‘Savage Winter’ Brings Down Curtain on PS21’s Modern Opera Series

by Seth Rogovoy

(CHATHAM, N.Y.) – Douglas J. Cuomo’s Savage Winter, a contemporary reimagining of Wilhelm Müller’s poetry cycle Winterreise, will bring down the curtain on PS21’s Modern Opera Fest on Thursday, September 9, at 7pm. In Savage Winter, composer Cuomo has created a thought-provoking opera that mirrors the complexity of modern life and relationships.

The performance is 75 minutes with no intermission.

In this semi-staged presentation, Tony Boutté, a “radiant, communicative tenor” (Opera News), assumes the existential mantle in a searing, intense performance as a man desperate for atonement, while electric guitar and electronics (Douglas Cuomo), trumpet (Frank London) and keyboards (Alan Johnson) — infused with acid jazz and a punk energy — narrate his delirious fever dream.

The semi-staged concert version of Savage Winter premiered in 2018 in Houston by Aperio Music of the Americas. At PS21, the 75-minute version, performed without intermission, features projected images from the original opera that bring depth to this dynamic work. ?A fully staged version, directed by Jonathan Moore, and with images by Joseph Seaman, was premiered at Pittsburgh Opera and Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2018 and coproduced by American Opera Projects.

Douglas J Cuomo

Douglas J. Cuomo has composed for the concert, operatic and theatrical stage, a well as for television and film. His expressive musical language, with its arresting juxtapositions of sound and style, is a natural outgrowth of his wide-ranging background and training. A professional guitarist while still in his teens, he alternated years of college – studying jazz, world music and ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and University of Miami – with years on the road playing in jazz, pop and funk bands.

His chamber and orchestra works include Seven Limbs for the Aizuri String Quartet and guitarist Nels Cline; Black Diamond Express Train to Hell, a double concerto for cello and sampler, commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra and The Orchestra of the Swan, premiered at Carnegie Hall; and Only Breath, commissioned and performed by Maya Beiser, at The International Festival of Arts and Ideas, Ravinia, Carnegie Hall and others.

Cuomo’s operatic works include Doubt, with libretto by John Patrick Shanley, commissioned by Minnesota Opera (2013) and Arjuna’s Dilemma, produced by The Music-Theatre Group and premiered at the BAM Next Wave Festival (2008). Work for television and film includes themes for Sex and The City (HBO); NOW with Bill Moyers and Wide Angle (PBS); music for Homicide: Life On The Street (NBC) and others, over twenty documentary and feature films, and music for over a dozen Broadway plays.

Frank London

Trumpeter/composer Frank London is a cofounder of the Grammy Award-winning progressive klezmer outfit The Klezmatics. London has composed numerous works for theater, dance, and film, and is the recipient of several Meet the Composer grants. Some of his major works include the folk opera A Night in the Old Marketplace (based on Y.L. Peretz’s Bay nakht oyfn altn mark); Davenen, a dance for the Pilobolus Dance Theatre and the Klezmatics; Great Small Works’ The Memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln, and Min Tanaka’s Romance. He has also composed music for films, including John Sayles’ The Brother from Another Planet(1984) and Men With Guns (1997), Yvonne Rainer’s Murder and Murder, the Czech-American Marionette Theater’s Golem, and Tamar Rogoff’s Ivye Project. London was music director for From Shtetl to Stage: A Celebration of Yiddish Music & Culture, which premiered at Carnegie Hall on April 15, 2019, and which was produced by Seth Rogovoy.

London has performed with John Zorn, LL Cool J, Mel Torme, Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy, LaMonte Young, They Might Be Giants, David Byrne, Jane Siberry, Ben Folds 5, Mark Ribot, Maurice El Medioni and Gal Costa, and is featured on over 100 recordings. He was music director for David Byrne and Robert Wilson’s The Knee Plays, collaborated with Palestinian violinist Simon Shaheen, taught Jewish music in Canada, Crimea and the Catskills, and produced CDs for Gypsy legend Esma Redzepova and Algerian pianist Maurice el Medioni.

Sir Frank London was knighted for his work celebrating multi-cultural Jewish music and honoring those killed in the Holocaust in Hungary.

Tenor Tony Boutté made his operatic debut as Orfeo in Stephen Wadsworth’s groundbreaking Monteverdi Cycle with Skylight Opera. Boutté has regularly appeared with various top-notch ensembles including Les Arts Florissants, Tafelmusik, Les Talens Lyriques, Opera Lafayette, Ars Lyrica Houston, Washington Bach Consort, New York Collegium, Les Violons du Roy, Boston Baroque, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and Musica Angelica.


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