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the little OPERA theatre of ny in association with National Black Theatre and Harlem Opera Theater presents American One Acts, a preview concert

June 3, 2022

the little OPERA theatre of ny (LOTNY) will present a spring preview concert of American One Acts, a double bill, directed by Philip Shneidman with music direction by Gregory Hopkins on Friday, June 3, 2022 at 7:30pm, in Merkin Hall at the Kaufman Music Center. LOTNY’s new project will pair Highway 1, U.S.A. by William Grant Still, libretto by Verna Arvey; with Down in the Valley by Kurt Weill, libretto by Arnold Sundgaard. The spring concert will feature highlights from both operas along with other music by the composers. Tickets for the preview concert are $20 and can be purchased at kaufmanmusiccenter.org/mch/event/american-one-acts-the-preview-concert. Student rush tickets will also be available for $12.50 by calling 212-501-3330 or in person at the box office. 

American One Acts, a double bill
Highway 1, U.S.A. by William Grant Still, libretto by Verna Arvey 
Down in the Valley by Kurt Weill, libretto by Arnold Sundgaard

This unique double bill is composed of two one act American operas rarely seen in New York City. Highway 1, U.S.A., by African American composer William Grant Still, is based upon a libretto by his wife Verna Arvey, a daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants and premiered in 1965. Down in the Valley, by German immigrant Kurt Weill, is based upon a libretto by first generation playwright Arnold Sundgaard and premiered in 1945. The two iconic composers and their librettists, with their varied backgrounds, sought to merge classical European and populist American music traditions to create a new kind of hybrid operatic form that is uniquely American.

Highway 1, U.S.A. is about a couple named Bob and Mary who run a gas station convenience store along Highway 1, and the sacrifices they endure to put Bob’s brother Nate through college. The family dynamic turns tragic and the sheriff arrives. Down in the Valley is set in Birmingham City and tells the story of forbidden love, jealousy, and a hanging. LOTNY’s production will help uncover issues of inequality, the burden of family, and the racial boundaries inherent in both works. 

The scores for both one act operas are tremendous, featuring great lyric passages and powerful dramatic moments. Both operas are written in English and intended for an English-speaking audience, featuring common ground settings and recognizable characters, increasingly accessibility to what can sometimes be an intimidating art form. The preview concert will include songs by both composers, which feature words by Countee Cullen, Verna Arvey, Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman, and Oscar Hammerstein II.

The conductor for the project is Harlem Opera Theater’s Music Director Gregory Hopkins, who is joined by LOTNY Associate Musician Catherine Miller at the piano. Featured Artists include Soprano Carami Hilaire Mezzo-Soprano Sarah Nelson Craft, Tenor Antonio Chase, Jr., Baritones Kyle Oliver and Adam Richardson, and Bass Gregory Sheppard.

American One Acts: the preview concert is also part of the Seventh Annual New York Opera Fest, presented by the New York Opera Alliance (NYOA) in partnership with OPERA America. The full production of American One Acts, a double bill will play Off-Broadway in November 2022.

About the Artists
Gregory Hopkins was born and reared in Philadelphia, PA. He received his advanced education in voice from Temple University, and in opera from Curtis Institute of Music. As a conductor he has led performances of Blake’s Shuffle Along, Britten’s The Burning Fiery Furnace both with Harlem Opera Theater, Gershwin’s Blue Monday with On-Site Opera, and HL Freeman’s opera Voodoo at The Miller Theater in a co-presentation by Harlem Opera Theater and Morningside Opera. Hopkins has prepared singers for Martina Arroyo’s “Prelude to a Performance” and Alvin Ailey’s “Revelation” Celebration at Lincoln Center. His Harlem Jubilee singers completed a tour of Chile with the Concepcion Symphony performing Porgy and Bess, as well as concerts in Argentina and Japan. Upcoming is The 7 Last Words of the Unarmedat The Apollo. For more than one third of a century he has been Minister of Music for Harlem’s Convent Avenue Baptist Church. He is also Artistic Director for Harlem Opera Theater, Music Director for the Harlem Jubilee Singers, and Cocolo Japanese Gospel Choir. Gregory Hopkins began his career as a singer winning numerous prizes in competitions including: The Verdi Prize in Busetto, Italy; Outstanding Tenor Award, Mantova, Italy; The Dealy Award and The Opera Index Grant. As a singer, pianist, organist, choral conductor, teacher and clinician, Hopkins has traveled throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia and The Middle East, with recent performances including The Cervantes and Pitic Festivals (Mexico); Orvieto, Rome and Umbria Festivals (Italy); Vienne Festival (France) and Vitoria-Gasteiz Festival (Spain). Additional performances included Mozarteum (San Juan, Argentina); Teatro Mayor (Bogota, Columbia); Sodre (Montevideo, Uruguay); Pro Arte (Cordoba, Argentina). He is a featured artist on more than 6 commercially released CD projects; one of which was nominated for a Grammy. Equally occupied as an educator, he has served on the faculties of: Community College of Philadelphia; Morgan State University; Westminster Choir College and NY Seminary of the East. Currently, he is Coordinator of Classical Voice and Operatic Activities at Howard University DC.

Additional artists to be announced.

About the little OPERA theatre of ny 
Since its founding in 2004, the little OPERA theatre of ny (LOTNY) has presented 4 NY Stage Premieres : Britten/Piper’s Owen Wingrave; Hasse/Coltellini’s Piramo e Tisbe; Floyd’s Prince of Players; Mozart/Cigna-Santi’sMitridate, re di Ponto; 2 US Stage Premieres: Saint-Georges/Desfontaines/De Genlis’ L’ Amant Anonyme, Cui/Pushkin’sA Feast in the Time of the Plague, 1 World Premiere: Zaretsky/Kharms Man in a Black Coat: and commissioned a new translation of Mozart/Metastasio’s Il re pastore as The Shepherd King from Mark Herman & Ronnie Apter. Other notable projects include the original Holst double bill Travelers, Gluck’s The Reformed Drunkard, Rossini’s Opportunity Makes the Thief, and Floyd’s Slow Dusk & Markheim at venues including 59E59 Theaters, Baruch Performing Arts Center, the former GK Arts Center, The Bushwick Starr, and the JCC Manhattan. 

LOTNY’s recent production of Owen Wingrave was noted as “long overdue..a world class production” in Credenza and in Opera News as “(a) shadowy, haunting, attractive production…superbly prepared.” Piramo e Tisbe received wide critical acclaim, heralded by Opera News as “superlative [and] an excellent and irrefutable case for programming this rare work, [with] indelible performances that should count among the finest and most complete interpretations heard in New York this season.” The NY premiere of Prince of Players was praised by The New York Times as “well made and stylish” and for being “delightful, impressive, [and] affecting” in the NY Classical Review.

LOTNY’s concerts have included Mozart & Friends live-streamed from St. John’s in the Village, Past & Present: Scenes from American Opera on Governors Island, This Little Light of Mine at Merkin Concert Hall, The Bohemians at Socrates Sculpture Park and Floydiana at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music. 

About Merkin Hall
Merkin Hall’s innovative programming, intimate scale and near perfect acoustics have earned it a reputation as one of New York City’s finest concert venues. Noted in the New York Times for its “reputation for avant-gardism of a cool and cerebral nature,” Merkin presents adventurous work—including many world premieres—by contemporary composers and some of today’s most acclaimed and inspiring performers.

In addition to cutting-edge new music, Merkin Hall presents some of the best new talents in the classical world, celebrations of musical theater with Broadway’s top professionals and lively musical revues for children and families. Merkin Hall is a division of Kaufman Music Center, a non-profit music education and performance organization that is also home to Lucy Moses School, a community arts school for all ages; Special Music School (P.S. 859), a public school that teaches music as a core subject; and the acclaimed youth new music program Face the Music.

About Harlem Opera Theater
Founded in 2001, Harlem Opera Theater’s mission is to provide performance opportunities for gifted professional and developing singers, as well as other musicians of exceptional potential for an operatic career in local, national and international forums. 

Harlem Opera Theater develops an audience for the classical art form in underserved communities. Harlem Opera Theater gives a particular, though not exclusive, emphasis to the music about the African American experience and projects that link different aspects of the performing arts.  HarlemOperaTheater.org

About National Black Theatre
National Black Theatre (NBT), the nation’s first revenue-generating Black arts complex, was founded in 1968 by the late visionary artist Dr. Barbara Ann Teer. NBT is the longest-running Black theatre in New York City, one of the oldest theatres founded and consistently operated by a woman of color in the nation, and most recently included in the permanent collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. NBT’s core mission is to produce transformational theatre that helps to shift the inaccuracies around African Americans’ cultural identity by telling authentic stories of Black lives. As an alternative learning environment, NBT uses theatre arts as a means to educate, enrich, entertain, empower and inform the national conscience around current social issues impacting our communities. Under the leadership of Sade Lythcott, CEO, and Jonathan McCrory, executive artistic director, NBT helps re-shape a more inclusive American theatre field by providing an artistically rigorous and culturally sensitive space for artists of color to experiment, develop and present new work. Working with trailblazing artists from Nona Hendrix to Jeremy O. Harris, and helping to launch the careers, most recently, of artists such as Dominique Morisseau, Radha Blank, Mfoniso Udofia, Saheem Ali, Lee Edward Colston II, and Ebony Noelle Golden, and incubating Obie Award-winning companies like The Movement Theatre Company and Harlem9’s 48Hours in Harlem, NBT’s cultural production remains unparalleled. Located in the heart of Harlem, NBT welcomes more than 90,000 visitors annually; has produced 300+ original works; won an Obie award and 56 Audelco Awards; received a CEBA Award of Merit; and has been nominated for multiple Drama Desk awards. NBT is supported by grants from Booth Ferris Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Ford Foundation, New York Community Trust, Shubert Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Mellon Foundation, Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation, William Randolph Hearst Foundation, City Council of New York, City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and private donations. Visit nationalblacktheatre.org or follow NBT on Facebook (@NationalBlackTheatre) and Twitter/Instagram (@NatBlackTheatre).


June 3, 2022