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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTROVERSIAL NEW OPERA
PROFILES FIRST FEMALE SERIAL KILLER
Wuornos Opera World Premiere in June 2001
(San Francisco, CA, March 6, 2001) A new opera examining the life story of the notorious “lesbian serial killer” will have its World Premiere June 22–24, 2001 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Bay Area composer and librettist Carla Lucero recounts the actual life story of Aileen Wuornos, the sex worker and murderer who is now on death row for the killings of seven men in Florida.
Unique in concept, Wuornos will make history for more than its subject matter. In the world of opera, female composers rarely receive the public attention they deserve. New York’s Metropolitan Opera last performed an opera by a woman in 1903! Wuornos will add Carla Lucero’s name to the small list of women who will witness a full-scale production of their work.
Hailed as an important new opera, this full-scale original piece is presented by the Jon Sims Center for the Arts, Producer Lauren Hewitt, and Executive Producer Nancy Corporon. Wuornos is part of the 2001 National Queer Arts Festival.
A tragic love story of operatic proportions, Wuornos is based on the surreal life of a real person, Aileen Wuornos, who is at once villain and hero. Wuornos is a portrait of love, betrayal, and a woman who makes the ultimate sacrifice for the love of her life — another woman.
Wuornos is directed by Joseph Graves, with musical direction by Mary Chun, scenic designs by Robert Klingelhoefer, and lighting and costume designs by Margaret A. McKowen. The cast includes Kristin Norderval as Aileen Wuornos; Sarah Helen Land as Syrena, Aileen’s lover; Sylvia Eowyn Bloom as Madeline, Aileen’s religious mentor; Linh Kauffman as the teenage Aileen; Douglas
Nagel as Stan, Aileen’s attorney; Julie Queen as the understudy for Aileen; and Karen Feder as the understudy for Syrena. Both understudies will be featured in the matinee performance.
“Rarely have there been opportunities to express alternative stories within the framework of what most consider an elitist art form,” says Carla Lucero. “Wuornos’ impact will be both far-reaching and poignant, giving long-silenced voices the opportunity to be heard. I’m fortunate to be able to utilize my art to shed light on issues that deserve attention, however unsettling. Wuornos will appeal to a diverse cross-section of society, from seasoned opera lovers to those who are merely curious — all intrigued by Aileen Wuornos’ compelling life story.”
Incredibly, this opera becomes darkly humorous as it glares unflinchingly at the media, which has become the moral watermark in our tabloid society. The opera examines the painful journey of a woman exploited at virtually every step of her life. It also explores the lure of the media, and to what extent the people seduced by its power will go to manipulate a story and exploit the subjects at the center. Provocative and controversial, the deepest, darkest roots of feminism are exposed as the rage of one woman speaks for centuries of pain.
“Human Rights advocates like Oprah Winfrey are helping to draw international attention to the institutionalized abuses against women,” says Wuornos Producer Lauren Hewitt. “This is one reason that Wuornos is being hailed as a timely opera with potential beyond the local World Premiere. I am excited about the national and international opportunities for this brave new work.”
Financial Support of Wuornos
“The Jon Sims Center is thrilled to be the producing organization for Wuornos,” says Charles Wilmoth, Director of the Center. “Having supported Wuornos from its initial development when Carla Lucero was a Sims Center AIRspace artist-in-residence, we have committed our resources to this bold, artistically-adventuresome opera because there is such scant institutional support for women in opera.”
Carla Lucero and the Jon Sims Center were awarded $35,000 from the highly competitive Creative Work Fund, the Bay Area’s most coveted new-works granting program. The Creative Work Fund sponsors projects based on the collaboration of an artist with an institution. The program is equally supported by the Columbia Foundation, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, Miriam and Peter Haas Fund, and Walter and Elise Haas Fund. Other funders who have shown their support of Wuornos include the San Francisco Arts Commission, Zellerbach Family Fund, Horizons Foundation, Open Meadows Foundation of New York, and many other local and national philanthropic foundations.
According to Wuornos Music Director Mary Chun, “Composer and librettist Carla Lucero has managed to capture an almost old-fashioned lyric opera sense that she marries to her rich, modern harmonic language.”
Sung in English, the music for Wuornos is a complex study of style, texture, and intensity, which evokes the sense of torment of Aileen’s fractured life as victim and villain. The music ranges from carnivalesque absurdity in large choral scenes that reflect the rapacity of the media and the motives of the profiteers; to cataclysmic dissonance that accompanies horrific scenes of childhood abuse and the resulting murders; to haunted and doleful solo passages that capture Aileen’s loneliness, visceral privation, and desire. The harmonic architecture of Wuornos occupies the chromatic margins of tonality.
About the Composer
Drawing upon sources from Romantic and Neo-Classical music, Carla Lucero has developed a highly melodic compositional style that puts soul into the cerebral. Before moving to the Bay Area, Lucero worked extensively with the Los Angeles-based Collage Dance Theater, including original compositions written for Liquid Assets, Most Wanted, LaBrea Woman, Life in the Lap Lane, and Out of Circulation. Lucero won Los Angeles’s 1998 Lester Horton Outstanding Achievement in Dance Award for Outstanding Composition in a Dance Performance. She has also written film and video scores for Cineplay International, Action International Pictures, and HBO. Her composition in Never Come Back, a film by Tamar Halpern, directed by Patrick Yu, was featured at the 1996 Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles. A native of Los Angeles, Lucero received a B.F.A. in Music Composition from the California Institute of the Arts in 1986 where she studied with composers Leonard Rosenmann, Morton Subotnik, Alan Chapman, and Rand Steiger.
For more information about the Wuornos opera, log on to www.wuornos.org, call Stacy Horn at (415) 441-1366, or e-mail SDHorn@mindspring.com.
For more information about the Jon Sims Center for the Arts, call Charles
(415) 554-0402, e-mail email@example.com, or log on to www.jonsimsctr.org.
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Who’s Who in the Wuornos Cast and Crew
Kristin Norderval (Aileen Wuornos) is a composer and performer with a wide-range of song styles. A soprano, her recent highlights include performances with the Oslo Sinfonietta, Netherlands Dance Theater 3, Prism, Sequitur, New Music Consort, Varanger Ensemble, and with Einar Steen Nøkleberg, one of Norway’s leading pianists. Festival appearances include the Pendel Festival (Sweden), Spring in Havana 2000 (Cuba), Wiener Internationales Tanz-Festival (Austria), Molde International Jazz Festival (Norway), and MALTA OFF Festival (Poznan, Poland). Her operatic roles have included Elektro in Lunar Opera (Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival), Frasquita and Micaela in Carmen (Sarasota Opera), First Sphinx in Oedipus (Santa Fe Opera), and the 1992 production and world tour of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s opera Einstein on the Beach (recorded on Nonesuch). Previous credits include appearances as a soloist with the San Francisco Symphony, Stuttgart Philharmonic, Ålesund Symphony, Santa Fe Opera, and Sarasota Opera. Norderval received a Doctor of Musical Arts from the Manhattan School of Music, a Master of Music from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and a Bachelor of Music from the University of Washington
Sarah Helen Land (Syrena) has a wide repertoire that includes Mercedes in Carmen (West Bay Opera), Cherubino in Figaro and Lola in Cavalleria (Hawaii Opera Theater), Siebel in Faust (Nevada Opera), Suzuki in Madame Butterfly (San Francisco Opera Guild), and L’Enfant in L’Enfant et les Sortileges and Bradamante in Alcina (Chautauqua). The mezzo-soprano received a Master of Music with High Honors from The Juilliard School. While there, she performed in The Rape of Lucretia, Albert Herring, The Marriage of Figaro, and The Love of Three Oranges. At Furman University, where she received her Bachelor of Music, Land performed in Carousel, Amahl and the Night Visitors, and The Magic Flute.
Sylvia Eowyn Bloom (Madeline) has been seen in Fidelio (San Francisco Lyric), A Little Night Music (Phantom Cast Benefit), La Traviata (Palm Beach Opera), Carmen (Wheeling Symphony), Full Moon in March and The Rape of Lucretia (Duquesne University), The Phantom of the Opera (San Francisco), The Medium and La Boheme (Oberlin College), and Wuornos (workshop, 1999). A soprano, Bloom was a featured soloist for the Erie Philharmonic, singing Poulenc’s Gloria and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4. She can be heard on the recordings of Macbeth by Eduardo Alonso-Crespo and Camerata Lazarte (JL Records) and A Vision - Yeats in the Afterlife by Tom Megan (Savage Music). Her TV credits include A Life Worth Living, a television special on the life of Bach. Bloom received a Bachelor of Music from Oberlin College.
Linh Kauffman (Teenage Aileen Wuornos) has performed in Mahagonny (West Bay Opera), Dido and Aeneas (Opera Vivente, Baltimore), The Magic Flute (Bay Area Summer Opera Theater Inst.), Idomeneo (The In Series, Washington, DC), Savitri, Tartuffe, and La Clemenza di Tito (Maryland Opera Studio), Aida (Pittsburgh Opera), and The Old Maid and the Thief and The Merry Widow (Carnegie Mellon). Kauffman, a soprano, has extensive musical theater credits to her name, including performances with 42nd Street Moon, Lamplighters, Mill Mountain Theater (West Virginia), West Virginia Public Theater, and Carnegie Mellon. She has performed as a soloist with the San Francisco Conservatory, San Francisco City Chorus, and the Pittsburgh Symphony. The Connecticut native received her B.F.A. from Carnegie Mellon University and a Master of Music from Maryland Opera Studio.
Douglas Nagel (Stan) has sung with Opera San Jose, Virginia Opera, Opera Idaho, Arizona Opera, Greater Buffalo Opera Company, Western Slope Summer Music Festival, and Bear Valley Music Festival. The bass-baritone’s repertoire includes Scarpia, Don Giovanni, Germont, Sharpless, Eugene Onegin and Wonton. Recent engagements include roles in Die Fledermaus, La Cenerentola, Barber of Seville, The Flying Dutchman, and Don Giovanni. Nagel made his European debut in Rostock, Germany in the role of John the Baptist in Salome, one of Nagel’s signature roles. As a director, he has presented Die Fledermaus, The Tales of Hoffman, The Magic Flute, Gianni Schicchi, Gigi, Pajama Game, and The Pirates of Penzance. Nagel received his Master of Music from San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Julie Queen (Understudy for Aileen Wuornos and matinee performance) played Aileen in the Wuornos workshop performances. For the San Francisco City Summer Opera she performed Dinah in Trouble in Tahiti, Frida in The Life of Frida Kahlo, Cora Crippen in Lives of the Great Poisoners, Jenny in Mahagonny, and Dusty in Sweeny Agonistes. Queen, a soprano/mezzo, has been seen in concert with the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra and the CMC Orchestra. Her theatrical credits include Phrenic Crush (Ehn, Bielawa), Ace Taboo (Soon 3), Circle of Bone and Stich-teh-nako (The Qube Chix), Warehouse Mozart (San Francisco Mozart Festival), Tongues (The Moving Company), and Kurt Weil –Berlin to Broadway (San Francisco City Summer Opera). She can be seen on film in Familiar and The Interview. She has degrees from Sonoma State University, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and the California State University Summer Arts Opera Program at Humbolt.
Karen Feder (Understudy for Syrena and matinee performance) has performed extensively throughout Europe and the United States. Known for her vocal versatility, the mezzo-soprano is equally at home in both the classical and modern music worlds. Her operatic roles include Olga in Eugene Onegin, Medoro in Orlando, Irene in Atalanta, Mercedes in Carmen, Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible, Tolomeo in Gulio Cesare, and Syrena in Wuornos (workshop performances). Orchestral engagements include Webern’s Op. 2 and Handel’s Messiah at Davies Symphony Hall. She was recently featured with The Kunst Stoff Dance Company’s “Nostalgia 3000.” Feder won the Burlingame Music Club and East Bay Opera League competitions, and was a finalist at the McAllister competition. Feder graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Director Joseph Graves began as a director, writer and actor over 24 years ago and has directed more than 36 shows in this country and in Great Britain. His extensive background includes 20 original scripts he wrote for stage and screen, acting in some 65 stage productions, and guest-starring in dozens of television shows. His directing highlights include Hamlet (Welsh National Theatre, Great Britain), Romeo and Juliet (Royal Court Theatre, London), The Alchemist (Haymarket Theatre, London’s West End), and Tartuffe (MacOwen Theatre, London). In the U.S., Graves directed the World Premiere of Revoco (Texas Shakespeare Festival), Richard II (Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Ontario), The Seagull (La Jolla Playhouse), Strange Snow (Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis), The Glass Menagerie (Los Angeles Stage Company), and American Buffalo (Louisville Actors Theatre). Graves received his theatrical training from The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
Musical Director Mary Chun conducted the Finnish contemporary ensemble AVANTE in the Canadian and European premieres of John Adams’s I was Looking at the Ceiling and then I saw the Sky. She was invited by the East Slovakian State Opera to conduct the European premiere of American composer Maritin Kalamanoff’s Insect Comedy and she provided musical assistance to American stage director Peter Sellars and composer Tan Dun on his most recent opera, Peony Pavilion. She also led the U.S. premiere of Luc Ferrari’s Les Emois d’Aphrodite with the MC Band at the OtherMinds New Music Festival in San Francisco in 2000. Also in 2000, Chun conducted sold-out performances of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly in Honolulu with the Hawaii Opera Theatre. Chun is Music Director and Conductor of the Opera Ensemble of San Francisco, which is dedicated to presenting new, unusual and rare opera repertoire to Bay Area audiences. She has been a member of the conducting staffs of notable opera companies in the United States and Europe, including the San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Music Center Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, East Slovakian State Opera, Châtelet Theatre in Paris, and the Opéra de Lyon. Her recording credits include music direction for a CD of works by American composer Peter Allen, a 30-second commercial for Disney, and an upcoming independent film project.
Scenic Designer Robert Klingelhoefer has been Resident Designer at the Fulton Opera House and Actor’s Company of Pennsylvania (Lancaster, PA) since 1987, where he designed over 40 productions including A Man for All Seasons, Peter Pan, Cyrano, and The One-Eyed Man is King. As Resident Designer for the Jean Cocteau Repertory Theater, his productions included the acclaimed World Premiere of Brecht, Milhaud, and Bentley’s Mother Courage and Her Children, the New York premiere of Nobel poet Seamus Heaney’s The Cure at Troy, and this season’s The Merchant of Venice. For Pan Asian Repertory Theater, Klingelhoefer designed 11 productions, including the premiere of the musical-theater epic Cambodia Agonistes. In the opera world, he designed the World Premiere of Frank Lewin’s Burning Bright at Yale University in 1993. Klingelhoefer’s work has been seen widely in New York and regionally for companies including Asolo Theater Company, National Playwright’s Conference at the O’Neill Theater Center, Cricket Theater, The Acting Company, The Shakespeare Theater, and The Texas Shakespeare Festival. Currently, he is teaching at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. Klingelhoefer is a member of United Scenic Artists, Local 829.
Lighting and Costume Designer Margaret A. McKowen has worked as a costume, lighting, and set designer in some 70 professional productions both in the U.S. and Europe. As resident designer for the Obie-award-winning Jean Cocteau Theater in New York City, McKowen has designed numerous shows, including several World Premieres such as: Mihaud and Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children and Noble prize-winning poet Seamus Heany’s The Cure at Troy. Most recently for the Cocteau she designed Eve Adamnson’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. She also designed lighting for the World Premiere of Amber Patches starring Julie Harris at the Pendragon Theater (New York). Regional theater credits in 2000 include The Grapes of Wrath and Othello for The Arkansas Repertory Theater and Antony and Cleopatra and The Winters Tale for both the Texas and Dallas Shakespeare Festivals. McKowen’s international credits include costumes, lights, and set designs for theaters in Berlin, Edinburgh, and Sao Paulo. Her opera credits include Così fan tutte, The Magic Flute, Albert Herring, and the World Premiere of The Boor at The Performing Arts Center (Austin). Representative examples of her design work can be seen in the texts, “Theatre: The Lively Art” and “The Theatre Experience.” McKowen received her Masters Degree in Design from the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently the Chair for The Division of Theater and Dance at West Virginia University.
Producer Lauren Hewitt is the former Director of the Jon Sims Center for the Arts (1992–98), where she founded AIRspace, a new-works residency program for performing artists. In 1997, she accepted Wuornos composer and librettist Carla Lucero into the AIRspace program. Hewitt has since been a driving force in the overall development of the opera. San Franciscans remember Hewitt as the owner and operator of the Baybrick Inn, a favorite nightspot known locally as Clementina’s, where she was awarded a San Francisco Cable Car Award for her curatorship of local visual art and art installations. Hewitt is also the founder of OtherWhys Productions and is developing the new opera, Letters Home, composed by Kathrynn Lyle, based on the book Dear Miya Letters Home From Japan by Mary Tomita. Past projects include heading up a capital campaign to build a new home for the Aurora Theater Company (Berkeley) and Executive Director of the new chamber music group EARPLAY. Hewitt frequently sits on funding panels for the Cultural Equity Grants Program of the San Francisco Arts Commission. Hewitt graduated from San Francisco State University with a Bachelors Degree in Theater and an emphasis in Directing, and holds a Masters Degree in Arts Administration from Golden Gate University, San Francisco.
Nancy Corporon (Executive Producer) leads the fundraising efforts for Wuornos. She is best known in San Francisco for her leadership of the San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Freedom Band. Under her artistic direction that spanned six years, the band grew from less than 20 members to a roster of over 60, and from two concerts a year to eight — including the delightful Dance-Along Nutcracker. Corporon received her Music Performance degree in French horn from Oklahoma City University in 1971. She performed with the Chicago Symphony under Sir Georg Solti before heading to Broadway and Lincoln Center in New York. Following her “retirement” as a freelance musician, Corporon began a marketing career that has included American Express, Wells Fargo, and Charles Schwab & Company. Wuornos marks her “debut” as an Executive Producer.
The Jon Sims Center for the Arts (Producing Organization) is a multidisciplinary performing arts center that supports artistic voices of the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender communities. In addition to producing Wuornos, JSC’s resident programs include the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Freedom Band; City Swing with the Gail Wilson Big Band; Cheer San Francisco; the Alchemy Emerging Playwrights Series; AIRspace artists-in-residence program for the initial development of new performance works; LIT @ JSC, a monthly literary reading series; and the Mighty Real Theater training and production project for homeless queer youth. JCS also provides fiscal sponsorship for several artists and arts organizations and makes available low-cost rehearsal and studio rentals used by hundreds of artists each year. Through paid and free public events, the Jon Sims Center resident programs reach more than two million people each year. These events bolster pride and self-esteem in the LGBT communities while simultaneously fostering understanding and tolerance in the general public.