The Two-Cents Opera

Presented by Theater for the New City March 12-29, 2009
in co-production with Lower East Side Performing Arts
155 First Avenue at 10th St

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by Nicholas Birns, Hyperion, Volume IV, issue 1, April 2009

"a Beggar's Opera for the 21st century" Kyle Gann (PostClassic Blog)

 

Jennifer Greene and Ulysses Borgia

The Two-Cents Opera is about creative survival in an insecure world. What does it take to compose in the present context, when it seems that everything conspires to prevent it and where everything else seems more important? What kind of faith does it take to actually do it?...and is that possibly insane? In The Two-Cents Opera, Elodie Lauten relates to the experience of writing an opera as an adventure in the absurd. Autobiographical slices of reality are weaved in with surreal elements, from a twice-removed perspective that never lacks humor. The composer is surrounded with characters from her life: an Eccentric Friend, Shrink Number 8, a Clairvoyant, and characters from her own imagination: the Young Beethoven, and the Trickster, a playful demon. They participate in her endeavor to overcome writing blocks and other obstacles of a material nature. The new opera will not solve world problems, as the composer is painfully aware - but it may enhance our experience, if only for a brief moment. But the truth is, the joy is in the work.

Top: Gregg Lauterbach, Mary Hurlbut, Khoi Bao Le, Ulysses Borgia, Jennifer Greene,
Carolyn Ratcliffe, and from TNC Richard Reta, Alex Bartenieff
Front: Bill Ruyle, Andrew Bolotosky, Elodie Lauten. Jonathan Hirschman, Steven Hall

 

Jennifer Greene (left), Karmen Kluge (center), Mary Hurlbut (right)

The singers are GREGG LAUTERBACH (Shrink Number 8), baritone, who is experienced in Shakespeare, Haendel and Broadway, KARMEN KLUGE, soprano, (Eccentric Friend), former runner-up for Miss New York and winner of the talent contest, MARY HURLBUT, mezzo soprano (Clairvoyant), a contemporary music specialist who has performed just about every Lauten opera since the 80s, JENNIFER GREENE, alto as the Composer and ULYSSES BORGIA, baritone as The Young Beethoven. 24-year old dancer KHOI BAO LE (currently with the White Wave Dance Company and Martha Graham School) will create therole of the Trickster. The instrumental accompaniment is provided by a small band of Lauten's lifelong friends: JONATHAN HIRSCHMAN on guitar, ANDREW BOLOTOWSKY on flute, STEVEN HALL on bass, BILL RUYLE on percussion, ELODIE LAUTEN on piano, and alternatively a playback of programmed electronic tracks.

 


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Participating Artists


Andrew Bolotowsky, flute, learned his extensive technique with Willard Kincaid, Elaine Shaffer and Jean-Pierre Rampal. He graduated from the New School for Social Research after finishing a thesis on Baroque Ornamentation. He has performed over 3,000 solo recitals and worked with the Westchester Philharmonic and Brooklyn Philharmonic orchestras, Downtown Music Productions, Music Downtown, American Festival of Microtonal Music, Soho Baroque Opera, Muse (Colonial American Music), the Delbartin Baroque Ensemble and the New Amsterdam Baroque Ensemble. He has appeared on the radio on WQXR, WBAI, WNCN, WNYC and on television on NBC abd CBS. Equally at ease in Baroque and early music, contemporary music, jazz and experimental music, he has recorded for a wide variety of labels: Orion Master Recording, Golden Age Records, Opus 1, Station Hill Records, Frog Peak, 4Tay, Sonic Muse, XI, Stereo Society, CRI, Newport Classics and Pitch.


 

Bass-baritone Ulysses Borgia studied opera in Rome and New York. He was cast as Montano in Zeffirelli’s Othello film opposite Placido Domingo. His Italian stage tours include Mephisto in Faust and Prince Calaf in Turandot. He performed Canio in Pagliacci at the Los Angeles Cultural Center. He New York he sang with orchestra the roles of St John the Baptist in Salome (Cami Hall Gala), Angelotti in Tosca, Barnana in Gioconda and also Conte Monterrone in Rigoletto. Invited to Norway to sing Verdi, his astonishing cross-virtuosity as a heavy metal singer led to a recording with Agrestis Metal Progressive Project. As an actor his dozen films include La Nave Va directed by Fellini, Il Cartaio by Dario Argento, and Carlito’s Way by Brian De Palma. He was last seen in on stage in New York as Achilles in Rise of the Phoenix at LaMama, Etc. and on film in Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam with John Leguizamo and Mira Sorvino. Ulysses was coached and mentored by Giuseppe Taddei (Falstaff at the Met) who is regarded, along with Tito Gobbi, as the best Italian baritone of their generation.


Steven Hall is a poet, artist, songwriter and performer. He has published a book of poetry, Black Watch. He met Elodie Lauten while performing with Arthur Russell in the 80s. They have had since many collaborations including Elodie's setting of Hall's poem The Exotic World of Speed and Beauty. Steven Hall sings and plays guitar with Arthur's Landing, a loose gathering of friends of Arthur Russell's performing his originals and collaborations. Born in Scotland, Hall graduated from Columbia University and studied with Allen Ginsberg at the Naropa Institute. He spends most of his time in Asia (Hong Kong, Bangkok) where he has had a career as a film actor and composer.


Jennifer Greene, soprano, recently joined the New York Virtuoso Singers at Carnegie Hall to bring Oswaldo Golijov’s opera Ainadamar to life with Orchestra of St. Luke’s with Robert Spano, conductor and soloists Dawn Upshaw and Kelley O’Connor. Ms. Greene’s Broadway roles include Maria in The Sound of Music, Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof, Mary Jane in Big River, Hansel in Hansel and Gretel, and Mabel in Pirates of Penzance. Equally at home in new works, she has created the role of Amy in Seattle’s The North Arcade and the Cat in Jack Prelutsky’s Something Big Has Been Here. She studied voice with Marni Nixon and at Central Washington University.


Soprano Mary Hurlbut has performed with the New Music Consort, Downtown Music Productions, the Gravesend Players, the American Landmark Festival, Brooklyn Baroque, Music Downtown, The Lark Ascending, American Festival of Microtonal Music, the Cygnus Ensemble, the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble and the Soho Baroque Opera. She has recorded for 4tay, Frog Peak and Tarmac. Her lovely sound combined with an exceptional ear and musicianship has made her an interpreter of choice in contemporary music, and she has premiered works by John Cage, Jim Theobald, Jackson Mac Low, Anne Tardos, Franz Kamin, Harold Seletsky, Dan Levitan, and many of Elodie Lauten’s neo-operas. Venues include Merkin Hall, Symphony Space, La Mama La Galleria, The Knitting Factory, Roulette and Carnegie’s Weill Hall. She studied voice with Antonia Lavanne, Angelica Lozada, Priscilla Woodley, Chiara Carrerell and piano with Elka Kirkpatrick, Michel Ashmore and Bernice Sjogren. She holds a Master’s from Mannes College of Music.


A native New Yorker, Jonathan Hirschman began playing lead guitar in Village clubs as a teenager. He has performed with countless bands from metal to blues to R&B and is known on the scene as a powerful improviser. In 2002 Elodie Lauten produced his solo album of Tunes from the Lower East Side (Studio 21). He then became a core member of the Elodie Lauten Ensemble working microtonally and creating experimental textures. With Lauten he has recorded Harmonic Protection Circle, aired on WNYC and premiered at the World Out of Tune Festival in 2004. He was featured as a soloist in the production of Lauten’s The Death of Don Juan at Franklin Pierce College in 2005.


Karmen Kluge has performed as an operatic soprano with Brooklyn Repertory Opera, The Bronx Opera, and Opera Oggi NY. Some of her credits include Susanna in Marriage of Figaro, Irene in Massenet’s Sapho and Lola in Cavalleria Rusticana. In addition to her operatic work, Karmen has performed extensively in musical theatre. She recently appeared in the Midtown International Theatre Festival in a new work entitled Don’t Cry Butterfly, Puccini’s Unwritten Opera. Karmen is a member of Actor’s Equity and the Screen Actor’s Guild. Recent television and film credits include Law and Order: CI, 30 Rock, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, Baby Mama, The Bourne Ultimatum, Sex and the City, and The Wedding Date. Karmen is a former Miss Five Boroughs and 4th runner up to Miss New York, where she won the overall talent award. Karmen hails from Greenville, SC. She is a graduate of New York University, where she received her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance.


Gregg Lauterbach, baritone, a native of Iowa, first worked with Ms. Lauten on Don’t Cry, Butterfly, a new musical where he played Puccini to Jennifer Greens’s Mata Hari. He has also appeared in NYC as Shylock, Oberon, Danilo (Merry Widow), and Jupiter/Amphitryon (Olympus on My Mind). Other new theatre and musicals where he has taken leading roles in include: Hurricane (Michael Holland), The Merry Wife of Windsor (John Hart), Beyond the Veil (John Chatterton) and You Never Can Tell!! (Paul Johnson). Regional: Horace Vandergelder (The Matchmaker), Dr. Chumley (Harvey), Emil DeBecque (South Pacific), Voltaire/Pangloss/Governor (Candide) and Olin Britt, the barbershop bass (The Music Man national tour). TV: CSI, Law & Order, Ed, Sex and the City. Films: Kinsey, A Beautiful Mind, Across the Universe. .


Khoi Bao Le, performer, has danced with Sharir and Bustamante Danceworks, Forklift Danceworks, Blue Light Lapis, and Alaine Handa Dance Company. He is currently on a scholarship for the professional training program at Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. He graduated magna cum laude from Texas State University where he choreographed and managed several dance productions. He has received the Connie-Webb Brown Memorial Scholarship, the Maude Ogle Scholar Award, the Opening Door Dance Theater Production Award, the Fine Arts and Communication Scholarship and the R.J. Publications Scholarship.


Bill Ruyle has worked as a percussionist, composer and collaborator for new music, dance, and theater in New York City and abroad since 1974. He has performed with the ensembles of Peter Zummo, Elodie Lauten, Jon Gibson, Peter Gordon, Bill Obrecht, Scott Johnson, Phillip Johnston, “Blue” Gene Tyranny, Bob Een, Naaz Hosseini, The Feetwarmers, The Manhattan Marimba Quartet, Last Forever with Dick Connette, Newband, CounterInduction, and The Hudson Valley Philharmonic. On Broadway, he has played for the shows The Pirates of Penzance, Three Penny Opera, Juan Darien, The Secret Garden, The Green Bird, Aida, Big River, The Boy from Oz, and Wicked. Bill has also played for eight Shakespeare in the Park productions in NYC including, Cymbeline, Julius Ceasar and The Seagull. His own compositions have been performed nationally and internationally. Bill has taught in many educational outreach programs including The Music Advancement Program at the Juilliard School, Lincoln Center Institute, and Link Up! at Carnegie Hall.