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Composer Ricky Ian Gordon will be SMTD’s commencement speaker

Ricky Ian Gordon, a world renowned composer of vocal music, will be the featured speaker for the School of Music, Theatre & Dance Commencement Ceremony on Friday, April 27, 2018, in Hill Auditorium. The doors at Hill open at 3:15 pm and the ceremony will begin promptly at 4:00 pm. No tickets are necessary.

Ricky Ian Gordon studied piano, composition, and acting at Carnegie Mellon University. After moving to New York City, he quickly emerged as a leading writer of vocal music that spans art song, opera, and musical theatre. Gordon’s songs have been performed and/or recorded by such internationally renowned singers as Renee Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Nathan Gunn, Judy Collins, Nadine Sierra, Kelli O’Hara, Audra McDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Nicole Cabell, Frederica von Stade, Andrea Marcovicci, Harolyn Blackwell, Betty Buckley, and the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, among many others.

According to The Chicago Tribune, “One of the things that makes Ricky Ian Gordon’s operas so appealing to audiences in so many places is the natural way his music embraces both classical and popular music theater idioms, folding one into the other. What the New York-based composer calls his “hybrid” sound is lyrical in an open-hearted, distinctly American way that suits his subject matter.”

A highly prolific composer, Gordon’s most recent premieres were The House Without A Christmas Tree (2017, libretto by Royce Vavrek, commissioned and premiered by Houston Grand Opera), a holiday opera for young audiences that The Wall Street Journal describes as “a charming, family-friendly piece;” and a reduction of his earlier version of The Grapes of Wrath (2017 two-act version commissioned and premiered by the Opera Theatre of St. Louis), which the Chicago Tribune calls “a great American opera.” The Grapes of Wrath helped establish Gordon’s career as a great opera composer.

Gordon’s catalog also includes Morning Star (2015, libretto by William Hoffman, premiered by the Cincinnati Opera), about Jewish immigrants in New York’s Lower East Side in the beginning of the 20th century; 27 (2014, libretto by Royce Vavrek, premiered at Opera Theatre of St. Louis) about Gertrude Stein’s salons at 27 rue de Fleurus; and A Coffin In Egypt (2014, libretto by Leonard Foglia, premiered by the Houston Grand Opera, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and Opera Philadelphia) a haunting tale of memory and murder, racism and recrimination.

Upcoming projects include the opera Intimate Apparel with playwright, Lynn Nottage, commissioned by New York’s Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Theater, Private Confessions with playwright, Richard Nelson, commissioned by The Goodman Theater in Chicago, Ellen West (libretto by Frank Bidart) commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects for a 2019 premiere, and an opera based on Giorgio Bassani’s novel, The Garden of the Finzi Continis with librettist Michael Korie.