A B O U T
Acclaimed American composer Rene Orth "breaks new ground" (Opera News), writing music described as “always dramatic, reflective, rarely predictable, and often electronic” (Musical America). She was the inaugural Resident Composer at Opera San José in the 2022-23 season, and recently completed a three-year tenure as Composer-In-Residence at Opera Philadelphia.
This season, Opera Philadelphia presents the world premiere of Orth’s 10 Day in a Madhouse as part of Festival O23, co-commissioned by Opera Philadelphia and Tapestry Opera. With a libretto by Hannah Moscovitch, this psychological drama based on historical events follows the trailblazing reporter Nellie Bly through her internment at Blackwell's Asylum, exposing, as Bly did, notions of madness and societal biases against women. The opera stars Kiera Duffy, Raehann Bryce-Davis, and Will Liverman, with Daniela Candillari at the podium, Joanna Settle directing, and Andrew Lieberman as set designer. Other projects include a commission for Vocal Arts DC premiering at The Kennedy Center in April 2024, composing a song cycle for mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack; writing a new song, A Prayer, for Grammy-winning baritone Will Liverman’s next album on Cedille Records, which is a duet for him and mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges, setting a Sara Teasdale poem; and writing an electronics and voice piece for mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis’ forthcoming debut album, Stand the Storm. The Chautauqua Institution will also premiere Love, Loss, and the Century Upon Us (libretto by Jerre Dye) with a 13 piece orchestra, part of a larger work called A Summer Place in Summer 2024.
In the 2022-23 season, soprano Emily Albrink and pianist Kathleen Kelly premiered Orth’s Weave Me a Name, touring it across the U.S. and even bringing it to France. They included the song cycle on Albrink’s debut album, Force of Nature, on Lexicon Classics. Orth won first prize in the 2023 National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Art Song Composition Award for Weave Me a Name, which was performed at the 58th NATS National Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Cincinnati Song Initiative will program the work on a future concert.
Last season also saw soprano Lauren Pearl tour Orth’s You Shattered My Deafness for voice and string quartet with Marlboro Music, performing the song throughout the Northeast and in Ontario, Canada. At Kaufman Music Center, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke sang Orth’s Dear Colleagues as part of her how do i find you project. Screenings of Orth’s operas Jabberwocky (2020) and TakTakShoo (2021) were shown at the Philadelphia Film Center as part of Opera Philadelphia’s Festival O22; at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, Ambler Theater, County Theater, and Colonial Theater in Pennsylvania, and Princeton Garden Theatre in New Jersey as part of Opera Philadelphia's Opera on Film initiative; and on the Opera Philadelphia Channel. A reading of Love, Loss, and the Century Upon Us, with a libretto by Jerre Dye, was also presented by the Chautauqua Institution; the work will be premiered in 2024 as part of a larger piece.
Orth’s music focuses on dramatic and lyrical storytelling, often blending electronic soundscapes and beats with acoustic music to challenge the conventions of classical music. With a rare understanding of singing and technology, the artist – who has studied violin, piano, and audio engineering – approaches her compositions as storytelling vehicles. Pushing the boundaries of instrumentation and technology to explore new harmonic languages, Orth’s music connects with audiences in new and innovative ways, sometimes introducing aleatoric and interdisciplinary elements.
Orth’s work has been performed by a wide variety of opera companies and orchestras, including Washington National Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Curtis Opera Theater, Berkeley Symphony, New World Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, Summerville Orchestra, Juilliard Youth Symphony, and Festival d’Aix en Provence. She has collaborated with notable artists and ensembles, including Pulitzer Prize-winning librettist Mark Campbell on Empty the House (2016), an opera described as “intriguing” and “beguiling” by Broad Street Review. Other artistic partnerships include Del Sol, Dover Quartet, Aizuri Quartet, Fifth House Ensemble, countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, mezzo-sopranos Daniela Mack and Blythe Gaissert, baritone Will Liverman, Seraph Brass, Rock School of Dance, and Pennsylvania Ballet.
Honors and distinctions include an OPERA America Commissioning Grant and Discovery Grant for Female Composers, an American Composers Forum Subito Grant, and a Kentucky Foundation for Women Artist Enrichment Grant, plus a 2023 NATS Art Song Composition Award. She has been in residence at Festival d’Aix en Provence, Yaddo, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, the Orchard Project Greenhouse, Avaloch Farm Institute, Tapestry Opera, Lake Champlain Music Festival, and Luzerne Music Center.
Rene Orth is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where she held the Edward B. Garrigues Fellowship. She received her M.M. in Music Composition at the University of Louisville as a Moritz von Bomhard Fellow, and holds additional degrees from MediaTech Institute and Rhodes College.