Season Add-On Production
A chamber opera for two voices and string quartet
Music & Concept by Laura Kaminsky
Libretto by Mark Campbell & Kimberly Reed
By arrangement with Bill Holab Music
As One was commissioned and developed by American Opera Projects (AOP)
The Danny Peterson Theatre, Boise State University
May 9, 10 & 11, 2019, 7:30pm
As One is a coming-of-age story about a transgender woman that is taking the country by storm. With only two roles and accompanied by a string quartet, the opera is presented in one act of about 80 minutes. Premiering in 2014 at Brooklyn Academy of Music, As One was the 14th most-produced opera in North America in the 2016/17 season. Among the producing companies have Seattle Opera, San Diego Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Colorado Opera.
The production at The Danny Peterson Theatre marks the first collaboration between Opera Idaho and the newly-constituted School of the Arts at Boise State University. The production also marks the first time in its 46-year history that Opera Idaho will present an opera by a female composer.
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Stage Director – Gordon Rinehart
Conductor – Jennifer Drake
String Quartet – 208 Ensemble
In “Paper route,” Hannah rides around her suburban neighborhood delivering newspapers and revels in her more feminine impulses. Her youthful challenges in conforming to gender norms are related in “Cursive,” “Sex ed,” “Entire of itself ” and “Perfect boy”—in such disparate subjects as handwriting, sex, a John Donne poem, and exemplary male behavior. However, in “To know,” she discovers that she is not alone in the world and seeks understanding about herself at a local library.
During her college years, Hannah struggles with her bifurcated existence in “Two cities,” but also encounters the joy of being perceived as she wishes in “Three words.” In “Close,” she has made the decision to undergo hormone therapy and briefly suffers its vertiginous effects before feeling at one with her own body. “Home for the holidays,” “A christmas story” and “Dear son” all occur around the Christmas season and relate Hannah’s growing distance to her family and her past, which is countered by an immediate connection with a stranger in a local café. In “Out of nowhere,” Hannah escapes a harrowing assault that prompts her to find a link to the larger trans community and end her self-imposed alienation. Reacting to the conflicting voices in her head, she finally resolves to escape in the fragment, “I go on to…”
“Norway.” In this extended aria, Hannah finds, in Nature, solitude, and self-reflection, the simple yet surprising equation that will help her achieve happiness.
A Note From the Creators of As One
—Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell, Kimberly Reed, February 2017
When we three set out to write As One, none of us predicted the success it would have. We were well aware of the reality within the industry that many new operas don’t receive second or third productions—for reasons that often have little to do with the quality of the work—and we knew that a new piece about a transgender protagonist might not jibe with some people’s views of opera. But through a confluence of timing, luck, and what we hope is a compelling piece, we now find ourselves in Denver, where Opera Colorado is mounting the eighth production of As One in the two and half years since it was premiered by American Opera Projects at New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music. And with many productions of As One scheduled around the country in the near future, Opera America reports that the work is one of the most produced new operas in recent history.
We’re the first to admit that one reason for the opera’s number of incarnations is due to its simplest production values: two singers, a string quartet and the most basic of sets to accommodate the projection design. Early on, we envisioned an opera that could be performed in the humblest of circumstances, and we kept those limitations in mind. Of course, this may confound operagoers used to seeing monolithic sets and choruses of peasants, but we also hoped that As One would attract a new audience—people who might seek a simpler, purer synergy of music and text to tell a story.
Another reason for the opera’s popularity may be the character of Hannah herself. Fallible, self-deprecating, and admittedly somewhat self-involved, Hannah’s journey is one that audiences can relate to. We eschewed any political agenda in creating her character and instead focused on someone most people can identify with. We also chose to tell her story with a healthy bit of humor. Of course, Hannah does have conflicts, but she is not the tortured soul usually portrayed in stories about trans people.
The popularity of As One is very gratifying. Even more gratifying to us is how the opera’s message about human rights is reaching so many people—especially at a time when leadership in this country wants to dehumanize trans people and strip away their rights. We feel honored that a company with the reputation of Opera Colorado would choose to not only produce a new production of our opera, but also to do so with such loving care.