Project

THE SUMMER KING
Music by Daniel Sonenberg
Libretto by Daniel Sonenberg and Daniel Nester
Additional lyrics by Mark Campbell
About the Work Creators Video/Audio Gallery Press Performances

ABOUT THE WORK

“...could become an American classic.”
— The Portland Press Herald

“Mr. Sonenberg hears Gibson’s story in the musical language of grand opera.”
— The Wall Street Journal

The Summer King is an opera in two acts based on the life of Josh Gibson, one of the greatest Negro League baseball players. A home run hitting catcher, Gibson was often called the Black Babe Ruth, and had a career spanning from the late 1920s until his death in 1947, only several months before Jackie Robinson broke the Major League color barrier. At the time of his death, Gibson, though only 35 years old, was addled with injuries, and suffered from what may have been a brain tumor. Reports say that near the end of his life he was overheard having boisterous conversations with an imaginary Joe DiMaggio. Had he lived and maintained his health, he almost certainly would have had the opportunity to spend some of his late career in the white major leagues, as the best of his Negro League colleagues did. The opera examines the importance of Gibson’s legacy as a ballplayer and a historical figure. Although Gibson had neither the temperament nor the youth to play Jackie Robinson’s ultimate role, he was centrally responsible for the Negro League’s immense popularity and high level of play – and as such, paved the way for the era of integrated baseball. Having hit over 800 homeruns in his career, he died young, almost forgotten, without witnessing or enjoying the fruits of his labor.

The Summer King has been made possible in part by NYSCA, The New York State Music Fund, established by the NY State Attorney General at Rockefeller Philanthropic Advisors, and NYC’s Department of Cultural Affairs.

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ABOUT THE CREATORS

DANIEL SONENBERG
(composer/co-librettist)
Daniel Sonenberg participated in the first iteration of Composers and the Voice in 2003, and went on to form the composers collective South Oxford Six with the other composers in that group. His opera, The Summer King, has been developed with AOP in workshop performances in Brooklyn, at the Manhattan School of Music, and at the University of Southern Maine (USM), where Dan is currently Associate Professor and Resident Composer. The opera will receive its world premiere in concert form in Portland, Maine in May 2014, in a production sponsored by Portland Ovations, USM and American Opera Projects. Other recent compositions include Delve (2013), premiered by the Da Capo Chamber Players, Takes One to Know One (2012), for percussion, bass clarinet, cello and double bass, Grab That! (2012) for oboe, violin, cello and piano, and Seven Jarring Dances for Clarinets and Steel-String Guitar (2011). Read more at his website, www.danielsonenberg.org.

DANIEL NESTER
(co-librettist)
Daniel Nester’s most recent book is How to Be Inappropriate, a collection of humorous nonfiction; God Save My Queen: A Tribute and God Save My Queen II: The Show Must Go On, collections on his obsession with the rock band Queen; and The History of My World Tonight, a collection of poems. He is the editor of The Incredible Sestina Anthology. His work has appeared in such places as Salon, n+1, The Morning News, The Daily Beast, The New York Times, Time Out New York, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and the Poetry Foundation website, and anthologized in such collections as The Best American Poetry 2003, The Best Creative Nonfiction, and Third Rail: The Poetry of Rock and Roll. He is an associate professor of English at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.

campbellMARK CAMPBELL
(additional lyrics)
Mark Campbell's most known work is the libretto for Silent Night (2012 Pulitzer Prize; composer Kevin Puts). It premiered at Minnesota Opera, was broadcast on PBS’ Great Performances and is being produced by an unprecedented number of companies over the next two years. Mark’s other operas: The Manchurian Candidate, As One, The Other Room, Later the Same Evening, Volpone, Bastianello/Lucrezia, Rappahannock County and A Letter to East 11th Street. Awards include: Kleban Foundation Award for Lyricist, two Richard Rodgers Awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, NYFA Playwriting Fellowship, three Drama Desk Award nominations, Rockefeller Foundation Award, Domenic J. Pellicciotti Prize and Jonathan Larson Foundation Award. Upcoming premieres: Burke+Hare (Julian Grant, Music-Theatre Group), The Shining (Paul Moravec, Minnesota Opera), The Trial of Elizabeth Cree (Kevin Puts, Opera Philadelphia), Dinner at Eight (William Bolcom, Minnesota Opera). www.markcampbellwords.com

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VIDEO/AUDIO

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PHOTO GALLERY

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PRESS

May 3, 2017PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER
Opera review: "Splendid world premiere depicts the life of Negro Leagues great Josh Gibson"

May 2017DOWN EAST MAGAZINE (Maine)
Opera profile: "Ball Canto"

April 30, 2017PITTSBURGH POST GAZETTE
Opera review: "Pittsburgh Opera's new 'The Summer King' makes for thought-provoking performance"

April 28, 2017PORTLAND PRESS HERALD
Opera profile: "Portland composer’s baseball opera, a tribute to Negro League star, set for world premiere"

April 27, 2017PITTSBURGH POST GAZETTE
Opera profile: "Pittsburgh Opera is ready for the premiere of 'The Summer King: The Josh Gibson Story"

April 26, 2017PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER
Opera profile: "Pittsburgh Opera throws a curve: Its first-ever world premiere tells the story of famed Negro Leagues slugger Josh Gibson"

April 24, 2017NEXT PITTSBURGH
Opera profile: "World premiere opera, The Summer King, depicts life of baseball legend Josh Gibson"

April 22, 2017TIMES ONLINE
Opera profile: "Hall of Fame Pittsburgh baseball player celebrated with opera"

April 22, 2017 TRIBLIVE.COM
Opera profile: "Josh Gibson's triumphs, tragedies at core of 'The Summer King' opera"

April 20, 2017THE PITT NEWS
Opera profile: "Josh Gibson: Unsung, until now"

April 3, 2017PITTSBURGH POST GAZETTE
Opera profile: "Fete for 'The Summer King'"

April 2017OPERA NEWS
Opera profile: "King of Diamonds"

April 2017PITTSBURGH MAGAZINE
Opera profile: "Stuff of Legends"

March 31, 2017TRIBLIVE.COM
Opera profile: "Fanfare: Summer King world premiere"

March 30, 2017PORTLAND PRESS HERALD
Opera profile: "Maine composer’s ‘The Summer King’ to get its second national production"

March 22, 2017NEWSONE
Opera profile: "Pittsburgh Opera Debuts Story Of Negro Leagues Baseball Star Josh Gibson"

March 21, 2017ASSOCIATED PRESS
Opera profile: "The Summer King: Opera tells story of Negro Leagues star Josh Gibson"

March 13, 2017PITTSBURGH COURIER
Opera profile: "Opera, Gibson Foundation promote ‘The Summer King’"

March 8, 2017BROWADWAYWORLD
Opera profile: "Pittsburgh Opera Presents World Premiere of THE SUMMER KING"

Feb. 22, 2017PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER
Opera profile: "Community events scheduled in advance of opera honoring Pittsburgh Negro League legend Josh Gibson"

Feb. 22, 2017PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER
Opera profile: "Community events scheduled in advance of opera honoring Pittsburgh Negro League legend Josh Gibson"

Feb. 20, 2017BROADWAYWORLD
Opera profile: "Pittsburgh Opera To Collaborate Promoting THE SUMMER KING With Free Community Events"

Feb. 16, 2017BROADWAYWORLD
Opera profile: “Pittsburgh Opera Presents THE SUMMER KING – THE JOSH GIBSON STORY, 4/29”

March 28, 2016WQXR
Opera Profile: “5 U.S. Opera Premieres Bringing American Subjects to the Stage”

October 24, 2016 - PITTSBURGH COURIER
Opera profile: "Pittsburgh Opera Director Hahn promotes Josh Gibson Story"

June 26, 2016 - PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE
Opera profile: "On the arts: Making an opera a source of pride for Charleston -- and Pittsburgh"

February 14, 2016 - PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE
Opera profile: "‘In its 78th season, a world premiere for Pittsburgh Opera"

February 13, 2016 - TRIBLIVE (Pittsburgh)
Opera profile: "‘Pittsburgh Opera sees Gibson's story as a home run"

May 9, 2014 - PORTLAND PRESS HERALD
Opera review: "‘The Summer King’ takes risks, but has potential to be a classic"

May 4, 2014 - PORTLAND PRESS HERALD
Opera profile: "For Maine composer, it’s a whole new ballgame"

May 7, 2014 - CLASSICAL MAINE
Opera profile: "Opera from the Infield: Daniel Sonenberg's "The Summer King""

May 7, 2014 - WCSH (NBC PORTLAND)
Opera profile: Video interview with Daniel Sonenberg and singer Stephen Salters

May 2014 - PORTLAND MONTHLY
Opera profile: Interview with singer Kenneth Kellogg

March 20, 2014 - WORKING WATERFRONT
Opera profile: THE SUMMER KING

January 4, 2014 - KANSAS CITY STAR
Opera profile: ""A Negro Leagues opera will make its debut this year"

December 22, 2013 - PORTLAND PRESS HERALD
Opera profile: "Classical Beat: USM composer’s operatric ode to a heroic – and tragic – baseball legend"

April 15, 2012 - PORTLAND PRESS HERALD
Opera concert review: THE SUMMER KING

April 8, 2012 - PORTLAND PRESS HERALD
Opera profile: "Classical Beat: Back Cove Festival features 'Summer King'"

September 14, 2007 - UMPBUMP.COM
Opera profile: THE SUMMER KING

September 5, 2007 - THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Opera workshop profile: THE SUMMER KING

August 23, 2007 - COURIER-LIFE PUBLICATIONS (Brooklyn, NY)
Opera profile: THE SUMMER KING

March 12, 2007 - THE PHOENIX (Portland, ME)
Opera profile: THE SUMMER KING

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AOP PERFORMANCES

May 8, 2014
Concert premiere
Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle Street, Portland ME 04101
Commissioned and presnted by Portland Ovations, in collaboration with the USM School of Music and American Opera Projects.

January 15, 2014
Libretto reading, p-v reading, orchestral reading
Part of OPERA America's New Works Forum 2014
National Opera Center at OPERA America
330 7th Ave. New York, NY 10001

August 25 - September 8, 2007
Staged reading of Act I, sc. 1-2
Music Direction: Steven Osgood & Elizabeth Scott
Stage Direction: Seret Scott
Pianist: Charity Wicks
Featuring performances by: Lynn Randolph (Elder Barber); Kenneth Overton (Younger Barber/Josh Gibson); Lori-Kaye Miller (Elder Barber's Wife); Robert Hoyt (Radio Announcer), Franklin Westbrooks ("Broadway" Connie Rector, Barbershop Customer), Trevor Munnerlyn (Kid)

August 25, 2007
St. John's Place on Stage in front of Five Myles Gallery
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

August 30, 2007
“Baseball Through the Eye of the Artist”
Fort Greene Park Conservancy’s Outdoor Summer Film Series 2007
Fort Greene Park - Ft. Greene, Brooklyn

September 8, 2007
FortGreeneFest
Fort Greene Park - Ft. Greene, Brooklyn

ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCES

May 12-20, 2018
Presented by Michigan Opera Theatre, co-produced by Pittsburgh Opera
Detroit Opera House
Featuring Denyce Graves, Kenneth Kellogg, Norman Shankle, Phillip Gay, Jasmine Muhammad
Conductor, Antony Walker; Stage Director, Sam Helfrich; Set Designer, Andrew Lieberman; Costume Designer, Kay Voyce
www.michiganopera.org/opera/michigan-opera-theatre-announces-2017-18-season/

April 29-May 7, 2017
World Premiere
Presented by Pittsburgh Opera
The Benedum Center - 237 7th St, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Featuring Denyce Graves, Kenneth Kellogg, Norman Shankle, Phillip Gay, Jasmine Muhammad
Conductor, Antony Walker; Stage Director, Sam Helfrich; Set Designer, Andrew Lieberman; Costume Designer, Kay Voyce
www.pittsburghopera.org/show/the-summer-king

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