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Interview: There's No Place Like Home - Da Camera's Sarah Rothenberg Talks 30th Anniversary Season

Da Camera's Artistic and General Director Sarah Rothenberg.
Photo by Morris Malakoff/CKP

"A stranger I arrive/A stranger I depart," sings the protagonist in Franz Schubert's Winterreise. Da Camera will perform the song cycle in December as part of their 30th anniversary season, "No Place Like Home," highlighting the complexity that surrounds such a seemingly simple concept.

"I think all of us Americans have been thinking about the idea of home and what America means to us, and how much our culture has been influenced by people coming here," says Da Camera's Artistic and General Director Sarah Rothenberg. "[But we] also wanted to recognize that there are many, many people in the world who don't have a home."

Schubert's protagonist, Rothenberg says, is someone who doesn't really belong anywhere. "It occurred to me that this is one person singing, but when you see a photograph of thousands of refugees, each of them has that story of leaving a place and having no home.

"I think it's so easy for us to forget that each individual has a story and that's where I think art is so powerful. It reminds us of that individual story."

The diverse stories that comprise Da Camera's upcoming season approach the multiple meanings of home in vastly different ways, starting with September's opener, a celebration of the classical, jazz and Cuban influences on the Harlem Quartet (with Aldo López-Gavilán) to the literal homecomings of three jazz greats (Robert Glasper, Eric Harland and Helen Sung), and a good mix of classical and new works, like an evening of contemporary music inspired by art in our own backyard, in the Menil Collection's Cy Twombly Gallery.

In addition to April's celebration of the 30-year relationship between Da Camera and the Menil, they will also stop by the museum in December, for both the Da Camera debut of harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, and the performance of Winterreise, with Rothenberg on piano and baritone Tyler Duncan.

Winterreise will be presented in conjunction with the Menil's Mona Hatoum retrospective, one of several events in the season lineup connected to other art forms, including "Wartime Stories" on April 21 and "Poetry and Music" on April 30.

"Poetry and Music: Exile and Return" features the poetry of Adam Zagajewski, and is presented in collaboration with Inprint. And The St. Lawrence String Quartet, with Rothenberg and clarinetist Joshua Rubin, will perform two World War II-inspired works in "Wartime Stories": Steve Reich's 1988 composition, Different Trains, set against original synchronized video by Mihai Cucu, and Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, originally written in a German POW camp in 1940, and dramatized with lighting by Jennifer Tipton.

Da Camera's 30th anniversary season, from Schubert to Charles Ives to a tribute to Abbey Lincoln, Joni Mitchell and Nina Simone, and right through to the closing night with Dianne Reeves, spans genres and time -- intentionally so, says Rothenberg.

"We're very committed to showing how this music, even if it's been written two hundred years ago, can have a very immediate emotional affect and speak to us today," says Rothenberg. "I think there's tremendous inspiration to be drawn from the fact that something that a human being wrote down two hundred years ago can speak to us with such immediacy. I think that that's a very powerful message about the human spirit that comes to us very, very viscerally in music. We really feel it."

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