British composer Dame Ethel Smyth was famous for breaking gender barriers through her music and her effective activism in the suffrage movement, for which she went to jail in 1912. Until 2016, she was the only woman in history to have had an opera performed at the Met.
Composed in 1930, The Prison is Smyth's last large-scale work, scored for two soloists (portraying The Prisoner and his Soul), chorus, and orchestra. Sometimes called an oratorio or a cantata, it is similar in scale and scope to the vocal symphonies of Mahler.
To date, there are no commercial recordings of the work, and it has been performed very rarely since the premiere in 1931, conducted by Smyth herself. Indeed, until this year, there are no records of any performances with orchestra in the US.
In a collaborative co-premiere between the two organizations, Blachly performed the North American Premiere with the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra April 7; the Cecilia Chorus of New York performed the New York Premiere on May 11 under the direction of Maestro Mark Shapiro.
Building on the momentum and excitement generated by those two performances, EXO will now be the first orchestra to create a commercial recording in the US.