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Music allows sightless artist to fit in

October 14, 2013|By Lynne Heffley
  • Mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin, who was born blind, makes her debut with the LA Chamber Orchestra at the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena on Oct. 19 in the West Coast premiere of the orchestral version of Bruce Adolphe's "Do You Dream in Color?"--set to Rubin's poem about living without sight.
Mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin, who was born blind, makes… (Courtesy of Jonathan…)

“I dream what I experience.... I dream the smell of flowers, or the taste of chocolate cake....”

From “Do You Dream in Color?” a poem by mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin, who was born blind.

“Britten, Haydn, Mozart & Bruce Adolphe,” presented by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and led by LACO Music Director Jeffrey Kahane at the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena on Saturday, Oct. 19, and at UCLA's Royce Hall on Sunday, Oct. 20, is part of the citywide, L.A. Opera-curated “Britten 100/L.A.: A Celebration.”

The eclectic program includes Britten's “Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge,” Mozart's “Serenata Notturna,” K. 239, Haydn's “Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major,” performed by noted cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras — and the premiere of the full orchestral version of “Do You Dream in Color?” by composer Bruce Adolphe, with text by critically-acclaimed mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin, in her LACO debut.

Veteran composer, author and educator Adolphe, whose operatic and theatrical works for noted artists and organizations have been produced across the country, approached Rubin about a collaboration after hearing her perform in New York and inviting her to do a children's concert at the Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Center, where he is the family concert director. Adolphe was inspired, he said, by the singer's voice, described by Los Angeles Times Music Critic Mark Swed as “darkly complex and mysteriously soulful.”

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“I asked if she had any particular poetry that she liked or if she had friends who write poetry,” Adolphe said. When Rubin sent her choices via email, her comments about them “were so evocative,” he said, “I started to feel her own writing might be a solution.

“I went out on a limb and asked, how would you feel about writing about the experience of being blind?”

Adolphe didn't know that Rubin was then in the process of writing her own book. (The book, “Do You Dream in Color? Insights from a Girl without Sight,” was published late last year.)

“But I'm not really a poet,” Rubin said, “so I was so worried that it was going to be hokey. That it was going to be one of those things, you know, where people expect blindness to be profound. And to me it's not profound. It's just how it is.”

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