The Vulnerability Exchange: Composer Ricky Ian Gordon on the Creative Process and the Connecting Power of Music
In this episode, Susan talks with Ricky Ian Gordon about how life’s struggles, heartaches, and curiosities have shaped and affected his creative process throughout the years, and how he uses those experiences to distill the truth of our shared humanity into profound works of musical artistry.
Meet This Episode's Guest
Ricky Ian Gordon
Ricky Ian Gordon (b. 1956 in Oceanside, NY) studied piano, composition and acting, at Carnegie Mellon University. After moving to New York City, he quickly emerged as a leading writer of vocal music that spans art song, opera, and musical theater. Mr. Gordon’s songs have been performed and or recorded by such internationally renowned singers as Renee Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Nathan Gunn, Judy Collins, Kelli O’Hara, Audra MacDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Nicole Cabell, Frederica Von Stade, Andrea Marcovicci, Harolyn Blackwell, Betty Buckley, and the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, among many others.
Ricky Ian Gordon’s most recent premieres include The House Without A Christmas Tree (2017, libretto by Royce Vavrek, commissioned and premiered by Houston Grand Opera) a holiday opera for young audiences that The Wall Street Journal describes as “a charming, family-friendly piece,” and a reduction of The Grapes of Wrath (2017 two-act version commissioned and premiered by the Opera Theatre of St. Louis) which the Chicago Tribune calls “a great American opera.”
A highly prolific composer, Ricky Ian Gordon’s catalog also includes Morning Star (2015, libretto by William Hoffman, premiered by the Cincinnati Opera) about Jewish immigrants in New York’s Lower East Side in the beginning of the 20th century; 27 (2014, libretto by Royce Vavrek, premiered at Opera Theatre of St. Louis) about Gertrude Stein’s salons at 27 rue de Fleurus; A Coffin In Egypt (2014, libretto by Leonard Foglia, premiered by the Houston Grand Opera, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and Opera Philadelphia) a haunting tale of memory and murder, racism and recrimination; Rappahannock County (2011, libretto by Mark Campbell, premiered at the Harrison Opera House) inspired by diaries, letters, and personal accounts from the 1860s; Sycamore Trees (2010, libretto by composer) a musical about suburban secrets and family; The Grapes of Wrath (2007 and 2010, libretto by Michael Korie, 2007 premiere by the Minnesota Opera, 2010 premiered by The American Symphony Orchestra); Green Sneakers (2008, libretto by the composer, premiered by the Miami String Quartet) a theatrical song cycle for Baritone, String Quartet, and Empty Chair; Orpheus and Euridice (2005); My Life with Albertine (2003); Night Flight To San Francisco and Antarctica (2000) from Tony Kushner’s Angels In America; Dream True (1999); States Of Independence (1992); The Tibetan Book of the Dead (1996); Only Heaven (1995).
Upcoming projects include the opera Intimate Apparel with Playwright, Lynn Nottage, commissioned by New York’s Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Theater, Private Confessions with Playwright, Richard Nelson, commissioned by The Goodman Theater in Chicago, Ellen West (libretto by Frank Bidart) commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects for a 2019 premiere, and an opera based on Giorgio Bassani’s novel, The Garden of the Finzi Continis with librettist Michael Korie.
Mr. Gordon has been a visiting professor at colleges and universities throughout the country including Yale, NYU, Northwestern, Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, Bennington, Vassar, Carnegie-Mellon, Elon, Michigan State, University of Michigan, Point Park (McGinnis Distinguished Lecturer), Texas Lutheran University, Eastman School of Music, Florida State University, Texas Christian University, and San Francisco Conservatory. He has been the featured Composer-in-Residence at Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, The Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, The Van Cliburn Foundation, Voices of Change, Santa Fe Song Festival, Songfest at Pepperdine University, Chautauqua, Aspen Music Festival, and Ravinia.
Among his honors are an OBIE Award, the 2003 Alumni Merit Award for exceptional achievement and leadership from Carnegie-Mellon University, A Shen Family Foundation Award, the Stephen Sondheim Award, The Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Theater Foundation Award, The Constance Klinsky Award, The National Endowment of the Arts, The American Music Center, and many awards from ASCAP, of which he is a member.
Mr. Gordon’s works are published by Williamson Music, Carl Fischer Music, and Theodore Presser Company and available everywhere. His works are also widely recorded on various labels.