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Press Releases

One Voice Project Virtual Micro Opera Festival

February 23, 2021 | By Kendra Leonard

Composer Lisa Neher, Librettist Kendra Leonard, and a Team of Acclaimed Opera Singers Tell Stories of Feminism, Pandemic Life, and Resilience in a Festival of Micro Opera World Premieres.

February 22, 2021 (Portland, OR): Composer Lisa Neher and Librettist Kendra Leonard present the One Voice Project Virtual Micro Opera Festival, a weeklong festival of micro opera world premieres. Every day from March 22-26, a new 5-minute unaccompanied opera written by Neher & Leonard will be released on YouTube. 

The operas feature acclaimed opera singers from across the United States, including tenor Hugo Vera (Metropolitan Opera), mezzo Margaret O’Connell (Center for Contemporary Opera), soprano Audrey Yoder (Pacific Opera Project), tenor Zach Finkelstein (New York City Opera), and mezzo Lisa Neher herself (Opera Theatre Oregon). 

The festival channels the artistic brilliance of opera singers who have frequently found themselves without work and artistic outlets during the pandemic. Each opera is a self-contained story, with plots that address women in sport, the life of musicians during the pandemic, and resilience in the face of obstacles. Several were composed in collaboration with the singers, with plots drawn from their experiences over the last year. The operas promote unaccompanied repertoire for singers as a genre equal to that of unaccompanied instrumental repertoire, a cause Neher regularly champions through her One Voice Project call for scores & concert series. Tickets are Pay as You Can in order to make opera accessible to all. 

Following the final release on Friday March 26, audiences are invited to a Talkback and Q&A Reception with the artists, hosted by Gina Morgano of the Practice Parlour Podcast. 

WHAT:

The One Voice Project Micro Opera Festival

WHEN:

Mon March 22 – Fri March 26, 2021 |5:00 PM PDT: Operas Released Daily

Fri March 26, 2021 | 5:10 pm PDT: Zoom Talkback and Q&A Reception 

WHERE:

Operas Released as YouTube Premieres: https://www.youtube.com/LisaNeher

COST:

Pay as You Can. We invite you to make a donation to @Lisa-Neher on Venmo or lisanehermusic@gmail.com on PayPal in support of the artists. Consider donating your one-hour salary. All proceeds will be split evenly between the artists. 

TICKETS:

https://forms.gle/Ks8HZN193bQ72URUA

Register to receive a link to each day’s micro opera premiere and to RSVP for the Talkback and Q&A Reception with the Artists. 

For additional information, media materials, and interview inquiries, please contact:

Lisa Neher, 253-569-5660, lisanehermusic@gmail.com, www.lisanehermusic.com

Schedule:

Monday, March 22 | 5:00 pm PDT

Wide Awake in a New City: Hugo Vera, Tenor

Tuesday, March 23 | 5:00 pm PDT

Par for the Course: Audrey Yoder, Soprano

Wednesday, March 24 | 5:00 pm PDT

Momentum: Lisa Neher, Mezzo-Soprano

Thursday, March 25 | 5:00 pm PDT

Woman Waits with Sword: Margaret O’Connell, Mezzo-Soprano

Friday, March 26  | 5:00 pm PDT

Now Available: Zach Finkelstein, Tenor

Friday, March 26  | 5:10 pm PDT

Talkback and Q&A Reception with the Artists, Hosted by Gina Morgano of the Practice Parlour Podcast

Program Notes

Wide Awake in the New City

When you move to a completely new place in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, things are not exactly normal. Raul struggles to unpack and settle into his apartment, wondering if he can serve his students while teaching virtually and finally questioning what he’s doing in his life. His despair turns to excitement and hope with a little change of view.

Wide Awake in the New City acknowledges the uncertainty and doubt we all feel while keeping the flame of hope alive for the future.

This opera was written for tenor Hugo Vera and is based in part on his own life experiences moving during the pandemic. Thanks to Hugo for suggesting the inclusion of Spanish phrases in this opera and consulting on grammar. 

Par for the Course

 

One of the greatest athletes of all time, Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias excelled at every sport she tried. She won two gold medals in track and field at the 1932 summer Olympics and later turned to golf, winning 10 Ladies Professional Golf major championships. She often faced sexism in her work and from reporters who criticized her involvement in athletics and her unladylike personality. Known for her brash confidence, she would often say at competitions, “Okay, Babe’s here! Now who’s gonna finish second?”

 

Sport has played an important role in both of our lives and we are passionate about representing women in sport on the opera stage. We were drawn to Babe by her confidence, her passion for sport, and her example of excellence in spite of a society that was often against her. This micro-opera envisions the moment in which Babe learns that her attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open has been rejected. 

 

Par for the Course was written for soprano Elisabeth Halliday-Quan for Rhymes With Opera’s 2020 Pocket Opera Workshop. 

Momentum

In 1967, Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as an officially registered competitor, registered under the initials “K.V.” Switzer. At this time, her own coach believed that a marathon was too far for “fragile women” to run, even though Roberta Gibb had become the first woman to run Boston (without a registration) the year before.

During the race, Kathrine was attacked repeatedly by race manager Jock Semple, who yelled, “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!” (referring to her race bib, number 261). As her boyfriend at the time, Tom Miller, fought him off, Switzer describes feeling frozen with fear and embarrassment in the face of the assault. She wondered briefly if she should quit, but she kept going, finishing in 4 hours, 20 minutes.

After her run, women were banned from racing in men’s events. In 1972, the Boston Marathon established an official women’s race. 

Woman Waits with Sword

Woman Waits with Sword celebrates self-reliance. In 17th century France, Alberte-Barbe D'ernécourt, Dame (noble lady) de Saint-Baslemont, has been protecting her people from invaders during the Hundred Years’ War. But when an intruder tries to claim her home and ignores her because of her sex, she becomes the Chevalier (knight or noble lord—assumed to be a man) de Saint-Baslemont and challenges him to a duel he cannot turn down.

This opera was written for mezzo-soprano Margaret O’Connell. 

Now Available

A singer stuck at home expresses anxiety and frustration about his musical career and the treatment of artists by opera companies and ensembles. He wonders how Covid-19 will change the shape of future performances and how to create art during such a challenging time. Amid these struggles, he finds a reason for optimism.

This opera was written for tenor Zach Finkelstein, and the plot was developed in conversation with Zach about his experiences and feelings as a professional singer dealing with the artistic and career ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

About the Artists

 

LISA NEHER, COMPOSER & MEZZO-SOPRANO

New music powerhouse Lisa Neher is a mezzo-soprano, composer, and actress on a mission to transform audiences through story, sound, and open heartedness. She is inspired by female athleticism, the tender love of friends, the ambiguities of death, and the eerie mystery of deep ocean life. Her collaborators include Third Angle New Music, Delgani String Quartet, Rhymes With Opera, Choral Arts Ensemble of Portland, and University of Michigan Saxophone Ensemble. Lisa released her first EP Of Wind and Waves in January and her opera Sense of Self, written with librettist Kendra Preston Leonard, will be premiered by Opera Elect this year. 

Described by Oregon ArtsWatch as “a small woman with a very big voice” and “especially alive,” Neher captivates audiences with her electrifying dramatic commitment and unforgettable vocal colors. She recently performed with Third Angle New Music, the Resonance Ensemble, New Music Gathering, Queer Opera, the International Saxophone Symposium, Opera Theatre Oregon, and Cascadia Composers. Lisa is the curator of the One Voice Project, which champions unaccompanied solo vocal performance. 

In addition to her creative work, Lisa coaches composers on writing for voices and singers on technique, acting, and stage movement. For more information, visit her website, www.lisanehermusic.com.

 

KENDRA PRESTON LEONARD, LIBRETTIST

Kendra Preston Leonard is a poet, lyricist, and librettist based in Texas. She collaborates regularly with composers on works for voice including new operas and songs. Her chapbook Making Mythology was published in 2020 by Lo?uisiana Literature Press, and her work appears in numerous publications including vox poetica, lunch, About Place, and Lily Poetry Review. Leonard is also a musicologist and music theorist and the author of several academic books.

 

ZACH FINKELSTEIN, TENOR

Zach Finkelstein has performed as a tenor concert and opera soloist for the past nine years, from Seattle’s Benaroya Hall to New York’s Lincoln Center to London’s Sadler’s Wells to the National Arts Center in Beijing, China. Hailed by the New York Times’ Anthony Tommasini as a “compelling tenor,” soloist stage credits include the New York City Opera, Opera Grand Rapids, the and Pacific Northwest Ballet. In the past five years, Zach has sung 32 performances of Handel’s Messiah with 14 orchestras, including the Virginia Symphony, the Florida Orchestra, and the Calgary Philarmonic. Recently, he toured the Spanish opera Comala with the Zohn Collective from Guadalajara, Mexico, to Chicago, Illinois. Zach is on the roster of several pro-choral groups, including Conspirare and the Santa Fe Desert Chorale. Scribe Records released Zach’s first album, ‘Britten and Pears: the Canticles’ in 2017 and his second in September 2020, ‘Dark is Yonder Town,’ featuring guitarist Dieter Hennings Yeomans and new compositions by Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon and Jesse Jones.

Zach is represented by Dean Artists Management and holds an Artist Diploma (Voice) from the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Glenn Gould School in Toronto and a BA in Political Science from McGill University, in Montreal. 

MARGARET O’CONNELL, MEZZO-SOPRANO

 

Margaret O’Connell is a mezzo-soprano enjoying a versatile career in opera, musical theater, and oratorio. She especially enjoys premiering composers’ new music.

 

Margaret portrayed a “fiercely committed” Alyce in an acclaimed, sold-out production of Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied with New York OperaFest. She made her Carnegie Hall debut under Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra in Strauss’ Feuersnot. Other prominent companies with whom she has been featured include the Bard Festival (with Maestro Botstein), Aspen Music Festival (with Julius Rudel), Songfest (with John Harbison and Martin Katz), Center for Contemporary Opera, La Mama Theater in New York City, and American Opera Projects.

 

Margaret made her Berlin debut as Fricka in Das Rheingold. Additional favorite roles performed include the title role in Carmen, Olga in Eugene Onegin, Dulcinée in Don Quichotte, Nicklausse in Les contes d’Hoffman, Adalgisa in Norma, Florence in Albert Herring, and the lead in Dido and Aeneas. Future appearances include Klytämnestra in Strauss’ Elektra in Berlin.

 

Margaret holds a Master of Music in Solo Voice from McGill University, and a Bachelor of Music in Violin and Voice Performance from Oberlin Conservatory of Music. www.mezzomargaret.com

 

HUGO VERA, TENOR

 

A native Texan, tenor Hugo Vera has performed 50 roles and over 60 choral orchestral works with distinguished companies in the USA and abroad. In addition to The Metropolitan Opera, Mr. Vera has sung with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Spoleto, USA, Piccolo Spoleto Kansas City Symphony, New York City Opera, Illinois Symphony and Chorus, Fort St. Symphony and Chorus, Opera Memphis, Center for Contemporary Opera, New Opera NYC, Aspen Music Festival, Brevard Music Center, Sarasota Opera, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Glimmerglass Opera, Opera North, Aspen Opera Theatre, The Minnesota Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Nashville Opera, Shreveport Opera, Tanglewood Music Festival, Arizona Opera among others. As an active recitalist and clinician, he has performed recitals as an Artist in Residence at Dartmouth College, SUNY Oswego, University of Texas-Pan America, Westminster College, Presbyterian College, GLOW Lyric Theatre, Lawrence Arts Center. In 2020 he released Romances & Poems of Sergey Tanayev under the Centaur Records label. He is Artistic Director of Vocal Academy of Orvieto (Italy) and Executive Director of Lawrence Opera Theatre. Currently, he is Director of Vocal Arts at California State University, Northridge. More at https://www.facebook.com/hugoveratenor/

 

AUDREY YODER, SOPRANO 

 

Soprano Audrey Yoder, hailed for her “attractive timbre and laudable musicianship” (Opera Today), is a “dramatically engaging singing actress who shows great vocal flexibility” (Broadway World). In November Ms. Yoder appeared as Climene and Euterpe in Pacific Opera Project (POP)'s double-bill drive in production of Gluck’s La Corona and Il Parnaso Confuso.

Her 2020 season also included a virtual Suor Angelica produced by Opera San Luis Obispo, VOPA and Mission Opera, POP’s double-bill Gianni Schicci and L’enfant et les sortileges, and Opera Santa Barbara’s holiday production “Staying Home for Christmas.” She is excited to return to POP for a US staged premiere of Vivaldi's Ercole su'l Termodonte. Highlighted roles include Juliette (Romeo et Juliette), Gretel (Hansel und Gretel), Euridice (Orfeo ed Euridice), Miss Jessel (The Turn of the Screw) and Antonia (Les contes d'Hoffmann).

 

Equally at home on the concert stage, Ms. Yoder’s solo concert work includes Poulenc’s Gloria, Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, Vivaldi’s Gloria and Faure’s Requiem. When conditions permit, Ms. Yoder will be featured in Mozart’s Requiem in D minor with the St. Cecilia Chorale.

 

Using her skills as a recording artist, Ms. Yoder contributed to the COVID-19 relief video of Diane Warren’s Oscar-nominated song I’m Standing with You, arranged by Sharon Farber. The global effort has raised more than $7 million for the United Nations Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization (WHO).

 

 

 



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