Composer Spotlight - David Wolfson

Welcome back to our Opera for the 22nd Century blog for our final feature from the cast/creative team of Fortune's Children - A Zoom Opera. Have you purchased your tickets yet?? We hope to see you live on Zoom on Friday, October 16 or Saturday, October 17 at 7pm. Today we're pleased to feature the composer and lyricist of Fortune's Children, David Wolfson. HOTOpera first had the pleasure of performing one of David's operas, Maya's Ark, in 2016 at our 5th annual New in November Festival. We were so impressed with David's gift for lyricism and storytelling that we performed one of his operas at two subsequent New in November Festivals (Rapture at NIN6 and A Fine Invention at NIN7). In 2017, Hartford Opera Theater commissioned David Wolfson to write an additional chamber opera, Heaven's Gate, and combined the three other operas we had performed by the composer (Maya’s Ark, Rapture and A Fine Invention) into an evening of chamber operas centered around faith entitled: The Faith Operas. As you can probably gather from our illustrious history, HOTOpera loves David Wolfson and it is an honor to commission and perform his newest work: Fortune's Children: A Zoom Opera. We hope you enjoy learning about David's career and what composing this opera about the pandemic means to him.

David Wolfson (1964) is a composer, music director, arranger, and pianist who lives in New York City. He holds a PhD in music composition from Rutgers University, where he studied with Charles Fussell, an MA in composition from Hunter College, where he studied with Shafer Mahoney and Richard Burke, and a BM from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with Eugene O'Brien and John Rinehart, graduating in 1985. In that same year he was awarded the first annual Darius Milhaud Award by the Darius Milhaud Society and won the Bascom Little Musical Theatre Composition Competition for his short opera, Rainwait.

Mr Wolfson’s music has been called “brilliant” by the Cleveland Plain Dealer; the New York Times referred to it as “musically inventive” and “theatrically forceful.” His concert works have been performed by such notable performers as Margaret Leng Tan, Jenny Lin, and the Atlantic Chamber Players. Recent premieres include Daphne, a monodrama for soprano and piano, at Hunter College; Maybe We Won’t Remember How to Be Sorry, for woodwind quartet, at Music at Our Savior’s Atonement; Twinkle, Dammit!, for toy piano and toys by Margaret Leng Tan at the 1st International Toy Piano Festival; and The Faith Operas, an evening of chamber opera premiered in 2017 by Hartford Opera Theater.

Mr. Wolfson is the composer of Story Salad, a series of stage revues for children, which toured nationally for fourteen seasons beginning in 1988, and was seen by well over a million children, teachers and parents. He has supplied incidental music for several off-off-Broadway plays, created sound designs for a set of Macy’s window displays, and written songs for an amusement park big-headed-costumed-character show, Riverside Park’s Country Critter Jamboree.

In the 1990s, Mr. Wolfson was resident composer and music director of EM/R Dance Co., a choreographer’s collective, and co-artistic director (with choreographer Lynn Wichern) of Wichern/Wolfson dance & music, a company dedicated to performances involving both dance and live music. In connection with the company, Mr. Wolfson received several grants from Meet The Composer and a grant from the Music Program of the National Endowment for the Arts. From 2005-2009, he was the Associate Artistic Director, resident composer and Music Director of Experience Vocal Dance Company (EVDC). His theatrical song cycle Dreamhouse, based on the poetry of Barbara DeCesare, was produced in 2005 as part of the Sixth Annual Midtown International Theatre Festival in New York City, to critical acclaim. His musical Play Like a Winner received its premiere production as part of the 2017 New York Musical Festival, while another musical, The Bet, was part of the 2017 Midtown International Theatre Festival the same week.

In 2013 Albany Records released Seventeen Windows, a CD of Mr. Wolfson’s music, featuring the suite of piano pieces Seventeen Windows, performed by Jenny Lin, and Sonata for Cello and Piano, performed by Ms. Lin and Laura Bontrager. His music has also been recorded by cellist Suzanne Mueller, soprano Michelle Murray Fiertek, and pop singer Tamra Haydn.

Mr. Wolfson has served as music director, music supervisor, orchestrator and/or arranger for numerous musical theatre, music theatre and opera productions and readings in New York and across the country. He teaches at Hunter College. More information, recordings and videos can be found at https://davidwolfsonmusic.net.




We recently interviewed David about his process composing Fortune's Children. Here's what he had to say:


HOTOpera: 1. Is this your first time writing a theatrical work created for an online platform? If so, does this create any challenges that you hadn't anticipated?


David: Yes it is! And the big challenge was the time lag, which makes synchronizing parts impossible. I thought of three possible solutions to this going in; one turned out to be impractical, one turned out to be impossible. Luckily, there was one left!


HOTOpera: What was your inspiration for creating this opera?


David: During the initial phase of lockdown, as we were all being introduced to Zoom as the way we were going to be communicating with family and friends for the foreseeable future, I knew I wanted to create something to be performed in a Zoom meeting. It wasn’t until the George Floyd/BLM protests started convulsing the country that I realized that a broken family was a perfect metaphor for America.


HOTOpera: Do you find it easier to write the libretti for your operas as opposed to working with a librettist? 

David: I have written musicals with collaborators, but so far never an opera. I’ll tell you, there is a lot less arguing. Luckily my good friend Experience Bryon, who is a fantastic dramaturg, has been willing to work with me on my opera libretti. She gets a lot of credit for their impact.


HOTOpera: This opera is about COVID and the effect that the virus has on a family. Do you think it's possible for COVID to bring a family closer together? 


David: We have all been learning things about ourselves and each other in lockdown, and through the crisis. That can bring people closer together, or it can drive them apart.


HOTOpera: What are you most looking forward to when we can perform/rehearse together again in the real world? 


David: Oh lord. I can’t decide between being in an audience and being in a rehearsal room. Both, please?


HOTOpera: What is something fun that you want our audience to know about you? 


David: During the pandemic, I have been posting short videos on Facebook of myself playing instruments badly while balancing on a balance board. So far I have performed on trombone, piano, accordion, tin whistle, ocarina and some sort of plastic keyboard whistle thing. 

Thank you for visiting our Opera for the 22nd Century blog! We hoped you enjoyed learning about Thao. Stay tuned for our final interview before the world premiere with composer/librettist, David Wolfson. We hope to see you on Zoom on 10/16 or 10/17 at 7pm. Visit our website to purchase your tickets and learn more about this innovative chamber opera created for Zoom!

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