Photo: Marina Garcia-Burgos
JAY REISE is the composer of the opera Rasputin which was commissioned by the late Beverly Sills and premiered by the New York City Opera in 1988. It was described in The Washington Times as “a spellbinding, challenging and profoundly beautiful creation.” Rasputin was given its highly successful Russian premiere, directed by Dmitry Bertman, in Moscow by the Helikon Opera in September, 2008 and has been in repertory since then. Rasputin received its French premiere at Opéra Massy in Paris in 2010. The opera is scheduled for the Saaremaa Festival in Estonia in 2012.
Reise's Oscar Wilde-based ballet fairy-tale The Selfish Giant was commissioned and premiered by the Philharmonia Orchestra in London in 1997. Other recent works include The Flight of the Red Sea Swallow for violin and piano, Lunahuaná for percussion 2-players, and the The River Within (Concerto for Violin and Orchestra) (2008) premiered by Maria Bachmann and Orchestra 2001 and recently released on Innova Records.
Reise was born in 1950 in New York City and has lived in Philadelphia since he was appointed to the music faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in 1980. Previous to his appointment at Penn, Reise taught for four years at Hamilton College during which he composed his first two symphonies supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim fellowship. Symphony of Voices was premiered at the Monadnock Festival, and his Second Symphony was premiered by the Syracuse Symphony, conducted by Christopher Keene, and performed subsequently by the Philadelphia Orchestra. His Third Symphony was supported by the Dietrich and Rockefeller Foundations and premiered by the Long Island Philharmonic. Other awards and fellowships have come from the Fromm Foundation, Bellagio, the Camargo Foundation, and twice from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The music of Jay Reise has been performed widely both in the United States and abroad including an all-Reise retrospective concert in Moscow in 2000. He has been a recipient of the US-Japan Creative Arts Fellowship and has served as Director of Contemporary Music at the Grand Teton Music Festival.
Deeply influenced by Carnatic (South Indian) music and jazz (especially Jimmy Giuffre and George Russell), Reise works with a technique that he calls "rhythmic polyphony" in which rhythmic motives are developed within the phrase such that the cadence point is implied rhythmically as well as through harmonic and contrapuntal means. This technique has been a part of his music since 1990.
Rasputin Opera in Two Acts (Massy, 2010) "The score is often beautiful, even flamboyant...a very fine show, which certainly deserves to experience a much wider international distribution." - ForumOpera.com
(NYC Opera world premiere, 1988) "The new opera is a spellbinding, challenging and profoundly beautiful creation." – The Washington Times Read the full review here.
(Moscow premiere, 2008) "Reise's score...serve[s] quite nicely to underline and reinforce the dramatic events on stage. Especially effective is Reise's use of traditional tonality -- including quotes from Pyotr Tchaikovsky's ballet "Swan Lake" and the Russian imperial hymn -- for the music of Nicholas and Alexandra, as well as atonal dissonance to conjure up what he calls, in a program note, 'the brutal and chaotic new world of the 20th century'." - Moscow Times
(NYC Opera world premiere, 1988) "…audaciously colorful opera" - Philadelphia City Paper
Lunahuaná "Typical of the Penn-based composer, his choice of notes was elegant and, more important with percussion, his ear for timbre was incredibly precise. This short, winning piece doesn't take easy ways out.” - Philadelphia Inquirer
“City in the clouds - The title of Jay Reise’s Lunahuaná refers to a Peruvian mountain city perched where the sky is permanently divided between threatening clouds and blue sunshine. Lunahuaná is composed for two percussionists, who mostly play the xylophone and the marimba, but the interactions are so complicated that Freeman had to conduct a work that looked like it should be a conductorless chamber piece. Reise’s music follows the general pattern suggested by the geographical reference, but this piece would beeffective even if you’d never heard of the extra-musical symbolism.” - Broad Street Review
Yellowstone Rhythms for Bassoon and 10 Players "..nature in its most songful state." - Philadelphia Inquirer
The River Within (Concerto for Violin and Orchestra) "... fluidity and mastery that creates an optimum showcase for his attractive thematic ideas." -Philadelphia Inquirer
The Devil in the Flesh and Other Pieces (Recording featuring Marc-André Hamelin) "Satori …with its starlit rotations and seemingly suspended atmosphere, makes a striking impression. Six Pictures from The Devil in the Flesh.. [is] a fine group of virtuoso pieces…[with] a riotously sizzling finale." - American Record Guide
Memory Refrains "One hesitates to burden any recent composition with the designation “masterpiece”, but Memory Refrains is surely music that deserves to be taken up by other major quartets so as to become a post-Romantic repertoire staple." - Philadelphia Music Makers
Powers That Be “… the kind of transcendence that lets you know you’re in the presence of greatness.” - Journal of the Scriabin Society of America
The Selfish Giant (Choreographic Tone Poem based on the story by Oscar Wilde) "It had epic quality. The full organ, the rolling timps and the squabbling brass at the start had weight. A clumsy giant's angry dissonances were peeled back to reveal strings pulling anguished chords." - Evening Standard (London)
Concerto for Horn and 7 Instruments “… what Richard Strauss might have written had he had the guts to be atonal..” - The Philadelphia Inquirer
Open Night - Poem-Caprice for Six Players "..magnetism was immediate in the heart- grabbing opening violin solo of the sextet… the piece unfolds with a reasoning that's hard to explain but great to feel. melodic lines of almost Wagnerian breadth… inflected with the kind of emotional eventfulness that doesn't require a slow buildup.." - The Philadelphia Inquirer
Transcription of Scriabin Etude Op. 2 No. 1 for left hand “Jay Reise’s skillful transcription was such that it lacked nothing of the original sounds. That took quite a bit of doing by Reise, and indeed a good deal more from pianist Gary Graffman. Yet it all worked out beautifully.” – The San Francisco Classical Voice
RASPUTIN HAS FRENCH PREMIERE Massy, France –- December 4, 2010 Rasputin, opera in two acts with music and libretto by the composer, had its French premiere December 4-5, 2010 to sold-out houses at the Opéra de Massy just outside Paris. The production was that of the Helikon Opera which staged the work in Moscow in 2008-09. The opera was sung in Russian with French surtitles.
The stage director was Dmitry Bertman and Konstantine Chudovsky conducted the Orchestra de l’Opéra de Massy. Nikolai Galin sang the title role, Natalya Zagorinskaya sang the role of the Empress Alexandra, Nicolai Dorozhkin was Nicholas II and Vasily Efimov sang the chameleonic role of Rasputin's supposedly bisexual assassin Prince Felix Yusupov.
Other leading cast members were Mikhail Seryshev as the monk Iliodor. Iliodor was Rasputin's theological rival who later emigrated to America, became a janitor in New York City and wrote an autobiography entitled "The Mad Monk of Russia". Mikhail Davydov played the Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich (who supposedly had affairs with both Yusupov and Coco Chanel). Doctor Sokolsky, sung by Dmitry Ponomarev, is a character of the librettist's creation, fusing the royal family's Doctor Botkin with one of the conspirators, Dr. Lazovert. The doctor's discrediting and suicide in the opera are fictional. Alexandra Kovalevich was Yusupov's wife Irina, Mikhail Verbitzky played General Zhevadov (modeled to a limited extent on the conspirator Pureshkevich), and Yury Ustyugov played the cabaret master of ceremonies. The sets were designed by Igor Nezhny an the costumes were the work of Tatiana Tulubieva. Lighting was directed by Damir Ismagilov. The choreographer was Edwald Smirnov and the choral director was Denis Kirpanev.
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