Noted by London Times critic Irving Wardle for allowing Eisler’s songs “to bloom and be beautiful in a way which is undoubtedly musically expressive," celebrated soprano Karyn Levitt has appeared at The Town Hall-NYC, Carnegie Hall (Weill), Café Sabarsky in The Neue Galerie, the legendary Metropolitan Room, Brecht-Haus in Berlin, Princeton University, the Goethe Institutes of Boston and Los Angeles, and at many other distinguished venues. Café Sabarsky hosted the world premiere of her new cabaret show, Will There Still Be Singing? A Hanns Eisler Cabaret. Ms. Levitt looks forward to many more performances of Will There Still Be Singing? A Hanns Eisler Cabaret and Songs for Mother Courage around the world.
In Happy Birthday, Eric Bentley at The Town Hall NYC, Ms. Levitt was honored to share the stage with Michael Riedel, Tony Kushner, Austin Pendleton, Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, James Shapiro, Edward Mendelson, Phillip Lopate, Roger Copeland, and Michael Paller. She performed several Brecht-Eisler songs with celebrated pianist Eric Ostling, renowned accordionist William Schimmel, and renowned guitarist Larry Saltzman and sang the world premiere of Songs for Mother Courage by Darius Milhaud and Eric Bentley, under the baton of four-time Emmy winner Glen Roven leading the Metamorphosis Chamber Orchestra.
Ms. Levitt is especially known for her collaboration with Bentley, which she initiated in 2011 by writing a letter to the Theatre Hall of Fame inductee requesting counsel on a pending Weill-Brecht show she was planning. Bentley replied days later suggesting that instead of Weill, Levitt explore the works of a lesser known Brecht composer, Hanns Eisler, obtain Bentley’s 1967 The Brecht-Eisler Song Book, and listen to his 1964 recording Songs of Hanns Eisler. He agreed to meet after Levitt had completed her initial research. Levitt took on the research assignment before meeting with Bentley who ultimately presented her with his unpublished English versions of Hanns Eisler’s lieder. Within two weeks, Levitt had recorded a demo of the material for her new mentor, who responded “Bravo, Karyn! Now create a whole show!”
Under Bentley’s guidance, Levitt curated an evening of Eisler’s songs that has earned rave reviews around the country with Irving Wardle of the London Times raving “Karyn Levitt is doing something which, to my ears, is new. My acquaintance with the Eisler songs is limited to (other) singers (who have) a harsh and urgent style, very much a product of the cruel and dangerous times in which the work first appeared. Ms. Levitt’s approach, it seems to me, is to negotiate a passage for these songs into the concert hall. In place of the gritty style, she allows them to bloom and be beautiful." This project received a major arts grant from Nokia in 2013 as well as a research grant from the Department of Exile Studies at the University of Southern California (USC).
Karyn Levitt’s album, Eric Bentley’s Brecht-Eisler Song Book, recorded by Glen Roven and featuring pianist Eric Ostling, accordionist William Schimmel, and guitarist Larry Saltzman, was recently released in Europe. The album received a rave review by the Internationale Hanns Eisler Gesellschaft:
“A highly successful new release… by Karyn Levitt, Eric Ostling, Brecht, Eisler and Eric Bentley — it comes with a warm recommendation, not only to English-speaking audiences.”
--Peter Deeg, Internationale Hanns Eisler Gesellschaft
Distributed by Naxos in North America, the album is available on Amazon, in the Neue Galerie Book Store, and wherever CDs are sold.
Karyn Levitt’s training in classical voice began at Oberlin College (where she earned her degree with honors in English), and continued in Boston with soprano Janice Giampa and in New York City with William Barto Jones. Her background also includes producing, acting, improvisation, performance coaching, lecturing, and writing. Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, Ms. Levitt has a particular love for her native region’s Mexican cuisine, rugged desert landscape, and sunsets. In addition to being a celebrated soprano, Karyn Levitt is a distinguished producer with her own production company, Royal Road Productions, Inc., with production credits at The Town Hall (NYC), Symphony Space (NYC), Carnegie Hall (Weill), and numerous venues in New England.