The Trojan Women

 

A project initiated by three forward-looking artists from three continents, that takes one of the most profound and iconic works of western civilization and brings it to a contemporary audience.

Written by Euripides, The Trojan Woman is perhaps the most searing anti-war statement of all time.  Somtow Sucharitkul, one of Asia’s most prominent opera composers, is adapting Euripides’ play to an opera libretto with virtually no change to the structure and words, shaping the text into accessible, contemporary English and creating a score that springs from the junction of eastern and western musical ideas.  Groundbreaking American conductor Viswa Subbaraman, a long-time champion of contemporary opera, will conduct.  Celebrated Greek director Eugenia Arsenis will direct.

The world of Euripides, and beyond that, the world of a war between chieftains during the Bronze Age may seem irrelevant today, but it is not.  Even now, three thousand years later, the Trojan War is arguably the war, the war that all wars descend from.  The story arcs of its personalities have been played and replayed through the millennia, in countless settings, from villages to continents.  This is a play that has shaped the lives of all three of its collaborators and has informed our world views.  It's a story that connects us all.  Euripides wrote his last play, the Bacchae, in the court of Archelaus of Macedon.  Alexander the Great, as a boy, would have been familiar with this work and it is known that he knew many of the poet’s lines by heart.  It was in the Greek kingdoms in India, founded in the breakup of Alexander’s empire, that Hellenism melded with Buddhism and the fusion of Greece and India became a key component of the culture of ancient Siam.  Moving westward, via Rome, we can link the ideals of the west back to the same source.  

There could be no more timely work than this.  In a period when the world seems on the brink of chaos, we look back to a time that seems alien, yet is populated with people that we know, who speak to us directly.

The composition is scheduled to be finished by 2019 and it is hoped that the work will be able to produced in a coproduction between Thai, Greek, and American entities.


“I know that I am mad, but mother dearest, now, for this one time, I do not rave.” — Cassandra in The Trojan Women


 

CONDUCTOR

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Internationally acclaimed American conductor Viswa Subbaraman recently served as the Artistic Director/Music Director of the Skylight Music Theatre in Milwaukee. During his tenure at the Skylight, he has expanded the company’s repertoire and placed it at the forefront of the industry in producing contemporary opera and reimaging traditional works. His most recent production was Thomas Ades’ Powder Her Face, directed by Robin Guarino, which was declared “a triumph for Skylight’s artistic leader” (urbanmilwaukee.com) and he was praised for his “sublime control of this music, and the singers” (broadwayworld.com). Other highlights include Beethoven’s Fidelio, set in a Bollywood production, which he conducted and stage directed; the world premiere of Somtow Sucharitkul’s Snow Dragon which traveled to Bangkok, Thailand; Philip Glass’ Hydrogen Jukebox; and acclaimed mountings of Puccini’s iconic Tosca and Rossini’s La Cenerentola, modified for Skylight’s unique, 200-seat Baroque theater. Recognition during his time at the Skylight include being selected by the Milwaukee Business Journal as one of Milwaukee’s 40 Under 40 for 2015, receiving an invitation to speak at INKTalks in India as a 2014 INK Fellow and being named by Dave Begel as one of Milwaukee’s 14 most influential people.

In addition to his duties at the Skylight in the 2015-2016 season, Subbaraman makes his debut with Opera Saratoga leading the American Premiere of Philip Glass’ The Witches of Venice and collaborates with Milwaukee Opera Theatre on a production of Missy Mazzoli’s Songs from the Uproar.

Previous to his time with the Skylight, Subbaraman was the Artistic Director/Founder of Opera Vista, Houston’s innovative contemporary opera company. In his time with Opera Vista, Subbaraman was selected by the HoustonPress as a 100 Creatives 2012: one of the one hundred most creative people in Houston. Opera Vista and Subbaraman were also honored with the 2010 Mastermind Award from the HoustonPress for artistic creativity and innovative outreach.  Performance highlights during his tenure with Opera Vista include the world premiere of James Norman's Wake…, the world premiere of Line Tjørnhøj’s Anorexia Sacra (marking Subbaraman’s stage directing debut), the Texas Premiere and historic New Orleans premiere of Amy Beach's Cabildo, the world premiere of Somtow Sucharitkul’s The Silent Prince, and the creation of the annual Vista Competition for new opera.

Equally comfortable in the orchestral realm as with opera, Subbaraman served as Assistant Conductor of the Orchestre National de France where he assisted Kurt Masur and visiting guest conductors, including such distinguished artists as Bernard Haitink, Riccardo Muti, and Sir Colin Davis. Highlights of his tenure with the Orchestre National de France include the world premiere of the Overture du Roi Lear by Paul Dukas, a performance of the Stravinsky Octet with soloists of the orchestra in Paris’ famed Théatre des Champs-Elysées and the French premiere of the Symphony for Trombone and Orchestra by Ernst Bloch, which has been recorded and released under the title Tranquille through the districlassic label.   Subbaraman has been featured as a guest conductor of the Orchestre National de France, and he was invited to conduct a New Year’s Day concert with the Orchestre symphonique et lyrique de Nancy.

Additional conducting appearances have included Orchestre National d’Ile de France, Colorado Springs Philharmonic (USA), Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Thames Philharmonia (London), Bombay Chamber Orchestra (India), New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra (New York, USA), Longview Symphony Orchestra (TX), Midland/Odessa Symphony and Chorale (USA), Orchestre National du Capitole Toulouse, AudioInversions Contemporary Music Ensemble (TX), Williamsport Symphony Orchestra (PA), and the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra (Santa Cruz, CA) as part of the Cabrillo Festival conducting seminar. 

In 2005, Subbaraman was awarded the Herbert von Karajan Conducting Fellowship by the Herbert von Karajan Centrum and American Austrian Foundation which resulted in his residency at the Salzburg Festival. He also took part in the 2006 Beethoven Seminar sponsored by the Beethoven Orchester of Bonn and the BeethovenHaus, Bonn.  Normally a seminar open only to German conductors, Subbaraman was invited by Maestro Masur to take part in lectures given by BeethovenHaus scholars and was also invited to conduct the Beethoven Orchester of Bonn on the final concert.   Subbaraman has conducted the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C. at the Kennedy Center as a Debut Conductor in the National Conducting Institute. 

Raised in West Texas, Viswa Subbaraman studied at Duke University where he earned degrees in both music and biology.  After completing his degrees, he worked as assistant to William Henry Curry, Resident Conductor of the North Carolina Symphony. Upon completion of his master’s degree from Texas Tech University, he was awarded a Fulbright Grant to study conducting with John Nelson in Paris where he also worked as the Visiting Assistant Conductor of the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris.  Two months after arriving in Paris, Subbaraman was offered a post by Kurt Masur with the Orchestre National de France. At the end of his initial Fulbright year, Subbaraman received the first extension of a Fulbright grant ever issued by the French Fulbright Commission.

Subbaraman has completed his MBA through the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin and is collaborating with renowned economics professor Michael Brandl to write a business primer for musicians.  Subbaraman was selected as a delegate to the 2010 Asia21 Young Leader’s Summit in Jakarta by the Asia Society. Most recently, Subbaraman was one of 100 Indians from around the world invited to take part in the inaugural Indiaspora Summit, which brings together influential members of the Indian community from all aspects of business to academia to the arts in order to discuss how to make the world a better place.

Further conducting study includes the Kurt Masur Conducting Seminar at the Manhattan School of Music, the Institut Musical de Provence-Aubagne in France, Accademia Chigiana in Italy, and the Brevard Music Center (NC).  Subbaraman was also a semifinalist in the Suwon International Conductors Competition in Suwon, Korea, the Vakhtang Jordania Competition, and the Grzegorz Fitelberg Competition.  He has studied with many prominent conductors including Leonard Slatkin, Marin Alsop, David Effron, and Gunther Schuller and is also a recipient of the Edward C. Lynch Fellowship.

DIRECTOR

 

Eugenia Arsenis is a Greek director.  She studied Dramaturgy and Directing at the Department of Drama, Theatre and Media Arts at Royal Holloway University of London. She pursued her postgraduate studies in Philosophy and her Doctorate in Philosophical Aesthetics, Opera and Greek Tragedy at the University of London. She was Visiting Researcher at the School of Music of the College of Fine Arts at Boston University for Musical Analysis and Opera Directing. Moreover, she studied Film Directing at the New York Film Academy.

She was awarded scholarships by the Fulbright Foundation, the Greek State Scholarship Foundation, the Onassis Foundation, the Propondis Foundation, the National Bank Cultural Foundation, New York Film Academy and the Hellenic American University. She was also awarded the Dame Margaret Tuke Travel Bursary from Royal Holloway University of London and the Merola Career Grant from the San Francisco Opera Center.

Eugenia Arsenis was trained over fourteen years in the theory and the performance of music. In addition to theater directing and dramaturgy of plays and texts, she has composed music for theater and libretti for operas. For her performance Mendelssohn’s Antigone, which she directed and adapted at the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms with the City of London Sinfonia and the BBC Singers, Eugenia Arsenis was honoured at the Antikenfestpiele in Trier.

She has collaborated with international cultural organizations, Royal Albert Hall, San Francisco Opera Center, Center for Contemporary Opera, Skylight Music Theatre, Oakland Metro Operahouse, Greek National Opera, Megaron Athens Concert Hall, National Theatre of Northern Greece etc.

Coordinator and Dramaturg of the Experimental Stage of the Greek National Opera,  under the Artistic Direction of Maestro Theodore Antoniou, from the moment of its inception (2004 – 2011).

She has also collaborated with the National Greek Television, as a director, scriptwriter and cultural advisor for documentaries.

She has taught Directing at the Department of Theatrical Studies at the University of Peloponnese and Drama, Opera at the Department of Music Studies at the Ionian University and she has designed the Minor in Theater and Performance at the Hellenic American University. She also coordinates the Melodramatic Schools (Acting for Opera) of the Athens Conservatory and the National Conservatory. She has participated with lectures in a number of conferences.

She was a Board Member of the National Theatre of Northern Greece, a regular member of the Greek Directors’ Guild, the International Theater Institute and the Hellenic Theater Studies Association.

COMPOSER

Somtow Sucharitkul was born in Thailand and has returned there after fifty years of wandering the world.  Once referred to by the International Herald Tribune as “the most well-known expatriate Thai in the world,”  Somtow Sucharitkul is no longer an expatriate, since he has returned to Thailand after five decades of wandering the world.  He is best known as an award-winning novelist and a composer of operas. 

Born in Bangkok, Somtow grew up in Europe and was educated at Eton and Cambridge.  His first career was in music and in the 1970s he acquired a reputation as a revolutionary composer, the first to combine Thai and Western instruments in radical new sonorities.  Conditions in the arts in the region at the time proved so traumatic for the young composer that he suffered a major burnout, emigrated to the United States, and reinvented himself as a novelist.

His earliest novels were in the science fiction field but he soon began to cross into other genres.  In his 1984 novel Vampire Junction, he injected a new literary inventiveness into the horror genre, in the words of Robert Bloch, author of Psycho, “skillfully combining the styles of Stephen King, William Burroughs, and the author of the Revelation to John.”  Vampire Junction was voted one of the forty all-time greatest horror books by the Horror Writers’ Association, joining established classics like Frankenstein and Dracula.

In the 1990s Somtow became increasingly identified as a uniquely Asian writer with novels such as the semi-autobiographical Jasmine Nights.  He won the World Fantasy Award, the highest accolade given in the world of fantastic literature, for his novella The Bird Catcher.  His fifty-three books have sold about two million copies world-wide.

After becoming a Buddhist monk for a period in 2001, Somtow decided to refocus his attention on the country of his birth, founding Bangkok’s first international opera company and returning to music, where he again reinvented himself, this time as a neo-Asian neo-Romantic composer.  The Norwegian government commissioned his song cycle Songs Before Dawn for the 100th Anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize, and he composed at the request of the government of Thailand his Requiem: In Memoriam 9/11 which was dedicated to the victims of the 9/11 tragedy. 

According to London’s Opera magazine, “in just five years, Somtow has made Bangkok into the operatic hub of Southeast Asia.”  His operas on Thai themes, Madana, Mae Naak, and Ayodhya, have been well received by international critics.  His most recentopera, The Silent Prince, was premiered in 2010 in Houston, and a fifth opera, Dan no Ura, will premiere in Thailand in the 2011/2012 season.

He is increasingly in demand as a conductor specializing in opera.  His repertoire runs the entire gamut from Monteverdi to Wagner.  His work has been especially lauded for its stylistic authenticity and its lyricism.    The orchestra he founded in Bangkok, the Siam Philharmonic, is mounting the first complete Mahler cycle in the region.  

He is the first recipient of Thailand’s “Distinguished Silpathorn” award, given for an artist who has made and continues to make a major impact on the region’s culture, from Thailand’s Ministry of Culture.