Aurora Theatre Company Holds Workshop for L’HISTORIE DU SOLDAT

Aurora Theatre Company announced today its plans for a workshop production of Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat (A Soldier's Tale). Through an innovative collaboration between Artistic Director Tom Ross and former San Francisco Ballet dancer Muriel Maffre, Aurora will develop a re-imagined production of L'Histoire du Soldat, based on a new translation of the libretto and new adaptation of the score. The project will feature four musicians (piano, violin, clarinet and percussion), three actors, two dancers/puppeteers, puppets (one life-size and one small), and video elements. Maffre, who performed a concert version of the work with the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival in Seattle, will serve as choreographer, dancer, and co-director of the workshop. Artistic Director Tom Ross will co-direct with Maffre, and Berkeley Opera's Jonathan Khuner will serve as musical director.
The developmental workshop of L'Histoire du Soldat will take place at Aurora Theatre Company in the company's new Dashow Wing performance space December 6-12, 2010; the workshop will not be open to the general public. Aurora Theatre Company plans to present the World Premiere of L'Histoire du Soldat as a fully-staged production as part of a future season, during the mainstage series or as a special holiday presentation.

L'Histoire du Soldat is a theatrical work written in 1918, set to music by Igor Stravinsky (The Rite of Spring). The libretto, by C.F. Ramuz, is based on a Russian folk tale about a soldier who makes a deal with the devil, trading his fiddle for a book that predicts the future of the economy. In the original version, Stravinsky scored the work for a septet (violin, double bass, clarinet, bassoon, cornet, trombone, and percussion), while the story is told by three characters (the soldier, the devil, and a narrator; a dancer plays the non-speaking role of a princess). The narrative of L'Histoire du Soldat is an anti-war Faustian fable, making the piece a highly relevant work for today. In 2006, Seattle Times music critic Melinda Bargreen called the initial performance of the piece "both visually and musically mesmerizing, as fresh as new paint and as exciting as a newly minted classic."
Maffre approached Artistic Director Tom Ross last year with the idea of collaborating on this production because she believed that Aurora's intimate performance space would be ideal for her vision of the piece. Additionally, Ross has a long history of adapting large-scale works to intimate settings, and was struck by Maffre's passion for L'Histoire du Soldat.
"I am always looking for new ways to use our performance spaces," said Aurora Theatre Company Artistic Director Tom Ross. "When Muriel approached me about A Soldier's Tale, I knew that this fusion of dance, theater, and music would be an extraordinary project to explore." Continued Ross, "We knew that the project required a gifted musical director, and at Kent Nagano's suggestion, we reached out to Jonathan Khuner, whose enthusiasm and knowledge of Stravinsky has taken this project to yet another level. With spellbinding music, actors, puppets, video, and Muriel dancing on the Aurora stage, this multi-disciplinary piece will be an exciting project to present."
Tom Ross inaugurated Aurora Theatre Company with Barbara Oliver in 1992. He has directed 20 productions for the company, including the critically-acclaimed production of The Best Man, the World Premiere of Joel Drake Johnson's The First Grade, Mae West's SEX, The Birthday Party, Blue/Orange, Betrayal, and Lobby Hero, which went on to be presented as a co-production between Aurora Theatre Company, Jonathan Reinis, Inc., and the Napa Valley Opera House. For Aurora Theatre Company, Ross has also directed acclaimed productions of The Shape of Things, The Entertainer, The Weir, Death Defying Acts, Abigail's Party, The Mystery of Irma Vep (co-directed with Danny Scheie), and The Aspern Papers, among others. He wrote and directed A Karen Carpenter Christmas in both San Francisco and Seattle, and produced several Solo Mio Festivals, featuring solo performers including Spalding Gray, Eric Bogosian, Danny Hoch, Claire Bloom, Dick Gregory, David Sedaris, John Waters, and Marga Gomez. Prior to coming to the Bay Area, he worked at The Public Theater in New York as Executive Assistant to Joseph Papp and as co-Director of Play and Musical Development. While in New York, Ross also penned the book adaptation of the New York Drama Desk nominated musical Up Against It, based upon Joe Orton's screenplay for The Beatles.
The range and quality of dancer Muriel Maffre's work has been documented in glowing reviews for over 17 years. Maffre joined the San Francisco Ballet in 1990. During her tenure there, she appeared in William Forsythe's In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, and danced the part of the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, Myrtha, queen of the ghostly maidens in Giselle, and Choleric in George Balanchine's Four Temperaments. She has delivered pathos as Medea in Yuri Possokhov's Damned, and a moribund swan in Alexei Ratmansky's Les Carnaval des Animaux; she retired as a principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet in 2007. Maffre grew up in a town just west of Paris and trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School. She was a Gold Medalist at the Paris International Ballet Competition, and is the recipient of two Isadora Duncan Award for Outstanding Achievement in Individual Performance for both 1990 and 2002 repertory season performances with the San Francisco Ballet.
Jonathan Khuner has been Berkeley Opera's musical director since 1988 and served as Artistic Director from 1994 to 2009. He has worked as assistant conductor at the San Francisco Opera for over 25 years and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York for over 10 years. Additionally, Khuner has conducted performances at the New Israeli Opera, the San Francisco Opera Center, West Bay Opera, Pacific Repertory Opera, Livermore Valley Opera, San Francisco Lyric Opera and the Tel Aviv Symphony. He has also appeared with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Santa Fe Opera, Miami Opera, Opera Barga in Italy, and the Israel Philharmonic. During his tenure with Berkeley Opera, Khuner has been instrumental in brilliant adaptations of several older works, new works, and the creation of original versions of operatic repertoire.
Aurora Theatre Company continues its 19th season with David Cale's PALOMINO, playing now through December 5. The season continues in January with the second mainstage production to develop from Aurora's Global Age Project, the World Premiere of Allison Moore's COLLAPSE, directed by Jessica Heidt; as a National New Play Network World Premiere, the play will be produced at Curious Theatre Company (Denver) and Kitchen Dog Theater Company (Dallas) following the Aurora's lead production. In honor of Tennessee Williams' 100th birthday, Aurora Theatre Company Artistic Director Tom Ross helms Williams' rarely-produced stage gem THE ECCENTRICITIES OF A NIGHTINGALE in April; additionally, all of the Script Club selections for the season will be plays by Williams. Closing the season is the first American professional production of British director David Farr and Icelandic actor-director Gísli Örn Gardarsson's thrilling avant garde adaptation of Franz Kafka's METAMORPHOSIS, directed by Bay Area auteur Mark Jackson in June.
Nominated for 27 and winner of 7 Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards for 2009, Aurora Theatre Company continues to offer challenging, literate, intelligent stage works to the Bay Area, each year increasing its reputation for top-notch theater. Located in the heart of the Downtown Berkeley Arts District, Aurora Theatre Company has been called "one of the most important regional theaters in the area" and "a must-see midsize company" by the San Francisco Chronicle, while The Wall Street Journal has "nothing but praise for the Aurora." The Contra Costa Times stated "perfection is probably an unattainable ideal in a medium as fluid as live performance, but the Aurora Theatre comes luminously close," while the San Jose Mercury News affirmed "[Aurora Theatre Company] lives up to its reputation as a theater that feeds the mind," and the Oakland Tribune declared "it's all about choices, and if you value good theater, choose the Aurora."
For more information about Aurora Theatre Company, or for tickets ($10-55) to upcoming productions, the public can call (510) 843-4822 or visit



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