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Savior is an evening length theatrical work inspired by the mystical life and death of Joan of Arc. Commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with support from the Toulmin Foundation, the singers and creative artists from HOWL collaborate with musicians from the symphony to perform this work. World Premiere Performance April 2, 2018 in the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Chicago.
Molly Netter, soprano; Eliza Bagg, soprano; Hai-Ting Chinn, mezzo-soprano; Tim Munro, alto flute; Katinka Kleijn, violoncello; Cynthia Yeh, percussion; and featuring the pre-recorded voice of Sandy Smillie as The Chronicler.
Duration 65 minutes.
Composed and Directed by Amy Beth Kirsten; Lighting Design by Mary Ellen Stebbins; Sound Design by Christopher Kriz; Movement by Denisa Musilova; Mask Design by Christina Lorraine Bullard
World Premiere Performances:
March 23-26, 2017
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A world premiere production for soprano, mezzo-soprano, contralto, four singing percussionists, actor, and video, QUIXOTE pokes Cervantes's timeless novel with a sharp stick giving a compelling glimpse of the mad knight on his deathbed. Equal parts storefront theatre, opera company, and grotesque chamber ensemble, HOWL confronts Amy Beth Kirsten's music and Mark DeChiazza's production - a collaboration that places the musicians at the center of the action.
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(photos on this page by Gennadi Novash courtesy of Peak Performances @ Montclair State University)
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Commissioned by the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy for its New Work program
Premiered April 30, 2016 at the New World Center in Miami, FL
Playwright Lauren Yee and composer Amy Beth Kirsten collaborate to create Stereo | Blind, a world-premiere play in which music becomes a young blind girl’s “inner-sight” and places the musicians at the center of the drama.
Musicians - Violin:
Cynthia Burton, Lauren Densinger, Michael McCarthy, Maya Cohon
Kristin Baird. Bass: Andrew Chilcote
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This world premiere production continues Amy's interest in exploring the connection between music, language, and theatre. This time James Joyce's short story "Araby" is front and center - a compelling and universal tale about first love and the loss of innocence. Co-direction by Amy Beth Kirsten and Mary Ellen Stebbins. Lighting design by Mary Ellen Stebbins.
This performance features Hai-Ting Chinn, mezzo-soprano and Hannah Collins, cello.
NYC premiere: Feb 24, 2016 at National Sawdust in Williamsburg.
This production oscillates between music written by Amy Beth Kirsten, Kaija Saariaho, Tonia Ko, and Matthew Schickele.
ARABY - program
Sept Papillons #2 (Saariaho)
our house (Kirsten)
Sept Papillons #1 (Saariaho)
the space of the sky above us... (Kirsten)
Sept Papillon #3 overlaid with spoken text (Saariaho / Kirsten)
Sept Papillons #4 (Saariaho)
o love! (Kirsten)
are you going to Araby? (Kirsten)
Sept Papillons #5 (Saariaho)
between us (Ko)
through the silence (Kirsten)
Colombine's Paradise Theatre is a "tour de force...a highly stylized, darkly beautiful love story that’s steeped in myth yet utterly modern...the story really unfolds in the rich poetic imagery — both musical and visual — in the shadowy, unsettling world Kirsten creates." - Washington Post Nov. 17, 2013
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Lingering in a world between death and life, torn between desire and truth, Colombine is caught in a haunted loop. The possessive Harlequin and the illuminated Pierrot orbit around her in a fight for not only her heart, but for her soul.
Amy Beth Kirsten’s "wildly imaginative" Colombine’s Paradise Theatre is a 21st century musical fantasy on 17th century Italian theater and explores the concepts of love and death, dream and delusion. Directed by Mark DeChiazza, the six musicians of multi-Grammy-winning ensemble eighth blackbird play, speak, sing, whisper, growl and mime, breathing theatrical life into these rich Commedia dell’Arte characters.
Colombine – Lisa Kaplan, piano
The Harbinger – Nicholas Photinos, cello
Harlequin – Timothy Munro, flute; Michael Maccaferri, clarinet; Yvonne Lam, violin
Pierrot – Matthew Duvall, percussion
(by the composer after the poetry of Isabella Andreini, 1601)
1. death sweet breath
2. love Harlequin:
I bind her here in the moonless night I wind her / I alone can touch her pain I alone can know my Colombine again / Let me eat her Reason: let me swallow every light that blinds her / and feast upon the stars that find her (inspired by Sonnet 4)
3. bass drum moon #1
5. my charming murderer:
what a charming fatal wound: the charming hurt is quick the charming healing slow / I sigh and after I yearn - a delirium more handsome than ever turns his gaze on me / then like lightening bolts… so my soul stirs - and heart breaks (after Madrigal 5)
6. bass drum moon #2
7. snare / shiver
8. bass drum moon #3:
one thing alone is real (AB Kirsten)
9. night swallows light
10. Colombine my heart come:
Colombine my heart come - I desire I love not because your brutal beauty binds me…no, sweet siren / I desire I love because there beneath your chest beats my heart / and I can’t live without my heart: a desire to live urges me to this - a desire for life / Colombine my heart come to wander we two in the light of the moon (after Madrigal 51 and Variations by Théodor de Banville, 1904)
11. she comes undone (finale)
Chamber opera composed in 2005 for three sopranos, non-speaking/non-singing actor, off-stage oboe, 4-hands piano, and percussion (all players vocalize); duration 40 minutes.
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- - READ libretto
Ophelia 1 (the Mad Mermaid) - high soprano
Ophelia 2 (the Violated Saint) - mezzo-soprano
Ophelia 3 (the Faithful Seductress) - soprano
Hamlet - non-speaking / non-singing actor
Ophelia has been portrayed in theater, art, poetry, photography, film, music, and dance over the course of generations. With each generation comes a fresh analysis of her significance to Hamlet, the mystery surrounding her death, and especially her madness. Many interpretations have formed over the years and seem to coincide with an established cultural ethos regarding women of the time. Because Ophelia has served as a social mirror she has reflected the journey of the human spirit that has sought to defy polite social labels, to resist gender-based restraints, and to forge a path that embraces both love and independence. The aim for this piece is to present the multiplicity of the character, the struggle between the aspects, and the eventual resolution of the struggle.
Ophelia Forever is very much indebted to “The Myth and Madness of Ophelia”, an art exhibit spearheaded by Carol Solomon Kiefer of the Mead Art Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts. It was the printed version of this exhibit that not only pointed to non-Shakespearean sources for text but also inspired the concept of three Ophelia’s on stage at once, each representing a different aspect of her psyche, battling for control. Especially significant are the famous painting, Ophelia, 1851-52 by John Everett Millais, Gregory Crewdson’s photograph Untitled (Ophelia) 2000-1, and Linda Stark’s oil on canvas Ophelia Forever (1999).
The libretto is constructed of fragments of text from Hamlet and poetry by Elizabeth Siddal, Christina Rossetti, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, and the composer. READ libretto.
Included here is a video of the full performance from February 9, 2014 at the Baltimore Theatre Project. (See the video for a cast list and production details. )
- - World Premiere - May 5-7, 2005 Peabody Chamber Opera, at The Baltimore Theatre Project
- - West Coast Premiere - November 13-16, 2008 San Fransisco Cabaret Opera at Chapel of the Chimes
- - Harbor Opera Company - December 7-9, 2008 Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD
- - New Peabody Opera Production - February 6-9, 2014, The Baltimore Theatre Project
Photos used with permission of J.M. Giordano and Edward S. Davis
" [Vicki] Ray donned a microphone headset for Kirsten’s (speak to me)...reciting texts by the composer and Mariko Nagai –- gibberish and otherwise -- in crisp Sprechstimme unison with her piano part. Thematic references to the Echo and Narcissus myths lent breadth to a piece engaging on its own performance terms, in Ray’s hands (and voice)." Los Angeles Times, Nov. 16, 2011.
- - Scroll down to view VIDEO: Lisa Kaplan, piano. April 16, 2012. Ganz Hall Roosevelt University, Chicago
- - AUDIO clip of Vicki Ray (coming soon! to be released on the bad wolf music label in Fall 2014)
(speak to me) is a three-part dramatization of the Echo and Narcissus myth. In the first movement (Deceit), we get a very real sense of how the charismatic and fast-talking Echo spins one of her animated stories; we, her captive audience, are left bewildered while trying to keep up. In the second movement (Curse), the pianist vocally portrays two characters at once - the terrified Echo (high breathy sounds) and the vengeful Juno (deep notes) - as Juno casts the spell which leaves Echo without the ability to speak. The first two movements feature both piano and the pianist's voice, but the last movement (Longing) is for piano alone – reflecting Echo’s forced silence as she wanders the empty forest alone. The last movement is woven out of musical material featured in the first two movements – especially the pitches assigned to the words “Can you hear in my voice?” Played over and over those pitches form a motive that yearns for a way to reach out and be heard.
movement 1 text/gibberish by the composer, movement 2 text by Mariko Nagai.
"Kirsten's pirouette on a moon sliver (2011) was, slightly misleadingly, scored "for solo flute." In an arresting, world-premiere performance, flutist Tim Munro not only played but spoke, sang, spat, growled, howled and gibbered to evoke a murderous incarnation of the commedia dell'arte character of Harlequin." Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 7, 2011.
- - First video is a recent performance by Emma Resmini at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia on Oct 31st, 2017
- - Scroll down to view video of Tim Munro, flute. April 6, 2012. Ganz Hall Roosevelt University, Chicago
Composed in 2011 for vocalizing flutist - commissioned by Timothy Munro; text and music by the composer. Duration 10 minutes.
I’d like to introduce you to Harlequin – the real Harlequin. He’s an obsessive trickster, a devilish cad, a caustic judge, a demented jury of one; he’s an entertaining, evil, sly, and tortured beast who is terrorized by his own irredeemable nature. But, oh, how he can love. With a murderous zeal he binds himself to Colombine…for better or for worse.
And thus we find him, pirouetting on the edge and spinning one of his famously cryptic yarns in three parts: 1. Illusion (The set-up) 2. Delusion (Love Imagined and Destroyed) and 3. Dance of the Asinine (Coda).
pirouette on a moon sliver (a character study for Colombine's Paradise Theatre for eighth blackbird) is warmly dedicated to Tim Munro.
Composed in 2006 for soprano and piano, duration 6 minutes.
Hamlet is coming undone. Alone, Ophelia despairs.
- - Scroll down to view VIDEO: Lindsay Kesselman, soprano; Lisa Kaplan, piano. April 6, 2012. Ganz Hall Roosevelt University, Chicago
O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown! / The courtier's, scholar's, soldier's, eye, tongue, sword, / Th' expectancy and rose of the fair state, / The glass of fashion and the mould of form, / Th' observ'd of all observers- quite, quite down! / And I, of ladies most deject and wretched, / That suck'd the honey of his music vows, / Now see that noble and most sovereign reason, / Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh; / That unmatch'd form and feature of blown youth / Blasted with ecstasy. O, woe is me / T' have seen what I have seen, see what I see!
(from Hamlet, III i 132, William Shakespeare)