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September 05. 2013 12:20AM

Winning Ways

Portsmouth native earns top honors in opera composition contest


WINNING WAYS: Christopher Weiss, a Seacoast native and resident of Ann Arbor, Mich., was recognized by The Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam in New York in its international composition competition. 

POTSDAM, N.Y. — The Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam has announced an opera by Portsmouth native Christopher Weiss, of Ann Arbor, Mich., has earned top honors in its inaugural Domenic J. Pellicciotti Opera Composition Prize.

Three operas were chosen from a pool of 74 submissions, which came from across the United States and Canada, as well as from Europe.

The winners included "In a Mirror, Darkly," with music by Weiss and a libretto by S. O'Duinn Magee. The honor comes with a $5,000 prize and the future production of an act or segment of the work.

Each act of "In a Mirror, Darkly" is a complete story of a woman artist, but each is set in a different era and location. For example, in Act II, which takes place in the 1890s in Paris, Elaine is a painter and assistant in Lantier's studio, where she works in secret to complete her masterpiece. After Lantier decides to sign his own name to her painting, Elaine is forced to confront her society's views about women artists and make a decision about her future.

Weiss has received commissions and performances from the Huntsville Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, Boston Chamber Orchestra, Lancaster Symphony, Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic, Columbia Orchestra, Curtis Symphony Orchestra, Twickenham Music Festival and from Music from Angel Fire.

Excerpts from "In a Mirror, Darkly" have been performed by the New York City Opera and the Virginia Arts Festival.

Born in Portsmouth in 1980, Weiss primarily was raised in the Northeastern states. His paternal grandfather, a fisheries biologist in Missouri, was an amateur violin maker who enjoyed experimenting by constructing violins using unconventional woods. At the age of five, Weiss' grandfather presented him with a handmade, one quarter-size violin, and he began taking his first music lessons. At 12, Weiss taught himself to play the piano, and he developed an interest in composing during high school. He holds degrees from Rollins College and the Curtis Institute of Music.

As part of the Crane School opera competition, "The Fox and the Pomegranate," with music by Matt Frey and libretto by Daniel J. Kushner, also will receive a $5,000 prize and the production of part of that winning opera. A prize of $10,000 and a full production was awarded to the grand prize winner, "A Letter to East 11th Street," with music by Martin Hennessy and libretto by Mark Campbell.

The three winning compositions will be presented by the Crane Opera Ensemble and Orchestra in November 2014 at SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music.


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