Eastman Philharmonia to Perform World Premiere of Pulitzer Prize-Winner Kevin Puts’ Letters from Georgia, with Soprano Renée Fleming
August 23, 2016
For Media Only: Rick Kessel (585)274-1052, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Philharmonia performance, conducted by Neil Varon, will also feature Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 in Rochester on November 12th and at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on November 14th
NEW YORK, NY – August 11, 2016 – On Saturday, November 12, in Rochester, NY, and Monday, November 14, at Lincoln Center, the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music Philharmonia Orchestra will present the world premiere performances of Letters from Georgia – a new song cycle by Kevin Puts. Puts, a Pulitzer Prize-winning alumnus of Eastman (BM ’94, DMA ’99), wrote the piece specifically for his alma mater’s Philharmonia and for world-renowned soprano Renée Fleming, a fellow Eastman alum (MM ’83 HNR ’11) and Distinguished Visiting Artist at the school. Inspired by letters written by artist Georgia O’Keeffe, the song cycle marks the first collaboration between Puts and Fleming. Letters from Georgia headlines a program which also includes Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5.
Letters from Georgia is Puts’ third vocal work, and is based on letters from artist Georgia O’Keeffe to her eventual husband, photographer and art promoter Alfred Stieglitz, and to artist and suffragette Anita Pollitzer. “Renée and I were looking for a significant historical figure who was an American woman. I happened on a couple of quotes of Georgia O’Keeffe and upon further exploration found she had written hundreds of letters mainly to these two people,” says Puts. “I found that her letters reveal aspects of her personality one doesn’t necessarily associate with her. She could be stoic and aloof but her letters also revealed great passion and longing, self-deprecating humor, and also often great sadness.”
“The opportunity for our talented students to work with these world-renowned musicians on a premiere performance is a special opportunity,” said Jamal Rossi, the Joan and Martin Messinger Dean of the Eastman School of Music. “I am thrilled that the Eastman Philharmonia will return to New York City for what will surely be a powerful performance.”
The new commission by Kevin Puts is co-sponsored by Mr. Joseph and Mrs. Bette Hirsch of Palo Alto, California and the Howard Hanson Institute for American Music. Hanson founded the Eastman Philharmonia in 1958 when the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer was Director of the Eastman School. Mrs. Hirsch is a University of Rochester graduate of the class of 1964. In addition to the new commission, the concert program will also include Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5.
At Rochester’s renowned Eastman School of Music, the Eastman Philharmonia is the school’s most prestigious orchestra and a springboard for top collegiate music students to life as a professional musician. Over the years, the Philharmonia has toured in the United States and Europe. The November 14th performance marks the Philharmonia’s welcome return to New York City after more than 25 years.
About The Eastman School of Music
The Eastman School of Music was founded in 1921 by industrialist and philanthropist George Eastman (1854-1932), founder of Eastman Kodak Company. It was the first professional school of the University of Rochester.
The Eastman School of Music is considered by educators, professionals, and students to be among the finest schools of music in the world. More than 900 students are enrolled in Eastman’s Collegiate Division – roughly 500 undergraduate and 400 graduate students. Students come from almost every state, and approximately 20 percent are from other countries. They are guided by more than 95 full-time faculty members. Seven Pulitzer Prize winners have taught at Eastman, as have several Grammy Award winners. Over 90 percent of the more than 10,000 Eastman School alumni are prominent in various fields of the arts, including opera singer Renée Fleming; jazz musicians Ron Carter, Steve Gadd, and Maria Schneider; composers Dominick Argento, Michael Torke, Charles Strouse, and Jeff Beal; Mark Volpe, Managing Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; and first-chair musicians in many major American orchestras.
The Eastern Philharmonia is one of three orchestras at the Eastman School of Music, and was founded in 1958 by Dr. Howard Hanson, a champion of new American music.
About Neil Varon
Varon, whose conducting career spans 40 years and several continents, joined the Eastman School of Music faculty as professor of conducting and ensembles in 2002. Born in New York in 1950, he studied piano, composition, and orchestral conducting at The Juilliard School. His teachers included Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood and Herbert von Karajan at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. Varon was the first Kapellmeister of the Deutsche Opera am Rhein in Dusseldorf and served as the music director of the Südwestfälische Philharmonic and the City of Gelsenkirchen, Germany. As a guest conductor, he has conducted at the New York City Opera, Hamburg State Opera, Stuttgart State Opera, and Berlin Stattsoper, and continues to conduct throughout Europe and Asia. He directed the German premiere of Un Re in Ascolta by Luciano Berio in Düsseldorf, and the world premiere of Erinys by Volker David Kirchner in Wuppertal. He made his Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra debut in 2011 and is one of the orchestra’ s regular conductors.
Varon has worked with such important singers as Renée Fleming, Dame Kiri te Kanawa, Lucia Popp, Edita Gruberova, Giuseppe di Stefano, Katia Ricciarelli, Piero Cappuccili, and Astrid Varnay, to name a few. His 1998 performance of Die Fledermaus at Hamilton’s “Opera Ontario” was broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Company. A frequent guest in Asia, Varon led the Tokyo Philharmonic in a series of performances of The Magic Flute for the anniversary Mozart Festival in Japan. He conducted the Korean Symphony in Seoul, the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony in Tokyo, and the Kyushu Philharmonic in Fukuoka. In December 2014, Varon led the Daegu Symphony Orchestra and four combined choruses in a performance of Beethoven’ s Ninth Symphony for the year-end celebratory concert in Daegu, South Korea. In February 2015, he conducted four performances of Mozart’ s opera The Marriage of Figaro at the Chan Center for the Performing Arts in Vancouver, British Columbia. In June 2016, he led the Sinfonieorchester Aachen in Germany in two performances of Gershwin’s An American in Paris, James Macmillan’s Veni Veni Emmanuel, and Shostakovich’s Symphony no. 1.
About Kevin Puts
Winner of numerous prestigious awards, including the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for his debut opera Silent Night, Kevin Puts’s works have been commissioned, performed, and recorded by leading ensembles, and soloists throughout the world, including Yo-Yo Ma, Jeffrey Kahane, Dame Evelyn Glennie, the New York Philharmonic, the Tonhalle Orchester (Zurich), the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Miro Quartet, and the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit, Atlanta, Colorado, Houston, Fort Worth, St. Louis, and Minnesota. His newest orchestral work, The City, was co-commissioned by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in honor of its 100th anniversary and by Carnegie Hall in honor of its 125th anniversary.
Silent Night, commissioned and premiered by Minnesota Opera, has been produced at Fort Worth Opera, Cincinnati Opera, the Wexford Opera Festival, Calgary Opera, Montreal Opera, and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, with upcoming productions at Atlanta Opera, Opera San Jose, and Michigan Opera Theatre. In 2013, his choral works To Touch The Sky and If I Were A Swan were performed and recorded by Conspirare. His second opera, also commissioned by Minnesota Opera, The Manchurian Candidate, based on the novel, had its world premiere in 2015. A new vocal work for Soprano Renée Fleming and orchestra, based on the personal letters of Georgia O’Keeffe, will have its world premiere in New York in Fall 2016 and his first chamber opera, an adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s gothic novel The Trial of Elizabeth Cree commissioned by Opera Philadelphia, will have its world premiere in 2017.
A former Composer-in-Residence of Young Concert Artists, he is currently a member of the composition department at the Peabody Institute and the Director of the Minnesota Orchestra Composer’s Institute.
About Renée Fleming
Known as “the people’s diva” and the first opera star to sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl, Fleming has performed for Queen Elizabeth, President Barack Obama, and the United States Supreme Court. She has sung for numerous historic occasions, including the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and the 2014 concert at the Brandenburg Gate commemorating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 2008, she became the first woman to solo headline an opening night gala at the Metropolitan Opera. A passionate champion of creativity in the arts, Fleming is a four-time Grammy Award winner. In recent years, she has recorded everything from Berg’s “Lyric Suite” to the jazz album Haunted Heart and the movie soundtrack of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Her album Dark Hope featured covers of songs by such artists as Leonard Cohen, Peter Gabriel, Arcade Fire, and Death Cab for Cutie, and she released her first-ever holiday album, Christmas in New York, in 2014. Fleming’s recording honors also include the 2009 Echo Award for Strauss’s Four Last Songs and the Académie du Disque Lyric’s Prix Maria Callas Orphée d’Or for Capriccio.
Fleming has been awarded the National Medal of Arts, American’s highest honor for an individual artist; the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Award; the Polar Music Prize, Sweden’s foremost musical honor; the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur from the French government; Honorary Membership in the Royal Academy of Music; and honorary doctorates from Duke University, Carnegie Mellon University, Harvard University, the University of Rochester, and The Juilliard School. In the coming season, Fleming will bring her acclaimed portrayal of the Marschallin in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier to the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and the Metropolitan Opera, in a new production by director Robert Carsen. In 2010, she was named the first-ever Creative Consultant at Lyric Opera of Chicago, where she is also a member of the Board and a Vice President. In March of this year, Fleming was appointed Artistic Advisor-at-Large for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Hall Corporation, the board of Sing for Hope, the Board of Trustees of Asia Society, and the Artistic Advisory Board of the Polyphony Foundation, which uses classical music to create a bridge between Arab and Jewish communities in Israel.
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FOR CALENDAR/LISTINGS EDITORS:
Saturday, November 12 at 8:00 p.m.
Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre
60 Gibbs Street, Rochester, NY
Ravel Rapsodie espagnole
Kevin Puts World Premiere: Letters from Georgia
Prokofiev Symphony No. 5
Monday, November 14 at 8:00 p.m.
Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center
1941 Broadway, New York, NY
Ravel Rapsodie espagnole
Kevin Puts New York City Premiere: Letters from Georgia
Prokofiev Symphony No. 5
Tickets for this performance will be available later this year. Please visit https://www.esm.rochester.edu/concerts/series/nyc/ for more info.