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Pamela Madsen’s Opera America and NEA-Awarded Work SACRED MOUNTAIN Premieres February 28

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The premiere of the SACRED MOUNTAIN choral suite from Opera America Discovery Award and NEA Project Awarded work Why Women Went West by Pamela Madsen, composer, will take place on Tues., Feb. 28 starting at 8 p.m. in Meng Concert Hall.  More details can be found here:

SACRED MOUNTAIN is the final act and choral suite from Why Women Went West by Pamela Madsen, composer, librettist. This event will feature Stacey Fraser, soprano, and HEX Ensemble (SSATBB) and the CSUF New Music Ensemble.  Composer and vocalist Fahad Siadat’s  Prelude to Sacred Mountain opens the concert with voice and electronics.

This is not a bawdy Calamity Jane-type send up of the wild west, but rather a deeply personal journey of self-discovery and hard-won independence. The story is filled with all the challenges and trauma experienced by self-reliant women of the time. Madsen’s expressive sense of harmony and control of texture is brilliantly fluid, with each scene carefully crafted, beautifully effective. The singing is beautiful, confident and dramatic with accompaniment to match.” Sequenza 21. Why Women Went West premiere

Described by the L.A. Times as “a luminous ensemble of singers”, HEX is an award-winning contemporary vocal sextet based in Los Angeles dedicated to performing new works that reimagine the expressive potential of the human voice. Our group features critically-acclaimed singers who have been featured soloists with LA Opera, LA Philharmonic, Long Beach Opera, The Los Angeles Master Chorale, andIndustry Opera. HEX has performed with Brightwork Newmusic, theatre dybbuk, and the Resonance Collective, and at venues such as the Broadstage, Meng Hall, Tuesdays@Monk Space, HEAR NOW Music Festival, Sound and Fury Concert Series, Master in the Chapel Series at First Lutheran Church in Venice, and N.E.O. Voice Festival. HEX was nominated for San Francisco Classical Voice Audience Choice awards including Favorite Choral Ensemble and Favorite New Music Performance, and received the award for “Best Orchestral Performance” for their premiere of Madsen’sOratorio of the Earth.

Pamela Madsen’s new chamber opera, Why Women Went West, explores controversies over human rights, water wars, and early 20th-century feminist artist communities through the life of Mary Hunter Austin — a mystic, writer, feminist, conservationist, and defender of Native American and Spanish American rights. Austin’s quest, trauma, and journey uncovers a  dark mysticism in the American Southwest. Resonating with concerns over marginalization of Indigenous cultures, desecration of women, nature, and escape from conventions through artistic agency, this work reveals ongoing trauma in woman’s quest for autonomy. Two voices — I, Mary (soprano) and Mary by Herself— share the part of a sole woman protagonist’s transformative journey west to confront and overcome challenges that have plagued her throughout her life.  SACRED MOUNTAIN is the final act of this drama, told through SSATBB choir of HEX Vocal Ensemble, where Mary encounters: The Land of Journey’s Ending—confronting the wild west, the loss of her child and the voices that guide and plague her. From the three women mystic voices of the wilderness who provoke and illicit the guidance of nature, to the spiritual voices of multiple religions that compel her to follow them—indigenous, Native American, Spanish, Mexican, Penitentes of New Mexico and Latin of missionary Catholicism, and the distant voices of her past: American Transcendentalism. She hears them all and must choose her path. She confronts her own untimely death due to hard living and cancer and ascends the SACRED MOUNTAIN—the place of Peace in “Experiences  Facing Death” and “What is Necessary.”

Pamela Madsen is a composer, pianist, librettist and curator of new music. From massive landscape inspired projects, intimate chamber music to multi-media opera collaborations  her work focuses on deep listening,  text and the environment. With a Ph.D. in Music Composition from UCSD, Deep Listening Certificate with Pauline Oliveros, her works have been commissioned and premiered world-wide. With  awards from Opera America, National Endowment for the Arts, New Music USA, Creative Capital “on the radar” Mellon Foundation, American Scandinavian Foundation, Artist Residency Fellowships from MacDowell, UCross, Women’s International Studies Center, and Wurlitzer Foundation, she is Professor of Music Composition at Cal State Fullerton.

The concert version of Why Women Went West premiered  September 17, 2022 with Brightwork newmusic, Stacey Fraser, soprano at CSUF. Scenes from Why Women Went West premieres March 9 at CSU San Bernadino.  Operation Opera Festival with Four Corners Ensemble, Stacey Fraser, soprano and guest vocalists will premiere the full opera, June 8 at CSU Sacramento.

Pamela Madsen