From the Santa Fe Opera press release:
COLD MOUNTAIN – Jennifer Higdon, composer; Gene Scheer, librettist
2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. Cold Mountain is Charles Frazier’s powerful account of one soldier, W. P. Inman, who deserts the Confederate army as the war is coming to an end and makes his way back to his home on Cold Mountain. The novel won the 1997 National Book Award and was made into a film in 2003. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards.
The Civil War has a special resonance for New Mexicans. The New Mexico Territory was the site of one of the final and westernmost battles of the Civil War, fought at nearby Glorieta Pass in 1862. Historians have called it a major event in the history of the Civil War. The village of Pecos is the site of an annual reenactment of the skirmish.
Cold Mountain composer Jennifer Higdon is one of the most in-demand composers today. She was awarded the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto and a Grammy the same year for her Percussion Concerto. blue cathedral, written in 2000, on the death of her brother, has become one of the most performed modern orchestral works. Her compositions have been performed by leading orchestras throughout the country and she has received commissions from numerous instrumental ensembles.
The versatile American librettist and composer Gene Scheer is the librettist. Among his many projects are several with composer Jake Heggie, the latest being Moby Dick for the Dallas Opera which was premiered in 2010. He collaborated with Tobias Picker on two operas, An American Tragedy, premiered at the Metropolitan Opera, andTherese Raquin for the Dallas Opera. He has written songs for singers including Renée Fleming, Sylvia McNair and Stephanie Blythe, and a song cycle, Voices from World War II for Nathan Gunn.
Nathan Gunn, who will sing the role of W.P. Inman, is one of the country’s leading operatic baritones. He has performed in virtually every major opera house in the world and is admired as an interpreter of new works including operas by Tobias Picker, Daron Hagen, Andre Previn and Peter Eötvös. He collaborated with Gene Scheer on the opera An American Tragedy, and the song cycle Voices from World War II. Gunn is also a distinguished concert performer and recitalist. He appeared in the 1998 production of Berlioz’ Beatrice and Benedict and the following year in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos in Santa Fe. He is currently Professor of Voice at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.
MISS FORTUNE – Judith Weir, composer, librettist
Miss Fortune is based on a Sicilian folk tale called Sfortuna. Composer Judith Weir, who often makes use of folk idioms, is her own librettist. She has updated the story to the 21st century making it a topical morality tale about the ups and downs of life and the inconsistencies of fate. The opera is enlivened by a group of acrobats called “Fates Gang.”
Here’s more about the commissions from the New York Times. And congratulations to both composers!!