“The Secret Gardener” Press Release

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OSO partners with The Atlanta Opera’s Discoveries series to bring Mozart’s The Secret Gardener (La finta giardiniera) to life in a new site-specific co-production that will mark a bi-city first for both companies.

Monday, March 6, 2017 — New York, NY — Known for staging “the ultimate in intimate productions” (The New York Times), On Site Opera (OSO) presents a trio of exciting new site-specific opera productions in 2017, beginning May 11-13 with Mozart’s rarely-performed early opera The Secret Gardener (La finta giardiniera) at the West Side Community Garden. A co-production with The Atlanta Opera’s Discoveries series, the immersive production (presented with a new English translation and orchestral reduction) will see performers on all sides of the audience, accompanied by wind octet and double bass – a traditional ensemble for 18th-century outdoor performances.The production will be performed with spoken dialogue, drawing on the singspiel roots of the piece. While the audience will be stationary, the performers will appear everywhere in the garden, surrounding the audience in the story. An exciting new English translation by Kelley Rourke will be replete with garden and floral imagery to anchor the story even more into the space.

Mozart’s The Secret Gardener (La finta giardiniera)

Libretto by Raniero de Calzabigi
Co-production with The Atlanta Opera’s Discoveries series

May 11-13, 2017 at Westside Community Garden (May 14, 2017 – rain date)
123 West 89th Street, New York, NY 10025

May 19 & 20, 2017 at The Atlanta Botanical Garden

Tickets: Free with reservation; registration begins March 7, 2017 at osopera.org/secretgardener/

On Site Opera announces a partnership with The Atlanta Opera’s Discoveries series to bring Mozart’s The Secret Gardener (La finta giardiniera) to life in a new site-specific co-production. Performances will mark a bi-city first for both companies. Written by an 18-year-old Mozart, The Secret Gardener is a story of love, madness, and redemption that unfolds in the lush setting of a beautiful garden. Disguises and mistaken identities abound in Mozart’s charming tale of a triple love triangle!

Conductor: Geoffrey McDonald
Director: Eric Einhorn
Costume Designer: Beth Goldenberg
Lighting Designer: Shawn Kaufman
Orchestra: Grand Harmonie
English Translation: Kelley Rourke
Orchestral Arrangement: Yoni Kahn & Thomas Carroll

Sandrina: Ashley Kerr, soprano
Arminda: Maeve Höglund, soprano
Serpetta: Alisa Jordheim, soprano
Ramiro: Kristin Gornstein, mezzo-soprano
Belfiore: Spencer Viator, tenor
Podesta: Jonathan Blalock, tenor
Nardo: Jorell Williams, baritone


Over the course of five short seasons, On Site Opera (OSO) has established itself as one of New York City’s most imaginative, cutting-edge opera companies. As The New York Times wrote: “On Site Opera presents the ultimate in intimate productions by performing works in spaces that fit the setting of the story.” OSO’s immersive, site-specific performances have taken place in venues ranging from the the Bronx Zoo to the Cotton Club to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, pushing the boundaries of what opera can do and be and blurring the lines between performer and audience to create a uniquely powerful musical experience.

Upcoming performances include Mozart’s The Secret Gardener at the West Side Community Garden (May 11-13, co-produced with The Atlanta Opera’s Discoveries series), the U.S. premiere of Milhaud’s La mère coupable at The Garage, a Hell’s Kitchen industrial space owned by fashion designer Kenneth Cole (June 20, 22-24), and the world premiere of John Musto’s Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs (Sept-Oct, co-commissioned and co-produced with Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Lyric Unlimited and Pittsburgh Opera).

Founded in 2012, OSO’s team of General & Artistic Director, Eric Einhorn and Music Director, Geoffrey McDonald are dedicated to producing site-specific opera in nontraditional venues throughout New York. Dubbed “So much more than Sleep No More” by The New York Observer, OSO molds its productions to specific locations using physical space to create an environment in which the concept, storytelling, music, and performers unite to form an immersive, cohesive, and meaningful whole. OSO, a registered 501(c)(3), is a proud member of Opera America and the New York Opera Alliance. www.osopera.org


About The Atlanta Opera:

Nominated in the 2016 International Opera Awards, The Atlanta Opera is one of the finest regional opera companies in the nation. The Opera presents four mainstage productions at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and two productions at satellite theaters as part of the Discoveries series. The Opera works with world-renowned directors, actors, and designers who seek to enhance the art form and further the current renaissance of opera. Atlanta has a strong history of opera, dating back to the early 1900s when the Metropolitan Opera’s annual tour was a major social event. The Atlanta Opera, founded in 1979, aims to enrich lives through opera.www.atlantaopera.org

About The Discoveries series:

The Discoveries series debuted in Atlanta two seasons ago with an emphasis on presenting new works, new ideas and fresh perspectives on great Atlanta-area stages. The 2015 productions of Three Decembers and Soldier Songs were highlighted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Best of 2015 list. The Atlanta Opera Discoveries series is dedicated to audience members who are seeking new works, new ideas and fresh perspectives. As a part of the Atlanta Opera’s efforts to bring opera to new audiences all over the Atlanta Metro area, these productions will be performed in exciting alternative venues.

About the West Side Community Garden:

The West Side Community Garden is owned and maintained by the West Side Community Garden Inc., an all-volunteer not-for-profit organization incorporated under New York State Law. The West Side Community Garden was founded in 1976 on a trash-strewn 89,000 square foot vacant lot on Columbus Avenue that had been slated for an urban renewal project. In 1982, the Community board, developers, and the New York City Planning Commission approved a permanent Garden plan, and a groundbreaking for the present Garden took place in October 1987. The property for the current Garden site was deeded to West Side Community Garden Inc. in November 1989. The current design for the garden was developed by the Gardeners working with Artists and the current layout, incorporating a floral amphitheater and public seating area, was part of the Gardener’s vision from the very beginning. Landscape designer Terry Schnadelbach took the Gardener’s vision and created a blueprint design which was built to our specifications during 1987-88. The Garden and Terry Schnadelbach won the Philip N. Winslow award for best landscape design in 1991. www.westsidecommunitygarden.org


Sandrina: Ashley Kerr, soprano

Praised for her “plush and seductive” tone, soprano Ashley Kerr is rapidly garnering attention from critics and opera companies alike. Most recently, Ms. Kerr debuted as Cio-cio San in Madama Butterfly with Salt Marsh Opera and the soprano soloist in Orff’s Carmina Burana with the New Jersey Festival Orchestra. In the fall of 2014, Ms. Kerr made her Lincoln Center debut in concert with the Opera Orchestra of New York under the baton of Eve Queler at Alice Tully Hall. Other recent performances include role debuts of Mimì and Musetta in La bohème and a triumphant return to Le nozze di Figaro as Countess Almaviva. In 2013, Ms. Kerr sang the title role in Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah in the United States and Tel Aviv, Israel. In October 2012, Ms. Kerr made her European debut as Sally Follett in A Death in the Family in an award-winning joint production with the Center for Contemporary Opera and the Armel Festival. During the 2012 Fort Worth Opera Festival season, Ms. Kerr triumphed as Myrrhine in their production of Mark Adamo’s Lysistrata. She has also performed with the Virginia Opera, Caramoor Music Festival, Crested Butte Music Festival and Opera Carolina. A dedicated interpreter of new music, Ms. Kerr has been involved in the workshops and premieres of many new works including Jorge Martín’s Before Night Falls, Stephen Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon, and Persis Parshall Vehar’s Eleanor Roosevelt. Ms. Kerr has received awards from various competitions including the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the Giulio Gari Foundation, the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation and the Violetta DuPont Vocal Competition.


Arminda: Maeve Höglund, soprano

The New York Times praised soprano Maeve Höglund as “a striking soprano,” and one who “stands out among singers.” Her engagements in the 2016-17 season include her role debut as Musetta in La bohème with Charleston Opera; Margaret Hughes in the New York premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s Prince of Players with Little Opera Theatre of New York; and Arminda in La finta giardiniera with New York’s On Site Opera. In the summer of 2016, Ms. Höglund debuted with PORTOpera as Frasquita in Carmen, and Long Beach Opera in Veldhuis’ The News. In the 2015-16 season, Ms. Höglund sang Giunia in Lucio Silla with Chicago Opera Theater, and Carmina Burana with Tucson Symphony Orchestra. She recently sang Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro with Sarasota Opera; made her Carnegie Hall debut as soloist in the premiere of Paul Moravec’s The Blizzard Voices with Oratorio Society of New York; and she sang Sister in Kurt Weill’s The Protagonist with Fire Island Opera Festival. Maeve Höglund has performed starring roles in Gotham Chamber Opera’s production, Baden-Baden 1927, featuring works by Weill, Hindemith, Toch, and Milhaud. Previously with Gotham Chamber Opera she performed Atilia in Cavalli’s Eliogabalo. She met with great success as Dafne in Apollo e Dafne with Pocket Opera; Rose in The Clever Mistress and Lucrezia in My Last Duchess with Cutting Edge Opera; and Mozart’s Requiem with the American Classical Orchestra. Her recordings include Stefan Weisman’s opera Darkling(Albany Records), and the complete vocal works of Victor Herbert (New World Records).

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Serpetta: Alisa Jordheim, soprano

Described as “vocally resplendent,” “powerful,” and possessing “impeccable coloratura” (San Francisco Chronicle), soprano Alisa Jordheim is praised for her compelling and vocally assured performances in opera, oratorio, musical theatre, both early and new music, and recital. Some of Ms. Jordheim’s recent performances include Constance in Dialogues des Carmélites with Caramoor; Lola in the world premiere of Aldridge’s Sister Carrie, Lulu Baines in Elmer Gantry, Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro, Miss Wordsworth in Albert Herring, and Frasquita in Carmen with Florentine Opera; Satirino in La Calisto, the Page in Rigoletto, and Zweite Knabe in Die Zauberflöte with Cincinnati Opera; Marzelline in Fidelio with Madison Opera; Micaëla in “Carmen in Concert” with the Columbus Symphony; Nannetta in Falstaff with Emerald City Opera; and soprano soloist in Torke’s Book of Proverbs with the Grant Park Music Festival, Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with the Madison Symphony, and Messiah with the Madison Bach Musicians. Ms. Jordheim is an alumna of the Merola Opera Program (Lucia in The Rape of Lucretia, Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro), Central City Opera Young Artist Program (Flora in The Turn of the Screw, Fredrika in A Little Night Music), Florentine Opera Studio, and the University of Cincinnati CCM. She is the recipient of a 2016 Sullivan Foundation Award, two-time winner of the Wisconsin District MONC Auditions, winner of the Bel Canto Regional Artists Competition, 2nd Place winner of the Classical Singer Competition, and a Fulbright Scholar and American Scandinavian Foundation Fellow having studied Scandinavian song and diction in Norway.

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Ramiro: Kristin Gornstein, mezzo-soprano

Kristin Gornstein, mezzo soprano, sings with some of the most exciting and innovative companies in the classical world in cities throughout the US and beyond. Hailed as, “rich-voiced” (New York Times), and, “a fine actress with a deep spacious sound” (Parterre.com), Kristin portrays both comic and dramatic roles with equal relish.  This season she premiered the role of Paul in Kurt Vonnegut’s only opera, Happy Birthday Wanda June, with Indianapolis Opera, sang the Soprano II solos in several concerts with the acclaimed choral series Sacred Music in a Sacred Space in New York, and will rejoin the ensemble in Dido and Aeneas with the groundbreaking Mark Morris Dance Group at BAM.  In 2015, Kristin was a vocal fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, performing works by Bach, Korngold, and Golijov.  She also debuted the role of Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and the title role in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia with Loft Opera in Brooklyn, NY, both to critical acclaim. Other recent performances abroad include shows in Stockholm and Rotterdam with the Opera Mecatronica ensemble, Alto soloist in Handel’s Messiah and the Second Soprano soloist in Mozart’s Mass in C Minor in Beirut, Lebanon.  Originally from Indiana, Kristin now lives in Brooklyn.

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Belfiore: Spencer Viator, tenor

Spencer Viator is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio. He attended the College Conservatory of Music (CCM) in Cincinnati for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees. During his time at CCM he had the pleasure to of performing a multitude of roles including Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola and King Ouf in L’Etoile. He was recently hailed for his “ringing and elegant tenor” by the New York Times for his return to LoftOpera as Ferrando in their production of Cosi fan Tutte. This past year he was a Beneson Young Artist with Palm Beach Opera where he sang Fernando in Goyescas, Offizier/Scarmuccio in Ariadne auf Naxos, and a family performance of Ernesto in Don Pasquale. In 2015 he helped premiere the role of Soldier Hyimie in Ricky Ian Gordon’s new opera Morning Star with Cincinnati Opera. He has been in many prestigious young artist programs including Des Moines Metro Opera’s Young Artist Program where he covered Fenton in Falstaff. He was also a two time Gerdine Young Artist at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. There he sang the roles of 1st Priest in The Magic Flute and Streznik in The Kiss. 

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Podesta: Jonathan Blalock, tenor

Jonathan Blalock recently triumphed as Prince Claus in the world premiere of Mark Adamo’s Becoming Santa Claus at The Dallas Opera.  His critically acclaimed performance was broadcast to Lincoln Center and is available on DVD. Engagements for 2016-17 include Ramiro with Syracuse Opera, Beppe with Arizona MusicFest, Nanki-Poo with Performance Santa Fe, a debut with Michigan Opera Theatre as Harry in La Fanciulla del West and Lt. Cable in South Pacific with Southern Opera in Georgia. Acclaimed for his work in 21st Century Opera, Jonathan has appeared in a number of world premieres, including Huang Ruo’s An American Soldier with Washington National Opera, The Secret Agent with The Armel Festival in Hungary; Jorge Martin’s Before Night Falls with Fort Worth Opera; and Paul’s Case with Urban Arias, which Alex Ross in The New Yorker declared it as one of the top ten musical events of 2014. Additionally, Jonathan sang The Electrician in Adès’ Powder Her Face with West Edge Opera and has sung Hydrogen Jukebox (by Philip Glass) with both West Edge Opera and Fort Worth Opera. As a specialist in Rossini and Mozart, Blalock has performed Pedrillo with Des Moines Metro Opera; Don Ottavio with Cedar Rapids Opera and Nevada Opera; Ferrando with Capitol Opera Raleigh; Almaviva with Tri-Cities Opera, LOFT Opera, and Opera Company of Middlebury; Ramiro with Opera Roanoke, Opera in Williamsburg, and as a guest with Bob Jones University; and covered two Rossini roles at Santa Fe Opera: Rodrigo (Donna del Lago) and Conduliermo (Maometto II).

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Nardo: Jorell Williams, baritone

Baritone Jorell Williams has been hailed by Opera News as having “a solid vocal core and easy, natural production” and the New York Times for being “magnificent” and “rich toned”, as well as having “perfect” comedic timing. His 2015-2016 season included debuts with the Bay Chamber Music Festival as Escamillo in La tragedie de Carmen, PORTOpera as Morales in Carmen, Rochester Lyric as Frediano/Ippolito in John Musto’s Bastianello, and a return to the Chautauqua Institution as soloist with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for Marsalis’ Abyssinian Mass. Engagements for the 2016-2017 season include his debut as Hannah-Before in Laura Kaminsky’s critically acclaimed As One with Seattle Opera, Baritone soloist in Durufle’s Requiem and excerpts of Joplin’s Treemonisha with the Kingston Chamber Choir, and he will reprise the role of Vernon Addams, a role he created, in a production of Hilliard and Boresi’s Blue Viola with Lyric Opera of the North. Recent appearances include Urban Arias, Santa Fe Opera, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Caramoor Music Festival, Songfest LA and Ravinia Festivals, New York City Center Encores, American Opera Projects, American Repertory Theater, and the Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theater workshop of Nico Muhly’s Two Boys. Jorell is a recipient of the 2016 Marc and Eva Stern Fellowship at Songfest, and garners top awards from the Gerda Lissner International Competition, Kurt Weill Foundation, Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation, Schuyler Foundation for Career Bridges, Liberace Foundation, Serge Koussevitzky Foundation, Liberace Foundation, and the Charles A. Lynam Competition.

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About the Creative Team

Hailed by The Philadelphia Inquirer as a “promising and confident” member of the new generation of American conductors, Geoffrey McDonald (ConductorThe Secret Gardener |Music Director, On Site Opera) commands a broad repertoire with extensive experience in operatic, symphonic, and choral works. He is steadily gaining recognition for his versatility – “an agile conductor…whose pacing is sure in both reflective and restless passages” (The New York Times) – and for his “original and flexible musical imagination” (The New York Observer). Geoffrey’s passion for promoting new or neglected pieces and his enthusiasm for fresh, innovative presentation combine in his work as Music Director of On Site Opera, whose immersive production of Paisiello’s Barbiere di Siviglia in the summer of 2015 earned wide critical acclaim. Opera News wrote: “[McDonald] led with brio and admirable ensemble,” while The New York Times noted, “the conductor, Geoffrey McDonald, drew stylish, nimble playing”. This success followed recent productions of Handel operas, Orlando and Alcina, for which he partnered with director R.B. Schlather to create inventive art-installation-opera: “Conductor Geoffrey McDonald repeated the miracle of nuanced coordination [in On Site Opera’s production of Paisiello’s Barber of Seville] between orchestra and singers he recently accomplished with Orlando downtown” (The New York Observer). He has acted as Assistant Conductor for Opera Philadelphia, the American Symphony Orchestra, and Gotham Opera. A dedicated educator, he has served on the faculties of Bard College and the Longy School of Music, and was Music Director of the Philadelphia Young Artists Orchestra and the Columbia University Bach Society. He is an active composer, and an original member (cellist/songwriter) of indie rock band Miracles of Modern Science. He earned his Masters in Conducting at Mannes College, and his Bachelors in Music at Princeton University. www.geoffreymcdonaldmusic.com

Eric Einhorn (Stage Director, The Secret Gardener |General & Artistic Director, On Site Opera) has been praised by The Austin Chronicle as “a rising star in the opera world” and by Opera News for his “keen eye for detail and character insight.” He is the co-founder of On Site Opera, a company dedicated to immersive, site- specific productions. Mr. Einhorn has directed productions for Chicago Lyric Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Ft. Worth Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Florentine Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Utah Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, the Pacific Symphony, and Gotham Chamber Opera. He has been a member of the stage directing staff at the Metropolitan Opera since 2005. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette named Mr. Einhorn’s production of Dialogues des Carmélites for Pittsburgh Opera one of the top ten classical music performances of 2011. He originally created the production for Austin Lyric Opera in 2009 and was awarded “Best Opera” at the Austin Critics’ Table Awards in addition to garnering him a nomination for “Best Director.” During summer of 2014, he directed Rameau’s Pygmalion at Madame Tussauds New York and the Lifestyle-Trimco mannequin showroom. This production featured the world’s first implementation of supertitles for Google Glass. Recent engagements include the world premiere of Happy Birthday, Wanda June with Indianapolis Opera, a revival staging of Simon Boccanegra starring Placido Domingo at the Metropolitan Opera, and a new staging of The Flying Dutchman for Austin Opera.

Shawn Kaufman (Lighting Designer) is the Director of Lighting Design at CS Lighting, a firm specializing in providing lighting design and lighting resources for theatre, film, television, special events and fashion. Shawn created this new division for CS Global in 2010 after working for the last 15 years in the industry. Shawn oversees the day-to-day operations of the lighting division for all locations of CS Global from the New York office, designing all in house projects for the company as well as providing services for its own clients. Recent clients include Public School, Greg Lauren, Zimmermann, Isabel Marant, Phillips Auction House, Tiffany (Blue Book Gala Event 2013 and 2014), Celine, Givenchy, Chloe, Armani Exchange, Vogue Magazine, Estee Lauder, Kohl’s, St. John, Bombardier, Target, GQ, Hermes, Y3, The Elder Statesman, Microsoft, Ivanka Trump, Moncler, Halston, Marchesa, Macys, Lands End, Carolina Herrera, the Gap, Rockefeller Center, Tom Ford, Zegna, Oxygen Network, Hugo Boss and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Recent theatrical work includes Carmen at Portland Opera, Dialogues of the Carmelites at Austin Lyric Opera and Pittsburgh Opera, Orpheus in the Underworld at Glimmerglass Opera, I Pagliacci and Xerxes at Pittsburgh Opera. Television: QVC Red Carpet Style, The Face Finale, CNBC studio relight, The Big Gay Sketch Show (Logo Channel), Wendy Williams (Fox Network), episodes of The Apprentice Martha Stewart and Donald Trump, Associate for Martha Live and Rachael Ray Live.

Beth Goldenberg (Costume Designer) is a New York based costume designer working in opera, theatre and dance. Her opera credits include: Stabat Materthe little match girl passion, directed by Francesca Zambello, and Macbeth directed by Anne Bogart and co-designed with James Schuette (Glimmerglass); and Lucia di LammermoorKafka’s FragmentsDaphnis & Chloé(Heartbeat Opera). She has also designed productions with Second Stage Theatre, The New Group, Juilliard, Red Bull Theater, Ma-Yi Theatre, Lesser America, The Flea, La Jolla Playhouse, Hartford Stage, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Asolo Repertory Theatre and Barrington Stage Co, among others. She holds an MFA from New York University. www.bethgoldenbergdesign.com

Grand Harmonie (Orchestra and Arrangement) brings vibrant, historically-informed, period-instrument performances of Classical and Romantic music to audiences across the Northeast. Founded in 2012 by a group of wind players interested in exploring the repertoire of Harmonie bands of the 18th century, the scope of the ensemble rapidly expanded to encompass a vast array of concert settings. Now in its fifth season, performances have included Harmoniemusik, salon concerts with fortepiano, mixed chamber music with brass and strings, full symphony orchestra, and both concert and fully-staged opera. A key player in the arts community, Grand Harmonie enjoys collaborations with numerous organizations and universities, and appears on multiple concert series in both Boston and New York.Recent collaborations include performances with Harvard University Choir, Boston Opera Collaborative, Lorelei Ensemble, Bach Vespers NYC, GEMS Midtown Concerts, Met Museum Gallery Concerts and more. The ensemble, a proven educational resource, has been invited to give performances and master classes in historical performance practice at Harvard University, MIT, Princeton University, The Longy School of Music of Bard College, NYU, the University of Washington, and Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Kelley Rourke (Translation) is a librettist, translator and dramaturg. With composer John Glover, she wrote the opera Lucy (Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Nautilus Music-Theater, American Opera Projects, UrbanArias) and the orchestral song cycle Natural Systems (New York Youth Symphony at Carnegie Hall, San Francisco Conservatory’s BluePrint Series); the duo teamed up with baritone/guitarist Andrew Wilkowske to create Guns ‘n Rosenkavalier (Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Mill City Opera, Rockwood Music Hall). The Glimmerglass Festival commissioned Kelley to write the youth operas Odyssey (2015), with music by Ben Moore, and Wilde Tales (2016), with music by Laura Karpman. Kelley has also created fifteen new English adaptations for standard and not-so-standard repertory, which have been heard at companies including English National Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival, Washington National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, The Atlanta Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Apotheosis Opera, among others. These collaborations with dead composers have been hailed as “crackingly witty” (The Independent, London) and “remarkably well wedded to the music and versification in arias” (New York Times). Upcoming projects include Robin Hood with Ben Moore (The Glimmerglass Festival, 2017) and a new evening-length piece, with music by John Glover, for Del Sol Quartet and Jesse Blumberg. Kelley is resident dramaturg for both The Glimmerglass Festival and Washington National Opera. www.kelleyrourke.com


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