Ricky Ian Gordon to Premiere Concert-Version "Grapes of Wrath" at Carnegie Hall; "Sycamore Trees" at Signature Theatre
On the 2001 Nonesuch album Bright Eyed Joy, composer Ricky Ian Gordon paired his music with words from the likes of James Agee, Langston Hughes, Dorothy Parker, and others, performed by such Nonesuch artists as Audra McDonald, Dawn Upshaw, and Adam Guettel. Gordon continues to find inspiration in the words of America's great writers as he unveils the two-act concert version of his 2007 opera The Grapes of Wrath, based on the classic novel by John Steinbeck, with a libretto by Michael Korie. The concert version will receive its world premiere at Carnegie Hall on March 22, starring Jane Fonda, Nathan Gunn, Victoria Clark, and Christine Ebersole; with the Collegiate Chorald, under the music direction of James Bagwell; and the American Symphony Orchestra; all led by conductor Ted Sperling.
Called "the great American opera" by Musical America, the opera, like the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel itself, is both hear-wrenching and uplifting. Following the original three-act opera's premiere with the Minnesota Opera in 2007, The New Yorker music critic Alex Ross wrote that Gordon "fills his score with beautifully turned genre pieces, often harking back to American popular music of the twenties and thirties: Gershwinesque song-and-dance numbers, a few sweetly soaring love songs in the manner of Jerome Kern, banjo-twanging ballads, saxed-up jazz choruses, even a barbershop quartet." Ross concludes: "You couldn't ask for a more comfortably appointed evening of vintage musical Americana. Yet, with a slyness worthy of Weill, Gordon wields his hummable tunes to critical effect."
For information and tickets, visit collegiatechorale.org.
This spring, Gordon will unveil another new project, titled Sycamore Trees, for which he has written the book, music, and lyrics. The Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, outside Washington, DC, presents the world premiere of the piece, which will be directed by Tina Landau (who directed Guettel's Myths and Hymns and Floyd Collins) with a cast featuring Judy Kuhn, Marc Kudisch, Jessica Molaskey, and Diane Sutherland. It will run May 18 through June 20.
Gordon is the second recipient of the American Musical Voices Project Award to present a new work of musical theater on Signature's stage. Sycamore Trees is the story of his family's struggles and their reliance on each other through good and bad.
"When my father came home from World War II in 1945, my family lived in a crowded tenement in the Bronx, poor and with bed bugs," says Gordon. "Then my parents got the idea to move to the suburbs where the dream of life flowering in a clean and spacious environment promised to be the answer. It wasn't." He calls Sycamore Trees "the story of a family and what happened to them ... and music is its heartbeat and inner life."
For more information and tickets, visit sig-online.org.
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