DAYTON, OH (January 28, 2022) – On Friday, February 25, 2022 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, February 27, 2022 at 3 p.m. in the Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center, Dayton Opera, under the leadership of Artistic Director Kathleen Clawson, presents the world premiere opera Finding Wright. This opera will be sung in English with English surtitles.
The presentation of Finding Wright is made possible due to the generous support of Dr. Ron Anderson and Mr. Robb Sloan-Anderson, Mr. Thomas and Mrs. Frances Bankston, the ELM Foundation, the Harry A. Toulmin and Virginia B. Toulmin Fund, and the Jesse and Caryl Philips Foundation.
This February, Dayton Opera is thrilled to present a world-premiere opera created and presented by a team of four of the most talented individuals in today’s opera world, all of whom just happen to be women! This captivating story was sparked as librettist Andrea Fellows Fineberg and stage director Kathleen Clawson uncovered a unique gem in Dayton’s past right in the middle of Dayton’s Woodland Cemetery‒the grave stone of Katharine Wright.
Finding Wright is the story of human connection and emotion, centering on the life of Katharine Wright, sister of two of the most famous Wrights of Dayton, and in fact, the world: brothers of flight Orville and Wilbur Wright. With music by award-winning composer Laura Kaminsky, performed by the Dayton Philharmonic under the direction of conductor Susanne Sheston, Finding Wright is the first-ever full-length opera commissioned for and presented by Dayton Opera.
Finding Wright traces two parallel narratives: one of Katharine Wright, sister of famed Orville and Wilbur Wright; and one of Charlotte (Charlie) Tyler, a 21st century aerospace engineer and academic who is grieving her thwarted career and the recent loss of her husband.
The opera shifts back and forth between Katharine Wright in the early 1900’s and Charlie Tyler in the present day in what the librettist calls “fractured time.” The story follows Katharine from her carefree younger days to the emptiness after the death of her mother to her role in propelling forward the world-changing discovery and invention of her famous brothers, even at the expense of her own ambitions. In the midst of her journey, she falls in love, and her new-found romance drives a wedge between her and her brother Orville. Can this rift be resolved?
In present time, Charlie grieves the loss of her young husband and finds herself at a crossroads in her life. At her husband’s funeral, she discovers Katharine’s grave and begins to explore the story of this kindred soul with whom she feels an unexpected connection. By exploring the past and contemplating Katharine’s actions and motivations, Charlie welcomes a new day dawning and begins to discover her own path forward.
Composer Laura Kaminsky has been cited in The Washington Post as “one of the top 35 female composers in classical music.” She frequently addresses critical social and political issues in her work, including sustainability, war, and human rights. Possessing “an ear for the new and interesting” (The New York Times), “her music is full of fire as well as ice, contrasting dissonance and violence with tonal beauty and meditative reflection. It is strong stuff.” (American Record Guide). Her first opera, As One, is the most produced contemporary opera in North America, with close to 50 productions to date in the U.S. as well as across Europe. Kaminsky brings her expertise and emotion to the creation of the music for Finding Wright.
Finding Wright marks the third time that librettist Andrea Fellows Fineberg has written for Dayton Opera, having previously crafted original dialogue for the 2014 production of The Magic Flute and the 2017 production of The Abduction from the Seraglio. Fineberg has served with Santa Fe Opera for over 30 years, holding the position of Director of Community Engagement since 1993. As librettist she has collaborated with John Kennedy on Trinity and Stephen Paulus on Shoes for the Santo Niño. In 2016, UnShakeable, with Joseph Illick, premiered in Santa Fe, and in the outpouring of activities for the commemoration of the Shakespeare 400, was cited by the New York Times. As a collaborative artist, Fineberg has had the privilege of creating and then working with the Academy for the Love of Learning’s Lifesongs¸ writing original musical narratives with individuals in hospice care since its inception in 2007. For six years she served as a national commissioner to UNESCO and as a member of the Obama Arts Policy Committee in 2008 and 2012.
Conductor Susanne Sheston is currently the Chorus Master of the acclaimed Santa Fe Opera, a position she has held since 2008. As Chorus Master, Sheston has collaborated with many of the world’s leading operatic and symphonic conductors. Her work at Santa Fe has included choral preparations for six world premieres and two North American premieres. Sheston was chorus master for the Grammy-award-winning recording (Best Opera Performance, 2019) of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, recorded live at Santa Fe Opera on the Pentatone label. Her work can also be heard on the 2016 Grammy-nominated recording of Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain. Sheston takes the podium to direct the talented musicians of the Dayton Philharmonic for her first time as they perform together the stunning music of composer Laura Kaminsky.
Kathleen Clawson will be the Stage Director for this important world premiere. As dramaturg, she worked alongside Kaminsky and Fineberg during the development of Finding Wright, helping them to craft the drama of the work. Clawson is making her creative mark at Dayton her first season as Artistic Director, having worked with the company for over twelve years as Stage Director for fifteen performances, as well as appearances on stage as soloist with Dayton Philharmonic.
Commissioned to mark the 60th anniversary of Dayton Opera and Artistic Director Emeritus Thomas Bankston’s 25th season, Finding Wright was moved to 2022 because of the pandemic. Bankston serves as Artistic Advisor for the opera’s premiere.
Making her Dayton Opera debut as lead character Charlie Tyler is mezzo-soprano Amanda Lynn Bottoms. She was most recently engaged with the Santa Fe Opera, covering Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Fillipyevna in Eugene Onegin, Ino in The Lord of Cries. To much acclaim, Bottoms headlined the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago Fall 2021 recital series; the opening performance, “Songs of the New World,” was recently named one of the top three Chicago Classical Review’s Best of 2021.
Also making her Dayton Opera debut, mezzo-soprano Blythe Gaissert performs the historic role of the fascinating Katharine Wright. Much in demand for her command of new music, Gaissert has performed world premieres of music by John Adams, Laura Kaminsky, Mikael Karlsson, Robert Paterson, Martin Hennessy, Mohammed Fairouz, Richard Pearson Thomas, Glen Roven, Yotam Haber, Jorge Martin, Tom Cipullo, Renee Favand-See, Gilda Lyons, Jessica Meyer, Gabriel Kahane and more. A true singing actress, she has received critical acclaim for her interpretations of both new and traditional repertoire in opera, concert, and chamber repertoire. Known for her warm tone, impeccable musicianship and technical prowess, Gaissert has been praised by the Denver Post for her “pure, powerful and appealing voice and a forceful stage presence to match.”
Baritone Sean Anderson embraces his first role with Dayton Opera as Katharine Wright’s love interest and eventual husband, Harry Haskell. Classically trained for the Shakespearian stage, Anderson has received high recognition from Opera News as having a voice of “warm vocal velvet,” and he is diversely adept onstage in opera, musical theater, and classical drama. His repertoire list includes dozens of leading roles ranging from Verdi to Mozart to Gilbert and Sullivan, and his magnetic stage presence and authoritative voice have won him critical acclaim for both comedy and tragedy.
Performing the roles of the famous brothers of flight Orville and Wilbur Wright are tenors Dominic Armstrong and Christian Sanders, respectively. Dominic Armstrong returns to Dayton Opera for his third appearance after his 2017 role of Don José in the beloved Carmen. Dominic has quickly established himself internationally as an artist of superb and distinguished musicality and characterization. Christian Sanders has an operatic range that encompasses stirring roles in works from the classic repertoire to modern operas and works by living composers. Sanders has been hailed by Bill Eadie of SanDiego.com as a “…voice whose color belies his age. Someone to watch!”
Pam Knauert Lavarnway is the creative mind behind the unique scenic design, as the story shifts back and forth from present day to the classical historic time period of the early 1900s. Costumes from these two distinctly different time periods are the work of Bartlett Blair. Resident lighting designer John Rensel will light this production. Wig and Make-up Designers are the talented Cassandra Brake and Thomas Venditelli.
Join the Dayton Opera at the Schuster Center this February for this exhilarating world premiere. Find your path by looking back into the life of Katharine Wright, the inspirational sister of the ingenious inventors of flight who propelled them…and our history…forward!
The DPAA is excited to welcome audiences back to the 2021–2022 Season. The health and safety of patrons, performers, staff, and volunteers is our top priority. Beginning November 22, 2021, in partnership with DPAA’s venue partner Dayton Live, the following new health and safety protocols are in place at all performances and events until further notice:
- Vaccination and Testing – Proof of vaccination or COVID-19 testing will no longer be required to attend performances at Dayton Live venues, including the Schuster Center and the Victoria Theatre.
- Masks – Masks will be required for all patrons over the age of 6 during the entire visit while attending a DPAA performance or event. Mask must cover both nose and mouth.
Tickets for Finding Wright begin at $5 and are available through the box office at (937) 228-3630 or online at www.daytonperformingarts.org. Senior, teacher and student discounts are available. For more information or to order subscriptions, including flexible subscription types that include performances by Dayton Philharmonic, Dayton Opera and Dayton Ballet, visit www.daytonperformingarts.org.
About the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance
The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance (DPAA) was formed in July 2012 as the result of a groundbreaking and innovative merger between the Dayton Ballet, the Dayton Opera, and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Together, they are the largest performing arts organization in the greater Dayton community, with a mission to be the community’s indispensable source for traditional, diverse and innovative experiences in ballet, opera, and orchestral music. The vision of the DPAA is to transform lives through the power of music and dance. The DPAA offers a wide variety of performance and education programs, setting a new standard for artistic excellence. DPAA performances reach an audience of more than 90,000 people annually, and their rich arts education programming serves over 60,000 schoolchildren in 150 schools in the Miami Valley. These performances and education initiatives are made possible in part through major support provided by the Ohio Arts Council, Culture Works, the City of Dayton, Montgomery County and the National Endowment for the Arts.