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Jan 11, 2019 |
sacred_in_opera  |

Celebrations: Marisa Michelson and Royce Vavrek's "Naamah's Ark" Headlines the 2019 NOA Conference in Salt Lake City

Every year, NOA’s Sacred in Opera Initiative receives a robust number of submissions from composers and directors interested in having us look further into their work. In summer 2017, New York’s adventurous company, Heart Beat Opera, introduced us to the composer of this year’s Sacred in Opera Plenary Session Production, Ms. Marisa Michelson.

Ms. Michelson has described her compositional process as an exploration of the performer as a presence-cultivator, truth-seeker, as a shaman, and the performance itself as an invitation to enter into an intimate, heightened, and revelatory relationship with the moment and each other. Her process engages in methods and expressions which include meditation, inner-development, and deep listening as a means to generate new musical material from a place of mindful attention and spontaneity.

Marisa Michelson, composer of "Naamah's Ark"
Marisa Michelson, composer of Naamah's Ark


The New York Times has described Ms. Michelson’s compositions as “exquisite,” and her 2013 off-Broadway musical sensation, Tamar of the River, was noted by New York Magazine as “One of the most extraordinary new scores in years.” Since that time, Michelson has tackled multiple commissions, including our 2019 NOA Conference Production, Namaah’s Ark, a staged community oratorio co-written with Pulitzer Prize winning librettist Royce Vavrek, which was commissioned by New York’s Master Voices (Formerly known as the Collegiate Chorale founded by Robert Shaw). This celebratory work tells the story of Noah’s Ark from the perspective of Noah’s wife, Naamah-- a strong woman who must guide all the diverse species of animals in coming together as the Ark reaches dry land. Scripture does not provide a name for Noah’s wife, but according to Marisa, “She deserves a name, so we have her one!” From the birds to the hippos, each group has its own concerns. Can they learn to live together after the crisis has passed?

Presented in collaboration with Southern Utah University, a company of over 300 artists performed Michelson and Vavrek’s inspirational work in Salt Lake City’s Gothic Romanesque Cathedral of the Madeleine. The Cathedral of the Madeleine quickly rose as the ideal choice to host the NOA 2019 Conference production. Beyond the beauty, size, and wonderful acoustics of the sanctuary, the Cathedral is home to The Madeleine Choir School. Being one of only three Roman Catholic Choir Schools in all of North America, its mission is to inspire young people to become engaged scholars, effective communicators, dedicated liturgical musicians, and responsible world citizens who seek to build a civilization of justice, mercy and love.

Naamah's Ark Salt Lake
Naamah's Ark at the 2019 NOA Conference, Salt Lake City


This year’s NOA production, was made possible by generous support from Southern Utah University. Isai Jess Muñoz (SIO Chair), Carol Ann Modesitt and Krystal McCoy (both from Southern Utah University) produced the event. In line with the mission of the Sacred in Opera Initiative, this interfaith production was shared with a positive awareness of religious diversity and the intentional practice of engaging people of different faiths for the betterment of our organization and society as a whole.

The Sacred in Opera Initiative wishes to thank the following individuals:

§  Michael Crotty (Choreographer)

§  Logan Allen and Oasis Stage Works(Lighting Design)

§  Frank Stearns (Sound Design)

§  Dr. Lynn Vartan (Director of the Southern Utah University Apex Series)

§  Skip Daynes and Daynes Music (Piano Rentals)

§  Participating Choirs: Fort Herriman Middle School, Jordan H. S., Paradigm H.S., Pleasant Grove H. S.

§  The staff of Salt Lake City’s Cathedral of the Madeleine: Patricia Wesson (Director of Development); Gregory Glenn (Director of music and Liturgy) and Father Raymond Diaz.

§  Senior Administrators of Southern Utah University: Lawrence Johnson (Music Department Chair); Shawna Mendini (Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences); Bradley Cook (University Provost); Marvin Dodge (SUU Vice President) and Scott Wyatt (University President).

§  The National Opera Association Board of Trustees, with special thanks to NOA President Paul Houghtaling, NOA Executive Director Robert Hansen, and NOA Vice President of Conferences, Lisa F. Dawson

§ Individual Supporters: Peter Pasternak, Diane Douglass, Ree Zaphiropoulos and Leland Modesitt.