Opera exploring gender identity wins Grawemeyer music award
Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth has won the 2022 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for “Orlando,” an opera based on a Virginia Woolf novel about a gender-switching poet whose adventures span more than three centuries.
The opera, an unconventional piece embracing a vast range of musical styles from Tudor-era ballads to modern electronic sound layering, was commissioned by Vienna State Opera and premiered on its stage in 2019.
Neuwirth drew inspiration for the three-hour work from “Orlando: A Biography,” Woolf’s 1928 fictional account of a young male poet in 16th century England who mysteriously becomes female at age 30 and lives until the early 20th century. The book, which shows how gender can be fluid in different circumstances, is considered a feminist classic and has been extensively studied by scholars focusing on women’s, gender and transgender issues.
“I wanted to reflect the wonderful diversity of life and evoke a subtle form of sexual attraction that cannot be pigeonholed into a single gender,” Neuwirth said. “What’s more, the main character refuses to be patronized and treated in a condescending manner, something that continually happens to women with no end in sight.”
Neuwirth studied composition at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and painting and film at San Francisco Art Institute. She lives and teaches in Vienna.
Earlier this year, she won the 2021 Wolf Prize in Music, a prestigious international award presented in Israel that also went to Stevie Wonder.
“’Orlando’ is an enormous, supremely ambitious work,” said Marc Satterwhite, who directs the Grawemeyer music award. “The libretto and multifaceted score challenge our preconceptions of gender and sexual roles and test our ideas of what opera is and is not. It also seems appropriate that the first female-composed opera to be performed at the Vienna State Opera, a venue long regarded as a bastion of tradition, should take aim at these issues.”
Ricordi Berlin, the German branch of Italian music publisher Casa Ricordi, published the winning work.
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Steve Crews '75
Recipient of a “Best of Louisville” Award in Music, Steve Crews has taught piano and jazz studies in Louisville since 1978. A Louisville native, he received his bachelor’s and master’s degree in Piano Performance from the University of Louisville. From 1978 to 1990 he served on the music faculty of Bellarmine University and was honored with Local 11-637’s 1991 “Musician of the Year” Award.
Crews was an Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Louisville. A former President of the School of Music Alumni Association and board member of the Friends of the School of Music, he was a recipient of the 1998 UofL Alumni Service Award. Crews taught for ten years at the Aebersold Summer Jazz Workshop. He was awarded a 1995 Al Smith Artists’ Fellowship for composition by the Kentucky Arts Council. Crews was selected as a member of the Leadership Kentucky Class of 1999.
Crews is a pianist, composer, and arranger. Having often performed as an auxiliary member of the Louisville Orchestra, Crews’ trio was featured on the NightLites series. He was a featured soloist with the University of Louisville Band. His arrangement of The Judy Dances was a Louisville Ballet premiere.
Crews’ performances have taken him from Perm, Russia (the International Jazz Festival) to Cork, Ireland (the Guinness Jazz Festival) to England and Wales (with the UofL Jazz Ensemble. Since 2001, Crews has performed regionally in schools with the Jammin’ with Jamey program, playing regularly with the Jamey Aebersold Quartet. He has appeared as the pianist with the Harry James Orchestra. Crews is the house pianist at Louisville’s Jack Fry’s.
Crews earned his private pilot’s license from Bowman Field. He has lived in Louisville’s Clifton neighborhood for 31 years with his wife Debbie Shannon.
Emeritus Professor T.Y. (Tsung-Yao) Huang and Mrs. Mary Huang Music Awards Fund
Thanks to the generous gift from Emeritus Professor T.Y. (Tsung-Yao) Huang and Mrs. Mary Huang the UofL School of Music is able to hold 3 student competitions each year. The winners of the Aria, Concerto, and Composition competitions are presented with a monetary prize and a performance opportunity.
Dr. T.Y. Huang is emeritus professor in the Department of Radiology, who retired from the University of Louisville School of Medicine in 2011. During his 32-year tenure at the University of Louisville Hospital, he served as a section chief of Neuroradiology and Vascular/Interventional radiology. Additionally, Dr. Huang was recognized with the Outstanding Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Man of the Hour Award. Dr. Huang and his wife, Mary Huang, who was a nurse and mid-wife, are avid supporters of the arts.
This year’s winners are: Timothy Smith for Composition, and Lize Dreyer and Roman Wood for Concerto.
Emeritus Professor T.Y. (Tsung-Yao) Huang and Mrs. Mary Huang Aria Competition
No award was given out in 2021 due to Covid-19.
Emeritus Professor T.Y. (Tsung-Yao) Huang and Mrs. Mary Huang Concerto Competition
2021 award winners:
Lize Dreyer graduated in May of 2021 with a BM in Cello Performance and minor in economics. Originally from Pretoria, South Africa, Lize has lived in Louisville with my families for seven years.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and limited performance opportunities of the past year have meant that any chance I get to play for people is an invaluable experience, and I can’t wait to come back next year and perform with the U of L Symphony Orchestra! The piece radiates a barely controlled frenetic energy that I think many of us can understand at a deeper level after the year we’ve had! More than anything, I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities I’ve had while studying at U of L, especially the chance to study and grow with Mr. York.”
Roman Wood graduated in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in cello performance. He is from Mount Sterling, Kentucky. Additionally, he will be returning to U of L for graduate work.
“I do not come from a music family. Truly, my parents do not know the first thing about classical music. However, that has never stopped them from pushing me to become the best person and musician that I can be. Even when I have had extreme doubts about my abilities, they have given me the courage, strength, and will to preserve. I am extremely grateful to have received this award and recognition, but truly, it also belongs to my family.”
Emeritus Professor T.Y. (Tsung-Yao) Huang and Mrs. Mary Huang Composition Competition
Timothy Amalavage-Smith just finished his MM-Composition from UofL, writing an orchestral piece as his thesis under the direction of Professor Marc Satterwhite. He got his bachelor's degree of music in composition from the University of Alabama.
“I have often thought about music visually and so this piece draws on that connection. Specifically, I have always been a fan of impressionistic art and, inspired by Lei Liang's Grawemeyer lecture, decided to study the technique and ideas behind visual impressionism in order to create rules for the piece to follow.”