is a GRAMMY® award winning composer, writer and stage director. He is the
composer/librettist of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, based on the play by Tom Stoppard. In
reviewing a workshop performance of the opera in November 2009 TimeOut New York wrote of him:
"Garfein has all the makings of a post-millennial Carlisle Floyd. His music and themes are deeply
American and rooted in the mores of Gens X and Y."
Garfein accepting his GRAMMY® for Elmer Gantry, 2012
Garfein's recent work recent work includes three new songs for the 20th Anniversary AIDS Quilt
Songbook premiered on World AIDS Day, 2012 at Cooper Union; a song-cycle The Divine Image,
forthcoming on GPR Records; and the libretto for Sister Carrie, an opera based on the Dreiser novel,
scheduled for a premiere by Florentine Opera, Milwaukee in 2015
"Mr. Garfein, it turns out, is a triple-threat man. A
strong composer, as we knew; a strong librettist, with a
knack for the poetry of plain English, and a strong stage
He conceived, wrote and directed the theater piece My Coma Dreams, a
collaboration with jazz composer-pianist Fred Hersch. My Coma Dreams played
at the Miller Theater (NYC) in 2013 to rave reviews, having previously been
seen in Montclair, Berlin, and San Francisco. "My Coma Dreams is scary and
sad and beautiful and damn funny in parts... a mighty range of
expression..." Jazz Times "Disturbing, lovely... [with] deeply funny moments
throughout ..." The Wall Street Journal. It has been embraced by the medical
community for its reflections on the patient's experience of contemporary
medical practice; in Berlin it was produced by the European Society for
Intensive Care Medicine, its 2013 NYC premiere was produced by The Program
in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University Medical School.
As a librettist, Garfein was awarded the 2012 GRAMMY® award for Best
Contemporary Classical Composition for his "wildly operatic libretto" (-BBC
Music Magazine) for Robert Aldridge's Elmer Gantry in a performance by
Florentine Opera, Milwaukee. Released on Naxos, the disk won a second
GRAMMY® for Best Engineered Classical Recording.
Garfein first gained recognition for Mythologies, (lyrics and music) an
evening-length dance triptych for The Mark Morris Dance Group, based on
essays of Roland Barthes, which premiered at the BAM ‘Next Wave' Festival.
Mr. Garfein collaborated with famed experimental theatre group Mabou Mines
and noted mezzo Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, writing both music and lyrics for
Sueños ("First-rate theater music" -The Boston Herald) which opened at the
Hasty Pudding Theater in Boston and ran Off-Off- Broadway at the Manhattan
Triplex Theater. In 2001, he composed incidental music for a new
Off-Broadway production of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, directed by
Sir Peter Hall (Theatre for a New Audience).
Concert music compositions include American Steel for the Alabama
Symphony; and two string quartets -one written for the Lark Quartet.
Other libretti include Parables for Robert Aldridge, a symphonic
oratorio on issues of religious tolerance, premiered by the Topeka Symphony
Orchestra; Alzheimer's Stories for Robert S. Cohen, commissioned by the
Susquehanna Valley Chorale in 2009, broadcast on Pennsylvania Public
Television, and subsequently seen nationally in multiple venues, supported
by the Alzheimer's Association of America; and Edison Invents, also for
Cohen and commissioned by the Westfield Symphony (NJ).
Garfein received his training at Yale University (cum laude) and The New
England Conservatory of Music. He has won awards and fellowships from The
National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, The
National Institute for Opera/Music Theater, and the MacDowell Colony. He
lectures in Script Analysis and teaches Composition at The Steinhardt
School, New York University where, in the 2012-13 academic year, he was
awarded The Excellence in Teaching Award.
Listen to excerpts from
other works by Herschel Garfein
Two excerpts from American Steel (for large orchestra).
The Alabama Symphony, Christopher Confessore, conductor
"Cumbia and Trio" from String Quartet No. 1., The Lark Quartet
"London" from Places to Live. The Boston Classical Orchestra, Steven Lipsitt conductor
Tom Stoppard [author of the play] is widely acknowledged as one of the
world's leading dramatists. His first major success came with
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which catapulted him into the
front ranks of modern playwrights overnight when it opened in London in
1967. The play, which chronicles the tale of Hamlet as told from the
worm's-eye view of the bewildered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two
minor characters in Shakespeare's play, was immediately hailed as a
modern dramatic masterpiece. The Broadway production won the Tony
Award for Best Play.
Stoppard's trilogy The Coast of Utopia recently completed
a critically lauded, sold-out run at the Lincoln Center Theater.
It won a record-breaking seven Tony Awards, including Best Play.
His latest play, Rock 'n Roll, will open on Broadway in
November, 2007, transferring from a highly successful run in
London's West End.
Among Stoppard's best-known plays are Jumpers (1972) Travesties (1974)
The Real Thing (1982) Aracadia (1993) and The Invention of Love
(1997). His works have won numerous awards, including nine Evening
Standard Awards, the Italia Prize for radio plays, four Tony Awards and
the Shakespeare Prize.
In addition to his work for the stage, Stoppard has written a number of
screenplays including The Human Factor (1979), Empire of the Sun
(1987), and Billy Bathgate (1991). He co-authored the screenplay for
Brazil (1985), which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1985, and in
1999, he won an Oscar for "Best Screenplay" (with Marc Norman) for
Shakespeare in Love.
Garfein's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is the first operatic
adaptation of a Stoppard play.