NYFOS Releases From Rags to Riches: 100 Years of American Song Feat. Stephanie Blythe and William Burden

On Friday, January 28, 2022, New York Festival of Song (NYFOS) releases From Rags to Riches: 100 Years of American Song on its new in-house label, NYFOS Records. The label’s debut album features the acclaimed voices of mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and tenor William Burden, together with Steven Blier, Artistic Director of the NYFOS who accompanies Blythe and Burden, on piano in works spanning art song, musical theater, jazz, and opera. The album is taken from a live concert recording at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in New York on March 23, 2000: From Rags to Riches, a compendium of American songs celebrating the last century as the new century began.

The first single from the album, Thelonious Monk and Bernie Hanighen’s ‘Round Midnight, arranged by Ricky Ian Gordon and performed by Stephanie Blythe and Steven Blier, is out today on all platforms. Listen to ‘Round Midnight. The Company’s recording of Oh Gee! Oh Joy! will be released as a single on January 7, 2022.

Steven Blier describes Stephanie Blythe’s voice as “a natural wonder, an uncanny mix of power and flexibility.” Of William Burden and his collaboration with Blythe, Blier recounts, “His sweet sound and patrician phrasing were the perfect foil for Stephanie’s volcanic energy, and the two of them were able to navigate all the stylistic zigzags of twentieth century American song.”

From Rags to Riches: 100 Years of American Song embraces a wide spectrum of music – art songs by Barber (Nocturne) and Griffes (Evening Song), musical theater pieces by Rodgers (Take the Moment) and Sondheim (The Ballad of Booth), jazz tunes by Eubie Blake (Hit the Road) and Thelonious Monk (‘Round Midnight), and an opera aria by William Bolcom (??New York Lights). As the program proceeds chronologically through the century, America grows up, sometimes confronting its problems head-on, sometimes working it all out on the dance floor.

Blier explains that he is always on the lookout for songs that deal with important social issues: Cook’s My Lady Frog is a subtle parable about race and inclusion; Larson’s Hosing the Furniture, a hilarious feminist tract; and Blitzstein’s Nickel Under the Foot, an eloquent indictment of class struggle. The newest song, Bolcom’s New York Lights, is about the immigrant’s dream of America, and the oldest one, Lowry’s How Can I Keep from Singing, is a testament to the nation’s resilience in the face of injustice – as well as a hymn to the power of song itself.

About Stephanie Blythe
A renowned opera singer, recitalist, and cabaret artist, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe is one of the most highly respected and critically acclaimed artists of her generation. Her repertoire ranges from Handel to Wagner, French art song to contemporary and classic American song. She has performed on many of the world’s greatest stages, such as Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, Paris National Opera and the San Francisco, Chicago Lyric and Seattle Opera Houses. She starred in the Metropolitan Opera’s live HD broadcasts of Orfeo ed Euridice, Il Trittico, Rodelinda, Cendrillon, and the complete Ring Cycle and also appeared in PBS’s Live From Lincoln Center broadcasts of the New York Philharmonic’s performance of Carousel and her acclaimed show, We’ll Meet Again: The Songs of Kate Smith. Her recordings include her solo album, as long as there are songs (Innova), and works by Mahler, Brahms, Wagner, Handel and Bach (Virgin Classics). Ms. Blythe was named Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year in 2009, received an Opera News Award in 2007 and won the prestigious Richard Tucker Award in 1999. She is also the Artistic Director of the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar at the Crane School of Music, and in 2019 was appointed the Artistic Director of the Bard College Conservatory of Music Graduate Vocal Arts Program. http://www.stephanieblythemezzo.com.

About William Burden
American tenor William Burden has appeared at the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Santa Fe Opera, Atlanta Opera, La Scala, Glyndebourne Opera Festival, Paris Opera, Munich State Opera, Netherlands Opera, Canadian Opera, and the Saito Kinen Festival. His many roles include the title roles of The Contes d’Hoffmann, Pelléas et Mélisande, The Rake’s Progress, and Béatrice and Bénédict; Loge in Das Rheingold, Laca in Jenufa, Captain Vere in Billy Budd, Aschenbach in Death in Venice, Don José in Carmen, Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, and Lensky in Eugene Onegin. He has also appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, and with Les Arts Florissants on tour throughout Europe. His many recordings include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony (SFS Media), Barber’s Vanessa with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (Chandos) and Musique adorable: The Songs of Emmanuel Chabrier (Hyperion). He also appeared in the Metropolitan Opera’s live HD broadcast of Thomas Adès’ The Tempest.

Mr. Burden received his master’s degree in Vocal Performance at Indiana University. He has been a member of the faculty at the Mannes School of Music since the fall of 2015 and joined the voice faculty of the Juilliard School of Music in the fall of 2018. http://www.opus3artists.com/artists/william-burden.

About Steven Blier
Steven Blier is the Artistic Director of the New York Festival of Song (NYFOS), which he co-founded in 1988 with Michael Barrett. Since the Festival’s inception, he has programmed, performed, translated and annotated more than 155 vocal recitals with repertoire spanning art song from Schubert to Szymanowski, and popular song from early vaudeville to Lennon-McCartney. NYFOS has also made in-depth explorations of music from Spain, Latin America, Scandinavia and Russia. New York Magazine gave NYFOS its award for Best Classical Programming, while Opera News proclaimed Blier “the coolest dude in town” and in December 2014, Musical America included him as one of 30 top industry professionals in their feature article, “Profiles in Courage.”

Mr. Blier enjoys an eminent career as an accompanist and vocal coach. His recital partners have included Renée Fleming, Cecilia Bartoli, Samuel Ramey, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, and Jessye Norman, in venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to La Scala. He serves on the faculty of The Juilliard School, and mentors young recitalists at Residency programs including Caramoor, the Wolf Trap Opera Company, the Steans Institute at Ravinia, Santa Fe Opera, and the San Francisco Opera Center. Mr. Blier’s extensive discography includes the premiere recording of Leonard Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles, which won a Grammy Award.

About New York Festival of Song
Now in its 34th season, New York Festival of Song (NYFOS) is dedicated to creating intimate song concerts of great beauty and originality. Weaving music, poetry, history and humor into evenings of compelling theater, NYFOS fosters community among artists and audiences. Each program entertains and educates in equal measure.

Founded by pianists Michael Barrett and Steven Blier in 1988, NYFOS continues to produce its series of thematic song programs, drawing together rarely-heard songs of all kinds, overriding traditional distinctions between musical genres, exploring the character and language of other cultures, and the personal voices of song composers and lyricists.

Since its founding, NYFOS has particularly celebrated American song. Among the many highlights is the double bill of one-act comic operas, Bastianello and Lucrezia, by John Musto and William Bolcom, both with libretti by Mark Campbell, commissioned and premiered by NYFOS in 2008 and recorded on Bridge Records. In addition to Bastianello and Lucrezia and the 2008 Bridge Records release of Spanish Love Songs with Joseph Kaiser and the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, NYFOS has produced five recordings on the Koch label, including a Grammy Award-winning disc of Bernstein’s Arias and Barcarolles, and the Grammy-nominated recording of Ned Rorem’s Evidence of Things Not Seen (also a NYFOS commission) on New World Records. In 2014, Canción Amorosa, a CD of Spanish song—Basque, Catalan, Castilian, and Sephardic—was released on the GPR label, with soprano Corinne Winters accompanied by Steven Blier.

In November 2010, NYFOS debuted NYFOS Next, a mini-series for new songs, hosted by guest composers in intimate venues, including OPERA America’s National Opera Center, National Sawdust, the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, and now the Ann Goodman Recital Hall at Kaufman Music Center.

NYFOS is passionate about nurturing the artistry and careers of young singers, and has developed training residencies around the country, including with The Juilliard School’s Ellen and James S. Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts (now in its 16th year); Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts (its 14th year in March 2022); San Francisco Opera Center (over 20 years as of February 2018); Glimmerglass Opera (2008–2010); and its newest project, NYFOS@North Fork in Orient, NY.

NYFOS’s concert series, touring programs, radio broadcasts, recordings, and educational activities continue to spark new interest in the creative possibilities of the song program, and have inspired the creation of thematic vocal series around the world.

From Rags to Riches: 100 Years of American Song Tracklist
1. Scott Joplin / Joe Snyder – Pineapple Rag* [3:45]
Stephanie Blythe, Steven Blier
2. Will Marion Cook / Will Accooe – My Lady Frog* [4:08]
William Burden, Steven Blier
3. Charles Griffes / Sydney Lanier – Evening Song [2:59]
William Burden, Steven Blier
4. George Gershwin / P.G. Wodehouse – Oh Gee! Oh Joy! * [1:56)
The Company
5. Marc Blitzstein – Nickel Under the Foot [3:12]
The Company
6. Marc Blitzstein – Stay In My Arms* [3:47]
William Burden, Steven Blier
7. Eubie Blake / Andy Razaf – Hit the Road* [2:58]
Stephanie Blythe, Steven Blier
8. Samuel Barber / Frederic Prokosch – Nocturne [2:30]
William Burden, Steven Blier
9. Kurt Weill / Maxwell Anderson – Thousands of Miles* [3:51]
Stephanie Blythe, Steven Blier
10. Leonard Bernstein / Betty Comden / Adolph Green. – Wrong Note Rag* [1:52]
The Company
11. Richard Rodgers / Stephen Sondheim – Take the Moment* [2:57]
William Burden, Steven Blier
12. Thelonious Monk / Bernie Hanighen (arr. Ricky Ian Gordon) – ‘Round Midnight [3:45]
Stephanie Blythe, Steven Blier
13. Stephen Sondheim – The Ballad of Booth [4:18]
William Burden, Steven Blier
14. Jonathan Larson – Hosing the Furniture [4:33]
Stephanie Blythe, Steven Blier
15. William Bolcom / Arnold Weinstein / Arthur Miller – New York Lights [3:46]
William Burden, Steven Blier
16. Chris de Blasio / Perry Brass – Walt Whitman in 1989 [3:53]
William Burden, Steven Blier
17. Robert Wadsworth Lowry / Pete Seeger (arr. David Krane) – How Can I Keep From Singing [4:47]
The Company

*Arranged by Steven Blier

Total Time: 58:57

Produced by: Steven Blier, Jonathan Estabrooks
Mastering Engineer: Adam Abeshouse
Cover Design: Gillian Riesen, EMITHA LLC
Recorded March 23, 2000 at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, NY