Ricky Ian Gordon


Ricky Ian Gordon was born on May 15, 1956 in Oceanside, NY and raised on Long Island. After studying composition at Carnegie Mellon University, he settled in New York City, where 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, Kelli O'Hara, Audra MacDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Nicole Cabell, the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Frederica Von Stade, Andrea Marcovicci, Harolyn Blackwell, and Betty Buckley, among many others.

Recent productions of his work include:

2011: "Rappahannock County", libretto by Mark Campbell, directed by Kevin Newbury, conducted by Rob Fisher...This fictional song cycle (soon to be released on Naxos Recordings and published by Presser Music) is inspired by diaries, letters, and personal accounts from the 1860s, premiered at the Harrison Opera House April 12th. It has been co-commissioned in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War, by Modlin Center for the Arts at the University of Richmond, Texas Performing Arts at the University of Texas in Austin, Virginia Arts Festival, and Virginia Opera, and will next be performed in Richmond, VA, and Austin, TX. 'The piece has the sense of a lens closing in on a spectrum of individuals and their feelings around slavery and morality in a profound and poignant way...' The acclaim accorded Rappahannock County by the 2,200 people who packed Norfolk's Harrison Opera House for the premiere made clear that Gordon and Campbell had achieved their goal." —Wes Blomster, Opera Today

2010: "Sycamore Trees"- By Ricky Ian Gordon, Directed by Tina Landau, Book by Ricky Ian Gordon and Nina Mankin, Sycamore Trees was sponsored by the Shen Family Foundation and was a recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award. It featured Broadway's Farah Alvin, Marc Kudisch, Judy Kuhn, Jessica Molaskey, Matthew Risch, Diane Sutherland & Tony Yazbeck. "Sycamore Trees is a compelling musical of suburban secrets... Ricky Ian Gordon's deeply personal, strikingly impressionistic new musical, receiving its world premiere at Signature Theatre." Peter Marks, The Washington Post. "If "Sycamore Trees" were simply an autobiographical tribute to Gordon's past, it would have limited force, but it's aimed at the American dream itself, which gives it broader emotional resonance. With his ability to put old ideas about love, unity and community into new post-modern musical settings, full of unconventional tunes and harmonies, Gordon ultimately achieves in "Sycamore Trees" a fresh and stimulating tribute to the thing he seems to cherish most: family -- his, yours, everyone's. " Barbara Mackay, The Washington Examiner

Nominated for The Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding Play or Musical by The Helen Hayes Awards Organization, and won a Helen Hayes Award for Best Ensemble.

2010: The Grapes of Wrath - A Two Act Concert Version of the Opera with a libretto by Michael Korie, at Carnegie Hall, directed by Eric Simonson with projections by Wendall Harrington and lighting by Francis Aronson. Narrated by Jane Fonda, with a cast that included Victoria Clark, Nathan Gunn, Christine Ebersole, Elizabeth Futral, Matthew Worth, Sean Panikkar, Stephen Powell, Steven Pasquale, Peter Halverson, Andrew Wilkowske, Madelyn Gunn, and Alex Schwartz...with The Collegiate Chorale and The American Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ted Sperling. "It must be said that "The Grapes of Wrath" certainly reached the audience on Monday night. The hall was packed and the ovation tumultuous." The New York Times.
"...a stirring, crowd-pleasing work that left the Carnegie Hall audience cheering on its feet."
"...on the whole Gordon and his librettist Michael Korie have created a major new American opera, one that is likely to stand the test of time." Eric Myers, Opera Magazine

2008: Green Sneakers, a theatrical song cycle for Baritone, String Quartet, and Empty Chair, with a libretto by the composer, premiered July 15th in Vail, Colorado, at the Alberto Vilar Performing Arts Center, when the composer was Composer-in-Residence at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival. Upon it's premiere, with baritone, Jesse Blumberg, and the Miami String Quartet, it was cited in Opera Today, in an article entitled "Gordon Creates Masterpiece With "Green Sneakers," "It is amazing that in this his first work for string quartet Gordon has perfected an idiom that goes to the edge of tonality to create a microcosm of pain and despair that has all the markings of a contemporary Gesamtkunstwerk. Indeed, at the premier, members of the Miami String Quartet were no longer mere strings, but humanized voices that formed a seamless dramatic unity with Blumberg... With the repetition of "Sleep Dear," the final words of Green Sneakers, one heard in Vail a distant echo of the "Ewig" that concludes Mahler's monumental Abschied. For this is a song of today's earth, a farewell lamentation that transcends death." It was subsequently done at Pittsburgh Opera in a festival of the composer's works, on a double bill with his Orpheus and Euridice. Robert Croan writing in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, called his article, "Superb Mini-Operas Convey Heartfelt Grief."

2007 & 2008: The Grapes of Wrath, a full-scale opera with libretto by Michael Korie, premiered at the Minnesota Opera in a production that then traveled first to Utah Opera, and then to Pittsburgh Opera. Musical America called the work, "The Great American Opera," and Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed wrote that: "...the greatest glory of the opera is Gordon's ability to musically flesh out the entire 11-member Joad clan...Gordon's other great achievement is to merge Broadway and opera... greatly enhanced by his firm control over ensembles and his sheer love for the operatic voice." Alex Ross, writing in The New Yorker, wrote "Gordon, who first made his name in the theatre and as a composer of Broadway-style songs, fills his score with beautifully turned genre pieces, often harking back to American popular music of the twenties and thirties: Gershwinesque song-and-dance numbers, a few sweetly soaring love songs in the manner of Jerome Kern, banjo-twanging ballads, saxed-up jazz choruses, even a barbershop quartet. You couldn't ask for a more comfortably appointed evening of vintage musical Americana. Yet, with a slyness worthy of Weill, Gordon wields his hummable tunes to critical effect..." A Suite from the opera was premiered at Disney Hall in spring 2008 (May 18). The full opera, live from the Minnesota premiere, is now available on a 3 CD set with libretto liner notes on PS Classics. Carl Fischer has published the Vocal Score as well as a Folio of Arias from the Opera.
"The Grapes Of Wrath" was cited in Opera News Magazine as one of the "Masterpieces of the 21st Century."

2005: Orpheus and Euridice, an hour-long song cycle in two acts, premiered at Lincoln Center. Directed and choreographed by Doug Varone and performed by Elizabeth Futral, Soprano, Todd Palmer, Clarinet and Melvin Chen, Piano, it won an OBIE Award and is recorded on Ghostlight Records and published by Carl Fischer Music. It was given new productions at Long Beach Opera February of 2008, and Fort Worth Opera in July of 2008, and Long Leaf Opera in North Carolina reprised the Lincoln Center/Doug Varone production. "Orpheus and Euridice" was cited in Opera News Magazine as one of the "Masterpieces of the 21th Century."

2003: My Life with Albertine, written with Richard Nelson and based on Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past" premiered at New York's Playwrights Horizons (recorded on PS Classics and published by Rodgers and Hammerstein/Williamson Music, AT&T Award). It starred Kelli O'Hara, Brent Carver and Emily Skinner. "The music swirls with regret, romance, and a sense of lost time." wrote Ben Brantley in The New York Times

2001: Bright Eyed Joy: The Music of Ricky Ian Gordon, was presented at Lincoln Center as part of the American Songbook Series. Stephen Holden, writing in the New York Times wrote of the work, "If the music of Ricky Ian Gordon had to be defined by a single quality, it would be the bursting effervescence in fusing songs that blithely blur the lines between art song and the high-end Broadway music of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim...It's caviar for a world gorging on pizza." "Bright Eyed Joy" is recorded on Nonesuch Records with vocalists including Audra McDonald, Dawn Upshaw, and Adam Guettel.

Other works include, Dream True, written with Tina Landau and premiered in 1999 at The Vineyard Theater (recorded on PS Classics, Richard Rodgers Award, Jonathan Larson Foundation Award), States Of Independence, (also with Ms. Landau, for The Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia (formerly The American Music Theater Festival) in 1992, and Only Heaven, based on the works of Langston Hughes and premiered in 1995 at Encompass Opera (recorded on PS Classics, and published by Rodgers and Hammerstein/Williamson Music). The Tibetan Book of the Dead, written with Jean Claude Van Itallie, premiered at the Houston Grand Opera in 1996 and, and Morning Star, written with William Hoffman which Mr. Gordon wrote for The Lyric Opera Of Chicago, where he was a composer in residence.

His publications include four songbooks "A Horse With Wings," "Genius Child," "Only Heaven," and "Finding Home," all published by Rodgers and Hammerstein / Williamson Music and distributed by Hal Leonard. Hal Leonard also published two choral pieces, "Three By Langston," and "We Will Always Walk Together," Mr. Gordon's arrangement of the final song from "Dream True," which was premiered by Grant Gershon and the Los Angeles Master Chorale at Disney Hall. They also published the full Vocal Score of "My Life With Albertine."

With Carl Fischer and Theodore Presser Music, Mr. Gordon has published "The Grapes Of Wrath," "Green Sneakers," "Songs For Our Time," "Piano Pieces: The Piano Music of Ricky Ian Gordon," "Orpheus and Euridice," "Late Afternoon," a song cycle for Mezzo Soprano and Piano, "Prayer," a choral work for piano and chorus, which premiered at Disney Hall in April, 2009, with Grant Gershon conducting, "Too Few The Mornings Be," a cycle of eleven settings of Emily Dickinson poems, written for Renee Fleming, and "Night Flight To San Francisco." An operatic monologue based on Harper's final monologue from Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize winning play, "Angels In America." Many more works will be published in 2012.

He has just completed (2012) an opera of Giorgio Bassani's Garden of the Finzi Continis with librettist Michael Korie, and is currently working on commissions for New York's Metropolitan Opera with Playwright, Lynn Nottage, as well as two new operas for Opera Theatre of St. Louis (with Michael Korie) and Houston Grand Opera (with Leonard Foglia). He has also just completed (2012) a new operatic monologue for Renee Fleming, Harper's OTHER monologue from Tony Kushner's "Angels In America," the Antarctica monologue.

As a teacher Mr. Gordon has taught both Master Classes and Composition Classes in Colleges and Universities throughout the country including Yale, NYU, Northwestern, Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, Catholic, Bennington, Vassar, Carnegie-Mellon, Elon, Michigan State, U of Michigan, Point Park (McGinnis Distinguished Lecturer) Texas Lutheran University, and San Francisco Conservatory. He has been the featured Composer-in Residence at various festivals including Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, The Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, Songfest at Pepperdine University, Chautauqua, Aspen Music Festival, and Ravinia.

Among his honors are the 2003 Alumni Merit Award for exceptional achievement and leadership from Carnegie-Mellon University, the Shen Family Foundation award, the Stephen Sondheim Award, The Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Theater Foundation Award, The Constance Klinsky Award, and many awards from ASCAP, of which he is a member, The National Endowment of the Arts, and The American Music Center. (As of Oct 2013)

Appears in
My Life With Albertine