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TwoSense: Persistence of the Blues

Just a quick note here, to say that Persistence of the Blues, my new piece for TwoSense, the powerhouse duo of pianist Lisa Moore and cellist Ashley Bathgate (Bang on a Can) is finished. It’s a beast – a single movement, twenty minute virtuoso composition. I can’t tell you how eager I am to hear these stunning performers play (the hell out of) it! TwoSense will announce dates soon for a 2013 premiere and subsequent performances in New York, San Francisco and beyond.

Many thanks to the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition for commissioning this work.

The Paul Dresher Ensemble: Pretty Boy

I’m delighted to announce performance dates for Pretty Boy, with the Paul Dresher Ensemble!!

December 14 & 15, Z-Space, San Francisco, CA

Pretty Boy is a new electro-acoustic composition, a mono-drama for tenor and instruments focussing on the last minutes in the life of the American bank robber and folk-hero Charles Pretty Boy Floyd. Floyd is an interesting character for so many reasons, notably his daring, legendary heists and preternatural ability to escape law enforcement. He was often romanticized as an depression-era Robin Hood, and in fact he did give large portions of his “earnings” to family, friends, and even to mere acquaintances. But the narrative thread that most inspired both me and author David Brock this cycle had to do with Floyd’s ever increasing isolation. A gregarious family man, the more his fame increased, the more he became a valuable target of an ambitious, young J.Edgar Hoover. As such, he was constantly hunted, and unable return to his beloved wife and young son.

The Paul Dresher Ensemble interprets the ideas and sounds of today’s most innovative and irreverent composers. With energy, virtuosity and incredible attention to the theatrical dimensions of performance, it produces and tours its own works of opera and experimental music theater (developed in collaboration with Obie Award-winning performer Rinde Eckert), and as the Electro-Acoustic Band performs the work of an amazing range of contemporary composers with instrumentation that combines traditional acoustic and contemporary electronic instruments. Virtuoso solo performers like Terry Riley, Joan Jeanrenaud and David Abel frequently join the Electro- Acoustic Band for concerts that redefine contemporary chamber music.

Author David Brock

David Brock is a playwright, poet and librettist. He created a beautiful set of original poems for this project that weave a vivid picture of Floyd – his bravado, fear of capture, loves, deep regrets and final last words. David is the winner of the 2011 Herman Voaden Playwriting Award for his play Wet. His chapbooks of poetry are Gasmask Summer (Emergency Response Unit) and Black Metal Melody (Ferno House). A first collection of poems is forthcoming from Wolsak and Wynn in 2014. His operas have been produced across Canada, the United States, and Europe. He has an MFA from the University of Guelph and currently lives in Toronto. He is currently writing text for a black metal opera (bands and sopranos wanted).

Oakland Youth Orchestra: The Rhyme is Reason

I was also recently commissioned for a new work for the Oakland Youth Orchestra, for their 2013 season and tour. Under the guidance of my good friend, Artistic Director Michael Morgan, the Oakland Youth Orchestra is recognized as an outstanding musical organization in Oakland and the San Francisco Bay area. Today OYO consists of seventyfive talented music students aged 12 to 22 from throughout the region. OYO maintains a commitment to cultural exchange, and has toured extensively in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, the Caribbean Islands, Costa Rica, Mexico and Cuba, Italy, and in June 2004, Australia and New Zealand, and in 2007, Greece. The premier will be led by Principal Conductor John Kendall Bailey, an outstanding orchestral conductor, choral director and composer.

Two New Songbooks

I was honored to be asked to contribute to two important songbook collections in 2012. The Opera America Songbook was a commissioning project in conjunction with Schott Music, as part of the activities celebrating the opening of the new National Opera Center. I set James Fenton’s delightful poem “Down to the Twigs and Seeds”, sung at the opening concert by soprano Sarah Jakubiak.

The Opera America Songbook

I also was honored earlier this year when pianist Thomas Bagwell called to ask if I’d contribute a setting of poet Steven Cordova’s “Across a Table”, for the 20th Anniversary edition of the Aids Quilt Memorial Songbook. The presentation will include songs from the 1992 premiere, written by William Parker, as well as songs written for various regional performances of the piece over the last two decades and brand new songs written especially for this performance by me and composers Robert Aldridge, Stephen Dembeski, Herschel Garfein, Gilda Lyons and Wolfram Wagner. Among the performers will be Stephanie Blythe, Amy Burton, Adrienne Danrich, Anthony Dean Griffey, Suzanne Mentzer, Kurt Ollmann, Sidney Outlaw, Randall Scarlata, William Sharp, Michael Slattery, Sanford Sylvan, Monica Yunus, and Camille Zamora.

The performance will be at Cooper Union’s Great Hall, on December 1st, 2012.

20th Anniversary AIDS quilt Songbook

Premiere: Love/Hate at ODC Theater

This week, Love/Hate receives its world premiere in an innovative partnership between ODC Theater and the San Francisco Opera! With four singers from SF Opera’s Adler Fellowship program, live chamber ensemble, stage direction by M. Graham Smith and choreography by Chris Black, we’re truly blessed. It’s a gift to have one’s work rendered at this level! I’ll be posting photos and video as we move into the theatre for staging and full rehearsals. Sheri Greenawald, Mark Morash and everyone at the San Francisco Opera Center, and Christy Bolingbrook and the entire staff at ODC Theatre have been a dream team to work with. I’m a bit tired, but I’m having a wonderful time!
Ticket & performance information
More about the opera

Love/Hate San Francisco World Premiere 

April 12, 14, 15
ODC Theater, San Francisco

Cast and Crew
Marina Boudart-Harris, soprano

Laura Krumm, mezzo-soprano
Thomas Glenn, tenor
Ao Li, baritone
Robert Mollicone, music director/pianist
David Hanlon, conductor
M. Graham Smith, director
Chris Black, choreographer
Stephanie Buchner, lighting design
Bethanie Baeyen, stage management/scenic elements

With special thanks for the stewardship of Sheri Greenawald, Mark Morash, and Sandra Bernhardt

About the Cast: Love/Hate World Premiere

I thought I’d add a bit more about our fantastic cast for the world premier of Love/Hate in San Francisco, in less than four weeks! Here they are, five wonderful 2012 Adler Fellows at SF Opera, and Thomas Glenn, a beloved Adler Alumn:

Love/Hate – a Librettist’s View

by Rob Bailis

With the upcoming 2012 World Premiere of Love/Hate at San Francisco’s ODC Theater, I thought it would be fun to talk a little about this project and how it came into being.

Opera of any stripe in this day and age is ambitious – new opera takes that ambition to the edge of unreasonable, but somehow this story of two unlikely lovers-to-be is capturing support and attention coast to coast. With early investment from American Opera Projects, through their Composers and the Voice program, and subsequent development at Manhattan School of Music’s Page to Stage project, dramaturgy from award winning playwright Albert Innaurato and acclaimed opera director Sandra Bernhard (HGO Co.), scenes from Love/Hate have already enjoyed terrifically well received outings at Galapagos Space in Brooklyn, and at the Philly Fringe.  Now with the entrance of Sheri Greenawald and the Adler Fellows of the San Francisco Opera Center, and support from the Zellerbach Family FundAndrew W. Mellon Foundation, and ODC Theater’s Director’s Fund, Love/Hate is gearing up for its debut as a fully formed new opera, built on contemporary realities, complex relationship dynamics with which we all can identify, and a groundbreaking approach to music making that draws on more than just contemporary/new music aesthetics, but brings in the true value of contemporary theater – that is to say nothing is sacred.


San Francisco Opera Center and ODC Theater Announce Love/Hate World Premiere Performances

by Jack Perla & librettist Rob Bailis…

We’re delighted to announce that The San Francisco Opera Center has joined forces with ODC Theatre and Music Without Walls to present the world premiere performances of Love/Hate in April 2012 at the newly renovated ODC Theatre in San Francisco. This is huge news for everyone involved with this project – to start with, our San Francisco cast will be provided by The San Francisco Opera Center, from its world-renowned Adler Fellowship Program!!


A Double Distinction from The Barlow Endowment for Music Composition

Thrilled and incredibly honored by some wonderful news I have to share with you!  I have been awarded a rare double distinction from The Barlow Endowment for Music Composition.   In addition to receiving a $6,000 commission award under their General commissioning program, I have been named the only composer in the Endowment’s history to receive an Honorable Mention for The Barlow Prize in the same year!  170 composers applied and I am very grateful and humbled to be given such special notice from the judges.


A New Work for TwoSense

I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be composing a new piece in 2012 for TwoSense – the magnificent duo of  Bang on a Can and Cantaloupe Music recording artists, cellist Ashley Bathgate and pianist, Lisa Moore.  Their concerts feature new & experimental music paired with mainstream repertoire for cello and piano. Although TwoSense is less than a year old, they’ve already earned rave reviews from major press in New York and around the country.


A Perla work for the 20th Anniversary of The AIDS Quilt Songbook

I am quite touched by a recent request from wonderful New York pianist, Thomas Bagwell, to write a song for the 20th Anniversary of the Aids Quilt Songbook concert.  I’m really excited to participate in this amazing project. The concert will be held in New York in June, 2012.


Update: Two New Releases

My two new recordings for Innova Records are moving ahead as planned!

Poet’s Cabaret is set to go into Fantasy Studios this November 2011, to record a collection of new works focusing on a mix of short vocal songs balanced with short instrumental numbers.  I’m approaching it as a collection of scenes and short stories told through music and lyrics. The performers are Amie Penwell, Jordan Carp, David Arend, Jason Slota and myself.


Adrienne Danrich Sings Perla at the Taft Museum

Soprano Adrienne Danrich

The fabulous soprano Adrienne Danrich will feature two of my songs in her
sold-out recital at Cincinnati’s Taft Museum tonight.  I’m a huge fan of hers and
very thrilled to have ‘Fireflies of the Sea’ and ‘The Peace of Wild Things’
be part of her recital.


Seattle Opera – Belonging(s)

Seattle Opera today announced Belonging(s), a new community engagement project that will use personal stories of Puget Sound area residents to create a new kind of homegrown opera.  The first phase of this multi-year project involves collecting hundreds of stories, each centering on a cherished belonging that embodies struggle, success, and identity.  Story collection is underway, and continues, in the coming weeks, at a Belonging(s) video booth in the lobby of McCaw Hall before each performance of Porgy and Bess.

“Opera is often described in terms of its component parts, or its 400-year old Western European history,” says Speight Jenkins, General Director of Seattle Opera. “I’m interested in finding ways that we can think more broadly about opera, as a celebration of the stories we share and the details that make us unique.”

Belonging(s) begins with a digital quilt—an online repository of videos created by you, your friends, and the people you pass on the street—that tell stories of our most precious possessions: those objects or memories that help us understand our lives, our relationships, and our legacies.  From the quilt will come a newly commissioned opera, to be produced in venues throughout the Puget Sound region.  A composer and librettist—to be identified in an upcoming announcement—will select a small number of stories from the quilt to create an opera that explores the time and place in which we live.

“Seattle Opera performs Wagner’s Ring cycle every four years,” says Seattle Opera Education Director Sue Elliott. “The magic ring is an object upon which an entire world projects its conflicts and history.  Drawing inspiration from the Ring, we’re using stories of our most precious possessions to create new work as part of a local, communal arts practice, using ideas and images from you, your friends, and your neighbors.”


10th Annual Blaine Jazz Festival

Martin Kuuskmann


Next week I’m off to Northern Washington State, close to the Canadian border, to work with my friend Martin Kuuskmann and the Pacific Arts Association, at the Blaine Jazz Festival.  I’ll spend a week there teaching kids to improvise and write music, and playing concerts. Born in Estonia, Martin is one of the world’s leading improvising bassoon virtuosos, a faculty member of the Manhattan School of Music, and founding member of New York based Absolute Ensemble.