Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Trent Johnson Premieres Opera "Kenyatta" & Oratorio "Wittenberg" in New Jersey

Narrator Kirk Robbins, Composer Trent Johnson and Tenor Sam McKelton as The Inquisitor

Kevin Maynor and Rod Dixon, as Jomo Kenyatta and Oginga Odinga

Bass Baritone Brace Negron as Martin Luther

Kenyatta, Act 2 Scene 5

Trent Johnson writes:

Two Recent Premieres for composer Trent Johnson
Organist and composer Trent Johnson recently had two successful premieres, his opera "Kenyatta" and his oratorio entitled, "Wittenberg - The Story of Martin Luther." 
On November 19, 2017, Trent's opera Kenyatta, commissioned by Trilogy: an Opera Company, was premiered at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, New Jersey. This new work tells the story of Kenya's first president, Jomo Kenyatta, and the ensuing political conflict with vice president Oginga Odinga. Bass Kevin Maynor sang the role of Kenyatta, while tenor Rod Dixon sang the role of Oginga Odinga. The soloists, chorus, orchestra and the Newark City Ballet were led by conductor Julius Williams.
Music critic, Paul Somers of Classical New Jersey wrote, "Kenyatta is an effective presentation of history with an orchestral score which ably supports the action. Johnson uses the standard operatic devices of scena, orchestrally supported recitative, and big arias."
“Bass Kevin Maynor as Kenyatta…. conveyed the dignity and the humanity of Kenyatta, the nation's first president, with musicality and drama.”
"Odinga was sung with great power by Chicago based tenor Rod Dixon. His ringing tenor and immaculate diction won over the audience very quickly. His Act II solo scene praising his pro-Soviet version of nationalism with its climactic high C, elicited cheers from the audience."
"The "stars" of Trent Johnson's new opera Kenyatta were for many the djembe, the African drums in the pit played enthusiastically by Wilson Torres and Jimmy Musto, which set the tone throughout the 3 Act evening. Their tempo and rhythms changed for each dramatic situation, but always they reminded us that this was an African drama set in the context of Kenya having shaken off British rule."
On March 18, 2018, Trent Johnson led the premiere of his oratorio, "Wittenberg - The story of Martin Luther" scored for narrator, soloists, chorus, and orchestra. This new work tells of the German reformer's journey from monk to reformer, with the centerpiece of the work being his famous trial in the German city of Worms. 

The work featured narrator, Kirk Robbins, bass baritone Brace Negron as Martin Luther, tenor, Sam McKelton as the Inquisitor, the Oratorio Singers of Westfield, NJ and members of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Trent Johnson. The concert also featured works by Mozart, Beethoven and Copland.

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