“Mabel’s Call” at University of New Mexico in 2018

Posted in Mabel's Call, performances, Uncategorized on June 21st, 2017 by Nell

The University of New Mexico Logo

I’m very honored to announce that the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque will be presenting a full-length workshop of my opera Mabel’s Call—with the full score for six soloists, chorus, and seven-piece chamber ensemble—as UNM Opera Theatre’s Fall 2018 semester production! I can’t wait to work with stage director Leslie Umphrey, music director Kristin Ditlow, and their talented students, as UNM Opera Theatre Composer-in-Residence. Performance dates TBA.

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“Mabel’s Call” opera event on June 18 in Taos, NM

Posted in Mabel's Call, performances on June 1st, 2017 by Nell

Ad for Mabel's Call: Celebrating a Remarkable Taos Woman through Music
On June 18, 2016, the Mayor of Taos, New Mexico declared the first annual “Mabel Dodge Luhan Day,” to occur on the third weekend of June. He noted that “Mabel Dodge Luhan was one of, if not the most prominent and globally known resident of our community from 1918 to 1962, serving as our unofficial ambassador, mentor and host to the arts, to the outside world and to many of the most talented, influential, and well known figures of her lifetime.”

In celebration of the second annual Mabel Dodge Luhan Day weekend, the Harwood Museum of Art and The Mabel Dodge Luhan House are presenting a behind-the-scenes look at Mabel’s Call: my new chamber opera that dramatizes Luhan’s self-reinvention in Taos.

I look forward to joining leading Luhan scholar Lois Rudnick in this public conversation and opera video screening, titled Mabel’s Call: Celebrating a Remarkable Taos Woman through Music. We will screen and discuss video clips excerpted from a concert workshop performance of the opera-in-progress, which was filmed live at the Harwood Museum in 2016. I’ll be shedding light on the process of interpreting Luhan’s life and historical context through music. Audience Q&A will follow.

The event will take place Sunday, June 18, 2017, 2:00pm in the Harwood Museum of Art’s Arthur Bell Auditorium in scenic Taos. Admission is free and open to the public. Seating is limited. For venue information, visit the Harwood Museum of Art.

ABOUT THE OPERA

Inspired by the life of Mabel Dodge Luhan, Mabel’s Call is a lyrical opera in one act scored for six soloists, chorus, and chamber ensemble, with music and libretto by Nell Shaw Cohen. A universal tale told on an intimate scale, this work probes themes of identity, love, home, spirituality, and the search for a meaningful life. The opera’s story will resonate with audiences everywhere—even while it is deeply rooted in the culture, history, and physical landscape of Taos, New Mexico in the 1910s and ‘20s. The Harwood Museum of Art and American Opera Projects have presented workshops of Mabel’s Call in Taos and New York City, respectively. To hear clips from the opera and learn more about the project, visit mabelscall.com.

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Residency at The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, NM

Posted in Mabel's Call on June 1st, 2017 by Nell

View of Taos Mountain and the Rio Grande Gorge. Photo by Nell Shaw Cohen, 2016.
Taos Mountain and the Rio Grande Gorge. Nell Shaw Cohen, 2016.

Last year I spent ten weeks as Artist-in-Residence at The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, which supports artists and the creative process by providing housing and studio space in the heart of Taos, New Mexico. I’m delighted that the foundation has invited me back for a second residency.

I look forward to returning and continuing work on Mabel’s Callmy opera inspired by Mabel Dodge Luhan’s journey of self-reinvention in Taos during the 1910’s and ’20s. The Wurlitzer Foundation is located minutes away from Luhan’s historic home and all of the locales that were important to her life in Taos—and, consequently, my opera! It’s the perfect place to immerse myself in completing this opera-in-progress, my largest work to date, which I began researching about a year and a half ago.

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Nell is named finalist for Houston Grand Opera commission

Posted in awards on March 15th, 2017 by Nell

It is a huge honor to have been selected by the Houston Grand Opera as one of eleven finalists for the 2017 Song of Houston Composer Call!

The nationally recognized Song of Houston initiative commissions new chamber operas and song projects that resonate with contemporary life in Houston and develops community projects that foster collaborations with many Houston-area organizations. Previously commissioned composers include Christopher Theofanidis, Gregory Spears, David Hanlon, and Laura Kaminsky.

Commissioned works will be announced during the summer.

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Reflection on New Dramatists Composer-Librettist Studio

Posted in performances on February 4th, 2017 by Nell

New Dramatists in NYC

This past winter, I had the pleasure of participating in the Composer-Librettist Studio: a two-week laboratory facilitated by Nautilus Music-Theater. This program has been filling the halls of playwright organization New Dramatists with new musical theater and opera for 33 years. (My very first composition teacher, Kim D. Sherman, was a participant in the inaugural Composer-Librettist Studio!)

On February 3, 2017, I was delighted to share the fruits of a gratifying (and exhausting) couple of weeks spent immersed in working with playwrights, performers, and composers in this deep-dive, rapid-production, hackathon-style workshop for music-theater collaborations. Collectively, we generated 25 new works in two weeks—all of which were performed in one epic afternoon.

My five collaborative music-theater works for voices and piano told the stories of a young woman captivated by a storm (Chase the Rain, written with Erin Courtney); an entomologist and a moth (Fly ’till the light’s gone, written with Sam Chanse); Edmund and The White Witch (Turkish Delight, written with Monet Hurst-Mendoza); two men ready to give up on online dating (Not Sure it’s in Me, written with Jennifer Haley); and a wanderer looking for home in the constellations (Fallen Star, written with Mashuq Mushtaq Deen).

These works were developed and performed with outstanding singer-actors Sean Cooper, Mallory Hawks, Joshua Hinck, Tim Jerome, and Lucia Rodrique, led by the brilliant and indefatigable team of facilitator-dramaturg Ben Krywosz, music director Roger Ames, and coordinator Dina Vovsi. My composer colleagues Ed Cionek, Emily Gardner Hall, Kailey Marshall, and Jonathan Russ were also inspiring to learn from and share with.

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“Mabel’s Call” in New York City

Posted in Mabel's Call, performances on September 26th, 2016 by Nell

Six Scenes collage image

COMPOSERS & THE VOICE: SIX SCENES

Friday, September 30 | 8:00pm
South Oxford Space
138 South Oxford Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Tickets $10

Sunday, October 2 | 2:30 PM
National Opera Center – Rehearsal Hall
330 7th Ave, 7th floor
New York, NY 10001
Tickets $20

More Information & Tickets

An excerpt from my opera-in-progress inspired by the life of Mabel Dodge Luhan will be featured this weekend on Six Scenes: an exciting showcase presented by American Opera Projects.

This concert previews the future of opera with an evening of scenes from six operas developed during AOP’s latest season of Composers & the Voice, the Brooklyn-based fellowship training program that I’ve been privileged to participate in since Fall 2015.

Two scenes from Mabel’s Call will be performed by Tookah Sapper, soprano, as Mabel Dodge Luhan; Blake Friedman, tenor, as Maurice Sterne; and Kyle Guglielmo, baritone, as Tony Lujan, with music director Mila Henry.

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Nell’s Taos Residency and Opera Performances

Posted in awards, performances on May 27th, 2016 by Nell

Nell filming at Ranchos de Taos in 2010I first visited Taos in June 2010 while filming my multimedia piece The Faraway Nearby: Georgia O’Keeffe and the New Mexico Landscape. On that trip, I spent a night at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House: a historic home turned into a B&B.

It was there that my interest in Luhan, a memoirist and influential patron of the arts, was first piqued. Who was this glamorous, eccentric character who attracted Georgia O’Keeffe, D.H. Lawrence, Ansel Adams, Willa Cather, and countless other Modernist luminaries to her salons?

And wouldn’t she be a fantastic subject for an opera?

Fast forward to 2016. I am honored to have been awarded a Residency Grant from The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico—an arts colony in Taos, where I will be for most of June through August. During this time, I’ll be working primarily on my opera based on the life and memoirs of Mabel Dodge Luhan.

I’m thrilled beyond words to have the privilege of spending ten weeks living and working in this artistic haven, situated in the scenic multicultural environment of Taos that inspired many of my favorite works of art and formed the heart of Luhan’s life and legacy.

Harwood Museum of Art. Photo: Drew Flack.

Following this residency, my opera-in-progress will receive two exciting showcases in two very different venues!

On August 12, I will present an evening of excerpts from my opera in piano score at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos. Visit the Museum’s website for more information.Cover of New Mexico Magazine May 2016 This event will be presented in connection with Mabel Dodge Luhan & Company: American Moderns and the West, a major traveling exhibition that explores Luhan’s impact on the art, writings, and activism of 20th century American Modernism.

The exhibit, and my opera, just received some great coverage in New Mexico Magazine.

Back in New York City, this same project will be featured on AOP’s Six Scenes on September 30 & October 2—the culminating performance of Composers & the Voice.

Six Scenes will feature excerpts from six operas by the emerging composer and librettist fellows in the Composers & the Voice program. After the outstanding performances on the First Glimpse concert earlier this month (recordings forthcoming), I can’t wait to hear what AOP’s resident ensemble of singers and music directors will do with my score.

Bringing Mabel Dodge Luhan to Life through Opera
August 12, 2016, 5:30pm
Harwood Museum of Art
238 Ledoux Street, Taos, NM 87571
More information

Composers & the Voice: Six Scenes
September 30 & October 2, 2016, 8:00pm
South Oxford Space
138 South Oxford Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217
More information

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May 13 & 14 in New York City: “First Glimpse”

Posted in performances on April 26th, 2016 by Nell
Composers, librettists, singers, and music directors of Composers & the Voice. Photo by Steven Pisano (Source).

 Friday, May 13 & Saturday, May 14, 2016 at 8:00pm
South Oxford Space, 138 South Oxford St., Brooklyn, NY 11217

Tickets: $25 general admission, $20 for students/seniors (Purchase online)

I’m honored to be a part of COMPOSERS & THE VOICE: FIRST GLIMPSE 2016, a presentation of World Premiere songs and arias from American Opera Projects’ fellowship program for emerging opera artists, directed by Steven Osgood.

The concert will feature AOP’s fantastic Resident Ensemble of Singers and Music Directors in performances of works created by myself and my colleagues in Composers & the Voice: Composers Matthew Barnson, Carlos R. Carrillo, Marc LeMay, Cecilia Livingston, and Sky Macklay and librettists Edward Einhorn, Duncan McFarlane, Emily Roller, and Mark Sonnenblick.

My works included on the program are:

Tony Teaches Me, an aria from an opera I’m writing based on the life and memoirs of Mabel Dodge Luhan. Performed by Tookah Sapper, soprano and Charity Wicks, piano.

Dear Mrs. Carr, a letter from John Muir to his beloved mentor. Performed by Blake Friedman, tenor and Charity Wicks, piano.

What If?, a playful “found text” piece that contemplates the darker side of Google. Performed by Jonathan Woody, bass-baritone and Mila Henry, piano.

More information at www.aopopera.org

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Writing for NewMusicBox

Posted in art and music, Landscape Music on March 15th, 2016 by Nell

I was honored to be invited by the wonderful NewMusicBox (a publication of New Music USA) to contribute six columns as a guest writer during November and December 2015. In case you missed it, here’s a round-up:

New Music for Learning – The connections between music and learning shouldn’t only be a topic of interest for scientists or educators, but something that composers, performers, and presenters acknowledge and actively apply to their work.

Music Inspired by Visual Art – Music envisioned expressly for the purpose of illuminating, commenting upon, and conversing with visual art.

Why Landscape Music is More Important Than Ever – The intrinsic power of music to facilitate reflection and reinterpretation of life experiences makes creating Landscape Music a compelling approach to improving and deepening our connection to nature—a goal which is more important now than ever.

How Landscape Music Evokes the Natural World – What is the role of nature in culture? Why use the term “landscape” in reference to music? How can music symbolize the natural world? What are some of the specific approaches composers have taken to creating landscapes in their music?

We Need More (On-Demand) Films of New Operas – Making more live films of new and recent operas, and making those films readily available to the public, might be much more important to the future of opera than is currently appreciated.

Creating Points of Entry into Opera Through Video – Opera videos provided the “way in” I needed to become a fan, which led me to pursue live opera performances and eventually to compose opera myself. Now I’m looking for ways to help more people find their way in, too.

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Nell Awarded Composers & the Voice Fellowship by American Opera Projects

Posted in awards on July 24th, 2015 by Nell

Composers & the Voice 2015-17 Training Fellows Graphic by American Opera Projects

I am absolutely thrilled and honored to have been selected by American Opera Projects to participate in the eighth season of their renowned Composers & the Voice fellowship program!

Directed by conductor Steven Osgood (The Metropolitan Opera, Beth Morrison Projects, et al), this program gives emerging composers and librettists experience working collaboratively with singers on writing for the voice and contemporary opera stage.

The two-year fellowships, made possible through a generous grant by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, include a year of working with the company’s Resident Ensemble of Singers and Artistic Team at AOP’s home base in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, followed by a year of continued promotion and development through AOP and its strategic partnerships.

You’ll be able to hear my work in May 2016 at First Glimpse, AOP’s bi-annual concert of songs written in the C&V workshops. A second concert in September 2016 will showcase full opera scenes created by the composers over the summer.

Check out AOP’s official announcement to learn more about C&V and the accomplished group of artists I’ll have the privilege of joining this fall. I look forward to sharing the products of this program with you over the coming months and years!

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