Royce Vavrek

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Royce Vavrek
Royce Vavrek at the Kennedy Center, 2018.jpg
Royce Vavrek after the premiere of Proving Up, with music by Missy Mazzoli, at the Kennedy Center, 2018
ResidenceBrooklyn, New York; Grande Prairie, Alberta
Occupationlibrettist, bookwriter, lyricist, filmmaker
Years active2002–present
Notable work
Dog Days, 27, Breaking the Waves, JFK, Angel's Bone

Royce Vavrek is a Canadian-born Brooklyn-based librettist, playwright, musical theatre writer and filmmaker known for his collaborations with composers David T. Little, Missy Mazzoli, Ricky Ian Gordon and Du Yun, soprano Lauren Worsham, producers Beth Morrison and Lawrence Edelson, and conductors Steven Osgood, Julian Wachner and Alan Pierson.

He has been called "the indie Hofmannsthal," a "Metastasio of the downtown opera scene," "an exemplary creator of operatic prose," and "one of the most celebrated and sought after librettists in the world."[1][2][3][4]

His opera Angel's Bone with composer Du Yun was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Music.[5]

Life and work[edit]

Born in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada, Vavrek studied piano and musical composition in high school and also sang in a chorus, but was even more drawn to writing for theatre, writing some 17 plays at that time, and filmmaking.[6] But following an undergraduate degree in filmmaking from Concordia University and a master's from New York University in musical theater writing,[7] he enrolled in the American Lyric Theater’s Composer Librettist Development Program which established his career as an opera librettist.[6]

His work has been presented at or performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Los Angeles Opera, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Carnegie Hall, New York City Opera, The Kitchen, Alarm Will Sound, International Contemporary Ensemble, Opera America, American Lyric Theater, Beth Morrison Projects, Brooklyn Youth Chorus and Peak Performances @ Montclair, among others. His recent commissions include operas for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Fort Worth Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Houston Grand Opera and the Prototype Festival, along with a musical for Signature Theater. Vavrek's filmmaking credits include From Sky and Soil, which was created as part of the Corus Young Filmmakers Initiative for broadcast on the W Network, through a prize administered by the Canadian Film and Television Production Association.

Artistic influences and comparisons[edit]

Vavrek has suggested that his work is heavily influenced by cinematic auteurs including Neil LaBute, Lars von Trier, Catherine Breillat, Wong Kar-Wai, Mike Leigh, Larry Clark, playwrights Martin McDonagh and Sam Shepard, novelists Richard Ford, Miriam Toews and Larry McMurtry and Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards.[8][9][10][11]

His libretti have been compared to the work of Alban Berg, Maya Angelou and Edward Albee.[12][13][14]

Opera libretti[edit]

Musical theater book and lyrics[edit]

Oratorios, cantatas, and song cycles[edit]

Selected songs and concert works[edit]

  • Hybrid Dreams (Bunny Pony) (2007, Julia Meinwald, composer)[34]
  • Elena (2009, Matt Marks, composer)[35]
  • Red-Thread Smirk (2010, Matt Marks, composer)[36]
  • I [XX] (2011, Matt Marks, composer)[37]
  • A Song for Wade (This is Not That Song) (2011, Matt Marks, composer)[38]
  • 1882 Songs (2011, Mark Baechle, composer)[39]
  • Canvas (2012, Matt Mehlan, composer)[40]
  • archaeology (2012, David T. Little, composer)[41]
  • Bluetooth Islands (2012, Matt Marks, composer)[42]
  • A Mural (2012, Aaron Gervais, composer)[43]
  • Alien Summers (2012, Aaron Roche, composer)[44]
  • Monkey Cowboys (2012, Rachel Peters, composer)[45]
  • Violations (2013, Hannah Lash, composer)[46]
  • Strip Mall (2013, Matt Marks, composer)[47]
  • Penance (2013, Mikael Karlsson, composer)[48]
  • The Librettist as a Boy (2013, Marie Incontrera, composer)[48]
  • Brother (2013, Jude Vaclavik, composer)[49]
  • E---- (2014, Jeff Myers, composer)[50]
  • Union (2014, Paola Prestini, composer)[51]
  • Knoxville: Summer of 2015 (2015, Ellen Reid, composer; a musical sequel to Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915)[52]


  • Sacrifice (2003)
  • Good Woman (2004)
  • From Sky and Soil (2005)
  • I Will Not Be Sad Anymore (2005)
  • Pig and Bear (2008)

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Cateogory Work Result
2017 Music Critics Association of North America Award[53] Best New Opera Breaking the Waves Won

The Coterie[edit]

With soprano Lauren Worsham, Vavrek is the co-founder and co-artistic director of downtown opera-theater company The Coterie. Through a series of concerts that often function as incubators for larger projects, the company has presented world premieres by many young operatic and musical theater composers including Rachel Peters, Jeff Myers, Kyle Jarrow, Paola Prestini, Cristian Amigo, Matt Marks, Mark Baechle, Christine Donkin, Joshua Schmidt, Julia Meinwald and Andrew Gerle. In December 2012, the company will premiere new works by Aaron Roche, Mel Marvin, Zach Redler, Aaron Gervais and Conrad Winslow alongside new projects from many returning contributors.[54] Among the many performers to lend their talents to the company are Tony Award-winner Chuck Cooper, Tony nominee Barbara Walsh, actress-singers Theresa McCarthy and Morgan James and actor-singers Greg Hildreth and Zachary James.[55][56]


  1. ^ Osnos, Evan. "Fully Committed". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  2. ^ Midgette, Anne. "At an opera festival, tales of drug cartels. At opera houses, same old song". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  3. ^ "Critics Weigh In on Standout Operas of Recent Decades". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  4. ^ "Far from the farm, Albertan carves out opera niche in New York City".
  5. ^ "Du Yun". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  6. ^ a b "So Many Juicy, Amazing Words: A Conversation with Royce Vavrek" by Frank J. Oteri, NewMusicBox, Published: January 1, 2016.
  7. ^ "The Kaleidoscopic World of Royce Vavrek" by Heidi Waleson, Opera News, April 2015
  8. ^ "Royce Vavrek: So Many Juicy, Amazing Words".
  9. ^ ""Kendrick, wanna write an opera with me??": An Interview with Royce Vavrek". 5 November 2016.
  10. ^ "Interview: Royce Vavrek on Writing the Libretti for the Operas "Dog Days" and "Angel's Bone" -". 14 January 2016.
  11. ^ "The Operating System".
  12. ^ "Opera Philadelphia's presents Missy Mazzoli's 'Breaking the Waves' (first review) - Broad Street Review".
  13. ^ American, Chris King Of The St. Louis. "Opera Theatre St. Louis stages flawless commissioned portrait of Gertrude Stein".
  14. ^ "Fighting for Survival, Like Animals". The New York Times. 4 October 2012.
  15. ^ "David T. Little - Vinkensport or, The Finch Opera". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Song From The Uproar at the Kitchen". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  17. ^ James Jorden (2016-01-14). "High Notes: Raw, Powerful New Operas Tackle Human Trafficking, Sexual Deviancy". New York Observer. Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  18. ^ Waleson, Heidi (2014-06-23). "Opera Review: Gertrude Stein in St. Louis". Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  19. ^ Waleson, Heidi (2015-09-28). "O Columbia and Sweeney Todd Reviews". Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  20. ^ "In Angels Bone Terrified Seraphim at the Mercy of Mortals". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  21. ^ Lee, Wayne (2016-04-25). "Hallucination, Assassination and Orchestration: JFK the Opera Comes to Fort Worth". Dallas Observer. Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  22. ^ "Philadelphia Will Mount Breaking The Waves Adaptation". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  23. ^ "Lincoln Center's American Songbook" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  24. ^ Mertes, Micah (2016-04-11). "To mark 60th birthday, Opera Omaha will launch spring festival in 2018 | GO - Arts & entertainment". Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  25. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Midwestern Gothic — Signature Theatre". Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  29. ^ "Brooklyn Philharmonic and Brooklyn Youth Chorus at Roulette". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  30. ^ "Cutting Edge Concerts New Music Festival 2013 at Symphony Space". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  31. ^ "MasterVoices to Open 75th Season with New York Premiere of 27 This Fall". Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  32. ^ "Celebrate Brooklyn Summer Line-up". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-09-24.
  33. ^ "Mass Reimaginings". Trinity Church. 31 August 2015. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  34. ^ Julia Meinwald (24 March 2008). "Hybrid Dreams". Retrieved 20 January 2018 – via YouTube.
  35. ^ "Cooper, McCarthy, James and Moore Will Sing for the Coterie at Joe's Pub - Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  36. ^ "Red-Thread Smirk". 16 November 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  37. ^ Schweitzer, Vivien; Woolfe, Zachary; Smith, Steve (8 April 2011). "Orchestra of St. Luke's at Carnegie Hall and More". Retrieved 20 January 2018 – via
  38. ^ "Mizzou New Music Summer Festival: Wrap". 19 July 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  39. ^ "Lehman College: School of Arts and Humanities - Music Department: Faculty". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  40. ^ Smith, Steve (26 March 2012). "Brooklyn Philharmonic and Brooklyn Youth Chorus at Roulette". Retrieved 20 January 2018 – via
  41. ^
  42. ^ "The Brooklyn Philharmonic At The Winter Garden - New Sounds - Hand-picked music, genre free". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  43. ^ Gervais, Aaron (30 October 2013). "A Mural - Aaron Gervais, composer". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  44. ^ Desk, BWW News. "AN EVENING WITH THE COTERIE Features 13 Premieres by 13 Composers Tonight". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  45. ^ "Monkey Cowboys". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  46. ^ "PSNY: Hannah Lash - Violations". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  47. ^ "Strip Mall (world premiere, LA Phil co-commission) [This piece uses adult language.]". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  48. ^ a b Desk, BWW News. "Marc Kudisch Joins Katie Thompson and More in The Coterie: DOWNTOWN/UPTOWN, 9/9". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  49. ^ "The Operating System". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  50. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-11-29. Retrieved 2015-09-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  51. ^ LLC, Classical Archives. "Paola Prestini - Union, song for voice and piano - Classical Archives". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  52. ^ "Symphony to Present Academic Premiere of Knoxville: Summer of 2015 – News". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  53. ^ "New Opera Award Goes To Mazzoli, Vavrek For Waves". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  54. ^ "An Evening with the Coterie".
  55. ^ BWW News Desk. "The Coterie Un/Plugged, Volume One: Lauren Worsham and Friends Premieres at the Canal Room, 2/22".
  56. ^ "Cooper, McCarthy, James and Moore Will Sing for the Coterie at Joe's Pub". Playbill. Archived from the original on 2012-10-11.

External links[edit]