Sierra: 33 Sueños

On February 20, Roberto Sierra’s song cycle, 33 Sueños (33 Dreams) receives its American premiere presented by the New York Festival of Song (NYFOS). Programmed as part of NYFOS’ “Hyphenated-Americans” program, the 30-minute work is scored for baritone and piano and uses the texts settings of poet Juan Carlos Garvayo. (Garvayo also serves as pianist of the Spanish ensemble Trio Arbós.) 33 Sueños premiered in March 2018 in Seville, Spain, with soloist Javier Povedano and the poet at the keyboard. NYFOS’ concert takes place in New York’s Merkin Hall, and features baritone Jesse Blumberg joined by pianist Leann Osterkamp.

“During one of my visits to Spain, Juan Carlos Garvayo, my friend and collaborator of many years, handed me a book titled ‘33 Sueños’ with his name inscribed as the poet. For over two decades, he has premiered and performed many of my works, but I had no idea he wrote poetry. I took the volume back with me to the USA, and once I had the chance to glance through it, I immediately decided to set all the poems for baritone and piano. Juan Carlos’ poetry immediately spoke to me; the oneiric aspect of the poems connected with my music—a term that often appears in my works is ‘like a dream.’ The writing process was vertiginous, as one poem led to the next, in fact as in a dream.” — Roberto Sierra

Jesse Blumberg; photo: Arielle Doneson

NYFOS artistic director Steven Blier – along with co-founder (and associate artistic director) Michael Barrett – share some observations about “Hyphenated-Americans.” “In late 2017, Michael and I were busy trying to finalize the 2018–2019 NYFOS season. We had settled on the W. C. Handy project, and we were thinking about celebrating a famous poet on a later evening. (That poet turned out to be García Lorca…) But the third show remained a mystery… The debate on immigration to America was in the headlines when we first discussed [this] program and, as we predicted, the debate has continued…

“America was once proud to be a melting pot…To shed some light on the issue, we decided to celebrate a group of new American citizens and first-generation composers who work and reside in the U.S. Our roster includes professors at distinguished universities and award-winning performers…All of them are active in the ongoing development of our nation’s music, character, and ethos. Their musical voices span two generations, and draw deeply from their varied geographic and cultural origins…we are proud to celebrate their work as we revel in the new sonorities and rhythms they bring to American music…”