Catapult Opera Gives American Premiere of Nadia Boulanger’s Only Opera, ‘La ville morte’

By Afton Wooten
(Photo credit: ©Sophie von Hellermann)

Catapult Opera is set to give the American premiere of Nadia Boulanger’s opera “La Ville Morte.”

With a libretto by Gabriele d’Annunzio from his play of the same name, “La Ville Morte” is a tale of “suppressed lust and taboo turned lethal, the prisons of other people’s objectifying desires, and the liberatory potential of creativity.” Catapult Opera Founder and Artistic Director Neal Goren conducts alongside Robin Guarino’s stage direction. Soprano Melissa Harvey makes her New York debut in a leading role beside mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin, tenor Joshua Dennis, and baritone Jorell Williams.

Boulanger was the first woman to conduct the New York Philharmonic and Boston Symphony Orchestra and is most renowned for having developed the talents of musical of Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Philip Glass, Quincy Jones, and Astor Piazzolla. Though she is now acknowledged within the classical music world as one of its most powerful forces of influence throughout the 20th century, numerous circumstances led her away from the pursuit of a career in composition and out of the mainstream. World War I broke out around the same time her profile was rising, during which she and her composer sister Lili devoted their time to charity for musicians on the battlefield. “La Ville Morte” was scheduled to premiere at the Paris Opéra-Comique in 1914, but the production was canceled due to the war.

“La Ville Morte” takes place at NYU Skirball from April 18–21 following its co-presentation in Athens with the Greek National Opera.