Contemporary Opera Version of ‘Gatsby’ at Tanglewood

Composer John Harbison

Composer John Harbison

(LENOX, Mass.) –  John Harbison’s opera The Great Gatsby will be performed by the orchestra and chorus of Boston-based Emmanuel Music on Thursday, July 11, 2013, at 7:30 p.m.,  in Ozawa Hall, as part of Tanglewood’s 75th birthday tribute to the composer.

The concert performance will be led by Emmanuel Music artistic director Ryan Turner and will feature tenor Gordon Gietz as Jay Gatsby and soprano Devon Guthrie as Daisy Buchanan. Writing the opera on a commission for the Metropolitan Opera, Harbison, Emmanuel Music’s former artistic director and a composer with close ties to the BSO and Tanglewood, adapted his own libretto from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, creating an evocation of the Roaring Twenties: the giddy jazz-inspired pop songs, the madcap dances, the omnipresent radio. Harbison underpins the frivolity with themes of romantic obsession, casual cruelty, corruption, betrayal, and death.

Gordon Gietz plays Jay Gatsby (photo Peter Hurley)

Gordon Gietz plays Jay Gatsby (photo Peter Hurley)

The performance will be preceded by a panel discussion, “Creating John Harbison’s opera The Great Gatsby,” at 6:15 p.m., featuring Harbison along with lyricist Murray Horwitz, former G. Schirmer vice-president Susan Feder, and Gatsby’ editor and violinist Rose Mary Harbison, all key players in the creation of the opera. BSO Assistant Director of Program Publications, Robert Kirzinger will serve as moderator.  A video podcast available on the BSO.org Media Center features interviews by former Boston Globe music critic, Richard Dyer, with Harbison and Emmanuel Music artistic director Ryan Turner giving a behind-the-scenes look at the production of The Great Gatsby.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra recently presented John Harbison with the Mark M. Horblit “Merit Award” for distinguished composition by an American composer. The award was created in 1947 by the late Boston attorney Mark M. Horblit to, in his own words, “foster and promote the writing of symphonic compositions by composers resident in the United States … in recognition of meritorious work in that field.”
Harbison is the 22nd recipient of the award, which includes a cash prize of $5,000.  A formal award ceremony with Harbision will take place during the fall in Boston.  The Horblit Award was first presented to Aaron Copland in 1947, and most recently to Elliott Carter in 2007 (Mr. Carter also received the award in 1988). Other recipients have included Walter Piston (1948), Leonard Bernstein (1949), Lukas Foss (1952), Gunther Schuller (1966), Roger Sessions (1977), Earl Kim (1983), Leon Kirchner (1985), Donald Martino (1987), Ned Rorem (1992), and John Corigliano (1993).

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