On exceptionally rare occasions Pittsburgh hears the premiere of an opera. Operas in English translations are more common. But it’s a safe bet that the English language premiere of The Mother of Fishes at the CAPA Theater on February 15 will be a local “first,” and an operatic experience unique in a number of ways. With music composed by Roger Dannenberg and Jorge Sastre, set to a Valencian language libretto by Aurora Clari Rubio and Carles Iborra Clari, the opera was premiered in December 2016, in Valencia, Spain, and last year was revived there and performed in Mexico City. For the Pittsburgh premiere, the co-composers have written an English translation of the tale of love, adventure and magic, based on the Valencian story, La Mare dels Peixos, by Enric Valor. The creative minds behind the composition of the new opera are a remarkable combination of musical and scientific accomplishments.
Strongly emphasizing community engagement, the performances will include the 30-piece Alia Musica Pittsburgh orchestra and a chorus from the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School, as well as live electronics created and performed by student members of the Antithesis Ensemble. In cooperation with the Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, 10% of every ticket sale will go to help alleviate hunger. Patrons can set their own ticket price ($25 is suggested), so please keep in mind that the larger the price, the more a worthy cause will benefit. The performances will take place Saturday, February 15, at 7:00 p.m., and the next day at 2 p.m. Among the soloists, Raquel Winnica Young will be heard as Jordina, the mother; Eugene Perry as Jaume, the father; Kevin Adamik and Franklin Mosley as Jaumet and Joan, the twin brothers; Elizabeth Camele as Elionore, the Princess, and Desirée Soteres as Rosella, the Witch. Federico Garcia-De Castro will conduct the orchestra, and Seamus Ricci directs.
Producer and co-composer Roger Dannenberg possesses quite a resume. In addition to being a composer, he’s a computer scientist, trumpet player, and pioneer of computer music. He studied composition with Paul Cooper at Rice University and orchestration with Leonardo Balada at Carnegie Mellon University, where he also received a Ph.D. in Computer Science in 1982. Since that time, Dannenberg has maintained an active schedule of performance, composition and research. He was a member of the Roger Humphries RH Factor Big Band, and also performed with Anthony Braxton, Eric Kloss, and as soloist and member of the Edgewood Symphony. Dannenberg is also a professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon, and is particularly well known as the co-creator of Audacity, the most widely used editing software for digital audio, and for his research on interactive computer music systems, which are often featured in his compositions.
Co-composer Jorge Sastre is also an engineer and mathematician, and a full professor at Universitat Politècnica de València, where he received a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics in 2003, and where he now directs the Performing Arts & Technology Group. Prof. Sastre is the creator of Soundcool.org, a system for collaborative creation with smartphones, tablets and computers, which will be used for live electronics in The Mother of Fishes performances. Sastre was a visiting scholar at Carnegie Mellon in 2013-14, where he studied with Professors Leonardo Balada and Roger Dannenberg, and also served as a lecturer in Integrative Design, Arts and Technology (IDeATe). Sastre has composed many works for chamber groups, orchestra, electronics, and dance. His research includes the computation of matrix functions and applications.
Director Seamus Ricci thrives in creating classical and contemporary performances, working with fine arts programs and theater companies that present new and innovative concepts to make theater relevant and inclusive to both performers and audiences. Seamus has worked with City Theatre of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh Festival Opera, Bach Choir of Pittsburgh, Opera North, Opera NEO, Opera San Jose, Indianapolis Opera, Knoxville Opera, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and Pittsburgh Opera. During these experiences, Ricci has been mentored by Thomas W. Douglas, Wayne Bryan, Tracy Brigden, Daniel Rigazzi, Candace Evans, and Crystal Manich. Seamus is dedicated to presenting theatrical productions that advance the artistry of performers and create an impact on the community.
Conductor Federico Garcia-De Castro has lived in the U.S.A. since 2001, when he moved from his native Colombia to pursue graduate studies in composition at the University of Pittsburgh. An award-winning composer, his music is programmed regularly in concerts and festivals around the world, and has been performed in ten countries, most recently in Australia, Austria, and Italy. He was featured composer at the 2015 MusicArte Festival in Panama and the 2014 Thailand International Composition Festival, among others. His most recent piece, Memoria (an homage to Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa), was commissioned and premiered by Chicago-based Ensemble Dal Niente in their Latin American tour. Garcia-De Castro is cofounder and Artistic Director of Alia Musica Pittsburgh since 2007, and in that capacity he has produced and conducted ten seasons of music by living composers and classics of modern music from Ives and Varèse to Berio and Haas, as well as two editions of the Pittsburgh Festival of New Music in 2014 and 2016.
For a complete synopsis of the new opera, a clip of the Valencian premiere, and tickets, visit The Mother of Fishes. The production is ambitious and unique to the area, and will help a worthy cause, so fill the CAPA Theater and enjoy the music!
A Pittsburgh native, George B. Parous began his studies of music and the ‘cello in grade school before his interests turned to opera, its performers and history while in his teens. He has been acknowledged as a contributor or editor of several published works (the first being “Rosa Raisa, A Biography of a Diva,” Northeastern University Press, 2001), and is currently working on his own biography of the German-American dramatic soprano, Johanna Gadski, who sang at the Metropolitan during the “Golden Age of Opera.” A retired IT Analyst, he is an avid genealogist, and has traced his maternal line to 8th century Wessex, England. He’s been a contributor to Pittsburgh in the Round since 2014.