Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
Stream Now
Click Here for More Articles on Stream Now

Baryshnikov Arts Center to Premiere Digital Adaptation of SOS (THE SONG OF SONGS)

The work will be available for free, on-demand viewing November 17-20.

Baryshnikov Arts Center to Premiere Digital Adaptation of SOS (THE SONG OF SONGS)

Baryshnikov Arts Center and Mart Foundation are introducing American audiences to one of the most innovative hybrid performance works to emerge from Russia in recent years with the world premiere screening of SOS (The Song of Songs), created by visual and performance artist Vera Martynov and composer Alexey Sysoev. This hybrid performance work, featuring soloists from the acclaimed Intrada Vocal Ensemble directed by Ekaterina Antonenko, two narrators, a musician playing percussion and a telegraph key was to make its U.S. premiere at BAC in March 2020 but was cancelled due to COVID-19; it has now been reconceived as a media installation presented on video.

SOS (The Song of Songs) will be available to stream, free of charge, Tuesday, November 17, at 5pm EST through Friday, November 20, at 5pm EST, at Running time is approximately 60 minutes. SOS is performed in English and Russian.

This version of SOS features performance footage and audio tracks newly recorded in Moscow in August/September 2020, interwoven with lush visual elements designed by Martynov and themed around memories of childhood, travel, and the confines of quarantine. SOS takes its name from the worldwide standard Morse code signal of distress, and draws from the poetic Old Testament text, Solomon's Song of Songs.

The seed of SOS lies in Vera Martynov seeing a Bach performance by Intrada and being bowled over by the presence of Antonenko, "this small, fragile figure in front of a huge choir." The two women agreed to collaborate and began looking for music to fit the theme of the work Martynov had in mind. It occurred to Martynov that contemporary music was called for-to reflect catastrophe as a current-day, as well as timeless, phenomenon. They selected Alexey Sysoev, a Russian composer/musician who has participated in various jazz, electronic, and experimental projects and in 2013 had won the Golden Mask National Theater Award for the best work by a musical theater composer.

Martynov's libretto draws from three primary sources: a 17th-century translation into English of Solomon's Song of Songs; the letters of Ancient Roman magistrate, writer, and lawyer Pliny the Younger (63-113 CE); and Martynov's diaries. Also incorporated are expressions of distress in modern society, including eyewitness accounts of catastrophes by individuals including journalists and an 18-year-old boy (Pliny the Younger's age when he witnessed the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

Martynov says, "SOS is about facing a catastrophe, whether personal or global, and about making the next step in a new life. When we first planned to bring SOS to BAC, we had no idea how resonant it would end up being this year. I have seen many challenging times in my life; unfortunately, this year has made our SOS signal more relevant than ever. In the isolation necessitated by the pandemic, the project expanded to include other art forms, such as painting and sculpture, and has transformed into a whole new installation, which can also be accessed on the MYTH gallery website before BAC's premiere of the digital version of SOS."

The visual elements complementing a minimalistic performance in the new, digital adaptation of SOS include fragments of large-scale, magical-realistic paintings of images from Martynov's memory, as well as of current-day phenomena. The paintings portray the artist's childhood impressions of small towns in southern Ukraine; vivid recollections of travels to Greece, Italy, and California; views from the windows of numerous rented Moscow apartments and from hotels in megacities; St. Petersburg sunsets Martynov has observed during COVID-19 lockdown this spring and summer; crumbling firewalls and frescoes from Pompeian houses; and more.

Martynov directs SOS, working alongside Antonenko, who serves as music director. The work is composed by Alexey Sysoev and choreographed by Nikita Chumakov. The performers include actors Polina Grishina and Alexander Pronkin; musician Dmitry Shchelkin, who plays percussion and the telegraph key; and Intrada singers Evgenia Kissina, Daria Safroshkina, Lyubov Temnova, Maria Grigorieva, Tatiana Kokoreva, Ekaterina Kolomina, Olga Talysheva, Varvara Popova, Maria Movenko, Ivan Derevnin, Artem Volkov, Mikhail Nor, Vladimir Krasov, and Nikolai Basov.

Related Articles

More Hot Stories For You