National Sawdust to Premiere Keeril Makan and Jay Scheib's PERSONA, 10/23

By: Oct. 13, 2015
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On October 23 & 24, Persona, a new opera from composer Keeril Makan and adaptor / librettist / director Jay Scheib, will make its world premiere at National Sawdust. Commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects and National Sawdust, and adapted by Scheib from Ingmar Bergman's film of the same name, Persona is a provocative, highly cerebral, and artistically complex depiction of human frailty, cruelty and identity. These world premiere performances-which represent the first opera staged at National Sawdust-feature music direction by Evan Ziporyn and music by the ensemble Either/Or.

Performances will take place at 8pm. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at or 646.779.8455.

Colleagues at MIT, Mr. Makan and Mr. Scheib are two artists at the forefront of their respective specialties. Described by The New Yorker as "an arrestingly gifted young American composer," Mr. Makan is best known for his orchestral works, which have been featured at festivals and venues both nationally and internationally. A 2011 Guggenheim fellow, Mr. Scheib is widely recognized for his work in theater and opera, and was cited by American Theatre magazine as one of the "top 25 directors likely to shape American performance over the next 25 years."

Persona-developed and produced by National Sawdust group-in-residence Beth Morrison Projects, in association with MIT-marks the first major collaboration between Mr. Makan and Mr. Scheib, and Mr. Makan's first opera. At the heart of the storyis a symbiotic relationship between a nurse and an A-list actress who becomes inexplicably mute. The dramatic nature of the movie lends itself to operatic adaptation, which Mr. Makan accomplishes with a unique aural landscape, and to which Mr. Scheib contributes a richly layered production including his signature incorporation of live filming. The production features scenic design by Caleb Wertenbaker, video & lighting design by Joshua Higgason, and costume design by Oana Botez.

In this world premiere, mezzo-soprano Amanda Crider plays Alma, the nurse, and the actress Lacey Dorn plays Elisabet Vogler, the actress. The production also features mezzo-soprano Eve Gigliottias Doctor and the baritone Joshua Jeremiah as Man. Through these four characters, this surrealist, psychological drama explores the difficulty of communication between people and the egocentric nature of art.

Following each performance of Persona, National Sawdust will present a concert, curated by Beth Morrison Projects, of music by members of the creative team. Music by Keeril Makan, on October 23 at 10pm, offers the New York premieres of three works by Mr. Makan, performed by the Aeolus Quartet: The Noise Between Thoughts, Return and Washed By Fire. On October 24 at 10pm, Evan Ziporyn and Christine Southworth will perform their work In My Mind & In My Car, an audio-visual extravaganza of live bass clarinet, videos and electronics. Tickets for each concert are $20.

Persona is funded, in part, by an award from The National Endowment for the Arts - Art Works.

About the Artists

The New York Times has described Keeril Makan (Composer) as "consistently stimulating," and The Boston Globe portrays him as an artist "whose music deserves to be more widely heard." Recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Luciano Berio Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, he has also received awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Howard Foundation, the Fromm Foundation, Meet the Composer, the Aaron Copland House, the Utah Arts Festival, the Fulbright Program, and ASCAP. His work has been commissioned by the Bang on a Can All-Stars, American Composers Orchestra, Harvard Musical Association, and Carnegie Hall, among others. His CDs, In Sound (Tzadik), Target (Starkland), and Afterglow (Mode) include performances by the Kronos Quartet, Either/Or, and the International Contemporary Ensemble. Schott publishes his compositions.

Mr. Makan was raised in New Jersey by parents of South African Indian and Russian Jewish descent. After training as a violinist, he received degrees in composition and religion from Oberlin and completed his PhD in composition at the University of California-Berkeley, with additional studies in Helsinki and Paris. He makes his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is Associate Professor of Music at MIT.

Jay Scheib (Adaptor/Librettist/Director) is a director and designer of plays, operas, ballets and hybrid live art performance events. Recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Obie Award for Direction of his Fassbinder adaptation World of Wires, Scheib's physically daring, technologically rich stagings have garnered rave reviews and accolades internationally. Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times called Scheib's production of Thomas Adès' opera Powder her Face, for New York City Opera at BAM, "dazzling." Other recent works include the Luigi Nono / Monteverdi evening Odyssee, conducted by George Petrou at the Staatstheater Darmstadt. His live cinema performance after Chekhov's Platonov, or the Disinherited premiered at La Jolla Playhouse, followed by performances in New York City at The Kitchen with live broadcast to the AMC Empire 25 Cinema in Times Square. Most recently he staged Giorgos Kouroupou's two operas Pylades and Jocasta for the Athens Festival in Greece, also with conductor George Petrou. Mr. Scheib is Professor for Music and Theater Arts at MIT, where he directs the program in Theater Arts.

Evan Ziporyn (Music Director and Conductor) is a composer and clarinetist who has forged an international reputation through his genre-defying, cross-cultural works and performances. At MIT he is founder and director of Gamelan Galak Tika and Inaugural Director of the Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST). He tours and records regularly as a soloist and as a member of Eviyan (with Iva Bittova and Gyan Riley). His opera A House in Bali (directed by Jay Scheib) was featured in BAM's 2010 Next Wave Festival; that same fall his works were featured at a Carnegie Hall Zankel Making Music Composer's Portrait concert. From 1992-2012 he was a founding member of the Bang on a Can All-stars (Musical America's 2005 Ensemble of the Year), finishing his tenure with the group with an appearance on an episode of PBS' "Arthur." His longtime work with the Steve Reich Ensemble led to sharing a 1999 Grammy for Best Chamber Performance for their recording of Music for 18 Musicians. Other awards include a Massachusetts Arts Council Fellowship, the USA Artists Award, the Gyorgy Kepes Prize and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Goddard Lieberson Fellowship.

Mezzo-Soprano Amanda Crider (Alma) has sung with companies including Dallas Opera, New York City Opera, Florida Grand Opera, The Castleton Festival, Glimmerglass Opera, Opera Omaha and Des Moines Metro Opera. Engagements for the 2015-2016 season include appearances with Florentine Opera, Eugene Opera and Seraphic Fire. She has sung with New World Symphony, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Eugene Symphony, Apollo's Fire, Bach Festival Society of Florida, and the International Contemporary Ensemble. Ms. Crider has been a prize-winner and finalist in the José Iturbi International Voice Competition, Jensen Foundation Voice Competition, Joy in Singing Debut Artist Competition, Palm Beach Opera Vocal Competition, Oratorio Society of New York Vocal Competition, Center for Contemporary Opera Competition, and is a recipient of a Richard F. Gold Career Grant from the Shoshana Foundation. She is Artistic Director of Miami's art song and vocal chamber music series, IlluminArts.

After her debut with the Metropolitan Opera as Mercedes in Carmen, Eve Gigliotti (Doctor) returned in 2010-2011 reprising the role of Mercedes and appearing as Siegrune in Die Walküre, led by James Levine and broadcast in HD. Ms. Gigliotti appeared as Siegrune in the Metropolitan Opera's Ring Cycle in the 2012-13 season. This season includes her debut with Washington National Opera as Siegrune in Die Walküre, and last season she made her company debut with Houston Grand Opera in the same role. Ms. Gigliotti's other recent engagements include the Milwaukee Symphony (Messiah), Opera Santa Barbara (Isabella in L'italiana in Algeri), Bradamante in director R.B. Schlather's gallery installation of Alcina with Whitebox Art Center, Minnesota Opera (Nazimova in Dream of Valentino), Florentine Opera (Cornelia in Giulio Cesare), and Ruth in Dark Sisters, produced by Gotham Chamber Opera, Music Theater Group and Opera Philadelphia. Future seasons include performances with Hawaii Opera and Opera Philadelphia.

Lacey Dorn (Elisabet Vogler) is an actress and filmmaker working in both cinema and fine art. While an undergraduate at Stanford, she co-created two documentaries with James Franco. She has since directed, written, produced and acted in narrative films that have screened at film festivals internationally, including SXSW, Sun Valley and Cannes. Most recently, she stars in Christopher Coppola's film Torch. She is currently attached to several other feature films in pre-production, while developing her own first narrative feature film to act in and direct.

Skilled across many genres, Joshua Jeremiah (Man) has sung roles ranging from the title role of Rigoletto, with Arizona Opera, to Billy Bigelow in Carousel. He debuted at Jazz at Lincoln Center as a soloist in a Rufus Wainwright concert, and has appeared numerous times in concert with Steven Blier (NYFOS). In the 2016-2017 season, he will debut with Hawaii Opera Theatre as Demetrius, and will return to Arizona Opera to originate the role of Jim Lassiter in Riders of the Purple Sage. Other engagements include John Sorel (The Consul) with Opera Santa Barbara; Sonora (La fanciulla del West) and Starek (Jen?fa) with DMMO; Don Pedro (La Périchole) and Deputy Mayor (Anna Nicole) with New York City Opera; Marcello (La Bohème) with LoftOpera; Athanaël (Thaïs) with Opera Company Middlebury; Escamillo (Carmen) with Northern Lights Festival; and the titular role in Volpone at Wolf Trap, which garnered a 2010 Grammy nomination for Best Opera.

Joshua Higgason (Video and Lighting Design) has designed video, lights and sets, in different combinations, for four productions with Jay Scheib (Bellona: Destroyer of Cities; World of Wires; Platonov, Or the Disinherited; Powder Her Face). He has also worked with The Builders Association, Big Dance Theater, Sufjan Stevens, Radiolab, Julian Crouch, Jim Findlay, Salzburg Festival, BAM and others. He has taught video design and interactive workshops at MIT, NYU, Bennington College, LIU, Duke and Princeton. He also designs interactive technology and concerts.

Oana Botez (Costume Design), a native of Romania, has designed for major theater, opera and dance companies including The National Theater of Bucharest and was involved in different international theater festivals. Since 1999, when she moved to New York , her collaborators in theater, opera, film and dance include Robert Woodruff, Richard Foreman, Maya Beiser, Richard Schechner, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Andrei Serban, Blanka Zizka, Daniel Ezralow, Brian Kulick, Zelda Fichlander, Annie-B Parson & Paul Lazar, Janosz Szasz, Karin Coonrod, Jay Scheib, Evan Ziporyn, Alec Duffy, Doug Elkins, Gus Solomons Jr., David Levine, Eric Ting, Pavol Liska & Kelly Copper and Daniel Alexander Jones, among others. Ms. Botez is teaching currently at MIT in the Theater Program.

Ashley Tata (Assistant Director) is a Brooklyn-based opera & theater director. Her Recent credits include thingNY's This Take Place Close By (The Knockdown Center, NYC); Mojiao Wang's Encounter (NCPA, Beijing, China); David T. Little's Soldier Songs with video by Bill Morrison (BMP/Atlas Theatre, DC/Holland Festival); Guard (2014) (Fisher Center, Bard College); Rebecca Gilman's The Glory of Living (Revolve Productions, NYC); Menotti's The Telephone (Alchemical Theater Laboratory, NYC). As Assistant Director her credits include David T. Little's Dog Days(Robert Woodruff, Director; BMP/Montclair's Peak Performances/FWO/LAO); Ted Hearne's The Source (Daniel Fish, Director; BMP/Mass MoCA/BAM's Next Wave); David Lang's love fail (Lang, Director; BMP/BAM's Next Wave); Toshio Hosokawa's Matsukaze (Chen Shi-Zheng, Director; Spoleto Festival, USA/Lincoln Center Festival). Upcoming: Rhymes With Opera's Heartbreak Express. She is a recipient of the Lotos Foundation's Emerging Artist Prize in the Arts and Sciences.

Praised by The New York Times as "an ensemble that plays by its own rules" and "a trustworthy purveyor of new sounds," Either/Or has been at the forefront of New York's contemporary music scene since 2004, presenting new and recent works for unconventional ensembles rarely heard elsewhere. Co-directors Richard Carrick and David Shively curate its programming, drawing on the Either/Or roster of 17 regular musicians alongside special guests. The group has performed throughout the Northeast at venues including Philadelphia Museum of Art, ICA Boston, Miller Theatre,The Kitchen, The Stone, Roulette, and Issue Project Room.

Aesthetically, the Either/Or programming explores equally the products of an American Experimental tradition (as traceable via artists such as Cage, Feldman, Lucier, Ashley) and of a European avant-garde, with a special emphasis on composers working outside the institutional mainstream. Either/Or has presented the first U.S. portrait concerts for composers such as Chaya Czernowin, Horatiu Radulescu, Karin Rehnqvist, Rebecca Saunders, Hans Thomalla and Anna Thorvaldsdottir, bringing most of these composers to New York City for public lectures and teaching engagements.

Either/Or recently received the 2015 CMA/ASCAP Creative Programming Award, and has premiered more than 150 new works in the past decade, not including dozens of student compositions. Artists commissioned by Either/Or include Anthony Coleman, George Lewis, Keeril Makan, Miya Masaoka, Zeena Parkins, and Elliott Sharp. Either/Or has released CD recordings of composers Keeril Makan (Starkland, 2011), Richard Carrick (New World, 2011), Karin Rehnqvist (Sterling, 2013) and Anthony Coleman (New World, 2014), as well as having further titles in preparation from Carrick, Makan, Elliott Sharp and Morton Feldman.

About Beth Morrison Projects

Founded in 2006, Beth Morrison Projects encourages risk-taking, creating a structure for developing new work that is unique to each artist, which gives them the time and space to experiment and push boundaries. Noted as a composers' producer, Morrison "has been gathering strength for several years, producing some of the most exciting music-theatre projects in the city" (The New Yorker). To date, the company has commissioned, developed, and produced more than forty premiere opera and music-theatre works that have been performed around the globe. The New York Times recently said, "The production of new [opera] works in the city still falls mostly to the tireless Beth Morrison and her Beth Morrison Projects." The Wall Street Journal wrote, "Ms. Morrison may be immortalized one day as a 21st-century Diaghilev, known for her ability to assemble memorable collaborations among artists."

Current and upcoming projects include works by composers Darcy James Argue, Mohammed Fairouz, Du Yun, Ted Hearne, David Lang, David T. Little, Zhou Long, Keeril Makan, Missy Mazzoli, Paola Prestini, Kamala Sankaram, Scott Wheeler and more; and directors Julian Crouch, James Darrah, Rachel Dickstein, Daniel Fish, Gia Forakis, Bob McGrath, Yuval Sharon and Robert Woodruff.

Projects have been performed in American and international venues, including Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Kitchen, Performance Space 122, Lincoln Center, The Walker Art Center, The Barbican, The Holland Festival, The Operadagen Festival, The Beijing Music Festival, The New York Musical Theater Festival and more.

About National Sawdust

Located in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the non-profit National Sawdust is a dynamic home for artists and new music of all kinds. It is a place for exploration and discovery-where emerging and established artists can share their music with serious music fans and casual listeners alike. In a city teeming with venues, National Sawdust is a singular space founded with an expansive vision: to provide composers and musicians across genres with a setting in which they can flourish, and a place where they are given unprecedented support and critical resources essential to create, and then share, their work.

A diversity of world-class artists, arts organizations, and institutions are collaborating with National Sawdust's Creative and Executive Director, the composer Paola Prestini, as curators.

In addition to hosting rehearsals, performances, recordings and broadcasts in state-of-the art facilities, National Sawdust commissions new works and arranges workshops and residencies. It aims to be a resource not only for the community of musicians, but also for audiences in search of remarkable musical experiences at accessible ticket prices. For the local community, National Sawdust creates progressive public programs and educational initiatives. Other offerings include talks, publications and mentorship programs for composers and musicians, and for related fields.

Designed by Brooklyn's Bureau V, National Sawdust is constructed within the existing shell of a century-old sawdust factory, preserving the authenticity of Williamsburg's industrial past while providing a refined and intimate setting for the exploration of new music. At the venue's core is a flexible chamber hall, acoustically designed by renowned engineering firm Arup to provide the highest-quality experience of both unamplified and amplified music.