Composer Marisa Michelson Continues As Leading Voice In Music-Theatre

Composer Marisa Michelson Continues As Leading Voice In Music-TheatreRecognized as a leading voice in choral and musical theatre composition, composer/theatre-maker/singer Marisa Michelson is hailed for writing and/or performing profound works with a rich tapestry of complicated choral and musical stylings. The upcoming 2018 season cements her role as a vital contemporary artist with the world premiere of three works: The Desire/Divinity Project by Constellation Chor February 1-3, One Thousand Nights and One Day musical April 2-29, and Naamah's Ark oratorio featuring Tony Award winner Victoria Clark concluding The River to River Festival June 17. (Please scroll down for Marisa's complete schedule.)

"Singing itself serves as the core of my artistic vision," explains Michelson. Classically trained and steeped in a first love of choral music and musical theatre, she blurs the lines between performance and ritual by exploring music as a form of narrative, in both secular and sacred realms. Inspired by her intensive training with the Szamosi School of Singing, Michelson is interested in cultivating bodies free of extraneous tension, bodies which can then respond ever more spontaneously to the musical imagination. She believes that music is a tool to circulate, transform, and illuminate this natural musical language of the body. "Riding on the wave of breath, singing is one way of merging our interior selves with the exterior world. To sing with this awareness is to be awake to life-force itself, and to touch what it means to be human. And to be human is to desire."

According to Tony nominee Dave Malloy, who wrote the music, lyrics, book, and orchestrations for Broadway's The Great Comet, "Michelson's inventive and experimental but accessible scores draw on [traditions] vast and positively cosmic, in every sense of the word; aspects of Jewish liturgical music, Islamic azans, European opera, jazz harmonies, African-American gospel, Japanese Noh singing, Balinese monkey chant, Balkan timbres, Pendereckian tone clusters, and Meredith Monkian extended vocal techniques all are kneaded together into something that simultaneously sounds like it came from 7000 years ago and some distant and improbable quantum future."

Michelson's season begins February 1-3, 2018, with the world premiere of The Desire/Divinity Project, a two-part musical piece featuring Michelson and her vocal performance ensemble, Constellation Chor, live orchestration, and dance choreographed by #Mamaisamaker's Emma Crane Jaster. Directed by Ethan Heard and originally choreographed by Chase Brock (currently by Emma Crane Jaster), this Project was developed by Michelson while researching mind/body/spirit practices with virtuosic singing as an artist-in-residence at Judson Memorial Church. Part One: Song of Songs of Songs explores the relationship between the sensual and the sacred, the body and the spirit, through an exegesis of the Western world's oldest erotic poem, Song of Songs.

Featuring an empowered woman at its center it unfolds through three distinct musical movements scored for 15 singers, bansuri flute, melodica, cello, and percussion. Part Two: Sappho Fragments brings to life the spirit of Sappho, an archaic female controversial Greek poet. Through poetry, voice, breath, and movement, the Chor exemplifies Sappho's crackling poetry and its layers of meaning and universality. Collectively, the two Parts engage with the intersection between voice, movement, storytelling, healing, meditation, gesture, inner-development, Oliveros' Deep Listening, and music-theatre.

As a musical theatre composer, Michelson's stylings have been hailed by critics as "some of the most unique and musical theater (Theatermania). Her latest work for the stage, Tamar of the River (2013), was nominated for two Drama Desk Awards. According to, it fulfills "the artistic requirements of an opera. It is original but accessible and never derivative; it is clearly written by someone who understands writing for the voice both in the solos and in the choral work."

Michelson premieres two new theatrical pieces this season starting with One Thousand Nights and One Day based on the acclaimed play 1001 by Jason Grote. In a month-long off-Broadway run produced by Prospect Theatre at the new ART/NY Mezzanine Theatre, One Thousand Nights reinvents "The Arabian Nights", deconstructing and examining narrative, the Middle East, and identity through a 21st Century lens: the love story of a Jewish man and Palestinian woman in New York City. In June 2018, The River to River Festival will conclude with the world premiere of the dramatic oratorio Naamah's Ark by Michelson and librettist Royce Vavrek. The piece tells the story of Noah's Ark from the perspective of Noah's wife to be played by Tony Award winner Victoria Clark. Under the baton of Tony Award-winning conductor Ted Sperling, the 100+ members of the MasterVoices chorus will be joined by community members from Lower Manhattan.

About Marisa Michelson

Marisa Michelson is a multi-award winning writer of interdisciplinary music-theatre, choral work, and musicals, and is the founder of Constellation Chor, a vocal performance ensemble. She is also a sought-after voice teacher. Her music has been called "exquisite" (The New York Times), "otherworldly" (Steven Suskin), and "gorgeous...adventurous" (Vox Magazine). Her musical with Joshua H. Cohen, Tamar of the River (Prospect Theater; 2 Drama Desk Nominations) was highly praised as "one of the most extraordinary scores in years (Jesse Green - New York Magazine). Upcoming: One Thousand Nights and One Day (Prospect Theater World Premiere 2018). Other work includes an oratorio for five choirs/200 singers Naamah's Ark (Royce Vavrek, Ted Sperling, starring Victoria Clark), her interdisciplinary Desire/Divinity Project (Song of Song of Songs and Sappho Fragments (Heartbeat Opera, Judson Memorial), monodrama The Other Room (libretto: Mark Campbell). Awards: 2017 Creative Engagement Award (LMCC); Jonathan Larson Award; American Musical Voices: The Next Generation. Residencies: MacDowell, Ucross, Blue Mountain Center, New Dramatists.

Upcoming 2018 Events:

2.01-03 The Desire/Divinity Project, world premiere, Constellation Chor, Judson Memorial Church, New York, NY

4.02-29 One Thousand Nights and One Day, world premiere, ART/NY Mezzanine Theatre, New York, NY

6.17 Naamah's Ark, world premiere, MasterVoices and Victoria Clark, River to River Festival, New York, NY

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