The Indie Opera Impresario
Beth Morrison’s musical trajectory could have gone differently. Starting voice lessons at the age of 10, she fell in love with classical music at Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute and went on to major in vocal performance. But Beth discovered that as much as she loved classical theater, she wasn’t born to be on stage. Instead, she found her calling behind the scenes, as a producer of and protagonist for “indie” opera. “I was spending a lot of time going to experimental theater, feeling really excited by an avant-garde aesthetic,” she told Musical America. That epiphany led her to found Beth Morrison Projects (BMP), which has commissioned, developed and produced more than 50 new works that push the boundaries of traditional opera — two of which (Du Yun’s Angel’s Bone and Ellen Reid’s p r i s m) won the Pulitzer Prize for Music. She also co-founded, with HERE Arts Center, the PROTOTYPE Festival, which champions living composers, especially women and artists of color.
Since Beth Morrison founded BMP in 2006, she and her enterprise have become synonymous with innovation and disruption. This season is no different: Longtime collaborator and composer Paola Prestini’s The Old Man and the Sea, the first-ever operatic adaptation of Hemingway’s novel, has its world-premiere at ASU Gammage this fall. The work uses a multilayered approach to tell the classic story of Hemingway’s novel alongside moments from the famed novelist’s feverish dying days. Composer Mary Kouyoumdjian’s first full-length operatic commission Adoration is an adaptation of Atom Egoyan’s film of the same name, telling the story of an orphaned high school student, his family, and his teacher, who come face to face with the intertwined power of fiction, racism, and the Internet. Adoration will have its world premiere at the 2024 PROTOTYPE Festival, the co-production of BMP and HERE. Closing out the BMP 23/24 season is the world premiere of composer Jodi Landau’s Performance of Self at National Sawdust, which explores queerness, dating, drag, projection, and perspective.