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Cal Performances at UC Berkeley Presents the U.S. Premiere of SIBYL

Performances run March 17–19).

Cal Performances at UC Berkeley Presents the U.S. Premiere of SIBYL

As part of its Illuminations series, which this season addresses the complex and changing relationship between technology and creative expression, Cal Performances at UC Berkeley presents the eagerly anticipated U.S. premiere of William Kentridge's hit multi-disciplinary theatrical production SIBYL, a meditation on the ultimately unknowable nature of the future (March 17-19). Inspired by the classical myth of the Cumaean Sibyl, SIBYL comprises two parts, both featuring music by two of Kentridge's compatriots: Nhlanhla Mahlangu, who previously collaborated on his acclaimed production The Head & the Load; and Kyle Shepherd, a nominee for a South African Music Award. The evening opens with "The Moment Has Gone," a short film by Kentridge that combines live footage with time-lapse animation, set to live musical accompaniment, featuring a piano score by Shepherd and Mahlangu's South African men's chorus. Next follows "Waiting for the Sibyl," a chamber opera for a full company of singers and dancers who interact with Kentridge's signature hand-painted backdrops, animated ink drawings, swirling projected text, collages and shadow play.

SIBYL marks the centerpiece of a campus-wide residency at UC Berkeley by Kentridge that began in November 2022 and continues in March 2023, with other events including a classroom conversation; a visual lecture entitled To What End (quoted and linked below); a live hour-long performance by Kentridge of the Dadaist poem Ursonate; and a retrospective of Kentridge's films. A special Gala, with Kentridge as the guest of honor, will also take place on the opening night of SIBYL's three-performance run, benefiting Cal Performances' mission to produce and present performances of the highest artistic quality, enhanced by programs that explore compelling intersections of education and the performing arts (March 17). The residency is produced and presented by Cal Performances, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), and the Townsend Center for the Humanities.

In the visual lecture To What End this past November, hosted by Cal Performances, UC Berkeley's Townsend Center for the Humanities and BAMPFA, Kentridge summed up a few of SIBYL's themes as follows:

"As we know, our current oracle is the algorithm. We rely on it all the time, to see what the weather is going to be, it tells us what images we need to see ... On the one hand we want to avoid the algorithm, but on the other hand we are completely beholden to it. ... This, we all know, is a paradox of the contemporary world. But one has to make a space for that which does not compute, that which cannot be owned by the algorithm. One needs to find a place for human stupidity in the face of machine intelligence. We know that through indolence and elegance we will do the work of fate. ... But this is the terrain we live in. We know the ending certainly, but in the space before the ending we have to live and work as though the ending were not there."

South African artist William Kentridge has been revered in the art world for more than 40 years. Best known for prints and animated films that address his homeland's legacies of colonialism and apartheid while celebrating its vibrant culture, he has also created original productions for such leading opera houses as the Metropolitan Opera, English National Opera and Sydney Opera House. SIBYL, one of his most recent theatrical productions, draws on his talents as both an artist and director. After premiering in Rome, it moved to London's Barbican; there the Financial Times pronounced it "enigmatic and beguiling," while a five-star review in the UK's Telegraph declared it to be "a powerful, prophetic 40-minute masterwork." Hailing the production as "an extraordinary achievement," The Times of London marveled: "To call it stimulating would be an understatement. It is also cumulatively, and sometimes almost inexplicably, moving."

Launched in the 2020-21 season, Cal Performances' Illuminations series brings the public into the heart of the groundbreaking research that distinguishes the work of UC Berkeley, providing a platform for civic engagement, public discourse, and social and cultural transformation by connecting UC Berkeley's scholarship to the performing arts. Illuminations performances and events bring together a diverse community - longtime Cal Performances patrons, first-time visitors, academics and teachers, students, visiting artists, and members of the wider public - to make visible the dynamic relationships between campus scholarship and pressing issues in the wider world as seen through a lens of artistic inquiry.

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