Grammy-Winning Soprano Sylvia McNair Stars in D.C. Premiere of “Songspiel”

As part of American Opera Theater residency, Georgetown University Dept. of Performing Arts presents new work featuring music of Kurt Weill Jan. 15-17

Dec. 16, 2009 — Washington, D.C. — The Georgetown University Department of Performing Arts, in association with American Opera Theater (AOT), presents the D.C. premiere of “Songspiel,” a powerful new show that features the music of Kurt Weill, created especially for two-time Grammy Award winner Sylvia McNair. The three performances — Friday and Saturday, Jan. 15 and 16, 2010 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010 at 2 p.m. — will take place at the Davis Performing Arts Center’s Gonda Theatre, on Georgetown University’s main campus.

Following the Baltimore premiere of the work in Nov. 2009, Tim Smith of the Baltimore Sun called “Songspiel” “engrossing, even edgy” and “found McNair a riveting presence” with a voice “in superb shape, the tone pure and beautiful, the diction crystalline, the phrasing full of nuance.” McNair has performed in the major opera houses around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera and the Salzburg Festival, and appears on more than 70 recordings.

“Songspiel” features 17 of Kurt Weill’s most famous songs that have been seared into the 20th Century’s consciousness, including “Lost in the Stars,” “My Ship,” and “Surabaya Johnny.” In the social tradition of Weill’s work, this fully-staged cabaret is a portrait of destitution in America as it explores homelessness and the loss of hope against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina. The supporting cast includes Rebecca Duen (Jenny II) and Todd Wieczorek (Johnny) with pianist Eileen Cornett, trumpeter Brent Finchbaugh, bassist Laura Ruas, and beat-boxer Sodheko.

This is the final year of AOT’s three-year residency at Georgetown, and past events have included collaborations such as “Hydrogen Jukebox,” with music by Philip Glass and poetry by Allen Ginsberg in Jan. 2009; a staged version of Handel’s “Messiah” in Dec. 2007; and “Ground: An Exploration Through the Cycle of Life” featuring works by 17th-century Italian composers in Sept. 2007.

Tickets to “Songspiel” are $45 general admission; $35 for faculty, staff, senior (65 and older) and $10 for students. To order or for more information, visit The Davis Performing Arts Center is located on Georgetown University’s main campus, which is located at 37th and O Streets, NW, in Washington, D.C.

About Sylvia McNair
Two-time Grammy Award winner Sylvia McNair lays claim to a stellar, 25-year career in the musical realms of opera, oratorio, cabaret and musical theater. Her journey has taken her from the Metropolitan Opera to the Salzburg Festival, from the New York Philharmonic to the Rainbow Room, from the Ravinia Festival to The Plaza, from the pages of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to the London Times. She traveled through a fierce, well-fought battle with breast cancer filled with surgeries, chemo, and radiation to end up in the trenches helping others survive.

“Subject To Change” is the title of her new one-woman show to be heard very soon at The Savoy Room at Sheldon Hall, The Colony in Palm Beach, and Feinstein’s at The Regency. As a regular guest soloist with nearly all of the major American and European orchestras and opera houses, Sylvia has collaborated with an array of today’s most prominent conductors including Seiji Ozawa, Kurt Masur, Leonard Slatkin, André Previn, Neville Marriner and the late Robert Shaw, the musician she credits with giving her the early and important opportunities that started her career. She has headlined at the Terrace Room at The Plaza, the Carlyle Hotel, and Feinstein’s in New York. Her show at the famed Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel made critic Rex Reed swoon: “I could get used to this kind of ecstasy.”

She stopped along the way to produce over 70 recordings ranging from Mozart arias with Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St.-Martin-in-the-Fields to CDs with André Previn of music by Jerome Kern and Harold Arlen and left a beautiful audio trail documenting her incredible vocal prowess. She was thrilled to accept the invitation to sing the Bach B-minor Mass with the Vienna Philharmonic for Pope John Paul II at The Vatican, to sing for Hillary Clinton, and to perform at The U.S. Supreme Court by special invitation from Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

A proud Buckeye from Mansfield, Ohio, Sylvia earned a Masters degree with Distinction from the Indiana University School of Music, received honorary doctorates from Westminster College (1997) and Indiana University (1998), and the Ohio Governor’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Arts and Entertainment (1999). She joined the prestigious voice faculty of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University in 2006. In 2007, Sylvia received The Gaudium Award from The Breukelein Institute for “extraordinary and distinctive contributions to the arts and public life.”

About American Opera Theater
Baltimore-based American Opera Theater is a leading presenter of innovative opera in the United States and continues to garner acclaim for its innovative, challenging, and mesmerizing productions. AOT explores repertoire often left untouched. Combining its informed and honed musical aesthetic with its creative approach to visual affect, AOT produces performances that enliven, delight, and move audiences around the country. AOT frequently mounts the American premiere of forgotten works (most recently Charpentier’s “David et Jonathas” and Cavalli’s “La Didone”), while also redefining traditional favorites (notably its groundbreaking 2004 version of Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” or its recent circus production of Händel’s “Acis and Galatea”).

About the Georgetown University Department of Performing Arts
The GU Department of Performing Arts integrates creative and critical inquiry, emphasizing artistic excellence, interdisciplinary learning, socially engaged performance, and the spirit of collaboration. Now offering two new dynamic majors in American Musical Culture and Theater & Performance Studies, the Department features a nationally recognized faculty and new, state-of-the-art performance and recording venues. The Department is also home to the co-curricular program and supports an active program in dance.