Lisa Bielawa's Centuries in the Hours - a Work-in-Progress Opera Presented Online on May 27

Centuries in the Hours by Lisa Bielawa

A unique opera experience based on diary entries of American women throughout history

Thursday, May 27, 2021 at 7pm EDT - Online

Work-in-Progress Performance Presented by Kaufman Music Center

​Lisa Bielawa, composer & music director

Claire Solomon, librettist & dramaturg

Jess Medenbach, film & media director

Laurie Rubin, mezzo-soprano

with Students from Kaufman Music Center’s Special Music School High School


New York, NY – Composer and producer Lisa Bielawa, in collaboration with student vocalists and instrumentalists from Kaufman Music Center’s Special Music School High School, will give an exclusive work-in-progress online performance of Bielawa’s new opera, Centuries in the Hours, presented by Kaufman Music Center. The video will premiere on Thursday, May 27, 2021 at 7pm EDT, and a link to watch will be sent to those who have registered in advance. This is the culmination of Bielawa’s 2020-21 KMC Artist-in-Residence appointment. The work-in-progress performance will remain online for registrants to watch for two days after the performance. Information & Registration: www.kaufmanmusiccenter.org/mch/event/lisa-bielawa-centuries-in-the-hours

Centuries in the Hours illuminates the lives of American women by setting selections from women’s diaries spanning three centuries, which Bielawa discovered during extensive research as a William Randolph Hearst Visiting Artist Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society in 2018. Adapting to the global pandemic, Bielawa, with librettist/dramaturg Claire Solomon and film and media director Jess Medenbach, used the isolation women have historically faced, reflected in these diaries, as a formal constraint in creating a unique filmed opera experience.

The stories of the women represented include an isolated teen genius (1901), a missionary (1823), a college student (1860), a Revolutionary War evacuee (1778), a Colorado housekeeper (1890s), a Philadelphia abolitionist (1860s), and a depressed Southern woman (1861). The ghost of Eliza Jumel, former owner of the Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York, a filming location for the opera, is played by renowned mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin.

Special Music School High School student performers include vocalists Julia Ching, Naveah Diaz, Lucie Freeman, Clara Frost, Izabella Gozzo, Fay Levin, Ana Maria Griffin Morimoto, Cirene Mourad and Zelda Rosenbloom. Student instrumentalists include violinist Serin Park, violinist Olga Tytarenko, violist Oriana Hawley, cellist Italia Raimond Jones, percussionist Benjamin Barham-Wiese, piccoloist Harper Love, flutist Diego Ruiz, and hornist Christina Nelson, with additional performances from violinist Rebecca Fischer, clarinetist Scott Chiu, and pianist Jennifer Taira.

Through this opera and its libretto, dozens of manuscripts rejoin the flow of public discourse. Centuries in the Hours asks: What if these women could be lifted out of their historical contexts and respective life circumstances to encounter one another? What can we learn from these women’s view of American history, seen largely from within the domestic sphere? In fact, women have always worked within cramped quarters and with insufficient resources. The women in Centuries all wrote from home, at times of great constraint. Paper was scarce, as was ink, time, peace, quiet and light. Might the lens of women’s diaries provide a “shelter-in-place” viewpoint of our shared history?

Centuries in the Hours is commissioned in part by Kaufman Music Center (KMC), which is workshopping the piece in spring 2021 through the Special Music School. KMC's work-in-progress performance is presented in collaboration with the Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan’s oldest surviving residence and one of the nation's foremost historic houses. Development of Centuries in the Hours was funded in part by OPERA America's Opera Grants for Female Composers program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. The work is an outgrowth of a song cycle of the same name that was co-commissioned in 2019 by the ASCAP Foundation Charles Kingsford Fund and ROCO.


About the 2020-21 Kaufman Music Center Artists-in-Residence: Kaufman Music Center’s Artist-in-Residence program embeds versatile artists who are reimagining music and transforming the field into programs straddling KMC’s thriving education and performance programs. Now in its second year, the program weaves together the many threads of Kaufman Music Center: Artists-in-Residence perform in Merkin Hall and work with students from KMC’s Special Music School, the only K-12 public school in the U.S. that teaches music as a core subject; Face the Music, a teen new music program dedicated to performing cutting-edge music by living composers, including its own members; and Lucy Moses School, NYC’s largest community music school.

The 2020-21 Artists-in-Residence include composer, producer, vocalist and Rome Prize Winner Lisa Bielawa; pianist, composer, Avery Fisher Career Grant Winner and Special Music School Alumnus Conrad Tao; and the versatile, genre-straddling cellist and educator Seth Parker Woods.

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