Hey musical theatre writers! Wanna tell unique stories that have meaning? Wanna innovate with the form? Wanna get PAID?! Try opera!
MONKEY BUSINESS by Tony Asaro (Composer/Librettist)
It was a hassle getting out there–huge post-Sandy nor'easter and all–but on November 8th, I arrived in New York City in time to attend Opera America's New Works Forum. I ended up on a red-eye on United despite the fact that I had a ticket booked for 16 hours earlier on American. I guess they all tag team when flights start getting cancelled. I arrived in Newark at 7:00am, and had just enough time to take NJ Transit to my hotel, get showered and shaved, press my suit, and get down to the newly opened National Opera Center for the opening remarks and introductions.
There were about 70 people in the room. Some looked very put together, others completely disheveled. All were there to talk about new opera and new opera development. (NYC musical theatre peeps, think NAMT for opera.) Most of the attendees were representatives from various opera companies in the US. A few were publishers. Some were performers. And some of us, myself included, were writers. I had been invited to attend the New Works Forum as a writer.
In 2010/11, I participated in American Lyric Theatre's Composer/Librettist Development Program as a librettist. It was a year-long program in which the eight participants learn to write opera. (NYC musical theatre peeps, think BMI Workshop for opera.) At the end of the program, you present one-act operas. (NYC musical theatre peeps, think NYU thesis projects.)
I worked on two different one-acts with two different composers. One was about gay steroid abuse called "Cycle" with composer Clint Borzoni, and the other was a retelling of the Echo/Narcissus myth, called "All Wounds Bleed" with Chris Cerrone.
On Jan 6th, the founder of American Lyric Theatre, Larry Edelson, told Chris and I that he was submitting "All Wounds Bleed" for the New Works Festival. A month later, we were informed that our piece was chosen out of over 40 submissions to be included in the festival! It was quite an honor to be selected.
Things couldn't have gone better. The presentation of "All Wounds Bleed" was amazing. We had a fantastic cast and music director. And people rushed up to us after.
Here is a video of the presentation. My piece starts at minute 12:00, and is a half hour long. In a quick summary: Echo and Hera are both tortured in their mutual unhealthy love of Zeus; throw in a stolen Cupid’s arrowhead, and a mortal who has sworn off love forever and things get a little crazy on Olympus.
The people in attendance really loved the piece. They were effusive with comments about the craft and the subject matter. They ran up to us with business cards after. It was so gratifying. And it got me thinking about musical theatre...
For seven years, I banged my head against walls trying to get anyone in the world of musical theatre to notice me. I wrote funny pieces, dramatic pieces, personal pieces, complex, pieces, fun and silly pieces. I submitted to this showcase, and that festival, and every award competition you could think of. I had very little to show for it. Few seemed to notice.
But without having done ANY legwork, here I am getting accolades and interest from the opera world. Not to mention that they paid for my travel, my hotel (the Yotel on 42nd and 10th!), dinners, drinks, tickets to Vox... It was like an alternate universe! A universe where I felt appreciated. I cannot conceive of a world in which musical theatre pays for a postage stamp, let alone all travel and accomodations.
So if you've been following the blog, you'll know that when it comes to musical theatre, I'm doing my own thing. But now, I have this whole new field opening up to me: opera libretti. There aren't that many people who want to write them, and I'd be happy to step in. It worked for Michael Korie. Here's to telling stories onstage with music, whatever the genre!
TONY ASARO is a composer/librettist currently working on various musical theatre and opera projects including the award winning Our Country. He is also Co-Founder and Producing Artistic Director of the new San Francisco based musical theatre company, The FOGG. To learn more about Tony's writing, please visit unrelentingmonkey.com. NEVER STOP SWINGING!