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Press Contacts:
Rick Miramontez / Kendall Edwards
rick@omdkc.com / kendall@omdkc.com
212 695 7400




New York, NY (June 1, 2023) – Catapult Opera announced today that they have commissioned a new opera digital short entitled SWANN from multi-hyphenate artist, Tamar-kali. The piece features composition and a concept by Tamar-kali, a libretto by Carl Hancock Rux, and direction from James Blaszko. To watch, visit https://www.catapultopera.org/swann.

In addition, Catapult Opera will host a virtual premiere party and Q&A with Tamar-kali and James Blaszko tonight, Thursday, June 1 at 6:00PM EST. To RSVP, click HERE.

In her sophomore opera release, Tamar-kali pays homage to William Dorsey Swann, a formerly enslaved gender-bending denizen of our nation’s capital. Swann was the first person known to dub himself a “queen of drag” and the first American on record to pursue legal and political action to defend the LGBTQ community’s right to gather. In this imagining of the early 19th century drag ball scene, impressionistic imagery and chamber composition depict an intimate evening at Swann’s abode ahead of his detention and conviction in 1896 for “keeping a disorderly house.”

“I met with Neal Goren and Marcus Shields in the heart of the pandemic to discuss composing and creating a digital short,” says Tamar-kali. “During this period I was composing my first opera commission and had been doing a lot of musing around early 19th century Black Intellectual thought and the early Civil Rights movement. I drew the connection to William Dorsey Swann as part of a continuum. It was a natural progression and an irresistible opportunity to represent the spectrum of humanity present in Black life in America during this period. Shining a light on our forbearers is essential to honoring their resilience and continuing the traditions of innovation and subversion they so fearlessly exemplified.”

“Working with Tamar-Kali has been an unalloyed joy,” says Catapult Opera founder Neal Goren. “She is a brilliant musician and a fierce advocate of those whose history has been unfairly ignored. Her muse never goes on vacation: her creativity never flags.”

Catapult Opera is a new company working to launch the future of opera. One of their main initiatives is providing grants to singer-songwriters outside the classical realm to create short works at the intersection of their genre and opera. The mission of the company is to project a more dynamic future for opera by broadening the art form and its audience and launching innovative productions that celebrate the classically trained voice. Swann marks the company’s third commissioned piece since the company was founded. Other digital commissioned works include Glitch by Nico Muhly and When All I Knew Changed by Celisse.


Brooklyn born and bred artist Tamar-kali is a second-generation musician with roots in the coastal Sea Islands of South Carolina. As a composer, Tamar-kali has defied boundaries to craft her own unique alternative sound. Her debut LP “Black Bottom,” challenged the alt-rock norm. The pieces she composes and arranges for her string sextet and voice project, Psycho Chamber Ensemble, marry the classical music of her Catholic upbringing with post-punk sensibilities .As a performer, Tamar-kali speaks her lyrical truth with a supreme passion and a voice that will shake your foundation and shatter your expectations with its soulful intensity.2017 marked her debut as a film score composer with Dee Rees’ Oscar-nominated Mudbound. Her ‘expressive and varied score’ [Variety] garnered her the World Soundtrack Academy’s 2018 Discovery of the Year Award and has been classified by Indiewire as one of the 25 Best Film Scores of the 21st Century.  The soundtrack for her score to Josephine Decker’s psychological drama, Shirley, was named The Guardian’s Contemporary Album of the month in June 2020. 2022 saw her debut work from multiple commissions; the LA Opera digital short, We Hold These Truths’ directed by Peabody award winner dream hampton, a solo cello piece ‘Little Bear Awakens’ for acclaimed cellist Matt Haimovitz’ Primavera Project alongside composers Josqin des Prez and Philip Glass as well as a return to the stage to perform ‘Melancholy Ghosts and Other Mothers’ a Beth Morrison Projects commissioned song cycle. 2023 promises a range of projects from opera, orchestral and theatrical commissions and stage performances to new solo work and further film collaborations.

Catapult Opera projects a more dynamic future for opera; they seek to broaden the art form and its audience, launching innovative productions that celebrate the classically trained voice. Catapult Opera innovates to accomplish this goal by providing grants to singer-songwriters outside the classical realm to create short works at the intersection of their genre and opera.  One goal of this program is to build a repository of innovative recorded material to which each grantee contributes by allowing access on the Catapult website.

Catapult began by testing the waters with an established opera composer and librettist: composer Nico Muhly and librettist Greg Pierce who created an opera entitled The Glitch, premiered online in February, 2022. The opera was widely celebrated as an example of what is possible when a work is designed for internet viewing, rather than merely captured for it. A more recent Catapult grant has produced a work by singer-songwriter Celisse which premiered in March 2023. Celisse’s extraordinary operatic composition is an outpouring of three women’s emotional responses to the COVID pandemic and its effects on their lives. Another production in the pipeline is from the legendary performance artist Laurie Anderson.

Catapult Opera also promotes the development and acceptance of recorded operatic performance by holding competitions for short, filmed pieces that deliver a visual component as rich, immediate, and compelling as their musical language. To this end, in autumn 2020, they held a team-based competition to produce video performances of specific opera scenes chosen by Catapult. The resulting content was judged by a panel of international opera visionaries and posted on the Internet for open adjudication. The competition offered recognition for innovation as well as monetary prizes. Their intention is to continue this competition in future years to prod the development of visually satisfying opera videos.

Neal Goren, Catapult Opera’s Artistic Director, has long been celebrated for bringing new perspectives to opera. As the Founding Artistic Director of Henry Street Chamber Opera and of Gotham Chamber Opera, he legitimized and popularized the formerly-undervalued genre of chamber opera to where it is now generally credited with possessing equal expressive potential as grand opera. He collaborated with leading puppeteers, visual artists, and theater directors at a time when opera production was generally exclusive rather than inclusive of outside influences. Goren has long presented opera in non-traditional settings, including a planetarium, a botanic garden, and even a burlesque house, celebrating the music and showcasing the singers while popularizing the art form. Catapult Opera is a natural outgrowth of Goren’s forward-thinking attitude to opera, inspired by the needs of our time.

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