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Voices of Light: Music of Messiaen, Debussy, Golijov, and Fauré

News & Reviews

  • Music from Donnacha Dennehy's Nonesuch Album "Grá agus Bás" to Receive US, NY Premieres at Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall

    The music of Donnacha Dennehy's 2011 Nonesuch debut album Grá agus Bás, which NPR called "a revelation," will be performed by the artists featured on the album—Crash Ensemble led by conductor Alan Pierson with vocalists Iarla O’Lionáird on the title piece and Dawn Upshaw on the song cycle That the Night Come—at The Kennedy Center this Tuesday and in Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall on Friday. The concerts mark the US and New York premieres of That the Night Come.

  • Dawn Upshaw to Receive 2012 Opera News Award

    Dawn Upshaw has been named one of five honorees to receive the 2012 Opera News Awards, which will be presented at a gala ceremony in New York City on April 21, 2013, to benefit the education programs of the Metropolitan Opera Guild. “Dawn Upshaw represents the highest ideals of pristine musicianship, intellectual curiosity, and artistic integrity," says Opera News. She spoke with CBC Music about the award and more, including her Nonesuch recording of Górecki's Symphony No. 3, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. 

About this Album

Acclaimed soprano Dawn Upshaw’s Voices of Light includes five songs by Olivier Messiaen—“Le Collier,” and “Prière exaucée,” from Poèmes pour Mi (1936); “L’Escalier redit, gestes du soleil” and “Amour oiseau d’etoile” from Harawi, Chant D'amour Et De Mort (1945); and “Résurrection” from Chants de terre et de ciel (1938)—as well as Claude Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis (1897–98), Osvaldo Golijov’s “Lúa descolorida” (1999), and Gabriel Fauré’s La Chanson d’Ève (1906–10). Upshaw’s longtime artistic collaborator, Pianist Gilbert Kalish, joins her on the recording. Although the two have performed regular North American and European recital tours for more than ten years, Voices of Light is their first full-length album together.

For this record, Upshaw created a program centered on the Messiaen songs that address the subjects of devotion, faith, and love. To the singer, these works, which were written over a century’s time span, represent “voices of light.”

As Upshaw explains, “Messiaen’s opera Saint Francoise d’Assise includes a mysterious and unlikely angel, whose main activity is knocking on monks’ closed doors, singing her spirit into their consciousness. I was lucky enough to be cast in this role in Peter Sellars’ 1992 Salzburg production of the great composer’s only opera. My experience was that Messiaen and Peter were knocking on my door, opening my heart and voice to a range of expression that I could never have imagined. I set about researching Messiaen’s output of songs, and began to explore more of this composer’s beautifully ecstatic musical world.”

The featured works of Debussy, Golijov, and Fauré also are very meaningful for Upshaw. The three songs that make up Chansons de Bilitis—“La Flûte de Pan,” “La Chevelure,” and “Le Tombeau des naiads”—have been favorites since her college days. Upshaw and Kalish premiered Golijov’s “Lua Descolorida” in 1999, and the experience was a revelation for her; Golijov has continued to write pieces and parts for her, which she cites as possessing a “rich radiance.” The ten Fauré songs that comprise La Chanson d’Ève —“Paradis,” “Prima verba,” “Roses ardente,” “Comme Dieu rayonne,” “L’aube blanche,” “Eau vivante,” “Veilles-tu, ma senteur de soleil?,” “Dans un parfum de roses blanches,” “Crépuscule,” and “Ô mort, poussière d’étoiles”—also are very dear to Upshaw.

Three-time Grammy Award winner Dawn Upshaw is one of today’s most celebrated musicians, regularly performing on renowned stages across the globe. Over the past two decades, the soprano has gained international acclaim for her commitment to new music and her exceptionally communicative interpretations of the standard vocal repertoire. Her 1997 Salzburg and Paris performances in Robert Wilson’s production of Debussy’s Pélleas et Mélisande were highly praised by both audiences and critics, as was her performance in the Metropolitan Opera’s 2000 production of the opera.

Upshaw has been featured on more than 50 recordings, including recital discs of music ranging from Baroque to contemporary, as well as several recordings of music-theater material and full-length operas. Since her 1987 Grammy Award-winning debut disc Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Upshaw has been featured on 20 Nonesuch discs, including the internationally successful Symphony No. 3 by Henryk Gorecki, which has sold more than one million copies, placing it among the best selling classical records of the era. Her recent recording of Berg’s Lyric Suite with the Kronos Quartet earned a Grammy in 2004. Upshaw and Kalish played together on the 1993 Nonesuch recording of John Harbison’s Simple Daylight. Kalish also was a frequent recital partner of one of Upshaw’s teachers, Jan DeGaetani, with whom he made several Nonesuch recordings.


Dawn Upshaw, soprano
Gilbert Kalish, piano

Produced and engineered by Max Wilcox

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