Talking about his principal composition teacher, Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979), Robert Xavier Rodriguez recalls "one of the last letters" he received from her, in the late 1970s.
"My great satisfaction," the legendary French musician and teacher of composers wrote the young American, already at that time on the faculty of the University of Texas, "is not to have hindered you."
"What is amazing," the 38-year old Dallas-based composer notes, "is that she had exactly the same kind of relationship with all of her students. She actually helped each of us to become himself.
"When you consider that she taught composers as opposite as Elliott Carter and Philip Glass--and you can hardly get more opposite than they are--that is an extraordinary achievement."
Any list of Boulanger's students would have to include the names of Aaron Copland, Michal Spisak, Lennox Berkeley, Virgil Thomson, Roy Harris, Jean Francaix, Walter Piston and Igor Markevitch.
It would also include the name of Louise Talma, the American composer who appears, with Rodriguez and Harris' widow, Johana Harris-Heggie, in a symposium, "Nadia Boulanger and the Music of the 20th Century," Monday at 6:30 p.m. in Japan America Theatre, 244 S. San Pedro St.
To be moderated by William Kraft, the symposium will precede the 8:30 concert by the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group. That concert--titled "Boulangerie--Music by American Students of Nadia Boulanger"--will offer works by Copland, Harris, Rodriguez, Talma and Carter.
West Coast premieres of two of the works, Carter's "In Sleep, in Thunder," for tenor and 14 instruments, and Talma's "The Ambient Air," for flute, violin, cello and piano, will be given.
In addition, the New Music Group will perform Copland's "Quiet City," Harris' Concerto for piano, clarinet and string quartet and, in the local premiere of the chamber version, Rodriguez's "Canto" for soprano, tenor and instrumental sextet. Conductor Daniel Kessner, pianist Harris-Heggie, soprano Su Harmon and tenor Robert Swensen will be guest performers.
Rodriguez, who was trained at USC as well as at Fontainebleu, says "Canto," a 10-minute cantata, uses texts from two sources--Dante, in his telling of the story of Paolo and Francesca, and the medieval French account of the tale of Lancelot and Guinevere.
"This was the beginning of a long string of works I wrote inspired by medieval sources," Rodriguez told The Times in a phone interview from his home in Dallas. Since his original orchestral version of "Canto" in 1973, the composer has written two operas, one based on a tale by Bocaccio, the other on O. Henry's story, "The Ransom of Red Chief."
As a student at USC, Rodriguez says, he "wrote for an elite, university audience." In Dallas, where, in addition to his teaching at the university, Rodriguez is also attached to the Dallas Symphony (as a consultant) and Meet the Composer, Texas, "I write for a wider audience at the opera, the ballet and children's concerts. I have been obliged to expand my range. And that's been very good for me."
OPERATICALLY: The 1985 season at Santa Fe Opera will offer the world premiere of John Eaton's "The Tempest," specially commissioned by the New Mexico company, and the United States premiere of Hans Werner Henze's "The English Cat" (1983). Also scheduled for this 29th summer season, which runs from June 29 to Aug. 24, are revivals of "The Marriage of Figaro," "Orpheus in the Underworld" and "Die Liebe der Danae."
New York City Opera National Company, touring division of New York City Opera, this week embarks on a six-week, 30-city tour with Verdi's "Rigoletto." The company of 68--an orchestra of 28, chorus of 11, principal singers numbering 15 and a staff of 14--begins its tour in Englewood, N.J., and concludes, March 31 in Palm Springs. Mark Rucker, Robert McFarland and Darren Nimnicht alternate as Rigoletto, Candace Goetz and Joyce Guyer as Gilda.
Ventura County Master Chorale and Opera Assn. will present Puccini's "La Boheme," with a cast including Pamela South, Evelyn de la Rosa, David Rudat and John Matthews, March 8 at 8 p.m. and March 10 at 2:30 p.m., in Oxnard Civic Auditorium.
AND MORE COMPOSERS: Dominick Argento, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer often called Minnesota's premier writer of music, will see his newest opera, "Casnova's Homecoming," produced at the new Ordway Music Theatre in St. Paul, April 12-20. The opera will mark the first collaboration between Minnesota Opera and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. The role of Casanova will be sung by baritone Julian Patrick; also in the cast will be Elaine Bonazzi and Michele McBride. Scott Bergeson will conduct, and the stage director is Arthur Masella.
The world premiere performances of Libby Larsen's "Clair de Lune," by Arkansas Opera Theatre, will take place in Little Rock on Friday and next Sunday. This will be the first new work produced by the 12-year-old company. Benton Hess will conduct; the company's artistic director, Ann Chotard, has staged the work. Among the singers will be Kay Paschal, Stephen Markuson, Barry Ellison and Michele McBride.
The Juilliard String Quartet, which has been in California this past week, will return to the East Coast next week to give the New York premiere of Donald Martino's String Quartet, a work the ensemble introduced at the Library of Congress in October. The performance will take place Monday night at the Juilliard School, where the four members of the quartet are on the faculty, teaching an extensive chamber music program.