September 01, 2022
Get to know: The Brightness of Light
Love letters have been set to music before, but never with more beauty and eloquence than in Kevin Puts's captivating song cycle for soprano, baritone, and orchestra, The Brightness of Light. Six distinguished arts organizations from across America co-commissioned the work, premiered with great success at Tanglewood in 2019 by Renée Fleming and Rod Gilfry. This season these world-renowned artists bring their unanimously acclaimed interpretation to Lyric in the Midwest premiere – for one performance only!
This project had its genesis in 2016, when Puts created Letters from Georgia, a song cycle using letters written by legendary American painter Georgia O'Keeffe. (Puts felt irresistibly drawn to a particular line from O'Keeffe – "My first memory is of the brightness of light, light all around."). It was written for Fleming, whose enthusiasm for the piece led her to suggest that Puts expand it. He then added letters exchanged between O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, the celebrated photographer and curator who encouraged her work, fell in love with her, and eventually became her husband. "With intense emotion," the composer notes, "and often humor, these letters chronicle O'Keeffe's journey from a young artist enthralled by and indebted to the older Stieglitz to her complete immersion in the North American Southwest where she lived alone for many years, finding inspiration for her best-known works." Ultimately, "it was the vivid, poetic language of these two artists best known for their visual art which I found most inspiring in the creation of these works."
The journey of the O'Keeffe/Stieglitz relationship is revealed through Puts's exquisite music (Washington Post critic Anne Midgette described it as "rapturous sunbursts of sound... now animated by rapid heartbeats of percussion, now pulling away to a solo piano spinning out a Bach-like melody"). It's enhanced during the performance by brilliantly effective projections of images of O'Keeffe's paintings, the couple's love letters, and photographs of them both, as well as images from Taos, New Mexico, where O'Keeffe lived and worked for decades.
The second half of this exciting evening will offer a wonderful selection of memorable music – classic moments from American musicals, as well as a scene from Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire (recalling Fleming and Gilfry's world-premiere performance of that opera), a taste of Viennese operetta, and a few special surprises!
October 8, 2022
The Brightness of Light
The Brightness of Light
The incomparable Renée Fleming will be joined by charismatic baritone Rod Gilfry for an extraordinary musical event: the Chicago premiere of The Brightness of Light, composed by Pulitzer Prize winner Kevin Puts. This superb new work is based on letters between legendary painter Georgia O’Keeffe and her husband, the world-renowned photographer Alfred Stieglitz. These texts and Puts’s remarkable music offer a marvelous showcase for the probing, profoundly connecting and sensitive artistry of Fleming and Gilfry, who sang the premiere with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2019.