Rita Dove is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former U.S. Poet Laureate with two major new projects forthcoming: Her next poetry collection, Playlist for the Apocalypse, will be in bookstores this summer, while her song cycle A Standing Witness, with music by Richard Danielpour, will have its world premiere at Tanglewood, sung by Susan Graham. (Originally scheduled for last summer, the premier was postponed due to the pandemic). Dove’s vibrant career is studded with accomplishments such as the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities, the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, an NAACP Image Award, a Glamour Woman of the Year designation, the New York Public Library Lion medal, the Wallace Stevens Award and 28 honorary doctorates from universities such as Harvard and Yale, among numerous other honors. She is member of the American Academies of Arts and Letters and Arts and Sciences and is the only poet to receive both the National Humanities Medal (from President Clinton) and the National Medal of Arts (from President Obama). She has been teaching poetry writing at the University of Virginia since 1989.
Spanning over forty years with translations on six continents, her oeuvre includes a novel, short stories, essays, and numerous volumes of poetry, among them Thomas and Beulah, which earned her the 1987 Pulitzer Prize; her award-winning play The Darker Face of the Earth had successful runs at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Kennedy Center in Washington and the Royal National Theatre in London, among other venues. She also edited The Penguin Anthology of 20th-Century American Poetry and has been a poetry columnist for The Washington Post’s Book World and poetry editor for The New York Times Magazine.
Rita Dove’s musical roots run deep. Her experiences as a cellist, gambist, opera enthusiast and ballroom dancer permeate her poems – playing mandolin on a river boat, gliding through a Foxtrot, mastering the six Bach solo cello suites. She has said in interviews that if she weren’t a poet, she would have become a professional musician. The two passions meet in Sonata Mulattica, her poetic treatise on the life and times of 19th century Afro-European violin prodigy George Bridgetower — the wunderkind who in 1803 premiered Beethoven’s Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47, later known as The Kreutzer Sonata, with the composer at the piano. This novel-in-verse is an epic chronicle of the vicissitudes of fame and genius – and the subject of our concert.