Review: Tanglewood premiere of Kevin Puts’s “Brightness of Light,” with BSO, Fleming, Gilfry

Posted on: July 24, 2019

A few years ago, composer Kevin Puts wrote the Georgia O’Keeffe-inspired song cycle ‘Letters from Georgia’ for the acclaimed soprano [Renée Fleming ] on commission,” writes Zoë Madonna in Monday’s (7/22) Boston Globe. “She was so taken with it that she proposed an expansion. Voila: ‘The Brightness of Light,’ co-commissioned by no less than six heavyweight organizations including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, given its first performance on Saturday evening at Tanglewood … under the baton of BSO music director Andris Nelsons…. It’s an easy delight. Puts … upgraded ‘Letters from Georgia’ with a handful of additional movements and a baritone solo voice representing Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer and curator who … married her. Puts is also responsible for the libretto…. This piece is tailored to Fleming’s voice…. In ‘Ache,’ depicting O’Keeffe’s carnal longing for Stieglitz, she burned with single-minded passion, while Wendall K. Harrington’s projections … displayed O’Keeffe’s sensuous flower paintings…. Singing Stieglitz’s role with authority and humanity, Rod Gilfry emphasized the photographer’s contradictory desires … ‘The Brightness of Light’ may look like the love story of O’Keeffe and Stieglitz, but equally important is that of O’Keeffe and the desert; it’s a woman’s life and loves, 20th-century edition.”

Posted July 24, 2019

In photo: Rod Gilfry, Renée Fleming, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra perform the world premiere of Kevin Puts’s The Brightness of Light orchestral song cycle at the Tanglewood Festival, led by Music Director Andris Nelsons, July 20, 2019. Photo by Hilary Scott