Kristen Sullivan and Esme Wong - Augusta Holmes Song Cycle Recording

11% ($1,258)
October 31st, 2018
Raised $1,258 of $10,500

About The Artist

Kristen Sullivan and Esme Wong

Kristen Janell Sullivan, soprano, is a third-year doctoral student at the University of North Texas, focusing in early music performance practice and vocal pedagogy. She is pursuing dual doctoral degrees, the second being a Ph.D. in Music-Performing Arts Health. She trained as a vocologist through the National Center for Voice and Speech in 2017. She graduated in 2009 from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance and performed in the Kansas City metro area for ten years. Sullivan taught a full private voice studio in Lee's Summit and was an adjunct professor in the Metropolitan Community College circuit before beginning her doctoral degrees.

Her roles include: Master Class-Sharon, Patience-Patience, You're A...

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This is a recording project to promote two song cycles by Augusta Holmès (1847-1903), Les sept ivresses (1882) and Contes des Fées (1893). There are very few professional recordings of her music save for three recordings of smaller chamber works, a recording dedicated to some of her orchestral music, and two additional recordings that feature a few of her mélodie. This discography represents but a small fraction of her compositional output. Holmès composed over 180 mélodies for voice and piano, yet her work remains unknown to non-specialists. My recording project will expose fellow musicians and music connoisseurs to more of the music of Holmès, a strong and talented woman’s accomplishments in a male-dominated field and will allow further examination of the impact of Richard Wagner on Parisian music and poetry.

Holmès’ biography repeats themes commonly seen in the lives of female composers – notably a combination of undeniable artistic talent stifled by systematic bias. Despite her gifts as a pianist, she was denied entry to the Paris Conservatory. As a composer, she initially adhered to society's gender norms by capitalizing on her beauty and cultivating connections through her social circle. She eventually won popularity for her politically-charged programmatic music, and even had a work – La montagne noir – performed at the Paris Opéra in 1895. Holmès was admired both musically and romantically by Cesar Franck and Camille Saint-Saëns. She was not, however, regarded in a way that immortalized her work, an all too familiar pattern for women in music during this time. She published her early works under the pseudonym Hermann Zenta, as was common for many female composers.

Such systematic bias remains prevalent in current secondary literature, where a canon of men’s works persists uncritically. Such is the case in the many surveys of the French mélodie, where no women are regularly featured alongside Chausson, Fauré, Debussy, and Ravel. Even recent books with a more critical outlook like Katherine Bergeron’s Voice Lessons do not mention Holmès, likely because materials – including good recordings – are not readily available. This is also true for the secondary literature on French Wagnerism. Despite being one of the first French composers to travel from Paris to Wagner’s Bayreuth festival, Holmès is barely mentioned in works like Steven Huebner’s French Opera at the fin-de-siècle.

With this project, I want to champion Holmès’ work and life because I believe that exposure to new repertory is the best way to break our old habits. To ensure the success of this project, I have enlisted a talented and committed pianist, Esme Wong, with whom I will collaborate and tour, musicologists who specialize in 19th Century French repertoire, and a knowledgeable language coach, Dr. Elvia Puccinelli, to finesse the complex syntax of Holmès’ poetry. I already have an agreement to produce the album with Centaur Records, Inc.


Budget -

$4,000 - Centaur Records Inc. Production Fee
$4,000 - 3 Days of Recording Services from Ron Meyer 
$1000 - Coaching with a French Language Specialist
$500 - McKinney Performing Arts Center (Recording Space)
$500 - Musicologist and Artist Compensation
$500 - CD artwork/photos    


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