While he has achieved considerable success with the choral work Bright Mass with Canons (2005) and film score for The Reader (2008), Nico Muhly has generated greater notoriety for his first opera Two Boys (2011), a composition drawing decidedly mixed reviews but clearly unveiling a major new voice in opera.
Remarkably, all these works and many more were written before Muhly was 30. Besides opera, film, and choral music, he has written orchestral scores, various vocal works, and much instrumental fare, including percussion music and solo piano music. Muhly's style is made up of minimalist and romantic elements, and in both his thematic character and choral music he acknowledges the influence of the Anglican choral tradition. Muhly has worked as an arranger for such groups as the multi-genre ensemble Antony and the Johnsons and the rock band Grizzly Bear. He also worked extensively with composer Philip Glass in his New York City Soho studio. Muhly's works are widely available on recordings from such labels as Decca, Innova, Bedroom Community, and others.
Nico Muhly was born in Vermont on August 26, 1981. Raised in Providence, RI, he sang in his church choir as a child and began studying the piano from age ten. He studied English at Columbia University and from his sophomore year (1999) worked with Glass, often editing film scores and stage works. Muhly later earned a master's degree at Juilliard where his composition teachers included John Corigliano and Christopher Rouse.
While Muhly was active from 2002 composing such works as Beaming Music, for percussion and organ, and the choral piece Set Me as a Seal (2003), he drew broad notice for his collaboration with popular singer Björk on her 2004 DVD Oceania.
Soon he was on a meteoric ascent: Muhly's 2006 Wish You Were Here was premiered by the Boston Pops and his 2008 Step Team was given its first performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 2008 Muhly ceased working as an assistant to Glass, a composer and mentor with whom he remained close.
Among the most prestigious of Muhly's premieres were the New York Philharmonic presentation of Detailed Instructions in 2010, and the English National Opera premiere of Two Boys in June 2011. The Metropolitan Opera signed on to give the major U.S. premiere of Two Boys in the 2013-2014 season. Among Muhly's more acclaimed recordings is the 2011 Decca CD of Step Team and other Muhly works and arrangements, led by Nicholas Collon and the Aurora Orchestra.