Letters from Georgia, a new song cycle based on the letters of painter Georgia O’Keeffe and composed by Pulitzer Prize-winner Kevin Puts, will receive its world premiere performances on November 12th and 14th, sung by four-time Grammy Award-winning soprano Renée Fleming and accompanied by the Eastman Philharmonia under the direction of Neil Varon. The songs are based on O’Keeffe’s expressive letters, written mainly to her eventual husband Alfred Stieglitz and artist and suffragette Anita Pollitzer. Puts wrote the cycle for, and in close collaboration with, Ms. Fleming.
There will be two concerts featuring Letters from Georgia: Saturday, November 12th at 8pm at The Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre in Rochester, NY; and Monday, November 14th at 8pm at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in New York City.
Puts, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for his opera Silent Night, says of O’Keeffe’s writings: “I found that her letters reveal aspects of her personality one doesn’t necessarily associate with her. She could be stoic and aloof but her letters also revealed tremendous passion and longing, self-deprecating humor, and also often great sadness.”
Puts continues discussing the piece itself: “One of my favorite lines is one of the last, a testament to O’Keeffe’s intense patriotism and a line which I find heartbreaking and full of truth, especially for many of us today: ‘It is absurd the way I love this country.’”
The performances follow another recent high-profile world premiere from Puts this past April, when the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performed his tone poem The City, a work which presented a portrait of Baltimore and touched upon the Freddie Gray unrest. The New York Times said of the piece: “Mr. Puts’s music was captivating from the start…a powerful statement, and the audience responded loudly, presumably recognizing the universality of the situation in contemporary America. Such raw and immediate social relevance is uncommon and important in classical music today.”
In addition to the World Premiere, Naxos will release a new recording of Puts’ orchestral music on August 12. Conducted by Marin Alsop, the album includes his Symphony No. 2, which was written after 9/11.