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Ricky Ian Gordon

OccupationComposer, Lyricist, Performer
CategoriesClassical, Musical

Life and career

Gordon was born in Oceanside, New York and raised on Long Island with his three sisters, Susan, Lorraine and Sheila, by his mother and father, Eve and Sam. His interests growing up ranged from foreign film, (Bergman, Ozu, Truffaut, Resnais, Rohmer, Godard, Antonioni, Fellini, Mizoguchi) to popular music, (Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, Neil Young) to the composers of the twentieth century, (Berg, Bartok, Britten, Weill, Bernstein, Copland, Bartok, Hindemith, Shostakovich, Rorem, Prokofiev, Gershwin, Blitzstein, Messiaen, Tippett, Sondheim) to performance artists and innovative theater creators, (Meredith Monk, Robert Wilson) to painters (Francis Bacon, Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Hopper) to writers, (Gertrude Stein, Jane and Paul Bowles, Flannery O'Connor, William Maxwell, Paul Celan, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker) to playwrights, (Chekov, Williams, O'Neill, Ionesco) and more.
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. Gordon's songs have been performed and/or recorded by such internationally renowned singers as Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Audra McDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Frederica von Stade, Andrea Marcovicci, Harolyn Blackwell, Victoria Clark, and Betty Buckley, among many others. Writing about his songs in The Village Voice, the music critic Leighton Kerner once said, "His songs sometimes swing easily around your ears and sometimes hit you like a mischievous cat with its claws out."

Recent productions

2010: "Sycamore Trees"- By Ricky Ian Gordon, Directed by Tina Landau, Book by Ricky Ian Gordon and Nina Mankin, Sycamore Trees is sponsored by the Shen Family Foundation and is a recipient of the Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award. Featuring Broadway’s Farah Alvin, Marc Kudisch, Judy Kuhn, Jessica Molaskey, Matthew Risch, Diane Sutherland & Tony Yazbeck. "Sycamore Trees is a compelling musical of suburban secrets... Ricky Ian Gordon's deeply personal, strikingly impressionistic new musical, receiving its world premiere at Signature Theatre." Peter Marks, The Washington Post. "If "Sycamore Trees" were simply an autobiographical tribute to Gordon's past, it would have limited force, but it's aimed at the American dream itself, which gives it broader emotional resonance. With his ability to put old ideas about love, unity and community into new post-modern musical settings, full of unconventional tunes and harmonies, Gordon ultimately achieves in "Sycamore Trees" a fresh and stimulating tribute to the thing he seems to cherish most: family -- his, yours, everyone's. " Barbara Mackay, The Washington Examiner
2010: The Grapes of Wrath - A Two Act Concert Version of the Opera with a libretto by Michael Korie, at Carnegie Hall, directed by Eric Simonson with projections by Wendall Harrington and lighting by Francis Aronson. Narrated by Jane Fonda, with a cast that included Victoria Clark, Nathan Gunn, Christine Ebersole, Elizabeth Futral, Matthew Worth, Sean Panikkar, Stephen Powell, Steven Pasquale, Peter Halverson, Andrew Wilkowske, Madelyn Gunn, and Alex Schwartz...with The Collegiate Chorale and The American Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ted Sperling. "It must be said that “The Grapes of Wrath” certainly reached the audience on Monday night. The hall was packed and the ovation tumultuous." The New York Times
2008: "Green Sneakers", an hour-long song cycle for baritone, string quartet, empty chair, and piano (played by the singer), commissioned by Bravo!-Vail Valley Music Festival, and premiered July 15, directed by Jonathan Solari, with baritone Jesse Blumberg, the Miami String Quartet, and projections by Wendall Harrington. In Opera Today, Wes Blomster wrote, "Gordon creates masterpiece in "Green Sneakers"...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 ha

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