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Curtis Opera Theatre Performs the World Premiere of Rene Orth's 'Empty the House' in Four Sold-Out Performances

Libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winner Mark Campbell

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PHILADELPHIA, PA--January 19, 2016--The Curtis Opera Theatre presents the world premiere of Empty the House by Curtis composition student Rene Orth and Pulitzer Prize-winning librettist Mark Campbell in four sold-out performances January 21-24 at the Curtis Opera Studio.

When a mother invites her grown daughter home for a last weekend in a house filled with painful memories, the past nearly overwhelms them both. Empty the House is an intimate, poignant exploration of the complex nature of forgiveness.

Ethan Heard directs the fully staged production, sung in English, and Conner Gray Covington leads the Curtis Chamber Orchestra. Scenic design and costume is by Anya Klepikov and lighting design by Oliver Wason.

Performances take place Thursday, January 21 through Saturday, January 23 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, January 24 at 2:30 p.m. in the Curtis Opera Studio, 1726 Locust Street.

Rene Orth, from Garland, Texas, entered the Curtis Institute of Music in 2013 and studies with David Ludwig. All students at Curtis receive merit-based, full tuition scholarships, and Ms. Orth is the Edwin B. Garrigues Annual Fellow.

Ms. Orth's recent and upcoming projects include a world premiere by the Louisville Orchestra and Teddy Abrams (Conducting '08) and a piece commissioned by One Book One Philadelphia inspired by Charles Frazier's novel Cold Mountain, as well as works for the Aizuri Quartet and Women's Sacred Music Project. In 2014 she was commissioned, with librettist Jason Kim, by Washington National Opera/American Opera Initiative Program to write the chamber opera An American Man, which premiered at the Kennedy Center. Her music has also been performed by the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, Dover Quartet, Rock School of Dance, and Pennsylvania Ballet.

Ms. Orth has participated in the Festival d'Aix en Provence, served on the Theory/Composition faculty for Luzerne Music Center, and held residencies at Yaddo and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. She holds a Master of Music in composition from the University of Louisville, a Certificate of Recording Arts from MediaTech Institute, and a Bachelor of Arts in music from Rhodes College. She has participated in master classes with Michel van der Aa, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Simon Bainbridge, Chen Yi, and Louis Andriessen. Ms. Orth previously studied with Richard Danielpour, Jennifer Higdon, Steve Rouse, Bradford Cox, and Brandon Goff.

Mark Campbell has written fifteen opera librettos and the lyrics for five musicals, and is one of the most in-demand librettists in the world. His best known opera libretto is Silent Night, composed by Kevin Puts, which received the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music and has entered operatic repertory with unprecedented rapidity. His other successful operas include Later the Same Evening (John Musto), The Manchurian Candidate (Kevin Puts), As One (Laura Kaminsky), Rappahannock County (Ricky Ian Gordon), Volpone (John Musto), and Bastianello/Lucrezia (John Musto/William Bolcom).

An avid advocate for contemporary American opera, Mark also serves as a mentor with such organizations as American Opera Projects, American Lyric Theatre, the University of Colorado's New Opera Workshop and Opera Philadelphia's Composer-in-Residence Program. Upcoming operas include: The Whole Truth (2016, American Modern Ensemble/Robert Paterson, composer); Memory Boy (2016, Minnesota Opera/Reinaldo Moya, composer); The Shining (2016, Minnesota Opera/Paul Moravec, composer); Body Business (2017, Music-Theatre Group/Julian Grant, composer); Elizabeth Cree (2017, Opera Philadelphia/Kevin Puts, composer); Dinner at Eight (2017, Minnesota Opera/William Bolcom, composer); Some Light Emerges (Houston Grand Opera/Laura Kaminsky, composer and Kimberly Reed, co-librettist); and The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs (2017, Santa Fe Opera/Mason Bates, composer).

Connor Gray Covington, from Maryville, Tenn., entered the Curtis Institute of Music in 2015. All students at Curtis receive merit-based, full-tuition scholarships, and Mr. Covington is the Rita E. Hauser Conducting Fellow.

Mr. Covington recently completed his tenure as assistant conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and music director of the Memphis Youth Symphony Program. He has also served as assistant conductor of the Memphis Symphony Chorus, guest conductor for the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and cover conductor for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He has competed in the Malko Conducting Competition in Copenhagen, where he was the youngest participant to advance to the third round; and the Tokyo International Conducting Competition.

Mr. Covington holds a Bachelor of Music degree in violin performance from the University of Texas-Arlington, where he studied with Clifton Evans; and a Master of Music degree in orchestral conducting from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Neil Varon. He has attended the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors, the Salzburg Festival, and the Pacific Music Festival in Japan.

Among his many honors and awards are an Ansbacher Fellowship for young conductors from the American-Austrian Foundation; a study scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service; and the Walter Hagen Conducting Prize from the Eastman School of Music.

Ethan Heard is equally at home creating productions of new work, Shakespeare, Sondheim, and Monteverdi. As Founding Co-Artistic Director of Heartbeat Opera, he has directed Kafka-Fragments, The Fairy Queen, The Seven Deadly Sins, and the drag extravaganza Miss Handel. Other opera includes the world premiere of Sisyphus (Experiments in Opera), Erismena and L'Orfeo (Yale Baroque Opera Project), L'incoronazione di Poppea (Princeton), and Pierrot Lunaire (Yale Cabaret). Musical theater includes Bells Are Ringing and A Little Night Music (Berkshire Theatre Festival), the world premiere of Mark Campbell and Marisa Michelson's The Other Room (Inner Voices), Merrily We Roll Along (Yale Dramat), Sunday in the Park… (Yale School of Drama), and The Producers (Princeton). Plays include: Julius Caesar and Amelia Roper's Lottie in the Late Afternoon (YSD), The Cat and the Canary (BTF), and Iphigenia and Other Daughters (Santa Fe Theater Festival). Ethan is Resident Director of Cantata Profana, a member of the Yale School of Drama Board of Advisors, and teaches at Princeton and the O'Neill Theater Center. He is developing a music-theater piece about desire and divinity with composer Marisa Michelson and choreographer Chase Brock. He has bachelor's and master's degrees in Fine Arts from Yale. Upcoming performances include Dido and Aeneas with Heartbeat.

Anya Klepikov is a New York based designer for theater and opera, veering occasionally into interdisciplinary collaborations such as Amanda Palmer's living NYPL statue. In opera Anya designed costumes for An American Tragedy at Glimmerglass, the set for Mourning Becomes Electra at the Florida Grand Opera, Shostakovich's Moscow, Cheryomushki! for Chicago Opera Theater, and set and costumes for Hydrogen Jukebox for the Fort Worth Opera Festival. Ms. Klepikov's set design for The Glass Menagerie at Triad Stage was featured by the American Theatre Magazine, and she is the winner of the Connecticut Critics' Circle Outstanding Costume Design Award for A Woman of No Importance at the Yale Repertory Theater. She recently designed the set for Kathleen Chalfant's one woman show about Rose Kennedy Off-Broadway and is a frequent collaborator of Tim Vasen, Preston Lane, and Mike Donahue. Ms. Klepikov teaches design at Princeton University, Colgate University, and lectures on Color at the Yale School of Drama. Her work on Empty The House is dedicated to Tim Vasen. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Chicago and a Master of Fine Arts from the Yale School of Drama.

Oliver Wason designs lighting for theater, opera, dance, and music. Recent credits include Bells are Ringing, A Little Night Music (Berkshire Theatre Festival); Accidental Death of an Anarchist (Yale Rep, Berkeley Rep); Erismena (Yale Baroque Opera); Daphnis and Chloé, Kafka Fragments (Heartbeat Opera); Tar Beach (Luna Stage); peerless (workshop, Cherry Lane); Grace, The Other Room (TBG Theatre); Sunday in the Park with George, Sagittarius Ponderosa, Julius Caesar. (Yale School of Drama); and 13 shows at the Yale Cabaret. His work has also been seen at HERE Arts Center, the Incubator Arts Project, Paradise Factory, The CSV Cultural Center, La MaMa E.T.C., and The Cherry Pit. Upcoming performances include Lucia Di Lammermoor and Dido and Aneas (Heartbeat Opera); House Rules (Ma-Yi Theater Company). Mr. Wason is a graduate of Hunter College and Yale School of Drama.

The Curtis Opera Theatre, under the artistic direction of Mikael Eliasen, works with established professional directors and designers to create fresh interpretations of standard repertoire and contemporary works. All of Curtis's 25 voice and opera students are cast repeatedly each season, receiving a rare level of performance experience on stage and through frequent collaborations with Opera Philadelphia, Curtis on Tour, and the Curtis Symphony Orchestra. As a result Curtis graduates have sung with opera companies all over the world, including La Scala, Covent Garden, the Vienna Staatsoper, Houston Grand Opera, the San Francisco Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera.

Drawing upon 90 years of artistry, the Curtis Institute of Music pairs tradition and inno-vation, educating exceptionally gifted young musicians as artist-citizens who engage a local and global community through music-making of the highest caliber. Each year 175 students come to Curtis, drawn by a tuition-free, performance-inspired learning culture. In this intimate environment, they are nurtured by a celebrated faculty and inspired by the school's distinctive "learn by doing" approach, offering more than 200 concerts each year in Philadelphia, as well as performances around the world through Curtis on Tour.

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Curtis Opera Theatre: Empty the House (world premiere) Rene Orth, composer and Mark Campbell, librettist
Thursday, January 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, January 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, January 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, January 24 at 2:30 p.m.

Curtis Opera Studio, 1726 Locust Street

Conner Gray Covington, conductor
Ethan Heard, stage director
Anya Klepikov, scenic designer, costume designer
Oliver Wason, lighting designer

Fully staged production with the Curtis Chamber Orchestra, sung in English.

The Curtis Opera Theatre season is sponsored by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.

Mother - Shir Rozzen
Daughter - Kendra Broom
Brother - Dennis Chmelensky


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