UNT presents world premiere of acclaimed composer Jake Heggie’s Ahab Symphony

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - 20:00

What:UNT Symphony Orchestra, the Grand Chorus and tenor soloist Richard Croft perform the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s Ahab Symphony. The Symphony Orchestra will also perform Felix Mendelssohn’s Overture: Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, Opus 27, and Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes, Opus 33a, from the opera Peter Grimes.

When:8 p.m. April 24 (Wednesday)

Where:Winspear Hall in the Murchison Performing Arts Center, 2100 Interstate 35 Frontage Road, Denton. The concert will also be streamed online at http://UNTmusiclive.com

Tickets:$10 for adults; $8 for seniors, UNT faculty and staff, non-UNT students, children and groups of 10 or more; free for UNT students with valid ID. For ticket information, call the box office at 940-369-7802 or visit www.theMPAC.com/tickets.

The April 24 concert of the University of North Texas Symphony Orchestra will feature the premiere of internationally renowned composer Jake Heggie’s Ahab Symphony, which will include the UNT Grand Chorus and celebrated faculty tenor Richard Croft as soloist. Heggie’s first full symphonic work, Ahab Symphony expands on ideas he first explored in his critically acclaimed opera Moby-Dick, with text from Melville’s novel as well as W.H. Auden's poem "Herman Melville."

The work was commissioned by the College of Music and the Institute for the Advancement of the Arts, and written for the UNT Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Itkin; the Grand Chorus, directed by Jerry McCoy; and Croft, professor of vocal studies at UNT. The commission was part of Heggie’s artist-in-residence award from UNT in 2010-11.

The first movement, “Dawn,” is the most heavily influenced by Moby-Dick, including direct quotes from the opera. The second movement, “The Wind,” inspired by the challenges faced by both the character Ahab and Melville, explores the eternal battle of man versus nature, and the inherent powerlessness and frustration of this conflict. That leads to an aching third movement, “The Narrow Balcony,” and a fourth movement, “The Pieces,” that takes a tone of yearning simplicity and resignation.

“The opera Moby-Dick pushed me into a new world of musical language and expression, and this is part of the evolution of my musical style,” Heggie said. “In a symphonic work, you don’t necessarily have to have action like in a staged drama – you can really go inside and meditate on the ideas. There was so much we couldn’t touch on in the opera that I was yearning to explore further in a symphonic work.”

Based in San Francisco, Heggie said he is eager to return to UNT, where he made friends with students and faculty and was able to work with Croft.

“The first time I heard his voice was in Otello at the Met in 1996,” Heggie said. “He came on stage and I was blown away. At that moment, I had in the back of my mind that he was a person I would love to write for one day.”

Seeing Croft’s performance as Ghandi in the Philip Glass opera Satyagraha sealed Heggie’s desire to work with the tenor. Glass’s minimalist style was also an influence on Ahab Symphony, itself, Heggie said.

“I’m very proud of this piece,” Heggie said. “It pushed me and forced me to explore different kinds of musical styles. Everyone at UNT has been so supportive. I’m very grateful.”

Croft, the UNT Symphony and Grand Chorus will also record Ahab Symphony for commercial release. The recording is sponsored in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

“This concert represents a high point of pride and honor for the UNT College of Music – pride in the quality of our Symphony Orchestra, our Grand Chorus, its conductors and our faculty soloist; and the honor of presenting to the world the premiere of the first major symphonic work of one of America's most celebrated living composers,” said College of Music Dean James Scott.

The first half of the program introduces the “sea theme” of the evening with Felix Mendelssohn’s Overture: Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, Opus 27, and Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes, Opus 33a, from the opera Peter Grimes.

The 8 p.m. concert in Winspear Hall at the Murchison Performing Arts Center is $10 for adults; $8 for seniors, UNT faculty and staff, non-UNT students, children and groups of 10 or more; free for UNT students with valid ID. For ticket information, call the box office at 940-369-7802 or visit www.theMPAC.com/tickets. The concert will also be streamed live online at http://UNTmusiclive.com. The concert is sponsored in part by the UNT Fine Arts Series.


About Jake Heggie

Jake Heggie is the composer of the internationally acclaimed operas Moby-Dick, Dead Man Walking, Three Decembers and The End of the Affair. He has also composed more than 250 songs, as well as concerti, chamber music, choral and orchestral works. His The operas — most of them created with the distinguished writers Terrence McNally and Gene Scheer — have been produced worldwide on five continents. Dead Man Walking is one of the most performed new American operas with more than 200 international performances since its premiere in October 2000. As pianist and composer, Heggie collaborates with many of the world's great singers, including Susan Graham, Frederica von Stade, Joyce DiDonato, Audra McDonald, Kiri Te Kanawa, Ben Heppner, Stephen Costello and Bryn Terfel. Upcoming projects include a new opera, Great Scott (libretto and story by McNally) for The Dallas Opera’s 2015/16 season, starring DiDonato, directed by Jack O’Brien and conducted by Evan Rogister; plus works commissioned by Houston Grand Opera, Pacific Chorale, the Pittsburgh Symphony, Music of Remembrance and the Ravinia Festival. Heggie lives in San Francisco.  www.jakeheggie.com

About Richard Croft

American tenor and UNT Professor of Vocal Studies Richard Croft is internationally renowned for his performances with leading opera companies and orchestras around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, The Salzburg Festival, Opéra National de Paris, the Berlin Staatsoper, Opera Zurich, Glyndebourne Festival, The Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra and The New York Philharmonic. His clarion voice, superlative musicianship and commanding stage presence allow him to pursue a wide breadth of repertoire from Handel and Mozart to the music of today’s composers. Croft sang the role of Loge in the Metropolitan Opera’s DVD release of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, which won the 2013 Grammy for Best Opera Recording. Croft has also been twice Grammy-nominated for his recordings of Handel’s Hercules with Anne Sophie von Otter as well as Scarlatti’s Il Primo Omicidio with Dorothea Roshmann. Croft began the 2012-13 season in the title role of Idomeneo with the Ravinia Festival. Other operatic highlights included the title role in La Clemenza di Tito with the Wiener Staatsoper conducted by Adam Fischer. Symphonic engagements include Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with Leipzig Gerwandhaus and the National Symphony Orchestra, Händel’s Messiah with the Singapore Symphony, and Rachmaninoff’s The Bells with the Milwaukee Symphony conducted by Edo de Waart.

About David Itkin

The 2012-2013 season marks Maestro David Itkin’s fifth year serving as Professor of Music and Director of Orchestral Studies at the University of North Texas College of Music and his eighth season as Music Director and Conductor of the Abilene Philharmonic. Following a distinguished 17-year tenure, Itkin was named Conductor Laureate of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in July 2010, and he served as Music Director and Conductor of the Las Vegas Philharmonic from 2007 to 2012. Itkin’s first film score (“Sugar Creek”) was recorded in 2006 by the Arkansas Symphony for the film’s 2007 release. His most recent major work, “Exodus,” an oratorio, was premiered in April 2005 in Little Rock, with William Shatner narrating. “Exodus” was released worldwide on CD in 2007. Itkin’s career has taken him to 44 U.S. states and 15 countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, including concerts and recordings with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Slovenska Filhamonija, the San Diego Symphony and the Seoul Philharmonic.

About UNT Symphony Orchestra

The UNT Symphony Orchestra was established in 1938 and has played concerts regularly for more than 70 years. During this time the orchestra has had only seven regular conductors. The 80-member ensemble is currently under the direction of Maestro David Itkin. Membership is drawn from the finest musicians attending the College of Music.

About Jerry McCoy

Dr. Jerry McCoy is in his 13th year as Director of Choral Studies and Regents Professor of Music at the University of North Texas, where he conducts the internationally renowned A Cappella Choir and the Grand Chorus; teaches graduate choral conducting and advanced choral techniques; and guides the choral studies program. He is the national immediate past-president and sitting vice-president of the American Choral Directors Associatiand a member of the editorial board of the Choral Scholar. He is in his fifth season as Music Director of Schola Cantorum of Texas, one of the foremost volunteer choruses in Texas. McCoy has conducted all-state, regional, festival and performance clinics in 37 states across the nation. He has been a guest conductor for the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, the New England Symphonic Ensemble, the Texas Camerata, the renowned Santa Fe Desert Chorale, the Anyang (Korea) City Choir, the Incheon City Chorale (South Korea’s foremost professional choir), the Bucheon (Korea) Philharmonic Chorus, the Daegu (Korea) City Choir, the Wichita (Kansas) Chamber Chorale, and the Wichita Falls (Texas) Symphony Orchestra.

Grand Chorus

The University of North Texas Grand Chorus, comprised of more than 150 singers drawn from the A Cappella Choir, Concert Choir and University Singers as well as other interested individuals, partners with the UNT Symphony and Wind Ensemble, as well as other regional orchestras, to present major oratorio repertoire. Performances of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, Beethoven’s Choral Symphony, Britten’s War Requiem and a commercial recording of the wind symphony arrangement of Orff’s Carmina Burana are but a few of the unforgettable experiences afforded to members of this ensemble.

About the UNT College of Music

The UNT College of Music is one of the largest and most respected comprehensive music schools in the country. About 1,500 music students attend UNT each year, participating in more than 50 widely varied ensembles and pursuing specialized studies in performance, composition, music education or music scholarship. UNT faculty members and students have made appearances on the world’s finest stages and have produced numerous recordings, many receiving Grammy awards and nominations. Distinguished UNT alumni can be found around the globe, in top music ensembles, opera companies, universities and schools.

About IAA

The University of North Texas Institute for the Advancement of the Arts was launched on Oct. 21, 2009. The institute’s goal is to further the university’s reputation for nurturing artistic and creative expression by recognizing artistic contributions and sharing them with the public, and enhancing the learning environment for UNT students.

UNT News Service
(940) 565-2108