The Opposable Thumb (in development)



The Opposable Thumb is a new opera about a young woman determined to escape the mayhem that descends upon a zoo when war strikes. Based on various true accounts of the last two hundred years, this fascinating work questions whether mankind is superior to the animals that are contained behind the bars of the zoo’s cages, or just  another ape with an opposable thumb, and a trigger pulling finger.

Commissioned by American Lyric Theater
Lawrence Edelson, Producing Artistic Director

Developed under the auspices of the Composer Librettist Development Program


Eva - mezzo soprano
Greta - soprano
Pilot - tenor
Old Soldier - baritone
Hagenbeck - bass
Young Soldier - countertenor

Monkey - soprano
Ibis - mezzo
Chameleon - soprano
Hyena - very high soprano
Lion - contralto
Rhino – mezzo soprano

ORCHESTRA (12 Musicians): fl, ob, cl, bsn, tpt, perc, hp, 2 vlns, vla, vc, db

Duration: TBD


Commission: Summer 2018

Libretto Workshop & Reading: March 2019
Public reading part of the The Living Libretto series

Piano/Vocal Workshop & Public Concert: January 2020
Public reading part of the InsightALT series \

LICENSING: ALT is seeking Co-producers for a World Premiere Consortium



(Credit: Eleonore Simon)

Described as "particularly evocative," "fluid and theatrical... the music [that] makes its case with immediacy" (The Arts Fuse) as well as both "assertive and steely," and "lovely, subtle writing" (Kozinn, Wall Street Journal) music by the award-winning composer and pianist LILIYA UGAY has been performed in many countries around the globe. Recipient of a 2016 Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a 2017 Horatio Parker Memorial prize from the Yale School of Music, Liliya has collaborated with the Nashville Symphony, Albany Symphony, New England Philharmonic, Yale Philharmonia, Raleigh Civic Symphony, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Molinari Quartet, Antico Moderno, Omnibus ensemble, and Paul Neubauer among others. Her music has been featured at the Aspen, American Composers, New York Electroacoustic Music, June in Buffalo, and Darmstadt New Music festivals, as well as the 52nd Venice Biennale. Liliya has received numerous competition prizes as a composer and pianist including the Edward Grieg International Composition Competition (Oslo), Pre-Art International Composition Competition (Zurich), International piano competition Verfemte Musik (Schwerin, Germany), International competition for young composers under the Union of Composers of Russia/Moscow Conservatory, and the International competition of Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Born in the USSR in what is a modern-day Uzbekistan in a Russian-Korean musical family, Liliya combines elements of various cultures in her works while prioritizing harmonic clarity, structural complexity, and dramatic completeness. Liliya came to the US as a Woodruff scholarship recipient to study piano with Alexander Kobrin at the Columbus State University. She received her MM in composition at the Yale School of Music, and is currently a Doctor of Musical Arts candidate and Teaching Fellow at Yale, where she studies with Aaron Jay Kernis, Martin Bresnick, Christopher Theofanidis, and David Lang.

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JULIAN CROUCH is a Brooklyn-based independent director, designer, writer, maker, teacher, illustrator and musician, whose career has spanned theatre, opera, ballet, film and television. Initially a mask and puppet maker, in the mid- 1990’s Julian co-founded London’s Improbable Theatre Company. Improbable’s productions, which included Animo70 Hill LaneLifegameSpiritStickyThe Hanging ManThe Wolves in The Walls, and Panic, have gained far-reaching national and international recognition. His final production for Improbable, which he conceived, directed and designed, was The Devil And Mister Punch. Julian co-created, co-directed and designed the multi-award winning Shockheaded Peter. His opera work has included set design and associate direction for Satyagraha for the ENO and The Met Opera, and creating The Enchanted IslandDoctor Atomic and staging the 125th Gala for the Met. Other major projects include Jerry Springer: The Opera and A Funny Thing Happened on The Way To The Forum for the National Theatre, The Magic Flute for the Welsh National Opera and Cinderella for the Dutch National and San Francisco Ballets. On Broadway Julian designed The Addams Family Musical and Big Fish. Most recently Julian co-directed, co-composed and designed Jedermann for the Salzburg Festival. His recent set design for Hedwig And the Angry Inch on Broadway earned him a Tony Nomination. He recently designed The Nutcracker for Christopher Wheeldon and The Joffrey Ballet, co-directed and designed King Arthur for the Berlin Staatsoper. He was also Director and Designer for the Met Opera's 50 Years of The Met at Lincoln Center Gala. Other recent projects include designing Hansel and Gretel and Ernani for La Scala Opera, Milan, Nico Muhly's Marnie for the English National Opera and the Met, and The Barber Of Seville for the Dutch National Opera. He has illustrated 2 books - Jedermann, and Maggot Moon.