WNO today announced the commission of a new hour-long opera for the 2014-2015 season of the American Opera Initiative, its comprehensive new commissioning program for contemporary American opera. Penny, by composer Douglas Pew and librettist Dara Weinberg (pictured below), will have its world premiere in January 2015 in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Pew and Weinberg are alumni of the American Opera Initiative; their 20-minute work A Game of Hearts had its world premiere during the program’s first season in November 2012.
Penny is an original story developed by Weinberg about Penny Rutherford, a woman with a disability who discovers her voice and her talent for music, and the ensuing conflict with her family as she changes and grows more independent. A first workshop of the work will be held later this week in Washington, D.C. Penny will be directed by Alan Paul, the Associate Director of Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre Company.
A Game of Hearts, the first collaboration of Pew and Weinberg, had its world premiere in November 2012 in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater under the auspices of the American Opera Initiative. The comedic opera depicted a group of widows in a Seattle nursing home as they reminisced about their pasts and faced their current situation. In advance of the opera’s world premiere, Pew and Weinberg received mentorship from distinguished advisors who have each enjoyed professional success with new American operas: composer Jake Heggie (WNO’s forthcoming Moby-Dick), librettist Mark Campbell (Silent Night, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Music), and conductor Anne Manson (Manitoba Chamber Orchestra).
“Our experience participating in the inaugural American Opera Initiative in 2012 was a very rewarding and intense learning experience, and Dara and I are honored to be working again with the wonderful staff and young artists at WNO,” said composer Douglas Pew. “To be able to return with a new opportunity to further develop our dramatic voices—this time in an hour-long work—is very exciting indeed.”
Following its critically acclaimed bow in Washington, A Game of Hearts was subsequently presented by Cincinnati’s North American New Opera Workshop in May 2013. It was selected to be performed at the prestigious Opera America New Works Forum, which will take place at 3 p.m. on Monday, January 13, 2014 in New York City. The performance will be streamed live for Opera America members on the Opera America website and will later be available for public viewing on YouTube.
“When I first heard A Game of Hearts, I was struck by the sophistication of the storytelling in both the music and the libretto and I am thrilled that Doug and Dara are returning for this new commission,” said Michael Heaston, the director of the American Opera Initiative for WNO. “I am proud that our program is achieving its mission—to continue to foster new American talent and to provide a forum for contemporary American stories and music. I can’t wait to start work on Penny.”
Information about tickets to the world premiere of Penny will be announced in the coming months.