Lorelei Ensemble and Boston Symphony Orchestra Give Northeast Premiere of Julia Wolfe’s Her Story

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Lorelei Ensemble and Boston Symphony Orchestra Give Northeast Premiere of Julia Wolfe’s Her Story
Lorelei Ensemble and Boston Symphony Orchestra Give Northeast Premiere of Julia Wolfe’s Her Story

Nationally acclaimed Boston-based vocal artists Lorelei Ensemble and the Boston Symphony Orchestra perform the northeast premiere of composer Julia Wolfe’s Her Story, a 40-minute piece for orchestra and women’s vocal ensemble, on Thursday, November 5, 2020 at 8:00pm; Friday, November 6, 2020 at 1:30pm; and Saturday, November 7, 2020 at 8:00pm at Symphony Hall under the direction of conductor Giancarlo Guerrero. The program also includes Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 «Symphony of Sorrowful Songs» featuring Polish soprano Iwona Sobotka.

The 2020-2021 premiere performances of Her Story are co-commissioned and co-presented by the Boston Symphony Orchestra alongside the Nashville Symphony led by Giancarlo Guerrero (Thursday, September 10, 2020 at 7:00pm; Friday, September 11, 2020 at 8:00pm; and Saturday, September 12, 2020 at 8:00pm), the San Francisco Symphony led by Giancarlo Guerrero (Thursday, November 12, 2020 at 8:00pm and Saturday, November 14, 2020 at 8:00pm), the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Marin Alsop (Friday, February 26, 2021 at 8:00pm and Saturday, February 27, 2021 at 8:00pm), and the National Symphony Orchestra led by Gianandrea Noseda (Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 7:00pm; Friday, March 5, 2021 at 8:00pm; and Saturday, March 6, 2021 at 8:00pm). The world premiere performances with the Nashville Symphony will be recorded for a forthcoming album release on Naxos.

Lorelei Artistic Director Beth Willer has been planning the collaboration with Wolfe since 2017, and is looking forward to bringing the piece to Boston: “It is an incredible opportunity to work with Julia on a project that is sure to make a lasting impact, both artistically and culturally. We are especially thrilled to be premiering this piece in our home-town, almost exactly 100 years after the first women’s vote on November 2, 1920.”

Written for Lorelei Ensemble to commemorate the centennial of the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, Her Story is the latest in a series of Wolfe’s compositions highlighting monumental and turbulent moments in American history and culture. That the piece is having its world premiere in Nashville is no accident: Tennessee was the 36th and final state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment, and the world premiere comes mere weeks after the centennial of the August 18, 1920 ratification vote. NPR describes Julia Wolfe as «our labor documentarian, tackling historic issues that resonate today… By marrying history and music, Wolfe forces us to look to our past to protect our future.» The immersive, visual performances will be directed by Anne Kauffman with scenic and lighting design by Jeff Sugg, costumes by Marion Talan, and produced by Bang on a Can.

«Though we have yet to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, women have been battling for equality from the beginning of the nation,” writes Wolfe. “Her Story captures the passion and perseverance of women refusing subordination, demanding representation, and challenging the prejudice and power structures that have  limited women’s voices. The dynamic vocal artists of Lorelei Ensemble team up with 5 major American orchestras to tell this important yet much neglected thread of American political history.”

The impetus of the piece stemmed from Lorelei Ensemble Artistic Director Beth Willer’s longstanding admiration of Wolfe’s work. She highlights the composition’s importance in this particular moment in our history, stating, “I have been absolutely captivated by the work of Julia Wolfe since conducting her Pulitzer-prize winning work, Anthracite Fields, in 2017. Her ability to uncover and curate the diverse voices surrounding both common and spectacular events in the history of our great nation makes her an ideal creator and collaborator for this project. I envision this piece as a celebration of the power and influence of American women in achieving equality and justice for all American citizens, slated for premiere upon the centenary of the first women’s vote (November 2, 1920). It is an incredible opportunity to work with Julia on a project that is sure to make a lasting impact, both artistically and culturally.”

Her Story was co-commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Nashville Symphony, the National Symphony, and the San Francisco Symphony and with the generous support of Linda and Stuart Nelson.