Dante-inspired opera wins Grawemeyer Award


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – “La Commedia,” a multimedia opera by Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, has won the 2011 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

    The work, based on Dante’s “The Divine Comedy,” premiered at the 2008 Holland Festival in Amsterdam. The Netherlands Opera produced the performance in association with American film director Hal Hartley.

    The piece, which incorporates diverse musical languages, is wide-ranging but remains a unified whole, said award director Marc Satterwhite. Andriessen uses Dante’s epic poem as a springboard for subtle and ironic commentary on modern life, drawing a multilingual libretto from the Bible and other sources.

    “Although some describe Andriessen’s music as hard-edged, it is always human and humane,” Satterwhite said.

    Andriessen, who will receive a $100,000 prize, likes to cross traditional boundaries between musical genres and disciplines. In the 1970s, he founded two groups uniting musicians from classical and jazz backgrounds. He has drawn inspiration for his works from sources such as Stravinsky and Ives, jazz, European modernism and American minimalism.

    His compositions often call for unorthodox combinations of musical instruments and include those rarely used in classical music, such as electric guitar.

    Andriessen’s Grawemeyer Award-winning work is his fourth opera and most ambitious creation. The Los Angeles Master Chorale and Los Angeles Philharmonic performed different parts of the opera—one in 2006 and another in 2007—at Walt Disney Concert Hall. An international cast and several of the Netherlands’ best vocal and instrumental groups performed the entire opera in 2008 at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam and again this year at Disney Concert Hall and Carnegie Hall.

    Five Grawemeyer Awards are presented each year for outstanding works in music composition, ideas improving world order, psychology, education and religion. Winners of the other 2011 Grawemeyer Awards also are being announced this week.