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The Cincinatti May Festival opens to ‘guest artistic directors’ in its 151st edition, with Julia Wolfe, who will premiere her oratorio ‘All that breathes’.

The Cincinnati May Festival, one of the most important choral music festivals in the United States, celebrated its 150th anniversary last year. To begin a new cycle, this year’s main novelty is the incorporation of the figure of the ‘guest artistic director’, and the first person to occupy this ‘post’ has been the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Julia Wolfe.

Steven Sunderman, who has been its artistic director for the last twenty-eight years -and who is retiring this year-, explained to Cincinatti Magazine the reasons for the change: ‘We’ve traditionally been a chorus and orchestra with some soloists and a conductor. That’s not necessarily the way people like to listen these days’.

The 2024 May Festival runs over four dates: 17, 18, 23 and 25. Although the festival kicks off on Friday with a classical work, Joseph Haydn’s oratorio The Creation, the choice of Julia Wolfe brings a notable dose of novelty to the event, as it has programmed four of her works: the world premiere of her choral fanfare All That Breathes – which will take place on Saturday 18th, within a programme entitled Anthems, which will also include another of her works, Pretty, as well as the cantata Dona nobis pacem, from 1936, by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and the national anthems, by her fellow co-founder of Bang On A Can David Lang. This concert will be free livestream by sending the text message CHORUS to +1 513.888.5659 – as well as two oratorios: Anthracite Fields – the work for which she was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for music, which will be performed on 23 May, along with Natural History, by her husband and Bang On A Can co-founding partner Michael Gordon – and Her Story, which will be performed on 25 May with the voices of the Lorelei Ensemble, along with Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem.

Photograph of Julia Wolfe by © Peter Serling, downloaded from the composer’s website.