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New York City Opera Offers Workshop Presentation of Pedro Halffter’s new opera KLARA

January 22 @ 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

New York City Opera presents a presentation of a brand-new production of Pedro Halffter’s opera KLARA, directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford which will take place on Monday, January 22, 2024 at Theatre of St. Jean, 150 E. 76th Street, NYC. This will be the first time this opera has been presented in New York.

KLARA, written by internationally renowned composer/conductor Pedro Halffter, features a titular character who is a form of artificial intelligence and explores philosophical and spiritual questions such as the meaning of consciousness/self-awareness in artificial life forms and what the reliance on this technology might imply for humanity in the future. It had its world premiere in Villafranca del Bierzo, Spain, its US premiere at Harvard University and other performances at the Museum of Energy in Ponferrada, Spain, at Teatro De Escorial outside of Madrid, and most recently at the renowned Teatro Perez Galdos in the Canary Islands. The opera has been hailed as “very moving” by Beckmesser and by La Provincia, Diario de las Palmas as “an impeccable reflection on how artificial intelligence can have the same desires and objectives as we do.”

The opera has been hailed as “very moving” by Beckmesser and by La Provincia, Diario de las Palmas as “an impeccable reflection on how artificial intelligence can have the same desires and objectives as we do.”

The presentation will feature Ashley Galvani Bell as the protagonist Klara, dancers Maci Arms, Kristi Bement, Laura Henning and Miranda Jones, and Silvia Santinelli and Pedro Halffter himself at the pianos.

The event will be followed by a Q&A and discussion about artificial intelligence and its implications on humanity featuring Dr. Wendy Ju of Cornell Tech, Swami Sarvapriyananda of the Vedanta Institute of New York, and moderated by journalist Andrew Bell.

This evening has been facilitated by a grant from the Spanish government organization Acción Cultural Española, which made the participation of composer/conductor Pedro Halffter possible.

Pedro Halffter Caro, or Pedro Halffter, born in Madrid, is a conductor and composer. From 2001 to 2004 he was Principal Guest Conductor of the Nürnberger Symphoniker, and Principal Conductor of the Bayreuth Festival Youth Orchestra . Other distinguished positions have included Principal and Artistic Director of the Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria from 2004-2015, Artistic Director of the Real Orquesta Sinfónica of Seville from 2004 to 2014, and Artistic Director of the Teatro de la Maestranza of Sevilla from 2004 to 2018.

Halffter has worked in Vienna, Berlin, London, Paris, Madrid, Beijing, Moscow, Tokyo, Shanghai, Salzburg, Munich, Barcelona, Essen, Mannheim and Toulouse conducting orchestras such as London Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, New Japan Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Berlin, Dresdner Philharmonie, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, Orchestra Strasbourg Philharmonic, Orchester Symphonique de Montreal, San Antonio Symphony, Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, among others.

Highlights of his successes as a composer and conductor have included the premiere at the Teatro Real in Madrid in 2016 of his new orchestration of Viktor Ullmann’s opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis and his symphonic versions of Wagner’s works, such as Tannhäuser, Gotterdämmerung, Parsifal and Siegfried, which have been performed by the best orchestras in Spain, Italy and France. He has conducted operatic titles such as Die schweigsame Frau at the Bayerische Staatsoper and at the Münchner Opernfestspiele, Salomé and Der ferne Klang at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin, Turandot at the Nationaltheater Mannheim, Norma with the Dresdner Philharmonie, Rigoletto at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, Die Zauberflöte and La Traviata at the Teatro Verdi in Trieste, Le nozze di Figaro at Badisches, Staatstheater Karlsruhe and Der Kaiser von Atlantis in the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ in Amsterdam, among others. Recent standouts include his work on Götterdämmerung at Dortmund in a new symphonic arrangement made by him, La Bohème at ABAOand Tannhäuser, Die Zauberflöte, La Bohème, Fidelio, Falstaff, Adriana Lecouvreur, Der kaiser von Atlantis, Il Trovatore and Andrea Chénier at the Teatro de la Maestranza.

Halffter’s facet as a composer extends from his first works premiered in 1998 to his commission from the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, premiered in 2015. His numerous compositions have been interpreted by the most important orchestras. He has made recordings with labels such as Deutsche Grammophon, Warner Music and Warner Classics.

The most recent season has included Madame Butterfly with Opera de Montréal, Tosca at ABAO, Florencia en el Amazonas in Tenerife, La traviata at the Teatro de la Maestranza. In 2024, he returns to ABAO to direct La Bohéme, and will direct at Teatro Cervantes Malaga for Dialogues of the Carmelites, and in Germany for Rheingold, among other projects. He is a member of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de Santa Isabel de Hungría of Seville.

Richard Stafford made his New York City Opera debut in 2017 as director and choreographer of the American premiere of Antonio Literes’s Los Elementos. He was immediately re-engaged and directed and choreographed the company’s critically acclaimed 2018 double bill of Rameau’s Pigmalion and the American premiere of Donizetti’s Pigmalione. Additional NYCO credits include direction for The Garden of the Finzi-Continis and All Is Calm, choreography for Turandot (2018 with Opera Hong Kong) and, in 2019, choreography for Dear Erich and Stonewall. His Broadway credits include choreographer for In My Life at the Music Box Theatre, associate choreographer for Aspects of Love at the Broadhurst Theatre, and dance supervisor for Cats at the Winter Garden Theatre. Off-Broadway, he was choreographer for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at St. Clements and director/choreographer for Castle Walk for the New York Musical Festival. Internationally he was director/choreographer for The Full Monty and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Mexico City; Cats in Copenhagen, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro; choreographer for Jesus Christ Superstar in Mexico City; Evita in Sydney; and Cats in Mexico City and Buenos Aires. He has been choreographer for national tours of Cats, My Fair Lady, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Mr. Stafford won the Barrymore Award for outstanding choreography for La Cage aux Folles at the Walnut Street Theatre and the NYMF “Outstanding Choreography” award for Castle Walk.

Hailed by Opera News as “delightful,” soprano Ashley Galvani Bell has performed as a soloist in the United States, Italy, Spain, France and Russia. Most recently she made her debut with ABAO Bilbao Opera singing Fiordiligi in Cosi Fan Tutte, sang Cio Cio San in Madama Butterfly with both Bohème Opera New Jersey and Daytona Beach Symphony Society, was soprano soloist with Milan’s Orchestra UNIMI in Mozart’s Exultate Jubilate and sang Violetta in La Traviata, the title role in world premiere of Penelope’s Dream, soprano soloist in Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony all with the Festival of Villafranca del Bierzo, Spain. Highlights in 2022 include her debut with Seville’s Teatro Maestranza as Violetta in La Traviata, Mimí in La Bohème with California’s Opera Modesto, Violetta in La Traviata in La Rioja, Spain & Soprano Soloist in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with both Orquesta Sinfonica de Madrid and in the Festival de Villafranca del Bierzo and singing one of her signature roles, Elle, in a critically-acclaimed production of La voix humaine both at Spain’s Rioja Forum & Bay Street Theatre. During the pandemic, Ashley produced & starred in documentary film Rival Queens featuring music from Maria Stuarda, which has won 20 awards in international film festivals including Best Documentary at Tokyo Film Festival.

In recent seasons, she made her Carnegie Hall debut as soprano soloist in Hadyn’s “Nelson” Mass and Schubert’s Mass in C with MidAmerica Productions, debuted as Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly with California’s Townsend Opera, sang Mimí in La bohème with both Mississippi Opera and Natchez Festivaland debuted with New York City Opera in L’amore dei tre re.

Bell is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale University & speaks five languages fluently. She is a recipient of Yale’s Browne Irish Performing Arts Award. Bell originated the role of Klara and has performed it in multiple international venues, including at Harvard University and most recently at Teatro Perez Galdos in Gran Canaria.

Dr. Wendy Ju is Associate Professor at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech. Her work in the areas of human-robot interaction and automated vehicle interfaces highlights the ways that interactive devices can communicate and engage people without interrupting or intruding.

Swami Sarvapriyananda is the Minister and spiritual leader of the Vedanta Society of New York. He has spoken around the world including Harvard, Toronto’s World Parliament of Religion and the United Nations.

Founded as “The People’s Opera” by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia in 1943, New York City Opera (NYCO) has remained a critical part of the city’s cultural life. Launching the careers of dozens of major artists, presenting engaging productions of both mainstream and lesser-known operas alongside commissions and regional premieres, NYCO has continued to endure as a uniquely American opera company of international stature with a distinct identity and singular mission: affordable ticket prices, a devotion to American works, English-language performances, the promotion of up-and-coming American singers, and seasons of accessible, vibrant and compelling productions intended to introduce new audiences to the art form.

Stars who launched their careers at New York City Opera include Plácido Domingo, Catherine Malfitano, Sherrill Milnes, Samuel Ramey, Beverly Sills, Tatiana Troyanos, Carol Vaness, and Shirley Verrett, among dozens of other great artists. New York City Opera has also presented such talents as Anna Caterina Antonacci and Aprile Millo in concert, as well as its own 75th Anniversary Concert in Bryant Park.

New York City Opera forged a path of inclusion and diversity in the arts. It was the first major opera company to feature African American singers in leading roles (Todd Duncan as Tonio in Pagliacci, 1945 and Camilla Williams in the title role of Madama Butterfly, 1946); the first to produce a new work by an African American composer (William Grant Still, Troubled Island, 1949); and the first to have an African-American conductor lead its orchestra (Everett Lee, 1955).

A revitalized City Opera re-opened in January 2016 with Tosca, the opera that originally launched the company in 1944. Outstanding productions since then include: the world premieres of Iain Bell and Mark Campbell’s Stonewall, commissioned and developed by NYCO), legendary director Harold Prince’s new production of Bernstein’sCandide; Puccini’s beloved La Fanciulla del West; and the New York premiere of Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas — the first in NYCO’s Ópera en Español series. Subsequent Ópera en Español productions include the New York premiere of the world’s first mariachi opera, José “Pepe” Martinez’s Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, Literes’s Los Elementos, and Piazzolla’s María de Buenos Aires. NYCO’s Pride Initiative, which produces an LGBTQ-themed work each June during Pride Month, includes such productions as the New York premiere of Péter Eötvös’s Angels in America and the American premiere of Charles Wuorinen’s Brokeback Mountain.

New York City Opera continues its legacy with regular main stage performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater, an acclaimed summer series in Bryant Park that brings free performances to thousands of New Yorkers annually, and revitalized outreach and education programs at venues throughout the city that are designed to welcome and inspire a new generation of opera audiences.

New York City Opera:

Instagram: @nycopera
Twitter: @nycityopera


January 22
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM