New York Opera Fest 2018 Preview: Find Your Fill of New Opera With Hunter Opera Theater

By David Salazar
With the New York Opera Fest 2018 officially underway, OperaWire will be showcasing small previews for each major participant at the festival, as we did during last year’s event. However, we are doing things a bit differently this year and giving the floor directly to each company to speak to you, the reader, directly. Enjoy!
In order for opera to progress, it is essential for companies to champion new works and continually evolve the artform.That’s at the core of Hunter Opera Theater’s involvement with the New York Opera Fest 2018, as the company will showcase production of new premieres on May 5 and 6 in two different locales.
Hunter Opera Theater
May 5, 2018: Hunter Opera Theater, Richard Burke Pocket Opera at Hunter College, and American Opera Projects presents the Premieres of “The Bone Keepers,” “MarShawn,” and “OPERAbbit:” Hunter College’s Black Box, 543HN, 695 Park Ave, New York, NY
May 6, 2018: Hunter Opera Theater, Richard Burke Pocket Opera at Hunter College, and American Opera Projects presents the Premieres of “The Bone Keepers,” “MarShawn,” and “OPERAbbit:” Fort Greene Park Visitor Center, Brooklyn, NY
Tell us a bit about your company in general and what you’re all about!
Hunter Opera Theater is the resident opera company of Hunter College, and was started with the intention of doing new works. HOT specializes in contemporary opera, and is dedicated to performing music by composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. HOT’s biannual Pocket Opera Project supports the work of up-and-coming composers and librettists and fosters interdepartmental collaborations between Hunter students.
We are passionately devoted to new opera and to the process of creation/development, as doing new works allows singers the freedom to make a part all their own without the ghosts of famous singers standing behind them. HOT is also committed to putting the youngest and least-experienced singers onstage so that they can get a sense of performance pedagogy.
Tell us a bit about your production(s) and why you’re excited about them!
This season, Richard Burke Pocket Opera at Hunter College and American Opera Projects (AOP) are collaborating with Hunter Opera Theater (HOT) to present three one-act premieres: “OPERAbbit” and “MarShawn,” which are student works, and “The Bone Keepers,” an AOP-developed work with words by Sophia Chapadjiev and music by Casey O’Neil.
In Mariel Mayz’ “OPERAbbit,” with libretto by Ms. Mayz and her brother, Andrew, the people of an unnamed Latin American county struggle to survive during a political, social, and economic crisis, and are offered new sources of protein by their government: bunnies.
Joe Young’s “MarShawn” is based on the life of MarShawn McCarrel, a young political activist and talented poet from Columbus, Ohio.
The excitement for the Pocket Operas comes from it being an opportunity to workshop the creation of opera through professional mentors. This allows both singers and composers to explore what it’s like to define a musical line and music/text relationships, and gives a chance for feedback in both directions.
Meanwhile, in “The Bone Keepers,” Abigail and Winifred, two otherworldly Fort Greene Park Crypt Bone Keepers, have an eternity in which to complete the human puzzles in their crypt, and are looking to find just one last bone for a particular soldier: a femur.
The excitement for “The Bone Keepers” stems from it being an opportunity to perform a one-act that has already been workshopped and refined. This level of development is a wonderful opportunity for singers to work on a more polished piece.
Tell us why you’re excited about this year’s New York Opera Festival!
HOT is excited about NYOF because each and every year it gives opera companies of different repertoires and sizes an opportunity to come together and present both standard and new works to New York. It provides an important venue for smaller companies in a city like New York to be seen as a cohesive whole, working together to promote the art of opera.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge small opera companies face?

The biggest challenges for small opera companies are creating audience interest, raising money, and getting visibility in the community. People in New York are saturated with so many choices that it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle; luckily, the NYOF helps us to become more present in the community eye.