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Lisa Bielawa's CENTURIES IN THE HOURS Presented Online By Kaufman Music Center

A unique opera experience based on diary entries of American women throughout history.

Lisa Bielawa's CENTURIES IN THE HOURS Presented Online By Kaufman Music Center

Composer and producer Lisa Bielawa, in collaboration with student vocalists and instrumentalists from Kaufman Music Center's Special Music School High School, will give an exclusive work-in-progress online performance of Bielawa's new opera, Centuries in the Hours, presented by Kaufman Music Center.

The video will premiere on Thursday, May 27, 2021 at 7pm EDT, and a link to watch will be sent to those who have registered in advance. This is the culmination of Bielawa's 2020-21 KMC Artist-in-Residence appointment. The work-in-progress performance will remain online for registrants to watch for two days after the performance.

Centuries in the Hours illuminates the lives of American women by setting selections from women's diaries spanning three centuries, which Bielawa discovered during extensive research as a William Randolph Hearst Visiting Artist Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society in 2018. Adapting to the global pandemic, Bielawa, with librettist/dramaturg Claire Solomon and film and media director Jess Medenbach, used the isolation women have historically faced, reflected in these diaries, as a formal constraint in creating a unique filmed opera experience.

The stories of the women represented include an isolated teen genius (1901), a missionary (1823), a college student (1860), a Revolutionary War evacuee (1778), a Colorado housekeeper (1890s), a Philadelphia abolitionist (1860s), and a depressed Southern woman (1861). The ghost of Eliza Jumel, former owner of the Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York, a filming location for the opera, is played by renowned mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin.

Special Music School High School student performers include vocalists Julia Ching, Naveah Diaz, Lucie Freeman, Clara Frost, Izabella Gozzo, Fay Levin, Ana Maria Griffin Morimoto, Cirene Mourad and Zelda Rosenbloom. Student instrumentalists include violinist Serin Park, violinist Olga Tytarenko, violist Oriana Hawley, cellist Italia Raimond Jones, percussionist Benjamin Barham-Wiese, piccoloist Harper Love, flutist Diego Ruiz, and hornist Christina Nelson, with additional performances from violinist Rebecca Fischer, clarinetist Scott Chiu, and pianist Jennifer Taira.

Through this opera and its libretto, dozens of manuscripts rejoin the flow of public discourse. Centuries in the Hours asks: What if these women could be lifted out of their historical contexts and respective life circumstances to encounter one another? What can we learn from these women's view of American history, seen largely from within the domestic sphere? In fact, women have always worked within cramped quarters and with insufficient resources. The women in Centuries all wrote from home, at times of great constraint. Paper was scarce, as was ink, time, peace, quiet and light. Might the lens of women's diaries provide a "shelter-in-place" viewpoint of our shared history?

Centuries in the Hours is commissioned in part by Kaufman Music Center, which is workshopping the piece in spring 2021 through the Special Music School. This work-in-progress performance is presented in collaboration with the Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan's oldest surviving residence and one of the nation's foremost historic houses. Development of Centuries in the Hours was funded in part by OPERA America's Opera Grants for Female Composers program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. The work is an outgrowth of a song cycle of the same name that was co-commissioned in 2019 by the ASCAP Foundation Charles Kingsford Fund and ROCO (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra).

About Lisa Bielawa: Lisa Bielawa is a Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition and takes inspiration for her work from literary sources and close artistic collaborations. Her music has been described as "ruminative, pointillistic and harmonically slightly tart," by The New York Times. She is the recipient of the 2017 Music Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters and was named a William Randolph Hearst Visiting Artist Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society for 2018. In 2020, Bielawa was awarded a Discovery Grant from OPERA America's Grants for Female Composers for her opera in progress, Centuries in the Hours. In 1997 Bielawa co-founded the MATA Festival, which celebrates the work of young composers, and for five years she was the artistic director of the San Francisco Girls Chorus.

She received a 2018 Los Angeles Area Emmy nomination for her unprecedented, made-for-TV-and-online opera Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch's Accuser, created with librettist Erik Ehn and director Charles Otte. Vireo was filmed in twelve parts in locations across the country and features over 350 musicians. The Los Angeles Times called Vireo an opera, "unlike any you have seen before, in content and in form." Vireo was produced as part of Bielawa's artist residency at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, California and in partnership with KCETLink and Single Cel. In February 2019, Vireo was released as a two CD + DVD box set on Orange Mountain Music and it is coming to the stage in 2021 as VIREO LIVE, a hybrid film-opera 90-minute experience.

Bielawa is currently at work on BFH Radio - Broadcast from Here, a continuous and evolving soundscape composed by Bielawa, incorporating words, voices and found audio from participants all over the world, one year after many of our communities went into pandemic lockdown. BFH Radio will grow and evolve much like her previous project, Broadcast from Home, composed in April-June 2020. Described by the Washington Post as "spellbinding," Broadcast from Home has been realized online throughout the period of the coronavirus lockdown, featuring submitted written and recorded vocal testimonies from over 250 participants from five continents.

Bielawa's other recent large-scale participatory works include Broadcast at the Crossroads, Brickyard Broadcast, and Voters' Broadcast. Brickyard Broadcast represents an energizing and participatory artistic process designed to help address the challenges faced by orchestras and choirs during this prolonged period of social distancing. Rather than staging a synchronous performance via remote platforms, Brickyard Broadcast allows musicians to create sonic-visual avatars of themselves that can come together virtually in a playful, interactive common space which mirrors their own campus common space, opening up the gathering to anyone in the world who wishes to join them there. Voters' Broadcast's mission is to stimulate voter engagement, political awareness, and community participation in challenging lockdown conditions, through the act of giving voice to the concerns of fellow citizens, during the lead-up to the 2020 Presidential election.

Lisa Bielawa's earlier works for performance in public spaces include Airfield Broadcasts (spatialized works for hundreds of musicians on the field of former airfields), and Mauer Broadcast (a participatory work for public performance, for the 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 2019).

Her work has been premiered at the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, SHIFT Festival, Town Hall Seattle, and Naumburg Orchestral Concerts Summer Series, among others. Orchestras that have championed her music include the The Knights, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, American Composers Orchestra, the Orlando Philharmonic, and ROCO (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra). Premieres of her work have been commissioned and presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Rider, Seattle Chamber Music Society, American Guild of Organists, the ASCAP Foundation Charles Kingsford Fund, and more. She is recorded on the Tzadik, TROY, Innova, BMOP/ sound, Supertrain Records, Cedille, Orange Mountain Music and Sono Luminus labels.

Kaufman Music Center's Artist-in-Residence program embeds versatile artists who are reimagining music and transforming the field into programs straddling KMC's thriving education and performance programs. Now in its second year, the program weaves together the many threads of Kaufman Music Center: Artists-in-Residence perform in Merkin Hall and work with students from KMC's Special Music School, the only K-12 public school in the U.S. that teaches music as a core subject; Face the Music, a teen new music program dedicated to performing cutting-edge music by living composers, including its own members; and Lucy Moses School, NYC's largest community music school.


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