Modern musicals coming to western CarolinaSupport the kickstarter campaign
The western North Carolina region is known for its support of a variety of artistic outlets, and a new nonprofit organization is looking to expand the availability of modern American music.
The Modern American Music Project, (TMAMP), was recently founded by David Troy Francis, an esteemed concert pianist, recording artist and composer. He also is the creator, composer, musical director and executive producer of the runaway smash hit musical BARK! The organization’s mission is to produce three musical works each year that consist of quality works composed by living American composers.
“I moved to Asheville from L.A. two years ago. I’m a classical pianist and I love modern American music,” Francis said. “Asheville and surrounding communities really support the arts, but there’s not much opportunity to see modern American artists so I started this to address that issue.”
The Modern American Music Project’s goal is to offer the region more opportunities to see modern musicals from living American composers. Francis said TMAMP also wants to educate audiences by incorporating social justice components into the musical selections when appropriate.
The organization’s first presentation will be the opera “Dead Man Walking,” which is based on the book and film of the same name by Sister Helen Prejean.
“We chose ‘Dead Man Walking’ because it dealt with the capital punishment issue and it presents both sides,” Francis said. “People get so emotionally attached to a position during a debate, but in an entertainment venue where you have both sides and you can watch and listen – it creates thoughtful introspection.”
The opera is about faith, redemption, and the bonds of family as seen through the eyes of a nun who establishes a unique relationship with an inmate on death row at a Louisiana prison. Since this modern opera is in English, Francis said theater patrons would be able to easily follow the story.
Francis said he was honored to have Prejean herself as an honored guest at the opera the last weekend of April.
Francis said the music by Jake Heggie is a merging of the musical sensibilities of George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein and the libretto, done by four-time Tony Award winner Terrence McNally is extraordinary.
Francis said the cast is made up of seasoned professionals as well as locally cast actors. Jane Bunnell, who has performed more than 450 times at the Metropolitan Opera, will play the part of Mrs. Patrick De Rocher, the prisoner’s mother and Elise Quagliata will play the part of Sister Prejean.
To add an educational component to the performances, Francis said Bunnell and Marc Embree, who will be playing the role of Angola Prison Warden, will offer a Vocal Master Class from 1-3 p.m. April 25 at Lipinsky Hall, University of North Carolina in Asheville. The class is free to area students.
“The opportunity to work with someone of her elite status is rare,” Francis said.
Sister Prejean also will be offering a free lecture, “Dean Man Walking: The Journey Continues,” from 2:30-3:30 p.m. April 26 in Lipinsky Hall. She has been instrumental in sparking international dialogue on the death penalty and helping to shape the Catholic Church’s newly vigorous opposition to state executions.
The opera will begin at 8 p.m. Friday, April 26 at Lipinsky Hall and the second and last performance will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at Coulter Building, Music Recital Hall, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee. Tickets for the opera may be purchased at www.www.tmamp.org.
TMAMP has created a Kickstarter campaign to help the organization pay for the opera. The goal is to raise $20,000 by April 1. All donations are tax deductible and donation rewards are listed on the TMAMP website.
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/723313835/dead-man-walking-an-american-opera?ref=email to make a contribution.
“If we do not make our goal, no money changes hands and your credit card is not charged,” Francis said. “No amount is too small and each donation is significant for us.”
TMAMP’s opera will be a concert version, which is less expensive than a full-costume show. The winter performance will be “Little Match Girl Passion,’ which is based on a Hand Christian Andersen story about homelessness, poverty and starvation.
However, TMAMP is not limiting itself to operas. Next year the organization plans to do something with rock music and also wants to incorporate bluegrass.
“Just from living here two years a lot of people have come to me thanking me for doing something they haven’t seen before,” Francis said. “So I think it will be a successful nonprofit.”