Album Review: PROVING UP (Missy Mazzoli & Royce Vavrek)

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by Eve Meadows on August 22, 2020

in CD-DVD,Music


The debut recording of Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek’s acclaimed 2018 chamber opera, Proving Up, is available starting today on Pentatone. The 80-minute album features the original Opera Omaha cast recording of director James Darrah’s production, as premiered in the company’s first annual ONE Festival in April 2018, with the amazing Christopher Rountree (of Wild Up fame) conducting. The piece is Mazzoli’s third operatic collaboration with Vavrek, and is adapted from an eponymous, surreal short story by Karen Russell that follows a post-Civil War family’s grueling pursuit of the American Dream during Nebraska’s land rush. Co-commissioned by the Washington National Opera, by Opera Omaha, and by Miller Theatre at Columbia University and first produced at the Kennedy Center during the 2017-18 Season.

“Brooding on the impossibility of the American dream, Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek’s tense, creepy new opera shows the fracturing of a homestead family suffering on the brutal Nebraska plains. The setting is the middle of the 19th century, but the lessons — about prosperity, virility, patriotism and cycles of violence — are crushingly contemporry. And Ms. Mazzoli’s score, for just a dozen or so players, is a landscape of shimmering aridity.” — The New York Times

available at Amazon or Pentatone



1.    Prologue (Uncle Sam’s Farm)
2.    Part I: The Settler’s Scar
3.    Part II: Miles Will Prove Up
4.    Part III: How Pa Obtained the Glass
5.    Part IV: Strange Dreams
6.    Part V: Nore at a Soft Canter
7.    Part VI: Sodbuster
8.    Epilogue (All That’s Required)

Total playing time: 79.48

Proving Up (2018)
composed by Missy Mazzoli
to a libretto by Royce Vavrek
after the short story by Karen Russell
released on August 22, 2020
available at

Miles Zegner Michael Slattery (tenor)
Mr. Johannes “Pa” Zegner John Moore (baritone)
Mrs. Johannes “Ma” Zegner Talise Trevigne (soprano) 
Taller Zegner Daughter Abigail Nims (mezzo-soprano)
Littler Zegner Daughter Cree Carrico (soprano)
The Sodbuster Andrew Harris (bass)

International Contemporary Ensemble:
Flute & Piccolo Isabel Lepanto Gleiche

Clarinet & Bass Clarinet Curt Miller
Bassoon & Contrabassoon Rebekah Heller
Trumpet Sam Jones
French Horn Rachel Drehmann
Harp Nuiko Wadden
Piano & Harpsichord Karl Larson
Percussion Clara Warnaar
Violin I Leah Asher
Violin II Marina Kifferstein
Viola Wendy Richman
Cello Katinka Kleijn
Double Bass Brian Ellingsen
Conducted by Christopher Rountree

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