ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Love blooms in the ravishing beauty of American composer John Adams’ recent opera inspired by a mystical folktale from India. A Flowering Tree is the story of a young couple’s sacrifice and transformation for love. Universal truths of the human experience will be vividly expressed by a powerful cast including modern dancers and large chorus, together illuminating the breathtaking sonic landscapes.
To create this modern depiction of an ancient story, Opera Omaha welcomes back the dynamic director and design team that gave us last season’s thrilling production of Agrippina. Christopher Rountree, the founder and director of Los Angeles’ sensational new ensemble, wild Up, will conduct. Expect another unforgettable Opera Omaha premiere production.
*Opera Omaha Debut
CAST & CREATIVE TEAM
John Adams, Composer
Composer, conductor, and creative thinker - John Adams occupies a unique position in the world of American music. His works, both operatic and symphonic, stand out among contemporary classical compositions for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound, and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes. Over the past 25 years, Adams’s music has played a decisive role in turning the tide of contemporary musical aesthetics away from academic modernism and toward a more expansive, expressive language, entirely characteristic of his New World surroundings.
Born and raised in New England, Adams learned the clarinet from his father and played in marching bands and community orchestras during his formative years. He began composing at age ten and heard his first orchestral pieces performed while still a teenager. The intellectual and artistic traditions of New England, including his studies at Harvard University and attendance at Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts, helped shape him as an artist and thinker. After earning two degrees from Harvard, he moved to Northern California in 1971 and has since lived in the San Francisco Bay area.
Adams taught at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for ten years before becoming composer-in-residence of the San Francisco Symphony (1982-85), and creator of the orchestra’s highly successful and controversial “New and Unusual Music” series. Many of Adams’s landmark orchestral works were written for and premiered by the San Francisco Symphony, including Harmonium (1981), Grand Pianola Music (1982), Harmonielehre (1985), My Father Knew Charles Ives (2003) and Absolute Jest (2012).
In 1985, Adams began a collaboration with the poet Alice Goodman and stage director Peter Sellars that resulted in two groundbreaking operas: Nixon in China (1987) and The Death of Klinghoffer (1991). Produced worldwide, these works are among the most performed operas of the last two decades. Five further stage collaborations with Sellars followed: the 1995 “songplay,” I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky, with a libretto by June Jordan; El Niño (2000), a multilingual retelling of the nativity story; Doctor Atomic (2005), about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the creation of the first atomic bomb; A Flowering Tree, inspired by Mozart’s Magic Flute and premiered in Vienna in 2006; and the Passion oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary (2012), written for Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Other signal Adams works that have become repertory with orchestras, choruses and ensembles include Shaker Loops for strings, The Dharma at Big Sur (a concerto for electric violin inspired by the writings of Jack Kerouac), Doctor Atomic Symphony (a 22-minute symphony drawn from the opera), Violin Concerto, Chamber Symphony and Son of Chamber Symphony (choreographed as Joyride by Mark Morris). His new Saxophone Concerto written for Tim McAllister received its world premiere in the fall of 2013.
John Adams is a much sought-after conductor, appearing with the world’s major orchestras in programs combining his own works with a wide variety of repertoire ranging from Beethoven and Mozart to Ives, Carter, Zappa, Glass and Ellington. He has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the London Symphony and the BBC Symphony, among others. In the coming season he tours Australia with concerts in Melbourne and Sydney and conducts the Toronto Symphony, Houston Symphony and presides over a two week festival of his music in Madrid, Spain. With the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he holds the title of Creative Chair, he will conduct his "Naive and Sentimental Music" and the world premiere of Terry Riley's new Organ Concerto as part of that orchestra's Minimalist Jukebox festival, of which he is also curator.
Luca Guardagnino's 2009 film "I Am Love," produced by and starring Tilda Swinton, uses John Adams' music from start to finish.
Adams’ educational activities reach from the local (the John Adams Young Composers program in his hometown of Berkeley, California) to the international (directing the Juilliard and Royal Academy of Music orchestras at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall and the BBC Proms).
John Adams is also a highly esteemed and provocative writer. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review and has written for The New Yorker and The London Times. Hallelujah Junction, Adams’s much praised volume of memoirs and commentary on American musical life, won the Northern California Book Award for Creative Nonfiction and was named one of the “most notable books of the year” by The New York Times. He maintains a controversial blog about music and culture, “Hellmouth,” which can be found at his website www.earbox.com.
Adams has received honorary doctorates from Yale and Harvard, from Cambridge University in England, from Northwestern University and from the Juilliard School. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California honored him with the Governor’s Award for his distinguished service to the arts in his adopted home state. His Violin Concerto won the 1993 Grawemeyer Award. “On the Transmigration of Souls,” commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to commemorate the first anniversary of 9/11, received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in Music.
Adams' recordings have won numerous Grammy awards, including three for the Nonesuch release of "On the Transmigration of Souls." Last season's release of "Harmonielehre" with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony won the Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance. Other new releases include the Nonesuch DVD of the Metropolitan Opera's "Nixon in China," conducted by the composer, and "Fellow Traveler: The Complete String Quartet Music of John Adams" by the Attacca Quartet.
Cameron Jaye Mock, Set & Lighting Designer
Cameron Jaye Mock's recent work, hailed by the Los Angeles Times as "lyrical expression...in superb scenic and lighting design" includes a multi-year long project with the Latino Theater Company and Los Angeles Theater Center creating lighting and projections for Charity and Hope, as well as lights, sets, and projections for Faith, each a part of The Mexican Trilogy. Opera credits include designing scenery and lighting for Dialogues des Carmélites, lighting for productions of L'incoronazione di Poppea, the US West Coast premiere of Jonathan Dove's Flight, Dido and Aeneas,Giasone, Peter Brooks’ adaptation of Bizet with La tragédie de Carmen, L’ Enfant et les Sortileges, The Golden Vanity, All the King's Men, Berkeley Opera’s L’ Elisir D’ Amore, as well as a staging of the oratorio L'Allegro, il Penseroso, ed il Moderato. Most recently, Mr. Mock was associate production designer and lighting designer for San Francisco Symphony's staging of Peer Gynt at Davies Symphony Hall. Other recent productions include lighting The Screens andRed Noses, projections for Urinetown at La Verne Theater, lighting and scenery for the movement pieces Frozen Music/ Pink Noise at Human Resources and Skin! for the Bare Dance Company. He received his MFA from the UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television.
Christopher Rountree, Conductor*
Christopher Rountree first fell in love with music playing bass in a garage band, trombone in a brass band, and watching the Berlin Philharmonic play Brahms and Bartok.
Chris has served as Assistant Conductor of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Guest Conductor with Beth Morrison Projects, Artistic Advisor for New Music at American Youth Symphony and Adjunct Lecturer in Conducting at UC Santa Barbara. He founded wild Up in 2010.
In 2013, he debuted on the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Brooklyn New Music Festival, with the San Diego Symphony, the Colorado Symphony, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and with the San Francisco Conservatory Orchestra celebrating the centenary of Le Sacre du printemps.
Before bringing wild Up together, Chris was Music Director of the Michigan Pops Orchestra and student of the renowned conducting professor Kenneth Kiesler, at the University of Michigan. At age 22, he was appointed principal conductor of La Primavera Youth Orchestra in Orange County while studying conducting with Joana Carneiro, then-assistant conductor of the LA Philharmonic.
Rountree is a seventh-generation Californian. He is a yogi, unpaid psychoanalyst, cutter of vegetables, storyteller, burrito enthusiast, writer, composer, and teacher.
“Rountree punches out rhythms as if they were going out of style. He emphasizes outsize emotions. He could probably get an audience to dance to the slowest movement Shostakovich ever wrote.”
- Mark Swed, The Los Angeles Times
- Corinna da Fonesca-Wollheim, The New York Times
Emily Anne MacDonald, Set & Properties Designer
Emily MacDonald has most recently designed scenery and properties for Peter Kazaras’ productions of Il segreto di Susanna and L’Enfant et les Sortileges. She is currently in production as director and designer of a staging of Schubert’s Winterreise. Other productions include, The Adding Machine with director J.Ed Araiza, The Ginger Man and The Psychic Life of Savages with Angela Scott, Forgotten World with Shirley Jo Finney, As We Grow Down for the Dorn Dance Company, and O.P.C. with activist Eve Ensler. She is an active painter, printmaker, and sculptor, having been a resident artist at Burren College of Art in County Clare, Ireland and at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, California. She holds a degree in Studio Art from Mills College and a MFA from the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television.
James Darrah, Director
Los Angeles based director, production designer, and visual artist James Darrah is committed to collaborative projects within the mediums of theater, music, and video and has quickly become recognized as the " the newest discovery... a gifted young American director delivering fresh and stimulating productions" (Chicago Tribune) with his work being praised as "injecting real drama" (New York Times) and "vital and viable" (The Wall Street Journal).
RECENT WORK includes the world premiere of Frank Zappa's 200 Motels with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting, his directing debut with Opera Omaha and frequent collaborator Stephen Stubbs conducting their new performance edition and production of Handel's Agrippina, his debut for Pacific Musicworks in Seattle directing and choreographing a new Semele, his Lincoln Center directing debut with Handel's Radamisto for The Juilliard School, a San Francisco Symphony debut with direction and co-production design for a new multimedia staging of Ibsen's Peer Gynt conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, collaborations with Peter Sellars in staging John Adams’ new The Gospel According to the Other Mary and Christopher Alden for the LA Philharmonic’s Mozart/Da Ponte trilogy, a short film installation to accompany Arnold Schoenberg’s Book of the Hanging Gardens for Boston Court Performing Arts, and two new productions for Chicago Opera Theater directing, designing and choreographing Handel's Teseo (lauded as one of Chicago's Top Ten Events by Chicago Classical Review) and Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Médée. He trained as a director/designer with the Croatian National Theater and the Split Summer Festival and his theater work ranges from adaptations and new translations of Aeschylus' Oresteia to new productions of the plays of Caryl Churchill.
UPCOMING PROJECTS include continued collaborations with the San Francisco Symphony and Tilson Thomas directing and costume designing Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes, an installation theater event featuring Handel's L'Allegro at the historic Clark Library in Los Angeles, future projects with Opera Omaha, The Industry, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and a new production of Don Giovanni for the Merola Opera Program of San Francisco Opera.
Other past projects include four new site-specific productions for the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, exhibitions and curation with the SCA Gallery, two pieces at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, over five new productions (including two US West Coast Premieres) for Opera UCLA as well as a multimedia production for Cornish Opera Theater in Seattle with visual artist Susie J. Lee. He is one of the co-founders and directors of the LA-based production company+studio chromatic and has taught theater and performance for the Adler Fellowship Program of San Francisco Opera, Cornish College of the Arts, CSULB and the University of California, Los Angeles. MFA - UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television where he was the recipient of the George Burns/Gracie Allen Directing Scholarship. He has been awarded the James Pendleton Foundation Grant and is a recipient of the national Princess Grace Award in Theater.
Adam Larsen, Projections Designer
Adam Larsen is a filmmaker and projection designer. He has designed nearly 100 productions both on and off Broadway, including: Hal Prince’s LoveMusik (Broadway); The Gospel at Colonus (Athens, Edinburgh and Spoleto Festivals); The Wind Up Bird Chronicle (Singapore and Edinburgh Festival); Brief Encounters and My Fair Lady (Shaw Festival); The Women of Brewster Place (Alliance / Arena Stage); Christmas Carol 1941, Light in the Piazza and The Book Club Play (Arena Stage); Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (Alliance Theatre); big (Atlanta Ballet); Love Lies Bleeding, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and Balletlujah (Alberta Ballet); From the House of the Dead (Canadian Opera); Lily Plants a Garden (Mark Taper); Maa (Atlanta Symphony / GloAtl); Quartet (Aspen Santa Fe Ballet); Seed (Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet); Second Hand (New World Symphony); Black Whole (Black Mountain College Museum & Arts Center / Moog Music); Le Martyre de St Sebastien and Peer Gynt (San Francisco Symphony). Adam holds a B.F.A. in cinematography from N.C. School of the Arts. His documentary about autism entitled Neurotypical will air on the PBS series POV in July.
Zack Winokur, Associate Director*
Choreographer, dancer, and director Zack Winokur, born in Boston, MA, is a graduate of the Juilliard School and Concord Academy. The 2013/2014 season he worked on productions for the Skylight Music Theater (Hydrogen Jukebox), Festival Aix-en-Provence (Les Mamelles des Tirésias), London Philharmonic (Die Dreigroschenoper), Central City Opera (Der Kaiser von Atlantis), the Royal Opera House (Most of the Boys - World Premiere), International Contemporary Ensemble (Mesh- World Premiere), and the Museum of Arts and Design (Triptych- World Premiere) as well as re-staging Episode 31 by Alexander Ekman for the Joffrey Ballet.
He has choreographed for film with Academy Award nominated director Mike Figgis, collaborating on Dancing on Glass with pianist Rosey Chan and fashion house Boudicca that has been exhibited in Paris, London, Beijing, Tokyo and Barcelona. His choreography has also been seen at the Centre Pompidou for the opening of the ASVOFF festival and as choreographic installations that took over the entire Royal Opera House for three days. As a dancer, Mr. Winokur has performed in the companies of Morphoses, Armitage Gone! Dance, David Parker and The Bang Group, and Moving Theater and as a soloist in work by Bronislava Nijinska, Jose Limon, Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, Luca Veggetti, Alexander Ekman and Nacho Duato as well as on international television as part of an advertisement for Coca-Cola. Winokur has curated shows at the 92nd St. Y and programmed and been commissioned to make several new interdisciplinary works at the Juilliard School. He was nominated for a United States Artist Fellowship in 2013, awarded a Jerome Robbins New Essential Works grant in 2012, and in 2011 received a "Best Opera Direction" nomination in Opernwelt for Henze's El Cimarrón.
Winokur is Director of The Troupe, a company dedicated to exploring the possibility of choreography across disciplines, which he co-founded with Michelle Mola in 2009. He has produced over a dozen original works for The Troupe. Combining dancers, choreographers, visual artists, fashion designers, perfume makers, filmmakers, musicians, composers, and architects, The Troupe has presented work in museums, embassies, jails, concert dance venues, opera houses, night clubs, and galleries such as MoMA PS1, Centre Pompidou, Rikers Island Maximum Security Prison, Park Avenue Armory, Peter Jay Sharp, Clark Studio, and Willson theaters in Lincoln Center, Royal Opera House London, David Lynch's Club Silencio in Paris, and Galerie Debaume.
Sarah Schuessler, Costume Designer
Sarah Schuessler is a Los Angeles-based costume designer who, after graduating from USC's School of Theatre, went on to earn her Master of Fine Arts degree in costume design from UCLA's School of Theater, Film, and Television.
She has returned to design at both UCLA and USC, in addition to styling commercials and working in film and television. Most recently she is a member of the costume department on HBO’s The Newsroom. She is proud to include the world premiere of Ray Bradbury's operetta Wisdom 2116 and the world premiere of Oliver Mayer's Fortune is a Woman among her professional credits.
She is thrilled to design Agrippina for a second time, reteaming with director James Darrah after UCLA’s production. Additional opera credits include the US West Coast premiere of Jonathan Dove's Flight, Dido and Aeneas, La tragédie de Carmen, L’Enfant et les sortilèges, Amahl and the Night Visitors, as well as a staging of the oratorio L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.
Andriana Chuchman, Kumudha*
Last season, soprano Andriana Chuchman sang the title role in Hänsel und Gretel on the Glyndebourne Opera Tour, and made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Adina in L'Elisir d'Amore and Miranda in The Enchanted Island. Next season, she returns to the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Zerlina in Don Giovanni and to the Metropolitan Opera as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel.
Recent US engagements have included her debuts at the Washington National Opera as Magnolia in Show Boat and the Glimmerglass Festival as Guinevere in Camelot, Yum-Yum in The Mikado, Cleopatra in Guilio Cesare, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, and staged performances of Orff’s Carmina Burana at the Michigan Opera Theater; Minka in Le Roi Malgré Lui at the Bard Music Festival, the title role in Flora, an Opera and Irma in Louise at the Spoleto Festival USA, and Alinda in Giasone and Dorinda in Orlando at the Chicago Opera Theater.
In concert, Ms. Chuchman recently made her debut at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with performances of the Brahms Requiem, and has appeared at the Ravinia Festival as a guest on the Prairie Home Companion radio show and with the International Music Foundation of Chicago in performances of Handel’s Messiah.
In her native Canada, Ms. Chuchman recently made her debut at the Canadian Opera Company as Olympia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann. She has also appeared at the Edmonton Opera as Yum-Yum in The Mikado and Marie in La Fille du Regiment, and at the Manitoba Opera as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte. Concert performances have included engagements with the Toronto Symphony, Prince George Symphony, and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
A recent graduate of the Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Ms. Chuchman has appeared on the opera company's main stage as Yum-Yum in The Mikado, Valencienne in The Merry Widow and in their productions of Die Frau ohne Shatten and Manon. She also sang student matinee performances of Adina in L’Elisir d’Amore and Le Nozze di Figaro with the Ryan Opera Center. Also a member of the San Francisco Opera’s prestigious Merola Program, Ms. Chuchman appeared there as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro, Carolina in Il Matrimonio Segreto, and as Blanche in excerpts of Dialogues of the Carmelites and Clorinda in excerpts La Cenerentola.
Born in Winnipeg, Ms. Chuchman received her Bachelor's Degree in Voice Performance from the School of Music at the University of Manitoba. She was a prizewinner at the Finals of the 2009 Neue Stimmen Competition in Germany, and received a Sullivan Foundation Encouragement Award in 2007.