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Caroline Shaw's WE NEED TO TALK Premieres On April 16

This is a composition based on a poem by celebrated poet Anne Carson, featuring Ariadne Greif.

Caroline Shaw's WE NEED TO TALK Premieres On April 16

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw's complex, layered sound world comes to the Opera Philadelphia Channel on Friday, April 16 with We Need to Talk, a composition based on a poem by celebrated poet Anne Carson, featuring Ariadne Greif, in a film by award-winning director Maureen Towey and Philadelphia-based Four/Ten Media.

The voice of Greif, singing live to camera, is both accompanied by and in conversation with a choral track of Shaw's own voice and recitation of the poem by Carson herself. Additional electronic composition and sampling of old film scores create an environment filled with tension and energy.

"There's a very unstable quality to the whole text," Shaw said, "it's shifting qualities constantly, and there's an underlying sense of both grief and anger that felt a little bit of this moment."

New Works Director and Creative Producer Sarah Williams commissioned Shaw based on her artistry, creativity, and masterful use of intricate harmonies. "While she hasn't written an opera yet," Williams said, "she's a real storyteller in all of her music."

Towey worked with Four/Ten Media's Kevin Eikenberg and Evan Chapman to draw out the lushness of the music and lyrics, to make the piece feel both contemporary and timeless, while still leaving space for interpretation.

Filmed in the expanse of a Spring Arts district warehouse in Philadelphia, the long room allowed for dynamic shots of Greif moving through the space as she also moves through a range of emotions and expression. Greif breaks the fourth wall, engaging directly with the camera and Carson's voice.

"She's such a dynamic singer and a wild, simmering presence on camera," Towey said of Greif. "She understands how to play in a wide range of artistry with her voice and her performance."

Both Carson's poem and Shaw's music resonated with Greif.

"I had to sit down while I was reading this poem," Greif said. "When I finished listening to Caroline Shaw's thrilling, crystalline, specific recording of herself singing the piece I was surprised I was still just sitting there in my kitchen, sweating and sort of buzzing. The piece is so warm, sensual, cutting ... And Maureen created a fabulous dramatic space for this piece to live and grow."

We Need to Talk was filmed in late March, following weeks of digital meetings between the creators, who Shaw described as a "dream team."

"The fact that all rehearsals were digital, and all of the collaboration was remote," Towey said, "I think there's naturally an explosive joy you feel when you're in the room together during these times, able to make something, and also a little bit of a catharsis for all of us trying to get through such a dark year."

We Need to Talk premieres April 16, 2021 on the Opera Philadelphia Channel. It is available with a Season Pass, as a seven-day rental for $10, or as part of the $25 Digital Commissions Bundle with Tyshawn Sorey's Save the Boys, Courtney Bryan's Blessed, and Angélica Negrón's The Island We Made. Visit operaphila.tv for details.


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