Steeped in Guns N' Roses and Philip Glass, Missy Mazzoli is a leading composer of her generation – Washington Post

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For Christmas this year, Missy Mazzoli’s aunt knitted her a black sheep. It was an affectionate gesture. Mazzoli, 37, is one of the top composers of her generation, but to a family of non-musicians in Lansford, Pa., a small town about an hour from Philadelphia, her career seems to have come out of left field. Mazzoli’s early musical predilections ran to the video of “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses (“I was obsessed with the drama of it,” she says). As for fitting in: “My family are all special-ed teachers,” she says, laughing, pleased rather than put off by the gift.

In the new music world, however, Mazzoli is less a black sheep than a sacred cow: an “it” girl of the contemporary scene. Seven or eight years ago, she started making waves with her chamber-ensemble-cum-girl-band, Victoire, a group with a funky alt-classical vibe that she formed as an outlet for performing her own music. Listening to the band’s post-minimalist drones overlaid with expressive spasms of melody in an electronic haze, playing at the Atlas on H Street in 2011, you might not have guessed that Mazzoli’s work was going to veer into the world of mainstream opera. But on Friday, the Washington National Opera will be presenting the world premiere of her third opera, a 70-minute piece called “Proving Up,” and the opera world counts the company lucky to get it.

“Proving Up,” which Mazzoli wrote with the prolific librettist Royce Vavrek, based on a short story by Karen Russell (“Swamplandia”), is the latest entrant in the lists of WNO’s American Opera Initiative commissions. Now in its sixth year, the initiative involves three 20-minute chamber operas (this year’s trio will be performed on Saturday, twice each) and one hour-long work. Though it was envisioned as a

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