Composer Scott Wheeler Releases Album, Premieres Opera
NEW YORK, NY (For Release 3.7.16) - Hailed for his vocal and operatic music, award-winning composer/conductor/teacher Scott Wheeler showcases his omnivorous compositional style during the 2016-17 season. From the album release of Portrait (Bridge Records) and the world premiere of his latest opera Naga by the Boston Lyric Opera to nationwide performances of his Ben Gunn song cycle and debut as a composer for dance, Wheeler continues to lead the new-music vanguard. A continual point of reference for contemporary music, Wheeler serves in numerous leadership roles including: 2016-17 Affiliate of NYU's Center for the Ballet and Arts, 2016-17 Composer-in-Residence at the Brooklyn Art Song Society, and Professor at Boston's Emerson College.
A distinctive voice of true integrity, Wheeler, like his music, is mercurial, economic, understated, elegant, and no slavish follower to the contemporary fashion. According to Gramophone, "the music of Scott Wheeler is rich in just those qualities which we admire in ourselves and adore in others. It is warm, earnestly and ardently tonal, with an elusive lyrical quality that makes it classical music for sure." Wheeler draws from the dramatic works of Stephen Sondheim and Cy Coleman, chamber works of Lee Hyla and Ezra Sims, and formal expressivity of his enviable set of teachers: Lewis Spratlan, Arthur Berger, Olivier Messiaen, Peter Maxwell Davies, and Virgil Thomson. Elements of shifting tonality, sound and texture, dramatic timing, and narrative combine to create a musical language all his own. Wheeler thinks of his musical temperament as neo- classical and says, "I am drawn to subtleties, to creating music that balances one statement with another in such a way that the two create an unexpected imbalance. I am almost never satisfied with a musical idea unless I can somehow include at least an implication of its opposite."
As one of the great composers of song working today, Wheeler transforms poetry into music that is universal, uplifting, and profoundly beautiful. In spring 2016, Ben Gunn, a song cycle set to poems by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon, premieres by the Buffalo Chamber Players and the Florestan Recital Project in Buffalo, New York, followed by a performance at the Brooklyn Art Song Society. Heavily influenced by his mentor Virgil Thomson, Wheeler's natural and lucid text-setting has been described as "gorgeously elegiac...lilting and tender" (Boston Phoenix).
In fall 2016, Wheeler's latest opera Naga premieres in Boston. Set to a libretto by Cerise Jacobs, Naga is a co-commission from Friends of Madame White Snake and Boston Lyric Opera. It marks Wheeler's fourth opera, succeeding others commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theatre, Washington National Opera, New York City Opera, Forth Worth Opera, and Boston Conservatory Opera. According to Wheeler, it was Verdi and Puccini's ability to rise above the vocal thrills that attracted him to opera. "The avoidance of the vulgar, the ability to mingle comedy and tragedy, the pervasive sense of musical and dramatic irony, achieves as much rich humanity as the most elegant string quartet."