The lives of artists and writers are built for opera. The angst and madness of our creative minds ranks second only to the tortured underworld of Wagner.

But in Letters From Georgia, written for the Eastman Philharmonia and soprano superstar Renée Fleming, composer Kevin Puts reaches for something far more subtle. Moments of great beauty, read with arcing passion by Fleming, pulled from letters written by the artist Georgia O’Keeffe. A 23-minute opera that is only half the story; will we hear the rest of it?

Kodak Hall at Eastman Theater was sold out for this moment Saturday night. A homecoming for Puts, who spent his undergrad and master’s degree years at the Eastman School of Music. And as all 2,326 people in the house were aware, it was a homecoming for Fleming as well. She grew up in Churchville, but belongs to the world. Fleming is a force in opera, which you must be if you’re singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and want to be heard over the bloodlust howl of a Super Bowl crowd ready for the kickoff.

This was Rochester’s big night at the opera. Letters From Georgia was appropriately bookended by the Eastman Philharmonia – students at the Eastman School of Music dressed and tuned for their departure into the real classical music world – opening with Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole