Renée Fleming, Emerson String Quartet and Simone Dinnerstein join together for an extraordinary, must-see event that celebrates the great André Previn. On Sunday, January 23, the acclaimed artists will perform Previn’s final work, Penelope at Carnegie Hall. This fascinating collaboration between Previn and playwright Tom Stoppard tells the story of one of the great Homerian heroines, Penelope, as she awaits the return of her husband Odysseus. Fleming, the Emersons and Dinnerstein will be joined by the illustrious actress Uma Thurman as the work’s narrator. The collaborators will again perform Penelope at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center on February 28.
Penelope was originally conceived as part of Tanglewood’s celebration of Previn’s 90th birthday, and was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Ravinia Festival, Aspen Music Festival and School, and the Kennedy Center. Previn passed away before he completed the monodrama, which was completed by his editor of 22 years, David Fetherolf.
Renée Fleming writes in her Carnegie Hall program note:
“A few years ago, the Emerson String Quartet and I were discussing contemporary composers, and we found that we shared an admiration for André Previn. We instantly thought we should try to commission him to compose something; we knew he wasn’t traveling anymore, but he was still his witty, brilliant self. I knew that one of André’s good friends was playwright Tom Stoppard, of whom I am also a great fan. I thought, “Well you never know, why not ask them?” It turned out that they both liked the idea, and had actually discussed writing something for my voice. I believe it was Tom who suggested Penelope, the classical heroine, as a subject. I had the privilege throughout this process of joining their meetings every so often. It was wonderful to see André and Tom together. Tom is charming, so erudite, and a great storyteller; and of course André was as creative and urbane as always. The closeness that they had, and their rapport as artists, was incredibly touching.
“André writes beautifully for the voice. His own compositional style is quite lyrical, and the prosody is impeccable; he sets text so that it can be understood. I have always responded to his musical language, and collaborating with him was simply a joy. He was very open-minded, and if I needed something, he immediately understood. He was also willing to say “the orchestra is too loud there, cut it.” I never saw anybody do that so easily. I assume that was from his incredibly vast experience, years of arranging and orchestrating for symphony orchestras, television, and film. He was astonishingly facile as a composer. … André was, at heart, just a lovely person. Unfortunately, our lifestyles didn’t allow us to see each other as often as I would have liked. But when we did get together, it was always a very warm, unreserved encounter, and I treasure those times. Having lost my dear friend, I’m overjoyed that Uma Thurman, the Emerson String Quartet, Simone Dinnerstein, and I are able to bring his final work to Carnegie Hall.”
For more information and the few remaining tickets, please visit carnegiehall.org
For information and tickets to see Penelope at The Kennedy Center on February 28, please visit: kennedy-center.org
About Renée Fleming
One of the most beloved and celebrated singers of our time, soprano Renée Fleming is renowned for her sumptuous voice, consummate artistry, and compelling stage presence. Awarded America’s highest honor for an individual artist, the National Medal of Arts, as well as four Grammy® awards, she brought her voice to a vast new audience in 2014, as the first classical artist ever to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl.
Performing in opera houses, concert halls, and theaters around the world, she is a recording artist with Decca Classics. Recent triumphs have included a Tony-nominated appearance on Broadway in Carousel, the opening performances at The Shed opposite actor Ben Whishaw, and the London premiere of the musical The Light in the Piazza. As a musical statesman, Renée has been sought after on numerous distinguished occasions, from the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony to performances in Beijing during the 2008 Olympic Games. In 2014, she sang in the televised concert at the Brandenburg Gate to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 2012, in an historic first, she sang on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in the Diamond Jubilee Concert for HM Queen Elizabeth II. In January 2009, Renée was featured in the televised We Are One: The Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial concert for President Obama. She has also performed for the United States Supreme Court and, in 2009, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Czech Republic’s “Velvet Revolution” at the invitation of Václav Havel. A ground-breaking distinction came in 2008 when Renée became the first woman in the 125-year history of the Metropolitan Opera to solo headline an opening night gala.
About the Emerson String Quartet
The Emerson String Quartet (Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, violins; Lawrence Dutton, viola; and Paul Watkins, cello) has maintained its status as one of the world’s premier chamber music ensembles for more than four decades. “With musicians like this,” wrote a reviewer for The Times (London), “there must be some hope for humanity.” The Quartet has made more than 30 acclaimed recordings, and has been honored with nine GRAMMYs® (including two for Best Classical Album), three Gramophone Awards, the Avery Fisher Prize, and Musical America’s “Ensemble of the Year” award. The Quartet collaborates with some of today’s most esteemed composers to premiere new works, keeping the string quartet form alive and relevant. The group has partnered in performance with such stellar soloists as Renée Fleming, Barbara Hannigan, Evgeny Kissin, Emanuel Ax, and Yefim Bronfman, to name a few.
In the 2021-2022 season, in addition to touring major American venues extensively, the Quartet returns to Chamber Music Society of Louisville, where they will complete the second half of a Beethoven cycle they began in spring 2020. Finally, the Quartet embarks on a six-city tour of Europe, with stops in Athens, Madrid, Pisa, Florence, Milan, and London’s Southbank Centre where they will present the Emerson in a complete Shostakovich cycle, one of the staples in their repertoire.
About Simone Dinnerstein
2021 GRAMMY®-nominee, Simone Dinnerstein is an American pianist. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, son and dog, less than a mile from the hospital in which she was born.
Simone has a distinctive musical voice. The Washington Post has called her “an artist of strikingly original ideas and irrefutable integrity.” She first came to wider public attention in 2007 through her recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, reflecting an aesthetic that was both deeply rooted in the score and profoundly idiosyncratic. She is, wrote The New York Times, “a unique voice in the forest of Bach interpretation.”
This season Simone takes on a number of new artistic challenges. She gives the world premiere of The Eye is the First Circle at Montclair State University, the first multi-media production she has conceived, created, and directed, which uses as source materials her father Simon Dinnerstein’s painting The Fulbright Triptych and Charles Ives’s Piano Sonata No. 2 (Concord). In addition, she premieres Richard Danielpour’s An American Mosaic, a tribute to those affected by the pandemic, in a performance on multiple pianos placed throughout Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.
Photo credits: Renée Fleming – Andrew Eccles/Decca; Emerson String Quartet – Jürgen Frank; Simone Dinnerstein – Lisa-Marie Mazzucco