “A/C.” He said: “This is an A paper, but you get a C. I notice you when you listen to the music. You hear it differently than other people do. But you don’t work hard enough. I know you’re better than this.”
Caruso in Pagliacci
2018 RECIPIENT OF THE COMMISSION AND PRODUCTION AWARD
Tom Cipullo composer & librettist
WE CONGRATULATE ALL THE FINALISTS WHOSE COMMISSIONED SCENES WERE PERFORMED AT THE FINALS ROUND IN SEPTEMBER 2016 IN POTSDAM, NY
Patrick Soluri, composer Deborah Brevoort, librettist
Based on a true story, Mayo tells of America’s tragic infatuation with eugenics in the early 20th Century. Though Mayo Buckner was committed to the Iowa Home for Feeble-Minded Children at the age of eight and lived there for sixty years, he forged a life of quiet dignity and meaning. Mayo will receive its premiere in November 2018 by The Crane Opera Ensemble at The Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam.
Tom Cipullo composer & librettist
Anthony Davis, composer Joan Ross Sorkin, librettist
Lori Laitman, composer Leah Lax, librettist
Libretto Written! Fans Waiting! ARE YOU READY TO HIT THE WINNING SCORE?
A brand new opera about the game of baseball in the steroid era. A funny, satirical, dramatic, romantic and irreverent look at our nation’s pastime. All that’s missing is the music. All opera/baseball fan composers are invited to contact librettist Jack Donahue today for the synopsis and full libretto. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call #347-678-5643.
Tales of Homer Hoffmann A Lyric Comedy in 9 Innings
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