Music Video: Missy Mazzoli's GRAMMY-nominated 'Vespers for Violin' directed by James Darrah

If you haven’t yet listened to Missy Mazzoli’s Vespers for Violin, recently nominated for a GRAMMY Award for Best Classical Composition, put on your headphones for 5 minutes and 41 seconds of gorgeousness and watch this “cryptic vision of the traditional evening vespers” (NPR), directed by James Darrah and shot in the Mojave Desert. The underlying track features violinist Olivia De Prato from her album Streya (New Focus Recordings, March 2018) and the video stars actor/dancer Sam Shapiro.

Mazzoli spent the first half of the 2018-19 season in the headlines, following the July launch of her two-year tenure as Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a September profile in the New York Times, the announcement that she’ll be one of the first two women to be commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, and the unanimously strong critical reception of her third opera, Proving Up.

As she’s worked her way to a position of power in the classical world, she is fiercely bringing others with her. She has populated the CSO’s Music Now series with a host of first-timers this season, meanwhile running her all-woman chamber band, Victoire, as well as her annual mentorship program for aspiring female composers with fellow composer Ellen Reid and the Kaufman Music Center, Luna Composition Lab.

Proving Up, with librettist Royce Vavrek, played a sold out NYC premiere run at Miller Theatre (Sep. 26, 28), after critical success with both Opera Omaha’s ONE Festival and Washington National Opera. Adapted from an eponymous short story by Karen Russell, the opera follows a post-Civil War family’s grueling pursuit of the American Dream during Nebraska’s land rush. Proving Up landed on several Best of 2018 lists, including for the Washington Post, WQXR, Washington Classical Review, and the New York Times: “Brooding on the impossibility of the American dream, Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek’s tense, creepy new opera, which came to the Miller Theater at Columbia University in September, shows the fracturing of a homestead family suffering on the brutal Nebraska plains. The setting is the middle of the 19th century, but the lessons — about prosperity, virility, patriotism and cycles of violence — are crushingly contemporary. And Ms. Mazzoli’s score, for just a dozen or so players, is a landscape of shimmering aridity.”

Mazzoli is currently at work on a ballet with the National Ballet of Canada along with several opera projects, including Lincoln in the Bardo for the Metropolitan Opera. Based on the eponymous 2017 novel by George Saunders, Lincoln follows President Abraham Lincoln on an imagined liminal journey after the passing of his son.

Breaking the Waves, Mazzoli’s second opera, also written with librettist Royce Vavrek and originally directed by James Darrah, based on Lars von Trier’s controversial film of the same name, makes its European debut this August, directed by the Tony Award-winning Tom Morris, OBE.


Sarah Knight