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Music Academy of the West honors Marilyn Horne with “Carmen” in Summer 2014

The Music Academy of the West will honor legendary mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, the director of the Academy’s renowned Voice Program who celebrates her 80th birthday on January 16, 2014, with special programming during its 2014 Summer Festival. The centerpiece of the Horne tribute programming will be a new production of Georges Bizet’s immensely popular opera Carmen, one of the iconic mezzo’s signature roles. Related programming next summer will include a screening of the 1954 musical film Carmen Jones, which features Horne’s dubbed singing for actress Dorothy Dandridge. Additional events will be announced in the coming months.
“Many regard Carmen as the perfect opera, and it has maintained a constant place in the repertoire since its premiere in 1875,” said Horne, whose celebrated history with Bizet’s masterpiece includes singing the title role to open the Met’s 1972-73 season. That production, which also featured Leonard Bernstein as conductor, went on to garner a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording in 1974. “Whoever sings Carmen has to bring a lot of herself to the character. That’s one of the reasons she’s so interesting.” 
“Such was her thrilling prowess in so many roles, but especially as Carmen, that we can’t think of a more fitting tribute to this extraordinary artist and Music Academy advocate,” said Academy President Scott Reed. The new production, to be conducted by James Gaffigan and directed by David Paul, will take place during the Academy’s 2014 season, which runs from June 16 to August 9 in Santa Barbara, California. Hailed as “a magnet for some of the country’s most gifted young musicians” (Santa Barbara News-Press), the Music Academy of the West ranks among the nation’s pre-eminent summer music schools and festivals, and is the only one of its kind on the West Coast.
Horne’s Music Academy roots extend back to 1953 when she attended the Summer School and Festival as a Vocal Fellow. Alumni from the elite program that she now directs include recent Metropolitan Opera stars Juan Diego Flórez (’95), Susanna Phillips (’02, ’03), Isabel Leonard (’05), and Alek Shrader (’06, ’08).  The Academy’s Marilyn Horne Song Competition is an annual highlight of the Summer Festival; the 2013 winners, baritone John Brancy and pianist Mario Marra, will be presented by the Academy in recitals in California and New York City in March 2014. 
Marilyn Horne has been called the “Star-Spangled Singer” and “the Heifetz of singers.” In 2002, following a career that had seen her dominate her field for more than four decades, Opera News declared, “Marilyn Horne, whose face and song have been in the light – in so many places, in so many styles, through so many media, for so many years – may be the most influential singer in American history.” In the words of esteemed KUSC commentator and host Jim Svejda, she is “America’s greatest living singer.” During her distinguished career Horne has garnered numerous honors, including a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Gramophone magazine. She was named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1995, received the National Medal of Arts in 1992, and has been inducted into the American Classical Music and Hollywood Bowl halls of fame. She was named a National Endowment for the Arts Opera Honors recipient in 2009. Horne has performed in more than 1,300 recitals, made well over 100 recordings, and received three Grammy Awards. Her most recent recording, Marilyn Horne – Just for the Record: The Golden Voice, is a retrospective of her career and includes classical songs, opera arias, and American standards. She assumed the directorship of the Music Academy of the West’s Voice Program in 1997.
“When Marilyn Horne first caught the ear of the international opera world in the early 1960s,” wrote F. Paul Driscoll in Opera News,  “audiences were completely dazzled by the singular quality of her timbre  –  an unmistakable, ear-catching amalgam of light and dark that one listener called ‘the sound of amber’  –  and by her heroic confidence as a musician. Nobody else sang with her firm, clean purpose; no other singer had her palpable self-confidence, whatever the technical challenge. No matter how fast her music, she never seemed rushed; no matter how leisurely the tempo, she never sounded sluggish or slow. She had the capacity to be thrilling at any speed.”
“It’s a mistake to talk about Marilyn Horne in terms of the past,” Opera News continued. “She exists passionately in the present, with a voracious appetite for new challenges, new music and new friends. … Her career is now devoted to passing on what she knows about singing to a new generation of artists. Those lucky enough to work with her in master classes at the Music Academy of the West or Carnegie Hall may not be gifted with her talent    that happens only once in a century    but they will have the abiding inspiration of her example for the rest of their lives.
James Gaffigan, who led the Academy Festival Orchestra in memorable performances the last two seasons and who will serve as conductor for the new production of Carmen, is widely regarded as one of the most talented young American conductors working today. He was appointed chief conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in January 2010. His many opera credits include La bohème at the Vienna State Opera, Falstaff at the Glyndebourne Festival, and The Marriage of Figaro at Houston Grand Opera.
David Paul, a Juilliard faculty member who oversaw the Music Academy’s well-received productions of The Rake’s Progress and The Magic Flute in 2012 and 2013, respectively, and who will return to direct Carmen, has worked as a director on operatic and theatrical stages throughout the United States and abroad. The New York Times hailed his recent production of Rossini’s one-act operas La cambiale di matrimonio and La scala di seta at Juilliard, praising its “irresistible energy and charm.”
About Music Academy of the West
Founded in 1947 by a group of Southern California arts patrons and musicians that included Lotte Lehmann and Otto Klemperer, the Music Academy of the West is among the nation’s preeminent summer schools and festivals for gifted young classical musicians. The Academy provides these promising musicians with the opportunity for advanced study and frequent performance under the guidance of internationally renowned faculty artists, guest conductors and soloists. Admission to the Academy is strictly merit-based, and Fellows receive full scholarships (tuition, room and board). Academy alumni are members of major symphony orchestras, chamber orchestras, ensembles, opera companies and university and conservatory faculties throughout the world. Many enjoy careers as prominent solo artists. Based in Santa Barbara, the Music Academy of the West presents more than 200 public events annually, including performances by faculty, visiting artists, and Fellows; masterclasses; orchestra and chamber music concerts; and a fully staged opera. Recent faculty appointments include New York Philharmonic Concertmaster Glenn Dicterow, former Metropolitan Opera principal horn Julie Landsman, and trumpeters Barbara Butler and Charlie Geyer. 2014 Visiting artists will include Jeremy Denk, Richard O’Neill, and Cynthia Phelps. The Music Academy began broadcasting live, high-definition simulcasts by the world-renowned Metropolitan Opera at Hahn Hall in October 2008. For more information, visit
For further information, contact:
Glenn Petry, 21C Media Group: [email protected]; 212-625-2038
Tim Dougherty, Music Academy of the West Communications Manager: [email protected]; 805-695-7908
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© 21C Media Group, December 2013

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