Friday, January 16, 2015

Press Release: Salt Lake Choral Artists in Utah Premiere of "Orpheus Lex"

SALT LAKE CITY (July 26, 2014)--Salt Lake Vocal Artists invite you to join them for a thrilling autumn season opener, the Utah premiere of the opera "Orpheus Lex" by local composer Marie Nelson Bennett. While the original opera is a full-length, two-act piece, this performance will be presented as a multimedia concert on September 13, 7:00 p.m., at Libby Gardner Concert Hall. Soloists are soprano Alisa Peterson playing Eurydice and baritone Tyler Oliphant as Orpheus, with Michael J. Bennett in the role of narrator.

Renowned Salt Lake writer David Kranes wrote the libretto for this modern version of the classic Greek tale, setting it in a rustic cabin in Idaho, with the conflict twisted to become that Orpheus cannot look back--in time. The law, or lex, decrees that if he remembers Eurydice he will lose her again. Throughout the opera there is an exquisite tension as the characters devise ways to avoid remembering each other so they can remain together.

“Orpheus Lex” was composed by Marie Nelson Bennett, who has made a name for herself internationally. She earned degrees at the University of Utah as well as at the Yale School of Music, where she studied with famed composer Paul Hindemith. Her music has been performed and recorded by multiple orchestras, including the London Symphony, Prague Symphony, Slovak Radio Symphony, Czech Radio symphony, Seattle Symphony, Concordia, Boston Modern Orchestra, Utah Symphony, and Salt Lake Symphony. Some of the distinguished conductors she has worked under are Gerard Schwarz, Joseph Silverstein, Marin Alsop, Gil Rose, Robert Stankovsky, Vladimir Valek, Roger Briggs, Joel Rosenberg, David Cho, and Harold Rosenbaum.

Now married to Wallace G. Bennett, Marie Nelson Bennett has been a prolific composer for many years, having written eight symphonies and five concertos. Her opera “Orpheus Lex” was completed in 2006. She has been recognized for her excellence in music composition in a nomination for the Kennedy Center Friedham Award, and she also has a Merit of Honor award from the University of Utah, where her works are featured in a special collection.

“Orpheus Lex” debuted to high praise at its world premiere in New York in 2010 by the New York Virtuoso Singers with Paradigm Chamber Orchestra. Conductor Harold Rosenbaum raved, "I think it is a masterpiece. ... The libretto is so involving and captivating, and your music captures every intimacy and dramatic moment to it. ... Most of all, your music is gripping, sensuous, and sublime. ... You should consider submitting it as a Pulitzer Prize entry." A music critic, Barry O'Neal of New Music Connoisseur magazine, hailed “Orpheus Lex” as "a magnificent piece, full of heart-rending music, generously melodic and extraordinarily well-written..."

Mrs. Bennett’s collaboration with local playwright David Kranes came because she was impressed by several of his plays she saw performed by Salt Lake Acting Company. Mr. Kranes is a highly respected writer and former award-winning professor at the University of Utah who has written seven novels and two volumes of short stories. His novel The National Tree was made into a film by Hallmark. Over 40 of his plays have been performed across the U.S., and his radio plays have been performed in the U.S., Canada, and abroad. He was artistic director of Robert Redford’s Sundance Playwrights Lab for 14 years.

David Kranes has won awards such as the Utah Governor’s Award in the Arts, CBS Playwrights Award, and the National Repertory Play Contest. Mr. Kranes has taught writing workshops throughout the U.S. and Europe. He is a DFA graduate of the Yale School of Drama.
Narrator Michael J. Bennett is a professional actor, having appeared in over 100 films, including Touched by an Angel. He is well known for his one-man shows such as An Evening with Dickens and has appeared as narrator with the Utah Symphony and Tabernacle Choir.

This once-in-a-lifetime event also draws on the talents of internationally recognized conductor Dr. Brady Allred, the world-class Salt Lake Vocal Artists, and singers Tyler Oliphant, praised as a “rich and expressive baritone,” and Alisa Peterson, known for her “stratospheric range and stylistic suppleness.” The concert promises to be an incredible, must-see experience.

To see event details and to purchase tickets to the final rehearsal on September 12 or the concert on September 13, please visit Tickets will also be sold at the door.

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For more information, contact Jennifer Hughes, SLCA marketing team lead, at or (801)691-8356.

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