I’m a soprano, experimental vocal composer, new music and new opera vocal artist, director, writer, and media/visual artist.
I create experimental voice pieces, and invent and perform solo and collaborative contemporary postopera and new music works. My projects blossom in many forms: live performance, audio projects, video works, site specific / installation performances, visual art works, and writings.
I write poetry inspired by reimagining myth and fairytale, and I transform my writing into the lyrics and libretti I sing— sometimes composers set my words and sometimes I compose works for my own voice.
I love the power and depth of classical vocal technique combined with the possibilities of experimental singing and improvisation. There’s a unique focus and dynamic intensity to the classical sound: from a spider-silk tone thread spinning on silence to a shimmering and cascading wail— the sound emerges from a deeply physical place. Experimental vocal work uses all my vocal skills to discover something new and uncharted.
I make my home in Houston, Texas, but I’ve plane-hopped quite a lot. I’ve been from Beijing to Brunei and Bangkok to Berlin, but I’m most in love with isolated and wild places like Vancouver Island, Isle of Skye, and The Orkney Islands.
Everything is a-glimmer there: the elementals of land and sky and sun and wind and waves meet with an extraordinary energy. It’s a threshold land opening to an underworld-otherworld, a place to mine and wonder about dream images and explore reinventions of epic feminine heroines and antiheroines.
Recent projects include Anecdote of the Spirit, an experimental, contemplative work created with double bassist Thomas Helton for the Rothko Chapel; and Threshold, a site specific dramatic, experimental postopera inspired by the ancient Greek Eleusinian Mysteries created for the cavernous and iconic Silos at Sawyer Yards in Houston.
Upcoming projects: The Lighthouse, a collaborative opera project with composer Brent Fariss; the music video release of Threshold under my direction, with a score and text created by me; and with original contributions by George Heathco, guitar; Luke Hubley, percussion; and Sherry Cheng, Neil Ellis Orts, and Michael Walsh, voices; and The Medusa Project, a new monodrama for voice and media, conceived and composed by yours truly.
My performance work has appeared at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Dallas Museum of Art, Menil Collection Houston, Rothko Chapel, University of Houston Center for Creative Work, and DiverseWorks Arts Space Houston; and organizations and ensembles I’ve sung with include Liminal Space Contemporary Music Ensemble, Foundation for Modern Music, Quartus Chamber Players, and Houston Grand Opera. My recordings and music videos include Selkie (2013, composer Elliot Cole), ravens & radishes (2014, composer George Heathco), and The Captured Goddess (2015, composer Dominick DiOrio), and This is our universe (2016, Penton, HJ Tsai, Helton, composers).
More wonders on Vimeo!
Misha Penton is a contemporary opera singer, artistic director, librettist and lyricist. Her work explores the intersection of new music performance; new opera theater; soundscape composition; and bel canto and extended vocal techniques. She is the founder, artistic director, and ensemble lead artist of Divergence Vocal Theater, a Houston-based opera, new music and multi-performing arts ensemble. Professional affiliations include Houston Grand Opera, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Menil Collection Houston, Dallas Museum of Art, The Foundation for Modern Music, The University of Houston Center for Creative Work, the Jewish Community Center Houston, Liminal Space Contemporary Music Ensemble, and DiverseWorks Arts Space Houston.
Performances and projects include the title role in Dominick DiOrio’s chamber opera, Klytemnestra, a setting of Misha’s libretto, in the galleries of The Museum of Fine Arts Houston and at the Dallas Museum of Art; a site specific world premiere collaboration with composer George Heathco in a 19th century military bunker at Fort Worden State Park in Washington State; the performance premieres, CD, digital EP, and music video releases of Selkie and ravens & radishes composed by Elliot Cole and George Heathco, respectively, both produced, directed, and performed by Misha and both settings of Misha’s libretti. Misha has created experimental voice sound art works for contemporary performances at DiverseWorks Arts Space Houston, the University of Houston Center for Choreography, New Orleans contemporary dance company, Happensdance, ActLab Studios Austin, and for The Olimpias, an international artists’ collective and performance research series.
Misha's latest performance works are a series of collaboratively devised and improvised/semi-improvised dramatic voice works including This is our universe, with with pianist Hsin-Jung Tsai and Thomas Helton; and with text based on the work of Virginia Woolf, and the release of the music video of the same title; Siren on the Sabine, a new dramatic music-dance work, based on Homer's Odyssey, with music by Misha and contrabassist homas Helton, which premiered at The Menil Collection in Houston; the premiere of Threshold, a site-specific new music work for the enormous and cavernous Silos at Sawyer Yards, an old rice factory which is now an arts space, with music by Misha, George Heathco, guitar and Luke Hubley, percussion; and Anecdote of the Spirit, a new work created for and premiering at the Rothko Chapel in Houston.
Misha is one of Houston Press’ 100 Creatives of 2011, and is named a 2012 finalist for Best Artistic Director by the Houston Press Theater Awards. She has enjoyed guest artist residencies at Sam Houston State University, Texas A&M College Station, and Lone Star College Montgomery. Misha’s voice mentors include renowned opera pedagogue, Lois Alba; and she has studied with Kathleen Kaun and Katherine Ciesinski, Rice University voice faculty emeritus and Eastman School of Music voice faculty, respectively— each inspiring teachers who encouraged her unique artistic journey.
Upcoming projects: The Lighthouse, a collaborative opera project with composer Brent Fariss; and the music video release of Threshold under Misha's direction, with a score and text created by Misha; and with original contributions by George Heathco, guitar; Luke Hubley, percussion; and Sherry Cheng, Neil Ellis Orts, and Michael Walsh, voices; and The Medusa Project, a new monodrama for voice and media, conceived and composed by Misha.
Misha is a doctoral candidate in music at Bath Spa University, UK. She holds a BA in Music from Skidmore College and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College.
Misha splits her time between Houston, Texas and the UK, and lives with her Soulmate and two spoiled cats, Jack & Hatch.