Photo by Desmond White
April 15: New York Premiere of In medias res
Boston Modern Orchestra Project at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
April 23: World Premiere of Louisville Broadcast
Spatialized Symphony for Hundreds of Musicians, Louisville, KY
May 17-19: World Premiere Performances of Home
Co-composed with Lindsey Branson
Louisville Orchestra in Prestonsburg, Pikeville, Harlan, KY
June 24: West Coast Premiere of Send the Carriage Through
Britt Music & Arts Festival in Jacksonville, OR
Lisa Bielawa: www.lisabielawa.net
New York, NY – Composer, vocalist, and producer Lisa Bielawa has been named a 2023 Fellow by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, joining a diverse group of 171 exceptional individuals. Chosen from a rigorous application and peer review process out of almost 2,500 applicants, the Fellows were appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise. Since its establishment in 1925, the Foundation has granted nearly $400 million in Fellowships to over 18,000 individuals, among whom are more than 125 Nobel laureates, members of all the national academies, winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Fields Medal, Turing Award, Bancroft Prize, National Book Award, and other internationally recognized honors.
Lisa Bielawa is a Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition. She takes inspiration for her work from literary sources and close artistic collaborations. Her music has been described as “ruminative, pointillistic and harmonically slightly tart,” by The New York Times. She is the recipient of the 2017 Music Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters and a 2020 OPERA America Grant for Female Composers. She was named a William Randolph Hearst Visiting Artist Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society for 2018 and was Artist-in-Residence at Kaufman Music Center in New York for the 2020-2021 season. In 1997 Bielawa co-founded the MATA Festival.
Upon learning of her selection as a 2023 Fellow, Bielawa said, “I’m so deeply honored to be among this year’s Guggenheim Fellows. Sincere thanks to the many members of my musical family for our work together. This honor is for all of us.”
During her Guggenheim Fellowship period, Bielawa will primarily work on two projects – a new opera, La Ballonniste, and a book of prose vignettes from her experiences and encounters with music in a variety of international settings. La Ballonniste is an opera in three acts inspired by the life of Elisabeth Thible, an opera singer who was the first woman to fly in a hot air balloon, with libretto by Claire Solomon, directed by Mary Birnbaum, dramaturgy by Cori Ellison, and production/design consulting by Charles Otte. Bielawa’s book will share remembrances and observations gathered from her decades of wandering, offering cultural moments in the global continuum frozen in time – including music theater in bombed-out buildings in Milosevic’s Serbia in 2000; watching Yassir Arafat get thrown out of the New York Philharmonic performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations in 1995, from the only place from which the episode was visible (the stage); spending a seven-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur in 2014, at the very moment that a Malaysian Air flight left the airport and disappeared; and celebrating an anxiously catered Thanksgiving Dinner in 2003 as the only American guests at an iconic hotel in Moscow that was bombed by the Black Widows six days later – to name but a few.
Lisa Bielawa’s premieres in the upcoming months all celebrate the musical relationships and community that have become a hallmark of her work:
- On April 15, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), led by Artistic Director Gil Rose, will give the New York premiere of her piece In medias res at Carnegie Hall, as part of the orchestra’s 25th anniversary celebration. Bielawa was the BMOP Music Alive Composer-in-Residence from 2006-2009, and wrote this work inspired by the bonds she forged with her fellow musicians. The San Francisco Chronicle praised the work’s “superb combination of rhythmic exuberance, melodic grace and textural inventiveness.”
- In 2022, Bielawa was selected for a residency with the Louisville Orchestra’s Creators Corps and temporarily relocated to Louisville to make new orchestral and community-based work as an active, engaged member of the community. On April 23, the Louisville Orchestra will present the world premiere of Louisville Broadcast, an iteration of Bielawa’s ongoing Broadcast series focused on the city of Louisville. Over 500 professional, student, and amateur musicians from throughout the area will join together to perform Bielawa’s 45-minute piece, turning two historic locations – Shelby Park and Big Four Bridge – into vast musical canvases, allowing listeners to walk freely among the performers.
- From May 17-19, the Louisville Orchestra will give the premiere performances of Bielawa’s new piece Home, co-composed with Lindsey Branson, on tour to three Kentucky cities – Harlan, Prestonburg, and Pikesville. Bielawa met Branson, a singer/songwriter and graduate of the Bluegrass School, on a recent trip to Hazard, KY, in the Appalachian mountains. They created the piece in an organic and intuitive process over the next weeks, resulting in a joyful shared musical performance work for full orchestra and unlimited musicians from the rich traditions of the region.
- On June 24 at the Britt Music & Arts Festival in Jacksonville, OR, conductor Teddy Abrams will lead the West Coast premiere of Bielawa’s Send the Carriage Through, written as part of Bielawa’s residency with the Louisville Orchestra and premiered by the LO and Abrams in January. Inspired in part by Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral processional, Bielawa describes the piece as, “a celebration of Teddy’s open-hearted vision of leadership as connection and invitation.”
More About Lisa Bielawa:
Lisa Bielawa received a 2018 Los Angeles Area Emmy nomination for her unprecedented, made-for-TV-and-online opera Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch’s Accuser, created with librettist Erik Ehn and director Charles Otte. Vireo was filmed in twelve parts at locations across the country and features over 350 musicians. Vireo was produced as part of Bielawa’s artist residency at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, California and in partnership with KCETLink and Single Cel. In February 2019, Vireo was released as a two CD + DVD box set on Orange Mountain Music.
In spring 2022, Bielawa’s violin concerto Sanctuary had its New York premiere at Carnegie Hall by Jennifer Koh and the American Composers Orchestra (ACO), conducted by Marin Alsop. Sanctuary was co-commissioned by the Orlando Philharmonic (which premiered the piece), Carnegie Hall, ACO, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP). Other recent highlights include the world premiere of Voters’ Litany, a commission from the Cathedral Choral Society, which was premiered at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC; Missa Primavera, commissioned and recorded by cellist Matt Haimovitz, on his label Oxingale Records; and Brickyard Broadcast –– a virtual reality collaboration commissioned by North Carolina State University.
Bielawa consistently executes work that incorporates community-making as part of her artistic vision. She has created music for public spaces in Lower Manhattan, the banks of the Tiber River in Rome, on the sites of former airfields in Berlin in San Francisco, and to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. During the coronavirus lockdown, Bielawa cultivated a virtual community using submitted testimonies and recorded voices from six continents through her project, Broadcast from Home. In 2021, Broadcast from Home was inducted into the Library of Congress as part of its Performing Arts COVID-19 Response Collection.
Bielawa’s music has been premiered at the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, SHIFT Festival, Naumburg Orchestral Concerts, National Cathedral, Rouen Opera, MAXXI Museum in Rome, and Helsinki Music Center, among others. Orchestras that have championed her music include The Knights, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, ROCO in Houston, and the Orlando Philharmonic. Premieres of her work have been commissioned and presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Rider, Seattle Chamber Music Society, Radio France, Yerevan Concert Hall in Armenia, the Venice Architectural Biennale, American Music Week in Salzburg, the INFANT Festival in Novi Sad, Serbia, and more.
Born in San Francisco, Lisa Bielawa played the violin and piano, sang, and wrote music from early childhood. She moved to New York two weeks after receiving her B.A. in Literature in 1990 from Yale University.
For more information, please visit www.lisabielawa.net.