More About the Author
Gordon was born in Oceanside, New York and raised on Long Island with his three sisters, Susan, Lorraine and Sheila, by his mother and father, Eve and Sam. His interests growing up ranged from foreign film, (Bergman, Ozu, Truffaut, Resnais, Rohmer, Godard, Antonioni, Fellini, Mizoguchi) to popular music, (Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, Neil Young) to the composers of the twentieth century, (Berg, Bartok, Britten, Weill, Bernstein, Copland, Bartok, Hindemith, Shostakovich, Rorem, Prokofiev, Gershwin, Blitzstein, Messiaen, Tippett, Sondheim) to performance artists and innovative theater creators, (Meredith Monk, Robert Wilson) to painters (Francis Bacon, Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Hopper) to writers, (Gertrude Stein, Jane and Paul Bowles, Flannery O'Connor, William Maxwell, Paul Celan, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker) to playwrights, (Chekov, Williams, O'Neill, Ionesco) and more.
After studying composition at Carnegie Mellon University, he settled in New York City, where he quickly emerged as a leading writer of vocal music that spans art song, opera, and musical theater. Gordon's songs have been performed and/or recorded by such internationally renowned singers as Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Audra McDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Frederica von Stade, Andrea Marcovicci, Harolyn Blackwell, Victoria Clark, and Betty Buckley, among many others. Writing about his songs in The Village Voice, the music critic Leighton Kerner once said, "His songs sometimes swing easily around your ears and sometimes hit you like a mischievous cat with its claws out."
2010: "Sycamore Trees"- By Ricky Ian Gordon, Directed by Tina Landau, Book by Ricky Ian Gordon and Nina Mankin, Sycamore Trees is sponsored by the Shen Family Foundation and is a recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award. Featuring Broadway's Farah Alvin, Marc Kudisch, Judy Kuhn, Jessica Molaskey, Matthew Risch, Diane Sutherland & Tony Yazbeck. "Sycamore Trees is a compelling musical of suburban secrets... Ricky Ian Gordon's deeply personal, strikingly impressionistic new musical, receiving its world premiere at Signature Theatre." Peter Marks, The Washington Post. "If "Sycamore Trees" were simply an autobiographical tribute to Gordon's past, it would have limited force, but it's aimed at the American dream itself, which gives it broader emotional resonance. With his ability to put old ideas about love, unity and community into new post-modern musical settings, full of unconventional tunes and harmonies, Gordon ultimately achieves in "Sycamore Trees" a fresh and stimulating tribute to the thing he seems to cherish most: family -- his, yours, everyone's. " Barbara Mackay, The Washington Examiner
2010: The Grapes of Wrath - A Two Act Concert Version of the Opera with a libretto by Michael Korie, at Carnegie Hall, directed by Eric Simonson with projections by Wendall Harrington and lighting by Francis Aronson. Narrated by Jane Fonda, with a cast that included Victoria Clark, Nathan Gunn, Christine Ebersole, Elizabeth Futral, Matthew Worth, Sean Panikkar, Stephen Powell, Steven Pasquale, Peter Halverson, Andrew Wilkowske, Madelyn Gunn, and Alex Schwartz...with The Collegiate Chorale and The American Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ted Sperling. "It must be said that "The Grapes of Wrath" certainly reached the audience on Monday night. The hall was packed and the ovation tumultuous." The New York Times
2008: "Green Sneakers", an hour-long song cycle for baritone, string quartet, empty chair, and piano (played by the singer), commissioned by Bravo!-Vail Valley Music Festival, and premiered July 15, directed by Jonathan Solari, with baritone Jesse Blumberg, the Miami String Quartet, and projections by Wendall Harrington. In Opera Today, Wes Blomster wrote, "Gordon creates masterpiece in "Green Sneakers"...It is amazing that in this his first work for string quartet Gordon has perfected an idiom that goes to the edge of tonality to create a microcosm of pain and despair that has all the markings of a contemporary Gesamtkunstwerk. Indeed, at the premier, members of the Miami String Quartet were no longer mere strings, but humanized voices that formed a seamless dramatic unity with Blumberg. Yet, despite its obvious personal intensity, Sneakers is in no way confessional...With the repetition of "Sleep Dear", the final words of Green Sneakers, one heard in Vail a distant echo of the "Ewig" that concludes Mahler's monumental Abschied. For this is a song of today's earth, a farewell lamentation that transcends death." and Robert Croan, writing about the Pittsburgh premiere in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, wrote, "Superb mini-opera conveys heartfelt grief...Gordon's musical style is post-modern (tonal and non-dissonant) and crossover (tinted with Broadway and pop), which gives the work immediacy and makes each audience member a participant in the tragedy. There was less physical action than in the "Orpheus", but more overt sadness and desolation, as well as an intricate oneness of words and music that is, after all, the essence of both opera and song."
2007: The Grapes of Wrath, a full-scale opera with libretto by Michael Korie, premiered at the Minnesota Opera in a production that then traveled to Utah Opera. Musical America called the work, "The great American opera", and Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed wrote that: "...the greatest glory of the opera is Gordon's ability to musically flesh out the entire 11-member Joad clan...Gordon's other great achievement is to merge Broadway and opera... greatly enhanced by his firm control over ensembles and his sheer love for the operatic voice." Alex Ross, in The New Yorker wrote "Gordon, who first made his name in the theatre and as a composer of Broadway-style songs, fills his score with beautifully turned genre pieces, often harking back to American popular music of the twenties and thirties: Gershwinesque song-and-dance numbers, a few sweetly soaring love songs in the manner of Jerome Kern, banjo-twanging ballads, saxed-up jazz choruses, even a barbershop quartet. You couldn't ask for a more comfortably appointed evening of vintage musical Americana. Yet, with a slyness worthy of Weill, Gordon wields his hummable tunes to critical effect..." Future productions are scheduled at the Pittsburgh Opera (November, 2008), Opera Pacific (January, 2009), and a "Suite" from the opera premiered at Disney Hall in spring 2008. Alan Rich wrote "Who Would Have Thought? Word was out, after performances in Minneapolis and Pittsburgh, that Ricky Ian Gordon's operatic setting of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath was some kind of near-masterpiece; there was Mark Swed's near-ecstatic review to corroborate. I knew Ricky from lovable song collections and from the Orpheus and Euridice set in a Long Beach swimming pool a few months ago, lovable within reason. Steinbeck's great humanitarian tragedy was another matter. For the Los Angeles Master Chorale Ricky prepared a "suite" from his opera, a 50-minute encapsulation with big choruses, some solos and enough stage action to tie everything together and preserve a likeness of both novel and opera. It was a terrific event, not merely a teaser for the Opera Pacific production of the actual opera, which happens next January, but a concert work with an integrity of its own. Incidentally Grant Gershon, the Master Chorale's intrepid conductor, had also led the premiere performance at the Minnesota Opera.
2005: Orpheus and Euridice, an hour-long song cycle in two acts, premiered at Lincoln Center. Directed and choreographed by Doug Varone and performed by Elizabeth Futral, Todd Palmer (clarinet) and Melvin Chen (piano), it won an Obie Award and is recorded on Ghostlight Records and published by Carl Fischer Music. Peter G. Davis, reviewing it for New York Magazine, wrote "Both Gordon's text and music are couched in an accessible idiom of disarming lyrical directness, a cleverly disguised faux naïveté that always resolves dissonant situations with grace and a sure sense of dramatic effect--the mark of a born theater composer." The OBIE citation read, "A musician, a dead lover, an extraordinary journey; you might think this old tale has been told too many times, but one composer's personal passion, a choreographer's startling imagination, and the courage of a producer, created one of this year's most moving theatrical events in any genre. For their new- visionary retelling of the tale of Orpheus and Euridice, the judges have awarded an Obie to Ricky Ian Gordon, Doug Varone and The Lincoln Center New Visions program, Jon Nakagawa, producer, Jane Moss."
2003: My Life With Albertine, written with Richard Nelson and based on Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, premiered at New York's Playwrights Horizons (recorded on PS Classics and published by Rodgers and Hammerstein/Williamson Music, AT&T Award).
2001: Bright Eyed Joy: The Music of Ricky Ian Gordon, was presented at Lincoln Center as part of the American Songbook Series. Stephen Holden, writing in The New York Times wrote of the work, "If the music of Ricky Ian Gordon had to be defined by a single quality, it would be the bursting effervescence in fusing songs that blithely blur the lines between art song and the high-end Broadway music of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim...It's caviar for a world gorging on pizza." It was later done at the Guggenheim Museum, after which, it was written in the New York Times, "As the singers performed more than 20 of Mr. Gordon's songs, the majority arranged by the composer for a 10-member ensemble conducted by Ted Sperling, the music bubbled and cascaded like a mountain brook after a spring rain. Over and over, one had the image of a boy skipping ecstatically through fields and woods on a crisp April morning. Mr. Gordon's love of poetry is evident from the clarity and ease of flow of settings that rarely allow a word to get lost. Whether giving musical voice to Hughes's urban angst or to Parker's cynicism, the composer instinctively looks for the silver lining. He turns despair into sadness and softens bitter into wry. Several of his settings of Hughes's poems are inflected with Jazz Age flavors that suggest the blues, but as played by a jazz band at a champagne reception on an ocean liner. -- The New York Times, April 30, 2002 Bright Eyed Joy is recorded on Nonesuch Records with vocalists including Audra McDonald, Dawn Upshaw, and Adam Guettel.
Other works include, Dream True, written with Tina Landau and premiered in 1999 at The Vineyard Theater (recorded on PS Classics, Richard Rodgers Award, Jonathan Larson Foundation Award), and Only Heaven, based on the works of Langston Hughes and premiered in 1995 by Encompass Opera (recorded on PS Classics, and published by Rodgers and Hammerstein/Williamson Music). The Tibetan Book of the Dead, written with Jean Claude Van Itallie, premiered at the Houston Grand Opera in 1996 and Morning Star, written with William Hoffman which Gordon wrote for Lyric Opera of Chicago, where he was a composer-in-residence.
Gordon was the Composer-in-Residence at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival in Vail, Colorado, www.vailmusicfestival.org, in the summer of 2008, and he premiered Green Sneakers, a new, hour-long song cycle for baritone and string quartet (Jesse Blumberg and The Miami String Quartet) on July 15. It was hailed a "Masterpiece" in Opera Today. For the full article, read .
He is currently working on commissions for New York Metropolitan Opera Adele Hugo with Librettist Michael Korie, and for the 50th anniversary of the Minnesota Opera, The Garden Of The Finzi-Continis with librettist Michael Korie. Gordon is also writing a theatrical song cycle with librettist Mark Stephen Campbell, for The Virginia Arts Festival and Virginia Opera, entitled Rappahannock County, new musicals for Playwrights Horizons and The Signature Theater (Sycamore Trees) in Arlington, Virginia.
His publications include four songbooks A Horse With Wings, Genius Child, Only Heaven, and Finding Home, all published by Rodgers and Hammerstein/Williamson Music and distributed by Hal Leonard Corporation. Hal Leonard also published two choral pieces, Three By Langston, and We Will Always Walk Together, Gordon's arrangement of the final song from Dream True, which was premiered by Grant Gershon and the Los Angeles Master Chorale at Disney Hall. With Carl Fischer Music, he has published Songs Of Our Time, Piano Pieces: The Piano Music of Ricky Ian Gordon, Orpheus and Euridice, and Late Afternoon, a song cycle for mezzo-soprano and piano. Carl Fischer will also publish The Grapes of Wrath.
Among his other honors are the 2003 Alumni Merit Award for exceptional achievement and leadership from Carnegie-Mellon University, the Shen Family Foundation Award, the Stephen Sondheim Award, The Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Theater Foundation Award, The Constance Klinsky Award, and many awards from ASCAP, of which he is a member, The National Endowment of the Arts, and The American Music Center. Visit www.rickyiangordon.com
A Horse With Wings-Ricky Ian Gordon Sings Ricky Ian Gordon - (2010) Ricky Ian Gordon, Voice and Piano Blue Griffin Records
Green Sneakers - (2009) Jesse Blumberg, Baritone and Piano, Miami String Quartet Blue Griffin Records
and flowers pick themselves... - Songs of Ricky Ian Gordon, Melanie Helton, Soprano, Ricky Ian Gordon, Piano, Raphael Jimenez, conductor of the MSU Symphony Orchestra (2008) Blue Griffin Records
The Grapes Of Wrath - An Opera by Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael Korie (2008) PS Classics
Bright Eyed Joy: The Songs of Ricky Ian Gordon - (2001) Audra McDonald, Dawn Upshaw, Theresa McCarthy, Judy Blazer, Adam Guettel, Chris Pedro Trakas Nonesuch Records
Only Heaven: A Musical Work - by Ricky Ian Gordon Based on the Poetry of Langston Hughes Darius DeHaas, Jonita Laittmore, Jay Pierce, Adrienne Danrich, Sheila Ramsey (2002) PS Classics
My Life with Albertine (2003 Original Off-Broadway Cast) - Kelli O'Hara, Brent Carver, Emily Skinner, Chad Kimball (2003) PS Classics
Dream True - Songs from the Off-Broadway Show, (2006) Kelli O'Hara, Victoria Clark, Jessica Molaskey, Brian D'arcy James, Jason Danieley, Jeff McCarthy, Harrison Chad, William Ulrich, Clark Thorell, James Moye, Michael McElroy cond. Ted Sperling PS Classics
Orpheus and Euridice - (2007) Elizabeth Futral, soprano, Todd Palmer, Clarinet, Melvin Chen, Piano Ghostlight Records
Build a Bridge - (2006) Audra McDonald (Ricky Ian Gordon and Jessica Molaskey's "Cradle And All") Nonesuch
Make Believe - (2004) Jessica Molaskey (Ricky Ian Gordon and Jessica Molaskey's "Cradle And All") PS Classics
Of Eternal Light - Water Music/A Two Part Requiem featuring Musica Sacra conducted by Richard Westenburg, BMG/Catalyst
Way Back To Paradise - Audra McDonald (1998) Nonesuch
Strange Hurt - Genius Child:A Cycle of 10 Songs On Poems Of Langston Hughes-Harolyn Blackwell, Soprano RCA Victor
Greenwich Time - Rebecca Luker (Ricky Ian Gordon and Marie Howe's "What The Living Do") PS Classics
Let Yourself Go - Kristin Chenoweth (Ricky Ian Gordon's "Just An Ordinary Guy") Sony
Stars And The Moon - Betty Buckley, live at The Donmar Concord Records
The Doorway - Betty Buckley (Ricky Ian Gordon's "Sycamore Trees" ) Concord Records
Where Morning Lies - Claire Gormley ABC Classics
Genius Child: 10 Songs for High Voice on Poems by Langston Hughes (1996) Rodgers and Hammerstein/Williamson Music
A Horse With Wings: 21 Songs for Medium High Voice (1996) Rodgers and Hammerstein/Williamson Music
Only Heaven: 17 Songs on poems by Langston Hughes (1997) Rodgers and Hammerstein/Williamson Music
Orpheus and Euridice (2002) Carl Fischer Music
Finding Home -- The Songs of Ricky Ian Gordon (2003) Rodgers and Hammerstein/Williamson Music
My Life With Albertine (2005) Vocal Score, Rodgers and Hammerstein/Williamson Music
Songs of Our Time (2005) Carl Fischer Music
Ricky Ian Gordon Piano Collection (2005) Carl Fischer Music
Late Afternoon: 6 Songs for Mezzo Soprano (2007) Carl Fischer Music
We Will Always Walk Together (2007) SATB Choral Arrangement by Composer, dist. by Hal Leonard
Three By Langston (1998) SATB Choral Arrangements of Three Langston Hughes Settings, dist. by Hal Leonard
Piano Collection" (2005) Music for Solo Piano and Piano, Four Hands Carl Fischer Music
Too Few The Mornings Be (2009) Eleven settings of Emily Dickinson for High Voice (written for Renee Fleming), Carl Fischer Music
The Grapes Of Wrath (2009) The Vocal Score of the complete opera by Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael Korie, Carl Fischer Music
Prayer-(2009) A 4 SATB Choral Work, music and lyrics by Ricky Ian Gordon Carl Fischer Music
Dios Te Salve-(2009) For Women's Chorus, from Ricky Ian Gordon's opera of "The Grapes Of Wrath" Carl Fischer Music
"The Grapes of Wrath Solo Aria Collection" - (2010) 16 Aria Excerpts from the Opera The Grapes of Wrath by Music by Ricky Ian Gordon and Libretto by Michael Korie (Sheet music - Aug 2, 2010) Carl Fischer Music
"and flowers pick themselves" -(2010) 5 Songs for High Voice and Orchestra on poems by e. e. cummings, Piano Vocal Presser Music
Awards and recognition
Richard Rogers Award
Jonathan Larson Foundation Award
Carnegie Mellon University Alumni Merit Award (2003)
Shen Family Foundation Award
Stephen Sondheim Award
Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Theater Foundation Award
Constance Klinsky Award
Multiple awards from:
National Endowment of the Arts
American Music Center
Residencies: Ucross Foundation, and Civitella Ranieri Foundation
Ricky Ian Gordon's Official Website: http://www.rickyiangordon.com