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(Image courtesy: Archives Centre international Nadia et Lili Boulanger, Paris)

Composer Nadia Boulanger’s Only Opera to Receive U.S. Premiere

New York City’s Catapult Opera will stage the premiere of “La ville morte” from April 19–21, 2024


A co-production of Catapult Opera and the Greek National Opera (GNO), French composer Nadia Boulanger’s La ville morte will open with the GNO in January 2024 before making its U.S. premiere.

With performances from April 19–21, 2024, at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, the new production is led by opera and film director Robin Guarino, and conducted by Catapult founder and artistic director Neal Goren, featuring the Talea Ensemble

Boulanger’s only opera, La ville morte (1910), was a collaboration with the pianist and composer Raoul Pugno. With a libretto by Gabriele D’Annunzio, the work explores the destructive power of obsession and desire amongst four main characters.

Originally, the opera was set to premiere at the Opéra-Comique in Paris in 1914, however, the outbreak of World War I prevented the performance, resulting in the music being lost. 

Almost 100 years later, the New York-based chamber company Catapult Opera commissioned one of Boulanger’s last protégés, David Conte, to compose a full score based on his former teacher’s recently discovered piano reduction of the orchestra part.

The cast includes soprano Melissa Harvey as the character Hébé, mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin as Anne, tenor Joshua Dennis as Léonard, and baritone Jorell Williams as Alexandre.

Considered one of the most important women in the history of music, Boulanger taught iconic 20th-century composers including Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Astor Piazzolla, Philip Glass, and Quincy Jones. 

Boulanger studied composition with Gabriel Fauré and composed many orchestral, vocal, chamber and piano works. She was also the first woman to conduct major symphonies, including the BBC, New York Philharmonic, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. 

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