Empty the House (Rene Orth/Mark Campbell)
Sophia Hunt, soprano; Tiffany Townsend, soprano; Dennis Chmelensky, baritone
Curtis Opera Theater/Opera Philadelphia
My primary motive as a composer is to write music that moves and touches people. I believe that music has a unique power to deeply connect with others on an emotional level. My favorite works are the ones that have greatly affected me, and so I seek to do the same for others in my own writing.
I am especially interested in dramatic and lyrical storytelling and am particularly drawn to stories with strong female characters. I feel strongly that in order to make opera accessible to the present-day audience, the story and music ought to be both interesting and relevant. My work is often inspired by human emotional experiences, and more recently, themes of motherhood have been my impetus. “Dear Colleagues,” commissioned by and written for mezzo Sasha Cooke, is such an example. With a background in audio engineering, I am also keen on blending electronic soundscapes and beats with acoustic music or classical styles, such as in my chamber opera, Empty the House, written for Curtis Institute of Music, and my song, “Jabberwocky,” created for bass-baritone Zachary James. I spent much of my 3-year tenure as composer in-residence with Opera Philadelphia exploring incorporating electronics with the voice. COVID has given me even more time to explore this electronic musical direction.
While I have written a considerable amount of instrumental work, I particularly love working with the voice because each singer has their own unique instrument. I believe that it is my job as a composer to learn the intricacies of their voice and exploit their strengths to help them sound their best. Collaboration is extremely important to me, and I relish every opportunity I have to work closely with others to create something new and special.
I seek to create music that can be appreciated on many levels, from being accessible to the untrained classical ear to piquing the interest of the well-versed veteran. Great reviews are always wonderful, but if someone laughs, cries, or is deeply stirred in their soul because of some music I’ve written, then that is what I count as success.