Cincinnati Opera Stages a Modern Epic

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When composer Ricky Ian Gordon first settled into his bubble bath to read Sylvia Regan’s 1940 play Morning Star, he immediately saw its potential. “What was clear to me was that I had to musicalize it for the theater,” says Gordon.

It took nearly 15 years (and a few more bubble baths) to make that happen, but the world premiere of Gordon’s and librettist William H. Hoffman’s Morning Star is now the highlight of Cincinnati Opera’s 95th season. It tells the story of the Feldermans, a Russian-Jewish immigrant family (mother Becky and her four children) living in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the early 1900s, and the historic events derailing their livelihood: World War I, the Great Depression, and the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

Gordon’s adaptation—the opera’s first mainstage world premiere in 86 years—was inspired by similarities to his own ancestry, including his grandmother, Rebecca “Becky” Lieberman, who worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and was home sick the day of the fire. “I wanted to write a story about my family, and when I read the play, I was blown away,” he says. “This was my family.”

 Morning Star, SCPA’s Corbett Theater, July 2–19, cincinnatiopera.org

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