A concert of the music of composer-vocalist Lisa Bielawa, performed by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) with Bielawa as vocal soloist. The program, part of National Sawdust’s series curated by composer Theo Bleckmann, will feature Bielawa’s A Collective Cleansing (2000) for solo voice and digital audio, Graffiti Dell’amante (2010) for string quartet and soprano, Genesis Again (1998) for soprano and violin, and two arias from her episodic opera Vireo: “The Bat” and “The Dragon and the Girl.” Bielawa lovingly dedicates this concert to the memory of longtime MATA Board President, Ellen Brody Hughes and says, “While this evening centers around works I’ve created expressly for myself as vocalist, this concert nevertheless turns outwards rather than in, a celebration of more than two decades of collaborations.” ACME members performing include Ben Russell (violin), Laura Lutzke (violin), Caleb Burhans (viola), and Paul Wiancko (cello).
Bielawa premiered A Collective Cleansing in September 2000 at NYC’s The Kitchen. It is her only work for her own voice multi-tracked, and includes selected choral excerpts in both Greek and English from the Aeschylus tragedy The Suppliant Maidens. Bielawa says, “You will hear me sing with 10 other Lisas, 17 years younger than this one!”
Graffiti Dell’amante is an open-ended musical-dramatic exploration of the multi-faceted predicament of the Lover from Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse. Bielawa describes Graffiti dell’amante as “a veritable explosion of collaborative energies, drawing on an invitation from Brooklyn Rider to make a piece for us to perform together during my Rome Prize year, although it was ACME who gave these songs their first NYC performance in 2010. Three of the five short pieces in this set celebrate the work of my Rome Prize colleagues – poets Peter Campion and Eliza Griswold, and Leonard Barkan’s joyful translation of one of Michelangelo’s love sonnets. This piece was commissioned by Ellen Brody Hughes.”
Genesis Again was written in collaboration with violinist Carla Kihlstedt and Vireolibrettist Erik Ehn and was premiered at the Bang on a Can Festival in New York in 1999. Scored sections trade off with improvised sections, sometimes together, sometimes with violin alone. This project was a study for the last scene of a chamber opera entitled Spooky Action at a Distance, written in free response to Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. The opera centers on the shape and limits of compassion, through the story of a doctor’s reaction to losing patients by means beyond her control.
“The Bat” and “The Dragon and the Girl” are arias from Bielwa’s current project Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch’s Accuser, a new opera composed on a libretto by Erik Ehn and directed by Charles Otte, which is unprecedented in that it is being created expressly for episodic release via broadcast and online media. ACME brought Vireo’s aria “The Bat” to life in the opera’s ninth episode, which was filmed at Alcatraz prison in June 2016. Bielawa says, “Not long after arriving in NYC in 1992 (and meeting Theo Bleckmann, my very first month here!), I began working with playwright Erik Ehn, whose libretto for my current made-for-TV opera Vireo saw its first draft in 1994. The two arias I will sing from Vireo were both sketched out in 1994 but not worked through or completed until 2016.” Vireo, winner of the 2015 ASCAP Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Multimedia Award, is a partnership with KCETLink and an artist residency project of Grand Central Art Center (GCAC) in Santa Ana, an outgrowth of Cal State Fullerton, Director/Chief Curator John Spiak. In May 2017, KCET will release the entire season of Vireo at once for free, on-demand streaming, which is a first for the network.