The University of Chicago welcomed Grammy award winning soprano Dawn Upshaw back to campus for two performances in November 2009. Upshaw is a critically acclaimed soprano who has performed in venues ranging from Glyndebourne to the Metropolitan Opera, and in 2007 she was named a Fellow of the MacArthur Foundation as the first vocal artist to be awarded the five-year “genius” prize.
On November 7, 2009, Dawn Upshaw and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra mesmerized a packed audience at Mandel Hall with a program that included the premiere of In the Land of the Lemon Trees. This song cycle was composed by Alberto Iglesias, an Academy Award-nominated composer best known for his work with director Pedro Almodovar. Chicago Tribune classical music critic John von Rhein wrote the following in his review of the performance:
[Alberto] Iglesias based his vocal work on English and French poems by John Ashbery, Rene Char and Wallace Stevens. Rather than clothe their dense verses in astringent modernist harmonies, as one might have expected, Iglesias has opted instead for luminous, diatonic lyricism. Long, shapely vocal lines are set within shimmering orchestral textures shot through with the throbbing riffs of amplified guitar.
Upshaw was the composer’s ally in transforming obscure poetic musings into deeply affecting music. The singer again proved herself a wonder at evoking moods and expressive nuances. Her voice has acquired more varied colors, while her diction and musicianship remain impeccable.
To read John von Rhein’s review in its entirety please click here.
On November 17, 2009 Upshaw returned to Mandel Hall to perform with eighth blackbird and other distinguished guests as they presented the song cycle Ayre by famed composer Osvaldo Golijov. Golijov’s music reflects his own complex personal experiences, and Ayre is no exception as it focuses on the intermingling of Christian, Arab, and Jewish culture before the expulsion of the Jews in the late 15th-century. Golijov says, “With a little bend, a melody goes from Jewish to Arab to Christian. How connected these cultures are and how terrible it is when they don’t understand each other. The grief that we are living in the world today has already happened for centuries but somehow harmony was possible between these civilizations.”