Tuesday, June 19, 2012

WNO taps Richmond composer

“The Tao of Mohammed Ali (a Ghost Story)” by the Richmond-based composer D.J. Sparr and librettist Davis Miller will be introduced in June 2013 by the Washington National Opera as part of its American Opera Initiative.

The hour-long work tells the story of a reporter’s first encounter with the great boxer, which proves to be a transformative experience. A fully staged performance will be presented in the Terrace Theater of Washington’s Kennedy Center, with a cast and creative team to be named later. Open workshops will be held during the opera’s process of development.

In November, the American Opera Initiative will stage performances of three 20-minute operas by young composers and librettists. They, as well as Sparr and Miller, will be mentored by Jake Heggie, composer of “Dead Man Walking” and “Moby-Dick;” librettist Mark Campbell, who provided the texts for Ricky Ian Gordon’s Civil War song cycle “Rappahannock County” and Kevin Puts’ opera “Silent Night,” winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for music; and Anne Manson, who conducts the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra and has led many performances of contemporary opera.

Conductor Robert Wood of UrbanArias also will work with the composers and librettists during workshops in October. WNO Artistic Advisor Francesca Zambello will mentor directors and designers for the four operas.

Sparr, a former composer-in-residence with the Richmond Symphony’s Education and Community Engagement program, currently is Young American Composer-in-Residence with the California Symphony Orchestra. His wife, Kimberly Sparr, is the Richmond Symphony’s assistant principal violist.