Nico Muhly

Nico Muhly

(born Randolph, Vermont 26 August 1981)

Muhly is a contemporary composer of operas, chamber and symphonic works, and sacred music, whose influences range from American minimalism (he worked with Philip Glass for a time) to the Anglican choral tradition and the music of Britten. He is especially noted for his fluent and expressive vocal writing and his imaginatively coloured orchestral textures. His harmonies are layered and dense.

Muhly's Musical Style

Muhly has written two operas: Two Boys (2010), a cautionary tale about the nature of online identity, commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, New York,  and co-produced by ENO, which was premiered at ENO in 2011 and subsequently seen at the Met in 2013; and Dark Sisters (2011), which follows one woman’s attempt to escape her life as a member of a Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints Church (a breakaway sect from mainstream Mormonism) in the American southwest. His third opera, Marnie, due to be premiered at ENO in November 2017, is based on Winston Graham’s novel and inspired by the screenplay of the same name.

In 80+ works for the concert hall, he has embraced subjects ranging from Renaissance astrology to the ethics of artificial intelligence while collaborating with artists as diverse as Benjamin Millepied, Anne Sofie von Otter, and Joanna Newsom. Recent compositions include the song-cycles Sentences (2015), written for countertenor Iestyn Davies and based on the life of British computer scientist and Enigma code-breaker Alan Turing, and Impossible Things (2009), written for tenor Mark Padmore on a text by Greek poet Constantine Cavafy. Significant choral works include Bright Mass with Canons (2005); My Days (2011), a commemoration of Orlando Gibbons; and Recordare, Domine (2013).

Muhly is a sought-after collaborator across genres. He has worked on several occasions with choreographer Benjamin Millepied on scores for New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater and the Paris Opera Ballet, which premiered Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward in 2015. Additionally, he collaborated with choreographers Kim Brandstrup and Wayne McGregor on Machina (2012) for the Royal Ballet, and, for choreographer Stephen Petronio, composed I Drink The Air Before Me (2010), full-length work featuring a children’s choir. He has also written for theatre and film, contributing scores for the 2013 Broadway revival of The Glass Menagerie, and for the films Kill Your Darlings; Me, Earl and the Dying Girl; and the Academy Award-winning The Reader starring Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslett.

Muhly's Life

Born in Vermont and raised in Rhode Island, Muhly studied composition at the Juilliard School with John Corigliano and Christopher Rouse, and worked subsequently as an editor and conductor for composer Philip Glass. He is now based in New York City.

Notable Operas

  • Two Boys (2010), opera
  • Dark Sisters (2011), opera
  • Clear, Loud, Bright, Forward (2015), ballet
  • Mixed Messages (2015), orchestra
  • Viola Concerto (2014)
  • Evening Canticles (2005), choir