Knocking on an Empty House for female voice and electronics, actor, and disembodied medieval vocal trio examines the fateful relationship between Joan of Arc and Gilles de Rais (the historical figure who inspired the gruesome Bluebeard tale). This 60-minute, music-driven theatrical work will feature myself as both composer and performer, and will be developed in consultation with Czech/NY choreographer Denisa Musilova (member of HOWL). The concept explores an urgent, contemporary question in many institutions of faith: What is the relationship between the human body and the Holy Spirit?
Knocking on an Empty House, part two of a diptych, probes the multidimensional alliance between music, performance, and the body of the performer. Players are asked to become ‘the other.’ The actor becomes musician and dancer, the composer becomes performer, and the medieval trio is pre-recorded, existing only as part of the sound design. Part one of the diptych, Savior, was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for MusicNOW (World Premiere Apr 2, 2018).
Knocking is a co-creation with choreographer, Denisa Musilova and lighting designer, Mary Ellen Stebbins.
currently seeking producers/venues for 2021-22
Commissioned by Alarm Will Sound, currently in development.
for actor, 3D-film mezzo-soprano, chamber orchestra
Jacob in Chains is a tale of absence upon absence, of grieving, of terrible choices made, of a man who built a life upon lies and those who had faith in his fiction. Ultimately, it is about a soul’s reckoning long coming.
With original script and music by Amy, the music-driven production uses cutting-edge stage technology, live music, 3D film, and ‘surround sound’ to create a multidimensional and immersive performance.
Click second image to VIEW TRAILER.
"...the Illinois-born composer has fashioned an ingenious, absorbing and quietly powerful retelling of the life and death of Joan of Arc that succeeds remarkably well on its unique, genre-melding terms ….one of the 10 best classical concerts of 2018" - The Chicago Tribune
Production photography by Todd Rosenberg.
Savior is an evening length theatrical work inspired by the mystical life and death of Joan of Arc. Commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for MusicNOW 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
Click here to view libretto and score.
Scroll down for video excerpts and production photos.
World Premiere Performances: March 23-26, 2017
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.
View the score and libretto.
(photos on this page by Gennadi Novash courtesy of Peak Performances @ Montclair State University)
(Scroll down for VIDEO excerpt)
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
"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
Second video is 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.
(Scroll down for full video)
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)
Scroll down to view 2 minute trailer, video excerpts, and production photos.
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
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.
View the libretto and score.
(Click second image to view full VIDEO)
Chamber opera for three sopranos, non-speaking/non-singing actor, off-stage oboe, 4-hands piano, and percussion (all players vocalize); duration 40 minutes. Click here to view the 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).
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. )
1. World Premiere - May 5-7, 2005 Peabody Chamber Opera, at The Baltimore Theatre Project
2. West Coast Premiere - November 13-16, 2008 San Fransisco Cabaret Opera at Chapel of the Chimes
3. Harbor Opera Company - December 7-9, 2008 Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD
4. 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
(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.