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CCM Opera and Cincinnati Opera Select Work for Winter 2015 Opera Fusion: New Works Residency

Composer Daniel Catán. Photography by Elizabeth Beristain/G. Schirmer.

Composer Daniel Catán. Photography by Elizabeth Beristain/G. Schirmer.

Cincinnati Opera and CCM Opera are pleased to announce the selection of a new American opera, Meet John Doe, for the Opera Fusion: New Works program’s fourth year of residencies.

Meet John Doe, with music and a libretto by the late Daniel Catán, will receive a workshop in Cincinnati from January 21 to 31, 2015. Catán, credited as the first contemporary Mexican composer to have an opera produced in the United States, is perhaps best known for his opera Il Postino, which starred Plácido Domingo at its 2010 world premiere at Los Angeles Opera. In 2008, Catán made an extended visit to Cincinnati to advise as two of his works were performed here. Cincinnati Opera presented Florencia en el Amazonas as the company’s first mainstage Spanish-language opera, and Rappacini’s Daughter was presented by CCM in collaboration with Cincinnati Opera. During his time in Cincinnati, Catán gave both master classes and lectures, and he demonstrated an inexhaustible generosity in sharing his time and expertise with students and opera lovers.

Catán began work on Meet John Doe prior to his untimely death in 2011, but the opera remained unfinished. Now, Opera Fusion: New Works welcomes a creative team tasked with completing the opera. Eduardo Diazmuñoz will act as chief editor, composer of structural scenes, and conductor for the workshop. The husband-and-wife team of Michaela Eremiášová and Jairo Duarte-López will compose additional scenes, as well as edit the score. The composer’s widow, Andrea Puente Catán, is the associate editor, advisor and project manager. Robin Guarino, the J. Ralph Corbett Distinguished Chair of Opera at CCM, will act as both stage director and dramaturg. The completion of the piano vocal score was jointly funded by Cincinnati Opera and Gotham Chamber Opera.

The workshop will culminate in a free public reading of excerpts on Saturday, January 31, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Hall, 1225 Elm Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202. Tickets are available now through the Cincinnati Opera box office; call 513-241-2742 to reserve.

The opera Meet John Doe is based on the 1941 Frank Capra film of the same name, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Story. Meet John Doe follows the story of Ann Mitchell, a newspaper columnist who unwittingly sparks a grassroots populist movement with a fictional letter to the editor from “John Doe” protesting society’s ills, and John Willoughby, a homeless former baseball player whom she hires to pose as the public face of John Doe.

Following Catán’s premature death, his wife Andrea Puente Catán began to work toward the completion of his unfinished final opera. “I did not want to shelve Daniel's score in an archive. There is a difference between the work of art cut by death, where the creator would finish the work if he could, and the one that is simply abandoned. Daniel wanted to finish the score; he did not abandon it,” Ms. Puente said. “He was in a very intense creative period when he was struck by death. He left manuscripts, sketches, sources of inspiration—both poetic and musical—and a very clear road map. It almost seemed that he knew that we would have to follow his directions on how to finish it.”

Ms. Puente continued, “This work is Daniel’s musical last will and testament for the art that he loved so much: opera. Opera Fusion: New Works, Cincinnati Opera, CCM, and Gotham Chamber Opera were exactly the right partners that we needed to complete this project. The opportunity to listen to the whole arc of the work collaboratively with young singers who are the future of the art form will give Meet John Doe the impulse that it needs to take off.”

“After having had a lengthy, close, and intense personal and professional relationship with Daniel Catán which spanned 36 years, it was only natural for me to offer to help in any possible way to finish his last opera,” said conductor/composer Eduardo Diazmuñoz. “Opera Fusion: New Works has been doing a marvelous job at promoting works that not only are essential and transcendental to our lives, but also, as in this case, by promoting a work by a great opera composer who certainly deserves to be heard.”

“We are very grateful for the support of Cincinnati Opera, CCM, Opera Fusion: New Works, and Gotham Chamber Opera,” said composers Michaela Eremiášová and Jairo Duarte-López. “Thanks to their adventurous thinking, this workshop will provide a great opportunity to acknowledge one more wonderful opera by Daniel Catán. It is also for us, as composers, a great challenge and a major responsibility to step in the shoes of such a formidable composer.”

“Daniel Catán was a composer of immense talent. I have wonderful memories of working with him, and feel indebted to him for his generous sharing of his knowledge and experience,” said Opera Fusion: New Works co-artistic director Marcus Küchle. “I am so glad that we are able to make history and honor the memory and legacy of this great artist by continuing the work on his final opera.”

“It is a great privilege for Opera Fusion: New Works and CCM Opera to workshop Daniel Catán's opera Meet John Doe,” said co-artistic director Robin Guarino.

“I recently returned from meeting with Daniel's widow, the remarkable Andrea Puente Catán, who has overseen the completion of the opera together with conductor/composer Eduardo Diazmuñoz. It was very moving and very exciting to hold the completed opera in my hands as we worked through the score. Marcus Küchle and I have cast an extremely talented group of 18 CCM singers and alumni who will be preparing over the next month and a half for 10 days of intensive collaboration and rehearsal in January. During the residency, Andrea Puente Catán will visit CCM in master class discussions about Daniel Catán’s legacy and the process of completing the opera Meet John Doe.”

Opera Fusion: New Works, a unique collaboration between Cincinnati Opera and CCM Opera, was created in 2011 to foster the development of new American operas. The program offers composers or composer/librettist teams the opportunity to workshop an opera during a 10-day residency in Cincinnati, utilizing the talent, personnel and facilities of both organizations. The workshops are cast with a combination of CCM students and professional artists, and each workshop concludes with a public performance. The program is led by co-artistic directors Marcus Küchle, Director of Artistic Operations of Cincinnati Opera, and Robin Guarino, the J. Ralph Corbett Distinguished Chair of Opera at CCM. Opera Fusion: New Works is generously funded by a $300,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

In 2011, Opera Fusion: New Works awarded its first workshop to composer Douglas J. Cuomo and librettist John Patrick Shanley in support of their new opera Doubt, which premiered at Minnesota Opera in January 2013. In 2012, Opera Fusion: New Works provided workshops for Champion, by composer Terence Blanchard and librettist Michael Cristofer, which premiered at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in June 2013; and Morning Star, by composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist William M. Hoffman, which will have its world premiere at Cincinnati Opera on June 30, 2015. In 2013, the residency went to Fellow Travelers, by composer Gregory Spears and librettist Greg Pierce; and in 2014, the program invited composer Jake Heggie and librettist Terrence McNally to workshop Great Scott, which will premiere at The Dallas Opera in October 2015.

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