Pioneer Valley Symphony to host evening with Pulitzer winner Lewis Spratlan

For the Recorder
Published: 2/18/2021 9:04:47 AM

Lewis Spratlan, composer and professor emeritus at Amherst College, knows well that good things come to those who wait — and to those who don’t give up. Spratlan, a world-renowned composer of choral, operatic, chamber and orchestra music, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for an opera he had completed 30 years before in 1978 as a professor at Amherst College.

The journey from completion to production was quite a saga.

“I composed ‘Life is a Dream’ on commission from the New Haven Opera Theater, which, alas, ceased operations following the 1978 season. Then began a protracted period of trying to get it produced, sending materials to dozens of opera companies, with not even a nibble from any of them. Disheartened, I put it on the shelf and went on with my life,” Spratlan said. “A composer friend knew about the work, took a look at the score and almost demanded that I do something about at least hearing it.

Emboldened, Spratlan raised money and mounted an un-staged concert performance of Act II, “where the heart of the drama takes place,” he continued. “A recording of this single act, to my amazement, won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Music.”

On Saturday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m., the Pioneer Valley Symphony will present “Life is a Dream: Celebration of Lewis Spratlan,” a virtual event that will highlight more of Spratlan’s extraordinary journey as a composer and reflect on his life and legacy. The event will be held in honor of Spratlan’s 80th birthday and the 10th anniversary of the world premiere of his Pulitzer-winning oeuvre, “Life is a Dream,” by The Santa Fe Opera. The event will explore many different works by Spratlan and include reflections from the composer himself via Zoom. The event will also include brief footage from the original run of “Life is a Dream,” courtesy of The Santa Fe Opera. 

“Lew is one of the living legends of modern composing and he was part of our community in the Connecticut River Valley for so long” said Music Director Tianhui Ng. “We’re beyond excited for him to join us to reflect on his storied career.” 

Other celebrations of Spratlan’s work in honor of his 80th birthday have included a performance of “Charlottesville: Summer of 2017” by the University of Massachusetts Amherst last fall. This spring, Boston Modern Orchestra Project will present a virtual performance and premiere of his “Chamber Symphony” as part of the Music at Amherst Series on May 9.

Tickets to the Pioneer Valley Symphony’s virtual event are $15 and can be purchased via the symphony’s website, Additionally, free tickets are available through a partnership with over 30 libraries in Western Massachusetts. Patrons should contact their local library branch for details. The symphony is committed to making sure everyone who is interested in its virtual events is able to join, according to a statement. The organization encourages anyone interested in the event for whom ticket cost is a barrier to contact them at

“Life is a Dream: Celebration of Lewis Spratlan” is sponsored by Thomson Financial and made possible by a partnership with The Santa Fe Opera. The 2020-2021 PVS Presents Season is also made possible in part by generous support of the Greenfield Cooperative Bank, Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency and New England Public Media.

The Pioneer Valley Symphony, one of the oldest community orchestras in the nation, has been bringing exceptional live symphonic and choral music to the Pioneer Valley for more than 80 years. The PVS ensembles perform primarily in Franklin and Hampshire Counties of Massachusetts, drawing its volunteer musicians and eager audiences from across the Pioneer Valley and the Northeast. The symphony also provides education programming through youth ensembles and in-school music appreciation curricula, serving more than 1,000 local students and teachers each year.


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