Discipline: Music Composition

Laura Elise Schwendinger

Discipline: Music Composition
Region: Madison, WI
MacDowell Fellowships: 1994, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2011, 2015, 2018, 2021

The first composer to win the Berlin Prize, UW-Madison Professor, Laura Elise Schwendinger’s music has been performed by leading artists including Dawn Upshaw (Tour 1997-2013; TDK/Naxos DVD), the Arditti & JACK quartets, Jennifer Koh, ICE, Janine Jansen, Eighth Blackbird, New Juilliard, Collage, Trinity Choir/Novus, the American Composers Orchestra (Carnegie Hall), the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, Boston Musica Viva, Collage, the Lincoln Trio; and at venues including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, Wigmore Hall, the Berlin Philharmonic, Theatre-Chatalet, the Times Center, Symphony Space, BargeMusic, the Corcoran Gallery, the Princeton Institute, Tanglewood, and the Aspen and Ojai Music Festivals.

She has received honors from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Koussevitzky Foundation, the Fromm Music Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, Copland House, the Harvard Musical Association, Chamber Music America, the League of American Orchestra's New Music Alive, MacDowell, Yaddo, The Rockefeller Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the ALEA III Competition. She has had premieres at and done commissions for the Miller Theater, American Composers Orchestra, New Juilliard, Sounding Beckett (Off-Broadway) and High Wire Act, performed by dozens of ensembles.

While last in residence, she worked on her opera Artemisia, which received its full orchestral world premiere from Trinity NOVUS New York at St. Paul's Chapel and its chamber world premiere by Left Coast Chamber Ensemble in San Francisco in 2019.

San Francisco Classical Voice said, “Artemisia is sumptuous on every level…. A breathtaking piece.” OperaWire reviewed Artemisia as a work that “...casts its spell…. Awakens us…. Riveting.” The Bew York production featured a creative team with director Christopher Alden and conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya, and The New York Times review by Corinna da Fonesca-Wollheim said, “Artemisia” lasts just 80 minutes, but fits in big themes set to music of quivering intensity. The story of the rape is there, blended with Gentileschi’s unbearably compassionate painting of the biblical character Susanna, who was ogled and shamed in her bath. But larger questions of idea and form, image and projection, sight and gaze also find nuanced and intelligent treatment.”

The opera has now been produced six times. Laura also finished a new piano work for the South Africa Democracy 25 project. Artemisia received an Opera America Discovery grant in 2017 and was previewed at Trinity Wall Street (NY), with Julian Wachner. Laura finished her second opera, Cabaret of Shadows, her second Fromm Foundation commission, at MacDowell in the summer of 2021.

The Cabaret of Shadows is an immersive stage performance combining chamber opera with chamber ensemble with elements of light, sound and shadow to rediscover the milieu of turn-of-the-century cabaret. Unlike so many evocations of places like Le Chat Noir, the Moulin Rouge, and the Folies Bergère, Cabaret of Shadows centers on women not as spectacle, but as artistic creators in this richly imaginative atmosphere. Some of the women we present are familiar to us only as images – Yvette Guilbert, for instance, who was painted and drawn so often by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Others – such as poet and composer Marie Krysincka and dancer and lighting artist Loie Fuller – have been largely forgotten. They are worth rediscovery. The premiere is with Musiqa in Houston, Tx on March 5 and 6, 2022.



Laura Elise Schwendinger worked in the Watson studio.

Built in 1916 in memory of Regina Watson of Chicago, a musician and teacher, this studio was donated by a group of her friends, along with funds for its maintenance. Originally designed to serve as a composers’ studio with room for performance, Watson was used as a recital hall for chamber music for a…

Learn more