Women have always been artists, but for centuries, women were excluded from the records of history—their art being dismissed as unimportant, “craft”, and not elevated. Now, in the 21st century, we still see these trends happening, particularly in the field of opera. The exclusion of women’s art has made the male perspective dominant. The male gaze tells stories about male heroes and women as secondary characters; explores the male psyche and leaves women as merely tools to help the male characters achieve their ultimate arch.
The Female Gaze flips the male gaze: the creator is a woman, the characters are women, and the spectators are women. Fresh Squeezed Opera aims to put women on an equal level to men in the performance of operatic works, and celebrate the unique idioms and perspective that women composers offer in their works. This project will act as a strong symbol in the new music community—a group of women coming together to create an artistic statement about the value of women in the arts. This will be a statement about the operatic genre – a vastly male-dominated field – and demand the inclusion of women.
The project features the world premieres of three FSO commissions from Whitney George, Gabrielle Herbst, and Gemma Peacocke for female voice, ensemble, and electronics.
Mara Mayer — Clarinet
Lish Lindsey — Flute
Dan McCarthy — Viola
Maureen Kelly — Cello
Fred Trumpy — Percussion
Joe Tucker — Percussion
Sugar Vendil — Piano
Nicholle Bittlingmeyer — Voice
Jane Hoffman — Voice
Chelsea Feltman — Voice
Supported by a strong community of composers and performers, Fresh Squeezed Opera presents genre-pushing new works of the highest caliber that explore the depths of operatic music. We believe that collaboration across disciplines, fields, and media pushes the genre of opera forward. FSO connects singers and composers, and gives them the resources to collaboratively create new work and grow professionally. There is a role for opera in contemporary society, and we present operas that current audiences and New York communities can connect and engage with.
Founded in 2013, Fresh Squeezed Opera dedicates itself to providing composers with a platform to present their new music, specifically focusing on vocal works and fully-staged opera. In our five years of operation, we’ve proudly presented over 25 composers’ works, with consistently sold-out houses as a testament to the power of new music. Fully staged operatic productions include Knot An Opera! (Constantin Basica)†, Here be Sirens (Kate Soper), Scopes (Spencer Snyder)*, Prix Fixe (Kevin Wilt)†, The Yellow Wallpaper (Whitney George)*, Baby Shower (Bruce Trinkley)†, and La Zombiata (Jillian Flexner)*. Forthcoming fully-staged performances include, The Switch (John Aylward)†, Bound (Huang Ruo)†, and Self.Fembot (Jillian Flexner)*.
(* Indicates World Premiere; Indicates New York Premiere)
The Female Gaze is an ongoing project curated by FSO Director and composer, Jillian Flexner. Started in 2016, FSO has performed as part of this project the World Premiere of Whitney George’s The Yellow Wallpaper, the American Premiere of Nicole Murphy’s The Kamikaze Mind, and has remounted Kate Soper’s Here Be Sirens with direction by Amber Treadway.
Whitney George is a composer and conductor who specializes in the use of mixed media to blur the distinctions between concert performance, installation art, and theater. George’s compositions are characterized by an immersive theatricality that thrives on collaboration in all phases of the creative process. Her affinity for the macabre, the fantastic, and the bizarre frequently gives rise to musical programs that evoke the traditions of phantasmagoria and melodrama, challenging musicians to experiment liberally with their stage personae, and audiences to widen the scope of their attention. She is the artistic director and conductor of The Curiosity Cabinet, a chamber orchestra formed in 2009 whose members were culled from a network of close collaborators within New York’s diverse new music scene. George also conducts Ursula Oppens’s conTEMPO ensemble at Brooklyn College Conservatory as well as the Face the Music Youth Orchestra. George holds an undergraduate degree from the California Institute of the Arts, a masters degree from Brooklyn College Conservatory, and is currently continuing her studies as a PhD candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she studied with David Del Tredici, David Olan, Bruce Saylor, and Tania Leon. In addition to her composing and conducting, George teaches at the Brooklyn College Conservatory, works at the Hitchcock Institute of American Studies and is the Managing Director for New York’s American Modern Ensemble (AME).
Gabrielle Herbst joined the Dan Lopatin’s Software Recording Co. family in 2014. Formally trained at an early age in Balinese dance, gamelan, the clarinet and piano, Herbst continued studied voice and composition under the tutelage of Joan Tower, Zeena Parkins, and Marina Rosenfeld at Bard College. Her work has been showcased at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center, as well as Roulette, who earlier in 2014 commissioned and premiered her first opera Bodiless. Herbst’s experience writing for chamber orchestra and mixed instrumentation inspired her to develop a repertoire of short-form, vocal-centric compositions under the name GABI. These were driven by solitary explorations in early 2013 with a dual-track loop pedal.
Gemma Peacocke is a composer and based in Princeton, New Jersey. Originally from New Zealand, she writes instrumental and vocal music, electronic music, and a combination of both. She likes finding ways to seamlessly combine and move between electronic and acoustic sound worlds. Peacocke’s work focuses on how music can amplify the voices of under-heard groups of people. She frequently collaborates with directors, filmmakers and choreographers, and in 2016 worked with director Benita de Wit on her play Undrown’d about asylum seekers held in offshore detention centres. Recently, Peacocke completed a song cycle called Waves + Lines based on landays – female Afghan folk poems – adapted from Eliza Griswold’s book I Am the Beggar of the World. A piece for choir, piano four-hands and electronics, Pacific, premiered with the support of the Peace and Disarmament Education Trust (PADET). The JACK Quartet premiered a new string quartet called Erasure at the end of September. Peacocke currently is working on several projects including a percussion and electronics piece for Kaylie Melville, and a percussion quartet for Mari Takeda. She is presently a PhD candidate at Princeton University.