Appomattox, by Philip Glass
Miami Music Festival (MMF) proposes the presentation and Southeastern premiere of Appomattox by Philip Glass, a contemporary opera tackling significant historic events in the course of America’s history with race relations. This topical opera will set the tone for our 2018 summer festival season, to be held June-July, 2018. MMF will present 2 fully-staged public performances of Appomattox at Barry University’s Shepard & Ruth K. Broad Auditorium. MMF will also open 2 dress rehearsal performances to local community and youth groups by invitation free of charge. Total audience reach is estimated to be 4000 for these 4 total performances. Pre-show discussions and previews with the composer, production team and casts will also be held in anticipation of the show for publicity purposes, pre-show lectures will occur prior to each of the 4 public performances. MMF requests support from the NEA to underwrite artist, composer-in-residence, faculty, staff, marketing, outreach, and production costs.
Appomattox presents painful periods of America’s racial history, from the events leading up to the final days of the Civil War with the South’s surrender in 1865 (from which the opera draws its title), pivoting to the Civil Rights movement including the march from Selma to Montgomery, and finally contrasting to a present day vignette of an imprisoned, aging and unrepentant Klan member, proudly recounting his role in the Mississippi Civil Rights Workers murders of 1964. Philip Glass, “perhaps the most prominent American composer of his generation”(NY Times), brings his signature minimalistic and contemporary textures to the musical score, while Christopher Hampton’s ingenious libretto interweaves elements of traditional hymns and African-American spirituals.
The opera depicts historic figures and interactions including Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln at Lincoln’s 2nd inauguration; Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant before the surrender of the Confederate Army; and President Lyndon B. Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., among others.
The opera originally premiered at San Francisco Opera in October 2007; the composer and librettist then revised the opera with a new 2nd act premiering November 2015 at Washington National Opera. As of the date of this application, the latest version has been presented only once in Washington D.C. Glass was inspired to revisit the opera with the rewrite including pivots to Civil Rights events of the last century in response to the US Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to revise the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Composer Philip Glass is one of America’s most prominent and celebrated contemporary composers and librettist Christopher Hampton is an Academy-award winning playwright. Parallel to our operatic presentations, MMF will host free public round-table discussions moderated by guest speakers, including the composers and cast, focusing on race relations, historic storytelling and the many facets of creating and presenting contemporary opera.
Appomattox presents important stories from America's young history without commentary, merely staging facts as they occurred, thus allowing the audience to evaluate history’s events against a musical and theatrical backdrop. Appomattox’s 2nd premier was hailed as “deeply moving as anything I’ve seen in opera” by Anne Midgett of The Washington Post.
The recent success of artistic works such as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton and this year’s Oscar-nominated films such as Hidden Figures and Loving which use the past as a mirror to explore current racial, social, and political inequality points to a society that is eager to embrace cultural presentations of social commentary. MMF believes presenting these operas would be well within the vein of addressing this cultural and socio-political appetite.
Artistic Director Statement
Artistic Statement from MMF Founder and Artistic Director:
MMF has quickly become an international destination for young artists preparing for the rigors of the professional music industry and a welcome addition to South Florida’s blossoming cultural dynamic. Since our launch in 2014, the festival has been lauded for “making great strides in filling Miami’s summer classical music void with quality as well as quantity” (South Florida Classical Review), with successful developments such as 2016’s Miami Wagner Institute which premiered to resounding praise, a winter series already in the works and plans for expansion to year-long performances. After working on Washington National Opera’s production of Appomattox in 2015 as an assistant conductor, I knew it was a piece worthy of remounting and would serve as a great challenge for our students and audiences.
The festival was created in response to demand and public interest during what is generally termed the city’s summer “off-season” when the culturally rich metropolis of Miami is all but void of classical music. As our audiences have affirmed through successful seasons and community support, there really is no “off-season” where art is concerned.
As a growing South Florida cultural institution, MMF is committed to an artistic responsibility of not only championing new works and the work of living composers, but also engaging the public in thought-provoking artistic productions. Appomattox is in line with MMF’s artistic vision to bring intriguing and topical works to Miami’s educated and curious audiences, and brings live theatre to the table as an effective educational vehicle for history, culture and politics.
Last season mainstage production of Robert Ward’s The Crucible presented Arthur Miller’s allegorical account of the Salem witch trials in an updated and riveting modern production of provocative social commentary; our student’s efforts were lauded by critics as “exciting, compelling and enjoyable” (Palm Beach Post), “an impressive staging” and “the finest offering to date of The Miami Music Festival... Those who care about opera as a living art form should not miss this opportunity to see this gripping work.” (South Florida Classical Review).
Likewise, Appomattox brings American history to the operatic stage at a time when racial rhetoric continues to be at the forefront of the cultural zeitgeist. These compelling historical characters are brought to life by one of America and the world’s greatest composers, renowned for being on the cutting-edge of the operatic frontier.
Appomattox is a formidable undertaking for any operatic organizations, but we believe our talented students are up to the challenge having handled operatic and orchestral assignments by Britten, Massenet, Wagner, Strauss and Mahler with aplomb.
A challenging contemporary musical work, MMF will need exceptionally high-level pre-professional student singers to cast Appomattox. This opera will provide deserving young singers the immeasurable opportunity of undertaking a challenging and robust musical assignment. MMF alumni have come to the festival from many of the world’s most esteemed music institutions including Juilliard, the Cleveland Institute, Curtis, Eastman, Manhattan School of Music, Mannes, Interlochen, New England Conservatory, Oberlin, Peabody, and the Royal College of Music, to name a few. These passionate young singers receive training designed to give singers real-time experience learning and producing professional-level operas on stage with an orchestra–experiences that are often difficult for all students in a university setting to access. Appomattox will provide just this, with the added benefit of students working with living-composers and musical staff that helped to create the piece.
MMF believes Appomattox deserves to be presented in South Florida; students deserve to explore the challenges of producing modern works by a living composer and audiences deserve to experience these pioneering stories.
Artistic Director and Founder, Miami Music Festival
Recruitment: Student application screening and audition scheduling begins
January 29-February 15
MMF Audition Tour: Pittsburgh, PA; Cleveland, Oberlin, OH; Chicago, IL; Bloomington, IN; Ann Arbor, MI; NYC, NY; Boston, MA; Houston, TX; Los Angeles, San Francisco, CA; Washington D.C.; Miami, FL
Casting & Acceptance begins
National marketing campaign begins, press release distributed to major media outlets, Appomattox as season highlight
Faculty and student contracts finalized
Scheduling of rehearsals, production calendar and previews finalized
MMF 2018 season program book, posters, flyers due to printer
MMF Opera Institute begins, student & faculty arrive. Festival-wide orientation and meet-and-greet.
Appomattox Director Introduction and Concept
Student singer entrance auditions for additional performance assignments (all-day)
Evening: Appomattox musical run-through with the conductor
Costume fittings scheduled for Appomattox cast for week 1
Appomattox preview performances and discussions at The Betsy-South Beach, Steinway and Sons, other Miami community venues
Morning/afternoon musical rehearsals and/or staging
Morning/afternoon coachings (solo and groups, TBD by production staff and as needed)
Evening masterclasses with guest faculty
Piano techs/Sitzprobes, alternate casts
Orchestra tech & dress rehearsals, alternate casts
June 28, 30