“The Sky Where You Are”
“The Sky Where You Are”An Opera Theatre - Minneapolis, Minnesota
In collaboration with Brenisen Wheeler, Women’s Advocates
Reyna has locked herself in her bathroom in order to contact her childhood friend, Jo. Reyna reveals to Jo for the first time that her husband has been emotionally abusive for years, and now, in the seclusion of quarantine, his abuse has turned physical. Reyna has decided to take the necessary steps to try and leave her abuser for a third time. With her husband becoming suspicious of the running shower, help, answers, and a plan are needed. Time is of the essence.
The Sky Where You Are was conceived in collaboration with MN organization Women’s Advocates, the first shelter in the nation for women and their children escaping domestic violence. This opera calls awareness to women in domestic violence relationships now trapped at home with their abusers during the COVID-19 quarantine and explores what to do when you are called upon to provide aid and support as a friend or family member in a domestic abuse situation.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month which will make this story even more poignant. It will also be nationally premiered at a time when the entire country will be reflecting on what issues need to be fought for and addressed leading up to the November election.
Maria Thompson Corley, Composer
Maria Thompson Corley (she/her) (DMA, The Juilliard School), an international solo and collaborative pianist, began composing and arranging as a child. Her works have been commissioned by choirs, opera companies, and soloists from across the country. Her arrangement of “Mary had a Baby” was published by Walton, and her song cycle, For Terry, is published by Classical Vocal Reprints. Her art songs and arrangements have been performed, recorded and/or taught in the United States and abroad.
Her first CD, Dreamer (Naxos), contains collaborations with tenor Darryl Taylor. Her solo discs include Twelve Etudes by African American composer Leslie Adams (seven of which she world-premiered) and Soulscapes, consisting of music for solo piano by African American women. Maria’s recording of “Troubled Water” by Margaret Bonds was featured in the HBO Family documentary, Kabreeya’s Salad Day. Her performance of Leslie Adams’s Etude in C sharp Minor is featured in Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’s documentary, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.
Jenny O’Connell, Librettist
Jenny O’Connell’s (she/her) debut book project, Finding Petronella, traces her 2014 solo trek across Finland following the footsteps of a female legend into the heart of the Arctic Circle. A Maine Literary Award finalist and Pushcart Prize nominee, Jenny’s writing has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, SLICE Magazine, Appalachia Journal, Hippocampus, and elsewhere. She is an outdoor contributor at Maine Magazine. This is her first libretto. Jenny earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Stonecoast. She lives in Portland, Maine, where she teaches creative writing to youth and adults, works on initiatives that empower writers to create positive change through the literary arts, and guides wilderness expeditions.
Reyna – Katherine Henly
Praised for her captivating and affecting portrayals in genres ranging from opera, to musical theater, jazz, and pop throughout the United States and abroad, soprano Katherine Henly (she/her) has performed with LA Opera, Washington National Opera, Hawaii Opera Theatre, Charlottesville Opera, Virginia Opera, The New York Musical Theatre Festival, The New York International Fringe Festival, The O’Neill National Music Theater Conference, and at The Royal Opera House in Muscat, Oman.
The 2018-2019 season included her European debut and role debut as Rose Maurrant in John Fulljames’ production of Street Scene with Oper Köln. In the 2019-2020 season, Ms. Henly made her Messiah debut in New York City, as the soprano soloist with Camerata New York. This spring, she was scheduled to make her role debut as Musetta in La Bohème with Theater Latté Da in Minneapolis, MN.
She is a graduate of Ithaca College (B.M.) and Brigham Young University (M.M.).
Jo – Anna Hashizume
Anna (she/her) is thrilled to be working with AOT for the first time! Previous credits include: Artistry Theater: Mary Poppins; Theatre Elision: Of Art and Artists; Lyric Arts: Sense and Sensibility; Collective Unconscious Performance: Into the Darkness; Mixed Precipitation: The Clemency of Tito’s Tennis Club, Dr. Falstaff and the Working Wives of Lake County, Philemon and Baucis: Planet in Peril; Minnesota Opera: La Traviata, Thaïs; Fargo- Moorhead Opera: Speed Dating, Tonight!; Lyric Opera of the North: Rigoletto. In 2017 she was a Schubert Club Competition Winner. TRAINING: M.M., University of Minnesota; B.S.O.F, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Anna hosts a podcast called Thank You Places which can be found on most streaming platforms. @annahashizume
Male Voice – Justin Anthony Spenner
Praised as a “Standout” with “boisterous comic energy” by the Star Tribune, Baritone Justin Anthony Spenner (he/him) is known throughout the Twin Cities for his artistic honesty and engaging versatility. At home with Schubert as he is with Stockhausen, Justin’s appearances run the gamut from recital and oratorio staples to world premieres of experimental music. Recent stage credits include Schaunard (La Bohème) with Theater Latte Da, Father (The Golden Ass/World Premiere) with 113 Composers Collective, Joey (The Most Happy Fella) and Guglielmo (Cosi fan tutte) with Skylark Opera Theatre, John Sorel (The Consul) with An Opera Theatre (AOT). Soloist credits include Coffee Cantata (Bach) and Apollo e Dafne (Handel) with La Grande Bande, Niccolai Messe/Coronation Mass/The Messiah (Haydn/Mozart/Handel) with St. Johns Lutheran Music Series, and DIVAS & DRAG with AOT. In addition to performing, Justin keeps an active private studio and works as a grant editor/consultant for various Twin Cities arts non-profits and individual artists.
Violin – Elise Parker
Violinist Elise Parker (she/her), a core member of the Minnesota Opera Orchestra since 2012, is an active part of the Twin Cities music scene. Ms. Parker also performs with Minnesota Sinfonia, VocalEssence, Minneapolis Pops, Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, the American Composers Forum, Hennepin Theatre Trust, as well as recording and performing with the Guthrie Theater, STRINGenius, the Children’s Theatre, and is a member of the Jamison String Quartet. The Star Tribune has described her playing as “soulful,” while the Pioneer Press wrote “Elise Parker wrings pure beauty from her violin.”
As an avid orchestral musician, Elise has performed with numerous ensembles, including the Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, San Antonio Symphony, North Carolina Symphony, Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison Opera, Madison Ballet, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, South Dakota Symphony, KUHF Houston Public Radio Chamber Players, 21/20 Contemporary Ensemble at the Shepherd School of Music, and the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society.
Sequoia Hauck, Director
Sequoia Hauck (she/they) (Anishinaabe/Hupa) is a graduate from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a B.A. in American Indian Studies. She is a multidisciplinary artist in the Twin Cities focused on creating theater, film, poetry, and performance art that decolonizes the process of art-making. She makes art surrounding the narratives of continuation and resiliency among her communities.
Sequoia has worked on and offstage with organizations such as Aniccha Arts, Art Shanty Projects, Exposed Brick Theatre, Māoriland, Pangea World Theater, Patrick’s Cabaret, Poetry and Pie, The Southern Theater, and Turtle Theater Collective. Sequoia has the honor of being one of eight playwrights chosen by Exposed Brick Theatre to create an original play responding to our current moment in time. Sequoia’s play is about discrimiation, racism, and police brutality through a Minnesota BIPOC lens. The play tells the stories of Black, Hmong, Somali, Latinx, Anishinaabe, and Dakota residents navigating through a world where their existence is political. A virtual showing will occur in late 2020.
Chris Foss, Recording & Sound Engineer
Katherine Henly & Myrtle Lemon Todd, Film Editors
An Opera Theatre (AOT) presents socially-relevant and social justice works, in order to break down the barriers of the classical art form and bring communities together.
An Opera Theatre was founded by Kelly M Turpin who had the vision of creating a company that inspires community engagement by utilizing local MN artists of the highest caliber and presenting socially relevant opera productions. The main goal of AOT is that art should break down societal, financial, and cultural barriers. Our first steps toward this goal include offering “pay as you are able” ticket options, providing Opera Education Immersion classes for ESL and immigrant communities, and developing community partnerships with local social non-profit organizations. Art should always be of and for the people and that is what AOT is all about.
Kelly Turpin, Founder, Producer, Artistic Director
It isn’t every day that newspapers mention arts administrators, but AOT Founder/Producer Kelly M Turpin was praised by the Star Tribune for having “thrown a gauntlet down to those inclined to think opera consists mainly of prima donnas, pretty tunes and preening.” Kelly’s career in artistic development and administration began as Company Director for Mill City Summer Opera. Since then, she has worked with The Southern Theater, 113 Composers Collective, and Cantus on top of her responsibilities at AOT.
Originally planning on a career in opera performance, (Ithaca College BM, Arizona State MM) she quickly tired of the stale and pompous US opera culture and invested in creating a space for greater transparency and honesty in the art form. AOT was founded on this vision of social action and community inspired through opera. When not dreaming up new artistic ventures in Minneapolis, Kelly enjoys cooking, swimming, running, road trips, and reading all in the company of her favorite collaborator, Justin Spenner, and their cat kids Percy and Motley.