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Baruch Performing Arts Center and Opera Omaha present the Virtual Premiere of the chamber opera dwb (driving while black)

October 23, 2020 - October 29, 2020

Baruch Performing Arts Center and Opera Omaha present the virtual, directed-for-video premiere of dwb (driving while black) from October 23, 2020 at 9:00am ET through October 29, 2020 at 9:00pm ET. Tickets are pay-what-you-can and can be purchased via the BPAC portal at https://www.baruch.cuny.edu/calendar/EventList.aspx?fromdate=10/1/2020&todate=10/31/2020&display=&type=public&eventidn=81021&view=EventDetails&information_id=1121642&_ga=2.192461034.1191004513.1597948508-434811229.1597075571&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1. There will also be a post-screening live talk, with details to come. A previously recorded excerpt of dwb (driving while black)can be viewed at https://youtu.be/F9oKCQzVVPM.

“This March was to have been the New York premiere of dwb (driving while black) at Baruch Performing Arts Center,” said Ted Altschuler, Director, Baruch Performing Arts Center. “A concise, taut 50-minute sung monodrama, it is a musical provocation to engage with the essential conversation of our day: racial justice. Live performances are paused for the moment, but the need for learning and dialogue is not. Given the brevity of the piece and the uncertainty of live performances, our organizations are collaborating to help create a high-quality version of dwb directed explicitly for streaming presentation. Not everyone has the capacity to create content in this moment, but the conversation this piece provokes is urgent. As an arts center located on one of the most diverse public university campuses in the U.S., we exist to promote inquiry and discourse, something we will encourage via post-performance events.”

dwb (driving while black) isa new chamber opera about racism, erasure, and the fear and love that black parents experience when they send their kids out into a world that too often sees them not as a child, but as a threat. This powerful music-drama documents the all-too-familiar story of an African American parent whose beautiful brown boy approaches driving age. What should be a celebration of independence and maturity turns out to be fraught with the anxiety of “driving while black.”

“Singers are storytellers,” says soprano/librettist Roberta Gumbel (“silver voiced…” – The New York Times) “but rarely do we get the opportunity to help create the stories we are telling.” Collaborating with composer Susan Kander and the cutting-edge duo New Morse Code (“Clarity of artistic vision and near-perfect synchronicity..” – 
icareifyoulisten.com), Gumbel created this brief, powerful music-drama that documents the all-too-familiar story of an African-American parent whose “beautiful brown boy” approaches driving age as, what should be a celebration of independence and maturity, is fraught with the anxiety of driving while black.

“One of the most singularly devastating theatrical moments of the last year.”
Best of Kansas City: Theater 2019
– The Pitch: Kansas City’s Arts and Culture Newspaper

After concert performances of dwb in January 2019 in Kansas City, the community discussion that followed stirred feelings among the audience and the piece became the backbone of media coverage raising awareness about racial disparity in traffic stops and police/community relations generally in Kansas City.  

Roberta Gumbel, librettist/soprano
Susan Kander, composer
Chip Miller, director
New Morse Code – Hannah Collins, cello and Michael Compitello, percussion

Videography: Four/Ten Media
Audio: Ryan Streber, Oktaven Studios

Roberta Gumbel has performed internationally in opera, concert, chamber music and musical theater.  After her operatic debut with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Roberta performed with Opera Memphis, Opera Festival of New Jersey, Opera Philadelphia, Indianapolis Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, and Houston Grand Opera.  
Musical Theater credits include the Broadway runs of Showboat, Ragtime, La Boheme, and In My Life. Off Broadway she appeared in Running Man which USA Today ranked as one of the top tier productions of the year. Roberta has appeared in concert with the Boston Symphony, the Tanglewood Music Center and with the Scarborough Chamber Players of Boston. She has appeared as soloist with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center in their Holiday concerts. 

The music of Susan Kander has been heard throughout the United States and in cities around the world, including London, Paris, Mexico City, Lima, Birmingham, Vancouver, Cape Town, Melbourne, St. Petersburg and Guangzhou. Kander has received numerous commissions from notable ensembles and organizations, including the National Symphony Orchestra, Southampton Chamber Music Festival, the Copland Fund, the Kansas City Chorale, the Columbia Foundation, and a variety of instrumentalists and ensembles. In the opera world, she has received commissions from Opera Minnesota, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and Columbus Opera. Her chamber opera The News from Poems was given a concert reading in April 2016 at the National Opera Center featuring Keith Phares, Katherine Pracht, and John Taylor Ward. In 2012, Minnesota Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City co-commissioned an adaptation of the seminal dystopian novel The Giver by Lois Lowry; the 85-minute chamber opera received its third production in January 2015 at Tulsa Opera. Knight Arts, St. Paul, called it a “remarkable new work…. Her instrumental scoring is atmospheric and unobtrusive…but the vocals take priority… This adaptation is a sophisticated and subtle work, in terms of both music and story.”
Miranda’s Waltz for narrator and orchestra, commissioned by National Symphony Orchestra in 2009, was subsequently performed and live streamed around the world by the Australian Discovery Orchestra. Kander received her B.A. in Music at Harvard in 1979 and was a playwright until “coming home to music” in the mid-1990’s. In 2015, after composing busily for twenty-years, she decided to blow things up by finally attending graduate school in composition. She studied with Du Yun and Huang Ruo at Purchase Conservatory, re-arranging the furniture in her mind and earning her M.M. in Composition in 2017.  The aftermath of those two years produced a bouquet of new works for both orchestra and chamber forces. She is a Fellow of the MacDowell Colony.

Chip Miller is a director and producer, currently in the role of associate producer at Portland Center Stage at The Armory. They were previously the artistic associate/resident director at Kansas City Repertory Theatre. Directing: 
Redwood [world premiere], Hedwig & The Angry Inch (Portland Center Stage at The Armory); School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, Welcome to Fear City, Sex with Strangers, A Raisin in the Sun (Kansas City Repertory Theatre); Becoming Martin by Kevin Willmott (world premiere, The Coterie Theatre); dwb: driving while black (Lawrence Arts Center); 4:48 Psychosis (The Buffalo Room). Chip has developed work with playwrights including Kevin Willmott, Kara Lee Corthron, Brittany K. Allen, Catherine Trieschmann, Darren Canady, Andrew Rosendorf, Michelle T. Johnson, and Michael Finke. They have developed work at The William Inge Theater Festival, NYU Steindhard’s New Plays for Young Audiences, Portland Center Stage at The Armory’s JAW: A Playwrights Festival, Orlando Shakes Playfest, Midwest Dramatists Center, and Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s OriginKC: New Works Festival. Education: B.F.A., NYU Tisch School of the Arts. 

New Morse Code (Hannah Collins, cello; Michael Compitello, percussion) is the confluence of two magnetic personalities who have taken up the admirable task of creating a hub for the performance, commissioning, and promotion of new music. NMC is theoretically the alluring and uncommon combination of cello and percussion, but in practice is best described as two musicians of extraordinary depth and skill untethered by their instrumental constraints. This unrestricted approach has allowed them to create a body of work in which Hannah can be found crushing plastic bottles and Michael plucking the strings of the cello–all with the intention of expanding and facilitating the imaginations of their composer-collaborators–while ultimately creating a meaningful and lasting repertoire. The performances that arise from this playful and innovative methodology reveal Hannah and Michael’s passion for sharing the work of their friends and peers, and aside from their effortless ability to perform the most finger-twisting of contemporary repertoire, NMC’s ability to communicate the esoteric details and depth of these complex works is what makes them truly remarkable chamber musicians. As tireless advocates for new music, they constantly seek out diverse venues (wineries, outdoor parks, art museums, elementary school classrooms), and their ability to connect with disparate audiences by way of their disarming charm, accessible intellect, and dynamic musicality is exceptional. Hannah and Michael formed New Morse Code while they were students at Yale after returning to the United States from extended and informative study in Europe. Inspired by their similar yet different experiences abroad, they began performing together and planting the seeds that would blossom into their dedicated community of collaborators and followers. They currently teach at the University of Kansas and serve as assistant directors of Avaloch Farm Music Institute.
Baruch Performing Arts Center is an acclaimed performing arts presence. Located in the heart of Manhattan just east of Chelsea and the famed flatiron building, BPAC presents renowned classical music, opera, jazz, theater, dance, discussion, film, and innovative cross-genre programming. BPAC has presented over 1,000 cultural programs in its 5 spaces since 2003. Its curated season of 30 programs annually emphasizes new work experienced in intimate settings, the diversity of American culture as exemplified by Baruch students (who come from 130 different countries) and work that lives at the confluence of art and social justice.

Past presentations have included theatre companies such as the National Asian American Theatre Company, Folksbiene, Blessed Unrest, and The Acting Company.  Dance companies such as Caleb Teicher & Co, Dusan Tynek, Heidi Latsky Dance, José Limón, and Urban Bush Women.  BPAC is the New York home of the Alexander String Quartet and presents a rich chamber music season including artists such as the Israeli Chamber Project, Cantata Profana, violinist Tessa Lark, cellist Joshua Roman, and pianist Sara Davis Buechner.  BPAC offers a jazz series named for bassist and faculty member Milt Hinton, which has featured artists such as Grammy-Award winner Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, and the Aaron Diehl Trio. Discussion program have included writers Teju Cole, Colum McCann and Amitav Ghosh, actress Linda Lavin, and thought leaders such as Gloria Steinem and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Visit www.baruch.cuny.edu/bpac for complete and up-to-date information on the 2020 Fall Season.

Opera Omaha, the only professional opera company in Nebraska, began in 1958 as the Omaha Civic Opera Society, a volunteer association, and with tremendous community support became fully professional by 1970. Opera Omaha produces a season of original mainstage productions, presented at the historic Orpheum Theater, and smaller productions and musical events throughout the community. Opera Omaha is internationally known for its productions of eight world premieres and four American premieres of classical masterpieces and is highly regarded regionally for extensive community engagement and education programs.  Opera Omaha also produces ONE Festival, an innovative spring festival, and facilitates a groundbreaking civic practice initiative, the Holland Community Opera Fellowship – work that is key to Opera Omaha’s ongoing transformation from a performing arts organization to a cultural resource for the community.  Visit www.operaomaha.org for more information.


October 23, 2020
October 29, 2020