Beth Morrison Champions Contemporary Composers
Prototype Festival Launched for 11th Season
By: Susan Hall - Jan 15, 2024
Beth Morrison is an important leader in the development of new opera with new alliances and venues. She is a force that the future of classical music depends on.
Huang Ruo's Book of Mountains and Sea which Morrison mounted at St. Ann’s Warehouse two years ago, is an important new vocal theater opera. Joining forces with the head of puppetry at HERE, we were treated to the creations of Basil Twist, who is familiar to the Versailles Palace audiences for his puppet sheep in Jean-Joseph de Mondonville’s Titon et l'Aurore, a pastorale heroique opera.
Huang Ruo thinks of music in four dimensions and Beth Morrison brings them to life in Angel Island,which premiered in its full form at the Harvey Theater at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Morrison engaged the distinguished filmmaker Bill Morrison to create the set's backdrop in video. She found Gibney dancers to play the lead roles. The choir of the Trinity Church Wall Street offered stunning sung tones.
It is hard to imagine contemporary opera without Beth Morrison's presence. Morrison makes it her business to pluck minority composers – women, Blacks and Asians, from obscure pigeonholes . She lets us hear and see what has until now been stuffed away.
While her model for touring the new works is beginning to collapse, she will surely find a new model to finance the future of opera. Local productions work. You have to find the core audience for your territory and then serve them. The Museum of Chinese Americans supports Huang Ruo’s work. Asian Americans peppered the sold-out theater at BAM, accompanied by a mixed audience of various hues, young and old.
Ironically, Huang Ruo moved from composing for chamber and symphonic groups to opera and what he calls vocal theater to stop taking on Lunar New Year works’ commissions. He found his own voice in opera: telling stories about Asian Americans like him. His dramatic American Soldier, conceived with playwright David Henry Wang, will be performed in the new Perelman Performing Arts Center in the spring.
Angel Island tells a hidden story of immigration to the US from the east. It is multi-dimensional and brilliantly directed by Matthew Ozawa. The Del Sol Quartet, who originally commissioned the work, dares to give us the dirty underbelly of the story as well as the beautiful tones that describe the feelings of new immigrants.
What will Prototype come up with next? Beth Morrison is always cooking up new works worth seeing.