From the Chair of SIO, Dr. Isai Jess Muñoz: The 2019 SIO Newsletter Winter Edition Focuses on "Musical Narratives of Great Women in History"
Welcome to this latest edition of the Sacred in Opera Newsletter. This issue focuses our attention on the "Musical Narratives of Great Women in History," who are believed to have made strong and powerful choices for the betterment of their communities and society at large. All but one of this newsletter’s featured works have also been written by women.
We first take time to celebrate the success of this year’s SIO plenary session production at this month’s NOA Conference in Salt Lake City, Marisa Michelson and Pulitzer Prize winning librettist Royce Vavrek’s dramatic oratorio, Naamah’s Ark. This re-imagining of the Genesis ark tale, not only gives voice and name to Noah’s wife, but invites Muslims, Christians, and people of all tongues into a celebration of new life after the storm.
Next, our feature story, looks back at the 1994 winner of the National Opera Association Chamber Opera Competition, Daniel Crozier’s With Blood, With Ink. This gripping story recounts the life of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a seventeenth-century Mexican nun and icon of women’s early writing and colonial New Spain. Subject to the authority of religious male leaders, Sor Juana who was socially marginalized, took pen to challenge and contest the gendered norms of the time. Since its premier, Crozier’s successful score has been produced by Forth Worth Opera and other noteworthy venues. The SIO has identified this work as a substantive piece of vocal writing that deserves continued dissemination and future productions. Readers will be interested in knowing that With Blood, With Ink provides opportunities for university opera programs who are seeking to produce works with plentiful casting opportunities for treble voices.
This issue also takes time to highlight two newer works. Sanctuary & Storm, an Opera America Discovery Grant recipient, written by Tawnie Olson (composer) and Roberta Barker (librettist), depicts a fictional debate between the two most powerful women in Medieval Europe: Hildegard of Bingen and Eleanor of Aquitaine –– two women who have risen to great power and yet are still not respected in the same way as their male equivalents in their society. Lastly, Gayla Morgan’s, Mary - A Musical, presents a fiercely resilient Mary Magdalene, who experiences more power and peace, when choosing community over isolation. We applaud all featured artists in this edition, and congratulate our selected writers, Philip Seward, Nicole Leupp Hanig, and Susan H. Bingham.
This edition's focus on “Great Women,” was inspired by exuberant presentations at this month’s NOA Conference in Salt Lake City that focused on bridging equality gaps and that featured exciting new works by women and for women. It is well known that the NOA never ceases to work hard to provide its members with tools and resources that greatly support their careers. But perhaps its greatest distinction, the thing that compels me to write this statement, rests in the renewing dose of genuine kindness and camaraderie found within this body of artists and scholars who engage in meaningful discussions and initiatives that serve to remind all of us why what it is that we do matters! The 2019 NOA Conference certainly reflected this organization’s commitment to pioneering the future of opera, which includes promoting scholarship that increases awareness of and discussion about diversity and gender parity in the field. The Sacred in Opera is proud to be part of that conversation. We certainly invite you to make plans to register for the 2020 NOA Conference in Cleveland (January 8-11, 2020). But before then, be sure to take advantage of NOA regional events happening throughout the year.
Lastly, please take a moment to read through notes from the SIO Editorial Board. We are always interested in hearing from potential contributors, and we have drawn up a few points on why and how our web-based format might just be one of the the best high-impact publications to showcase your ideas and work.
As always, take time to tell your colleagues and friends that we are here, sharing on the Sacred in Opera!
Wishing you continued inspiration and success in the new year,
Dr. Isai Jess Muñoz
The Sacred in Opera Initiative of the NOA
Chair and Senior Editor
About the contributor:
Praised by the New York Times for "Crucially, deftly navigating the border of genuine emotion through his singing," tenor, Isai Jess Muñoz, enjoys a busy schedule of opera, concerts, and recitals, performing repertoire from the Renaissance and Baroque to the 21st Century. Highlights include appearances with Israel Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center, Verbier Music Festival in Switzerland, Bard Music Festival, Alvin Ailey Dance Theater on Broadway, New York City Opera, American Symphony Orchestra, and Cincinnati Opera. Jess Muñoz is featured on fourteen audio recordings including the 2009 Grammy-Nominated Album Song of the Stars with Voices of Ascension. His collaboration with Iranian composer Hafez Nazeri can be heard on Sony Classical’s, Rumi Symphony Project Untold— twice ranked Billboard's #1 Classical Album (2013). His latest recording scheduled for release in summer 2019, Visca L’Amor, features 24 Catalan Art Songs by native composers. His award-winning solo recitals devoted to music of the Hispanic diaspora continues to tour throughout the country. Dr. Muñoz currently serves as Assistant Professor of Voice and Opera at the University of Delaware, as Chair of National Opera Association’s Sacred in Opera Initiative, and as Executive Director of the International Baroque Academy at Musiktheater Bavaria in Germany. Visit: www.JessMunoz.com