Watch the first scene from “Valentine”

•January 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Aaannd… it’s been almost a full year since this blog has seen any action.  But some very exciting things have happened in that time. Heretic Opera has:

  • Completed mixing and mastering the full recording of our first original production.  “Valentine” was recorded and edited as a radio play – with character voices, sound effects, and ambient environments for each scene.  
  • Hired a very talented illustrator, Tadd Galusha, to create an animated graphic novel to synchronize with the “Valentine” recording.  It will be released online in four multi-media episodes, the first opera ever written and produced primarily for digital distribution.
  • Commissioned 21 pages of original artwork for the first episode, “Valentine: A Monster in our Midst.”

We’re also getting ready to launch a Kickstarter project to fund the second episode, which features ethereal bats and some very naughty cats.  We have a lot of cool pledge rewards planned, so check back with us soon…

As you can tell, I’m looking forward to the rest of 2013 – a lot of great things happened for Heretic Opera and myself last year, and I can’t wait to build on those successes.  One of the best things about this company is the opportunity to work with such talented, committed, and fearless artists.  I believe this connection shows in our work, and I hope you’ll join us for our most ambitious year yet!


New Year’s Expectations

•February 2, 2012 • Leave a Comment

We’re a month into 2012 already, and according to a certain misreading of the Mayan calendar we all have a little less than eleven months to live.  (Insert comical panic here.)  But I’m looking forward to the months before our eventual demise.  In 2011, we finished the full recording of the “radio play” part of the upcoming virtual production of Valentine, and we’re nearly finished with the editing and sound design as well. (A special shout-out here to our Pdx sound engineer, Justin Phelps, who has been a super trooper through this whole process.)  For the visual art, we’ve recruited an amazing illustrator (soon to be announced).  I’m very excited to see the charming characters that our singers created take on new life.  And I can’t wait to post sketches (maybe even the occasional sneak peek – shhh)as the project reaches completion.  There are new challenges ahead as we finish our first original opera, of course, but looking back on how far we’ve come already… it’s easy to feel that 2012 is going to be especially excellent.  (A very belated) Happy New Year, Everyone!

Arts and Crafts and New Websites

•September 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about William Morris, the Arts & Crafts movement, and their credo that artisans should design and build their own work.  It was a belief hearkening back to the craft guilds of the middle ages, which they romanticized as a golden age for creativity and personal freedoms; and rooted in a dislike of the increased specialization and mass-production of the industrial age, where workmen were assigned one small aspect of a large, centrally administered project.  It’s a concept that applies in some interesting ways to the opera world, where specialization allows for the production of large collaborative works.  If the singers spent the rehearsal process fighting with the director, for example, while the stage-hands were off rewriting the score, we’d all be in a lot of trouble.  But in the entrepreneurial world there is a lot to be said for pitching in at every level of your organization. Now that Heretic Opera has been in business for a few years, I have learned at least a few things about running an arts start-up:

1) The best way to build a new business or organization is to focus on your core mission (in our case, producing new operatic works and finding ways to make them profitable in the marketplace).  When Heretic Opera was first founded, there was some discussion about how to provide the services that are common to more traditional opera houses.  Over time, we realized that the best way we could contribute to our community was to leverage our resources into developing emerging formats and cross-disciplinary ventures.  The bigger non-profits haven’t figured out how to maneuver in these fields yet, which gives us a chance to experiment and innovate in a way that’s not often available in the classical performing arts.

2) No one is going to be as passionate about building your dream as you are.  While friends and supporters are usually pretty happy to help out in areas they know well (and everyone loves pitching in at the exciting, this-is-so-cool moments), there are going to be a lot of days or even months where it will be only you, in your tiny office (should you be lucky enough to have one), just building the company bit by tiny bit.  There are moments when it is hard to believe the work you’re doing will ever make it out into the real world.  So keep yourself and your company moving forward on the core mission.  Here is what will keep you motivated and feeling connected, all those late nights in your office:  the promise that, pretty soon, you will have something cool to share with your project partners.  Maybe even the world, someday.  And then it feels like meaningful collaboration again.

3) While strong creative partners are indispensable, it is best to keep the day-to-day operations of the company well in hand.  When we first needed a website for Heretic Opera, I cajoled someone into designing one for me for free, and another person into maintaining it.  (I am nothing if not thrifty.)  Here was the problem:  it didn’t really represent us very well, because we were still evolving the best way to communicate our mission, work, and goals for the future.  Over time, it became more and more impossible to ask people to donate hours to our website updates when they had their own lives to live.  Our website languished, and the multi-media content that we prepared never made it online at all.  I considered hiring someone to build us a new website, but that would have used money intended to support the development of Valentine.  And I still would have had to pay them to make regular updates. So I decided to see what my options were for basic website design on my own.  Much to my surprise, my web host offers a drag-and-drop builder that supports multi-media content.  Who knew?  While the customization options are limited, I was able to build a nice-looking and easily navigable website without too much trouble.  The best part is, I can update it at any time, from anywhere, all by myself.

Like William Morris, I think we all still dream of a golden age for creativity and personal expression.  I don’t know if the dream of the medieval craftsman is still attainable, if it even was.  But I do think that with focus, hard work, an understanding of the tools best suited one’s hand, it is still possible to create personally meaningful work.  Which is why we all get into this in the first place, yes?

Updating, and Moving Along

•March 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Heretic Opera was founded to support the creation of new operatic works, establish a hybrid business model to drive success in the entertainment market, and to be as transparent as possible as we created, experimented, and fine-turned our process.  One of my passions (and the driving concept behind this company) is the idea that artists have a responsibility to share fresh, honest, and innovative stories based on life in the modern world.  I believe that this means that artists should have direct access to the means of creating and producing, as well as financially benefiting from, their own works.  In my experience, young artists are too often taught a form of hyper-specialization that is intended to make them more appealing as a performer for hire, but does not prepare the student with the tools to explore or realize their personal visions.  So I wanted to make my experiences as an arts entrepreneur accessible, in hopes that it would inspire emerging artists to think “well, if she can do that, I bet I could.”  What I didn’t anticipate is how describing your process as you go can be not only difficult, but actually distracting from the task at hand.  I also didn’t realize that there would be long stretches of time where I would be doing work that I considered either too dry or too nebulous to share with anyone.

This year, Heretic Opera is beginning our second recording project and moving forward with a multi-media approach for our first opera, Valentine.  My personal routine is less blog-worthy than that sounds, however – full of research, scheduling, and office work for the foreseeable future.  Still, I hope to be able to find compelling moments to share and shed a little light on the daily life of a start-up opera company.  Or you can always check our Twitter feed.  I’m pretty confident in my ability to write 140-character posts on a semi-regular basis.

Autumn Musings

•October 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

October 2009: I barely knew you. This month has been a complete blur, and it seems that today is the first day in a very long time where I feel like I have a chance to catch my breath! What have I been up to? Well – other than my usual professorial life, directing and running a new music festival, attending the premieres of two large ensemble works (“Tock” for concert band, and “Jefferson Rising” for orchestra), adjudicating a composition competition, and raising a two year old…well, you get the idea!

Of all of these activities, the Fresno New Music Festival needs a special mention from me. I founded this event back in 2006, and with the fourth festival now having come and gone, I must say how please I am with how it has grown! The inaugural 2006 festival was a mixed bag for me, as although we had a really great guest act in Duo46, the festival wasn’t attended well at all. (Incidentally, Duo46 was one of two guest ensembles for the festival – our second ensemble, The Quintet of the Americas, was stranded in the Dallas airport!!!) In addition, my daughter had just been born three weeks earlier, so as you might imagine I wasn’t in much of a position to host.

So, having reflecting on where this festival started from, I can safely say that we have made many improvements over the past few years! Having both Don Freund and Adrienne Albert as guest composers was a real treat – especially in part due to their many interactions with the Fresno State students. The Definiens Project proved to be a masterful chamber ensemble, and it is my intent to bring them back to future festivals (especially since I will be writing a chamber concerto for them!). Finally, I must give our two student ensembles – The Fresno State Symphony Orchestra, and the Fresno State Saxophone Quartet – special props for all of the incredible hard work that they did! Their performances were incredibly impressive, especially considering the difficult music that they had to learn in a very short time period. While the festival still wasn’t attended as well as I would like, attendance was most certainly better than it had been in the past. Next year, though, I’m filling the hall!

Admittedly, directing this festival can feel at times like a huge undertaking, especially since this is all done pro bono! However, with the passing of each festival I always come back with the same thought: I can’t wait until the next one! It is, to use a cliché, a labor of love.

Now that the festival has past though, I can once again resume work on writing the music to Valentine! I am just about done with the music for the first scene, and will shortly begin working on the music for Act I, Scene IV. I often enjoy composing material “out of order,” as it gives me ample opportunity to “preview” thematic material and motives earlier in the work before the actual presentation of the idea. I’m not sure exactly how this will turn out in the actual opera, but I have a feeling that elements of this scene will manifest themselves in scenes II and III as well. Should be fun!

As a final note – I will be up in Portland visiting the Heretic Opera next week, from November 5th through 8th. I look forward to finally meeting everyone in person, and putting more than just “facebook” faces to everyone’s names! Until next week!

Forging New Connections

•September 11, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Broken down to its essentials, opera is a very fluid, through-composed, structure that requires a multi-disciplinary approach. Theoretically it can accomodate a wide variety of story-telling approaches (as in a discussion I had recently with Bobak Salehi about the possibility of producing an opera grounded in Persian music). But can an opera company incorporate non-operatic performances of art music? Should importing other musical disciplines be the role of any opera company? What if an “outsider” artist offers a vision that is powerful, unique, and capable of moving a new audience? On the other hand, what happens to our art form once you break away entirely away from the classical model?

A key belief for our artistic staff is that western classical music should not stand separate from other highly crafted art or music forms. One reasons we are so pleased with our Composer-in-Remote-Residence, Kenneth Froelich, is his comfort in incorporating influences from jazz to bluegrass. Is this the furthest that we’ll ever go in incorporating other musical forms? Perhaps not – depending on the execution and available artists.

It is my goal to explore the boundaries of opera as we build a healthy and successful business. And I hope that other artists will also provide their own answers to the above questions. With so much talent and craft in the performing arts world, I believe that opera has a real opportunity to gain relevance and new audiences in the future – but we’ll need a lot of new ideas from many different sources to accomplish this.  It will be interesting to see what the future holds.


•August 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

For those of you reading who do not know me, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Kenneth Froelich, and I am very proud to be the new Composer-in-Remote-Residence for the Heretic Opera!

Heretic Opera has invited me to be a part of their organization, so it is my goal to ensure that the music I create matches the vision of this company. I am personally very excited to be contribute to this forward-thinking organization, and believe that this is the start of a great professional relationship.

As part of my residency, Madelaine Coffman has invited me be a regular contributor to this blog. Over the next several months, I will post regular updates here detailing my experience and creative process writing the music for “Valentine.” I invite all of you to comment on my process, providing criticism where you see fit, or writing anything else that comes to mind!

In the meantime, if you would like to ask me any questions, or simply introduce yourself to me, please feel free to send me a message at You can also find me on Facebook, or through my website. Finally, if you are curious about what I do as a teacher, you can check out my blog, The Electric Semiquaver, where I post tips to young composers on how to compose effectively in programs like Finale and Sibelius.

I am honored to be a part of all of this, and look forward to meet all of you at the Heretic Opera. Now, time to get to work!