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Leon Kirchner

Publisher: AMP

Lily (for soprano and chamber ensemble) (1978)
Work Notes
reconstructed and edited by David Fetherolf
Text Writer
Saul Bellow
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Soloist(s) and Large Ensemble (7 or more players)
Sub Category
Year Composed
reconstructed and edited by David Fetherolf
22 Minutes
Programme Note
Leon Kirchner Lily (for soprano and chamber ensemble) (1978)
Related works:
   Flutings for Paula

First Performance (reconstructed version)
April 2, 2012
New England Conservatory
Larry Lesser, conductor
Boston, MA

American millionaire Gene Henderson has come to Africa to find the "way to live." In an effort to rid an African tribe of the frogs that are destroying its water supply, Henderson unwittingly destroys the water as well as the frogs. Throughout he recalls his second wife, Lily.

  • Ensemble
    Columbia Chamber Ensemble
    Diana Hoagland (Soprano)
    Music & Arts Programs Of America:
...the evening’s centerpiece was the eagerly awaited 22-minute concert version — for soprano, chamber ensemble, and prerecorded voices — of the late Leon Kirchner's opera Lily, which, based on Bellow's 1959 novel about a rich American pig farmer who goes to Africa in search of spiritual enlightenment, premiered at New York City Opera in 1977 and has not been heard since. After an enigmatic, questing flute solo from Sooyun Kim, the 11 instrumentalists conversed among themselves, like guests at a dinner party for distinguished artists. Soprano Diana Hoagland soared in her high-lying part, like the soul trying to shed its mortal coil. It whet the appetite for the complete work. As for the prerecorded voices, they were those of Kirchner — reading a monologue from Henderson — and his wife, Gertrude. The dead were still among the living.
Jeffrey Gantz, Boston Globe,04/04/2012
The abbreviated Lily is a marvel of invention and intense evocation. It begins with a haunting flute solo, a long cadenza (played here by the phenomenal Sooyun Kim), with crepuscular rustlings of wind chimes and other eerie wisps of percussion (Robert Schulz). Then we hear the incantation of the African princess Mtalba, singing in a language invented by Kirchner himself. The part was first sung at Marlboro and again on the recording by a remarkable Boston soprano named Diana Hoagland....she also made us feel Mtalba's uncanny and scary allure. What a pleasure to hear her again. And how amazing, too, that among the 11 musicians at this performance were violinist James Buswell, celebrated clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, and cellist Lesser, brilliantly repeating their original performances.... This is a major piece, and I'm sure it whetted the appetite of most of us who were at this performance to hear the entire opera. Is there an opera company in Boston courageous enough to step up to the plate?
Lloyd Schwartz, Boston Phoenix,04/04/2012
The concert piece Lily is fascinating, densely textured music, revealing an unerringly focused sense of theatrical effectiveness. The soprano solos would do any Broadway musical proud, even as the score barely clings to the vocal line, pulled away by a tension derived from weird electronic effects, and a whirl of odd little melodies from a variety of solo instruments.
Peter Burwasser, Fanfare,01/01/0001
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