by Douglas Pew
March 19–April 2, 2021
Opera Grand Rapids is turning a delay in major productions due to COVID-19 into an opportunity and bringing the national spotlight to the arts community in Grand Rapids.
The newly announced Chamber Opera Series – set to run this spring – will kick off with Penny by Douglas Pew, a chamber opera about an autistic woman discovering music.
About the composer
Douglas Pew | Composer
American composer Douglas Pew (b. 1980) is noted for his ability to strike at the root of the emotional world through his music “with a showman’s touch and a poet’s soul, letting it take flight” (Jake Heggie, Moby Dick).
His music has been heralded as “stunning…magical” (Washington Times) and “sensual, other-worldly, expressive and showcasing a rich harmonic pallet, sure to connect with audiences, while saying something fresh, profound and meaningful” (The Pianist’s Craft Vol. 2).
His 1-hour chamber opera ‘Penny’ premiered by Washington National Opera at the John F. Kennedy Center to wide acclaim. “Penny simply works, not because we should like it, but because it has a story to tell. The different levels of musical characterization were far more than merely evocative, and they succeeded on a dramatic as well as a musical level” (Washington Post).
Douglas has received multiple awards including a Barlow Endowment commission, 1st prize in the 2009 SCI/ASCAP Student Composers Commission Competition, Musica Sacra International Choral Composition Competition in Poland, ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Award, Susan and For Schumann Fellowship at the Aspen Music Festival, and the Tangeman Sacred Music Center.
Douglas holds Masters and Doctoral degrees from the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of music as well as a post-graduate certificate from the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw, Poland where he studied with internationally revered composer Paweł Łukaszewski under the auspices of a Fulbright Grant. Douglas currently serves as composer-in-residence at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Cincinnati, OH and is active as a conductor, vocalist, author, and entrepreneur. His music is published by Boosey & Haweks, Schott Music, Santa Barbara Music Publishing, Jackman Music Corporation, and his own publishing house, Blue Shore Music.
Dara Weinberg | Librettist
Dara Weinberg (librettist) With composer Douglas Pew, she has written libretti for “A Game of Hearts” (American Opera Initiative/Washington National Opera, Opera America, NANOWorks (Cincinnati) and “Penny” (AOI/WNO, Opera Grand Rapids).
With composer Faye Chiao, she wrote the lyrics for the song cycle “To See the Stars,” for the Lunar Ensemble at the Maryland Science Center Davis Planetarium, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. She is one of the co-founders of two experimental American theatre collectives: the Indy Convergence, in Indianapolis, and the Parallel Octave Chorus, in Baltimore. Her plays include “W Tym Mieście//In This City,” a documentary theatre piece written by, for, and about the Jews living in Poland today (JCC Kraków), “Pętla//The End of the Line,” and “Umrzeć w Atenach//To Die in Athens.” She has received two Fulbright grants to study Polish theatre. She holds a PhD from Bath Spa University in creative writing; her dissertation was a memoir about her experiences living in Poland and investigating the tradition of Polish choral theatre. As a singer, with Teatr Chorea, in Łódź, she has performed in the choir for the touring productions of Gilgamesz and Bachantki (The Bacchae), with music by Tomasz Krzyżanowski. She was born in Los Angeles, teaches high school English, and is an associate member of Theatre of NOTE.
Learn more about Penny and Douglas Pew
The engrossing drama ‘Penny’ is a thought-provoking musical feast. There are moments of real genius in this opera — where character, music, and song meet in a way that is pure magic.
— Jessica Vaughan, DC Metro Theater Arts
‘Penny’ simply works, not because we should like it, but because it has a story to tell. The different levels of musical characterization were far more than merely evocative, and they succeeded on a dramatic as well as a musical level.
— Anne Midgette, Washington Post
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Interested in sponsoring Penny? Download the sponsorship packet for more details.