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World premiere of Heggie composition to be performed at von der Mehden

- March 26, 2007

The world premiere of composer Jake Heggie’s “Rise and Fall” (libretto by Gene Scheer) will take place at UConn on Thursday, March 29, at von der Mehden Recital Hall.

The event, which begins at 8 p.m., is open to the public. Admission is free.

The piece was composed for and will be performed by soprano Constance Rock of the University’s music department, accompanied on piano by Heggie, a prominent composer of the 21st century.

The music was commissioned by the University, with support from Raymond and Beverly Sackler.

The new composition was inspired by art in Sackler galleries in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

The program starts with earlier music by Heggie performed by alumni of the UConn music department.

Heggie composes operas, chamber music, and songs.

He is the recipient of a 2006/2007 Guggenheim Fellowship. In addition to the acclaimed “Dead Man Walking,” he has composed the operas “The End of the Affair,” “To Hell and Back,” “At the Statue of Venus,” and more than 200 art songs, as well as orchestral and chamber music.

Upcoming commissions include a music theater work for the Metropolitan Opera in association with Lincoln Center Theater; a music theater work for the Houston Grand Opera and San Francisco Opera; a major opera for the Dallas and San Francisco Operas; and a song cycle for the Holocaust, commissioned by Seattle’s Music of Remembrance.

“Constance Rock is an outstanding artist and a wonderful collaborator,” says Heggie. “What an honor to create something specifically for her and to be able to perform it with her at the premiere.”

Rock has received many awards. She is a five-time winner of the District Metropolitan Opera Auditions.

She has performed around the U.S., and recently with the Worcester Symphony and Chorus, Hartford Symphony, and Connecticut Concert Opera.

Jake Heggie will accompany Constance Rock at the world premiere performance of his composition “Rise and Fall” on March 30. The work was commissioned by the University, with support from Raymond and Beverly Sackler.
Photo supplied by Jorgensen Center

Heggie says Rise & Fall followed a new set of songs written with Gene Scheer in 2005 called Statuesque. “The songs gave voice to five famous statues. It worked like a dream.”

Heggie and Scheer then decided to create a cycle for each voice type based on art works.

“Rise & Fall” features art and artifacts from the Sackler galleries in New York City, in tribute to Raymond and Beverly Sackler who commissioned the new cycle.

The songs trace the story of a woman from her wedding day to her death, and then her role in the afterlife as a shaman, comforting others.

The artifacts include an ancient wedding jar with the image of a Phoenix on it; a modern water sculpture by Noguchi; an ancient incantation bowl; a modern sculpture of an angel’s wing; and an ancient shaman’s mask.

“There is a great deal of juxtaposition of old and new in our search for what is timeless,” says Heggie.

“I’m an opera composer,” he adds, “so I’m always on the lookout for a story that can be developed, whether it be a song, a song cycle, a piece of chamber music, or an opera. I think Rise & Fall represents some of my best work and I’m very excited to share it with everybody.”

Rock says, “Jake is tremendously talented and truly understands how to write for the voice. To be able to sing entirely new music and poetry by two such talented artists, and to have had the music written especially for my voice, is an extreme privilege.”

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