This June, Rhymes With Opera will team up with the West End String Quartet and composers David Smooke and George Lam to present Criminal Intent: a crime opera double bill. Last week I brought you news about their project during an interview with RWO Co-Artistic Director and composer Ruby Fulton. Ruby gave us a glimpse into the group, their mission, and their decision to use Kickstarter, which dubs itself “a new way to fund and follow creativity”. Rhymes With Opera is looking for funding for this felony themed endeavor and using Kickstarter to raise awareness. I want to help spread the word by giving you a three-part introduction to the creatives behind the project. For part deux, George Lam (composer and RWO Co-Artistic Director) is up to bat. Swing away, George.
What more can you tell us about the story behind SOMEONE ANYONE? You have written that you are drawn to writing music that “directly engages with everyday life.” How does this project fit into that goal?
Someone Anyone is adapted from a one-act play by Martin Zimmerman. Martin was an undergraduate theater major and playwright while I was a graduate student at Duke. During the 2006-07 season, I had the opportunity to work with American Opera Projects in their “Composers And The Voice” workshop series, where six composers worked throughout the year with six professional opera singers, and where we workshopped new pieces and scenes at AOP in Brooklyn, NY. For this workshop, I worked with Martin on my short scenes, and Someone Anyone was a final project for the workshop, an extended 15-20 minute scene for soprano, baritone and piano.
During this year, I became very interested in the relationship between words and music, musicals and opera, and operas and plays. For the final project, I wanted to set the end of Martin’s play to music, essentially using a play script as libretto, to see what the problems might be in such an adaptation, and also to get to know – for me – what makes an opera an opera, and how that might be dramatically different from a spoken-word play. Someone Anyone begins in a car, where a nameless man and a prostitute are driving together. As the story progresses, the man offers a “better” life for the woman, with a new job, money, and a new place to live. The woman refuses this offer, but the man does not accept her refusal, and takes her hostage as they continue the long drive into the night.
Did you work with a librettist for this project? Do you have any long-standing composer-librettist relationships?
Since that project, I have used words (spoken and sung) in a number of other projects, the latest of which was a work called The Gestures Of Farewell, written for a solo narrator and orchestra, premiered by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta in 2010. The work was created collaboratively with Chicago-based writer Benjamin Rogers, with whom I’ve worked with continuously since 2005, and have produced 5 works.
One of my favorite composers is Stephen Sondheim, and I continue to go back to his music and lyrics as sources of inspiration in how to put words and music together.
As a co-artistic director of Rhymes With Opera, what is most important to you about your mission to bring new opera and music-theater into unexpected spaces?
As for Rhymes With Opera, for me it’s a company of artists that are interested in bringing new, emotional, contemporary vocal music to as diverse an audience as possible, and to collaborate with other artists in the process. I think by trying to perform in as many different venues as we can, it not only brings different kinds of audiences to our shows, but it also allows us to experience performing in different settings, and in turn informing our work and keeping it fresh.
What drew you to Kickstarter as a platform for fundraising and building awareness?
This is the first time that we are partnering with Kickstarter to raise funds for our June production, and we are very excited to be a part of this new crowd-funding movement, allowing individuals to choose and support artistic and creative projects that they resonate with.
Well, George, I am really looking forward to the chance to hear Someone Anyone during your stop in Baltimore. I have already made my pledge to the Rhymes With Opera Kickstarter project. With six days until the goal, you are over half way there! This is such an exciting opportunity for other people to have a tiny bit of ownership in your creative process. I think it almost makes us “producers” on a very small scale. It allows us to give a leg-up to our fellow musicians and I think that is good karma.
You have some very cool incentives (starting at just a $10 pledge) that I want to let the readers know about.There are 2 free tickets to RWO show of choice in the 2010/2011 season; a live RWO recording sent to your doorstep (or inbox); DVD of the RWO production Sun Cycle: A Mixtape about Love, Loss and Loneliness (arr. Ruby Fulton and George Lam); 1 composition lesson with David Smooke (Baltimore area), George Lam (Boston area) or Ruby Fulton (New York area); Autographed copy of Smooke and Lam scores sent to your doorstep; even a private RWO performance in your home or location of choice.
Don’t go just yet! Leave us a comment below. Have you used Kickstarter for a recent project? Do you think that this type of grassroots funding for opera is sustainable and/or helpful? What other types of small scale “producing” have you learned about or found the most effective?
And don’t forget – there’s one more interview with composer David Smooke coming soon! Stay tuned.