Kristin Kuster/Megan Levad's Kept, and Mary Ellen Childs/Claire Porter’s On Beyond continue into the second stage of the program. "I could not be more excited to move forward with these two engaging and vastly different contemporary operas," said Virginia Arts Festival Executive Director Robert Cross.
KEPT -- music by Kristin Kuster, libretto by Megan Levad
Kept is the story of a wild young woman, the lighthouse keeper she marries, and the mutual shame and cloistering that lead to her demise. Inspired by 19th-century ghost stories and enacted by a men's chorus, six trumpets, percussion, and a tenor who plays both characters, Kept marks the first operatic collaboration between composer Kristin Kuster and poet Megan Levad.
About Kristin Kuster, composer
Composer Kristin Kuster "writes commandingly for the orchestra," and her music "has an invitingly tart edge" (The New York Times). Her colorfully enthralling, lush and visceral compositions take inspiration from architectural space, the weather and mythology. Her orchestral music "unquestionably demonstrates her expertise in crafting unique timbres" (Steve Smith, Night After Night). Kuster was awarded a 2014 OPERA America Discovery Grant, funded by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation Program for Commissioning Women in the Arts, for the development of her new opera Kept. Coming and recent performances of her work include pieces written for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Lisbon Summer Fest Chamber Choir, and multi-percussionist Joseph Gramley.
Born in 1973, Kuster grew up in Boulder, Colorado. A leading advocate for female composers, Kristin also serves as Associate Professor of Composition at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. When she is not working, you can find her hanging out with her son with special needs, or camping along the shores of one of the Great Lakes. Follow her on Twitter: @KristinKuster, and check out her music on kristinkuster.com.
About Megan Levad, librettist
Megan Levad, a poet and lyricist, is a graduate of the University of Iowa and the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Program's Roethke Prize, and the Zell Postgraduate Fellowship. Her debut book, Why We Live in the Dark Ages, was the first selection in Tavern Books' Wrolstad Contemporary Poetry Series and was published in April 2015. Her poems have appeared in Tin House, Granta Online, Fence, the Everyman's Library anthology Killer Verse, and London art and fashion magazine AnOther, among other publications. Levad has collaborated with composer Kristin Kuster since 2011.
KEPT -- in progress:
Beginning a new partnership with the University of Miami's Frost School of Music, Kept was workshopped at the Frost School in February 2016, led by Music Director Alan Johnson. The lead role was taken by Tenor Tony Boutte; and William Lucas, member of the Detroit Symphony and faculty of the University of Michigan's School of Music, played principal trumpet for the workshop, alongside of Frost students who made up the orchestra and chorus.
The second workshop of Kept was hosted by Virginia Arts Festival in June 2016. Day one was held in Old Dominion University's Goode Theatre; a 200-seat flexible/open theatre space. Day two sessions were onstage on the Attucks Theatre, a 600-seat traditional proscenium theatre with an orchestra pit.
During the Norfolk worksessions, singers and orchestra were staged in varying locations, both as ensembles and stationed individually around the theatre, exploring acoustics and alternative uses of the theatre. Tenor Tony Boutte again sang the lead role, conducted by Alan Johnson; with members of the Virginia Choral in the chorus role, and professional instrumentalists in the orchestra.
Planning is underway for the Virginia Arts Festival's world premiere of Kept, in May 2017.