In a one-night only concert presented by the Cleveland Orchestra October 15, Renée Fleming, Merle Dandridge, the Emerson String Quartet, and pianist Simone Dinnerstein will perform Penelope, a concert work created for Fleming by composer André Previn with a libretto by Tom Stoppard. The work, which had its premiere in 2019 with Uma Thurman appearing alongside Fleming, was left unfinished at the time of Previn’s death, and was completed by David Fetherolf.
With sung and spoken text, Penelope is based on the character from The Odyssey, “[taking] takes the audience into the mind of the mythic heroine… who waited years on end for her husband’s return.”
Penelope is the last of several works written by Previn for Fleming, since she originated the role of Blanche DuBois in the composer’s operatic adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire. Their collaborations over the course of two decades also include settings of poems by Emily Dickinson and William Butler Yeats, and the concert work The Giraffes Go to Hamburg.
Tom Stoppard, whose fifth Tony win for Leopoldstadt this year made him the most Tony-winning playwright in history, has often explored musical themes in his work, notably in his 2006 play Rock 'n' Roll, and the 1977 play Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, for which Previn wrote an accompanying score.