150th Anniversary Of Transcontinental Railway Commemorated With Utah Symphony Orchestral Work And 10-Minute Operas

Utah Symphony and Utah Opera unveil a series of creative projects to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike, where the final railway spike north of the Great Salt Lake connected the rails of America's First Transcontinental Railway at Promontory Summit in May 1869. The projects are part of USUO's annual Cultural Festival which highlights a special theme each year that provides a new focus to connect our community through music and more. For more information visit https://utahopera.org/schedule/cultural-festival/

The Utah Symphony has participated in the commissioning of a new orchestral work from Grammy-nominated Chinese composer Zhou Tian. Music Director Thierry Fischer conducts the commission at Abravanel Hall on the orchestra's May 17 and 18 concert program, which also includes Copland's "Appalachian Spring" and "Billy the Kid." The co-commission includes Reno Philharmonic Orchestra, Omaha Symphony, and Michigan State University.

This commission reflects Maestro Fischer's commitment to cultivating new music for orchestra. During his tenure, the orchestra has commissioned and premiered works by Simon Holt, Michael Jarrell, Nico Muhly, Andrew Norman, and Augusta Read Thomas, among other composers. The commissions from these latter three were recorded and released as "Dawn to Dust" on Reference Recordings in spring 2016.

Utah Opera is pleased to announce four projects selected for its 10-minute Commissioned Operas on themes related to the Golden Spike. The operas will premiere in late May 2019 in Brigham City, Ogden and Salt Lake City locations, and then performed in community concerts and random acts of opera over the next few seasons.

"The goal of this project is to support new works, provide the opportunity for creative work by Utah artists, and commemorate the Golden Spike anniversary with community collaboration," said Utah Symphony | Utah Opera Community Outreach and Education Director Paula Fowler.

"Completing the Picture," by composer Michael Ching and librettist/research/choreographer Victoria Panella Bourns, fills in the larger picture of human involvement on the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Many men posed in the historic photograph, but no Chinese are in the picture. The opera will include depictions of the "Strange Parade" Westerners reported when the Chinese arrived, as well as the difficulty of their labor on the railroad.

"The Stone, the Tree and the Bird," by composer Jacob Lee and librettist Christine McDonough, centers around a campfire conversation between three transcontinental railworkers the night before the ceremony in Promontory, Utah. They dream and plan what they will do, now that the historic job is done.

"Burial," by composer Tony Solitro and Librettist Paisley Rekdal, features a confrontation between a town mayor and a café owner about how to appropriately bury and honor Chinese men who helped build the railroad. The opera explores themes of belonging and identity: are the dead Chinese to be treated as Asian aliens or American workers?

"No Ladies in the Lady's Book," by composer Lisa DeSpain and librettist Rachel Peters, is a short comic opera about the women whose contributions to the success of the transcontinental railroad are largely unsung.

The dramaturg and director for the Utah Opera 10-minute operas project is Omer Ben Seadia. As Dramaturg, she will be involved with the operas as the creative teams work on them throughout the year. She will consult with them in December about storyline and character development; she will participate in a February 15 work session on drafts, with Utah Opera Resident Artists singing the roles; after the final opera scores are submitted, she will also serve as Stage Director during the May 2019 production period.

Utah Opera's 10-Minute Operas project is made possible in part through grants from the McCarthey Family Foundation and Spike 150, a program by the State of Utah through the Department of Heritage and Arts honoring the 150th anniversary of the nation's first transcontinental railroad. USUO's annual Cultural Festival has been sponsored by the John and Marcia Price Family Foundation since 2005.

About Utah Symphony | Utah Opera

Utah Symphony | Utah Opera connects Utah communities through great live music, serving as the premier local provider of orchestral and operatic art forms. The Utah Symphony, which performs at Salt Lake City's Abravanel Hall and is led by Music Director Thierry Fischer, is one of the most engaged orchestras in the nation. In addition to numerous regional and domestic tours to perform outdoor free concerts against the backdrop of Utah's state and national parks, it has embarked on seven international tours and performed at Carnegie Hall in 2016 coinciding with the orchestra's 75th anniversary celebrations. Since 1978, Utah Opera has provided Utah's citizens with distinguished productions at the historic Capitol Theatre that showcase emerging and established artists, celebrate traditional works, and champion the American operatic tradition. USUO reaches 450,000 residents in Utah and the Intermountain region through its performances and educational outreach programs serving more than 155,000 students annually. The organization employs 57 staff and 85 full-time musicians and presents four full operas and more than 175 symphony performances in each season throughout Utah and an annual summer festival - the Deer Valley Music Festival - in Park City, Utah. For more information, visit www.usuo.org.

About Utah Symphony | Utah Opera Education DepartmentThe Education Department of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera creates and oversees opportunities in music for audiences of all ages, with special emphasis on musical experiences for K-12 students and teachers. As the largest performing arts organization in Utah, USUO promotes a broad public knowledge and appreciation of music through more than 30 state-assisted community outreach programs, amounting to more than 600 performances annually. USUO Education serves more than 7,000 teachers and 145,000 students each year throughout Utah by bringing both symphony and opera programs, free of charge, to every school district in Utah over a three- to five-year rotation. For more information, visit www.usuoeducation.org or call 801.869.9091.



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