stefan weisman
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THE SCARLET IBIS

Critic’s Pick, David Allen, The New York Times
Critic’s Pick, Seth Colter Walls, Time Out New York
Best of the Fests, Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News


The New York Times, David Allen:
The composer Stefan Weisman and the librettist David Cote have created a haunting, honest and occasionally horrifying tale of familial bullying and disability for the centerpiece of this year’s Prototype Festival...

The tools that contemporary composers, conductors and directors are using to expand the spectacle of music can sometimes seem like unnecessary embellishments...So the great achievement of “The Scarlet Ibis” — an outstanding new chamber opera...is not only that it’s a moving, intense and dignified creation, but also that it adds puppetry to opera’s basic elements in a completely organic way...

The power of the victim and the special qualities of the “other” root the opera’s interrogation of what it means to be “normal.” “I’m gonna make you normal, just like me,” sings Hai-Ting Chinn in the role of Brother, a bullying brat who claims naming rights over his sibling and hurls abuse. But unlike Mr. Hurst’s story, in which Doodle is pathetic, here Doodle fights back. “I won’t be normal no more,” he insists, just before his death. Their dynamics are painful but deeply rewarding to watch.

Mr. Weisman’s emotive score, played with wonder by nine members of the American Modern Ensemble and conducted by Steven Osgood, seems occasionally as period as Andreea Mincic’s costumes. Its generous tonal lyricism develops in layers: hymns and folk songs for the household; a square, petulant simplicity for Brother’s naïve savagery; an enigmatic chromaticism for Doodle and the pathos of time...
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The Wall Street Journal, Heidi Waleson
The Scarlet Ibis…is a narrative, 100-minute chamber opera for five singers and nine players, yet its subject is subtly subversive, and its production groundbreaking.

Based on a 1960 story by James Hurst, “The Scarlet Ibis” is about two young brothers in rural North Carolina early in the 20th century...The relationship between the two is sensitively drawn...The siblings’ contrasting music—Doodle’s dreamily chromatic and Brother’s rhythmically insistent—drives the score, as does Mr. Cote’s pointed libretto...
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Opera News, Steven Jude Tietjen
Cote’s libretto delves into the layers of Hurst’s prose and brings to the surface themes of identity, personal expression and Otherness only hinted at in the story...

Weisman’s score amplifies the brothers’ differences by assigning them distinct musical identities. Brother is a pants role, in the tradition of Cherubino and Octavian. Like his operatic predecessors, Brother occupies a liminal space in life and is pulled from naiveté to awareness.  His music is energetic and active. He never pauses for introspection in the form of an aria and interrupts solemn and reflective moments with jokes and insults...

Doodle is written for a countertenor, which magnifies the character’s “Otherness.” Weisman sets Doodle apart from Brother and the rest of the characters with long, plaintive melodies, as in the dreamy “Peacock Aria,” in which Weisman and Cote give voice to Doodle’s musical and poetic inner life...

The final scene is Weisman and Cote’s most beautiful departure from Hurst’s story. The brothers race home in a storm. Doodle is left behind and runs after Brother. For the first time, Doodle’s music pulses and moves. He soars into the air and then comes crashing down lifeless, like the scarlet ibis. The haunting final tableau is Brother gazing at Doodle’s body. The look of recognition on Chinn’s face made for a chilling, silent finale.
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New York Magazine, Justin Davidson
Opera in its most inflated form is an immense vehicle for wispy plots; at Prototype, a festival of musical miniatures, it’s an intimate vessel for grand themes...Astonishing things happen at close range. A child-size puppet becomes expressive...Smallness is a powerful tool in the hands of those who wield it well...

The Scarlet Ibis, a deft tragedy by composer Stefan Weisman and librettist David Cote. Based on a 1960 story by James Hurst that’s rich in martyr symbolism and lethal brotherly love, the opera chronicles another doomed relationship, this time between children: poor little Doodle and his nameless big brother…Doodle does die, of course, felled not by disease but by his brother’s affection, pride, and fear, which is what makes it the stuff of opera...Weisman and Cote have made something special...

Writing an extended operatic role for a small, disabled child might seem like asking for trouble. The Scarlet Ibis solved the problem by cleaving Doodle in two. A remarkably lively puppet played his scrawny body, and the burly countertenor Eric S. Brenner supplied his high, sweet voice. What might have been an awkward compromise became a touching tour de force...
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The New Yorker, Russell Platt
Commissions from major opera houses continue to allow some of America’s most formidable lyric composers (Mark Adamo, Jake Heggie, Carlisle Floyd, and others) to use the stage as a melting pot, synthesizing the tradition of Puccini, Britten, and Berg with hardy American influences—the Broadway stage, the enduring post-minimalist wave. But today’s indie-opera movement, which is still establishing its own economic base, narrows and sharpens stylistic parameters. This trend is exemplified in the Prototype festival... The flagship production, The Scarlet Ibis (with a quasi-minimalist score by Stefan Weisman), is designed for audiences young and old; it views the subject of physical disability through the lens of a Southern writer’s anguished childhood.
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Condemned to Music, David Patrick Stearns
This new opera with words by David Cote and music by Stefan Weisman created a quiet sensation at the Prototype Festival...

The opera has a wonderfully clear narrative...Along the way are any number of affecting musical set pieces, such as a church hymn that Doodle sings asking God to be healed (greeted with mocking tones by his brother). Then there’s his rhapsodic interaction with a tropical bird (a scarlet ibis)...

The piece’s simplicity of means – and its impact – were not unlike those of Juan Darien, the semi-legendary 1988 studio-theater show that put director Julie Taymor and composer Elliott Goldenthal on the map. Similarly, The Scarlet Ibis score abounds in lyricism but can’t be said to have traditional tunes…No Wagnerian artifice shoehorns (or elongates) the story into a larger symphonic scheme. With a sound envelop resembling Appalachian Spring in its original chamber-orchestra version, the music subtly creates an effective netherworld between major and minor when the family first attempts to explain this highly unusual second child to Brother. Rhythms are simple but give an appropriate emotional pulse of every scene.

When the score momentarily quotes the Falcon music of Die Frau ohne Schatten, one realizes how much The Scarlet Ibis runs counter to the usual steep peaks and valleys associated with traditional opera…the music achieves its own kind of foreground operatic status if only through its dramatic precision. Most distinctive is the way the score gives the characters the time to think onstage. In contrast to more traditional opera where an emotional explosion is followed by a quick exit, important events have contemplation time that makes music and story even more insinuating.

The Scarlet Ibis earns its pathos so honestly that, for the singers, this may have been a remarkably low-pressure gig. No need to cover the weak spots or “sell” the scene any any traditional sense...

The Scarlet Ibis had to have been developed (by HERE and Beth Morrison Projects, in association with American Opera Projects) with great care. So easily, one could look at the piece the way Brother looks at Doodle, claiming that it should be more normal, like what’s seen at the Met. Where’s the outsized heroism? Where’s Aida and Siegfried in all of this? Luckily The Scarlet Ibis had the courage to be itself.
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Musical America, Daniel Stephen Johnson
The Scarlet Ibis hits the ground running. Twice near the briskly paced opening of the new opera...we see two contrasting scenes unfolding simultaneously: at the very beginning, a boy's toy-soldier reenactment of the gruesome battle of Gettysburg plays out during his younger brother's difficult delivery; just a few moments later, while their mother sings the frail newborn to sleep, their resigned father prepares for the worst by hammering together an infant-sized coffin.

With these scenes, Weisman and Cote set the tone for the piece, which negotiates between two worlds: the suffering feminine versus the violent masculine; the mother's tenderness versus the father's toil…Weisman's music drives home the divide between the fragile boy and the big, frightening world around him by scoring much of the work in a gruff language of stiff rhythms and static harmonies, reserving for Doodle the opera's loveliest and most lyrical melodies...

The opera is undeniably effective, with both the set pieces written into the work and the director's coups de theatre generating enough emotional excitement to sustain the drama...Weisman excels in the lyrical mode. When Doodle, for instance, tells his brother a story about a magical peacock, the opera really takes flight...

At the death of Doodle, the orchestra reprises his elegy for the ibis, and by the time his brother arrives to find the tiny puppet limp and abandoned on the stage, the audience is guaranteed to be in tears.
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New York Observer, James Jordan
Glorious...meaty and challenging, worth the trick to such untraditional opera-going destinations...The creative team for this piece deserves kudos for recognizing so ideal an operatic subject, rich in emotion that can best be expressed in music. The troubling theme of the meaning of “normal” also makes this work particularly suitable to teens...The musical language is conservatively “American,” with a hint of Aaron Copland in its wistful open harmonies.

A particularly subtle touch was the high-lying distribution of voices: three women, a countertenor and a baritone, suggesting the female-centric world of a young child...
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Broadway World, Stephen Raskauskas
With any new work, I never fail to ask myself: Did it have an emotional impact? Was it good enough that I would see it again? Does it have enough appeal to revive again? The answers: yes, yes, and yes.

Initially, I was apprehensive about The Scarlet Ibis because of its source material...I am glad composer Stefan Weisman and librettist David Cote proved me wrong. The Scarlet Ibis is a poignant piece that deals sensitively with difficult issues and emotions. To me, in fact, the narrative works better as an opera than as a short story.

Weisman's score is traditional enough at its core that it even borrows a snatch from Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten. Traditional doesn't mean banal or predictable, however. Cote's libretto worked very well, with nothing sounding too out of place or unnatural for the world they createdextraordinary considering how little dialogue is in the original short story.

The ease with which the score and the music and libretto worked together allowed me to forgetfor the most partthat I was watching an opera, and allowed me to focus on the characters. And that's all I really wantgood storytelling...

As Doodle often dreams, some of the most wistful and lyrical melodies are scored for him, including a haunting reverie for the dead ibis, and a dream song about a boy with a special pet peacock...

PROTOTYPE has recommended the show for anyone 12 and over, though the audience at Friday night's performance was decidedly adult. Still, it is accessible enough that even younger audiences could be entertained and enlightened by it. In fact, while I do not mean to imply that The Scarlet Ibis is only suitable for young peopleit would be excellent even for groups of elementary and middle school children to see. Aside from the fact that any exposure to the arts young people can have is a good thing, one of the chief merits of THE SCARLET IBIS is its potential to open up dialogues about difference, and that's something people of all ages need more of.
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New York Classical Review, George Grella
This year's Prototype Festival...is off to a typically strong start with last week's world premiere of Stefan Weisman’s powerful and affecting opera, The Scarlet Ibis.

Weisman’s music is melodic throughout, and he takes care to produce a careful distinction between Brother’s choppy lines and Doodle’s long, lyrical ones...Weisman’s writing has a foundation built in part on Copland’s populist style, but is much more convincingly romantic, wringing genuine pathos out of moments that Copland would have used for sentimentality. Cote’s libretto is clear, singable, and shapes the drama with fine pace and proportions...

The duration is one hour and forty minutes, roughly divided into two acts without intermission. The pace is relaxed but never static, and the music expresses the drama so well, and is such a pleasure to hear, that one never feels time passing. Instead, it is an accumulation of beautiful, dramatic details and emotional experiences that gather weight. One does not want the experience to end even as the final moments clearly draw closer...
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Everything That Rises, Paul Elie
The Southern Gothic is alive and well and living in the opera houses of New Yorkor more precisely, in the city's multipurpose performance spaces... Spending time with a younger brother (called “Doodle”) who has a disability in the legs, the character called Brother resolves to teach him to walk – and compares him to Frankenstein and Lazarus in a single breath. Well, seeing the puppet who is Doodle gradually rise and walk, singing all the while, really was akin to seeing the raising of Lazarus.  It was that startling. Hawthorne – or Flannery O’Connor – couldn’t have done it better.
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Stage Buddy, Navida Stein
Sometimes you are fortunate to have an extraordinary experience in the theater, when all the elements come together gloriously. I received such a blessing at The Scarlet Ibis, a new American opera that is part of the 2015 Prototype Festival and co-produced by Beth Morrison Projects and HERE. A magnificent collaboration between composer, librettist, director, designers, singers, musicians and puppeteers...Composer Stefan Weisman and librettist David Cote have crafted an achingly beautiful opera examining the complex relationship between two brothers...

Mr. Weisman’s music is profoundly connected to the emotional life of the characters, including the melodic simplicity of a hymn and the harmonic and rhythmic density of a storm at the climax of the story. The final haunting melody, pulsating with the beat of a grief stricken heart, brought tears to my eyes.

Every artist involved with this production should be congratulated for their stunning work…Opera lovers owe a big debt of gratitude to Beth Morrison Projects and HERE for supporting and nurturing such vital new work.
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Classical.Music.NYC, Eric Sweeney
Worlds collide this week as Stefan Weisman and David Cote's opera The Scarlet Ibis premieres at HERE as part of the Prototype Festival. The opera  uses not only living, breathing singers, but also stunningly crafted puppets...

It has absolutely everything a great chamber opera demands: beautiful music, beautiful words, and a compact cast...

Cote’s words are full of life and color as he brings the tragic life of this boy to the stage. There are multiple arias that paint intricate pictures, including the Mother’s first aria (sung tenderly by Abigail Fischer) while she holds her almost lifeless newborn. Or the haunting aria sung by Doodle, the young cripple, when he tells his brother about the fantastic lands he travels to in his dreams.

Stefan Weisman’s score (conducted by new opera guru Steven Osgood) compliments the fine libretto and also takes moments to really come forward and shine. The arias are accompanied by rich orchestration and the vocal line is never overpowered by the accompaniment. The score remains tonal and flows and pours out naturally.


Feast of Music, Steven Pisano
Weisman's score is rich and suggestive: at times bright and hopeful, at other times menacing and dark...
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Hi! Drama, Eva Heinemann
The Scarlet Ibis...was ambitiously turned into an opera by Stefan Weisman with a libretto by David Cote who adheres to the story but has some added touches to give it more depth and symbolism...I had never heard of this story so I went home and Googled it and read it in 10 minutes. This made me appreciate even more the scope of what Stefan Weisman and David Cote had achieved. Make sure you bring Kleenex when you see this, and you really should.


San Francisco Classical Voice, Zoe Madonna
The Scarlet Ibis...brought something all too often missing on the operatic stage: subtlety. Grandiose gesticulations and histrionics would have been entirely out of place in this up-close production, staged in HERE’s intimate theater.


Schleppy Nabuccos
, Elizabeth Frayer

The Scarlet Ibis...was a refreshing break from the classical opera scene...I was surprised to find myself choked up at points as I watched the puppet. Not only was that a testament to the puppeteers, but to Eric S. Brenner (who occasionally manipulated the puppet alone). Just listening to Brenner was mesmerizing, and his countertenor voice led to the Southern Gothic otherworldly vibe…The Scarlet Ibis and its highly creative stagecraft left a lasting impression on me.


Schleppy Nabuccos, Shawn Milnes
In The Scarlet Ibis, composer Stefan Weisman and librettist David Cote have created an audial and visual southern gothic tale of surprising effectiveness... The entire production in the small HERE theatre shows how much can be done with just light, creativity and ingenuity on stage.


Parterre Box, John Yohalem
Operamission's "A Countertenor Cabaret" starred no fewer than 14 of these once-rare songbirds...Mr. Weisman’s chamber opera, The Scarlet Ibis, had a much-admired debut at the Prototype festival of new opera this month. Eric Brenner sang “I Have Wings” from Ibis, a melody of such magic and originality, performed with such imaginative sympathy, that I gnashed my teeth to have missed the recent run.
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DARKLING

Darkling CD Video Feature in Encore Magazine, January 2012.
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Gramophone Magazine UK (CD Review), Ken Smith:
One could argue that the key difference between theatre and opera is the latter's potential to be more poetic. Obviously this is not always reflected in the final results, but when it comes to drawing a narrative line through disparate, often irreconcilable plot points, music does offer a solution that relies on neither verbal nor logical coherence. Darkling is that potential pushed to its logical extreme.

Originally a book-length poem, then a multimedia theatre piece, Anna Rabinowitz's tale of a Holocaust survivor rummaging through the scattered memorabilia of her murdered family spins a powerful, unsettled web, the often allusive nature of the story reflecting significant gaps in her own family history in the wake of Poland's Nazi occupation.  Where Rabinowitz originally found a structural solution in an acrostic poem inspired by Thomas Hardy's The Darkling Thrush, composer Stefan Weisman mirrors that approach in his tight, emotionally mercurial score.

Through an interplay of spoken and sung text with a string quartet backdrop, Weisman unfolds his emotional tapestry with confident strokes, with this recording's superb audio production (headed by studio veteran Judith Sherman) resulting in something resembling a high-art radio drama.
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The Juilliard Journal (CD Review), Bruce Hodges:
Just when you think you've heard every angle possible on the Holocaust, along comes Stefan Weisman's chamber opera Darkling to gently—yet forcefully—illuminate another sorrowful corner... Thomas Hardy's poem "The Darkling Thrush" was the inspiration for Anna Rabinowitz, who used it to create a lengthy poem about a girl named Anna who has discovered a trove of memorabilia—letters and photographs from those who perished. The opera, which has no plot per se, describes what she found. Weisman draws on a version of the Hardy poem from composer Lee Hoiby (who, like Weisman, was commissioned by American Opera Projects), and uses Hoiby's song as a jumping-off point for the delicate and eclectic language he employs to tie together Rabinowitz's powerful fragments. Four excellent singers are supplemented by 16 spoken voices and a string quartet... Even though other artists have confronted us with countless examples of such dispassion, the effect here is unnerving. The opera ends with descriptions—not for the squeamish—of some of the horrors inflicted, each followed by the Hebrew word dayenu, which means "it would have been enough for us." This is a chilling reference to text recited at the Passover Seder, which praises God for his blessings and miracles. As Anna closes the box, the music disappears and she utters the work's final though: "And I was unaware." Judith Sherman and Jeanne Velonis recorded the musical portions at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, with a slight emphasis on Raman Ramakrishnan's cello, which runs like a melancholy thread through the musical fabric. The spoken dialogue, captured by Tom Hamilton at New York's Merlin Studios, combines to create the vivid lamentation.
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Time Out New York (**** Four Star CD Review), Alan Lockwood:
Stacked with conflicting themes and textured with vocal and string-quartet sequences that smolder and gleam, Darkling is a scuffed, allusive musical palimpsest...Anna Rabinowitz culled the libretto from her book-length poem; with Stefan Weisman's taut, dexterous  score and a bold staging by American Opera Projects, Darkling played to acclaim in 2006. A lustrous middle register runs from the prologue's cello theme through the singing of mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn...Bass-baritone Mark Uhlemann is forceful in "Salvage of Coats," with Tom Chiu bowing overtone shards...Voices hover and parry, set in communal intimacy like radio drama, with Weisman's arias providing both tension and release..."The mind is its own place," the narrator, Anna, intones, and Darkling is a deeply mindful work.
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The Examiner (***** Five Star CD Review), Tina Molly Lang:
The minimalist string quartet introduction set the dark tone of the opera. There are several other instances where the composer makes effective use of a minimalist texture. For example, on track 8 of the first disc, the high A in the violin seems to simply echo the mezzo-soprano who sings, "they will not ask me why..." And on track 3 of the second disc, the strings create a mood while the singers describe "a pen's breathprint." Yet the score also has passages of lush melodies and folk tunes, as seen in tracks 4 and 5 of disc 1 ("scattershot clips" followed by a flashback of the wedding)... This CD is not easy listening, as the subject matter is quite heavy. There is no cohesive plot (though that only further illustrates the problem of memory). This is a weighty work that yields deeper meaning upon multiple listenings.
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Nouspique (CD Review), David Barker:
In Darkling (the opera) Stefan Weisman has remained true to the progressions found in the poem. He preserves the fragmented "showbox" of images through spoken work sections in which a variety of speakers fragments the text... A small ensemble (string quartet and four vocalists) reinforces the sense of intimacy... Something more grandiose, the story, say, of the whole Jewish people, would bury Darkling's interior struggle. And so the setting is spare... Although the score is challenging, that does not mean it is inaccessible. In particular, I was moved by the final extended Dayenu... Darkling is a challenging work. Make whatever effort it demands of you. It will reward you well.
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New Music Box (CD Review), Alexandra Gardner:
Darkling packs a punch even though served in a relatively small container... Layers of spoken word, singing, and the occasional chunk of archival audio are intertwined with a supporting bed of string quartet music that makes for an intimate listening experience... This 2-CD incarnation of Darkling is a compelling listen—the texts are given carefully nuanced deliveries by a cast of rich voices perfectly suited to storytelling... It would be fascinating to experience a live production, to discover how the many layers and fragments are handled in three dimensions. However, this aural version of Darkling is beautifully recorded, strongly conveying the feeling of a radio play.
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Theatermania (CD Review), Andy Propst:
Stick with this two-disc recording and allow Stefan Weisman's haunting score for strings to wash over you... You may be taken off guard by the surprisingly powerful cumulative effect of the words and music.
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American Record Guide (CD Review), Kraig Lamper:
Darkling is a journey through memories between and after the world wars... The music is dark, with brief glimpses of hope in its figures...A number of musical styles are implemented, ranging from spacious, angular, atonal motives to simple heartfelt melodies.


Audiophile Audition (CD Review), Steven Ritter:
An intense, passionate work ... clever and highly inventive, very personal music... Performances and sound are first class.


New York Times, Anthony Tommasini:
With a cast of 13 singers and actors, the Flux String Quartet and many taped elements of speech and sound, Darkling combines musical theater, opera, movement, pantomime, lighting effects, video projections and language... Mr. Weisman's score...is personal, moody and skillfully wrought.  There are echoes of Shostakovich, somber Minimalist riffs, ruminative hints of Jewish folk music and a poignant aria for the young bride (the mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn).  The score is most compelling when the composer takes risks, the harmonic language becomes astringent and a raw, fitful quality erupts.
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Powiat Gnieznienski (Poland), Agnieszka Rzempa:
This unusual, innovative piece was the main attraction of "Jewish Culture Day," sponsored by the city of Gniezno [Poland]...The unique use of language, film and music were highly effective, and the performance received great applause as well as a standing ovation from the audience... The theatrical power of Darkling underscores how quickly catastrophic events can destroy that which took many years to build. Darkling also movingly revives the memory of the Holocaust tragedy and reminds us of the dangers that we face in the present where terrorism is a constant threat.


Night After Night, Steve Smith: 
Stefan Weisman's dark, elusive score is...shot through with an old-world melancholy...The composer took full advantage of his operatic principals soprano Jody Scheinbaum, mezzo Hai-Ting Chinn, tenor Jon Garrison and bass-baritone Mark Uhlemann each of whom was afforded an opportunity to stand out...Garrison's impassioned solo number, performed in beard and gown, summoned thoughts of Halévy's tortured Elezar....Productions like this remind you that all too much light is cast upon the Met and City Opera and even San Francisco and Houston to define what new opera is, or might be.  Let Darkling serve as a reminder that opera can also be what and where it is found. This is a profound, provocative piece of musical theater one that I hope will occasion a great many opera lovers to stray from habitual paths.
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Opera Now, Heidi Waleson:
Stefan Weisman's instrumental score, played by the Flux Quartet, had the bleak urgency of Shostakovich crossed with Jewish liturgical idioms... The power of Darkling is in its sophisticated execution; but it is an exercise of remembrance above all.


Time Out New York (Starred Review), Lisa Quintela:
Thomas Hardy's mournful poem "The Darkling Thrush"...is colorfully set to music for the final song and grafted onto measures in the rest of Stefan Weisman's expressionistic score...Speech mingles with live singing, subtitles and projected film to create a sense of chaos, helplessness and anomie... Opera snobs and novices alike won't regret wondering downtown for more daring fare.
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The Poetry Foundation, John Freeman:
For a long time, poetic opera was the zipper boot of American arts and letters—an embarrassing reminder that poetry, like footwear, once thought it could be two things at once. But that ’70s feeling appears to be coming back: Dana Gioia, Anne Carson, and Glyn Maxwell have all written librettos of late. None of these works, however, approach the ambition of American Opera Projects’ recent adaptation of Anna Rabinowitz’s 2001 volume, Darkling…To continue the footwear metaphor, this is a Reebok bump with a GPS device attached to the laces... At one point the story is told with the conventions of an old black-and-white movie…But just when we become wedded to this narrative...it fractures and elegantly reassembles itself... Out of this fog emerges the performance’s powerful portrayal of the march to the Final Solution…[The baritone] aria…about wearing the nightmare of this horror like an insufficient coat during the cold, is worth the price of admission and then some.
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Opera Today, Megan Jenkins: 
Recently at the East Thirteenth Street Theatre AOP presented Darkling, a new opera that is so multi-layered it defies description…In 80 minutes of intense visual and aural stimulation, Darkling achieves moments of powerful emotion.  At times I felt moved to tears…Bravo to AOP for supporting such a controversial and ultimately important work, and to the creative minds that fitted it all together in a thought-provoking way.
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Sequenza21, Jeffrey Sackmann:
Excellent and thought-provoking, especially in [its] implications for the opera form...Weisman's text-setting was skillful, and I suspect a second listening would reveal much more in it.


Gothamist.com (DARKLING is the "Pick of the Week"), Mallory Jensen:
The Gothamist pick of the week is Darkling...It sounds dark, complicated, and intense, and we suspect that regardless of your level of interest in either theater or opera, you'll be stunned by it, in a good way.
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New York Resident Magazine, Alan Lockwood: 
Acute in its musical reach and dead smart as theater, American Opera Projects’ Darkling…courses with charged generosity…Taut arias recall Schoenberg’s monodramas and Bartok’s hard-hitting Bluebeard’s Castle... Stefan Weisman’s score, played by the Flux Quartet, orbits near Shostakovich’s gripping string quartet cycle then gleans wafting minimalism.


Show Business Weekly, Carrie Jones:
American Opera Projects presents Darkling, a rich opera about a wispy, charged story of immigrant woes and the power of memory....Eerie and effective...the entire 13-member cast evokes a generation of lost souls... The songs themselves are sung with conviction.


TheaterScene.net, Tuomas Hil:
[Conductor Brian] DeMaris's skillful phrasing supported the singers and quite
miraculously he managed to conquer the dry acoustics of the black box theater. Tenor Jon Garrison delivered one of the highlights of the evening with gloriously voice effortlessly filling the space...Hai-Ting Chinn's mezzo-soprano was enchanting...The internal structure of the piece suggested a staged oratory and the production designs were there to support that approach...
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The New York Sun, Gary Shapiro:
Vacancy, displacent, and separation are major themes of Ms. Rabinowitz's poem, which has been set to music by Stefan Weisman in Darkling...In one particularly haunting part...the upbeat Passover song "Dayenu" ("Enough") [is transformed] into a dark refrain of Nazi atrocity.
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The Jewish Week, George Robinson:
More than most operas...Darkling is a total theater experience, with not only music and singing but also video, projected images and textan attempt to find a way to gather and save [the Holocaust's] shards and fragments.
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City Paper Philadelphia, Steve Cohen:
Impressively played and sung by superb performers...Darkling, composed by Stefan Weisman, has beautiful, accessible writing for string quartet and a vocal quartet.


Broad Street Review, Steve Cohen:
Stefan Weisman’s music is modernistic yet accessible...In this story about a Polish Jewish family during the Holocaust, Weisman uses a...somber pallet. There’s much variety in this music, as Weisman varies meters and tempi. He also blends the vocalists exquisitely with the string players. Some eight-part harmonies are very attractive and I’d love to hear the music again... Outstanding singing and playing...Soprano Maeve Höglund, mezzo Hai-Ting Chinn, tenor Jon Garrison and bass Martin Hargrove are the excellent quartet in Darkling. The soprano and the baritone, especially, make the most of great solo opportunities...Andrew Kurtz, artistic director of the company, conducts with precision and feeling.


Opera News, "Risky Business," an article about American Opera Projects:
"Our largest audience was probably for Darkling," answers Charles Jarden [the executive director of American Opera Projects].  "Darkling, music by Stefan Weisman and Lee Hoiby, from a poem by Anna Rabinowitz, ran for sixteen performances at an off-Broadway theater before we took it to NYU's Skirball Center and then on tour to Germany and Poland. So maybe 10,000 people saw it, in sum."
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Click to read about Darkling as featured in Scene4 by Karren Alenier

Click to read about Darkling as featured in the Jewish Telegraph


BLOOM

Examiner.com, Stephen Smoliar:
Last night in the Recital Hall of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music,
Wild Rumpus presented the second of three concerts planned to feature the winners of the group’s 2014 Commissioning Project... Both of these premieres left deep impressions. Both composers were clearly not content with the pursuit of surface-level features and opted for “in depth” treatment of their chosen “subject matter.” ... Intimacy was significant in the second world premiere, Stefan Weisman’s “Bloom.” ... This was clearly an ambitious undertaking for both composer and soprano.



"TWINKIE"

The Wendy Williams Show, Wendy Williams:
Very unique...You're not going to hear opera like this anywhere else...Fabulous!"
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EVERYWHERE FEATHERS

Textura (blog) (CD review):
Though many pieces utilize [Jody Redhage's] voice, cello, and electronics exclusively, an immensely rich sound is achieved through the use of multi-tracking. One such example is "Everywhere Feathers," an arrangement of an aria Stefan Weisman originally wrote for his opera Darkling but that ended up excluded from the final production. The haunting piece is somewhat stark in terms of arrangement, with multi-tracking of Redhage's cello kept to a minimum (all the better to appreciate its woodsy tone) and her voice heard in its most naked and affecting form.
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The Super-Sargasso Sea (blog) (CD review):
Jody Redhage is an indie classical cellist/vocalist...of minutiae and memory features intricately layered cello, vocals and electronics, combined engagingly into eight tracks which demonstrate remarkable creative range and maturity...Personally, I'm fixated on "Everywhere Feathers," penned by Stefan Weisman.
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Ear to Mind (CD review), Alex Segura:
Composer Stefan Weisman’s “Everywhere Feathers” inadvertently becomes the coda to the entire album, as the aria proves to be a manifestation of some of the strongest aspects of the previous tracks. Evoking visions of the sea and a sense of impending loneliness, “Everywhere Feathers” brings the song cycle to a pensive and sad close... Fluid, emotive, but not needlessly so, and full of the kind of details and nuance that bear repeat listens, Jody Redhage has created an album that is memorable and highly accessible.
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A Fool in the Forest (blog) (CD review):
Stefan Weisman's "Everywhere Feathers" shifts attention back to Jody Redhage as a singer: a contemplation of life and the life to come sung over a rising Bach-evoking chordal progression.
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I WOULD PREFER NOT TO

Sequenza21, Jay Batzner (CD review):
Stefan Weisman's "I Would Prefer Not To," influenced by "Bartelby the Scrivener," is trance-inducing...  Mellissa Hughes restricts her voice for a perfect blend with the glassy sound world and detached affect present in the piece.
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The Big City, George Grella (CD review):
Stefan Weisman's "I Would Prefer Not To" is especially compelling. I have heard this band play live a few times and still wasn't prepared for the depth and complexity of what they are doing.
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Lucid Culture, Andreas Viklund (CD review):
Much as there are innumerable great things happening in what's become known as "indie classical," there's also an annoyingly precious substratum in the scene that rears its self-absorbed little head from time to time. Newspeak's new album Sweet Light Crude is the antidote to that: you could call this punk classical...Stefan Weisman's "I Would Prefer Not To"--inspired by Melville's Bartelby the Scrivener, master of tactful disobedience--builds from austerity to another trip-hop vamp...Mellissa Hughes' deadpan, operatically-tinged vocals overhead.
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New Music Box, Brian Sacawa (CD review):
Lest Newspeak seem like a one-trick pony, the group also lends its considerable flexibility to tracks that explore a more electronica-type feelStefan Weisman's trancey, hypnotic, downtempo, "I Would Prefer Not To," shows that Newspeak is not just all about rocking out...
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Arcane Candy (CD review):
Newspeak strikes oil with Sweet Light Crude, a dark, chocolately album that could easily keep a whole nation full of chamber rock lovers well lubricated for a whole year - or at least until the Earth's mantle is sucked dry... This short but sweet spout spews forth six spurts of liquid (solid) gold from six different composers... Stefan Weisman's "I Would Prefer Not To" tacks a semi-lyrical, screeching ballad of mysterious understatement onto a tale of disobedience and protest. 
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New York Times, Zachary Woolfe (review of live performance):
Organized by the new-music sextet Eighth Blackbird, the Tune-In Music Festival at the Park Avenue Armory takes as its starting point Stravinsky's provocative statement that "music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all."  On Thursday the group, joined by the ensembles Red Fish Blue Fish and Newspeak, tried to disprove the formulation with works ranging from Stefan Weisman's eerie Bartelby fantasy, "I Would Prefer Not to" to Frederic Rzewski's "Coming Together."
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Music vs. Theater, Brian M Rosen (review of live performance):
Newspeak [is] a chamber ensemble committed to exploring the boundary of rock and classical music.  Integrating an electric guitar and drum kit with more traditional chamber instruments, in this performance the ensemble seemed to serve primarily as a backup band for vocalist Melissa Hughes... Composer Stefan Weisman manages to subvert this tendency in his ode to Melville's passive aggressive scrivener, Bartelby.  Repeating the insistent phrase "I would prefer not to" on repeated pitches, Hughes barely emerges from behind the ensemble's brooding haze of sound, evoking this cypher of a character.
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Phillyist, Sydney de Lapeyrouse (review of live performance):
Stefan Weisman's "I Would Prefer Not To" turns Bartelby the Scrivener's catch phrase into an anti-war protest, with each repetition of the phrase becoming more pleading, more insistent.  The light vocals of Sarah Chalfy brought a wonderful child-like pathos to the song.
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Lucid Culture, Andreas Viklund (review of live performance):
Newspeak were celebrating the release of their potent new album Sweet Light Crude, an equally diverse mix of politically-charged music by an A-list of rising composers... Stefan Weisman's "I Would Prefer Not To" contrasted plaintively, a subtle tribute to civil disobedience, cello and violin mixing with singer Mellissa Hughes' vocalese.
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Seen and Heard International, Bruce Hodges (review of live performance):
Stefan Weisman's fascinating "I Would Prefer Not To" draws on Herman Melville's Bartelby, the Scrivener...The talented octet, anchored by the cool voice of Melissa Hughes, offered their own pleasures.
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TWO/HER Choreography by Deborah Lohse for the New Chamber Ballet and ad Hoc Ballet

The New York Times, Roslyn Sulcas:
Deborah Lohse’s new Two, which opened the program, offered...meditative calm.  A duet for Emily SoRelle Adams and Emery LeCrone to a melancholy, melodic score by Stefan Weisman, Two...suggests Ms. Lohse’s gifts for creating theatrical atmosphere.
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New York, Rebecca Milzoff:
Pay particular attention to an abstract new work by Deborah Lohse, set to haunting music by Stefan Weisman. [Critics' Pick]


Village Voice, Deborah Jowitt:
Much of the pleasure of NCB’s recent performances came from pianist Melody Fader and violinist Erik Carlson playing music by Luciano Berio, Stefan Weisman, Joseph Haydn, and Miro Magloire...I appreciated Deborah Lohse’s Two. Not only do both Carlson and Fader, fine musicians, get to play Stefan Weisman’s commissioned score; the choreography demands that Emily SoRelle Adams and Emery LeCrone focus intently on each other and the import of their actions... Lohse and the performers...make it seem both touching and believable.
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Oberon's Grove, Philip Gardner:
Two choreographer Deborah Lohse reports creating the movement before the commissioned score by Stefan Weisman was applied. The result is a beautiful and thought-provoking duet for two women.  Stefan's score as played by Owen Dalby (violin) and Melody Fader (piano) is melodic with a feeling of wistfulness or regret underlining the full-blown lyricism... The work is full of moving, memorable images and the combination of the music, which Owen and Melody played with a nice sense of rapture, and the luminous dancing of Emily SoRelle Adams and Emery LeCrone made this a piece I would like to see again - several times.
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Dancing Perfectly Free, Evan Namerow:
Deborah Lohse’s admirable ad hoc Ballet goes against the grain in HER, a full-length premiere at the Joyce SoHo that addresses female intimacy, desire, aggression, and the continuously redefined relationship between two women...To Stefan Weisman’s delicate music for piano and violin, they dance in unison, distorting balletic lines to display marvelously twisted shapes.
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Dance Europe, Tim Marin:
Choreographer Deborah Lohse opened with Two, a duet for Emily SoRelle Adams and Emery LeCrone. Stefan Weisman composed a work expressly for this piece (Owen Dalby: violin, Melody Fader: piano)...Lohse created some nice images: It gave me sad visions of Alzheimer's patients, only glancingly aware of the people in their lives.



FADE

Click here to listen to interview with Sean Rafferty on BBC Radio 3 "In Tune" programme

Bloomberg News, Warwick Thompson:
Fade is a 25 minute piece by American composer Stefan Weisman, with a libretto by David Cote.  In it, wealthy New Yorkers Gertrude and Albert enter their modern new house in the country, only to find that it cannot heal the problems in their relationship.  Weisman's music is lyrical in a Philip-Glass-meets-John Adams vein, and he has an ear for a gracious melody.


The Stage, Edward Bhesania:
Second Movement is a young opera company that stages rarely-heard, small-scale operas in often unusual venues - its fifth production is a neatly programmed all-American triple bill, featuring a world premiere by composer Stefan Weisman...to a libretto by American writer David Cote. A young couple, Albert and Gertrude, arrive in their new house as their new Housekeeper unpacks, and bickering ensues (perhaps tempered by the Housekeeper’s presence) after Gertrude discovers the place is less than fully eco-friendly - “Half sun, half grid. It’s a hybrid,” enthuses Albert. Albert’s attachment to the material world is poignantly emphasised in Gertrude’s ravishing, almost Straussian aria, in which she reminisces while admiring the sun’s reflection on the lake...the vocal music is sympathetically written for the voices, and Jane Harrington’s Gertrude, David Butt Philip’s Albert and Hannah Pedley’s Housekeeper all deliver fine performances.

Opera, Peter Reed:
Fade involves [a] young couple. Gertie and Albert have just moved into their lovely summer home, built on what’s left of Gertie’s grandmother’s estate. A mysterious Housekeeper is unpacking. Weisman has crammed anxieties about terrorism and the environment, a Chekhovian dwelling on the ghosts of the past and the fragile beauties of nature into a short piece... The music aims at an ecstatic, John Adams-style, heightened reality, and at times it approached a disquiet and supernatural ambiguity reminiscent of the film The Others.


Metro, Warwick Thomson:
I sometimes think of opera in London as a huge ocean liner...and Second Movement is the engine room, the place which constantly generates excitement, heat and the roar of creation...For real cutting edge excitement you can't beat a world premiere.  Fade, the first opera to be commissioned by the company, tells the story of a newly built eco-house going horribly wrong.  The music is by young New Yorker Stefan Weisman, and the libretto by theatre critic David Cote.


Opera Now, Michael White:
Glimpses of the sterile lives and straining hearts that are the truth behind the Good Life in America, this...was a smart idea from a sassy, new, and evidently well-connected little company called Second Movement... The score consisted of largely instrumental texture underlying conversational exchange. The conversation was between a married couple and their maid as they moved into a new house and, by implication, into the downward spiral of their relationship...You have to applaud Second Movement for their enterprise in taking on a new work...Overall, there was a good feel about this young company: an energy, a sense of self-belief and keen ambition. And whatever its rough-edges musically, it had panache. The DNA of something special in the making.


BBC Radio, Sean Rafferty:
It’s a tale of everyday American life, goodness knows that can be turbulent enough in these times…The piece is set in a new eco-house, but it’s an age-old conflict.  It’s a couple who with time on their hands realize they haven’t as much in common as they might have…It’s the American dream gone wrong…But it’s very melodic, and it’s very approachable. 


Broad Street Review, Steve Cohen:
Center City Opera Theatre is performing an estimable service by giving public stage performances of new operas–taking embryonic works from page to stage, as artistic director Andrew Kurtz puts it...Kurtz and a committee sifted through a hundred scores that were submitted for consideration, and three were rehearsed and presented...Fade had attractive music with softer contours, leaning towards French impressionism.  If you’re in a complimentary mood, you could say it was mesmerizing...David Cote wrote a libretto that I’d like to re-read at leisure.  Stefan Weisman composed the music, which I might like to hear as an instrumental suite.


The Dressing (Scene4 Magazine), Karren LaLonde Alenier:

David Cote's libretto is worth reading on its own...In Fade, the state-of-the-
art house doesn't match up to the wife's principles for a "green" house or to her memories of what the former house belonging to her grandmother meant to her in terms of family relationships. More and more, technological advances interfere with human relationships.


Scene4 Magazine, Maxine Kern:

This realistically depicted story achieves larger dimension when dreams are
sung by Gertie, the wife (soprano Amy van Roekel), and Albert, the husband (Jonathan Hays), and countered by cautionary musical inflection in the singing of the housekeeper (mezzo Pamela Stein) who sees the flaws of this anachronistic edifice and wants only to get home as soon as possible.

The character of the music changes as the three people realize their
positions and come to terms with the house itself...At first the housekeeper sings with rich, carefully chosen words and she is addressed with sweeping romantic dialogue, mostly expressed by Jonathan Hays as Albert, with his strong and flowing baritone. The dialogue itself creates suspense immediately, questioning everything. What is the housekeeper's name? What is in the boxes that are collected in the house? Are there still ghosts here from the old house that has replaced the new? The housekeeper, a young woman alone with two children, muses about whether she would like to live in a big house like this one miles from town and tucked into the woods.

For a short while, humor surfaces in the face of suspense and questioning as
the wife grounds the conversation in contemporary concerns about eco-friendly values, which get short shrift in this outsized mansion...The music does a fine job of pacing the delivery of these arguments in overlapping and ongoing dialogue. When the subtext between the couple overwhelms them into dismay, the music fills in for deliberate gaps in their singing.  As such the music continues the original building of suspense, this time by indicating an underlying emotional tension, which chokes up their dialogue.

After that, the dialogue and the music allow for arias and contrasting sounds
and rhythms.  The wife's arias are sweet, romantic and soaring, taking on a Straussian quality; the husband's, perfunctory yet strong. The suspense is diminished, even as lights in the house go out. At this point, the composition tries to regain its original storyline about what will happen, yet also reflecting the fading of the couple's energy and their mutual but discordant disappointment.


SUPERSOFT

San Diego Arts, Kenneth Herman:
Stefan Weisman's 2007 "SuperSoft," a time-suspended, ethereal cello solo, seemed to channel Olivier Messaien's great cello and piano duo from his "Quartet for the End of Time," written in the early months of World War II, only Weisman substituted the gentle, hypnotic malleting of bells and tuned metal pipes for Messiaen's slow chordal repetitions on the piano...I admired Franklin Cox's well-paced solo in "SuperSoft" and...[Percussionist Morris] Palter's sensitive additions ensured that no one could reasonably dismiss him as a mere drummer.
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RESTLESS LEGS

New York Times (Year End Retrospective), Allan Kozinn:
"The Sound of the New Is Heard All Over"  New music is always plentiful in New York, if you look beyond the New York Philharmonic and the two big opera companies...Bang on a Can’s annual People’s Commissioning Fund concert in March...offered works by Stefan Weisman, Lukas Ligeti and Joshua Penman that touched on everything from Pink Floyd trippiness to Latin and African drumming.
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New York Times (Concert Review), Allan Kozinn:
Mr. Weisman’s Restless Legs...is built around a harmonically all but static ostinato in the piano, bass, cello and percussion, against which Mark Stewart’s electric guitar line had a trippy, embryonic Pink Floyd quality at first, and eventually seemed to glance at Carlos Santana’s Latin-jazz synthesis, and toward the end at the atmospheric style of the Norwegian jazz guitarist Terje Rypdal. There was a whole lotta fusion going on...
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New York Times (Preview), Anne Midgette:
Bang on a Can’s annual [People's Commissioning Fund] concert can be counted on to generate electricity and excitement...the three hot young composers [are] Lukas Ligeti, Joshua Penman and Stefan Weisman...
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EAR DEPARTMENT CONCERT

Time Out New York, Molly Sheridan:
The one-night-only crush of the concert calendar renders the discovery of intriguing new composers an often frustratingly hit-and-miss occupation. Michael Gordon…has done more than his own share of such exploration, and he will showcase three not-for-much-longer emerging composers you should hear—Clarice Assad, Missy Mazzoli and Stefan Weisman—as part of the hall’s exciting Ear Department series. If those names don’t ring any bells just yet, they will soon…Each brings a respectable pedigree and commission rap sheet to the Merkin stage. But more important, each delivers a sound that sticks in the ear—Assad with her Brazilian-accented turns of phrase, Mazzoli with her smart electronic-processing touches and Weisman with his striking vocal lines.
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MEETINGS

Mark Greenfest (of the New Music Connoisseur):
This piece, an interlocking vocalese among the antagonistic forces of a
baritone, bass, and soprano, is set in counterpoint, in chordal progressions. It’s decisively post-minimalist, with an engaging yet driving piano line. The dialogue flows back and forth on top of the vocalese-like texture. The aria, in which the soprano chants “Files, files, files,” is strikingly funny. Weisman’s music, replete with contemporary elements has structural integrity and is actively engaged in a rhythmic and harmonic balancing act (akin to Reich). The sound has a sculptural, dancing, quality to it, as if it were shaped on a musical potter’s wheel. It’s powerful material.


CRASH

ComposerUSA, Keith Paulson-Thorp:
All of the pieces are works I would be interested in hearing again, or even performing. The program left little doubt of the stylistic retrenchment of post-modern music; this was music that was overtly geared as much to the average audience as to the scrutiny of fellow composers.  There was a noteworthy preponderance of lyrical writing, and also a penchant for special effects, an element that seemed particularly appropriate in Stefan Weisman’s “Crash,” a tribute to George Crumb (who was born the day of the great stock market crash of 1929).



DAVID AND JONATHAN

The Westsider, Bill Zakariasen:
The text of David and Jonathan, adapted from the Old Testament by Meg
Smith, is provocative...and so its Weisman’s beautiful score.  It’s initially surprising that the composer resists the temptation to illustrate the violent aspect of the story (e.g. Saul’s attempt to murder David, the fatal battle of Gilboa) in sound, and instead the whole 25-minute cantata is a model of notable refinement, even during the most famous passage in Samuel II ("Your love for me was more wonderful than the love of a woman") there is no breast-beating. Weisman obviously views the events as mainly a love story, not an epic. The score is consistently engrossing, pleasingly tonal with dissonance attractively placed at crucial points (the adventurous choral writing is particularly ear-catching), and well worth hearing again.
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Click to read about "David and Jonathan" in NEW YORK MAGAZINE and TIME OUT NEW YORK
    

CALABI YAU (AKA WHAT THE FUCK IS STRING THEORY)

CurtainUp, Les Gutman:
Rarely does a week go by anymore, or so it seems, that I am not prompted to marvel at the number of plays being produced with scientific themes. This week, we add "Calabi-Yau" to the list...The show also incorporates some very nice and effective organ music (Stephen Black) and vocals (Hai-Ting Chinn) composed by Stefan Weisman.


GREENLAND Y2K

This Month ON STAGE:
To ring in the new millennium at the North Pole is the ambitious goal of an
intrepid explorer (Susanna Speier as the Explornographer), but her determination is outflanked by a pesky Y2K Bug (Ian McCulloch)...Stefan Weisman's epic-sounding music conveys the Explornographer's ironic heroism.


NERVOUS PEOPLE

Newsday, Gregg Wager:
The [Bang on a Can] festival opened with a marathon of 23 pieces by
various composers...The festival also included three world premieres, all strong works with their own sense of style...Stefan Weisman's tonal "Nervous People," for string quartet and trumpet, proceeded as a study in pianissimo, going through roughly seven sections where ostinatos dominate over slowly moving melody lines...


...AND SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK

Woodstock Times, Cat Ballou:
Weisman's instinct to communicate an emotional gestalt through a shifting
perspective is a seer's gift... It's a tone poem that fosters anguished beautiful reflection.


Woodstock Times, Howard Vogel:
Weisman's one-movement piece presents clear orchestral colors. He builds dissonance with purposeful orchestration and a slow, insistent melodic line that emerges and recedes from the orchestral texture, now in the strings,later in the trombone. The piece seems to me to be about music.


Daily Freeman, Kitty Montgomery:
Weisman taps a universal in the piece that extends beyond technical craft and projected personal emotion... The work strikes me as if the composer has sensed something beyond himself...


Ulster County Freeman, Marianne D. Darrow:
Perhaps this piece should carry an auditory warning label.




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