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This Sat: Lewek premieres new Aucoin commission in Houston

(April 2024) — This Saturday (April 20), at Houston’s Rice University, Kathryn Lewek creates
the soprano role in the world premiere of Music for New Bodies, a new commission from
Matthew Aucoin and Peter Sellars. The engagement represents one of several new challenges
with which the American soprano is currently expanding her range. This summer sees her
undertake a tour-de-force of singing, acting, and storytelling, when she portrays all Four Heroines
in a new production of Les contes d’Hoffmann at Austria’s Salzburg Festival (Aug 13–30).
Meanwhile she also continues to hold sway as today’s reigning Queen of the Night, reprising the
signature coloratura role with which she has repeatedly broken records for the Cleveland
Orchestra’s staged new production of The Magic Flute (May 16–26). As the New Yorker’s Alex
Ross observes, Lewek “executes this stratospherically difficult role better than anyone alive.”

World premiere of Music for New Bodies by Matthew Aucoin in Texas (April 20)

Best-known for her portrayals of canonical roles, Lewek also enjoys expanding the operatic
repertoire. When she starred in the International Opera Award-winning world premiere
production of André Tchaikowsky’s The Merchant of Venice at Austria’s Bregenz Festival, Der neue
Merker praised her “charming and beautiful voice” and London’s Telegraph reported that
“Lewek’s Jessica helped to make this a restitution to remember.”

At Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music in Houston, TX, she now takes part in the world
premiere of Music for New Bodies. This major new work is from the creative team of MacArthur
award-winning composer Matthew Aucoin, whose commissioning credits include the
Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, and Lyric Opera of Chicago, and director Peter Sellars,
celebrated for his operatic collaborations with John Adams, Tyshawn Sorey, and the late Kaija
Saariaho. Inspired by the writings of visionary poet Jorie Graham and pioneering
environmentalist Rachel Carson, Aucoin and Sellars’s new work offers an immersion in vast
planetary processes. They explain:

“We follow the migration of eels to the depths of the Atlantic Basin; we hear the voice of the ocean
floor itself, speaking with superhuman pressure and force; we experience humankind’s impact on
our planet, and we also sense the presence of cycles so immense that they are beyond human

A co-commission of the DaCamera ensemble, Shepherd School of Music, LA Opera, American
Modern Opera Company (AMOC), and Aspen Music Festival & School, Music for New Bodies is
scored for five vocal soloists and an 18-piece instrumental ensemble. For its first concert
performance, Lewek will be joined under the composer’s leadership by soprano Meryl
Dominguez, mezzo-soprano Rachael Wilson, tenor Brenton Ryan, bass-baritone Cory McGee,
and musicians from both the Shepherd School and the DaCamera Young Artists program (April

New staged production of The Magic Flute with Cleveland Orchestra (May 16–26)

Later this spring, Lewek reprises her star turn as Mozart’s Queen of the Night in a new, staged
production of The Magic Flute for the Cleveland Orchestra by Nestroy Award-winning
Austrian director Nikolaus Habjan. Presented as a centerpiece of the orchestra’s 2024 Jack,
Joseph and Morton Mandel Opera & Humanities Festival, the production will also feature the
“sonorous baritone” (Der Standard, Austria) of Ludwig Mittelhammer as Papageno, Orphée
d’Or-winning tenor Julian Prégardien as Tamino, “outstanding” soprano Christina Landshamer
(Fanfare) as Pamina and bass Tareq Nazmi – “a revelation” (Seen and Heard International) – as
Sarastro, under the baton of music director Franz Welser-Möst (May 16–26).

Since making her first appearance as the Queen in 2011, Lewek has sung the formidably
challenging role more than 300 times with leading companies worldwide, including London’s
Royal Opera House, the Vienna State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Madrid’s Teatro Real, Festival
d’Aix-en-Provence, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where she has
performed it a record-breaking 64 times. The New York Times finds her portrayal of the Queen
“utterly enthralling…, bringing thrilling drama to a coloratura showpiece so fiendish that
sopranos are lucky to get through it.” As OperaWire puts it, “Lewek IS the Queen of the

New production of Les contes d’Hoffmann in Salzburg (Aug 13–30)

Following the resounding success of her Salzburg Festival debut opposite Cecilia Bartoli in
Handel’s Ariodante, Lewek was invited to star in the festival’s original treatment of Orpheus in the
Underworld, directed by Barrie Kosky. As Offenbach’s Eurydice, she impressed BBC Music
magazine with her “jewel-like coloratura”; in a five-star review, BachTrack declared: “With the
role as ravishingly sung as it was here by American coloratura Kathryn Lewek, Eurydice is
without a doubt the operetta’s leading character.”

Having given her first performances as the same composer’s Four Heroines at Deutsche Oper
Berlin last season, Lewek returns to Salzburg this summer for a new production of Les contes
d’Hoffmann from the OPER! Award-winning creative team of director Mariame Clément and
designer Julia Hansen. About their vision for the production, dramaturge Christian Arseni

“Clément will explore the relationship between art and real life by linking the three ‘tales’ with
individual stages of Hoffmann’s biography as an artist. This has decisive consequences for the
female figures, or rather for the way we perceive the images that Hoffmann projects onto Stella. …
It is crucial to give these figures independent life, real identities and thus the potential to challenge
the images of femininity imposed on them.”

This is in keeping with Lewek’s own understanding of the opera. She says:

“I’m drawn to the mystery and complexity of the women. I see Olympia, Antonia and Giulietta as
three aspects of the same woman – Hoffmann’s opera-singer lover, Stella. There are many sides to
Stella. If you ask me, one of the key messages of the opera is: ‘Women contain multitudes.’”

Lewek will be joined in Salzburg by the Hoffmann of Benjamin Bernheim, who boasts “the most
beautiful tenor voice since Luciano Pavarotti” (Süddeutsche Zeitung). Hailed as a “force of nature”
(San Francisco Classical Voice), mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey plays The Muse / Nicklausse, with
bass-baritone Christian Van Horn reprising his performance of the Four Villains, to which he
brings “resonant vocalism and suave, menacing presence” (Opera News). Led by Marc
Minkowski, Artistic Director of Les Musiciens du Louvre, they will be supported by the Vienna
Philharmonic and Vienna State Opera Chorus (Aug 13–30).

High-resolution photos can be downloaded here.

Kathryn Lewek: upcoming engagements

April 20
Houston, TX
Shepherd School of Music at Rice University
Matthew AUCOIN & Peter SELLARS: Music for New Bodies (soprano; world premiere; concert

May 16, 18, 24 & 26
Cleveland, OH
Cleveland Orchestra / Franz Welser-Möst
MOZART: The Magic Flute (Queen of the Night; staged production)

Aug 13, 16, 21, 24, 27 & 30
Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg Festival
Vienna Philharmonic / Marc Minkowski
OFFENBACH: Les contes D’Hoffmann (Stella / Olympia / Antonia / Giulietta; new production)

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© 21C Media Group, April 2024

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