Ricky Ian Gordon's "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis"

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Michelle Tabnick
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Now opening January 27, New York City Opera (under the direction of Michael Capasso, General Director) will produce its latest world premiere of a new American opera, Ricky Ian Gordon's THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS, a co-production with the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (Zalmen Mlotek, Artistic Director, Dominick Balletta, Executive Director). With a libretto by Michael Korie, based on Giorgio Bassani's 1962 novel, THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINISwill be conducted by James Lowe and will open on Wednesday, January 19 at Edmond J. Safra Hall in the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. Sung in English. New performance schedule: Thu 1/27 at 7pm (opening), Sat 1/29 at 8pm, Sun 1/30 at 3pm, Tue 2/1 at 7pm, Wed 2/2 at 2pm, Thu 2/3 at 7pm, Sat 2/5 at 8pm, Sun 2/6 at 3pm. https://nycopera.com/


THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS is set on the eve of World War II and tells the story of an aristocratic Italian-Jewish family, the Finzi-Continis, who believe they will be immune to the changes happening around them. As they make a gracious haven for themselves in their garden, walling out the unpleasantness of the world outside, Italy forms its alliance with Germany and begins to enforce anti-Semitic racial laws. But the Finzi-Continis discover too late that no one is immune, no one is untouchable.


"THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS not only continues New York City Opera's mission to produce new and important works by American composers, it will also continue NYCO's tradition of showcasing outstanding talent," said Mr. Capasso, adding "I am very excited about our cast which includes many young and emerging artists in leading roles alongside established NYCO stalwarts."

"We are proud to co-produce the world premiere of THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS," by said Mr. Mlotek. "This important new work illuminates an important part of Italian Jewish history, and sadly, its themes of discrimination and antisemitism still resonate in our world today."

Rachel Blaustein (Micól Finzi-Contini), Brian James Myer (Alberto Finzi-Contini), Mary Phillips (Mama), Franco Pomponi (Papà), Anthony Ciaramitaro (Giorgio), and Matt Ciuffitelli (Malnate) will head the cast of THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS, which will feature production design by John Farrell, costume design by Ildikó Debreczeni, lighting design by Susan Roth, and production stage management by Diana Vassall-DuMelle. The cast also includes D'Marreon Alexander, Robert Balonek, Adam Cioffari, Peter Kendall Clark, Dani Goldstein, Spencer Hamlin, Kristee Haney, Rebecca Hargrove, Sarah Heltzel, Adam Klein, Meredith Krinke, Melanie Long, Violet Paris, Gabe Ponichter, Sami Sallaway, Drew Seigla, Markos Simopoulos, Rosy Anoush Svazlian, Tim Roller, and Rachel Zatcoff. Tickets for this limited engagement, which will play eight performances only through Sunday, February 6, are available at NYTF.org or by calling the box office at 855-449-4658. For additional information call 212-655-7653. 


RICKY IAN GORDON (b. 1956 in Oceanside, NY) studied piano, composition and acting, at Carnegie Mellon University. After moving to New York City, he quickly emerged as a leading writer of vocal music that spans art song, opera, and musical theater. Mr. Gordon's songs have been performed and or recorded by such internationally renowned singers as Renee Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Nathan Gunn, Judy Collins, Kelli O'Hara, Audra MacDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Nicole Cabell, the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Frederica Von Stade, Andrea Marcovicci, Harolyn Blackwell, and Betty Buckley, among many others. A highly prolific composer, Ricki Ian Gordon's catalog includes The House Without A Christmas Tree (2016, libretto by Royce Vavrek, premiered by Houston Grand Opera) Morning Star (2014, libretto by William Hoffman, premiered by the Cincinnati Opera) about Jewish immigrants in New York's Lower East Side in the beginning of the 20thcentury; 27 (2014, libretto by Royce Vavrek, premiered at Opera Theatre of St. Louis) about Gertrude Stein's salons at 27 rue de Fleurus; A Coffin In Egypt (2014, libretto by Leonard Foglia, premiered by the Houston Grand Opera, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and Opera Philadelphia) a haunting tale of memory and murder, racism and recrimination; Rappahannock County (2011, libretto by Mark Campbell, premiered at the Harrison Opera House) inspired by diaries, letters, and personal accounts from the 1860s; Sycamore Trees (2010, libretto by composer) a musical about suburban secrets and family; The Grapes of Wrath (2007 and 2010, libretto by Michael Korie, 2007 premiere by the Minnesota Opera, 2010 premiered by The American Symphony Orchestra); Green Sneakers (2008, libretto by the composer, premiered by the Miami String Quartet) a theatrical song cycle for Baritone, String Quartet, and Empty Chair; Orpheus and Euridice (2005); My Life with Albertine (2003); Night Flight To San Francisco and Antarctica (2000) from Tony Kushner's Angels In AmericaDream True (1999); States Of Independence (1992); The Tibetan Book of the Dead (1996); Only Heaven (1995). Upcoming and recent projects include the opera Intimate Apparel with Playwright, Lynn Nottageas a commissions from New York's Metropolitan Opera, and an opera based on Giorgio Bassani'snovel, The Garden of the Finzi Continis with librettist Michael Korie. Mr. Gordon has been a visiting professor at colleges and universities throughout the country including Yale, NYU, Northwestern, Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, Bennington, Vassar, Carnegie-Mellon, Elon, Michigan State, Universityof Michigan, Point Park (McGinnis Distinguished Lecturer), Texas Lutheran University, Eastman School of Music, Florida State University, Texas Christian University, and San Francisco Conservatory. He has been the featured Composer-in-Residence at Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, The Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, The Van Cliburn Foundation, Voices of Change, Santa Fe Song Festival, Songfest at Pepperdine University, Chautauqua, Aspen Music Festival, and Ravinia. Among his honors are an OBIE Award, the 2003 Alumni Merit Award for exceptional achievement and leadership from Carnegie-Mellon University, A Shen Family Foundation Award, the Stephen Sondheim Award, The Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Theater Foundation Award, The Constance Klinsky Award, The National Endowment of the Arts, The American Music Center, and many awards from ASCAP, of which he is a member. Mr. Gordon's works are published by Williamson Music, Carl Fischer Music, and Theodore PresserCompany and available everywhere. His works are also widely recorded on various labels. http://www.rickyiangordon.com


MICHAEL KORIE received The Marc Blitzstein Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for his work in both opera and musical theater. For opera, he adapted Steinbeck's novel for the libretto The Grapes of Wrath composed by Ricky Ian Gordon, produced at Minnesota Opera, Opera Theater of Saint Louis and Carnegie Hall. Korie's original librettos to operas composed by Stewart Wallace include Harvey Milk which premiered at San Francisco Opera and returns in a new production at Opera Theater of Saint Louis in Spring 2022; Where's Dick? at Houston Grand Opera, Kabbalah at BAM Next Wave Festival, and Hopper's Wife produced by New York City Opera. For musical theater, Korie wrote the lyrics to Flying Over Sunset, book by James Lapine and music by Tom Kitt. It premiered at Lincoln Center Theater last month. Korie wrote the lyrics to composer Scott Frankel's music for the Broadway productions of War Paint and Grey Gardens, both with books by playwright Doug Wright, and the Off- Broadway productions of Far From Heaven at Playwrights Horizons, Happiness at Lincoln Center Theater, and Doll at The Ravinia Festival.  He collaborated with Lucy Simon, Amy Powers, and Michael Weller on Doctor Zhivago on Broadway and subsequently produced frequently in Europe and in Asia.  Korie and Frankel's scores have been nominated for Tony and Drama Desk Awards and received The Outer Critics Circle Award. Grey Gardens had its European premiere in London where it was awarded the Offie Award for Best Musical of the year. His lyrics have received the Edward Kleban Prize, Jonathan Larson Award, and the ASCAP Richard Rodgers Award. His songs with composer Scott Frankel were featured at Lincoln Center's American Songbook, and at The Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage Broadway Today.  He co-chairs the Dramatists Guild Opera Committee, and moderates the musical theater division of the Dramatist Guild Fund Fellows Program for emerging musical theater composers and writers. He teaches lyric writing at Yale University, and libretto writing at Columbia University School of the Arts. He is a Fellow of MacDowell and Yaddo. http://www.MichaelKorie.com


Maestro JAMES LOWE, a Grammy-nominated music director and conductor, has appeared at Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera and Houston Grand Opera, where he recently led La bohéme and Sweeney Todd.  He made his European debut conducting Candide at the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse and Opéra National de Bordeaux. He arranged, orchestrated and conducted Songbird, a new adaptation of Offenbach's La Périchole in the style of 1920's New Orleans jazz for the Glimmerglass Festival. On Broadway, Mr. Lowe was the music director and conductor of the recent revivals of Les Misérables and Anything Goes. His U.S. national tour credits include the Cameron Mackintosh/National Theatre production of My Fair Lady (music director and conductor) of, The Light in the Piazza (conductor) and The Phantom of the Opera music (music supervisor) Mr. Lowe has appeared in concert with Sir Elton John, conducting his own orchestrations and choral arrangements of Elton's classic songs, as well as with singer-songwriter Randy Newman and the legendary Booker T. Jones. His arrangements have been performed by Joyce DiDonato (Lincoln Center and Wigmore Hall), Isabel Leonard, Ailyn Pérez and Nadine Sierra (Metropolitan Opera's "Three Divas at Versailles" concert), as well as at the Glimmerglass Festival and Utah Opera.


RICHARD STAFFORD directed and choreographed NYCO's productions of Los Elementos, the double bill of Rameau's Pigmalion and Donizetti's Pigmalione, and choreographed NYCO's world premiere productions of Dear ErichStonewall. On Broadway, he was the choreographer for My Life, associate choreographer for Aspects of Love, and dance supervisor for Cats. Off-Broadway, he choreographed A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at St. Clements and directed and choreographed Castle Walk for the New York Music Festival. Internationally he directed and choreographed The Full Monty and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Mexico City, Cats in Copenhagen, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro; and choreographed productions of Jesus Christ Superstar in Mexico City, Evita in Sydney; and Cats in Buenos Aires. He has also choreographed national tours of CatsMy Fair Lady and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. His awards include a Barrymore Award for outstanding choreography for La Cage aux Folles at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre.


Soprano RACHEL BLAUSTEIN (who will perform the role of Micòl Finzi-Contini) will make her NYCO debut after performing this fall for the first time with Tulsa Opera as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi. Her Chicago Opera Theater credits include roles in Taking Up Serpents, La Hija de Rappaccini, and their upcoming production of Carmen. Tenor ANTHONY CIARAMITARO (Giorgio) is making his NYCO debut after creating the role of Toke in the world premiere of Poul Ruders' The Thirteenth Child at Santa Fe Opera. He has also been a member of the Domingo-Coburn-Stein Young Artist Program at LA Opera since 2019, where he has performed Heinrich der Schreiber in Tannhäuser, Ruiz in Il Trovatore, and Lord Cecil in Roberto Devereux. Baritone MATT CIUFFITELLI (Malnate) will make his NYCO debut, previously appearing as Prince Yamadori in New Jersey Festival Orchestra's Madama Butterfly as well as Angelotti in their Tosca.He was the recipient of the 2018 Career Bridges Grant as well as the winner of the 2018 New Jersey State Opera Competition Award. Baritone BRIAN JAMES MYER (Alberto Finzi-Contini) created leading roles in two NYCO 2019 premieres: as young Erich in Ted Rosenthal's jazz opera Dear Erich and as the schoolteacher Carlos in Iain Bell and Mark Campbell's Stonewall. He has created other roles in new works for Florida Grand Opera, American Lyric Theatre, Opera San Jose, and Opera Las Vegas. Mezzo-soprano MARY PHILLIPS (Mamma) is closely associated with the music of Wagner having won acclaim singing many mezzo roles in the Ring cycle with Seattle Opera, Canadian Opera, and at the MET, where she has also performed in works by Giuseppe Verdi, Richard Strauss, Anton Dvorak and Philip Glass. Baritone FRANCO POMPONI (Papà) made his New York debut as Escamillo in Carmen at NYCO. He created a sensation as Pentheus in The Bassarids by Henze at Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, returning in the title roles of Nixon, Nixon in China and Sweeney Todd; Prospero in The Tempest Hungarian State Opera Budapest, Carbon in Cyrano Teatro Real Madrid. He is also cofounder and president of Opera Festival of Chicago.



Since its founding in 1943 by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia as "The People's Opera," New York City Opera (NYCO) has been a critical part of the city's cultural life. During its history, New York City Opera launched the careers of dozens of major artists and presented engaging productions of both mainstream and unusual operas alongside commissions and regional premieres. The result was a uniquely American opera company of international stature. For more than seven decades, New York City Opera has maintained a distinct identity, adhering to its unique mission: affordable ticket prices, a devotion to American works, English-language performances, the promotion of up-and-coming American singers, and seasons of accessible, vibrant and compelling productions intended to introduce new audiences to the art form. Stars who launched their careers at New York City Opera include Plácido Domingo, Catherine Malfitano, Sherrill Milnes, Samuel Ramey, Beverly Sills, Tatiana Troyanos, Carol Vaness, and Shirley Verrett, among dozens of other great artists. New York City Opera has a long history of inclusion and diversity. It was the first major opera company to feature African American singers in leading roles (Todd Duncan as Tonio in Pagliacci, 1945; Camilla Williams in the title role in Madama Butterfly, 1946); the first to produce a new work by an African-American composer (William Grant Still, Troubled Island, 1949); and the first to have an African-American conductor lead its orchestra (Everett Lee, 1955). A revitalized City Opera re-opened in January 2016 with Tosca, the opera that originally launched the company in 1944. Outstanding productions during the four years since then include: the world premieres of Iain Bell and Mark Campbell's Stonewall, which NYCO commissioned and developed, legendary director Harold Prince's new production of Bernstein's Candide; Puccini's beloved La Fanciulla del West; and the New York premiere of Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas — the first in its Ópera en Español series. Subsequent Ópera en Español productions include the New York premiere of the world's first mariachi opera, José "Pepe" Martinez's Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, Literes's Los Elementos, and Piazzolla's María de Buenos Aires. In addition to the world premiere of Stonewall, the productions in NYCO's Pride Initiative, which produces an LGBTQ-themed work each June during Pride Month, include the New York premiere of Péter Eötvös's Angels in America and the American premiere of Charles Wuorinen's Brokeback Mountain. New York City Opera has presented such talents as Anna Caterina Antonacci and Aprile Millo in concert, as well as its own 75th Anniversary Concert in Bryant Park, one in a series of the many concerts and staged productions that it presents each year as part of the Park's summer performance series. City Opera's acclaimed summer series in Bryant Park brings free performances to thousands of New Yorkers and visitors every year. New York City Opera continues its legacy with main stage performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater and with revitalized outreach and education programs at venues throughout the city, designed to welcome and inspire a new generation of opera audiences. City Opera's acclaimed summer series in Bryant Park brings free performances to thousands of New Yorkers and visitors every year.


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Now celebrating its 107th season, Tony Award-nominated and Drama Desk Award-winning National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF) is the longest consecutively producing theatre in the U.S. and the world's oldest continuously operating Yiddish theatre company. NYTF, which presented the award-winning Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, directed by Joel Grey, to sold out audiences before it moved to Off-Broadway uptown, is in residence at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek and Executive Director Dominick Balletta, NYTF is dedicated to creating a living legacy through the arts, connecting generations and bridging communities. NYTF aims to bring history to life by reviving and restoring lost and forgotten work, commissioning new work, and adapting pre-existing work for the 21st Century. Serving a diverse audience comprised of performing arts patrons, cultural enthusiasts, Yiddish-language aficionados, and the general public, the company presents plays, musicals, concerts, lectures, interactive educational workshops, and community-building activities in English and Yiddish, with English and Russian supertitles accompanying performances. NYTF provides access to a century-old cultural legacy and inspires the imaginations of the next generation to contribute to this valuable body of work. Learn more at http://www.nytf.org.



The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is New York's contribution to the global responsibility to never forget. The Museum is committed to the crucial mission of educating diverse visitors about Jewish life before, during, and after the Holocaust. The third largest Holocaust museum in the world and the second largest in North America, the Museum of Jewish Heritage anchors the southernmost tip of Manhattan, completing the cultural and educational landscape it shares with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The Museum of Jewish Heritage maintains a collection of more than 40,000 artifacts, photographs, documentary films, and survivor testimonies and contains classrooms, a 375-seat theater (Edmond J. Safra Hall), special exhibition galleries, a resource center for educators, and a memorial art installation, Garden of Stones, designed by internationally acclaimed sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. The Museum is the home of National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. The Museum receives general operating support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and New York State Council on the Arts. For more information, visit mjhnyc.org.



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