DACAMERA Announces Singers for Matthew Aucoin + Peter Sellars' MUSIC FOR NEW BODIES

The lineup includes Kathryn Lewek, Meryl Dominguez, Rachael Wilson, Brenton Ryan, and Cory McGee.

By: Dec. 13, 2023
DACAMERA Announces Singers for Matthew Aucoin + Peter Sellars' MUSIC FOR NEW BODIES

DACAMERA, the Houston-based presenting and producing organization, has announced the five singers who will give the world premiere of Music for New Bodies, an evening-length concert vocal cycle created by acclaimed opera composer Matthew Aucoin and legendary director Peter Sellars.

They are sopranos Kathryn Lewek and Meryl Dominguez; mezzo-soprano Rachael Wilson; tenor Brenton Ryan; and bass-baritone Cory McGee. Sellars will direct, and Aucoin will conduct an instrumental ensemble of Shepherd School of Music students and DACAMERA Young Artists. The libretto, assembled by Peter Sellars and Matthew Aucoin, is inspired by the writings of celebrated poet Jorie Graham and pioneering environmental author Rachel Carson.

The premiere takes place on Saturday, April 20 at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music as part of DACAMERA's UNSILENT SPRING, a weekend of Earth Day programming that examines evolving human responses to the environment.

Co-commissioned by DACAMERA, The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, AMOC* (American Modern Opera Company) and LA Opera, Music for New Bodies will be developed in Houston during a two-week residency, culminating in the concert performance on April 20.

In Music for New Bodies, Jorie Graham's texts often take the viewpoint of a woman who is undergoing intensive cancer treatment. Rather than assuming fixed roles, the singers embody a multiplicity of voices – those in the woman's head, voices of AI and other non-human intelligences, voices of doctors within an operating room, and planetary voices including the voice of the bottom of the ocean. These diverse voices continually intrude and complicate our sense of who, exactly, is speaking.

Says Aucoin, "For me, Music for New Bodies is a leap into uncharted musical territory. This piece doesn't fit any genre category I can think of. In a way, it's a kind of song cycle, since it sets a group of interrelated poems by Jorie Graham which are concerned with some of the most urgent questions of our time: in our quest for immortality, what has the human species done to the planet, and what are we doing to ourselves? What are these post-human intelligences that we continue to create, and which seem almost capable of replacing us?

"Though this piece does not have a conventional narrative, I hope it will feel, in its visceral theatricality, like an opera. It has been the thrill of a lifetime to engage with Graham's visionary poetry, and to work alongside my beloved collaborator Peter Sellars, who has the gift of always urging his fellow artists to be their most adventurous selves."

UNSILENT SPRING also features the world premiere of Earth Tones, a multimedia performance by jazz composer/trumpeter Etienne Charles (Friday, April 19). Last season, Charles triumphed when his San Juan Hill: A New York Story was presented by the New York Philharmonic to reopen David Geffen Hall, cementing his reputation for creating meaningful multimedia works connecting music with place and history.

Earth Tones, a DACAMERA co-commission, highlights peoples and regions that are, and will be, severely affected by climate change. The project highlights nature-based climate change solutions and features stories, images, short films and musicians of at-risk coastal communities across the U.S.

Along with the two world premieres, UNSILENT SPRING will include a series of panel discussions and dialogues with Aucoin, Sellars, Graham, and other creative thinkers.

Closer in view, DACAMERA's 2023-24 season includes a February focus on composer Fanny Mendelssohn. A new documentary, Fanny: the Other Mendelssohn, featuring DACAMERA's Artistic Director, Sarah Rothenberg, and the "calmly commanding" (New York Times) British pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, will be screened on Friday, February 23 at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

Kanneh-Mason will also give a recital at Houston's Wortham Theater Center on Saturday, February 24. Her program will include the regional premiere of Fanny Mendelssohn's Easter Sonata, first lost for 150 years, then mistakenly attributed to her brother Felix, and finally recognized as her own and premiered in her name in 2012. For more information, visit www.dacamera.com.

DACAMERA's mission is to inspire individuals and enrich communities through diverse and inventive musical experiences. The organization is widely acclaimed for its innovative programming, notably Artistic and General Director Sarah Rothenberg's unique concerts connecting music with literature and the visual arts, as well as for its jazz series, featuring a distinctive mix of renowned performers and emerging artists.

Committed to the creation of new work, DACAMERA has commissioned and premiered more than 30 new works in 30 years, many of which continue to be performed around the world by leading musicians. Commissioned composers include Kajia Saariaho, Jason Moran, Vijay Iyer, and Matthew Aucoin, among others. DACAMERA has received numerous national awards for its creative programming concepts, and its original productions conceived and directed by Sarah Rothenberg have been hailed in national press as “trendsetting” (Time Out New York), showing "unusual care and intelligence" (New York Times) and for their "ingenious thematic idea… brilliantly used" (The Washington Post). These productions have been presented at Great Performers at Lincoln Center, the Barbican Centre, The Kennedy Center, and other major international venues. The concept CD, Rothko Chapel: Feldman-Satie-Cage, released on the ECM label, has also received international acclaim.