Artist of the Week: Laura Karpman, Steven Mackey & Damien Sneed

Three Composers Bring New Works to Opera Theatre of Sain Louis

By Francisco Salazar

With live performances returning to the stage, OperaWire will continue its weekly artist of the week series highlighting some of the world’s greatest artists as they reach milestones in their careers. And this week will be an exciting one at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis as the company will world premiere the News Works Bold Voices Lab featuring three of the most exciting composers of the 21st century.

Laura Karpman, Steven Mackey, and Damien Sneed will showcase three 20 minute works that delve into social issues like race and the pandemic. Audiences will also get to explore diverse musical styles that will explore the future of Opera.

Karpman is an EMMY-winning composer who has worked with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Alex Gibney, Kasi Lemmons, Francis Ford, and Sophia Coppola and has also worked in animated films and interactive video games. She has written the Grammy-winning opera “ASK YOUR MAMA” and has also collaborated with Jessye Norman, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. This week, Karpman will bring her new work “On the Edge” to Saint Louis and show her view of the pandemic through the lens of endless Zooming, distance learning, and the lessons we teach children.

Meanwhile, Mackey, a Grammy Award-winning composer, will bring audiences “Moon Tea,” a work that re-imagines a meeting between Queen Elizabeth, her husband Prince Philip, and the Apollo 11 astronauts following the 1969 moon landing. Mackey is well-known for his exploration of quirky topographies and surprising continuities for human performers, including himself on the electric guitar. His biggest musical language influences are Igor Stravinsky and Led Zeppelin and the composer notes that this upcoming work is an homage to operaa in the vein of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”

Finally, Sneed, is an award-winning musician who is not only a composer but a pianist, vocalist, organist, conductor, arranger, producer, and arts educator. He has worked with jazz, classical, pop, and R&B legends such as Aretha Franklin, Jessye Norman, Wynton Marsalis, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, J’Nai Bridges, and Lawrence Brownlee, among others. His works have been performed at the Houston Grand Opera and Carnegie Hall. This week he will present his new composition “The Tongue & The Lash” which will explore the 1965 debate between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley, Jr. who argued, “Is the American dream at the expense of the American Negro?”


Audiences not familiar with these composers can check out numerous recordings. Karpman’s score to Lovecraft Orange” features soprano Janai Brugger while the album Spiritual Sketches features Sneed performing alongside Lawrence Brownlee. You can also listen to Karpman’s album “Ask your mama” which won three Grammys. Finally, we recommend “Lost and Found” with compositions by Steven Mackey performed by the composer himself. 

Here is a look at Laura Karpman on her process working in Video Games:

Here is Steven Mackey’s Violin Sonata:

Here Damien Sneed performing alongside J’nai Bridges:


Artist of the WeekSpecial Features