Fizz & Ginger traces the steps of the 1920s New Yorker nightlife reviewer, Lipstick (Sarah Goldrainer/Caroline Miller), as she enters a party in pursuit of a story. Hot on the heels of her rum running boyfriend Benny (Shane Brown), she finds him at The Crossroads mixed with company she’s never seen before. Old Tom Bullock (Kyle Oliver) is in town slinging drinks fresh out of his cocktail book while Marjorie (Allison Gish/Francesca Federico) croons the tunes of a lover lost to the Great War. Nellie, (MaKayla McDonald) a writer for Harlem’s The Messenger magazine, is there to support her Bohemian best friend Bruce (Francisco Corredor) who is necking with a man he shouldn’t be necking with. With a supporting ensemble (Vanessa Aldrich, Alonso Jordan Lopez, Angky Budiardjono) these 11 singers with a six-piece jazz combo, pays homage to Lipstick’s reviews from the New Yorker archives.
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[Princess Maleine] moved, it was emotional, it was musically splendid and dramatically exciting. Triumphs of new operas are far between. One feels that–outside of the inconceivable task of getting the right cast and orchestra–Ms. George’s work deserves...a place in the American operatic repertory.
To my ear, it’s on the final five tracks of the NakedEye album [A Series of Indecipherable Glyphs]— representing the majority of its running time — that things open up. The composer Whitney George wraps some ghostly mystery around regular pulses in “[These Hands] Hold Nothing.”
Seth Colter Walls
The New York Times
Whitney George’s music traverses the affective terrain between tragedy and ecstasy, fragility and strength, bringing together romantically delicate intimacy and the spectacular darkness of the macabre. Haunted by ghosts and/of love, George’s operas, staged multimedia works, and chamber music coloristically explore the mysteries of irrationality, nightmare, and memory, sonically seeking lost objects and hidden subjects. Given George’s theatrical inclinations and preoccupation with the tragic, she has turned again and again to opera as both a composer and conductor.
Recently, George has been awarded a number of operatic commissions, premieres, and recognition: in 2017; the Elebash Award for her orchestration of Miriam Gideon’s opera Fortunato, which premiered under George’s baton in May 2019. In the same year; the commission of the two-act opera Princess Maleine by dell'Arte Opera and the video opera Julie by New Camerata Opera which was publicly released in 2020. This 2023 season, Fresh Squeezed Opera commissions Fizz & Ginger, an immersive jazz experience, and the second operatic endeavor with libretitst Bea Goodwin.
George is the artistic director and conductor of The Curiosity Cabinet, a chamber orchestra formed in 2009. She holds an undergraduate degree from the California Institute of the Arts (2008), a master’s degree from Brooklyn College (2010), and DMA from the CUNY Graduate Center (2021). In addition to her composing and conducting, George teaches privately and is on the faculty for Luna Lab.
Whitney George recreated the genuine sound for the audience. Listening to the score allowed the audience to experience the music as it was heard by those who lived during that era. Instruments then sounded just like today’s. George’s compositions remained faithful to the musical style of the time, maintaining authenticity throughout the performance and never “breaking character,” so to speak.
As a conductor, she’s wonderful to watch. Her eyes are everywhere, she knows every line, and she keeps the musicians of The Curiosity Cabinet and the vocalists tight as hell. George deserves the highest praise for her score, her musicianship, and her leadership.
OperaWire on Fizz & Ginger