Conrad Cummings writes operas, instrumental music, and music for amplified instruments and voices. His work is performed in venues from Carnegie Hall and BAM to alternative clubs Le Poisson Rouge and the Knitting Factory.
Opera productions range from Tonkin, a three-act, grand opera exploration of the Vietnam War, commissioned and premiered by Opera Delaware, to a three-week, Off-Broadway run of the electoral campaign opera Photo-Op by Ridge Theater at New York’s La MaMa. Positions 1956, a self-help opera with Tony-nominated librettist Michael Korie, was commissioned and premiered by Washington, D.C.’s UrbanArias in 2012. Thoroughfare, a theatrical song cycle with Pulitzer-winning librettist Mark Campbell, written for tenor Keith Jameson, was premiered at the National Opera Center in 2014. At the Window, commissioned by the Paul Dresher Electro-Acoustic Ensemble and “avant-diva” Amy X Neuburg, had its premiere at Cal Performances in December 2014.
Recent projects include Extracting DNA From Strawberries for Hai-Ting Chinn’s Off-Off-Broadway multimedia show “Science Fair” at the HERE Arts Center; There and Everywhere for carillon, trombone quartet, and solo viola, commissioned by the North American Guild of Carillonneurs and premiered on Yale’s Harkness Tower carillon; and Lamento Del Barista, a tribute to Monteverdi’s Lamento Della Ninfa, commissioned for the Five Boroughs Music Festival Songbook, premiered at the Baryshnikov Center and scheduled for performance in all five boroughs in the coming season.
Cummings was born and raised in San Francisco, trained at Yale (BA cum laude with departmental honors in music), Stony Brook (MA in composition with honors), and Columbia (DMA in composition), did postdoctoral work at IRCAM in Paris, served as an associate professor at Oberlin Conservatory for 10 years, where he directed the music and media program, and since 2003 has taught composition in the Evening Division.
Honors include selection of The Golden Gate as one of Opera News magazine’s “Best New Operas of the 21st Century,” fellowships to the MacDowell and Djerassi Foundations, and grants from the N.E.A., Opera America, and the Rockefeller Foundation.