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 Fund, Andrew 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.

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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.

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With the Paul Dresher Ensemble at the New ODC Theater, Nov. 12-13

Pretty Boy is a new electro-acoustic piece that loosely explores the life, times, and ultimate capture of American gangster, bank robber, and folk hero Pretty Boy Floyd.  The new piece was commissioned by the Paul Dresher Ensemble with support from the American Composers Forum, and features my good friend/amazing tenor Thomas Glenn.  My librettist and collaborator is Canadian playwright David Brock.

Friday Nov. 12th & Saturday Nov. 13th
ODC Theater (map)
351 Shotwell Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Love/Hate, 2011

A Comic Chamber Opera

A chamber opera in development, Love/Hate continues to gain supporters. American Opera Projects in New York is the leading consortium to develop the work, along with San Francisco-based ODC Theater and  Urban Arias out of Arlington, Virginia.  Following its 2011 premier in five cities, the opera will also be performed by Houston Grand Opera in 2012.  The librettist for Love/Hate is my dear friend & longtime musical collaborator, Rob Bailis.  Here’s Rob’s description of the work…

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New Commission from the Houston Grand Opera

Song of Houston: East + West

I was recently commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera to compose a brief one-act opera for their ongoing program called Song of Houston.  The piece, East + West, will be written this summer – it’s slated for premiere in late January 2011!  I’m working with Eugenie Chan, a fantastic San Francisco playwright. Supported through a major grant from the Mellon Institute, “Song of Houston makes opera relevant through stories that engage hearts and minds.  These stories are told through collaborative community and educational projects that push the limits of the traditional arts and incorporate music-making, photography, creative writing and visual art.”

U.S. Patent Issues

Our U.S. patent application, for a method and system for generating musical arrangements directed to particular skill levels, has issued! After long hard work, the application passed to scrutiny of the U.S. patent examiners! Again, thanks to Srinka for making this possible, to Noel Kivlin for patient legal advice, and Matt Rainey, for encouraging me to follow through on this in the first place.

Tapestry New Opera – Betty Box Office

Over the summer I composed a scene with Canadian playwright Ken Gass, founder and Artistic Director of the Factory Theater in Toronto, called Betty Box Office. Ken was a joy to collaborate with – he crafted a perfectly imagined comic scene including a dream sequence, murder by pencil stabbing, and a seduction dance number that morphed from high baroque to gospel waltz! We’re planning a new opera for Tapestry New Opera, the leading Canadian organization for developing new opera and musical theater.

American Opera Projects

Composers and the Voice


I was having breakfast with my buddy Rachael last October, when Steven Osgood called to see if i wanted to participate in Composers & the Voice for 2008. Ask Rachael – I’m pretty sure I yelled yes!!! into my cappuccino foam. AOP is a driving force behind the revitalization of contemporary opera in the United States, supporting the commissioning, development and presentation of new American opera.

Composers & the Voice is a year-long AOP workshop which let’s me write for up-and-coming young singers engaged at fancy places like the met and city opera. Over the Summer I’ll be writing a one act opera called Love/Hate (obsessive relationships, what else?) to a very funny libretto by my very clever friend Rob Bailis, to be performed in New York this Fall, and at ODC theater in 2010.