This year Rienzi continues its collaboration with the Houston Grand Opera Studio. Each year, four musical programs are performed in Rienzi’s intimate Gallery by up-and-coming opera performers. This Friday and Saturday, September 30th and October 1st, begins the 2011-2012 recital schedule. Among the selections for this weekend, HGO Studio will be performing A Whitman Service, by Lee Hoiby who has brought several of Walt Whitman poems into the world of music and voice.
Walt Whitman was an American free-verse poet and adherent to the humanist movement, a philosophy that combined aspects of transcendentalism and realism, with a focus on human values and concerns. Included in HGO Studio’s performance will be “I Was There,” “Beginning My Studies,” “A Clear Midnight,” “Joy, Shipmate! Joy!,” and, probably his best known work, “O Captain! My Captain!,” all from Whitman’s book of verse, Leaves of Grass. First published in 1855, Leaves of Grass was rereleased multiple times through the mid-nineteenth century. Each subsequent edition included additional poems by the writer. Leaves of Grass was both popular and controversial – Ralph Waldo Emerson, the transcendentalist leader famous for the essay “Self-reliance,” praised Whitman’s publication while at the same time, many others criticized the work for being “obscene. ”
The composer Lee Hoiby was born in 1926 to a musical family. His grandfather was a violinist, and his aunts were part of a saxophone band. Hoiby studied with Gunnar Johansen and Gian Carlo Menotti, crediting the latter with his shift from piano to opera. The musician transitioned several English-language texts into operas including Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Hoiby passed away earlier this year leaving an American operatic legacy that reflects two of his major influences, Verdi and Gershwin.
Join us this weekend to hear HGO Studio perform portions of A Whitman Service, along with selections by Richard Strauss, Gioachino Rossini, and Viktor Ullmann at their fall performance. Tickets may be purchased over the phone or by clicking here.
I leave you with one of Whitman’s poems, “Joy, Shipmate! Joy!”
(Pleas’d to my Soul at death I cry;)
Our life is closed—our life begins;
The long, long anchorage we leave,
The ship is clear at last—she leaps!
She swiftly courses from the shore;