Final Battle in Chicago. January 2017!

fblpostcardIt’s an amazing thing to have your opera performed. After Thompson Street Opera Company premiered Final Battle in Louisville this June, I felt like I’d been welcomed into an amazing Society of People Who’ve Had Operas Performed (SOPWHOP, or SWHOP if you’re in a hurry). If getting an opera premiered is jousting with windmills, getting that second performance is kind of the Holy Grail. And here it comes, barely 6 months from the premiere, Thompson Street (the company has relocated to Chicago) is producing it again. This time we’re going to have strings (a quartet) and drums, so we’re getting closer to the full orchestration, so there’s a lot to be excited about. If you’re in the Chicagoland area, you’ve gotta come to hear it!

“A Tonic for Troubled Times”

Grego Applegate Edwards has given Separate Self a glowing review on his highly regarded site Gapplegate Classical Modern Music Review. Edwards characterizes  Nocturnes for string trio as “music of a fragile, transparent sort of magic.” About Trouble he writes that, “There is a good deal of beauty here. The chorale like concluding passage gives the work a satisfying sort of ‘Amen.'” For the title track’s first movement he praises the “interlocking, rhythmically vivid phraseology that has a nicely inventive melodic contour…”

Edwards ends his review with a  highly affirming summary,

“Philip Thompson manages to sound quite fresh and lyrical while making important contributions to the new tonal postmodern repertoire. Chamber music with a difference, accessible, well configured, Separate Self is a tonic for troubled times. Yet it does not pander to an ‘easy’ ears sort of innocuousness. Recommended!”

Read the review in its entirety.

Separate Self Pre-Release Party


June 27, 2016
7:30 pm


Church of the Redeemer Auditorium

$10 for individuals. $15 for households. Admission includes an advance copy of the CD and refreshments.

I’m so pleased to invite you to the Separate Self Pre-release Party with IonSound Project. Separate Self officially drops on July 8, but we have advanced copies to offer. IonSound will present music from the new album and be joined by guests Emily Pinkerton, Eva and Michael Rainforth, and Neil Newton. Please join us in celebrating the release of Separate Self, hear some wonderful performances, and enjoy some delicious refreshments!

Here’s a preview of the album featuring three excerpts from the title track. I hope you like it!

Funding for Separate Self was provided by the Investing in Professional Artists Program, a partnership of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments. Additional funding was provided by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, and by generous individuals who contributed to the Fractured Atlas Fiscally Sponsored Project “Recording Project: Philip Thompson’s Visual Arts-Inspired Chamber Music.”

Arts-Louisville Reviews Final Battle

Lord Poetry (Sam Soto) and Bob Noxious (Nicholas Ward) try to choke one another as Starla (Krista Heckmann) and the Narrator (Alex Kapp) look on.

Lord Poetry (Sam Soto) and Bob Noxious (Nicholas Ward) try to choke one another as Starla (Krista Heckmann) and the Narrator (Alex Kapp) look on.

This review of Final Battle for Love and the other works on Thompson Street Opera’s “Not for the Faint of Heart” program focuses mostly on the singing, but there are some positive things about the show itself such as,

“The pseudo-wrestling scenes alone were, by themselves, almost worth the price of admission.”

Yeah, I’ll take that.

Of course it doesn’t even begin to encapsulate the amazing experience it was to work with Claire DiVisio and Thompson Street Opera Company. Katie Nix’s direction was inspired and she was somehow able to make a small production play as epic. All the singers were well prepared and delivered their lines with absolute conviction. They really embodied their characters. It was a joy to see this piece come to life after so many years.

I’ll have more photos and audio excerpts soon, but yeah. Wow! So refreshing to work with young artists who are all about taking risks and exploring new artistic territory!

A Review of Final Battle—in Rehearsal!

Already some great buzz about Final Battle for Love in this preview of Thompson Street Opera’s season, and they’re still rehearsing!

“Earlier this month in a three-story house in the heart of Louisville’s Russell neighborhood, rehearsal for an opera about wrestling got underway.

As a pianist hammered out dramatic chords, conductor Alex Enyart oversaw the pacing of the score to keep the eight singers on track as they rehearsed for the upcoming world premiere of “The Final Battle for Love.”

In this story – which is just one of five works Thompson Street Opera Company is presenting over the next three weeks – there are no battles over a special ring as in Richard Wagner’s famous trilogy, the “Ring” cycle.

Instead, a wrestling ring marks the setting of this short opera where the fight is brewing between Lord Poetry and Bob Noxious for the love of Darling Donnis.

“Get outta my way, Rockin’ Robbie! Get outta my way!” sang baritone Nicholas Ward as Bob Noxious to another wrestler blocking him from getting at Lord Poetry when he’s down.

Even with the singers sitting in chairs, the tension mounted. And so did the humor in this play by Pittsburgh composer Philip Thompson.”

Just wait till they’re standing up!

Preview of Final Battle in Louisville’s Courier-Journal

Here’s a very nice preview of Thompson Street Opera’s season which opens this weekend. Final Battle for Love is next weekend, June-3-5. Thompson Street Executive and Artistic Director Claire DiVisio talks about about Final Battle beginning at about 8:45.

And be sure to check out the photos in the full article. Several of the photo captions include a phrase like  “Members of the Thompson Street Opera Company rehearse a scene for an upcoming performance about professional wrestling.” I really love that I was able be a part of making that phrase possible!

Final Battle for Love in Louisville, June 3-5

June 3, 2016
8:00 pm
June 4, 2016
8:00 pm
June 5, 2016
2:00 pm

St. John Nulu Theater


So this is a big one. Final Battle for Love, one of the world’s finest baroque-metal professional wrestling operas, will receive its first full production June 3-5 by Thompson Street Opera (no relation) in Louisville. This will be a piano only version, but all the magnificent solo and chorus parts will be there in a fully staged production. As Neil Armstrong said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for professional wrestling opera.”

In a program titled “Not for the Faint of Heart,” the first half of the evening will consist of two mono-operas, A Cup of Tea by Yvonne Freckmann and The Tell Tale Heart  by Adam Levowitz. After the intermission it’s all #professionalwrestlingopera.

If you want learn more, check out my post about the history of Final Battle.

Crown and Covenant Releases I AM: Kids Sing Psalms


I’m very happy to let you know that another recording project I worked on this fall/winter is available now. I Am: Kids Sing Psalms has been released by Crown and Covenant Publicatons, an Imprint of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. This album feats choristers from all the choirs of Pittsburgh School for the Choral Arts singing a cappella Psalm settings. It was a delight to work with Kathryn Barnard and all the young singers as we put this project together with Crown and Covenant’s Lynne Gordon.

You can purchase I Am: Kids Sing Psalms at the PSCA online store. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Cityscapes: A Look Into Virgil Cantini’s Public Work

April 14, 2016
12:00 pm

Salk Hall Auditorium, University of Pittsburgh

UPDATE: Team Cantini at Salk Hall

Will, Isabelle, and me after Isabelle's outstanding talk.

Will, Isabelle, and me in front of Aerial Scape after Isabelle’s outstanding talk.

Science and Mankind Horiz

Cantini’s Science and Mankind-photo by Will Zavala

In 2015, the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Dental Medicine inaugurated a new addition to Salk Hall and installed in its lobby a large enamel mural by Pittsburgh artist Virgil Cantini (1919-2009). Aerial Scape, created in 1970, was originally located in the Oliver Building until its acquisition by the University in 2009. Cantini was faculty in
the Fine Arts department and founded the Studio Arts department at Pitt. Many of his other work around campus — such as Man on the façade of Parran
Hall, Enlightment and Joy in Posvar Hall, or Science and Mankind in the
Chevron Science Building — seek to represent humanity’s continuous quest to
advance intellectual growth and knowledge.

Isabelle Chartier, curator of the University Art Gallery, will present an overview of Cantini’s pieces around various buildings on campus and examine how they might connect with people working in various disciplines. The lecture will include a special screening of Will Zavala’s Virgil Cantini: The Artist in Public, with music composed by Philip Thompson. This short film offers exclusive footage inside the artist¹s studio, as well as the dismantling of Aerial Scape from downtown Pittsburgh.

This screening of Virgil Cantini the Artist in Public will mark the first time the film has been shown with the new studio recording of Thompson’s score which will be included on Separate Self, an album of his chamber music performed by IonSound Project. Separate Self is set to be released on July 8, 2016 on the Ravello label.