Artist of the Week: Gregory Spears
American Composer Brings New Opera to CincinnatiBy Francisco Salazar
This week the Cincinnati Opera will make history with the world of “Castor and Patience.” The opera tells the story of a long overdue family reunion which finds two African American cousins at odds over the fate of a historic parcel of land they have inherited in the American South. The work continues probe historical and continuing obstacles to Black land ownership in the U.S. The work, which was set to world premiere in 2020 is the latest opera by acclaimed composer Gregory Spears.
Spears is most well-known for his opera “Fellow Travelers,” which was also commissioned by Cincinnati Opera and which has since been performed at such opera companies as Lyric Opera of Chicago, Prototype Festival, The Minnesota Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Arizona Opera, Columbus Opera, and the Des Moines Metro Opera, among others.
Critics have raved about the score noting his music is “astonishingly beautiful” and “some of the most beautifully unsettling music to appear in recent memory.” For this new work, Spears’ musical language will blend elements of minimalism and early music with romantic lyricism in order to explore. As he and librettist Tracy K. Smith noted, “that this work is being performed upon the unceded traditional territory of the Delaware, Miami, and Shawnee tribal nations. We pay our respects to elders, past, present, and future. ”
For those not in Cincinnati this year for the world premiere of the opera, Fellow Travelers is headed to the Virginia Opera this upcoming 2022-23 season and Spears will world premiere a new opera at the Santa Fe Opera in the 2024 season.
His works are also performed often by numerous American organizations including the New York Philharmonic.
For those not familiar with the composer’s work, there is a recording of “Fellow Travelers” from the Cincinnati Opera as well as a release of “Paul’s Case,” his first opera. The work was released on National Sawdust’s record label featuring the original cast in 2019.
Here is a clip from “Castor and Patience”
Here is a clip of “Fellow Travelers”