Any excuse to tell this story, reported by Robert Wilder Blue on the on-line magazine USOperaWeb, is good enough for me: Nearly four decades ago, when Catherine Malfitano auditioned for the Juilliard School and was rejected, three of the five judges advised her to "give up all hope of having a singing career." Today, after hitting all the major opera houses of the world, Malfitano is still singing--and inspiring music as well. Composer William Bolcom and his longtime collaborator Arnold Weinstein have written Medusa, a monodrama for soprano and chamber group, with Malfitano and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra in mind. According to Bolcom, Weinstein wrote the lyrics--a marriage of the classical tale and "jazzy diction"--and Bolcom allowed them to set the course for a musical "wild ride." Medusa will have its world premiere this week at Northwestern University with Malfitano as the titular Gorgon and the Stuttgart orchestra, directed by Dennis Russell Davies. That sounds like riches enough, but the program also includes the U.S. premiere of Philip Glass's In the Upper Room, which will be danced by mimes Alexander Neander and Wolfram von Bodecker, and Haydn's La Passione Symphony. Part of New Music Northwestern's Spring Composers' Festival, the concert starts at 7:30 on Wednesday, March 5, at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, on the university's Evanston campus. Tickets are $16, $13 for seniors, $6.50 for students. Call 847-467-4000.