SPCO, Cantus and conductor Joana Carneiro perform world premiere of Luminous Body by Nico Muhly

Text by Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-nominated playwright Craig Lucas
Work is a co-commission of the SPCO, Cantus and the Minnesota Commissioning Club

For Immediate Release
Contact: Kelly Belich 651.292.3239

Saint Paul, MN, August 23, 2011 – On September 9 and 10 at the Ordway, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Cantus, under the direction of conductor Joana Carneiro, will perform the world premiere of Luminous Body by composer Nico Muhly, a co-commission of the SPCO, Cantus and the Minnesota Commissioning Club. 

About the piece Muhly wrote, “Luminous Body is a collaboration between Craig Lucas and me, written in the period immediately following our narratively charged opera, Two Boys. Luminous Body is, as a result, abstract and poetic in gesture and form. The text interpolates, among other things, stylized versions of the teachings of Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, and Plato. These are scrambled, re-contextualized and, in a sense, serve as background for the textures of the combination of nine male voices and orchestra.”

Cantus’ Aaron Humble commented, “As a group of artists supporting another artist's creative process, there is something special about commissioning new music. For Cantus, it's important that we are commissioning works that are both innovative and relevant. We want music that breaks new ground but we also want music that forms the new canon of masterworks for men's voices. As with any premiere, we at Cantus were very excited to receive the score. Nico set the text carefully and has written some truly beautiful and memorable melodies. The vocal parts are divided up between the five tenors, two baritones, and two basses. All of the parts have opportunities to sing not just as an ensemble, but in all kinds of interesting duets, trios, quintets, and so on. Having premiered a number of new vocal works, I always applaud any 21st-century composer who creates music that is both innovative and tuneful."

Patrick Castillo, the SPCO’s director of artistic planning, said, “The SPCO has a proud tradition of advocating for the most exciting and innovative composers of our time, and opening our season with a new work from Nico Muhly asserts this tradition. Nico has a unique voice: his music is fascinating and evocative and wonderfully strange. We're thrilled to have the first crack at his latest brainchild.”

Luminous Body marks the second collaboration of Nico Muhly and Craig Lucas. The two recently wrote the opera Two Boys, premiered at the English National Opera in June of 2011and to be performed at the Metropolitan Opera, which commissioned it, in the 2013-14 season. Zachary Woolfe of The New York Times called Two Boys “Mr. Muhly’s best work yet.”

Muhly is well known for his two albums, Speaks Volumes and Mothertongue, for composing the film score for the Oscar-nominated film The Reader, and for working with a diverse array of artists such as Phillip Glass and Björk.

Craig Lucas has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Prelude to a Kiss and for The Dying Gaul. He was nominated for a Tony Award for the book The Light in the Piazza.

These concerts mark the beginning of the SPCO’s 2011-12 season, its 53rd. Other works on the program include Haydn’s Sinfonia concertante in B-flat, featuring Principal Oboe Kathryn Greenbank, Principal Bassoon Charles Ullery, Concertmaster Steven Copes and cellist Bion Tsang; Bach’s Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins and Orchestra featuring Associate Concertmaster Ruggero Allifranchini and newly appointed Principal Second Violin Kyu-Young Kim; and Brahms’ Variations on a Theme of Joseph Haydn

Friday, September 9, 2011, 8:00pm
Saturday, September 10, 2011, 8:00pm
The Ordway, Saint Paul

Joanna Carneiro, conductor
Cantus, male vocal ensemble
Kathryn Greenbank, oboe
Charles Ullery, bassoon
Steven Copes, violin
Ruggero Allifranchini, violin
Kyu-Young Kim, violin
Bion Tsang, cello

Haydn: Sonfonia concertante in B-flat for Oboe, Bassoon, Violin Cello and Orchestra
Muhly: Luminous Body
J.S. Bach: Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins and Orchestra
Brahms: Variations on a Theme of Joseph Haydn

TICKETS: $10, $25 and $40, kids $5. Call 651.291.1144, visit www.thespco.org or stop by the ticket office at Third Floor, The Historic Hamm Building, 408 Saint Peter St., Saint Paul, MN.

Nico Muhly
Born in Vermont in 1981 and raised in Providence, Rhode Island, New York–based composer Nico Muhly graduated from Columbia University with a degree in English Literature. In 2004, he received a Masters in Music from the Juilliard School, where he studied under Christopher Rouse and John Corigliano.

A former boy chorister, Muhly has composed extensively for choir, including commissions from the Clare College Choir and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. New York’s Saint Thomas Church commissioned and performed his Bright Mass with Canons, later recorded on their American Voices album and on the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s all-Muhly Decca debut, A Good Understanding.
His orchestral works have been premiered by the American Symphony Orchestra, Aurora Orchestra (Seeing is Believing), the Boston Pops (Wish You Were Here), the New York Philharmonic (Detailed Instructions) and the Chicago Symphony (Step Team). He is currently working a new quintuple concerto commissioned by the piano-playing Five Browns.

Film credits include Muhly’s scores for Joshua (2007), and Best Picture nominee The Reader (2008). With designer/illustrator Maira Kalman, Muhly composed a vocal work based on Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, and he has worked with choreographer Benjamin Millepied to create new pieces for the American Ballet Theater (From Here On Out) and the Paris Opera Ballet (Triade), and the Netherlands Ballet (One Thing Leads to Another). He has also lent his skills as performer, arranger and conductor to other musicians, including Antony and the Johnsons (The Crying Light), Björk (Medulla, Drawing Restraint 9, Volta), Bonnie “Prince” Billy (The Letting Go), Doveman (The Conformist), Grizzly Bear (Veckatimest), and Jonsi from Sigur Rós (Go).

Among his most frequent collaborators are his colleagues at Bedroom Community, an artist-run label headed by Icelandic musician Valgeir Sigurðsson and inaugurated by the release of Muhly’s first album, Speaks Volumes (2007). Leading up to Speaks Volumes’ American release, Muhly was invited to present concerts of his chamber music at both Carnegie Hall and the Whitney Museum. Since then, Muhly has released a second album, Mothertongue (2008), and worked closely with labelmates Valgeir, Ben Frost, and Sam Amidon on their respective solo releases. Valgeir collaborated with Muhly and perfumer Christophe Laudamiel to create the “scent opera” Green Aria (2009), which premiered at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and on the ballet I Drink the Air Before Me, commissioned by the Stephen Petronio Dance Company for their 25th anniversary and released on CD by Decca in the fall of 2010.

Recently, Muhly has begun composing for operatic voices. Carnegie Hall commissioned his song “The Adulteress” for soprano Jessica Rivera’s 2009 Carnegie debut, and that same year, countertenor David Daniels and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields performed his Vocalise and Drones on arias by Handel. 2010 saw the premiere of Impossible Things, a new song cycle for tenor Mark Padmore, violinist Pekka Kuusisto, and the Britten Sinfonia, and for 2011, the Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center Theater Opera/Theater Commissions Program, in a co-production with the English National Opera, commissioned Two Boys (libretto by Craig Lucas, directed by Bartlett Sher), Muhly’s first full-scale opera, followed by Dark Sisters (with a libretto by Stephen Karam and directed by Rebecca Taichman), co-commissioned by the Gotham Chamber Opera, Music-Theatre Group and the Opera Company of Philadelphia.

Craig Lucas
Craig Lucas’ plays include Missing Persons, Blue Window, Reckless, God’s Heart, The Dying Gaul, Stranger, Small Tragedy, Prayer For My Enemy & The Singing Forest. He wrote the book for The Light in the Piazza, music and lyrics by Adam Guettel; the musical play Three Postcards, music and lyrics by Craig Carnelia; the libretto for the opera Orpheus in Love, music by Gerald Busby, and the libretto for Nico Muhly's Two Boys. His new English adaptations include Brecht’s Galileo, Chekhov’s Three Sisters and Uncle Vanya, and Strindberg’s Miss Julie. His screenplays include Longtime Companion (Sundance Audience Award), The Secret Lives of Dentists (New York Film Critics Best Screenplay), Prelude to a Kiss, Reckless and The Dying Gaul, which he also directed. Lucas also directed the film Birds of America, the world premiere of The Light in the Piazza and Harry Kondoleon’s Saved or Destroyed. Twice nominated for a Tony, Lucas has twice won Obies for Best American Play and once for Best Direction.

Joana Carneiro
Noted for her vibrant performances in a wide diversity of musical styles, Joana Carneiro has attracted considerable attention as one of the most outstanding young conductors working today. In January 2009, she was named music director of the Berkeley Symphony, succeeding Kent Nagano and becoming only the third music director in the forty-year history of the orchestra. She currently serves as official guest conductor of the Gulbenkian Orchestra. In addition to her performances with the Berkeley Symphony, Carneiro’s 2011–12 season includes three weeks with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, a return to the Toronto Symphony and debuts with the North Carolina and Detroit symphonies. Internationally, Carneiro makes her Royal Opera House (Muscat, Oman) debut with Renee Fleming as soloist. Highlights of her 2010–11 season included much-lauded debuts with the Indianapolis Symphony and the Cincinnati Opera, and a return to The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, with which she had debuted the previous season. Carneiro is the 2010 recipient of the Helen M. Thompson Award, conferred by the League of American Orchestras to recognize and honor music directors of exceptional promise. In March 2004, Carneiro was decorated by the President of the Portuguese Republic, Jorge Sampaio, with the Commendation of the Order of the Infante Dom Henrique.