July 18, 2017

Press Release: Two Poignant Works Composed by Highly-Acclaimed David Lang

Portland Opera will present the West Coast premiere of a double bill of two contemporary works, The Difficulty of Crossing a Field and Pulitzer Prize-winning The Little Match Girl Passion on July 28 – the first of four performances. Both pieces are composed by David Lang, who has been lauded as an American master with his compelling operatic scores. Portland Opera’s production will be staged by Imago Theatre’s Artistic Co-Director Jerry Mouawad.

“American composer David Lang has created two deeply affecting works that are big in scope and subject matter,” said Christopher Mattaliano, General Director of Portland Opera.”

Based on a one-page story by the 19th century American writer Ambrose Bierce, The Difficulty of Crossing a Field is part courtroom drama, and part cosmic mystery. In the pre-Civil War South, the slave owner Mr. Williamson, played by Michael Streeter, walks across his field and disappears in plain view of his family, his neighbors and his slaves, forever altering the relationships among them. Each witness has a distinct response to this loss, revealed in a series of narrative “tellings” throughout the course of the opera.

Former Portland Opera resident artist Hannah Penn (Show Boat, 2015), will sing in both operas, and perform the role of Mrs. Williamson in The Difficulty of Crossing a Field. Portland Opera also welcomes back Allen Nause, (Show Boat, 2015) former Artistic Director of Artists Repertory Theatre, who will perform the role of Armour Wren. Christian Zaremba (La Bohème, 2017), “a stage animal with a big bass voice,” according to The New York Times, will also sing in both operas, along with Martin Bakari, a “golden” and “velvety” tenor, who will make his principal artist debut with the Portland Opera.

In 2008, David Lang won the Pulitzer Prize for his highly original and deeply moving score The Little Match Girl Passion. Lang’s narrative, inspired by Hans Christian Anderson, takes the story of a young girl cruelly cast out into the cold and tenderly– almost magically–elevates and transforms her plight.

Lang was fascinated by the tale’s Christian overtones and the parallels between the little match girl’s suffering, death and transfiguration and those of Christ. Using Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion as an inspiration and reference, Lang integrates biblical text into the story, providing both a commentary and spiritual reflection on the story of the little girl.

Born in 1957, Lang is an enormous presence in the new music scene. He is the co-founder of the musical collective, “Bang on a Can,” and is working on a symphony in Philadelphia for 1,000 broken instruments to raise money to have them fixed. Critics call his work “fresh, emotional and infinitely approachable.” Conductor Hal France, who last appeared at Portland Opera to conduct Show Boat (2015), will take the podium. Jerry Mouawad, Artistic Co-Director of Imago Theatre, is making his Portland Opera directing debut.

The Difficulty of Crossing a Field and Little Match Girl Passion are sung in English with supertitles above the stage.

THE CASTS (in order of vocal appearance)
The Difficulty of Crossing a Field
Mrs. Williamson                                 Hannah S. Penn
Virginia Creeper/Soprano Slave           Lisa Williamson
Boy Sam                                           Martin Bakari
Williamson Girl                                  Cree Carrico
Presiding Magistrate                           Todd Van Voris
Armour Wren                                     Allen Nause
Mr. Williamson                                    Michael Streeter
Old Woman/Alto Slave                        Nicole Mitchell
Mezzo-Soprano Slave                          Laila Murphy
Tenor Slave                                        Ernest C. Jackson, Jr.
Bass Slave                                         Damien Geter
Andrew                                              Christian Zaremba

The Little Match Girl Passion
Soprano Soloist                                  Lisa Williamson
Mezzo-Soprano Soloist                        Hannah S. Penn
Tenor Soloist                                      Martin Bakari
Bass Soloist                                       Christian Zaremba
Soprano/Percussion Soloist                  Cree Carrico
Alto/Percussion Soloist                        Nicole Mitchell
Tenor/Percussion Soloist                      Ernest C. Jackson Jr.
Bass/Percussion Soloist                       Damien Geter
Little Match Girl                                  Max Young

Gwendolyn Duffy, Kaician Jade Kitko, Carla Grant, Nathan H. G., Fiely Matias, Carol Triffle, Sumi Wu

Conductor                                         Hal France
Stage Director                                   Jerry Mouawad
Scenery Designer                              Daniel Meeker
Costume Designer                             Shana Targosz
Lighting Designer                              Connie Yun

Opera Overtures
These free and informative sessions, led by guest speaker Jeffrey Payne, focus on the music and history behind the evening’s opera to enhance each performance.
Orchestra level
One hour prior to each performance
Free to ticket holders

Back Talk
Immediately after each performance, audiences are invited to join members of the creative team and cast for a 20 to 30 minute Q&A.
Orchestra level
Free to ticket holders

These productions are generously supported by the Oregon Community Foundation, NEA-Art Works, and The Boeing Company. Additional supporters include The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, RACC, Work for Art, the Oregon Arts Commission, the Meyer Memorial Trust, and The Collins Foundation.

PRICE:                      Starting at $28 per regular ticket
PHONE:                     503-241-1802, Toll-free 866-739-6737, M-F, 9-5
Ticketmaster, (800) 982-ARTS (days, evenings, and weekends)
IN-PERSON:               Portland Opera, 211 SE Caruthers St. (south of OMSI, east of Water.) M-F, 9-5
All Ticketmaster Outlets

July 28, 2017
Friday 7:30 p.m.

July 30, 2017
Sunday 2 p.m.

August 3, 2017
Thursday 7:30 p.m.

August 5, 2017
Saturday 7:30 p.m.


Media Contact:  
Mary Agnew