The Opera Company of Philadelphia (in collaboration with Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group in New York) has appointed Lembit Beecher, the 2008-09 James A. Winn Graduate Student Fellow at the Institute for the Humanities,as its first composer in residence. As Composer In Residence, Beecher will be an active participant in the workings of the three partner companies, focusing on practical learning and creative growth. He will divide his three-year residency between Philadelphia and New York.

While a fellow at the institute, Beecher's project was "Estonia 1944: A Multimedia Chamber Oratorio," based on his grandmother’s and granduncle’s personal memories of Estonia during World War II when their homeland was occupied first by the Soviet Union, then Germany, and then the Soviet Union again. Along with their words, he mined newspaper accounts, news reports, official records, letters and excerpts from the Estonian national epic Kalevipoeg, for text to set to music. In blurring the lines between music and narrative, documentary and drama, and fact and emotion, he reached for a mosaic-type of storytelling investigating issues of memory, the nature of storytelling, and the relationship of drama to a sense of truth.

Read more about Beecher's appointment.