As opera and symphonic performances resume in 2021-2022, American composer-librettist Mark Adamo’s work returns to stages in Santa Fe, San Francisco, Houston, Chicago, and London. In July 2021, Santa Fe Opera returned to live opera with the celebrated premiere of The Lord of Cries, of which Adamo wrote the libretto for John Corigliano’s score. November 2021 sees the world premiere of Last Year: Concerto for Solo Cello and String Orchestra, to be given first by New Century Chamber Orchestra in a San Francisco/Bay Area tour and then in Houston by River Oaks Chamber Orchestra: Jeffrey Zeigler is the soloist in San Francisco, Richard Belcher plays the part in Houston. Lidiya Yankovskaya, music director of Chicago Opera Theater, conducts the regional premiere of Adamo’s fourth opera, Becoming Santa Claus, in December, in a new production directed by Kyle Lang; this precedes the U. K. premiere, in July 2022, of Opera Holland Park’s production of Adamo’s first opera, Little Women, to be conducted by Sian Edwards and directed by Ella Marchment.
Hailed by The New Yorker as “one of America’s most formidable lyric composers,” composer-librettist Mark Adamo made his mark on the opera world in 1998 with the debut of his first work Little Women, which The New York Times described as “a bona fide American classic.” Known for his “way of finding a drama’s emotional nerve and projecting it to an audience,” (Financial Times, London) his four subsequent operas– Lysistrata, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Becoming Santa Claus, and The Lord of Cries–have “opened yet other pathways on his remarkable exploration of what an opera can be” (American Record Guide.) As opera and symphonic performances have resumed in 2021-2022, his work has returned to stages in Santa Fe, San Francisco, Houston, Chicago, and London.
In July 2021, Santa Fe Opera returned to live opera with the celebrated world premiere of The Lord of Cries, for which Adamo wrote the libretto to a score composed by his spouse, John Corigliano. Last Year: Concerto for Solo Cello and String Orchestra was given its world premiere in November 2021 by co-commissioner New Century Chamber Orchestra in San Francisco, followed by its Houston debut given by co-commissioner ROCO. A month later, Lidiya Yankovskaya, music director of Chicago Opera Theater, led the regional premiere of Becoming Santa Claus, in a new production directed by Kyle Lang; the following month, Opera Holland Park announced the U. K. premiere of Little Women, to be conducted by Sian Edwards and directed by Ella Marchment, and in July of 2022, and Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires announced the Argentine premiere of the same opera in December 2022.
Introduced by Houston Grand Opera in 1998 and revived there in 2000, Little Women is one of the most frequently performed American operas of the last twenty-five years; it has been given more than 140 national and international engagements in cities ranging from New York to Adelaide, Amsterdam, Atlanta, Banff, Bruges, Calgary, Chicago, Detroit, Fort Worth, Kansas City, Mexico City, Minneapolis, Perth, San Francisco, Toronto, and Tokyo, where it served as the official U.S. cultural entrant to the 2005 World Expo. The Houston Grand Opera revival (2000) was telecast by PBS/WNET on Great Performances in 2001 and released on CD by Ondine that same year; in fall 2010, Naxos released this performance on DVD and on Blu-ray.
Comparable enthusiasm greeted the debut of Adamo’s second opera—the larger-scaled Lysistrata, adapted from Aristophanes’ comedy and including elements from Sophocles’ Antigone. Lysistrata was commissioned by Houston Grand Opera for its 50th anniversary and introduced in March 2005. Its New York City Opera debut in March 2006 led to concert performances by Washington National Opera (May 2006) and Music at the Modern by the Van Cliburn Foundation (May 2007) before a new staging at Fort Worth Opera in May 2012. San Francisco Opera commissioned and introduced Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene in June of 2013, which re-centered the title character at the heart of the Christianity origin myth; and Becoming Santa Claus was commissioned and introduced by Dallas Opera in 2015 and released on DVD/Blu-Ray in September of 2017 before its recent Chicago revival.
While Adamo’s principal work continues to be for the opera house, he has spent the last decade venturing into both chamber music and symphonic and choral composition. In April 2013, baritone Thomas Hampson and the Jupiter String Quartet introduced Aristotle, after the poem by Billy Collins, in concerts at the Mondavi Center in Davis, California before continuing to Boston and New York under the auspices of Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The preceding December, Sasha Cooke and the New York Festival of Song introduced The Racer’s Widow, a cycle of five American poems for mezzo-soprano, cello, and piano.
Adamo’s first concerto, Four Angels, for harp and orchestra, was commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra and debuted in June 2007; the Utah Symphony, led by their Music Director Emeritus, Keith Lockhart, presented Four Angels in January 2011. In May 2007, Washington’s Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, for which Adamo served as its first composer-in-residence, performed his Late Victorians, a cantata for singing voice, speaking voice, and orchestra. Naxos released Late Victorians in 2009 on Eclipse’s all-Adamo CD, which also included Alcott Music, from Little Women, for strings, harp, celesta, and percussion; “Regina Coeli,” an arrangement of the slow movement of Four Angels for harp and strings alone; and the Overture to Lysistrata for medium orchestra. In April of 2010, Harold Rosenbaum’s New York Virtuoso Singers paired six of Adamo’s newly-published choral scores with the complete chamber-choral work of John Corigliano. This concert featured the New York premieres of Cantate Domino (after Psalm 91,) Pied Beauty and God’s Grandeur (Gerard Manley Hopkins; commissioned by the Gregg Smith Singers,) Matewan Music (Appalachian folk-tune variations,) Supreme Virtue (Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao te Ching,) and The Poet Speaks of Praising (Rilke: commissioned and introduced by Chanticleer.)
During Adamo’s time as the composer-in-residence at New York City Opera from 2001 through 2006, he led the VOX: Showcasing American Composers program. The Atlantic Center for the Arts also named Adamo one of their Master Artists in May 2003. Since 2007, he has served as the principal teacher of American Lyric Theatre’s Composer-Librettist Development Program in New York, where he coaches teams of composers and librettists in developing their work for the stage.
Adamo began his education in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, where, as a freshman in the Dramatic Writing Program, he received the Paulette Goddard Remarque Scholarship for outstanding undergraduate achievement in playwriting. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Music Degree cum laude in composition in 1990 from the Catholic University of America. His music is published exclusively by G. Schirmer, Inc.