Lisa Bielawa
Composer Lisa Bielawa | Courtesy of Lisa Bielawa

Composer, producer, and vocalist Lisa Bielawa shares a virtual work-in-progress performance of her latest opera, Centuries in the Hours, on Thursday, May 27, at 7 p.m. Eastern (4 p.m. Pacific). The artist won the Rome Prize for musical composition, and Gramophone writes, “Bielawa is gaining gale force as a composer, churning out impeccably groomed works that at once evoke the layered precision of Vermeer and the conscious recklessness of Jackson Pollock.”

Bielawa describes the ideas behind the opera:

Centuries in the Hours illuminates the lives of American women by setting selections from women’s diaries spanning three centuries, which I discovered during extensive research as a William Randolph Hearst Visiting Artist Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society in 2018. Adapting to the global pandemic, I’m collaborating with librettist/dramaturg Claire Solomon and film and media director Jess Medenbach, and using the isolation women have historically faced, reflected in these diaries, as a formal constraint in creating a unique filmed opera experience.


The stories of the women represented include an isolated teen genius (1901), a missionary (1823), a college student (1860), a Revolutionary War evacuee (1778), a Colorado housekeeper (1890s), a Philadelphia abolitionist (1860s), and a depressed Southern woman (1861). The ghost of Eliza Jumel, former owner of the Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York, a filming location for the opera, is played by Laurie Rubin.

Presented by the Kaufman Music Center, the opera is the culmination of Bielawa’s 2020–2021 KMC artist-in-residence appointment. The production features renowned mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin with students from Kaufman Music Center’s Special Music School High School, and performances from violinist Rebecca Fischer, clarinetist Scott Chiu, hornist Mike Atkinson, harpist Ari Schwartz, and pianist Jennifer Taira.

Read more about the ideas and methods behind Centuries in the Hours here. A link to the performance will be sent to those who have registered in advance. The video will remain online for registrants to watch for two days after the performance.

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