Podcast 58: Jillian Flexner and Huang Ruo

Is Dumbledore Gay?

Jillian Flexner, composer, bassoonist and co-founder/Director of the Fresh Squeezed Opera Company and Huang Ruo, Composer, Conductor and Vocalist join us to talk about Huang Ruo’s “Bound” and we take a long look at the representation of women in Opera.

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LISTEN TO EPISODE 58
  • Bound, a new chamber opera
    • Huang Ruo, composer
    • Bao-Long Chu, librettist
    • Fresh Squeezed Opera, co-producer
      • Jillian Flexner, executive director
      • Lee Braun, general manager
    • Baruch Performing Arts Center, co-producer
      • Nagleberg Theater

What We’ve Seen:

  • Brooke
    • Mila, Great Sorcerer
      • Andrea Clearfield, composer
      • Jean-Claude Van Itallie, co-librettist
      • Lois Walden, co-librettist
        • Prototype Festival 2019
        • Gerald W. Lynch Theater
        • John Jay College/CUNY
        • Story of the opera is about the life journey of Milarepa, folk hero/singer/spiritual teacher
      • Some featured performers: Lauren Flanigan, Jonathan Blalock
    • Dear Erich
      • Ted Rosenthal, composer
      • Ted & Lesley Rosenthal, co-librettists
      • New York City Opera
      • National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene
    • Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss
      • Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall
      • Tamara Wilson, Ariadne/Diva
      • Kate Lindsey, Composer
    • The Scarlet Ibis
      • Stefan Weisman, composer
      • David Cote’, librettist
      • based on a story by James Hurst
      • Boston Opera Collaborative
  • Chuck
    • Prototype Festival 2019
    • Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance
      • Graham Reynolds, composer
      • Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol, librettists
      • BRIC Arts
    • This Tree
      • Leah Coloff, composer/lead performer
      • HERE Arts
    • Train With No Midnight
      • Joseph Keckler, composer/lead performer
      • HERE Arts
    • 4.48 Psychosis
      • Philip Venables, composer
      • Sarah Kane, author of original play
  • Peter
    • Pelleas et Melisande by Claude Debussy
      • Yannick Nezet-Seguin, conductor
      • Metropolitan Opera
    • Pierre Monteux, conductor & critic
  • Chuck
    • Adriana Lecouvreur by Francesco Cilea
      • Gianandrea Noseda, conductor
      • Sir David McVicar, production
      • Anna Netrebko, Adriana
      • Piotr Beczala, Maurizio
      • Anita Rachvelishvili, The Princess
      • Ambrogio Maestri, Michonnet
    • The Cher Show
      • Rick Elice, book writer
        • Also book writer for Jersey Boys
      • Stephanie J. Block, Star
    • The Band’s Visit
      • David Yazbeck, music & lyrics
      • Itamar Moses, book writer
      • Sasson Gabay, Tewfiq (Original actor from the movie)
      • Jodi McFadden, Dina
  • Jillian
    • Instant Hotel on Netflix
    • Cheers on Netflix

Huang Ruo and Bound

  • Huang Ruo
    • Shelley Monroe Huang, bassoonist
      • Huang Ruo’s wife
    • An American Soldier, a chamber opera
      • Huang Ruo, composer
      • David Henry Hwang, librettist
      • Opera Theatre of St. Louis
      • New York Times 2018 List of Best Operas
    • Dr. Sun Yat Sen, a grand pageant opera
      • Santa Fe Opera in 2014
    • Paradise Interrupted, an installation opera
      • Spoleto Festival USA, 2015
      • Lincoln Center Festival, 2016
    • Resonant Theatre No. 1: The Sonic Great Wall (2016)
      • for thirteen musicians and audience
  • Bound, a chamber opera
    • Houston Grand Opera, world premiere production (2014)
    • Fresh Squeezed Opera, New York premiere (2019)
      • Ashley Tata, director
      • David Bengali, projection designer
    • Bound is based on the real life story of a 2nd generation Vietnamese America high school student on the honor roll who works two jobs to support her family, however, her school attendance is low and she is arrested for truancy. The judge encounters a real quandary regarding how to decide the teens case.
    • Bound has two different orchestrations depending on the size of the opera company and their opera house.

Fresh Squeezed Opera founded in 2013

  • Jillian Flexner & Maggie Rascoe, co-founders
    • La Zombiata by Flexner (inciting event to create company)
  • Smith College Residency, March 2019
    • We Be Sirens, a chamber opera
      • Kate Soper, composer
      • Amber Treadway, director
  • The Female Gaze, February 2019
    • Commissioned works by 3 women composers
    • directed and performed by women
      • “Lost Without You” by Whitney George
      • “Invocations” by Gemma Peacocke
      • “First Lady of the Air” by Gabrielle Herbst
    • Roulette Intermedium, Brooklyn
  • We need a new Verismo Opera explosion
  • What stories need to be told from each of our communities
  • Who’s doing new opera well
    • Opera Memphis
    • Santa Fe Opera
    • Houston Opera
  • Jillian Flexner’s opera in development
    • The story is about a man who spends five years building a robot that looks and sound like Scarlett Johanson. It deals with her journey towards womanhood.
  • West World, TV show that examines what it means to be human through both it’s human characters and it’s AI/Android characters
  • Lead female characters who have agency in opera
    • Brunhilde as written by Wagner
    • Lulu by Alban Berg
    • Alcina by Handel
    • Leonora in Fidelio by Beethoven
    • The women of Falstaff by Verdi
    • Susanna & The Countess in The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart
  • Scopes, a chamber opera (2017)
    • Spencer Snyder, composer
    • George Gaffney, librettist
    • The role of H.L. Menken was written for a woman
  • American 20th Century composers took on the mantle of Verismo opera.
  • They are creating characters who live in the the grey areas, this makes them more human and relatable.
    • The Ballad of Baby Doe by Douglas Moore
    • Lizzie Borden by Jack Beeson
    • Of Mice and Men by Carlisle Floyd
  • Female characters in Romantic Opera usually don’t grow or change a lot, they don’t take emotional journeys, even if they physically do travel.

Looking Forward To:

  • NYCO has been producing new and revival productions of operas that focus on relatable characters Brokeback Mountain by Charles Wuorinen & Annie Proulx
    • Maria de Buenos Aires by Astor Piazzola
    • Stonewall by Iain Bell & Mark Campbell
    • As Is by Laura Kaminsky, Kimberly Reed & Mark Campbell
    • Anna Nicole: The Opera
      • Mark-Anthony Turnage, composer
      • Richard Thomas, librettist
      • Final production by the former New York City Opera
  • Chuck
    • Merrily We Roll Along
      • Stephen Sondheim, composer/lyricist
      • George Furth, book writer
      • Fiasco Theater
      • Roundabout Theatre Company
        • Laura Pels Theatre
      • Alexander Gemignani, music director/orchestrator
  • Brooke
    • Iolanta/Bluebeard’s Castle
    • Pelleas et Melisande
  • We want to give Thanks!
    • Our Great Guests
    • The Podcast Staff
      • Chuck for organizing this episode
    • Our Amazing Listeners

Credits: Peter Szep, Brooke Larimer, Chuck Sachs, Matthew Wilson, Sharin Apostolou, Ross Crean (Theme Music), Matthew Wilson (Audio Engineer), Peter Szep (Editor)

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