Letters from Georgia is based on the letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and the work will be premiered at Eastman Theater in Rochester on 12 November and then at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall on 14 November.
Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts wrote the cycle especially for, and in close collaboration with, Renée Fleming using O’Keeffe’s letters, written mainly to her eventual husband Alfred Stieglitz and the artist and suffragette Anita Pollitzer.
Puts says of O’Keeffe’s writings,
I found that her letters reveal aspects of her personality one doesn’t necessarily associate with her. She could be stoic and aloof but her letters also revealed tremendous passion and longing, self-deprecating humour, and also often great sadness.
Puts, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for his opera Silent Night, continues,
One of my favorite lines is one of the last, a testament to O’Keeffe’s intense patriotism and a line which I find heartbreaking and full of truth, especially for many of us today: ‘It is absurd the way I love this country.’
The performances follow another recent high-profile world premiere from Puts this past April, when the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performed his tone poem The City, a work which presented a portrait of Baltimore and touched upon the Freddie Gray unrest. The New York Times said,
Mr Puts’s music was captivating from the start…a powerful statement, and the audience responded loudly, presumably recognizing the universality of the situation in contemporary America. Such raw and immediate social relevance is uncommon and important in classical music today.
On August 12, Naxos will release a new recording of Puts’ orchestral music, conducted by Marin Alsop, which includes his Symphony No. 2, which was written after 9/11.