Dante-inspired opera wins Grawemeyer Award
"La Commedia," a multimedia opera by Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, has won the 2011 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.
The work, based on Dante's "The Divine Comedy," premiered at the 2008 Holland Festival in Amsterdam. The Netherlands Opera produced the performance in association with American film director Hal Hartley.
The piece, which incorporates diverse musical languages, is wide-ranging but remains a unified whole, said award director Marc Satterwhite.
Andriessen uses Dante's epic poem as a springboard for subtle and ironic commentary on modern life, drawing a multilingual libretto from the Bible and other sources.
"Although some describe Andriessen's music as hard-edged, it is always human and humane," Satterwhite said.
Andriessen, who will receive a $100,000 prize, likes to cross traditional boundaries between musical genres and disciplines. In the 1970s, he founded two groups uniting musicians from classical and jazz backgrounds. He has drawn inspiration for his works from such sources as Stravinsky and Ives, jazz, European modernism and American minimalism.
His compositions often call for unorthodox combinations of musical instruments and include those rarely used in classical music, such as electric guitar.
Andriessen's Grawemeyer Award-winning work is his fourth opera and and has been called his most ambitious creation. The Los Angeles Master Chorale and Los Angeles Philharmonic performed different parts of the opera — one in 2006 and another in 2007 — at Walt Disney Concert Hall. An international cast and several of the Netherlands' best vocal and instrumental groups performed the entire opera in 2008 at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam and again this year at Disney Concert Hall and Carnegie Hall.
UofL established the Grawemeyer Awards in 1984 with funding from H. Charles Grawemeyer, and now awards annual prizes for outstanding works in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology and education. UofL jointly gives the Grawemeyer prize in religion with the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
UofL will announce the recipient of the 2011 Graweyemer Award in World Order Tuesday, Nov. 30. Announcement of the 2011 Grawemeyer Award in Education winner is pending and will not be made this week, award officials said.