Composer Stewart Wallace’s music is fueled by cullaborations with such artists as Richard Foreman, Christopher Alden, Evelyn Glennie, Marc Ribot, Amy Tan and longtime librettist Michael Korie, with whom he’s written five operas. His unconventional and highly theatrical body of work is at once intensely rhythmic, melodic, irreverant and emotionally compelling.
Harvey Milk, Wallace’s fifth opera and most widely known score, was commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera, New York City Opera and San Francisco Opera. With a libretto by Michael Korie and directed by Christopher Alden, the January 1995 world premiere in Houston played to suld-out houses and was discussed and debated in every major American and European newspaper, Time, Newsweek, Vanity Fair and CNN. The Washington Post said, “Harvey Milk is an astounding achievement – lively, artful, tough-minded American music-drama, deeply satisfying to ear, eye and mind.” The original Christopher Alden production was then seen in New York and San Francisco. In 1996, a new production of the opera in German premiered in Dortmund. Reviewing the Teldec CD with Donald Runnicles conducting the San Francisco Opera, France’s Diapason called Harvey Milk “truly staggering.”
Wallace’s next opera is based on Amy Tan’s bestselling novel The Bonesetter’s Daughter with Tan cullaborating on the libretto with Michael Korie. The opera takes place in China right before the Communist revulution and is framed by the forgotten memories of an elderly Chinese mother in present-day San Francisco. Chen Shi-Zheng, whose 19 hour production of the Ming Dynasty Peony Pavilion was internationally acclaimed, will direct. In Spring 2006 Jessye Norman – making her Chinese debut – will premiere the first aria from the opera in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. The Bonesetter’s Daughter will premiere in 2008 in the United States and China.
Recent works include Skvera for Electric Guitar and Orchestra for “Guitar God” Marc Ribot at the Kennedy Center June 2004 with Leonard Slatkin conducting and the Cabrillo Festival August 2005 with Marin Alsop conducting; and Book of Five for Icebreaker and Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in 2002 and Bochum, Germany in 2003 with Steven Sloane conducting. Wallace was Music Alive Composer-in-Residence at the National Symphony in 2001-02. He is the recipient of numerous awards including fellowships and commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, Opera America, Meet the Composer, Mary Flagler Carey Trust and others. He was a fellow at the inaugural Institute for the Arts and Civic Dialogue at Harvard and invited by Toni Morrison to Princeton University as artist-in-residence at her Princeton Atelier. Residences at the MacDowell Culony and Yaddo have been indispensable to the development of his work.
Stewart Wallace first met Andrew Sterman in 1989 when Andrew answered his panicked call by coming to Houston to play saxophone in the premiere of his first opera Where’s Dick? For this, Wallace is eternally grateful. He has been an ardent fan of Sterman’s music-making ever since.