Left Coast Chamber Ensemble Presents 2 First-Time Opera Composers In ‘Dorothea and Artemisia’ & ‘From The Field’

Lois Silverstein

By Lois Silverstein

Left Coast Chamber Ensemble kicks off June with more of its unique musical offerings.

The company will showcase two chamber operas, including “From the Field” and “Artemisia.”

The former centers on climate change in America, while the latter puts a spotlight on the tale of Italian 17th century painter Artemisia Gentileschi. In an interview with OperaWire, Artistic Director and violinist Anna Presler spoke of the two works as “representative of what we do” – intersecting the arts and matching diverse voices with each other… Contemporary chamber opera today offers so many things to think about, and accents our mission to connect new and old music of different genres and periods. As one of our Board put it, we aim at conveying new music, then and now.”

“From the Field,” a micro opera is the work of Chris Stark, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who won won Left Coast Chamber Ensemble’s composition contest.

“Apart from composing a full-length film score, ‘Novititate,’ my music has been abstract composition, and which The New York Times called ‘fetching,'” he noted, emphasizing that “From The Field” was his first opera. “Because of the vital and emotional issues at stake in America, and the world, the best way to convey them was through the voice, i.e., the human connection. ”

Dorothea Lange, the famous photographer of the Great Depression is the centerpiece of the micro opera, and will be sung by Canadian-born lyric soprano, Nikki Einfeld. Stark’s sister Megan Stark is the librettist and she researched the online Farm Administration Archive  to create a text to bring the issues to the fore.

Meanwhile, Laura Schwendinger, who won the Berlin Prize in Music Composition, wrote “Dorothea and Artemisia.”

“The story of her rape by her teacher, his trial, lasting seven months, during which Artemisia was tortured to verify her testimony, and the teacher’s conviction fit my own artistic vision,” Schwendinger told OperaWire. “I aim for intense contrast and boldness.”

Although she has written numerous concerti for solo instruments, and songs, some of which well-known performer Dawn Upshaw included in her musical tour, this is also her first opera. Mezzo-Soprano Betany Coffland sings the role of Artemisia to the libretto of Ginger Strand.

While Artemisia was a “wunderkind,” long ago, her story, including gradual blindness as she aged, taps into all of us who put brush to canvas, finger to strings, fingers to keyboard, or voice to note.

Left Coast Chamber Ensemble’s June excursion into new opera promises to sync the connections between us all.