Met Orchestra premieres, tours Heath by Matthew Aucoin

Met Orchestra premieres, tours Heath by Matthew Aucoin
King Lear, James Barry

Even though my orchestral piece does not directly enact King Lear's heath scenes, Heath felt like the only possible title. This play’s inner landscape is a rocky, barren place, one in which every human luxury is ultimately burned away to reveal the hard stone underneath: “the thing itself,” as Lear puts it. -- Matthew Aucoin

The Met Orchestra returns to international touring this summer with programs that include the newest orchestra piece from composer Matthew Aucoin. On June 22, Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts the world premiere of Aucoin's Heath at Carnegie Hall; Heath will then enjoy country premieres in France on June 27, the United Kingdom on June 29, and Germany on July 2. Heath is commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera and is inspired by King Lear, the seminal tragedy by William Shakespeare.

"The heath, in Shakespeare’s King Lear, is the bare, windswept place, devoid of civilization and human comforts," writes the composer. "It is on the heath that Lear loses touch with reality, or at least with the world of unchecked privilege that he has inhabited for his whole life, and enters a state somewhere between madness and prophecy, a kind of lucid nightmare...King Lear expresses a bottomlessly bleak vision of human nature, one in which laws, customs, and hierarchies—what we call “norms” in the contemporary world—are a flimsy safeguard against devouring animal appetites.

"My piece Heath is divided into four sections, played continuously with no break. The first and longest, “The Divided Kingdom,” embodies the atmosphere of the play’s first scenes: the uneasy sense of rituals failing to serve their purpose, of political life unraveling into chaos. The second section, “The Fool,” is full of darting, quicksilver music inspired by the Fool’s mockery of Lear. The brief third section, “I have no way...”, is inspired by the blinded Gloucester’s slow, sad progress across the landscape. And the final movement, “With a Dead March,” embodies the accumulated tragedies of the play’s final scenes."

Looking ahead to next season, two new opera projects are on the horizon for Aucoin. A new reduced orchestration of Eurydice is commissioned by Boston Lyric Opera and Opera Grand Rapids, premiering in Boston March 1, 2024. On April 20, 2024, Aucoin teams up with legendary director Peter Sellars for Music for New Bodies, co-commissioned by DACAMERA and the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.

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