World premiere of 'Origin' presents Darwin's life, work

Richard Einhorn speaking“The Origin,” Richard Einhorn’s oratorio about the life and work of Charles Darwin, will have its world premiere at SUNY Oswego in time for the 200th anniversary of the famed figure’s birth.

Commissioned by the college’s Artswego program and music department, “The Origin” will unfold at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6 and 7 in Tyler Hall’s Waterman Theatre.

Dr. Julie Pretzat, professor of music and interim associate dean of Oswego’s School of Communication, Media and the Arts, provides musical direction. The multimedia production features Kitka, a vocal ensemble with European roots, soprano Jacqueline Horner of Anonymous 4, tenor Todd Graber, bass Eric Johnson and SUNY Oswego’s College Choir, College-Community Orchestra and Festival Chorus.

Evocative video images by New York City filmmaker Bill Morrison will create the visual backdrop for the action.

The seeds for the production took root as Artswego Coordinator Mary Avrakotos and Pretzat talked to Einhorn in 2004 when the Emmy-winning composer presented the multimedia production “Voices of Light: The Passion of Joan of Arc” at SUNY Oswego. Einhorn told them about his idea to compose a production on Darwin’s life, and Artswego pursued the necessary grant support to bring it to fruition.

“Richard has spent years thinking about this piece and researching everything,” Avrakotos said. “He’s become a kind of Darwin scholar, and he’s translating his knowledge and passion into his work.”

Texts for “The Origin” are drawn mostly from the writings of Darwin—who was born in February 1809—with a brief appearance by his wife, Emma. The words were compiled and arranged by poet Catherine Barnett and Einhorn. Revealing and often poignant passages are drawn from Darwin’s published works, notebooks and letters, Einhorn said: “My purpose was to celebrate Darwin’s thought and life in music.”

This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s landmark work, “Origin of Species,” where he first posited his theories on evolution and natural selection.

Production progress is being chronicled in a blog at

The creation and production of “The Origin” is supported by the New York State Music Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer, Entergy and WCNY.

If weather cancels one or both performances, a snow date of 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8, has been set.

Tickets cost $20 ($15 for seniors or students, $7 for SUNY Oswego students). For information or reservations, contact Tyler box office at 312-2141 or, or visit

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PHOTO CAPTION: Discussing ‘Origin’—Composer Richard Einhorn (right) discusses “The Origin” with SUNY Oswego’s Julie Pretzat during a special preview last year. Einhorn’s multimedia oratorio about the life of Charles Darwin will have its world premiere at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6 and 7 in Tyler Hall’s Waterman Theatre at SUNY Oswego, with Pretzat providing musical direction for the production.

(Posted: Jan 14, 2009)

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