Truth Be Told

Fort Worth — With the surplus of courtroom dramas on television, it was only matter of time before it came to the operatic stage. Composer Matthew Peterson and librettist Jason Zencka brings it to the Fort Worth Opera. with a world premiere, first seen in snippets at the FWO's Frontiers in 2014. Zencka drew on his experience as a crime reporter so the goings-on have the veracity of facts. Staged in the intimate McDavid Studio, Voir Dire is a powerhouse of an opera, engaging the audience from start to finish.

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Voir Dire - a review

"Although the title of this chamber opera, Voir Dire, is a French phrase, that means “to see, to speak” this opera is performed in English and is the Fort Worth Opera’s 2017 Opera Unbound production for the festival. This shocking opera is comprised of true-crime stories in fourteen related scenes that are of weighty nature. It may challenge your tolerance for violence and gore, but at the same time, it will likely satisfy your appetite for virtuosic and stunning music… if you possess one, that is."

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Just the System

"While the legal proceedings offer more than enough material for a contemporary opera, composer Matthew Peterson and librettist Jason Zencka go beyond the sensational headlines to delve into the inner workings of our system of justice. It’s an unsettling and riveting depiction, with conflicted judges, remorseless criminals, and culpable victims."

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Fort Worth Opera premiere makes the case for darkly brilliant Voir Dire

"On a warm Sunday spring afternoon in Fort Worth a cold chill was provided in the form of the world premiere of Voir Dire, Matthew Peterson’s opera premiered by Fort Worth Opera.

The 90-minute chamber opera, created by Peterson and librettist Jason Zencka, is nothing short of brilliant—presenting a bitter critique—sometimes darkly humorous, often brutal—of American culture, complete with vividly drawn characters and a hauntingly eclectic score."

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Courtroom dramas, and damaged lives, vividly portrayed in Fort Worth Opera's new Voir Dire

"Ultimately, these are damaged humans, caught at low points in their lives, all wishing they could turn back time. They want to be remembered for the persons they were. In the end, though ostensibly above all the traumas, Judge Dodsworth ponders the ambiguity of his own position as moral and legal arbiter.

"I'm just a man who knows the law," he sings affectingly, "and that will take you just so far." "

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Case closed: Voir Dire sells out ahead of Fort Worth Opera Festival

"Everyone in the opera world knows that new works do not sell tickets as well as those in the established repertoire.

But don’t tell that to Fort Worth Opera: Its world premiere presentation of “Voir Dire,” a contemporary chamber opera set in a rural courthouse, has sold out all six of its performances scheduled for McDavid Studio, the 180-seat venue across the street from Bass Hall.

It is the first time the company’s presentation of a new work has sold out, Fort Worth Opera marketing and communications manager Ryan Lathan says."

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WRR 101.1

Voir Dire - an interview with David Gately, director, Viswa Subbaraman, conductor and Christina Pecce, soprano

The Classic Cafe – January 21, 2017 with guests from Fort Worth Opera and composer Robert X. Rodriguez

For the January 21 broadcast, host Nancy Brunson is joined by David Gately, director, Viswa Subbaraman, conductor and Christina Pecce, soprano discussing the world premiere of The Forth Worth Opera’s “Voir Dire.” Plus, composer Robert X. Rodriguez joins Nancy to discuss the upcoming concert at UTD by the Amernet String Quartet where two of Mr. Rodriguez’s compositions will be performed.




Trio Of 20-minute Operas Premiered In WNO Showcase

Charles T. Downey for 

"The first work, Lifeboat, was the best of the evening. A compactly constructed libretto by Emily Roller explored the conflicts among three victims of a shipwreck, marooned together in an inflatable lifeboat. Good libretto construction is quite different from simply writing a play that will be set to music, since the lines to be sung should optimally fit into the composer’s musical plan. Roller’s libretto meshed beautifully with the score by Matthew Peterson. Seeming to have resulted from input from both composer and librettist, the opera moved from a tumultuous opening ensemble, as three refugees on the Mediterranean Sea cut the lifeboat free from their sinking ship, through compelling aria moments, and into a moving final ensemble.

Mezzo-soprano Daryl Freedman has been one of the most potent voices to come out of WNO’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program in recent years. Leading a cast made up mostly of her colleagues in that program, she was at the top of her vocal game as the Doctor, who mediates the growing antagonism between the Soldier and the Professor on either side of her. In the opera’s central aria, “Another body,” the Doctor gives a sort of autopsy report on the young refugee girl’s body brought to the surface by the Professor’s fishing line. As Peterson’s score marshaled the growing power of the small orchestra, Freedman was able to soar above it in a thrilling way.

Soprano Raquel González also brought a powerful edge to the agitated role of the Soldier, especially in the exasperated aria “Remain calm,” in reaction to the title phrase written in the lifeboat’s safety manual. The more plaintive side of her voice came out as with equal success well in the later aria “Have you ever seen,” wherein the Soldier reveals her own loss of an infant son. Baritone Andrew McLaughlin was effective in the supporting role of the Professor. As the strings mimicked the cries of seagulls, the three voices blended together in the striking final ensemble, “If only we were birds,” during which the characters realize with some finality that they may not survive. Peterson showed admirable mastery of both vocal writing and colorful orchestration, with some interesting touches of percussion (ratchet, glockenspiel) in particular."

read the full review here




Opera as lively art - or not so lively

Anne Midgette for the January 15 2017 edition of the Washington Post:

"Matthew Peterson and Emily Roller’s “Lifeboat” began dramatically with a storm scene, then moved onto the tranquility of the becalmed, focusing on three shipwreck survivors in a lifeboat, and culminating in a vocal trio that Peterson was able to make truly beautiful (not every composer can write stirringly on command)...the [opera] I’d like to hear again is “Lifeboat” (with Freedman as the doctor, Raquel González as an angry young soldier and Andrew McLaughlin as a stuffy professor), in which I thought Peterson packed a lot of music."

read the full review here




Voir Dire premiere mentioned on NPR's "First Impressions"

NPR's First Impressions: A Guide to New Music in the New Season mentioned the upcoming world-premiere production of Matthew Peterson and Jason Zencka's Voir Dire:

"The courtroom drama Voir Dire, adapted from true stories by composer Matthew Peterson and librettist Jason Zencka, receives its world premiere at Fort Worth Opera April 23."





Washington National Opera commissions Lifeboat

Washington National Opera (WNO) today announced full programming details for the fifth season of the American Opera Initiative, its comprehensive commissioning program that brings contemporary American stories to the stage while fostering the talents of rising American composers and librettists. For the first time, all of the program's world premiere operas will be presented during an American Opera Initiative Festival weekend, January 13-15, 2017 in the Kennedy Center Family Theater. Three new pairings of opera composers and librettists- Frances Pollock and Vanessa Moody, Zach Redler and Jason Carlson, and Matthew Peterson and Emily Roller-will each offer new one-act operas, each based on a contemporary American story and inspired by the ideals often ascribed to President Kennedy as part of JFKC: A Centennial Celebration of President Kennedy. Two semi-staged concert performances of each opera will be presented on January 14, 2017. In addition, as previously announced, WNO will present the world premiere of a new hour-long work by composer Mohammed Fairouz and librettist Mohammed Hanif-The Dictator's Wife, based on Hanif's satirical play-on January 13 and 15, 2017.

"I'm excited to showcase four new American operas during our new festival weekend in January," said WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello. "I'm also proud that our commissioning program is a part of the Center-wide JFK centennial celebration this season. The creation of new opera-work that not only entertains but challenges and provokes new thoughts and ideas-is a fitting tribute to the legacy of President Kennedy and his inspirational ideals."

The three composer/librettist teams of the one-act operas will collaborate on their works with three distinguished mentors who have each enjoyed professional success with new American operas: composer John Musto (The Inspector, Later the Same Evening), librettist Gene Scheer (WNO's Moby-Dick, Cold Mountain), and conductor Steven Osgood (General and Artistic Director of Chautauqua Opera Company). The composer/librettist teams have been working with their mentors and advisors throughout the creative process, and a full collaborative workshop with all the composers, librettists, mentors, and cast members is scheduled for October 2016 in Washington.

"This season's American Opera Initiative Festival will bring a diverse and accomplished group of musical storytellers to Washington, and they all have personal and powerful tales to tell," said Michael Heaston, the departing program director of the American Opera Initiative and WNO's Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. "For our gifted young artists, this is an incredible opportunity to see firsthand how new operas are created and to work directly with the composers and librettists, as well as our remarkable program mentors. Since most of the operatic canon is centuries old, this is a rare opportunity indeed. As we all look forward to the workshops in the fall, the program will continue to flourish under the new leadership of Robert Ainsley, who will see this cycle of exciting new works to completion."

New one-act operas expand the American repertory

The three original one-act operas presented in two semi-staged concert performances on January 14, 2017 will each highlight a different aspect of American life and culture, and each has been inspired and informed by the ideals often ascribed to President Kennedy. These new works will be accompanied by a chamber orchestra conducted by Steven Osgood and will be performed in English. Following each performance there will be a Q&A session with the artists and creative team. Full casting for the three one-act operas, featuring members of WNO's Domingo-Cafritz Young.


Music by Matthew Peterson

Libretto by Emily Roller

Three refugees are stranded in an inflatable lifeboat out in the open ocean; they are the sole survivors of a shipwreck. After three days, tensions erupt between the strangers, who each fled the same conflict for different reasons. As their pasts are revealed, cooperation-and survival-seem unlikely. Lifeboat explores and challenges the ideals of courage, social justice, and service; can these ideals overcome major divides between people of different backgrounds and experiences? Can we all live in the same boat? A JFKC Commission.




Fort Worth Business News
Broadway World

Fort Worth Opera to stage Voir Direin 2017 Frontiers Festival

Fort Worth Opera announced today the lineup of its 2017 Festival season.

"The 2017 Festival season, running April 15 - May 7, will include the classic Carmen by Georges Bizet; the contemporary Cruzar la Cara de la Luna; and the regional premiere of 2014 Frontiers winner, Voir Dire...

...The 2017 Opera Unbound production is Voir Dire, written by composer Matthew Peterson and librettist Jason Zencka, Voir Dire was selected as a winner of the 2014 FWOpera Frontiers showcase, and returns to the Festival stage this season for its regional premiere. Adapted from various court cases witnessed by the librettist during his time as a crime reporter, the opera takes place in a courtroom and plays out in a series of colorful vignettes that give audiences an insider's look into the fascinating , hilarious and often insanely bizarre world of legal drama . The small ensemble cast features Nate Mattingly ( Hamlet, Frontiers ) and the Hattie Mae Lesley Apprentice Artists, Anna Laurenzo ( Buried Alive I Embedded, Frontiers ), Trevor Martin ( The Barber of Seville, Frontiers ) , Christina Pecce, and Andrew Surrena. Co-produced with Skylight Music Theatre in Milwaukee, Voir Dire will be directed by FWOpera favorite David Gately (Lo Traviata, The Barber of Seville) and conducted by Viswa Subbaraman in his FWOpera debut."

Read more at:

Fort Worth Business News

Broadway World




Presentation of new Swedish Orchestra music at Malmö Live

Matthew Peterson's "And all the trees of the field will clap their hands" will be featured alongside nine other new works, as the Swedish Composer's Association (FST) and Swedish Royal Musical Academy (KMA) present the second annual "Presentation day for new Swedish Orchestra Music."

This year at the newly built concert hall Malmö Live, with the Malmö Symphony Orchestra. June 2, 2016 they will perform 10 short works/excerpts for an invited public of conductors and music administrators, with the goal of enriching the Swedish orchestral repertoire.

There was great interest from both composers and orchestras. From 58 submitted works, a committee of two composers and two conductors have chosen the following: 

  • Anders Emilsson (f 1963) A ride into the wood
  • Kim Hedås (f 1965) RE:CAI:O
  • Daniel Hjorth (f 1973) SYMPHONY no 1 – ”Time Changes”
  • Reine Jönsson (f 1960) Den sorgsna vargen
  • Maria Lithell Flyg (f 1965) In and Out
  • Anna-Lena Laurin (f 1962) Persephone. Version II. For symphony orchestra
  • David Lennartsson (f 1973) Waves - a beautiful noise / wafted across
  • Jim O’Leary (f 1971) Sixty-three
  • Matthew Peterson (f 1984) And all the trees of the field will clap their hands
  • Jonas Valfridsson (f 1980) Temples of Kamakura – sats I. Engaku-ji

The chosen works were composed between 2006 and 2015, and will be performed in their entirety or 5-7 minute excerpts, conducted by Andreas Hanson. The goal of the project is to spread knowledge of newly written repertoire to the programming teams at Swedish music institutions, therefore exposing the Swedish citizenry to a greater musical diversity. 

2016's jury consisted of:

  • Michael Bartosch, conductor
  • Katarina Leyman, composer
  • Rolf Martinsson, composer
  • Marit Strindlund, conductor



"And all the trees of the field will clap their hands" reviewed in Gefle Dagblad, Arbetarbladet

Reviews from Gävle Symfoniorkesters Friday, May 15th performance of "And all the trees of the field will clap their hands", Jaime Martin conducting. 

Gefle Dagbladet, May 16 2015

"Composer Matthew Peterson, born in the USA, active in Sweden, wanted to write music full of life and was inspired by a many-faceted text about nature and word from the Old Testament, Isaiah 55: 10-12. It worked so well that he won last year's Uppsala Composers competition. And yes, nature's awakening energies stream out of this attractively vibrating, somewhat minimalistic work.

It proved to be an airy, elusive construction of reflexes, powerful zigzag lines, undulating dynamics and flickering facets, atmospheric clouds of light that constantly change values, echoes, voices embracing each other and big, physically pounding rhythms."

Arbetarbladet, May 16 2015: 

"Matthew Peterson was inspired by the text of Isaiah 55: 10-12 ending "the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands" and wrote a work that shimmers like the awakening of nature. Mountains singing and trees clapping their hands. Nature's echo. Tones that do not turn back until they reach their goal. Parts that correspond to each other. We had horns like an echo of the strings. Or vice versa. Behind everything, a vibrant, life-giving rhythm.

Here are echoes reminiscent of composers Glass and Reich, but only faintly.

Matthew Peterson's work received both the jury and audience award at Uppsala tonsättartävling last year. It was well deserved."



"And all the trees of the field will clap their hands" reviewed in Sundsvalls Tidning

"John Frost grew up partly in Sundsvall. Shi-Yeon Sung is in the world elite of female conductors. But the surprise was the winner of Uppsala composer competition 2014: Matthew Peterson's "And all the trees of the field will clap their hands".

It is inspired by the prophet Isaiah, who said: "so is the word that comes from my mouth, it will not return to me empty." Matthew Peterson thought of echoes; he painted an unruly nature, snorting with life and power, making the echo into a compositional technique.

Here the echoes result in a piece that seems to sound in several horizontal layers, cut into parallel realities. It trembles like oscillating mirrors, vibrating in glittering threads; as if nothing is fixed and everything is just possibility, the innermost spirit of material. A fine-sounding, suggestive, innovative piece, which I hope the orchestra takes up again."

-Susanne Holmlund, Sundsvalls Tidning, Apr 18 2015 (translation by the composer)

"Johan fröst är delvis fostrad i Sundsvall. Shi-Yeon Sung finns i världstoppen av kvinnliga dirigenter. Men överraskningen blev vinnaren av Uppsala tonsättartävling 2014: Matthew Petersons "And all the trees of the field will clap their hands".

Den är inspirerad av profeten Jesaja, där det också sägs: "så är det med ordet som kommer ur min mun: det vänder inte fruktlöst tillbaka". Matthew Peterson tänkte på ekon; han målade en bångstyrig natur, frustande av liv och kraft och gjorde ekot till en egen kompositionsteknik.

Här verkar ekona som om stycket spelas i flera horisontella lager, klyvs i parallella verkligheter. Det dallrar som av svängande speglar, vibrerar som av glittertrådar; som om inget är fast och allt bara sannolikhet, som materiens innersta väsen. Ett skönklingande, suggestivt, nydanande stycke, som jag hoppas orkestern tar upp igen."

-Susanne Holmlund, Sundsvalls Tidning, Apr 18 2015



Föreningen Svenska Tonsättare elects Matthew Peterson

FST (Föreningen Svenska Tonsättare, Society of Swedish Composers) has elected composer Matthew Peterson to membership effective 2014.


The Society of Swedish Composers represents professional composers who are active in the field of contemporary classical music composition. It was founded in 1918 by some of the most renowned Swedish composers of the day – people like Kurt Atterberg, Hugo Alfvén, Oskar Lindberg, Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, Ture Rangström, Wilhelm Stenhammar and others.

FST has today 366 members, of whom 343 are composers. The other members are either elected as associate members or as honorary members, meaning that in their professional lives they have in various ways supported and encouraged contemporary Swedish music.

FST’s objective is to look after the artistic, financial and social interests of its members, to help spread Swedish music nationwide as well as worldwide, and generally to promote Swedish musical culture.

Professional composers working in Sweden's contemporary art music scene can become members. For more information about election criteria, etc, please see this page (in Swedish only!) or contact the FST office.

You can listen to Swedish contemporary classical music at Composer’s Radio.

You can find composer biographies, books, scores and parts and more at Svensk Musik (Swedish Music Information Centre).



"Voir Dire" reviewed in Wall Street Journal

Excerpts of Matthew Peterson's chamber opera "Voir Dire," libretto by Jason Zencka, were performed at the 2014 Fort Worth Opera Frontiers Festival on May 9, 2014 at McDavis Studio. It received the following review in the Wall Street Journal:

"The opening scene of Matthew Peterson's "Voir Dire," an opera inspired by trials that librettist Jason Zencka covered as a crime reporter in Wisconsin, was instantly compelling. A vocal quartet created the chaotic, buoyantly funny atmosphere of a bond hearing, complete with a bored judge, a harried district attorney, and a resentful, foul-mouthed male defendant. Then the action suddenly segued into an aria by a female defendant (movingly sung by Ms. Deiter) that was devastating in the simple awfulness of its tale of betrayal."

Click HERE for the full article