William Bolcom's Lady Liberty
Extravaganza is the word for it. For the show, Ann Arbor's twenty-two-voice Vocal Arts Ensemble will be joined by the River Raisin Ragtime Revue-Tecumseh's twelve-piece ragtime theater orchestra-and People Dancing-Ann Arbor's six-member modern dance company-for the evening's main work: Gian Carlo Menotti's The Unicorn, The Gorgon, and the Manticore. Described by the composer as a madrigal fable, the piece presents the ironic parable of a Renaissance town beguiled by style and befuddled by fashion, with the choir telling the story through modernist madrigals, the dancers enacting it through expressive movements, and the orchestra providing sprightly instrumental interludes.
All this looks wonderful on paper, and, based on the evidence, wonders should abound in performance. But for me, the real reason to attend the show is the inclusion of the world premiere performance of William Bolcom's Lady Liberty. Actually, it's more of a shared world premiere: the short work for mixed chorus and piano was co-commissioned by Cohen's Vocal Arts Ensemble and by his brother's Master Singers of Lexington, Kentucky. "We wanted a big splash without taking a financial bath," Cohen explains, and splitting the cost was the way to go. For listeners who've followed the career of a man called Ann Arbor's and America's greatest living composer, the chance to hear another work from the hand that penned Songs of Innocence and Experience is not to be missed.