Against the Grain Theatre: "Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup"
6:30pm doors • 7:30pm show
Against the Grain Theatre, a National Sawdust Artist-in-Residence, presents a work-in-progress performance of Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, a new chamber opera written by celebrated composer Michelle DiBucci and award-winning Canadian librettist Royce Vavrek. A journey into a young woman’s world torn apart by abuse, neglect, addiction, and apathy, this opera is an unflinching and compassionate look at the opioid crisis and a brutal testament to a plague that is emblematic of this decade.
Witness the results of a four-day workshop at National Sawdust with a first look at the development of this new work addressing one of the most urgent issues of our time. This work-in-progress presentation will feature about 15 minutes of new music, as well as a discussion with the creative team alongside researchers and addiction specialists, giving insight into the collaborative process of creating timely, socially-engaged work.
Ashley Emerson, soprano (Meri)
Eve Gigliotti, mezzo-soprano (Junkie)
Michelle DiBucci, composer
Royce Vavrek, librettist
Brian Gilling, music director
Joel Ivany, stage director
Nicole R Greenspan, PhD (Canadian perspectives on the opioid crisis)
Since 2010, Against the Grain Theatre has been making waves in Canada’s classical music scene. Offering everything from Mozart, Handel, Schubert, and Puccini to Britten, Messiaen, Janáček, and Kurtág, we have made it our mandate to exhibit fresh, daring re-interpretations of classical repertoire. We perform in nontraditional spaces — courtyards, bars, Victorian mansions, wedding halls — and with scaled-back accompaniment, such as a string quartet or piano, to bring out the full force of operatic singing in close quarters. The result? A thrilling, intimate, and unforgettable experience shared between our artists and audiences. Come see for yourself.
With her sparkling voice and stage presence, soprano Ashley Emerson has been described as a “vocal and dramatic delight”. In the 2019-2020 season, she has been seen a Flora in the Turn of the Screw with On Site Opera, Papagena in The Magic Lute with The Metropolitan Opera, and Blondchen in Abduction from the Seragilo with Opera Omaha. Future engagements include creating the role of Little Daughter in the word premiere of Omar by Rhiannon Giddens at the Spoleto Festival USA, Gretel in Hansel and Gretel with Kentucky Opera, Johanna in Sweeney Todd in a return to Opera Omaha, and returns to the Metropolitan Opera. Ms. Emerson recently celebrated her 200th performance at the Met, where her roles have also included Barbarina, Giannetta, the Dew Fairy, and many others. She has also sung leading roles with Seattle Opera (Gretel, world premiere of Daron Hagen’s Amelia), The Dallas Opera (Turn of the Screw), Opera Theatre of St. Louis (Daughter of the Regiment, Alice in Wonderland, Dialogues of the Carmelites), Washington National Opera (Dialogues of the Carmelites), and Opera Philadelphia (Powder Her Face by Thomas Ades), and many others. Ms. Emerson made her European debut as Cunegonde in Candide at the Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse and subsequently performed the role at Opéra National de Bordeaux. www.ashleyemersonsoprano.com, Instagram @ashemersonsop.
Conductor and pianist Brian Gilling has distinguished himself as an exceptionally versatile musician and collaborator. Performing across the North America, he has garnered acclaim for his engaging performances of chamber music, art song, opera, and orchestral music. He has received praise for his “sure-handed leadership” (New York Times) and his “thorough musicianship” (PGH in the Round). In recent seasons, he has music directed and conducted LoftOpera’s Pergolesi & Vivaldi and Undercroft Opera’s La Rondine, and has also worked with Opera Saratoga, Berkshire Opera Festival, Opera Colorado, and Against the Grain Theatre. A passionate advocate for new music, Brian has worked extensively with living composers from both the piano and the podium. He has premiered and workshopped a number of pieces with composers including Paola Prestini, Mathew Rosenblum, Reza Vali, Nicole Lizée, Jean-Patrick Besingrand, and more. Brian serves as the music director, pianist, and conductor for NAT 28, a new music group based in Pittsburgh.
Dror Baitel has established himself as a leading talent through his virtuosity and versatility across diverse musical genres. Born and raised in Israel, Dror moved to the US to pursue his classical piano Bachelor’s degree at Mannes College in New York under Vladimir Feltsman and Jerome Rose. Since then, he has played on many stages, including Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and Merkin Hall. He also worked on Broadway in Mary Poppins, The King and I, Matilda, Hamilton, and most recently in the Tony-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen.
In addition to his work in the theater, Dror has served as a music director and accompanist in synagogues, including Shaare T’fila and Congregation B’eit Simchat Torah.
As a dedicated educator, Dror has been a teaching fellow and assistant faculty at The Juilliard School. Dror received his Master’s in Collaborative Piano at Juilliard, studying with Jonathan Feldman, Dr. Lydia Brown, and Margo Garrett. Dror was an award recipient of the American Israel Cultural Foundation and is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Musical Arts in the Collaborative Piano Department at Juilliard, as a Starr Fellow.
Michelle DiBucci is a composer and an artistic innovator with over 30 productions to her credit. Her work crosses genres and environments and encompasses theatre, opera, dance, and new media.
Her recent work the full-length ballet-opera Charlotte Salomon: Death and the Painter received the 2015 Faust Award — Germany’s highest theater prize and her music-theatre work Basetrack Live was hailed by The New York Times as one of the top ten theatrical events of 2014, and was performed in 33 cities across America. DiBucci is also a composer and music producer in film, television, and live events. Recently, she served as music director and producer on the US WW1 Centennial Commemoration in Kansas City and Washington, D.C. and she will be the music director for the upcoming off-Broadway production of Three Sisters, directed by Sam Gold and starting Greta Gerwig and Oscar Isaac.
Joel Ivany is the Founder and Artistic Director of AtG, and is the artistic director of Banff Centre’s “Opera in the 21st Century.” His directing credits include productions of Verdi’s Macbeth (Minnesota Opera), Carmen(Vancouver Opera), Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Edmonton Opera), Gavin Bryars’ Marilyn Forever (Adelaide Festival) and Le nozze di Figaro (revival at Norwegian National Opera). He is the author of seven (and counting) original librettos for companies such as the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the Canadian Opera Company. He was a multiple Dora Mavor Moore Award nominee for Outstanding Direction and has also been nominated for multiple Dora awards for Outstanding New Opera/Musical winning one for Figaro’s Wedding. Recent mainstage directing credits include Dead Man Walking at Minnesota Opera and a multiple award winning production of Gluck’s Orphée⁺ at Opera Columbus, AtG and Banff Centre. He has directed productions for the Canadian Opera Company (Hansel and Gretel, Carmen), Toronto Symphony Orchestra (Mozart’s Requiem, Kurt Weill’s Die sieben Todsünden), Canadian Children’s Opera Company (Brundibár), Vancouver opera (Carmen, Dead Man Walking), Claude Vivier’s Kopernikus (Banff Centre). Upcoming directing credits include Candide at Edmonton Opera. He is a proud graduate of the Opera School at U of T and is a member of the Alumni Wall of Fame at his Alma Mater, Western University.
Nicole R. Greenspan holds a PhD in public health policy and health services research. She has been involved in the response to the HIV and opioid epidemics for over 15 years, with a focus on community-based research and evaluation. Based in Toronto, Canada, her current work with the Toronto Drug Strategy focuses on governmental and community-based responses to the opioid crisis in Canada’s largest city. She is currently conducting research about people who use drugs’ preferences for managed opioid programs.