Monday, September 26, 2016

A trans story told through opera


As One offers music, story, and dialogue Nov. 11 – 19, 2016 at Washington Hall 

This fall, Seattleites can hear opera in a Central-District venue that once housed performances by Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. But the location isn’t the only new thing about Seattle Opera’s As One, which will be presented in the historic Washington Hall. As One, a chamber opera with only two singers, tells the story of Hannah, a transwoman, and her journey to self-understanding. The opera is meant to be both an experience, and a vehicle for meaningful conversation.

Based in part on true events, As One offers a narrative that’s both specific, as well as universal.

“This beautiful, brave opera is about becoming whole – becoming true to one’s self,” said stage director L. Zane Jones, Artistic Director of Seattle's Civic Rep. “It is one woman’s journey to becoming her authentic self; a love story—an adventure—and finally, a celebration."

The newly-renovated Washington Hall. The hall has served as a popular performing arts venue, hosting musicians and speakers such as Marian Anderson, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Jimi Hendrix, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and Joe Louis. Many of these events were held at Washington Hall because it was the only venue of significant capacity in Seattle that would allow people of color to perform.
Seattle has never experienced opera in quite this way before. In As One, the grandeur of the company’s mainstage performances are stripped away in favor of a vulnerable, immediate approach. With a string quartet and singers performing in-the-round, the production puts the audience right in the heart of the action.

Award winning filmmaker and librettist Kimberly Reed (Prodigal Sons), and award winning librettist Mark Campbell (Silent Night) created the powerful story for As One. Laura Kaminsky, a former chair of the music department at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts, composed the piece, which premiered in 2014 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In this 90-minute opera, the single protagonist, Hannah, is portrayed by two singers—a baritone and a mezzo-soprano. Hannah before is sung by Jorell Williams, praised by The New York Times as “magnificent” and “rich toned.” Hannah after will be sung by Taylor Raven, a rising star currently in residency with Pittsburgh Opera.

Kimberly Reed is a filmmaker/librettist, whose personal journey of going from male to female served as inspiration for the opera "As One." Reed and Mark Campbell wrote the libretto for As One, which was composed by Laura Kaminsky.
Throughout the course of 15 songs, the audience will experience Hannah’s challenges growing up in a small town on the West coast, her quest for knowledge and understanding, and her discovery of the trans community. The opera embraces humor and heartbreaking realities within this personal narrative. While Hannah before is faced with violence, Hannah after names those who did not survive similar attacks. At the end of the opera, the protagonist finds peace, as well as her own self-acceptance and love, in rural Norway.

Prior to the performance, attendees can grab a drink from the in-house bar to enjoy during the performance. Afterward, audience members are invited to participate in a discussion on topics affecting the LGBTQ community.

Hannah before will be sung by baritone Jorell Williams, and Hannah after will be portrayed by Taylor Raven. 
Supported in part by The Wallace Foundation and Pride Foundation, As One reflects Seattle Opera’s commitment to creating a safe and welcoming space within the arts. Moving forward, the company’s work will reflect the diverse communities of the Pacific Northwest in terms of age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and cultural/multicultural background. Seattle Opera is working to reduce barriers that have historically made the art form inaccessible to certain groups.

As One premieres Friday, Nov. 11, and runs through Saturday, Nov. 19. 

Tickets & info: seattleopera.org/asone

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