Sure, any concert featuring the preeminent American soprano Renée Fleming is going to make waves. But on Saturday, the Eastman Philharmonia — led by Neil Varon — will present a program that is bound to be a tremendous source of pride for Rochester and a cause for excitement among contemporary classical music fans.
Raised in Rochester and an Eastman alumnus, Fleming is no stranger to the local music community, and on this occasion, she will perform the world premiere of "Letters from Georgia." The latest song cycle by fellow Eastman alum Kevin Puts — the 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winning composer of the opera "Silent Night" — cites the artist Georgia O'Keeffe's letters as inspiration. Specifically, the correspondence was addressed to Anita Pollitzer, an artist and activist for women's suffrage, and her teacher, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who would become O'Keeffe's husband. This collaboration between Puts and Fleming set out to focus on an important woman in American history, and the resulting "Letters from Georgia" has clear feminist underpinnings and serves as a revealing look at the inner life of a seminal American artist.
The concert will also feature works by Maurice Ravel and Sergei Prokofiev, two of the most important and popular composers of the 20th century. Ravel's "Rapsodie espagnole" has all the enigmatic charm and intriguing textures that are typical of the composer. Written in 1944, Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 is a rousing work rich in both tasty melodies and infectious rhythms. Fleming and the orchestra will repeat the program on Monday, November 14, at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall in New York City.
Renee Fleming and the Eastman Philharmonia will perform on Saturday, November 12, at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, 60 Gibbs Street. 8 p.m. $31-$91. 274-3000; eastmantheatre.org.