While Margaret Atwood is best-known for novels like Oryx and Crake and The Handmaid's Tale, the internationally acclaimed author is also a renowned poet whose verse has been set to music. Local audiences will have the unique opportunity next month to hear Atwood's words read by the author herself and also performed by musicians.
Atwood will appear as part of The Plutzik Reading Series at the University of Rochester at 4:30 p.m. Monday, March 26, in the Interfaith Chapel on the River Campus. Then, at 8 p.m. that evening in Ingle Auditorium at Rochester Institute of Technology, Cuban-American composer Tania León will join the author for the Rochester premiere of Atwood Songs, León's vocal-instrumental work based on five Atwood poems.
Both programs are free and open to the public. The performance of Atwood Songs also marks the 20th anniversary of the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Rochester and opens the annual Women in Music Festival at the University's Eastman School of Music.
Musical treatments of Atwood's work have been done by other composers like Libby Larsen and Lori Laitman. In addition, her most famous novel, The Handmaid's Tale, was adapted and produced as an opera in 2003, and a musical theater version of her novel The Penelopiad is scheduled to premiere in the United Kingdom this summer.
"Rochesterians will have the rare opportunity to hear two artists dialogue about their creative process when Margaret Atwood and Tania León appear on the same stage," said pianist Sylvie Beaudette, assistant professor of chamber music and accompanying at the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music. "The audience will hear the perspectives of the poet and of the composer who sets the words to music as well as their reactions to each other's work."
Beaudette will perform with soprano Eileen Strempel, an assistant professor at Syracuse University, for the March 26 program at Rochester Institute of Technology. The musical performances will bookend a discussion between Atwood and León that will be moderated by Julia Figueras, music director for classical music station WXXI FM.
Atwood, the author of more than 40 books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays published in 35 countries, is an international literary star. She has received the Giller Prize and The Governors Generals' Award in Canada; the Booker Prize and The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence in the United Kingdom; and the Dashiell Hammett Award in the United States. Her most recent work is Moral Disorder, a novel that unfolds through a series of stories. Atwood lives and writes in Toronto.
León is a highly regarded composer and conductor. Her orchestral works include Desde . . . , premiered by the American Composers Orchestra in 2001, and Horizons, written for the NDR Symphony Orchestra of Hamburg in 1999. Her 1994 opera Scourge of Hyacinths has been performed in Germany, Mexico, Switzerland, and Austria. León also has composed works for piano and chamber ensembles, collaborated with poets such as John Ashbery, and appeared as a guest conductor throughout Europe.
A variety of other events have been planned around Atwood and León's local visits. Faculty and students from Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester will read poems and passages from Atwood's works from 4 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 21, in the Idea Factory in RIT's Wallace Library. The event is free and open to the public, and more information about the reading is available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Both Atwood and León are also scheduled to meet in special sessions with students.
For more information on events related to Atwood Songs, contact (585) 275-2094.
The Atwood and León visit has been made possible with support from, at the University of Rochester: the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies, the Department of English Plutzik Reading Series, The Humanities Project, the Department of Modern Language and Cultures, the College Music Department, the College Deans' Office, the Anthony Center for Women's Leadership, the program in German Studies, the Film and Media Studies Program, the Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies, the Departments of Philosophy, of Linguistics, and of Anthropology, the Eastman School of Music Women in Music Festival, and the Humanities Department at Eastman School of Music. Rochester Institute of Technology support comes from: the College of Liberal Arts, the Department of English, the Office of the Provost, the Department of Fine Arts, the Women's Center, and the RIT Libraries; and support also comes from the New York State Music Fund, established by the New York State Attorney General at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.