Paul Pinto's New Opera THOMAS PAINE IN VIOLENCE to Make World Premiere at HERE
As a centerpiece of its 25th anniversary season, HERE (Kristin Marting, Artistic Director and Kim Whitener, Producing Director) will present the world premiere commission of Thomas Paine in Violence by 2016-17 HERE resident artist Paul Pinto (thingNY, Varispeed, Robert Ashley) and directed by Obie-winner Rick Burkhardt (Here Be Sirens, Three Pianos, Nonsense Company).
Simultaneously set in the mind and afterlife of the revolutionary activist and political philosopher, Thomas Paine in Violence is a new work of opera theater, setting the Founding Father in a cosmic radio station, struggling to organize and communicate a message of economic justice amidst a whirlwind of strange figures, audio speakers, microphones and electronic gadgetry orbiting around the space, enveloping the audience in a whirlwind of sound and text.
The eighty-minute opera stars legendary composer and virtuoso vocalist Joan La Barbara as Thomas Paine and is scored for four diverse singers - a chorus oF Brown men of high falsettists and deep baritones - with the collaborating thingNY ensemble comprising violin, cello, harp, and piano, various foley objects, and live electronics. First performed as a 15-minute radio opera for Experiments in Opera and WQXR's Q2, Burkhardt and Pinto, with the support of HERE's Artist Residency Program, have spent three years developing the libretto and score into a fully staged operatic experience.
Thomas Paine in Violence is the most ambitious work to date from Pinto, who has developed a unique style that deftly mixes chamber music, extended vocal technique and rhapsodic recitation into a sort of "opera sermon" with work that is striking, funny, and poignantly politically conscious. The ambition of the opera is met by the relevance of its subject matter. America (especially its urban, young people of color) has been vocal in grappling with our history of social inequality. Additionally, both popular theater and fringe arts are finally diversifying both in casting and aesthetics.
At its core, Thomas Paine in Violence is a commentary on the social inequality that currently litters the American landscape by taking as its starting point the work of this famed middle-class Englishman who championed fair taxation, abolition of slavery, secular government and equal rights over two centuries ago. While Enlightenment thinkers debated each other in grand rhetoric, Paine proposed his utopian blueprints in plain speak and, of course, common sense. With the libretto, Thomas Paine in Violence mixes Paine's words with embellished rants and arguments to create a stream of humorous and raw soapbox debating, and at the same time, engages a 21st Century audience. With its score, the opera creates the modern media landscape: a relentless momentum of slander and politispeak, sometimes streaming too quick for comprehension, and other times obliterated under musical censorship.
Joining La Barbara in performance are Christian Luu, Andrew Mayer, Paul Pinto, and Eddie Rodriguez along with four members of thingNY, Mélanie Genin (harp, voice), Andrew Livingston (cello, voice), Erin Rogers (piano, voice), and Jeffrey Young (violin, voice).
Ten performances of Thomas Paine in Violence will take place November 6-18 (see above schedule) at HERE, located at 145 Sixth Avenue, just below Spring Street. Critics are welcome as of November 7, which will act as the official opening. Tickets, priced at $25 general / $45 premium, can be purchased by visiting here.org or by calling 212-352-3101. In person sales at the box office after 5pm only on performance days and two hours prior to curtain for matinees. For Group Sales, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thomas Paine in Violence was commissioned, developed, and produced through the HERE Artist Residency Program. Support has been provided by HERE's allocated government, foundation, and individual funding, and by the Puffin Foundation.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
Composer Paul Pinto creates, performs and produces experimental music and theatrical works, primarily focused on innovative and engaging new forms of opera-theater that fuse the musicality of American speech, poetry, classical music, extended vocal techniques and electronic sound art. He is a founding member of the acclaimed collectives Varispeed and thingNY, and his music has been performed across the U.S. and internationally with and by ensembles, performers and presenters around the world, including Joan La Barbara, Pauline Oliveros, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Ne(x)tworks, the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, loadbang, wildUP!, The Industry in LA, The Royal Scottish Academy Chamber Chorus, the Carnegie Mellon Concert Chorus, New Thread Saxophone Quartet, Iktus Percussion, BRIC Arts, The Whitney Biennial, The Kitchen, Roulette, Experiments in Opera, the Panoply Performance Laboratory and Performa.
For years, Pinto has been an advocate of underrepresented experimentalists in the classical music concert halls, particularly Julius Eastman and Robert Ashley, and has worked to diversify modern opera both in casting, and in form and style. Paul has chosen to work equally with traditional instruments and vocalists, lo-fi electronics, unconventional sound-makers and amateur musicians, creating one-minute opera, concert length chamber music, and durational performance art. At the helm of thingNY, Pinto has premiered hundreds of works from emerging and established composers including Pauline Oliveros, Vinko Globokar, Art Jarvinen, John King, Kyle Gann and Gerard Grisey.
As a vocalist, Pinto has performed in the U.S. and Asia in untraditional chamber music works and experimental and improvisatory creations, including the 5-octave lead role in Peter Maxwell Davies' Eight Songs for a Mad King, in John Sanborn and Dorian Wallace's video opera, Temptation of St. Anthony, and originating the Broadway role of Balaga in Dave Malloy and Rachel Chavkin's hit musical, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. pfpinto.com
Rick Burkhardt is an Obie-award-winning composer, playwright, director, and performer whose original music theater pieces have been performed in over 40 U.S. cities, as well as in Australia, Europe, Taiwan, Canada, and Mexico. He studied Music Composition (PhD 2006) at the University of California, San Diego, with Chaya Czernowin, and playwriting (MFA 2016) at Brown University with Erik Ehn. His plays have been produced by organizations such as New York Theater Workshop, the American Repertory Theater, P. S. 122, LaMama NYC, and River-to-River NYC, as well as numerous U.S. and international festivals, and published by New York Theater Experience. As a songwriter, he has shared stages with artists such as Pete Seeger, the Indigo Girls, Holly Near, and Utah Phillips, and his original songs have been featured on radio programs like NPR's "Morning Edition" and Pacifica's "Democracy Now." As playwright and composer, he has collaborated with theater makers including Lisa D'Amour, Anne Washburn, Erin Courtney, Kristin Kosmas, Dave Malloy, Sylvan Oswald, and Rachel Chavkin. In addition to workshops across the US and in Europe, he has taught full courses in playwriting at Brown University, in music composition at Harvard University, and in music theater at the Evergreen State College.
His chamber music pieces have been commissioned and performed by ensembles such as ICE, Wet Ink Ensemble, Yarn/Wire, Forum Percussion Taiwan, Ensemble XII, the La Jolla Symphony, Ensemble Surplus, the Boswil Foundation, János Négyesy and Päivikki Nykter, Ensemble Ascolta, Red Fish Blue Fish, sfSound, Radical2, Mark Menzies, the Olympia Chamber Orchestra, the American Composers Forum, and Ensemble Chronophonie. Funding for his work has been provided by Meet the Composer, New Music USA, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Jerome Foundation, Donaueschingen and Wien Modern festivals, and the US-Mexico fund for culture.
Joan La Barbara, composer, performer, sound artist, and actor, is renowned for her unique vocabulary of experimental and extended vocal techniques, influencing generations of composers and singers. Awards, prizes and honors include: Foundation for Contemporary Arts John Cage Award (2016); Premio Internazionale "Demetrio Stratos"; DAAD-Berlin and Civitella Ranieri Artist-in-Residencies; Guggenheim Fellowship (2004) and seven National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and The American Music Center's Letter of Distinction (2008) for her significant contributions to contemporary American music. Her numerous commissions include composing for multiple voices, chamber ensembles, theater, orchestra, interactive technology, and soundscores for dance, video and film, including a score for voice and electronics for Sesame Street broadcast worldwide since 1977. Her multi-layered textural compositions were presented at Brisbane Biennial, Festival d'Automne à Paris, Warsaw Autumn, MaerzMusik Berlin, and Lincoln Center among many others. Artistic Director of the multi-year Carnegie Hall series "When Morty Met John" and co-founder of performing composers collective Ne(x)tworks. She is a featured actor in artist Matthew Barney's recent film "River of Fundament" and Aleksandar Kostic's award-winning film "Parallel Dreams". Her music from "Erin" is featured in Jóhann Jóhannsson's filmscore for "Arrival" (2016). Recordings of her work include: "ShamanSong"; "Sound Paintings", "Voice is the Original Instrument"; "Tapesongs" and "73 Poems" her collaboration with text-artist Kenneth Goldsmith, included in The American Century Part II: Soundworks at The Whitney Museum. Exploring ways of immersing the audience in her music, La Barbara placed musicians and actors throughout Greenwich House Music School for her music/theater piece Journeys and Observable Events, allowing the audience to explore the building, unveiling theatrical and sonic events, and seated the American Composers Orchestra around and among the audience in Carnegie Hall's Zankel auditorium, building her sound painting "in solitude this fear is lived", inspired by Agnes Martin's minimalist drawings. La Barbara is a member of the Music Composition Artist Faculty at New York University and the College of Performing Arts Faculty at Mannes/The New School. A composer and publisher member of ASCAP, and member of SAG-AFTRA and AEA, she is composing a new opera with libretto by Monique Truong inspired by Virginia Woolf and Joseph Cornell exploring the artistic process, interior dialogue, and sounds within the mind. joanlabarbara.com
Called "One of New York's most daring young opera companies." by Time Out New York, thingNY is a quirky collective of New York composer-performers who fuse electronic and acoustic chamber music with new opera, improvisation, theater, text, song and installation. Founded in 2006 for an ad hoc festival in the historic Loew's Jersey City Theater, thingNY performs experimental sound works created collaboratively by the core ensemble - Paul Pinto, Erin Rogers, Jeffrey Young, Gelsey Bell, Dave Ruder, and Andrew Livingston - and by adventurous composers such as Robert Ashley, Frederic Rzewski, John King, Pauline Oliveros, Miguel Frasconi, Vinko Globokar, John Cage, Julius Eastman, James Tenney, David Snow, and Andrea La Rose.
The musicians of thingNY are a prolific bunch. They've collaboratively created four operas, two albums, a book, multiple tours, various collaborations with outside artists and over one hundred world premiere performances. Prideful of performing across conventional and unconventional spaces, thingNY produced their last opera, the ominous This Takes Place Close By, at the 50,000 square-foot Knockdown Down Center, but toured various versions across the northeast and Canada. thingNY has also been a part of the Ecstatic Music Festival collaborating with pop vocalist Helado Negro. Other operas include Vinko Globokar's Un Jour Comme Un Autre, Varispeed's critically-acclaimed arrangement of Robert Ashley's Perfect Lives Manhattan and the originals Time: A Complete Explanation in Three Parts, and Jeff Young and Paul Pinto, Patriots, Run for Public Office on a Platform of Swift and Righteous Immigration Reform, Lots of Jobs, and a Healthy Environment: an opera by Paul Pinto and Jeffrey Young.
Their first opera, ADDDDDDDDD, was released as an album and comic book in 2010. Last fall, thingNY released its second album of eight of Paul Pinto's high-energy, wildly verbose minis and Erin Rogers' lush and whimsical Trajectories on Gold Bolus Recordings.
The OBIE-winning HERE (Kristin Marting, Artistic Director and Kim Whitener, Producing Director), which celebrates its 25th Anniversary this season, was named a Top Ten Off-Off Broadway Theatre by Time Out New York, is a leader in the field of producing and presenting new, hybrid performance viewed as a seamless integration of artistic disciplines-theater, dance, music and opera, puppetry, media, visual and installation, spoken word and performance art.
Standout productions include Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, Basil Twist's Symphonie Fantastique and Arias with a Twist, Trey Lyford & Geoff Sobelle's all wear bowlers, Young Jean Lee's Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven, James Scruggs Disposable Men, Corey Dargel's Removable Parts, Taylor Mac's The Lily's Revenge, Kamala Sankaram's Miranda and Robin Frohardt's The Pigeoning, among many others. In 2008, following an extensive renovation, HERE re-opened the doors to its long-time downtown home for the arts, where it continues as a vibrant, welcoming haven for artists and audiences alike.
Photo Credit: Benjamin Heller