Genesee Recital Explores Music by Homosexual Composers

Tenor Robert Strauss will give a recital focusing on the musical works of well-known 20th century homosexual composers in the Stuart Steiner Theatre at the college’s Batavia campus on Friday, April 27 at 7:00 pm. The event is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required.

The program, titled “The Recital that Dare Not Speak Its Name” features titles such as Before Life and After, L’heure exquise, Now Have I Fed and Eaten Upon the Rose, and Sokrates and Alcibiades. The title is derived from the controversy that was associated with many homosexual composers early in the last century, according to Ann Reid, Associate Professor of Music at Genesee. Highlighted composers include Americans Samuel Barber and Ned Rorem; British composer Benjamin Britten; and Reynaldo Hahn, who was born in Venezuela but spent most of his life in Paris, France. The recital, which was on Nazareth College’s arts calendar last month, also includes poetry by Thomas Hardy, Walt Whitman, Michelangelo, and James Joyce.

Tenor Robert Strauss has been a voice tutor to Genesee students for three years. He has appeared on stage in roles such as Archibald Craven (The Secret Garden) and Tony (West Side Story). Most recently, Strauss appeared as Pedrillo in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail and as King Kaspar in Amahl and the Night Visitors, both with Mercury Opera Rochester. As a director, last year at Nazareth College, Strauss staged the New York State premiere of Felice, an opera by Benton Hess. In the past six months, Dr. Strauss has directed productions of Seussical: The Musical (Gates Community Theatre), Amahl and the Night Visitors (Mercury Opera Rochester), Women in Pants…and other strange stories (Nazareth College scenes program), and The Secret Marriage (Nazareth College).

In addition to his duties at Nazareth College, Dr. Strauss teaches voice at the Eastman Community Music School, having previously served on voice faculties of colleges in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Strauss received the Doctor of Musical Arts in Vocal Performance and Literature from West Virginia University. He also holds degrees from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and State University of New York College at Fredonia.

Dr. Strauss will be performing with Benton Hess, a Distinguished Professor of Voice and the Musical Director of Eastman Opera Theatre at the Eastman School of Music. Hess is also the Co-Artistic Director of Mercury Opera Rochester and recently conducted wildly successful productions of Madama Butterfly and Bellini’s Norma. Hess is an internationally known composer and conductor, and has received a number of important commissions; his songs are in the repertoire of some of the finest artists of our times. His first opera, Felice, was premiered in Raleigh, NC in 2000 and remounted last year at Nazareth College. Professor Reid recently participated in a course in Russian diction taught by Hess. “His work is wonderful, and noted across the nation and the world,” she said.

“We are very excited to be offering such talented faculty a chance to perform,” said Professor Reid. “The song content is superb and the music is sublime. It will be a program of delight to many community members.” Professor Reid said that, while the composers may have been controversial during their lifetimes, their work is timeless. “The songs are wonderful,” she said. “The work of these composers has less to do with their homosexuality, and everything to do with the human experience.” 

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