Master classes with the acclaimed composer of “Little Women”
Mark Adamo, composer/librettist of the universally acclaimed, and frequently performed opera “Little Women,” presents the first of American Lyric Theater’s new series of master classes this Monday evening. Adamo will individually coach artists from New York City Opera, The Met, and the Broadway stage who are preparing to perform roles in both “Little Women” and his newest opera, “Lysistrata.” The latter, which premiered in Houston last March, opens at New York City Opera on March 21.
The master class series, aptly entitled “The Composer’s Voice,” presents an unparalleled opportunity to witness living composers coaching singing actors who are slated to perform their music. The brainchild of ALT’s producing artistic director Lawrence Edelson, each class offers the chance to discover what composers were hearing in their heads at the time of creation, as well as what alternative performance approaches are in accord with their original conception.
Reached by phone at his Upper West Side home, where he lives with his partner, composer John Corigliano, Adamo explained that this is the first time he’s coached a master class in public. He has directed “Little Women” twice, but never with other people observing his efforts.
“So often in opera rehearsal, performers and directors guess at the composer’s intentions,” Adamo told Gay City News. “Here’s an opportunity for a composer to say, when I wrote this, I meant X.”
Adamo noted that it’s considered bad taste to give an actor line readings, but kosher to do so with opera singers. He’s thus curious to discover what will happen when he gets people from both sides of the aisle to talk, especially when he opens the process to questions and answers from the audience.
At the time of our conversation, Adamo expected participation by tenor Chad Shelton and soprano Emily Pulley, two of the four leads in Houston’s “Lysistrata” who will reprise their roles with NYCO. He also expects mezzos Jennifer Roderer and Jennifer Rivera, opera singers who are new to their roles, and mezzo Cherry Duke, who sang Jo of “Little Women” in Costa Mesa, California. Aaron Lazar (“A Light in the Piazza”) and Lauren Molina, neither of whom Adamo has heard perform his work, will arrive with theater backgrounds. The only participant with whom he has worked directly for an extended period of time is Rivera, whom he directed in “Little Women.”
“I’ve given little finishing comments, but not a note by note, line by line coaching to anyone. Which is kind of lovely. I think both Chad and Emily are looking forward to it. I know Chad would love to work with me if I direct “Little Women” in Columbus. We’ll be correcting any mistakes. In a way I’ll be coming to the class less as a writer than as a director who happens to know the piece really, really well.”