PROTOTYPE BENEFIT PERFORMANCE
Jan 14 at 8PM | $65–$150*
A remarkable operatic poem, Ellen West plunges into the emotional, psychological, and physical challenges of a woman struggling with perceptions of her body, her relationship with food, and the world closing in around her. Inspired by one of the earliest cases of existential analysis, poet Frank Bidart and composer Ricky Ian Gordon examine the lives of psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger and his patient, Ellen West. Bidart’s poem, which serves as the opera’s libretto, juxtaposes the clinical observations of Binswanger with fictitious entries of Ellen’s journals, illuminating a psychological portrait of a woman at war with her body.
Co-produced by Beth Morrison Projects and Opera Saratoga
Co-produced and commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects: Beth Morrison, President and Creative Producer; Opera Saratoga: Lawrence Edelson, Artistic and General Director; with generous leadership support from The Poetry Foundation, The Ted and Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund, Sharon & Richard Ellingsen, Kiki & David Gindler, The Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, and NewMusic USA
The world-premiere production of Ellen West was a co-production of Beth Morrison Projects and Opera Saratoga
Ellen West is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature
*every ticket to this performance includes a donation to support the vitality of this festival
Students and teachers can get a free rush ticket upon presenting valid ID. There is a limit of 1 ticket per person, and the ticket will be given out just before the House closes and the show begins. Entirely subject to availability.
29 Jay St.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Subway: “F” train is the closest line. Coming from Manhattan take the F towards Coney Island – Stillwell Ave. to the York Street Station. It is approximately a 3 minute walk on Jay Street to GKA.
Ricky Ian Gordon
(Composer) Operas include: The House Without A Christmas Tree for Houston Grand Opera, with librettist Royce Vavrek, Morning Star for Cincinnati Opera, with librettist William Hoffman, 27 for Opera Theatre of St Louis, with librettist, Royce Vavrek, A Coffin In Egypt for Houston Grand Opera, with librettist, Leonard Foglia, Rappahannock County for Virginia Opera with librettist, Mark Campbell, The Grapes of Wrath for Minnesota Opera, with librettist Michael Korie, and Orpheus and Euridice for Lincoln Center, for which he won an OBIE Award in 2005. His musicals include Sycamore Trees for the Signature Theatre (Helen Hayes Award), My Life With Albertine for Playwrights Horizons, with writer/director Richard Nelson (AT&T Award and The Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Music Theater Foundation Award), and Dream True for The Vineyard Theatre with writer/director Tina Landau (Richard Rodgers Award). His upcoming projects include Intimate Apparel with playwright Lynn Nottage, a co-commission from The Metropolitan Opera and The Lincoln Center Theatre, and The Garden of the Finzi-Continis with librettist Michael Korie, for New York City Opera and The National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene. Other awards include the National Institute For Music Theater Award, the Stephen Sondheim Award, the Jonathan Larson Foundation Award, the Constance Klinsky Award, The Shen Family Foundation Award, and The Carnegie-Mellon University Alumni Award.
(Poet/Librettist) was educated at the University of California at Riverside and at Harvard University where he was a student and friend of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop. His first volume of poetry, Golden State (1973), was selected by poet Richard Howard for the Braziller Poetry series but it was not until the publication of The Sacrifice (1983) that Bidart’s poetry began to attract a wider readership. His recent volumes include Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 (2017), which won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; Metaphysical Dog: Poems (2013); Watching the Spring Festival: Poems (2008); Star Dust (2005); Music Like Dirt (2002); and Desire (1997), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award. Bidart’s honors include the Wallace Stevens Award, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Foundation Writer’s Award, the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Shelley Award of the Poetry Society of America, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and The Paris Review’s first Bernard F. Conners Prize for “The War of Vaslav Nijinsky.” In 2007, he received the Bollingen Prize in American Poetry. Bidart was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2003, and has taught at Wellesley College since 1972.
(Director) is a theater and opera director based in New York City. Hailed by The New York Times for her “deeply resonant,” “intelligent,” and “darkly enchanting” staging, Griffin’s productions have been seen in performance venues all over the country. With a diverse background in theater, musical theater and opera, some of the places she has worked include: BAM, Opera Colorado, Atlanta Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Curtis Opera Theater/Opera Philadelphia, Perseverance Theater, Geva Theater Center, Southern Rep, Actor’s Express, Virginia Stage, HERE, Clubbed Thumb, New Georges and Williamstown Theater Festival. In 2018 she was appointed as the Managing Artistic Director of The Mannes Opera at The New School. Previously, she was on the faculty of CCM as the Professor of Opera Stage Direction.
(Conductor) is a champion of Russian masterpieces, operatic rarities, and contemporary works on the leading edge of classical music. As Music Director of Chicago Opera Theater, she is the only woman to hold that title in a multimillion-dollar opera company in the United States. Ms. Yankovskaya is Founder and Artistic Director of the Refugee Orchestra Project, which proclaims the cultural and societal relevance of refugees through music. She served as Artistic Director of the Boston New Music Festival and Juventas New Music Ensemble, where she led operatic experiments with puppetry, circus acts, and robotic instruments, as well as premieres by more than two dozen composers. As Music Director of Harvard’s Lowell House Opera, she conducted sold-out performances of repertoire rarely heard in Boston, including Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the U.S. Russian-language premiere of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden. Ms. Yankovskaya has been a featured speaker at the League of American Orchestras and Opera America conferences, and served as U.S. Representative to the 2018 World Opera Forum in Madrid. An alumna of Dallas Opera’s Hart Institute for Women Conductors and Marin Alsop’s Taki Concordia Fellowship, she received a 2018 Solti Foundation Career Assistance Award.
(Ellen West) is internationally recognized for her artistry and captivating stage presence. She has been seen and heard on opera and concert stages worldwide, as well as recital venues, and on Broadway. In the 2019-2020 season Ms. Zetlan returns to the Metropolitan Opera to cover the role of Queen Tye in Akhnaten and reprises the role of Ruth Bader Ginsberg in Derrick Wang’s Scalia/Ginsburg (Toledo Opera, Opera Carolina) and the title character in Ricky Ian Gordon’s Ellen West (prototype Festival). She will also be heard in a premiere of a new Paul Moravec oratorio at Carnegie Hall with Oratorio Society of NY. Known for her passion for contemporary music, Ms. Zetlan has been featured in the premieres of numerous American operas, including Nico Muhly’s Two Boys (The Metropolitan Opera) and Dark Sisters (Opera Company of Philadelphia and Gotham Chamber Opera), John Musto’s Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt (On Site Opera), Steven Stucky’s The Classical Style (Carnegie Hall and the Ojai Festival), Daron Hagen’s Amelia (Seattle Opera), Ned Rorem’s Our Town (Aspen Music Festival, Juilliard Opera Center), Matt Aucoin’s Crossing (American Repertory Theatre), Ricky Ian Gordon’s Morning Star (Cincinnati Opera, On Site Opera), and Louis Karchin’s Jane Eyre (Center for Contemporary Opera). At the Metropolitan Opera, Ms. Zetlan has been seen in HD as Xenia (Boris Godunov), and has also been seen in War and Peace, Le nozze di Figaro, and Macbeth. Ms. Zetlan recently released her debut solo album Your Clear Eye (with label Bright Shiny Things) with composer and pianist Ricky Ian Gordon. Other recent recordings include Naxos releases of Louis Karchin’s Jane Eyre and Falla’s El Retablo de Maese Pedro with the Perspectives Ensemble. Ms. Zetlan is on the voice faculty of the Mannes School of Music.
(Poet-Frank/Dr.Binswanger/Husband) is widely acclaimed for his career as a performer, creator, advocate and teacher, bridging the genres of opera, musical theatre, and recital. As a performer, Nathan has performed many of opera and musical theater’s greatest roles on the world’s most prestigious stages, and in television, radio, video, and live simulcast performances, including singing Papageno in the first ever MET in HD broadcast (The Magic Flute.) Nathan has reinterpreted other classic roles such as Billy Budd, Figaro, and Don Giovanni, garnering many awards, including the Grammy for Best Opera Recording (Billy Budd) and the first ever Beverly Sills Award. Following acclaimed performances with the New York Philharmonic in Carousel and Camelot, Nathan has partnered with many stars of musical theater, including Mandy Patinkin, Kelli O’Hara, Audra McDonald, and Kristin Chenoweth. In theaters this season he looks forward to Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas at Pittsburgh Opera; Ricky Ian Gordon’s Ellen West at the Prototype Festival, and David T. Little’s Soldier Songs at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (Beth Morrison Projects and Chicago Opera Theater.) Nathan believes that music is a living art form and has championed dozens of new works in a multitude of venues, often of late with the Gunns’ production company Shot in the Dark, which debuted Drytown: A Living Room Vaudeville in September, and Flying Solo, his one-man autobiographical show (produced and written by Hershey Felder.) Nathan is Professor and Swanlund Chair at the University of Illinois where he is co-director of Lyric Theatre @ Illinois, a comprehensive program embracing a broad continuum of opera and musical theatre, as well as the development of new works. His career and artistic philosophy are the foundation of the first ever Bachelor of Musical Arts in Lyric Theatre curriculum in the nation.