Our Town in Our Town
Saturday, July 22, 7:30 pm ~ Peterborough Town House
CD Release Party, 6:00 pm
Boston Modern Orchestra Project
Gil Rose, conductor
In celebration of the release of our world premier recording of Ned Rorem’s opera “Our Town” we present a selection of short American Operas and music celebrating the region.
Lukas Foss: For Aaron
Aaron Copland: Selections from The Tender Land
Lee Hoiby: Bon Appetite!
Lukas Foss: Introductions and Goodbyes
Samuel Barber: A Hand of Bridge
Heather Gilligan: Living in Light
Ned Rorem: Selections from Our Town
A CD Release Party will take place prior to the concert at 6:00 pm at the Peterborough Town House for Members, Kickstarter Donors, Season Volunteers and Town Chairs.
Reception after the concert at Cooper's Hill in Peterborough open to the public with complimentary bites.
German-born American composer Lukas Foss (1922-2009) was introduced to the music of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven at a young age, which spurred his musical growth. Foss settled in Paris for several years, and studied piano, flute, composition, and theory under renowned instructors before he moved to America in 1937. Through his various teaching and performing positions, and his compositions, Foss made a significant contribution to the music of his time. He developed his initial neo-classical style to include unique improvisation, dodecaphony, and an array of influences from various styles and eras.
For Aaron (2002) was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Aptly named, Foss’ work pays homage to Aaron Copland, whose music Foss credits for his initial relationship with America and its music. This work is driven by a Coplandesque scale variation, but accented with Foss’ instrumentation and rhythms. For Aaron explores the friendship, both personal and musical, between Copland and Foss, a pair recognized for their contributions to American music.
Introductions and Goodbyes (1959) runs only nine minutes, making it Foss’s shortest opera. Foss composed this opera at the suggestion of composer Gian Carlo Menotti, who wrote the single-page libretto for the work. The opera narrates an American cocktail party; the host welcomes his guests and bids them farewell as indicated by the title. The party itself is not the focus of the opera. Foss shows off his elegant combination of neo-classical and avant-garde in this brief but resonating opera.
Also considered an architect of the American sound in classical composition is composer, conductor, and teacher Aaron Copland (1900-1990). Copland intertwines elements of jazz and folk into his innovative compositions and is recognized for his individualization of American music from its previously heavy European influence. Copland learned piano at a young age, and began studying counterpoint and composition one on one with a music instructor. Copland spent time traveling through Europe, closely studying European composers, before returning to the U.S. and producing an array of esteemed compositions.
Copland’s The Tender Land (1954) is described as a quintessential American opera. The plot revolves around a Depression-era family and the hesitant exploration of the world outside their small-town traditions. This opera is known for its witty political references, and for this reason was initially harshly critiqued. It has since been revived through various scorings, but Copland’s initial lyricism, musicality, and American story prevail.
Lee Hoiby (1926-2011) began his musical career as a pianist with aspirations only of performance, but switched focus when the opportunity arose to study composition under Gian Carlo Menotti. During his time studying with Menotti, Hoiby was encouraged in the direction of opera composition, and since then has established himself as a composer primarily of operas and songs. Hoiby is revered for his lyricism and simple structure of both traditional and modern elements.
Bon Appetit! (1986) brings a musical and theatrical element to what is essentially an episode of Julia Child’s television show, The French Chef. The brief one-woman opera is packed with humor, wit, and culinary expertise. Bon Appetit! shows off Hoiby’s sense of theater and stands as an entertaining work for both the eyes and ears. The musical and mimed actions are equally important in the performance of this charming combination of music and cooking.
American composer Samuel Barber (1910-1981) began writing music as a child. He started his formal music education early as well, entering the Curtis Institute of Music at the age of 14. There Barber worked alongside Gian Carlo Menotti at the Curtis Institute, which helped propel his operatic works to popularity in the professional music community. In addition to his success in operas and choral composition, Barber is a celebrated orchestral composer, perhaps best-known for his emotional Adagio for Strings (1938). With a distinctly expressive style, Barber incorporated the Romantic trend and lyricism into his works.
A Hand of Bridge (1959) is a one-act opera, similar to Foss’ Introductions and Goodbyes in terms of length and libretto; librettos for both operas were written by Gian Carlo Menotti. Barber’s work depicts a pair of couples playing cards and hiding their feelings from each other. A Hand of Bridge might be described as an exploration of isolation as each hopes and troubles of each soloist revealed to the audience through brief arias. Evident in Barber’s opera is a significant jazz influence, some elements of swing rhythms, and a distinct bass line.
Pianist and composer Heather Gilligan was originally from Pennsylvania, but attended college in Boston and remained in the area to teach music theory, piano, and aural skills. Gilligan has since moved to Keene, New Hampshire with her family. As an Associate Professor of Music and department chair at Keene State College, Gilligan has been a driving force in the promotion of undergraduate research in the arts. Her style of composition is regarded as edgy, lyrical, and emotional. Gilligan pushes the envelope of composition with her fresh approach in the artistic field.
Living in Light is a song cycle for soprano and cello that premiered in the spring of 2017. The first released recording on Gilligan’s debut CD, Living in Light features Margot Rood, a popular performer in Monadnock Music history. Gilligan produced this song cycle at Rood’s request. With a joint goal of simplicity in the work, Gilligan and Rood produced and performed, respectively, four simple yet unique parts to Living in Light. The work consists of Buried Love, I Shall Not Care, June Night, and A Little While, with poetry credited to Sara Teasdale.
Ned Rorem (b. 1923) is an American composer and diarist best-known for his 2005 opera adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. He also received the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Music for the orchestral suite Air Music (1975). As a writer and composer, Rorem is recognized for his ability to connect music and words and has been labeled by Time Magazine as “the world’s best composer of art songs.” He received numerous fellowships and awards for his breakthroughs in composition and writing. Rorem was born in Indiana and traveled and lived throughout the world during his earlier music career before settling in New York City in 1991.
Rorem’s Our Town(2005) provides an operatic interpretation of Thornton Wilder’s play. Regarding Wilder’s original, Rorem noted that it was “singable, unlike some literature” and kept his orchestral score light in texture so as to draw attention to the voices and story. Along with Rorem’s score, American writer J.D. McClatchy contributed the libretto of the opera. Rorem’s Our Town was commissioned by the Indiana University Opera Theater, Opera Boston, the Aspen Music Festival, North Carolina School for the Arts, Lake Georgia Opera, and Festival Opera.