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Profiles Interviews

Bernard Rands And J.D. McClatchy

Peter Jacobi interviews Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Bernard Rands and distinguished poet and librettist J.D. McClatchy.

Bernard Rands in red sweater and J.D. McClatchy in red shirt and gray plaid jacket

Photo: Courtesy of Indiana University

Bernard Rands and J.D. McClatchy

I stood there and I thought, ‘Someday, somehow, somewhere, I will make a theater work, possibly an opera, based on my feelings, my responses, my imagination of what this could be in the theater.’ . . .  Four decades later, here we are realizing what’s been a large part of my life’s dream.

—Bernard Rands

The most important thing for a librettist is to know when to get out of the way of the music—to know when music can do so much more than words at a certain moment.

—J.D. McClatchy

Bernard Rands’ full-scale opera Vincent, based on the life and work of Van Gogh with a libretto by J. D. McClatchy, received its world premiere in April at Indiana University.

Rands’ numerous compositions have been performed and recorded worldwide under conductors ranging from Barenboim and Maazel to Dohnanyi.

Canti del Sole, premiered by Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic, won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize in Music, and his Cantid’Amor, recorded by Chanticleer, won a Grammy Award in 2000.

J. D. McClatchy has written six volumes of poetry and 13 librettos as well as a recent translation of seven Mozart librettos.

Among his recent librettos are Lorin Maazel’s 1984, co-written with Thomas Meehan; Lowell Liebermann’s Miss Lonelyhearts; and Ned Rorem’s Our Town, premiered in 2006 at Indiana University.

He is a professor of English at Yale, where he is editor of The Yale Review.

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