Judith Stillman Wins Global Prize for Opera Composed During COVID Quarantine

Judith Stillman Wins Global Prize for Opera Composed During COVID Quarantine

PROVIDENCE, R.I. Oct.12, 2020 — Pianist and composer Judith Lynn Stillman, won first prize in OperaVision’s #OperaHarmony contest, for her groundbreaking short opera, Essential Business, produced remotely while in COVID-19 lockdown.

The competition was a global initiative to join creatives from around the world to rethink opera in the pandemic era, highlighting themes of connection and community. OperaVision is the online platform for Opera Europa, representing major opera companies including La Scala and The Bolshoi.

Essential Business is a powerful commentary on spirituality and the need for connection during isolation. Set during the 2020 coronavirus quarantine, Essential Business tells the story of a young pastor, as he wrestles with his faith, family, and the loss of his ministry amid the pandemic. In a moment of crisis, he reaches out to God via a Zoom call, for a modern-day confessional.

Stillman composed and performed the score and served as filmmaker/producer. The music incorporates operatic, gospel, blues, and musical theatre influences, around the story themes of religion, race and culture, the social impact of the virus, and creating music in isolation.

“For me, Essential Business captures a microcosm of the societal lockdown dilemma,” said Stillman. “Humans crave connection. Being in isolation can be devastating. To what extent do we take risks to mitigate these challenges? Is there a way to reconcile both faith and science when there can be life and death consequences?”

Stillman teamed up with Metropolitan Opera baritone, Will Liverman, who performed the role of the pastor, and U.K. artists Anna Pool and Elayce Ismail, to write the libretto and produce the 10-minute piece.

Earlier this year, Liverman was the first Black artist to play the role of Papageno in The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera. He will be a lead in the premiere of the first opera by a Black composer to be produced at the Met in 2021.

The award continues a streak of accolades for Stillman, a Juilliard trained performer, composer, filmmaker, and Rhode Island College’s artist-in-residence, whose compositions – even during COVID quarantine – have received awards from Hollywood to Cannes.

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11/2 Music Without Borders: Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & Music School. View details below!

11/2 Music Without Borders: Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & Music School. View details below!

East Providence, RI – The Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & Music School hosts Music Without BordersJudith Lynn Stillman and Friends from the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra. Pianist Stillman performs with orchestra members Katherine Winterstein, violin, Abigail Cross, viola, and Steven Laven, cello, in a variety of works celebrating cultures across the globe…and beyond! Former Director of NASA‘s Johnson Space CenterCarolyn Huntoon (and first ever woman to have held such a position), and WaterFire‘s Barnaby Evans narrate Stillman‘s SMALL STEP, GIANT LEAP: A Lunar Fantasy, commissioned in 2019 in honor of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11‘s moon landing. Stillman shares, “Showcasing composers from Spain to China, the evening encompasses ethnic, indigenous and folk idioms within classical frameworks, and music that intermingles cultural traditions.”
The event is at 8p on Saturday (Nov. 2) at the Carter Center for Music Education & Performance, 667 Waterman Ave., East Providence.
“The audience will experience, firsthand, that music is an extraordinary, unifying force. Our program highlights diverse cultures and represents an eclectic amalgamation of music from around the world, seemingly disparate. Yet, inspired melodies, passionate harmonies, driving rhythms, and overarching organic structures connect us all under the boundless umbrella of musical creation,” Stillman remarks.


$25 General Admission

$15 Students 18 and under with a student ID

$10 RI Philharmonic students


11/2 Music Without Borders: Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & Music School. View details below!


Carolyn Huntoon will join as a narrator (along with WaterFire’s Barnaby Evans) for SMALL STEP, GIANT LEAP: A Lunar Fantasy, on the MUSIC WITHOUT BORDERS concert. She is the former Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center – and the first ever woman to have held such a position. This event is commissioned in honor of the the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Preview (Rhode Island College)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019 at 1:00 PM

Sapinsley Hall. Nazarian Center For the Performing Arts

$15 Suggested Donation

Event (Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & Music School)

Saturday, November 2, 2019 at 8:00 PM

The Carter Center 667 Waterman Ave, East Providence, RI

$25 General Admission

$15 for student 18 and under or with valid college ID

$10 for RI Philharmonic Students and their family members


4.25.19 NBC 10:  Judith Stillman Previews Upcoming Concert

4.25.19 NBC 10: Judith Stillman Previews Upcoming Concert

Earlier this afternoon, Judith Stillman was featured on the NBC 10 Facebook Live. During her time on the show, she so beautifully shared a piece of her composition. Her show entitled April in Paris with Poulenc, features five RI Philharmonic Orchestra members. These include, flutist Rachel Braude, oboist Denise Plaza-Martin, clarinetist Ian Greitzer, French hornist Kevin Owen, and bassoonist Ronald Haroutunian. The piece is a collaboration among various art institutions. April in Paris is not only a concert but a play as well, in conjunction with visual features for the audience- transforming the performance from a show into an experience. All these aspects aid in portraying the story of the great French composer and pianist, Francis Poulenc.

Click here to view the live stream.

The upcoming concert will be held Saturday, April 27th, 2019, at the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & Music School located at 667 Waterman Ave, East Providence, RI.

Click here to purchase tickets.

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