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Arizona State University’s School of Music welcomed composer Laura Kaminsky, librettist and film producer Kimberly Reed, visual artist Rebecca Allan and internationally acclaimed pianist Ursula Oppens as artists-in-residence on Feb. 4.
The weeklong residency, through Feb. 10, includes activities such as master classes, lectures and workshops with students in the School of Music, the School of Art and the Institute for Humanities Research. The week culminates in public performances of a new work reading with Kaminsky, Reed and students in ASU’s Music Theatre and Opera program and a concert with Kaminsky, Oppens and the ASU Chamber Orchestra.
“Laura has a significant talent in connecting people and, in many ways, the residency was constructed around her multiple talents as well as her wife Rebecca’s visual work,” said Jeffery Meyer, director of ASU Orchestras and associate professor in the School of Music. “The combination of those two people gave us the possibility of reaching into multiple schools and multiple classes at ASU.”
Kaminsky, cited as “one of the top 35 female composers in classical music” in the Washington Post, frequently addresses critical social and political issues in her work, including sustainability, war and human rights. The New York Times said she possesses “an ear for the new and interesting,” and American Record Guide described her music as “full of fire as well as ice, contrasting dissonance and violence with tonal beauty and meditative reflection.”
Her first opera, “As One” (2014; co-librettists Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed), is the most-produced contemporary opera in North America since 2016-17, with close to 40 productions to its credit.
Kaminsky and Reed are working together again on a new opera called “Hometown to the World.”
Reed, an American film director and producer, is best known for her documentaries “Prodigal Sons” and “Dark Money,” which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Reed has received 10 awards and 12 nominations in the independent film industry, and her work has been featured at festivals and across artistic platforms. Variety magazine described the film “Dark Money” as a "potent investigative piece," and her work on “Prodigal Sons” earned her a place on Filmmaker Magazine's list of "25 New Faces of Independent Film."
Her new opera with Kaminksy was inspired by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid in Postville, Iowa, in 2008. The “Hometown to the World” opera was commissioned by the Opera for All Voices Consortium, which includes the San Francisco Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Minnesota Opera and others. Part of ASU’s Music Theatre and Opera New Work Reading series, the opera will be workshopped for the first time with an orchestra as part of the creative development process leading up to its premiere.
"We are excited to present the first orchestral reading of Laura and Kimberly's new opera, which has been commissioned by the Opera for All Voices initiative, led by Santa Fe Opera, and will receive its world premiere this coming November in Santa Fe," said Brian DeMaris, artistic director of ASU Music Theatre and Opera and associate professor in the School of Music.
Kaminsky often collaborates with her wife, Allen, who is also visiting ASU.
Allen’s artwork spans nearly four decades and embraces the worlds of fine art, performing arts, pop culture and technology research. Inspired by the aesthetics of motion, the study of perception and behavior, and the potential of advanced technology, her art takes the form of virtual and augmented reality art installations, experimental video and large-scale performances. Her work is exhibited internationally and is part of the permanent collection of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Whitney Museum and Museum of Modern Art in New York.
“Rebecca met with students for studio visits at Grant Street Studios and presented an evening public talk about land conversation, botany, observation and collaboration in relation to her practice as a painter,” said Joanna Grabski, director of the ASU School of Art and professor of art history. “Her thoughtful work on the environment and sustainability truly enhanced the School of Art’s visiting artist series.”
The fourth visiting artist, Oppens, will perform the “Piano Concerto” by Kaminsky while at ASU.
Oppens, a legend among American pianists, is widely admired for her original and perceptive readings of new music and for her interpretations of the standard repertoire. A prolific and critically acclaimed recording artist with five Grammy nominations, Oppens has commissioned and premiered more new works for the piano than any other living artist.
The “Piano Concerto” Oppens will perform with the ASU Chamber Orchestra was written in 2011 as a Koussevitzky Commission prize for Oppens and Meyer’s St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic.
“We premiered the work in 2011 in the Small Hall of the Philharmonic (in St. Petersburg, Russia) and subsequently performed it again in New York,” said Meyer. “We thought it would be the perfect addition to Ursula’s upcoming recording, ‘Oppens Plays Kaminsky,’ which will include the ASU Chamber Orchestra. It will be the first time the ASU Orchestras have recorded commercially for some time, and we are very excited to collaborate with both Laura Kaminsky and the world-renowned Ursula Oppens. The recording will be released on Cedille Records.”
Performances on Feb. 8 and Feb. 9 are open to the public.
Ravel, Kaminsky and Beethoven Pastoral Symphony
Saturday, Feb. 8
Tickets | $12 in person at the ASU Gammage box office or online (fees apply for online advance purchase)
All students with an ASU ID will receive one complimentary ticket. Herberger Institute faculty and staff with ID will receive two complimentary tickets.
ASU Chamber Orchestra
Jeffery Meyer and Yun Song Tay, conductors
Ursula Oppens, piano
Join the ASU Chamber Orchestra performance of Beethoven’s beloved Pastoral Symphony as part of the global celebration of his 250th birthday. Grammy nominated pianist Ursula Oppens joins the orchestra on the first half of the concert, performing Laura Kaminsky’s Piano Concerto.
Kaminsky’s “Piano Concerto” addresses notions of flow and stasis, reflection and absorption, as it evokes the composer's visual perspectives of the Hudson River in New York and the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia.
“Hometown to the World”
New Work Reading
Music by Laura Kaminsky
Libretto by Kimberly Reed
Sunday, Feb. 9
ASU Kerr Cultural Center
Tickets | $10 for students and general admission (fees apply for online advance purchase)
Join ASU Music Theatre and Opera students as they present “Hometown to the World.” The opera takes place in Postville, Iowa, which is known for a massive 2008 raid by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency at a kosher meatpacking plant in which over a tenth of the town’s population was arrested and deported.