Ricky Ian Gordon

  • Ricky Ian Gordon was born on May 15, 1956 in Oceanside, NY and raised on Long Island. 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. Mr. Gordon’s songs have been performed and or recorded by such internationally renowned singers as Renee Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Audra MacDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Frederica Von Stade, Andrea Marcovicci, Harolyn Blackwell, and Betty Buckley, among many others.

    Recent productions include Rappahannock County (libretto by Mark Campbell), a fictional song cycle inspired by diaries, letters, and personal accounts from the 1860s. Premiered at the Harrison Opera House in April, 2011, the work was co-commissioned in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War, and a recording on Naxos is set to be released this fall. A two act concert version of The Grapes of Wrath, with a libretto by Michael Korie, was performed at Carnegie Hall in March, 2010, narrated by Jane Fonda. Green Sneakers, a theatrical song cycle for Baritone, String Quartet, and Empty Chair, with a libretto by the composer, premiered in July, 2008, in Vail, Colorado, at the Alberto Vilar Performing Arts Center, when Gordon was Composer-in-Residence at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival. The work has also been recorded on Blue Griffin Recording. The Grapes of Wrath (2007), a full-scale opera in three acts with a libretto by Michael Korie, premiered at the Minnesota Opera in a production that then traveled to Utah Opera and Pittsburgh Opera. Musical America called the work, “The Great American Opera,” and Opera News Magazine described it as one of the “Masterpieces of the 21st Century.” A suite from the opera was premiered at Disney Hall in spring, 2008. The full opera, live from the Minnesota premiere, is now available on a 3 CD set with libretto liner notes on PS Classics. Carl Fischer has published the Vocal Score as well as a folio of arias from the opera. Orpheus and Euridice, an hour-long song cycle in two acts, premiered at Lincoln Center in 2005. Directed and choreographed by Doug Varone and performed by Elizabeth Futral, Soprano, Todd Palmer, Clarinet and Melvin Chen, Piano, it won an OBIE Award and is recorded on Ghostlight Records and published by Carl Fischer Music. The work was given new productions at Long Beach Opera in February, 2008, and Fort Worth Opera in July, 2008.

    Mr. Gordon is currently working on commissions for New York’s Metropolitan Opera with Playwright Lynn Nottage, and a new opera for the 50th anniversary of the Minnesota Opera (based on the novel, The Garden of the Finzi Continis) with librettist Michael Korie.

    As a teacher, Mr. Gordon has taught both master classes and composition classes in colleges and universities throughout the country including Yale, NYU, Northwestern, Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, Catholic, Bennington, Vassar, Carnegie-Mellon, Elon, Michigan State, University of Michigan, Point Park (McGinnis Distinguished Lecturer) and San Francisco Conservatory. He has been the featured Composer-in Residence at various festivals, including the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, Songfest at Pepperdine University, Chatauqua, Aspen Music Festival, and Ravinia.

    Among his 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.

  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
    PL122 Piano Collection
    Music for Solo Piano and Piano, Four Hands
    Voice and Piano
    411-41142 27
    An Opera In Five Acts
    1:30:00 Opera without Chorus
    111-40243 Antarctica
    Harper’s Act III Monologue From “Angels In America”
    5:00 Soprano, Piano
    411-41133 Autumn Valentine
    A Suite of Songs and Duets for Soprano and Baritone
    40:00 Voice with Piano
    111-40230 and flowers pick themselves
    5 Songs for High Voice and Orchestra on poems by e.e. cummings
    21:00 Voice with Piano
    VS5 The Grapes Of Wrath
    An Opera In Three Acts
    190′ Voice, Piano
    VF19 The Grapes Of Wrath Solo Aria Collection
    16 Aria Excerpts From The Opera The Grapes Of Wrath
    Voice with Piano
    411-41120 Green Sneakers
    For Baritone and String Quartet
    1:00:00 Voice, Piano
    411-41158 The House Without a Christmas Tree
    A new opera based on the beloved holiday classic by Gail Rock
    1:20:00 Voice with Piano
    VF15 Late Afternoon
    Six Songs for Mezzo Soprano
    24′ Voice with Piano
    411-41145 Morning Star
    An Opera In Two Acts
    2:30:00 Voice with Piano
    111-40236 Night Flight To San Francisco
    Harper’s Monologue From “Angels In America”
    10:00 Voice, Piano
    411-41131 Rappahannock County
    A Theatrical Song Cycle About The Civil War
    1:25:00 Voice, Piano
    VF11 Songs Of Our Time
    14 Songs Set to Poems by Contemporary Poets
    Voice with Piano
    411-41140 The Tibetan Book Of The Dead
    The Great Liberation Through Hearing
    1:37:00 Voice, Piano
    VF17 Too Few The Mornings Be
    Eleven Songs for Soprano and Piano
    23′ Soprano, Piano
    Voice and Instrument(s)
    21682 Autumn Valentine Suite
    40:00 Solo Sop., Solo Bar.; Fl. Cl. Tbn. Pno. Vcl. Perc.
    411-41121 Green Sneakers
    For Baritone and String Quartet
    1:00:00 Voice and Instrument
    17377 Green Sneakers
    For Baritone and String Quartet
    1:00:00 Solo Bar.; 2Vln. Vla. Vcl.
    VS3 Orpheus and Euridice
    A Song Cycle In Two Acts for Soprano, Clarinet In Bb and Piano
    60′ Voice and Instrument
    20497 Orpheus and Euridice
    Version for Clarinet and String Quintet (or String Orchestra) accompaniment
    1:00:00 Sop. Clr. Pno. Str.
    Voice and Orchestra
    21655 And Flowers Pick Themselves
    5 Songs for High Voice and Orchestra on poems by e.e. cummings
    21:00 Solo High Vx.; 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Hp. Str.
    20496 The Grapes of Wrath (Concert Version)
    2:10:00 2(dbl. Picc.) 2(dbl.E.H.) 2(dbl.B.Cl., Eb Cl.) 2(dbl.Cbsn.) A.Sax. T.Sax.(dbl.Bar.Sax.) – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 2Perc. Synth. Hp. Harmonica. Gtr. Str.
    21652 Night Flight to San Francisco
    Harper’s Monologue from “Angels in America”
    10:00 Solo Sop.; 2(Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 2(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
    20498 Suite from “Grapes of Wrath”
    For Chorus and Orchestra
    1:00:00 2(Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2(Eb Cl./B.Cl) 2(Cbsn.) A.Sax. T.Sax. – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. Perc. Gtr. Harmonica. Synth. Hp. Str.
    23403 27
    An Opera in Five Acts
    1:35:00 2(2nd dbl. Picc.) 2(2nd dbl. E.H.) 2 2(2nd dbl. Cbsn.) AltoSax.; 2 2 2(2nd = B.Tbn.) 0; Timp. 2Perc. Hp. Pno. Str. (
    20495 The Grapes of Wrath
    Opera in Three Acts after the novel by John Steinbeck
    3:10:00 2 2 2 2 A.Sax. T.Sax – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. Perc. Synth. Hp. Harmonica. Gtr. Str.
    23632 The Grapes of Wrath
    An Opera in Two Acts after the novel by John Steinbeck (2015 Version)
    2:40:00 2(2nd dbl. Picc.) 2(2nd dbl. E.H.) 2(1st db. Eb Cl.; 2nd dbl. B.Cl.) 2(2nd dbl. Cbsn.) A.Sax.(dbl. S.Sax, Bar.Sax.) – 2 2 3(B.Tbn.) 0; Timp. 2Perc. Hp. Pno.(dbl. Cel.) Guit.(dbl. Banjo) Str.
    23636 The House Without a Christmas Tree
    An Opera Based on the Beloved Holiday Classic by Gail Rock
    1:30:00 1(dbl. Picc.) 1(dbl. E.H.) 2(2 dbl. B.Cl.) 1(dbl. Cbsn.) – 2 1 1 0; 1Perc. Pno. Hp. Str. (
    23514 Morning Star
    An Opera in Two Acts
    2:30:00 2(2 dbl. Picc.) 1(dbl. E.H.) 3(3=B.Cl., dbl. Cl.) – 2 2 2(B.Tbn.) 0; Timp. 2Perc. Pno/Cel. Str. (
    23629 Morning Star
    An Opera in Two Acts (Reduced Orchestration)
    21718 Rappahannock County
    A Theatrical Song Cycle about the Civil War
    1:25:00 1(d.Picc.) 1(d.E.H.) 2(d.B.Cl.) 1 – 1 1(d.Flglhn.) 1 0; Timp. Perc. Pno.(d.Cel.) Str.
    17455 The Tibetan Book of the Dead
    (The Great Liberation Through Hearing), an opera
    1:45:00 Fl.(dbl. Picc.) Cl.(dbl.B.Cl.) Hn. Tpt. 3Perc. Pno. Hp. Vln. Vcl. Cb.
    CM9154 Dios Te Salve
    From The Opera ‘The Grapes Of Wrath’
    4:15 SA
    CM9122 Prayer
    7:30 SATB

  • 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.
    –Stephen Holden , New York Times

    Gordon’s works crystallized the fundamental definition of opera – dramma per musica – as ancient as a lyre player trying to rescue his betrothed from Hades, as timely as the deeply personal loss of a partner from AIDS.
    –Michael Huebner, artsBHAM

    Gordon has a gift for writing concise, clear melodies, accentuating a conversational lyricism that has as much in common with the worlds of Broadway and pop as it does with art song. Yet there’s mysticism in Gordon’s chordal textures and shifting harmonic progressions, which imbues the music with complexity without alienating the listener.
    –Daniel J. Kushner, Opera News

    “27” is a triumph for Gordon and Vavrek and a tour-de-force for all of the performers.
    –Bruce-Michael Gelbert, Q On Stage

    …a playful, quick-witted libretto that pushed Mr. Gordon beyond his trademark melodies into a brighter, friskier style.
    –Heidi Waleson, Wall Street Journal

    Balancing humor and the serious questions of human existence is a tricky business … Composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist Royce Vavrek … make members of the audience laugh, then force us to consider matters of life and death.
    –St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    …a taut, witty and affecting new piece of lyric theatre.
    –James Sohre, Opera Today

    This year’s fresh face in the repertoire is called 27 and like its title, the work is short; just 91 minutes first note to last. Other defining details: Five singers only, no chorus, in English, and entirely pleasurable. … Gordon continues the trend of synthesizing two forms that battled it out in the last century, classical and popular, and makes a stand that they can coexist. Rewriting European history with a charismatic, new world touch — that’s once and forever American.
    –Ray Mark Rinaldi, Denver Post

    …marvelously grateful to the voice … the melodies are sweet..
    –Paul Horsley, Classical Voice North America

    …compelling… A Coffin in Egypts is a first-rate star vehicle for a first-rate stage performer.
    –Adam Castaneda, blogs.houstonpress.com

    Although A Coffin in Egypt is technically a chamber opera, this stunning new work by composer Rick Ian Gordon also deserves the additional modifier of ‘Grand,’ for there is nothing small about it except for the forces required to perform it. Gordon’s natural-born understanding of how music works for the stage is readily apparent throughout. …an unqualified success that has a solid future in the operatic repertoire. Von Stade does a magnificent job of creating the character of Myrtle Bledsoe, but you can already see the line of mezzo’s forming to have a chance to bring their own unique abilities to what has to be numbered among the juciest roles ever written for the voice range.
    –Gregory Sullivan Isaacs, Theater Jones

    Over the past decade or so, I’ve seen new operas based on history, literature and contemporary life; A Coffin in Egypt … is the most compelling of the lot. …musical and emotional richness.
    –Steven Brown, Houston Chronicle

    Ricky Ian Gordon’s music has depth and substance, and he managed the difficult task of communicating Miss Parker’s complicated emotions while not obscuring the clarity of her words. One hearing does not do his music justice.
    –Kyle Macmillan, Omaha World Herald

    Gordon’s songs were richly varied in soaring lyricism and inventive humor.
    –Robert G. Ruetz, Opera News

    Gordon’s music seemed perfectly matched to Parker’s sarcasm and quicksilver mood swings…there was a freshness and originality…one of Gordon’s 11 songs, “Lullaby,” was stunning.
    –Jeff Bradley , Denver Post

    That Mr. Gordon’s compositions did not jar alongside an odd Gershwin or Porter tune is high praise. His “Lullaby,” was especially delightful, using metrical and rhythmic complexity to achieve a mellow relaxation.
    –James R. Oestreich, New York Times

    Gordon Creates Masterpiece With “Green Sneakers” [headline]
    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 [baritone Jesse] Blumberg… 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.

    –Opera Today

    A modern opera about one man and his grief, “Green Sneakers” resonates with its raw emotion. …This piece provides a sense of the individual that could speak to most anyone.
    –Russ Bickerstaff, ExpressMilwaukee.com

    …anyone who has lost a loved one to any illness can relate to “Green Sneakers.” Gordon’s heartfelt writing has no political tilt. It simply pours out of the feelings of love lost and the regrets that came along the way. … The music is flowing and unbalanced, just like life itself. It fit perfectly with the story being told.
    –Curt Yorkey , Third Coast Digest

    Gordon has a unique language. And he is extremely skilled, in that, his language can speak to you on any level and move you on one or more of them. Gordon knew instinctively how to have the quartet music go directly to your gut with or even without the need to relate to the staged poetry. Gordon also gives you the opportunity to relate to the music through the mind as the music is extremely expressive and can easily conjure up visual images. And there lies, for me, the true greatness of the work: all those levels and all those ways to experience it.
    –Barry Plaxen , The Catskill Chronicle

    It is a production that peers into the very soul, leaving behind a transformed and uplifted audience with each live performance.
    –Jase Peeples, Advocate.com

    [“Orpheus and Euridice” and “Green Sneakers”] were similar in dealing with the same theme of greiving for the loss of loved ones, with an emphasis on music as a means of grieving and healing…Both works moved toward a common message, the role art can play reaching acceptance of deep loss. 
    –David Hendricks, blog.mysanantonio.com

    An Opera in Two Acts
    […] tragic …deeply moving… [an] intensely human work, rich… [with a] many-faceted score.
    –George Grella, Eric C. Simpson and David Wright, New York Classical Review

    Harper’s Monologue from “Angels in America”
    …richly orchestrated…
    –David Hendricks, San Antonio Express-News

    …the freshest moment of the evening.
    –Ray Mark Rinaldi, The Denver Post

    …tuneful and poignant. … There’s little not to like about “Orpheus.” … this piece is set to a mood of delicate nostalgia: It limns the growth of love and anguish of loss as if it were a small flower that buds, opens, is plucked at its acme and pressed into a papery simulacrum of itself.
    –Anne Midgette, Washington Post

    Experiencing renegade opera and contemporary dance in a cemetery actually made what would be a gloomy environment, incredibly magical. … While this show was stocked with talent, a beautifully told love story, it was mostly about the experience. Don’t like opera? Who cares…go for the experience.

    [The] underworld was located in Allegheny Cemetery in Lawrenceville. I was there to see Orpheus guide his love, Euridice, out of a poetic hell in Opera Theater of Pittsburgh’s masterful collaboration with Attach Theatre, Ricky Ian Gordon’s “Euridice & Orpheus.” …I can’t imagine that there would be a better spot than this for the classic Greek myth. … This was an evening to reflect, enjoy and embrace art in an uncommonly artistic setting.
    –Jane Vranish, Pittsburgh Cross Currents

    With gravestones, mausoleums and monuments stretching out in all directions, a single clarinetist strolled, playing a mournful melody. And with that, a most remarkable operatic event began in a most unusual setting: Allegheny Cemetery. … “Orpheus” is intimate, about a couple, and updated. It would have been a joy just to hear the gifted composer (and librettist here) in another genre. … But Opera Theater director Jonathan Eaton…brought the two sides together in a production that was both personal and epic. It started with the location – by the lake in the cemetery – and came to full fruition by his expanding the story to include dancers to portray the characters. … What could have been gimmicky in the hands of lesser artists was an experience that many will remember.
    –Andrew Druckenbrod, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    One of the year’s most moving theatrical events in any genre.
    –OBIE Award Citation,

    Ricky Ian Gordon’s “Orpheus and Euridice” is so intimate and private that one almost feels intrusive commenting on it. … 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.
    –Peter G. Davis, New York Magazine

    …Ricky Ian Gordon’s “Orpheus and Euridice,” was an outstanding evening of theatre and demonstrated unequivocally how powerful opera can be as a crossover art form.
    –Susan Galbraith, Dctheatrescene.com

    …gloriously stunning, heartbreaking and altogether brilliant… Ricky Ian Gordon’s music and simple text beautifully condense this timeless story into a 70 minute opera for soprano and clarinet that is effective in every way. I cannot recommend this more highly.
    –David Zak, Chicago Stage Standard

    [“Orpheus and Euridice” and “Green Sneakers”] were similar in dealing with the same theme of greiving for the loss of loved ones, with an emphasis on music as a means of grieving and healing…Both works moved toward a common message, the role art can play reaching acceptance of deep loss. 
    –David Hendricks, blog.mysanantonio.com

    …a remarkably unified work … a gut reminder of the timelessness of this ancient myth and its message about the fragility of trust.
    –Joan Reinthaler, The Washington Post

    Music for Solo Piano and Piano, Four Hands
    …hidden treasure. …a collection of highly characteristic pieces that combine Gordon’s unique musical language, innate feel for melodic lines and an intimate knowledge of the instrument.
    –Press Representative, New Arts Guild

    A Theatrical Song Cycle about the Civil War
    …pretty awesome. It definitely helped me gain perspective that I don’t think I could have found in a book or a battlefield.
    –Phil Williams, RVANews.com

    The piece has the sense of a lens closing in on a spectrum of individuals and their feelings around slavery and morality in a profound and poignant way … The acclaim accorded “Rappahannock County” by the 2,200 people who packed Norfolk’s Harrison Opera House for the premiere made clear that Gordon and Campbell had achieved their goal.
    –Wes Blomster, Opera Today

    Campbell and Gordon have done a masterful job … the specific Virginia setting is incidental to the universal theme of war’s loss and hope, which is nowhere expressed better than in the finale, “Spring Will Return Again/Rappahannock”.
    –Martha Steger, Style Weekly

    …thoroughly professional, often moving and occasionally funny … Don’t be surprised if it becomes a programming favorite, especially in concert formats, among American symphony orchestras for decades to come.
    –Roy Proctor, Richmond Times-Dispatch

    …highly entertaining… Mood and emotion run the gamut throughout the work and are dynamically paired by Gordon and Campbell. The lyrical content is honest and true to the times, though with hints of contemporary viewpoint. … [Gordon and Campbell] proved to be outstanding collaborators for what is likely to be considered one of the best musical theatre works of 2011.
    –Jeff Maisey , VEER Magazine

    Opera in Three Acts after the novel by John Steinbeck
    Gordon’s lyrical gift shines through every page of the score. … No wonder audiences erupt in cheers at the end.
    –John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

    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…
    –Alex Ross, The New Yorker

    …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.
    –Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

    …a stirring, crowd-pleasing work that left the Carnegie Hall audience cheering on its feet. …on the whole Gordon and his librettist Michael Korie have created a major new American opera, one that is likely to stand the test of time.
    –Eric Myers, Opera Magazine

    It must be said that “The Grapes of Wrath” certainly reached the audience on Monday night. The hall was packed and the ovation tumultuous.
    –New York Times

    Opera in Two Acts
    …packed as big an emotional punch as any opera I have ever experienced. … [Gordon’s] music has a very American feel that is altogether appropriate for the somber subject matter – and sorely needed in the world of opera.
    –Santosh Venkataraman, OperaWire

    …rich in human characterization and detail, and expressed in an enchanting, emotional musical language, with a poetic, vernacular libretto…”The Grapes of Wrath” stands at the pinnacle of the new canon of American operas…
    –Eric A. Gordon, People’s World

    In all aspects, it is outstanding … Michael Korie’s libretto is sustained free verse, a treatment of the American vernacular, as sensitive and authentic as I’ve ever heard outside my native American South. Ricky Gordon’s music is an Ozark stream in the springtime, full of energy, muddy here, turbulent there, calm and sweet in crystalline pools that refresh the soul, but dangerous and deadly on the loose.
    –Robert W. Duffy, St. Louis Magazine

    I have never in my life been more emotionally moved by an opera than by this glorious production. … this current version is a work of remarkable beauty and power.
    –Steve Callahan, Broadway World

    “Grapes” packs a dramatic punch, and pleases harmonically. Gordon’s score, grateful to the voice, explores almost every thread of musical style from the era it depicts. This is a version that should have wide acceptance, particularly from smaller opera companies.
    –Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    …[a] soul-warming recipe of mittens, snowball fights, caroling, secret Santa gift exchanges, friends, family, and love…just the thing, really, to usher in cheer.
    …[Vavrek’s] libretto is simple and straightforward…the unguarded style soars in Gordon’s arias…

    –Sydney Boyd, Houstonia Magazine

    Gordon’s melodic, tonal score…fall[s] easily on the ears, often bringing to mind the late operas of Richard Strauss in its naturalistic setting of Vavrek’s dialogue… The pleasing score, congenial vocal demands and modest scale of “The House Without a Christmas Tree” give it a good shot at achieving staying power, attractive to professional opera companies of all sizes and to conservatories and universities.
    –Eric Skelly, Houston Chronicle

    The Great Liberation Through Hearing
    A succinct one-act piece… Gordon has written tuneful things that range through blues and gentle rock, cowboy rhythms and pop. The final chord-unresolved-provides a glimpse of eternity- one of the memorable things in this score.
    –Daniel Webster, Philadelphia Inquirer

    Gordon could write glorious music to the telephone directory if he wanted to… the music soars, and we’re reminded of just how magnificent Gordon’s music can be. A major piece of new music.
    –Cary Mazer, Philadelphia City Paper

    Gordon’s music is an eclectic, colorful and sassy stew of American pop, modernism and post-Puccini lyricism- a rhythm and blues torch song one minute, a sinister rendering of the nursery rhyme “This Old Man” the next. But it all meshes. The score surprises at every turn, but it never jolts. Moreover, Gordon draws a huge range of color and texture from his 11 instrumentalists… Gordon is a superb composer of songs-soprano Camellia Johnson closed her San Antonio recital last year with a magical Gordon set- and his vocal lines in this opera are unfailingly lyrical, sensuous and comfortable on the voice. When the dead woman finally sings-she soars in an aria of grand breadth and freedom.
    –Mike Greenberg, San Antonio Express-News

    It’s a requiem that takes into account rebirth, which composer Ricky Ian Gordon handles with a litheness, occasional sly humor and an artistry that announces a creative rite of passage. Though highly melodic, the score has few traditional tuneful hooks, preferring to create a continuous musical organism that has many of the mercurial qualities of Olivier Messiaen. The music goes whatever direction it’s needed with a harmonic freedom and purposefulness… you’re aware of having taken an important musical journey.
    –David Patrick Stearns, USA Today

    Music serves innumerable functions. It allows us to weep, to rejoice, to mourn, to celebrate. Or, in the case of Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Tibetan Book of the Dead, a liberation through hearing, to exorcise demons. At its Houston premiere, the cathartic impulse and function of the work resonated radiantly. …it revealed to Houstonians a composer with a facile but compelling gift for song. His opera was, to me, another exciting moment in the accelerating emergence of a collective American style of art music rooted equally in the country’s vernacular and cultivated traditions. … Gordon is a gifted composer. His opera contained several regally radiant songs- extended works that are a new format drawing from the sophisticated Broadway style of, say Stephen Sondheim, and the traditional aria form of opera. … The entire work cosseted feelings. The musical accompaniment was felicitous. … Gordon’s style was distinctive.
    –Charles Ward, Houston Chronicle

    Ricky Ian Gordon is best known as a composer of songs that are singable in cabarets, on concert stages, just about anywhere. He treats words-weather by Emily Dickinson or Langston Hughes-with tender loving care, wit, and once in a while, sass, but I can’t remember a saccharine or maudlin tune from him. All of which made him the right man to make an opera out of Jean Claude Van Itallie’s 1983 ritual-play The Tibetan Book of the Dead or How Not To Do It Again. Gordon, who used a composer’s prerogative and raised the ante of the subtitle by changing it to the more music evoking a liberation through hearing. … It’s emotional Honesty and increasingly affecting score will win lots of admirers. … Gordon’s ease with tonal tunes and harmonies stood up nicely against his shrewdly placed spikes of dissonance.
    –Leighton Kerner, The Village Voice

    Gordon’s music has potency and power and is especially notable for the sympathetic and incisive support of the text. His score is accessible, even breezy at times, and yet always responsive to the words. Gordon is not hesitant to use vernacular, even pop music idioms in adding additional texture and clarity to the meaning of the text. There are also passages of surpassing beauty…
    –Brian Caffall, Philadelphia Gay News

    Ricky Ian Gordon writes in the idiom most common among contemporary composers: eclecticism. This approach has the obvious advantage of freeing the artist from a stylistic straitjacket, but also carries the considerable risk of producing work that is meandering and formless. Gordon avoids that pitfall in “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” by stringing together spacious melodies, jazzy riffs, Stravinsky-like neo-classicism and even a bit of the blues within a unifying tonal landscape. … The most compelling aspect of Gordon’s music is his boldly colorful orchestration. More than a third of the pit orchestra consisted of percussion instruments, including xylophone, glockenspiel, timpani, snare, cymbals, tambourines, wood blocks, and gourds. A small string section, horn, trumpet, flute, clarinet, piano, and harp completed the lively ensemble. Gordon’s ability to balance this unusual combination of timbres is masterful. His sound is never overtly percussive, but fluidly adjusted for the theatrical needs of the opera. Gordon uses a somber kind of lushness as well as a glittery brightness to reflect corresponding dramatic elements in the libretto.
    –Peter Burwasser, Philadelphia City Paper

    …thought-provoking, a meditation that ranges from forbidding to optimistic […] [and] leaves the audience with plenty to ponder: a heartfelt reflection on death as a vital part of life […] a rewarding and important entry in the contemporary operatic repertoire.
    –Daniel J. Kushner, Rochester City Newspaper

    Gordon brilliantly imbues the confessional tone of Dickinson’s words with warmth and approachability. […] reverberates with sincerity in its poignant take on death. A highlight of the cycle is “Will There Really Be a Morning?”
    –Daniel J. Kushner, Opera News

    …a stunning collection of Gordon’s settings of poems by Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath.
    –Barry Bassis, The Epoch Times

    Gordon’s songs resonate most strongly when interpreted with clear-voiced optimism and resolve, qualities that Zetlan possesses unequivocally. Her bright, shimmering timbre seems to propel the songs forward, as Gordon accompanies her on the piano with conviction and sensitivity to the nuances of the singer’s phrasing and pacing. […] Your Clear Eye boasts exceptionally beautiful music, and Zetlan’s steadfast, empathic approach to Gordon’s songs makes for listening that’s engaging and mesmerizing.
    –Daniel J. Kushner, Opera News

  • The House Without a Christmas Tree THE HOUSE WITHOUT A CHRISTMAS TREE
    Pentatone (PTC 5186697 ); September 21, 2018
    Performer(s): Houston Grand Opera, Bradley Moore, director
    Work(s): The House Without a Christmas Tree
    There's a Place for Us THERE’S A PLACE FOR US
    Deutsche Grammophon (4835004); August 24, 2018
    Performer(s): Nadine Sierra, soprano; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Robert Spano, conductor
    Work(s): Will There Really Be a Morning?
    27 27
    Albany Records (TROY1549-50); February 1, 2015
    Performer(s): Opera Theatre of St. Louis; Stephanie Blythe, Elizabeth Futral, Theo Lebow, Tobias Greenhalgh, Daniel Brevik; Michael Christie, conductor
    Work(s): 27
    Rappahannock County RAPPAHANNOCK COUNTY
    Naxos (8.669028-29); April 1, 2013
    Performer(s): Mark Walters, baritone; Faith Sherman, mezzo-soprano; Matthew Tuell, tenor; Kevin Moreno, baritone; Aundi Marie Moore, soprano; Virginia Arts Festival Orchestra, Rob Fisher, conductor
    Work(s): Rappahannock County
    Silver Rain - Songs of Ricky Ian Gordon SILVER RAIN – SONGS OF RICKY IAN GORDON
    Blue Griffin Recording (BGR253); September 11, 2012
    Performer(s): Nicole Cabell, soprano; Ricky Ian Gordon, piano
    Work(s): Dreams/Feet o’ Jesus
    Piano Music of Ricky Ian Gordon PIANO MUSIC OF RICKY IAN GORDON
    Blue Griffin Recording (BGR223); May 10, 2011
    Performer(s): John Nauman, piano
    Work(s): Piano Collection
    Green Sneakers GREEN SNEAKERS
    Blue Griffin Recording (BGR207); January 12, 2010
    Performer(s): Jesse Blumberg, baritone; Miami String Quartet
    Work(s): Green Sneakers
    and flowers pick themselves - Songs of Ricky Ian Gordon AND FLOWERS PICK THEMSELVES – SONGS OF RICKY IAN GORDON
    Blue Griffin Recording (BGR187); December 9, 2008
    Performer(s): Melanie Helton, soprano; Ricky Ian Gordon, piano; Michigan State Univeristy Symphony Orhestra, Raphael Jimenez, conductor
    Work(s): and flowers pick themselves…
    The Grapes of Wrath THE GRAPES OF WRATH
    PS Classics (866); August 26, 2008
    Performer(s): Minnesota Opera
    Work(s): The Grapes of Wrath
    Orpheus and Euridice ORPHEUS AND EURIDICE
    Ghostlight Records (84417); January 23, 2007
    Performer(s): Elizabeth Futral, soprano, Todd Palmer, clarinet, Melvin Chen, piano
    Work(s): Orpheus and Euridice

  • 2006: OBIE Award (Orpheus and Euridice)
    2003: Alumni Merit Award for exceptional achievement and leadership from Carnegie-Mellon University
    Shen Family Foundation Award
    Stephen Sondheim Award
    The Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Theater Foundation Award
    The Constance Klinsky Award

  • 27
    An Opera in Five Acts
    (Acts I-II)
    An Opera in Five Acts
    (Acts III-V)
    Morning Star
    An Opera in Two Acts
    (Act I)
    Morning Star
    An Opera in Two Acts
    (Act II)
    Night Flight to San Francisco
    Harper’s Monologue from “Angels in America” for Soprano and Orchestra
    Rappahannock County
    A Theatrical Song Cycle about the Civil War
    The Grapes of Wrath
    An Opera in Three Acts
    (Act I)
    The Grapes of Wrath
    An Opera in Three Acts
    (Act II)
    The Grapes of Wrath
    An Opera in Three Acts
    (Act III)
    The Grapes of Wrath
    An Opera in Two Acts
    (Act I)
    The Grapes of Wrath
    An Opera in Two Acts
    (Act II)
    The House without a Christmas Tree
    A New Opera Based on the Beloved Holiday Classic by Gail Rock
    The Tibetan Book of the Dead (Part I)
    (The Great Liberation Through Hearing) An Opera
    The Tibetan Book of the Dead (Part II)
    (The Great Liberation Through Hearing) An Opera