Ricky Ian Gordon

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Ricky Ian Gordon
Ricky Ian Gordon
Ricky Ian Gordon
Background information
Birth nameRicky Ian Gordon
Born (1956-05-15) May 15, 1956 (age 66)
Oceanside, New York, United States
GenresMusical theatre, Opera
Occupation(s)Composer, lyricist
Years active1956–present

Ricky Ian Gordon (born May 15, 1956) is an American composer of art song, opera and musical theatre.


Gordon was born in Oceanside, New York. He was raised by his mother, Eve, and father, Sam, and he grew up on Long Island with his three sisters, Susan, Lorraine and Sheila. Donald Katz based his book, Home Fires: An Intimate Portrait of One Middle-Class Family in Postwar America, on Gordon's family life.[1] Gordon attended Carnegie Mellon University.


The death of his lover from AIDS inspired Dream True (1998), Orpheus and Euridice (2005) and the song cycle Green Sneakers for Baritone, String Quartet, Empty Chair and Piano (2007). He has composed several operas and had his music performed by Audra McDonald, Dawn Upshaw, Renée Fleming, Todd Palmer and others.[2][3]

In 1992 Gordon set ten of Langston Hughes's poems to music for Harolyn Blackwell.[4] In February 2007, Gordon's opera, The Grapes of Wrath, premiered in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The opera was co-commissioned and co-produced by the Minnesota Opera and the Utah Symphony & Opera. In 2011 he wrote the music for Rappahannock County, a staged revue of twenty one songs about the Civil War, commissioned by the Virginia Arts Festival.[5]

In 2003, he wrote a musical based on selections from The Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust. It was titled My Life With Albertine and featured Kelli O'Hara in her first starring role.

He was commissioned by the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis for what became 27 (2014), an opera about Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas and their life at 27 Rue de Fleurus, as a work to star mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe. Royce Vavrek wrote the libretto. The piece made its New York premiere on Oct. 20, 2016.

In 2010, he released an album called A Horse With Wings in which he sang a collection of his art songs. In 2014 his opera A Coffin in Egypt had its world premiere at the Houston Grand Opera.[6]

He premiered his opera Morning Star at Cincinnati Opera in 2015. This opera follows a Russian Jewish family that immigrates to New York City in 1910.[7]

Gordon's opera The House Without a Christmas Tree had its world premiere at the Houston Grand Opera on November 30, 2017.[8]

The world premiere of Gordon's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis opens in January 2022.[9] It is a co-production between National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene and the New York City Opera.


Gordon's songwriting is steeped in the traditions of cabaret and musical theater, while his choice of themes has been idiosyncratic.[10] Green Sneakers for Baritone, String Quartet, Empty Chair and Piano has been described as "a significant contribution to the culture sprung from the AIDS crisis", notable for its elegiac quality as well as its restraint.[11] His opera The Grapes of Wrath, based on the novel by John Steinbeck, has been cited for achieving "instant success that is rare for an American opera."[12]


  1. ^ "Home Fires: An Intimate Portrait of One Middle-class Family in Postwar America". Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  2. ^ Rule, Doug. Short Rounds, Metro Weekly, March 31, 2011.
  3. ^ Holden, Stephen. MUSIC REVIEW; Composer's Happy Leap Into the Beauty of Poetry, The New York Times, April 30, 2002.
  4. ^ "Genius Child". 29 July 2016. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  5. ^ Anne Midgette, "Ricky Ian Gordon sets the Civil War to music", The Washington Post, April 01, 2011]
  6. ^ "A Coffin in Egypt: Houston". Opera News. 78 (12). June 2014.
  7. ^ "OPERA NEWS - Morning Star". www.operanews.com. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  8. ^ Robert Viagas (November 30, 2017). Ricky Ian Gordon's House Without a Christmas Tree Gets World Premiere November 30. Playbill.
  9. ^ "Finzi Continis". National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. Retrieved 2021-10-13.
  10. ^ The Washington Post, April 01, 2011
  11. ^ Holden, Stephen (7 April 2013). "Ricky Ian Gordon's Work in American Songbook Series". Retrieved 3 May 2018 – via NYTimes.com.
  12. ^ "Review of Ricky Ian Gordon's The Grapes of Wrath". Retrieved 3 May 2018.

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