Written over the course of several decades and scored for 50 musicians and multimedia artists, James Dillon’s “Nine Rivers” isn’t an easy cycle to produce. Melissa Smey, the vivacious new director of the Miller Theater, can attest to that.

“It’s got a funny reputation as being the most canceled premiere ever,” she says, right before the first installment of the U.S. premiere of “Nine Rivers” was performed. “There have been many well-known festivals in Europe who have wanted to produce it, but it’s just so complex.”

The holdup? The sheer size of “Nine Rivers.” The work, which took the Scottish composer more than 20 years to complete, is a cycle of nine pieces interlinked by a series of “tropes.” It takes over 50 musicians and multimedia artists to produce the work, which features visual components, singers and musicians.

And although it takes three nights to present the cycle (it kicked off Wednesday), Smey assures that “you can hear a night on its own” and still enjoy the work. She recommends Saturday’s performance: “All 50 musicians are on the stage at the same time. It’s a great way to end the cycle.”

 
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