Opera New Work Reading: Featuring Composer Justine F. Chen

Opera New Work Reading: Featuring Composer Justine F. Chen

Maryland Opera Studio and Femmes de Chanson
Saturday, February 12, 2022 · 8PM
Photo by Steven Laxton.
Special Announcement: 

The livestream for this event will be available to view only during the performance. The video will not be available to view after the concert.

Event Attributes

Presented By

Presented By: 

For more information regarding accessible accommodations, please click here.

Estimated Length: 
The performance will last approximately 90 minutes.

Join us in person at The Clarice or watch the livestream from the comfort of your home. 

The annual opera new work reading creates opportunities to highlight new contributions to the opera repertoire from emerging voices. This year, join members of the Maryland Opera Studio (MOS) and the women's chamber vocal ensemble Femmes de Chanson for an evening of music culminating the weeklong residency of Taiwanese-American composer Justine F. Chen. Building on the long tradition of new work exploration, MOS performs excerpts of Chen’s recent and newly created works alongside introductions by the composer, demonstrating the remarkable depth and importance of this prominent compositional voice.

Select Scenes From The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing
Excerpt From Seven Sisters
Starry Night
String Quartet

About the Maryland Opera Studio:
Under the direction of Craig Kier, the Maryland Opera Studio is dedicated to the future of opera. Preparing the next generation of great singers and offering performances ranging from classic repertoire to provocative new works, it is building contemporary audiences for opera and advancing the art that sustains them.

Health + Safety

All patrons 12 years of age and older are required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result from a test taken within 48 hours of the performance for entry into the venue (home tests will NOT be accepted). 

Masks must be worn at all times. Please see our Health + Safety page for more information.



Starry Night (2004)
Anna Leubke, violin
Amir Norouz Nasseri, violin
Tonya Burton, viola
Wesley Hornpetrie, cello
Excerpts from The Life And Death(s) Of Alan Turing (2017)
Libretto by David Simpatico
Alan Tuing
Henrique Carvalho
Christopher Morcom
Lawrence Barasa
Sara Turing
Kira Neary (Scene 1)
Victoria McGrath (Scene 4)
Fred Clayton
Craig Smith
Joan Clarke
Aleea Powell
Arnold Murray
Michael Butler
A Bobby
Craig Smith
Commissioned by American Lyric Theater,
Lawrence Edelson, artistic and general director
The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing was developed under the auspices of the Composer Librettist Development Program at American Lyric Theater in New York City, which is made possible through lead funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional developmental support for The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing was provided through The Vanguard Initiative at Chicago Opera Theater.
Seven Sisters (2022)
Libretto by Stephanie Fleischmann
Femmes de Chanson
Sydney Black
Darby Brandenburg
Kai Daley
Emma Dubé
Megan Flynn
Sierra Hall
Delina Levine
Helen Mann
Emily Neher
Paige Peercy
Olivia Sharon
Beth Ann Zinkievich
The development of Seven Sisters received funding from OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers Program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.
Music Director
Erica Xiaoyan Guo
Stage Director
Amanda Consol





Scene Synopsis

Scene 1: Cave of Wonders, 1929 – Alan, 17 and his first love, Christopher, 18, find shelter from the rain in an abandoned church. Alan’s mother enters in memory, and in tandem with Chris, lectures Alan on his personal grooming habits. We witness Alan’s social mishaps at school. Alan and Chris imagine a sanctuary where they can be together, away from the constraints of Edwardian society. Christopher Morcom dies a few months later.
Scene 2: The Universal Machine, 1939 – An awkward romantic encounter on the shoals of Bosham Bay.
Scene 4: The Social Contract, 1946 – Alan visits his mother for Christmas. They discuss love vs. marriage; Alan remembers cryptanalyst Joan Clarke’s plea for a marriage of convenience so that Alan could continue his work.
Scene 5: The Turing Test, 1952 (January) – After a showing of Snow White, Alan picks up street hustler Arnold Murray. A Bobby and Chris (in memory/as conscience) warn him against this decision.


Starry Night, string quartet (2004)
Starry Night was originally written for an organization called The New York Choreographic Institute. It was created for a collaborative program that was co-sponsored by The Juilliard School and New York City Ballet, the premiere ballet dance company in New York. I collaborated with fellow Juilliard alum choreographer Adam Hougland on this particular dance piece. Adam and I had originally met in 1997 at Juilliard in a class that pairs and guides composers and choreographers in collaboration.
As a violinist, bowed strings is my native language, and string quartets are my purest form of musical expression. As a former professionally-trained ballet dancer, working with choreographers was an exciting natural extension and progression of expression. Starry Night courses with restless energy and life.
Scenes from The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing (2017)
My first large-scale opera The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing was commissioned by American Lyric Theater with librettist David Simpatico. David calls it a Fantasia, signaling its departure from documentary or straight-forward biography.
The opera opens with the fabled suicide of brilliant codebreaking WW2 hero, British computer scientist Alan Turing. The opera then winds back the clock and skips through time as the audience witnesses our imaginings of Alan’s formative moments, beginning with his first schoolboy crush (age 17), an awkward romantic encounter (age 27), his codebreaking work in WW2 (age 30), through his trial of Gross Indecency (age 40) and leading to the moment of his apparent suicide (age 41).
The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing will be produced in 2023. Please visit www.justinefchen.com later this spring for more information.
Prologue from Seven Sisters (2022)
Seven Sisters is an opera in progress that librettist Stephanie Fleischmann and I started conceiving in the fall of 2019. Stephanie and I were both commissioned by ALT in 2012, me for the Turing opera and her for The Long Walk, and got to know each other in that cohort. It took us some time to choose a story, and many ideas were thrown out. It was a moment when I was talking (complaining?) about my family that something caught her attention, and Stephanie began imagining something to work on together. The story of this opera is inspired by the structure and culture of my family, onto which Stephanie brought a mythic layer, connecting the family and its fate to the Pleiades, the constellation of seven stars, with one that disappears every now and again. Seven Sisters is in the process of being workshopped by students at the Manhattan School of Music and several scenes will be presented in April 2022 over livestream.




Native New Yorker composer/violinist Justine F. Chen’s “propulsive, emotionally resonant” “lyrical, atmospheric… striking“ music “balances despair and humor.” Her latest opera The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing was described as “inventive…revelatory” by the Chicago Reader. Her work has been performed and commissioned by New York City Opera, New York City Ballet, The Juilliard School, Banff Music Centre, The Crossing, New York Festival of Song, JACK Quartet, American Composers Orchestra, Chicago Opera Theater, New Juilliard Ensemble, Washington Ballet, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Taiwan’s SPRINGAUTUMN Festival, American Lyric Theater, Chants Libres, Bowdoin Music Festival, Merola Opera and Tapestry Opera.
Having grown up performing in productions of the New York City Ballet as a child dancer, Dr. Chen enjoys collaboration immensely, and has worked on numerous theatrical productions, dance pieces and animation. She has received prizes and grants from BMI, ASCAP, Jerome Fund for New Music, Frances Goelet Charitable Lead Trust and OPERA America. Her work has been presented at Hiroshima Animation Festival, the New York Expo, the Student Academy Awards, Anima Mundi (South America), New York City Opera’s VOX Showcase of American Operas, HERE Arts Center, and on WQXR, WBAI, WNYC, WRTI and PBS.
Recent projects include a long-form oratorio Shallow Breath and Stealth (for two-time Grammy Award winning choral phenomenon The Crossing), a short film opera Letter to Our Children (Resonance Works, the Decameron Coalition, librettist Jacqueline Goldfinger), a chamber opera Seven Sisters (librettist Stephanie Fleischmann) and a collaborative song cycle with WQXR and The Gothamist. She is a 2021–22 artist scholar at Manhattan School of Music. She is on the advisory board for American Lyric Theater’s Opera Writers Diversity and Representation Initiative.
Dr. Chen earned her D.M.A. in composition, and her M.M. and B.M. in violin and composition at The Juilliard School—the first student in the history of Juilliard to be accepted for this double major. Dr. Chen is also the first Asian-American female composer to be performed by New York City Opera. Dr. Chen has trained in computer music at IRCAM, classical ballet at the School of American Ballet, Bharatanatyam, Hindustani voice and Carnatic voice. Her Seven Sisters chamber opera will be workshopped April 2022 at the Manhattan School of Music. Her opera The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing, is scheduled to receive its world premiere production in March 2023. A CD of Shallow Breath And Stealth sung by The Crossing is scheduled for release in November 2022.
For more information, please visit www.justinefchen.com.
David Simpatico is a playwright, librettist and performance artist whose work has been presented at major theatres around the globe, including London’s Hammersmith Apollo, Lincoln Center, Williamstown Theatre Festival and the New York Shakespeare Festival. Career highlights include: the stage adaptation of High School Musical (Disney Theatricals;) the grand opera, The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing (Justine Chen, composer;) the music drama, The Screams of Kitty Genovese (Will Todd, composer;) and the libretto for Pulitzer Prize-winner Aaron J. Kernis’ choral symphony, Garden of Light, commissioned by Michael Eisner and The Disney Company (NY Philharmonic, conducted by Kurt Masur).
Currently adapting Robert Bloch’s That Hell-Bound Train as a jazz opera with composer Lisa DeSpain, David is also finishing Rose of Sharon, a concept album about the end of the world (Heather Christian, composer and co-lyricist). Three new non-musical plays are currently being shopped around: X-Gay Bar, Wilde About Whitman and Waiting for the Ball to Drop.David recently earned his M.F.A. in creative writing from the MountainView Writers at Southern New Hampshire University. He is an alumnus of the CLDP at American Lyric Theater, and a graduate of Northwestern University. Along with playwright Darrah Cloud, he runs Howl Playwrights, in Rhinebeck, NY, where he lives with his husband, Robert and his dog, Elmo.
Stephanie Fleischmann is a playwright and librettist whose texts serve as blueprints for intricate three-dimensional sonic and visual worlds. She has been called a “neo Emily Dickinson” (Backstage) and “a writer who can conjure something between a dreamy road movie and a theatrical coming-of-age tale, and who can piece these elements together in the style of a jagged ballad for guitar” (Chicago Sun Times). Her “lyrical monologues” (The New York Times), “smart” opera libretti (Opera News), plays and music-theater works have been performed internationally and across the U.S.
Fleischmann is a recipient of a 2021 Opera America New Works Exploration grant for Seven Sisters; a 2020 Café Royal Cultural Foundation Performance Grant for The Visitation; a 2019 NYFA Fellowship in Playwriting/Screenwriting; a 2018 Virginia B. Toulmin grant; a 2017 Venturous Capital Fund grant, a 2017 NYSCA Individual Artist Commission and a 2014–15 Howard Foundation Fellowship in Playwriting for her play, Sound House; a grant from Arts Council England (for Tally Ho/NYLon Projects), two NYSCA Individual Artist Commissions for her libretti, an NEA Opera/Music-Theater commission, a Tennessee Williams Fellowship, and the Frederick Loewe and Whitfield Cook Awards, as well as residencies at Macdowell, Hedgebrook, HARP, among others. Her work has been supported by the MAP Fund, Opera America, New Music USA, the Greenwall Foundation, Mid-Atlantic Arts Fund, the Tobin Foundation, Pew Charitable Trust, the Anna Sosenko Assist Trust, the Copeland Fund, LMCC Swingspace & NY State Music Fund. She is a former American Lyric Theater Resident artist and Playwrights Center Core Writer, an alumna of New Dramatists, and was a 2015–16 New Georges Audrey Residency recipient.
She received her MFA from Brooklyn College, where she studied with Mac Wellman. She has taught at Sewanee, Bard, and Skidmore Colleges. Her plays are published by: Play, a Journal of Plays; Playscripts.com; and Smith and Krauss.
Cellist Wesley Hornpetrie enjoys a career in chamber music, theater and interarts collaboration as a performer and improviser. She is most energized working on new compositions and projects where voices, sound worlds and stories are cultivated into something that can reflect our humanity and create community. A native of Oklahoma City, Hornpetrie now enjoys performing, collaborating and teaching around the Washington D.C. region. She is mostly active as a member of Virago, a mixed quartet that melds free improvisation and contemporary chamber music into a contagious headspace of out-of-the box expression. Additionally, she is a founding member of Girlnoise and her new music cello quartet, Hole in the Floor. As an arts administrator, she is the founder and executive director of Michigan-based music festival, Third Place [MusicFest]. As a performer, Hornpetrie has most recently collaborated with composers including Bryce Dessner, Annika Socolofsky, Tanner Porter, among others, and ensembles including Roomful of Teeth, JACK Quartet and the Grand Rapids Ballet. She has been coached in chamber settings by yMusic, Harlem quartet and International Contemporary Ensemble. Notable collaborations include performing the world premiere of Bryce Dessner’s work, Triptych (Eyes of One on Another), performing it alongside Roomful of Teeth.
She has been featured on numerous music festivals, including New Music Detroit’s Strange Beautiful Music, the Midwest Composers Symposium, Novus New Music, Inc. and GrandStand Music Festival, among others.
As an educator, she has worked with young cellists at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, Sewanee Summer Music Festival String Academy, and has been the mentor with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Civic Youth Ensembles cellists. Her students have been accepted to Interlochen Fine Arts Camp, Detroit Symphony Youth Orchestra, Michigan High School and Middle School All-States and Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. Additionally, she serves on the Sewanee Summer Music Festival advisory board.
She holds degrees from The University of Michigan and Oklahoma City University, studying with Anthony Elliott and Tomasz Zieba, and is pursuing a D.M.A. at the University of Maryland, studying with Dr. Eric Kutz.
Passionate about performance, D.C. based violist, Tonya Burton can be found performing in diverse venues across the United States. She has been a guest artist for the Houston Viola Society, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Texas Lutheran University and has been featured on the All Classical Portland 89.9 station as well as the Los Angeles KCRW 89.9 station. Burton is a core member of the KINETIC, both performing and programming for the Houston-based chamber ensemble known for showcasing diverse and under-represented classical music. She is also a founding member of the D.C. based Natonya duo, has played with the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra in Los Angeles and performs annually at the Caroga Lake Music Festival in the Adirondacks of New York.
Burton is currently pursuing a D.M.A. at the University of Maryland while serving as studio assistant to Katherine Murdock. She received an M.M. from Rice University and a B.M. at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Burton has been the recipient of the Angela Svendson Memorial Music Scholarship, the Paula Meredith Mosle Endowed Scholarship in Music and the Elaine Christians Memorial Scholarship Award.
Anna Luebke began Suzuki violin studies at age four. Currently, she is a master’s student in violin performance studying with Professors David Salness and Irina Muresanu at the University of Maryland, where she holds an ensemble assistantship position. In Maryland, she also maintains a private teaching studio and is a violin instructor for Chevy Chase Music, teaching lessons in the greater D.C. area. Luebke earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in violin performance with Dr. Soh-Hyun Park Altino at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There, her piano trio was a winner of the 2019 Beethoven Chamber Music Competition, and her string quartet, Solana, participated in a residency with the affiliate ensemble of Carnegie Hall, Decoda. As a chamber musician, Luebke has performed in masterclasses led by Orion Weiss, Christine Lamprea, Elisabeth Adkins, the Escher String Quartet, the Harlem Quartet and The Knights Orchestra.
Collaborative pianist Erica Xiaoyan Guo is currently pursuing her D.M.A. in collaborative piano at the University of Maryland. Her teachers include Rita Sloan, Kathleen Kelly, Cameron Stowe, Jonathan Feldman, Antti Siirala and Solomon Mikowsky. Guo holds a master’s degree in collaborative piano from the New England Conservatory of Music, a master’s degree in solo piano performance from Hochschule für Musik und Theater München and a Bachelor of Music from the Manhattan School of Music, with further studies with the Merola Opera Program, Aspen Music Festival and School, and Pittsburgh Festival Opera. She has become a highly sought after collaborator in both opera and song repertoire. Her operatic repertoire includes La finta giardiniera, Owen Wingrave, Die Zauberflöte, Falstaff, Partenope, The Bartered Bride, Proving Up (Missy Mazzoli), Le Nozze di Figaro and La Bohème as well as an extensive catalog of song repertoire. This Spring, Guo will have her Schwabacher debut recital in San Francisco.
Stage Director Amanda Consol’s recent projects include a double bill of Cendrillon and Savitri for Wolf Trap Opera, Street Scene and The Dialogues of the Carmelites at the Maryland Opera Studio, and workshops and readings of new works with companies including Vital Opera and Washington National Opera (WNO). At WNO, Consol’s work includes programs for the American Opera Initiative and scenes programs with the Cafritz Young Artists where she has also served as dramatic instructor. Consol teaches young artists around the country for programs including CoOPERAtive at the Westminster Choir College, Sewanee Music Festival and at the University of Maryland where she has served as the director of acting for the Maryland Opera Studio since 2018.
Lawrence Barasa (Kenya) Christopher Morcom, tenor, developed his artistic profile as a member and assistant production manager of the Kenyan Boys Choir. In this capacity he interacted and performed with artists including the Jonas Brothers, Ellie Goulding, Ciara and Demi Lovato. Barasa has performed the roles of Spoletta in Astoria Music Festival and Eugene Opera’s production of Tosca. He also appeared as Don Basilio and Don Curzio in Le nozze di Figaro at the Astoria Music Festival in 2018, Hoffmann in Les contes d’Hoffmann and Don José in La Tragedy de Carmen at the University of Oregon. Barasa completed training at the Savannah Voice Festival 2019–20 under the tutelage of Sherrill Milnes and Maria Zouaves. Barasa graduated from the University of Oregon with a vocal performance degree under Karen Esquivel. He is currently a graduate international student at the University of Maryland Opera Studio studying with Professor Delores Ziegler.
Michael Butler (Bowie, MD) Arnold Murray, tenor, is a first-year student in the Maryland Opera Studio. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Music, earning his B.M. in vocal performance in 2021. Butler made his New York City Opera debut in Summer 2020, and his Des Moines Metro Opera debut in Summer 2021. Butler’s most recent roles include Prince Sou-Chong in Lehár’s Das Land des Lächelns with Washington Opera Society (2018), Claudio in the world premiere of Francis Pollock’s Briscula the Magician with Belcantanti Opera Company, Dancaire in Bizet’s Carmen with Washington Opera Society, Messenger in Verdi’s Aïda with Washington Opera Society, Tamino in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte with Bethesda Music Festival, Borsa in Verdi’s Rigoletto with Belcantanti Opera Company, Ivan Lykov in Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Czar’s Bride with Belcantanti Opera Company and the title role in Rossini’s Le Comte Ory with Chicago Summer Opera. Upcoming engagements include concerts with Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and Baltimore Concert Opera in February of 2022, and the title role of Gounod’s Faust in March 2022. Butler is a student of bass-baritone Kevin Short.
Henrique Carvalho (São Paulo, Brazil) Alan Turing, baritone, is a first-year student in the Maryland Opera Studio. He earned his bachelor's degree in voice performance from the University of Maryland School of Music. Carvalho's most recent roles include the Speaker in Maryland Opera Studio's production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (2021), Jake in the Annapolis Opera and Maryland Opera Studio's co-production of Sunder by Nailah Nombeko and Alicia Haymer (2021), and the title role in Thomas Pasatieri's Signor Deluso with the University of Maryland's student-run opera company OperaTerps (2020). Carvalho is a student of Kevin Short.
Victoria McGrath (New York, NY), Sara Turing, soprano, is a first-year student in the Maryland Opera Studio. She is a graduate of Macaulay Honors College at CUNY Queens College, where she graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in intellectual history and a B.M. in vocal performance. At Queens College, she regularly performed in scenes programs and productions including Le nozze di Figaro, Die Zauberflöte and Suor Angelica. She also participated in intensive language programs in Italy and Germany. Upcoming performances include engagements with the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and Baltimore Musicales. McGrath is a student of Jennifer Casey Cabot.
Kira Neary (New York, NY), Sara Turing, soprano, is currently a first-year student in the Maryland Opera Studio. She just finished her undergraduate study at Northwestern University, where she obtained a Bachelor of Music in voice and opera performance alongside a Bachelor of Arts in European history. Neary’s most recent roles include Papagena in Maryland Opera Studio’s Die Zauberflöte, La Musica in Northwestern University’s online production of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, the Mother in David T. Little’s Dog Days with Northwestern University Opera Theater (2019), Poppea in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea at Miami Music Festival (2019) and the title role in Handel's Theodora (2018). She was also a member of the Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble (BCE) where she sang the First Wren in a workshop of The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing with Chicago Opera Theater. Neary is a student of Kevin Short.
Aleea Elaine Powell (Baltimore, MD) Joan Clarke, soprano, is a first-year student in Maryland Opera Studio. She is a graduate of The Juilliard School, where she earned her bachelor’s degree. During her undergraduate study, she was the recipient of the Cecille Weber, Hans J. Heinz and Tatiana Troyanos Scholarship. Powell’s most recent roles include Natalia Katyukova’s Liederabend (2020), Blanche in There’s Blood Between Us- excerpts from Dialogue of the Carmelites (2019), Cleopatra in Guilio Cesare (2019), Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro (2018), Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia (2018), Opera Comp performing ‘Becoming Hawk’ as The Vagrant by Composer/ Co-Founder & Co-Artistic Director Chanson Goldschmitz and Director Ronny Goldschmitz (2018), Dorothy in The Wiz (2016), Violetta in La Traviata (2016), Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte (2015) and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte (2015). Powell is a student of Kevin Short.
Craig Francis Smith (Rochester, NY) Fred Clayton, baritone, is a first-year student in the Maryland Opera Studio. Smith has performed with the Janiec Opera Company at The Brevard Music Center and the award-winning Crane Opera Ensemble. Recent credits include the title role in Gianni Schicchi, the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro, the Duke in Romeo et Juliette, Ivan in Die Fledermaus and The Superintendent in Tom Cipullo’s world premiere of Mayo. In the 2021–22 season, Smith will be singing Armoured Man/First Priest in Die Zauberflöte and Ronaldo Cabral in Later the Same Evening. Smith has received a Bachelor of Music degree from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, where he studied with Colleen Skull. Smith is a student of Kevin Short.
Femmes de Chanson
Formed in 2003 for the purpose of producing high-level vocal music in a more personal and collaborative setting, Femmes de Chanson is an ensemble of undergraduate sopranos and altos studying everything from music to computer science. Since its inception, the group has continued to evolve into a unique and versatile ensemble that performs a wide variety of a cappella choral music for treble voices. Femmes de Chanson regularly performs at campus events and UMD School of Music concerts.