As Heartbeat Opera Reaches a Milestone, So Does Its Musical Leader


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For the last decade, Heartbeat Opera has treated the classics like rough drafts: The scores of “Carmen” and “Madama Butterfly,” “Fidelio” and “Der Freischütz” have been starting points for something fresh, urgent and immediate.

In New York, a city with fewer and fewer spaces for opera, Heartbeat sits harmoniously between the Prototype Festival, which stages new music theater at a chamber scale, and the grand tradition of the Metropolitan Opera. Heartbeat draws from the canon but reimagines it with an avant-garde spirit and an eye toward the issues of our time: gun violence, Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo movement.

Performed on intimate stages, the resulting productions smartly elicit strong reactions, whatever those may be. I haven’t liked all of Heartbeat’s shows, but I’ve never walked away with a shrug, and I’ve never regretted going.

Now, in its 10th year, the company is adding something truly new to the mix: a world premiere, “The Extinctionist,” which opened on Wednesday at the Baruch Performing Arts Center as part of Heartbeat’s 2024 repertory season, alongside Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin.”

It’s fitting that “The Extinctionist,” an opera with good bones but a flawed presentation, is composed by Dan Schlosberg. He has been the musical soul of Heartbeat since its founding, adapting works by Puccini, Donizetti and more with a vision as creative as each production’s director.

Schlosberg rehearsing with the company. He leads “The Extinctionist” from the piano.Credit…George Etheredge for The New York Times

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