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Ghosts of Gatsby, Season Kick-Off

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The Ghosts of Gatsby

West Coast Premiere

Music by Evan Mack, Libretto by Joshua McGuire

Masks must be worn at all times.

Location

The Space, front view

The Space

3460 Cavaretta Court ∙ Las Vegas ∙ 89103

Run Time

60 minutes

Intermission

No intermission

Language

English with English Surtitles

Premiered

West Coast and Professional Company Premiere

Refreshments

Bar Service Available

Dress Code

From Dressy Casual to Come as You Are

Evan Mack and Joshua McGuire’s The Ghosts of Gatsby won first prize in the 2019 National Opera Association’s compositions Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition and is part of Opera Las Vegas’ acclaimed Living Composers and Librettists Initiative.

In a fascinating tale of marriage and madness, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald are on the French Riviera in 1924. Scott, clouded by alcoholism and obsessed by finishing his painstaking work on The Great Gatsby, is jealous of Zelda’s supposed extramarital affair, while Zelda is emotionally smothered by the controlling Scott.

In a fit of pique, Scott locks Zelda in a bedroom, unleashing confrontations between visions of her younger and older selves.  Which Zelda is real?  Or is the entire scene a troubling dream about choices made, challenges unfulfilled and roads not taken?

The Ghosts of Gatsby stars baritone Rob McGinness, sopranos Kayla Wilkens and Athena Mertes, and mezzo-soprano Kimberly Gratland James.  It is directed by Darren ‘Daz’ Weller and conducted by Joshua Horsch.

Read Synopsis

A tale of marriage and madness. Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald are in the French Riviera in 1924. Scott, obsessed by work on “The Great Gatsby,” is jealous of Zelda’s extramarital affair, while Zelda is smothered by the alcoholic Scott.

In a fit of rage, Scott locks Zelda in a bedroom. She has visions of her younger and older selves. As the argument with Scott resumes and intensifies, Scott strikes Zelda, and she attempts to dismiss the apparitions as unreal, but the oldest Zelda dismisses her. Zelda wakes to find the entire scene has been a dream on her deathbed, locked in a burning insane asylum.

Creators

  • Evan Mack, in rehearsal

    Evan Mack

    Composer

  • Evan Mack, in rehearsal

    Evan Mack

    Composer

    Believing that opera should be theater grounded in climatic expression that delivers larger-than-life stories and music that harnesses the full athletic thrill of singing, Evan Mack has devoted much of his compositional life to opera and song.  His first major operatic composition, where he served as both composer and librettist, was Angel of the Amazon.  “Angel” premiered in May of 2011 by Encompass New Opera Theatre at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City and was subsequently released on CD worldwide by Albany Records.  Two years later, Fresno State Opera Theater premiered The Secret of Luca. This was the first of several collaborations with librettist Joshua McGuire.  In August 2016, their American grand opera Roscoe premiered at Seagle Music Colony to rave reviews.  Roscoe received its orchestral world premiere with the Albany Symphony starring Metropolitan Opera star Deborah Voigt.  In between the two large scale projects, Mack & McGuire found time to write the first ever opera for Twitter #IsOperaDead – an opera in 5 acts lasting one minute and forty seconds.

    Their Christmas opera for children, Lucinda y las Flores de la Nochebuena is quickly becoming a holiday standard with yearly productions by San Francisco Opera, Opera in the Heights and Fresno State Opera, who commissioned the opera.  The one-act opera The Ghosts of Gatsby premiered by Samford Opera in Birmingham, AL in 2019 and won the National Opera Association’s Argento Chamber Opera Competition. Mack & McGuire’s latest, Yeltsin in Texas! premiered in 2020 by TCU and Opera in the Heights. It’s now in development to become a musical comedy!

    Evan Mack has proven as deft at song writing as he is in opera.  His song A Little More Perfect is a setting of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s final paragraph of the Marriage Equality Decision by the Supreme Court in 2015.  Premiering at Seagle Music Colony in 2015, it has quickly become a favorite of many baritones including Michael Mayes, Daniel Okulich and Michael Miller to name a few.  The song had its professional premiere at the Glimmerglass Festival in 2016 and the orchestral premiere at the Fort Worth Opera Festival in 2017.  His new cycle If Only Lenny Were Here, which celebrates the life of Leonard Bernstein had its world premiere with the Schenectady Symphony in October of 2018.

  • Joshua McGuire, librettist

    Joshua McGuire

    Librettist

  • Joshua McGuire, librettist

    Joshua McGuire

    Librettist

    JOSHUA McGUIRE has written librettos for The Secret of Luca, (based on the novel by Ignazio Silone) and Roscoe (based on the novel by Pulitzer Prize winner William Kennedy) with music by Evan Mack. In October 2016, Roscoe received a full performance by the Albany Symphony featuring soprano Deborah Voigt in the lead role of Veronica.  His collaboration with Mack also produced #isoperadead, the first-ever opera for Twitter, as well as Lucinda y Las Flores de la Nochebuena, a children's opera commissioned by the Fresno State Opera Theatre.  Since premiering in 2016, the opera has played for over 15,000 children, including annual performances by Opera in the Heights (Houston) and the San Francisco Opera Guild.  Mack & McGuire’s one-act opera The Ghosts of Gatsby, based on the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, was commissioned and premiered by Samford University in 2018.  They are currently fulfilling a multi-company commission for a new comedy entitled Yeltsin in Texas!

    In 2015, McGuire was commissioned to write a libretto for Washington National Opera's American Opera Initiative, and the resulting one-act opera, Alexandra, with music by David Clay Mettens, was premiered at the Kennedy Center.  He is also the author of The Secret of Music: a look at the listening life, a book of essays on music and mindfulness.  McGuire is the recipient of fellowships from Yaddo, and from the Susan Shames Feinstein Librettist Fellowship at the American Center for New Works Development.

    McGuire currently teaches at Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music.  He studied at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where he pursued Master’s work in both guitar and orchestral conducting, holding assistantships in both areas.  As an undergraduate at Vanderbilt University, he took the Bachelor of Music summa cum laude as well as High Honors in English Literature for his thesis on musical structures in the work of James Joyce.  He currently resides in Nashville with his wife, pianist and conductor Jennifer McGuire, their son Thomas, and a basset hound.

Cast

  • Rob McGinness, Baritone, smiling in formal wear in front of a brick wall.

    Rob McGinness

    Baritone

    Fitzgerald

  • Rob McGinness, Baritone, smiling in formal wear in front of a brick wall.

    Rob McGinness

    Baritone


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    Employing his “impressive singing … well-supported tone and supple phrasing,” (Baltimore Sun) baritone Rob McGinness connects characters to ideas, and listeners to sounds. Often featured portraying opera’s “bad boy,” Rob’s operatic credits include the title roles in Eugene Onegin and Don Giovanni, as well as Marcello in La Bohème.

    Committed to promoting and performing new works, Rob premiered roles in Frances Pollock’s award-winning opera Stinney, The Ghost Train by Paul Crabtree, and the lead role in Shining Brow, Daron Hagen’s opera about Frank Lloyd Wright. Rob’s own compositions include vocal, theatrical, and orchestral pieces premiered at IngenuityFest, Andy’s Summer Playhouse, and by the Windham Orchestra in Vermont.

    As a featured soloist, Rob performed in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall and Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium. Other concert credits include Carmina Burana with Maryland Symphony Orchestra and Brahms Requiem with The Washington Chorus, for which the Washington Post praised his “warm baritone.”

  • Kayla Wilkens, Soprano, in black and leaning against a grey wall.

    Kayla Wilkens

    Soprano

    Zelda 1918

  • Kayla Wilkens, Soprano, in black and leaning against a grey wall.

    Kayla Wilkens

    Soprano


    Visit Website →

    With a passion for musical theatre and opera, soprano Kayla Wilkens is a versatile young artist originally from Salem, Oregon. An enthusiastic supporter of developing new works, she has performed leading roles in the ASCAP award-winning premiere readings of Persephone Unplugged (Persephone) and Jonathan Reid Gealt’s Dust and Shadow (Miss Monk), in the World Music Award-winning premiere of the opera O Pioneers! (Marie Shabata), John Muehleisen's Pietà (soprano soloist) and in Libby Larsen’s Moabit Sonnets (soprano soloist). Her featured roles in new works include Vía Láctea (Peggy cover/featured soloist) with OperaBend, the American debut of Robert Owen’s opera Culture, Culture! (featured coloratura) international live webcast, and the national prize-winning full orchestra premiere of Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of Bernstein’s Candide (Cunegonde cover).

    Other recent productions include performing as a featured soloist in concerts with Tony-winning composers Steven Lutvak and Stephen Bray. Her recent roles include Into the Woods (Rapunzel/Cinderella’s Mother) with Musical Theater Heritage, L’Etoile (Princess Laoula) with Sin City Opera, Sweeney Todd (Johanna) with OmniArts, and in the tour of The Drowsy Chaperone (Janet Van De Graaff) with the Stage Theater. Kayla has also performed as a featured soloist in the original historical revues Songs of the Great War at Musical Theater Heritage and in the Abraham Lincoln Birthday Celebration production of Civil War Voices. Other favorite roles include La Fée in Cendrillon, Belle in Beauty and the Beast, Adina in L’elisir d’amore, and Adele in A Man of No Importance.

    As a frequent recitalist and orchestral soloist, her recent performances include Stephen Paulus’ To Be Certain of the Dawn, Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s Magnificat, Faure’s Requiem, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Bernstein’s Mass, and a duet recital series Glimpses premiering commissioned American art songs. Kayla has also toured and performed as a featured soloist with professional choral chamber ensembles including Sounding Light and First Plymouth Cantorei.

    Her honors include the Dorothy Kirsten-James Browning “Most Promising Young Artist” prize in the NATS National Artist Awards, the inaugural Bill Hayes Award in NATS National Musical Theater Competition, as well as awards in the Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions, the Lotte Lenya Competition, the Harold Haugh Light Opera Competition, and the Carolyn Bailey and Dominick Argento National Vocal Competition.

    Having earned a Bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Linfield College, she completed a Master’s degree in vocal performance at the University of Nebraska. When not on stage, Kayla may be found blues dancing or concocting decadent desserts to reward her dearest friends.  ​​

    Recent highlights from the 2018 season include singing as the soprano soloist in Pietà: An Oratorio by John Muehleisen with the Abendmusik Orchestra at First Plymouth Church, premiering the songcycle April Twilights​ by Chris Miller (of Miller & Tysen), a children's adaptation of The Magic Flute  (Pamina/1st Spirit) with Sin City Opera, singing in educational outreach concerts with Opera Omaha, and The Pirates of Penzance (Mabel) with Sin City Opera and Super Summer Theater. Most recently, Kayla sang in Opera Omaha's Pagliacci, joined the Arts Across Nebraska tour of the musical Civil War Voices and then returned to Las Vegas to sing the Dew Fairy in Hansel and Gretel with Opera Las Vegas. She is currently performing in Stolen! The Musical at the Ohio Star Theater through August and upcoming appearances include performances with Sounding Light, Opera Omaha and  Vegas City Opera.

    ​Full resume and references available upon request.
  • Athena Mertes, Soprano, against a blue background.

    Athena Mertes

    Soprano

    Zelda 1924

  • Athena Mertes, Soprano, against a blue background.

    Athena Mertes

    Soprano

    Athena Mertes is one of the Valley’s most celebrated sopranos, whose opera and concert credits include Despina (Cosi Fan Tutte), Gretel (Hansel and Gretel), Lucy (The Telephone), Zerlina (Don Giovanni), Gianetta (L’Elisir d’Amore), Morgana (Alcina), Musetta (La Bohème), Pamina (Die Zauberflöte), Abigail (The Crucible), Nella (Gianni Schicchi) and soprano soloist in Vivaldi’s Gloria, Handel’s Messiah and Honegger’s King David. She has performed as a guest soloist with the Burbank Philharmonic, Las Vegas Philharmonic, Henderson Symphony, Opera Las Vegas, Vegas City Opera and Lexington Opera Outreach. She has appeared with Opera Las Vegas on many occasions, in Holiday on Broadway, the Old Lady and the doll Olympia in Pinocchio, and Despina in The Three Little Pigs. She is also the director of the OLV Youth Chorus.  Most recently, Athena was Alice B. Toklas in the West Coast premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek’s 27, sang in the Twentieth Anniversary Season Reveal, and portrayed Lilly in Sasha Matson’s Cooperstown. She was scheduled to sing the role of Papagena in June’s The Magic Flute, before it was canceled.

  • Kimberly Gratland James, Mezzo-Soprano, close up of face

    Kimberly Gratland James

    Mezzo-Soprano

    Zelda 1948

  • Kimberly Gratland James, Mezzo-Soprano, close up of face

    Kimberly Gratland James

    Mezzo-Soprano

    Mezzo-soprano Kimberly Gratland James (Zelda 1948) joined the UNLV School of Music faculty in 2017 as an Assistant Professor with more than 20 years of professional performance and teaching experience in vocal music. Previously, she was an Associate Professor of Music at the University of Montana, where she primarily taught applied voice, voice pedagogy, and diction for singers. Kimberly maintains an active performance career, particularly as a concert artist and recitalist. She has performed in concert with the London Sinfonietta, the New World Symphony, the Los Angeles Symphony, and on stage with New Orleans Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Opera Las Vegas, among other organizations. Her performance repertoire is quite diverse, encompassing oratorio works by Bach, operatic repertoire from Purcell to Wagner, and concert works by Verdi, Mahler, Ravel, and contemporary composers. She is passionate about culturally-situated art and modern art music and recently garnered acclaim for her portrayal of the role of the literary icon, Gertrude Stein, in Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavreks’ opera, 27, with Opera Las Vegas. She will perform the Nevada and Montana premieres of Through the Guarded Gate, a 50-state project “Beyond the Guarded Gate” which is the virtual march of Juliana Hall’s song cycle featuring the powerful messages of poet Margaret Widdemer’s words.

Creative Team

  • Joshua Horsch, posing with baton.

    Joshua Horsch

    Conductor

  • Joshua Horsch, posing with baton.

    Joshua Horsch

    Conductor


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    Praised for conducting with “steady acumen and considerable aplomb” and “awesome control” (Opera Today), Joshua Horsch is an extremely versatile operatic and symphonic conductor.  A two-time winner of the American Prize in Opera Conducting Joshua serves as Music Director and Principal Conductor of Opera Las Vegas. Joshua’s recent and upcoming conducting engagements include appearances with Atlanta Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Opera Orlando, Mobile Opera, Pacific Opera Project, Opera Las Vegas, Tri-Cities Opera, and Chicago Summer Opera.

    With a diverse repertoire of over fifty operas and a broad spectrum of orchestral and choral works, Joshua has recently held positions as a conductor/coach/chorus master on the music staff of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Michigan Opera Theatre, Florida Grand Opera, North Carolina Opera, Opera Saratoga, Pensacola Opera, Fort Worth Opera, the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Colorado Music Festival.  Joshua’s guest and workshop conducting includes work with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Omaha Symphony, the Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra and Chorus, the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra, Orquestra Filharmonia de Chihuahua, the Lyatoshinsky Chamber Orchestra, the Newport Music Festival, the Colorado New Music Ensemble, the PENDULUM New Music Ensemble, the Boston Opera Collaborative, and the Boulder Bach Festival.

    As a dedicated interpreter of new works, Joshua has enjoyed a number of collaborations with many of today’s leading composers including Tom CipulloJennifer Higdon, and Libby Larsen.  For two seasons, Joshua served as Music Director/Conductor of the CU New Opera Workshop where he collaborated with composers Libby Larsen and Alberto Caruso as well as author Colm Tóibín and stage director Ron Daniels.  At Seagle Music Colony’s American Center for New Works Development, Joshua has conducted and played workshops for new works by Libby Larsen and Scott Eyerly.  For four seasons, Joshua served as conductor/co-founder of the Colorado New Music Ensemble where he programmed and conducted works ranging from John Corigliano’s Symphony No. 2 to Susan Botti’s chamber opera Telaio: Desdemona.  While a Festival Artist/Conductor at the Newport Music Festival, Joshua conducted members of the Rhode Island Philharmonic and Providence Singers in a series of contemporary choral/orchestral masterworks.

  • Darren ‘Daz’ Weller, Director, close up in a natural setting.

    Darren ‘Daz’ Weller

    Director

  • Darren ‘Daz’ Weller, Director, close up in a natural setting.

    Darren ‘Daz’ Weller

    Director

    Daz Weller (Director) moved from Australia to Las Vegas in 2010 and is the Executive Artstic Director of Vegas Theatre Company (VTC, formerly Cockroach Theatre Company).Daz graduated with a BA in Acting from the Queensland University of Technology in 1998 and has worked extensively with most of Australia’s major theatre companies including the Sydney Theatre Company, Company B Belvoir, Griffin Theatre Company, The Bell Shakespeare Company, Queensland Theatre Company, Theatre of Image, Melbourne Theatre Company, and The State Theatre Company of South Australia. His US directing credits include Macbeth, Good Kids and The Crucible at Nevada Conservatory Theatre (NCT); Spinning Into Butter, Seven Deadly Sins, The Father, and Gianni Schicchi at VTC; Piff the Magic Dragon Show at the Flamingo; Small Space Festival at Emergency Arts; The Motown Show at The Venetian Resort and Casino; and Spiegelworld’s Vegas Nocturne at the Cosmopolitan’s Rose.Rabbit.Lie. Since moving to Las Vegas, he has for VTC in The Christians, and Love Love Love; for NCT in The Hound of the Baskervilles, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Pippin; A Public Fit in The Beauty Queen of Leenane; Las Vegas Little Theatre in Doubt; and Las Vegas Shakespeare Company in The Wizard of Oz, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Daz has twice received the Valley Theatre Award as Best Director for The Father, and Lynn Nottage’s Sweat.

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