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.