Dawn UpshawSoprano
Brentano String Quartet

Dawn Upshaw and Brentano String Quartet

Dido Reimagined

Serena Canin, violin Mark Steinberg, violin Misha Amory, viola Nina Lee, cello Melinda Wagner, composer Stephanie Fleischmann, librettist

Thursday, January 12, 2023 |  7:30pm

Herbst TheatreVenue Information


About This Performance

Revered American soprano Dawn Upshaw and the unparalleled Brentano String Quartet come together for a new performance project. Sparked by the famous “Dido’s Lament” from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Dido Reimagined focuses on “the emotional journey of a powerful woman who has, in spite of her strength of character, been broken by love. Through the lens of the seasons, Dido discovers, confronts, and ultimately makes peace with her fate and with her place in the world” (Composer Melinda Wagner).


Dido Reimagined

HENRY PURCELL (arr. Mark Steinberg): Oh let me weep, from The Fairy Queen, Z. 629
HENRY PURCELL: Fantasia No. 5 for Four Viols in B-Flat Major, Z. 736; Fantasia No. 7 for Four Viols in C Minor, Z. 238; When I am laid in earth (Dido’s Lament) from Dido and Aeneas, Z. 626
MATTHEW LOCKE: Suite No. 2 for Four Viols in D Minor/Major:
JOHN DOWLAND (arr. Stephen Prutsman): Come again, sweet love doth now invite; Can she excuse my wrongs; Weep you no more, sad fountains
WILLIAM BYRD: Though Amaryllis dance in green
ROBERT JOHNSON: The Witty Wanton
MELINDA WAGNER: Dido Reimagined:
A Response to Purcell’s Lament

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Artist Information

Performer Biographies

Joining a rare natural warmth with a fierce commitment to the transforming communicative power of music, Dawn Upshaw has achieved worldwide celebrity as a singer of opera and concert repertoire ranging from the sacred works of Bach to the freshest sounds of today. In 2007, she was named a Fellow of the MacArthur Foundation, the first vocal artist to be awarded the five-year “genius” prize, and in 2008 she was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Her acclaimed performances on the opera stage comprise the great Mozart roles as well as modern works by Stravinsky, Poulenc, and Messiaen. From Salzburg, Paris and Glyndebourne to the Metropolitan Opera, Dawn Upshaw has also championed numerous new works created for her including The Great Gatsby by John Harbison; the Grawemeyer Award-winning opera, L’Amour de Loin and oratorio La Passion de Simone by Kaija Saariaho, and John Adams’s Nativity oratorio El Niño.

In her work as a recitalist, and particularly in her work with composers, Dawn Upshaw has premiered more than 25 works in the past decade. She furthers this work in master classes and workshops with young singers at major music festivals, conservatories, and liberal arts colleges. She is the Head of the Vocal Arts Program at the Tanglewood Music Center and was the founding Artistic Director of the Vocal Arts Program at the Bard College Conservatory of Music.

A five-time Grammy® Award winner, Dawn Upshaw is featured on more than 50 recordings, including the million-selling Symphony No. 3 by Henryk Gorecki for Nonesuch Records. Her discography also includes full-length opera recordings of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro; Messiaen’s St. François d’Assise; Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress; John Adams’s El Niño, and an acclaimed three-disc series of Osvaldo Golijov’s music for Deutsche Grammophon. She received the 2014 Best Classical Vocal Solo Grammy for Maria Schneider’s Winter Morning Walks on the ArtistShare Label.

Since its inception in 1992, the Brentano String Quartet has appeared throughout the world to popular and critical acclaim. “Passionate, uninhibited and spellbinding,” raves the London Independent; the New York Times extols its “luxuriously warm sound [and] yearning lyricism.”

Within a few years of its formation, the Quartet garnered the first Cleveland Quartet Award and the Naumburg Chamber Music Award and was also honored in the U.K. with the Royal Philharmonic Award for Most Outstanding Debut. Since then, the Quartet has concertized widely, performing in the world’s most prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall in New York; the Library of Congress in Washington; the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam; the Konzerthaus in Vienna; Suntory Hall in Tokyo; and the Sydney Opera House.

In addition to performing the entire two-century range of the standard quartet repertoire, the Brentano Quartet main-tains a strong interest in contemporary music and has commissioned many new works. Their latest project, a monodrama for quartet and voice called Dido Reimagined was composed by Pulitzer-winning composer Melinda Wagner and librettist Stephanie Fleischmann and premiered in spring 2022 with soprano Dawn Upshaw. Other recent commissions include the composers Matthew Aucoin, Lei Liang, Vijay Iyer, James Macmillan, and a cello quintet by Steven Mackey (with Wilhelmina Smith, cello.)

The Brentano Quartet has worked closely with other important composers of our time, among them Elliot Carter, Charles Wuorinen, Chou Wen-chung, Bruce Adolphe, and György Kurtág. They have also been privileged to collaborate with such artists as soprano Jessye Norman, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, and pianists Richard Goode, Jonathan Biss, and Mitsuko Uchida. The Quartet has recorded works by Mozart and Schubert for Azica Records, and all of Beethoven’s late Quartets for the Aeon label. In 2012, they provided the central music (Beethoven Opus 131) for the critically-acclaimed independent film A Late Quartet.

Since 2014, the Brentano Quartet has served as Artists-in-Residence at the Yale School of Music. They were formerly the Ensemble-in-Residence at Princeton University and were twice invited to be the collaborative ensemble for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

The Quartet is named for Antonie Brentano, whom many scholars consider to be Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved”, the intended recipient of his famous love confession.

Hailed as an “...eloquent, poetic voice in contemporary music...” (American Record Guide), Melinda Wagner achieved widespread attention when her colorful Concerto for Flute, Strings and Percussion was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 1999. Since then, major compositions have included Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra, for Joseph Alessi and the New York Philharmonic, and a piano concerto, Extremity of Sky, commissioned by the Chicago Symphony for Emanuel Ax, who has also performed it with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony, the Staatskapelle Berlin, and the Kansas City Symphony. In all, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has commissioned three works by Wagner: Falling Angels, Extremity of Sky, and a new work, Proceed, Moon, which received its premiere under the baton of Susanna Mälkki in 2017. Other recent commissions include Elegy Flywheel, composed for the New York Philharmonic’s Project 19 series, and Dido Reimagined, for Dawn Upshaw and the Brentano String Quartet.

Wagner’s works have been performed by many other leading ensembles, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, American Brass Quintet, the American Composers Orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society.

Among honors Wagner has received is a Guggenheim Fellowship, and awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and ASCAP. In 2001, Wagner received an honorary doctorate from Hamilton College, and she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2017. Project support has come from the Barlow Endowment, the Fromm and Koussevitzky Foundations, and the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust.

A passionate and inspiring teacher, Melinda Wagner is currently Chair of the Department of Composition at the Juilliard School. She has presented master classes at many institutions including Harvard, Yale, Cornell, the Cleveland Institute, and Eastman. She recently served as Master Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts and Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Frost School of Music, University of Miami. Ms. Wagner has been a mentor composer at the Wellesley Composers Conference (2010, 2012, 2013) and the American Composers Orchestra Underwood Readings and Earshot programs. Other residencies include the Bowdoin, Yellow Barn, Monadnock, and Vail Valley Music Festivals, the MacDowell Colony, and in 2021, the Atlantic Music Festival.

Stephanie Fleischmann is a librettist and playwright whose texts serve as blueprints for intricate three-dimensional sonic and visual worlds. Her “lyrical monologues” (New York Times), “smart” opera libretti (Opera News), plays, and music-theater works have been performed internationally and across the United States.

Libretti (upcoming): In a Grove (Christopher Cerrone; Pittsburgh & LA Opera); Another City (Jeremy Howard Beck; Houston Grand Opera); The Pigeon Keeper (David Hanlon; Santa Fe Opera); Arkhipov (Peter Knell; Seattle Opera/Jacaranda). Operas premiered: Poppaea (Michael Hersch; Wien Moderne, Vienna, & ZeitRäume Basel); The Long Walk (Opera Saratoga, Utah Opera, Pittsburgh Opera); After the Storm (HGOco); The Property (Chicago Lyric Unlimited). Current collaborations: Matthew Recio (COT; West Edge’s Aperture), Justine F. Chen, Christina Campanella; Julia Adolphe. Texts for voice: Anna Clyne (Scottish National Chamber Orchestra), Chris Cerrone (Yale/Northeastern), Gity Razaz (Brooklyn Youth Chorus), Olga Neuwirth (Aldeburgh, Basel, Berlin).

Selected plays/music-theater works: Dio (Daniel Kluger); Sound House (the Flea/New Georges; The Visitation, a sound walk (HERE) and Red Fly/Blue Bottle (HERE; EMPAC, Noorderzon, NL), both with Christina Campanella and Mallory Catlett; Niagara (Bobby Previte/Daniel Fish; Hudson Opera House); The Secret Lives of Coats (Red Eye, Minneapolis); The Sweetest Life (New Victory LabWorks); Eloise & Ray (New Georges); Orpheus (HERE). Performed/developed via: Roundhouse Studio (London), Exit Festival (France), MASS MoCA, Birmingham Rep (UK), Synchronicity, Roadworks, Son of Semele, Soho Rep, Mabou Mines/SUITE, Public Theater.

Grants/Fellowships: Café Royal Cultural Foundation, Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, Venturous Theater Fund, Howard Foundation Fellowship, three NYSCA Individual Artist Commissions, NEA Opera/Music-Theater, three New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships, Tennessee Williams Fellowship, Frederick Loewe and Whitfield Cook Awards; MAPFund, Opera America, NY State Music Fund, Greenwall Foundation, Mid-Atlantic Fund, MacDowell, Hedgebrook. Alumna: New Dramatists; New Georges Audrey Residency; American Lyric Theater; HARP; Playwrights Center Core Writer. B.F.A.: Wesleyan University; M.F.A.: Brooklyn College. She taught playwriting at Skidmore College for nine years.

Artist Videos

Dawn Upshaw & Gilbert Kalish at Kilkenny Arts Festival

Brentano String Quartet Plays Haydn String Quartet in B Minor, Op. 64 No. 2