“[Experiments in Opera] is telling stories that are not being told in other places…Exploring what opera means.” – The Wall Street Journal
Brooklyn, NY — Following the success of their production last month of Sisyphus, Experiments in Opera now presents STORY BINGE: seven new operas in a two-night “operathon” at Brooklyn’s own Roulette on April 1 & 2, 2015, 8pm. Roulette is located at 509 Atlantic Avenue (corner of 3rd Avenue) Brooklyn, NY. Tickets are $20 for each night, $15 for students.
Over the course of this opera binge, you will hear the work of seven composers, whose arrival at opera couldn’t be more roundabout. The resulting pieces, each from 20 to 30 minutes long, are one-act shorts and opera excerpts in concert and staged performances. Through these works, the composers tell a range of absurd, abstract, historical and hilarious stories. Composers include Sam Hillmer, Nick Hallett, Matthew Welch, Gelsey Bell, Jason Cady, Aaron Siegel, and Faith No More’s Roddy Bottum.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1
Sam Hillmer (a.k.a. Diamond Terrifier) details the disconnect between spoken words and thoughts in his autobiographical multi-media experience titled this is soon, and that was the web this is going to be. It’s a tribute to the confused and every variety of psychic other.
With: Sam Hillmer, Laura Paris, Lawrence Mesich, Patrick Higgins, Angus Tarnawsky, Max Alper, Michael Beharie, Data Garden and Marley G.
Nick Hallett’s To Music (Scene 1) looks at the nature of inspiration, originality, and illusion through the cautionary tale of a composer’s behavior on social media.
Nick Hallett, music, librettist; Josh Thorson, video design, Peter Alex Stewart, composer
With: Amelia Watkins, Norma; Nick Hallett, Lawyer; Emily Manzo, piano; Pauline Kim Harris, violin; Jeanann Dara, viola
Matthew Welch explores his family memoirs of wartime Philippines with his ensemble, Blarvuster in And Here We Are. The impact of cultural collisions is stressed, with text focused on the accounts of Welch’s great-uncle Edgar, an opera singer isolated by his move to Asia and internment.
Matthew Welch, composer; Daniel Neer, librettist;
Based on memoirs by: Edgar Kneedler, Ethel Kneedler and Donald Kneedler
With: Matthew Welch’s Blarvuster: Daniel Neer, baritone; Ben Holmes, trumpet; Joe Bergen, vibraphone; Emily Manzo, piano; Ian Riggs, bass guitar; Mike Pride, drums; Matthew Welch, alto sax and conductor
THURSDAY, APRIL 2
thingNY’s Gelsey Bell presents an excerpt of Rolodex Opera: a fractured story of social relationships based on a Rolodex of characters. Rather than introducing all 26 characters (a.k.a. letters of the alphabet), this performance will involve only the Accompanist, the Creator, the Dad, the Ghost/Grandparent, the Husband, the Kid, the Sibling, the Teacher, the Wife, and X.
With: thingNY: Gelsey Bell, at least voice and synths; Andrew Livingston, at least voice and bass; Paul Pinto, at least voice and percussion; Erin Rogers, at least voice and saxophone; Dave Ruder, at least voice and guitar; Jeffrey Young, at least voice and violin
When the aliens visited Earth in Jason Cady’s The Captives, they accidentally brought germs that killed off most of humanity. But alien zoologists are trying to make right by conserving the human species through a captive breeding program. The story focuses on one couple: John and Sarah, whom the aliens locked up together to reproduce. John loves Sarah, but she is not interested in him. And Sarah is not sure that humanity ought to be saved.
With: Vince B. Vincent, tenor, keyboard; Katie Eastburn, contralto, keyboard; James McHugh, bass guitar; Nick Rifken, percussion; Jason Cady, modular synthesizer, pedal steel
Aaron Siegel’s Laughing investigates the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac through the eyes of a performance artist who struggles to find an outlet for his strange visions. Wrestling for understanding, the performance artist faces disorienting loss and looks to ancient stories to understand his predicament.
With: Matt Evans; Mike Sperone; Cory Bracken; Sam Livingston; Austin Vaughn; Sam Sowyrda; Carson Moody; Stuart Jackson; Mark Utley; Sayun Chang; Adam Holmes; Robby Bowen, percussion
Finally, Faith No More’s Roddy Bottum spreads the myth of Sasquatch in the aptly titled Sasquatch: The Opera. The story is about a small town family’s ‘Bigfoot Tours’ and the fallout when their daughter runs away with the real Sasquatch. Part folklore, part love story, the opera follows the demise of the family and a taboo love affair that blossoms in its aftermath.
Roddy Bottum, composer, librettist; Vaughan Alexander, costume design; Joe Foley, video
With: Robbie Daniels, Sasquatch; Colin Self, Faye; Stephen Wood, Fodder; Paul Soileau (a/k/a Christeeene), Val; Frank Haines, drum machine
Experiments in Opera’s 2014-15 Season is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. To Music: Scene 1 is made possible by a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant.
ABOUT SAM HILLMER
Sam Hillmer (a.k.a. Diamond Terrifier) is a musician, artist, and curator living in Brooklyn, NY. He is the creator of seminal Brooklyn noise band/chamber ensemble ZS, the You Are Here Festival (aka the maze) which he conceives and produces with his visual art duo Trouble, and Representing NYC, the community hip hop moniker that has released records for The Fly Girlz and Nine 11 Thesaurus on True Panther Sounds and The Social REGISTRY respectively. As a curator Sam is currently co-founder and director of programming at Queens based outsider music venue Trans-Pecos, has run weekly and monthly out music parties such as ‘PRACTICE’ which took place at the erstwhile Williamsburg venue Zebulon until the time of Zebulon’s demise, and is a founding member of the ensemble, composers group, and presenting organization Wet Ink. Sam performs extensively throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.
ABOUT NICK HALLETT
Nick Hallett is a composer, vocalist, and cultural producer. His first opera, a collaboration with visual and performance artist Shana Moulton, Whispering Pines 10, has been staged at The Kitchen, New Museum of Contemporary Art, SFMOMA, Warhol Museum, Carolina Performing Arts, Portland Institute of Contemporary Art’s TBA Festival, and Cricoteka (Kraków). It is currently being adapted for the Internet. Nick is the Music Director of the Joshua Light Show, a team of projection artists with roots in the 1960s Psychedelia movement, which performs worldwide, and co-directs the Darmstadt music series with Zach Layton.
ABOUT MATTHEW WELCH
Named one of “14 artists changing the future of opera,” by Huffington Post and regarded as “a composer possessed of both rich imagination and the skill to bring his fancies to life” by Time Out NY, Matthew Welch’s musical adventures and collaborative spirit have brought him to work with some of today’s most noted musical personalities, Alvin Lucier, Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, Julia Wolfe, Zeena Parkins, and Ikue Mori. His third disc of his own music, Dream Tigers (Tzadik, 2005), containing his critically lauded string quartet, Siubhal Turnlar, made both Time Out New York’s classical and non-classical top-ten CD lists for the year 2005. Mr. Welch’s compositions run the gamut from opera, to traditional-like bagpipe tunes, electronic pieces, improvisation strategies and fully notated works for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, orchestras, gamelans and other non-western instruments. Matthew is co-founder of Experiments in Opera. http://blarvuster.com
ABOUT AARON SIEGEL
Aaron Siegel is one of the co-founders of Experiments in Opera and contributed to February 2015’s ‘Sisyphus’ opera at Abrons Arts Center. His second work for the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, “The Mysteries of Nothing” will be premiered at their Radio Radiance concert in April 2015. Other recent works include the operas ‘Brother Brother,’ and ‘The Collector,’ as well as ‘Science is Only a Sometimes Friend,’ for eight glockenspiels. He is currently working on a series of ‘Dioramas’ for prepared vibraphone. He has toured and recorded with Anthony Braxton, Memorize the Sky and as a solo project, “Your People.”
ABOUT GELSEY BELL
Gelsey Bell is a singer, songwriter, and scholar. Described by the New York Times as a “brandy-voiced” “winning soprano” whose performance of her own music is “virtuosic” and “glorious noise,” she has released multiple albums and her work has been presented internationally. She is a core member of thingNY and Varispeed, and she has worked with numerous performance creators including Robert Ashley, Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, Ne(x)tworks, Kimberly Bartosik, Yasuko Yokoshi, Dave Malloy, Rachel Chavkin, John King, Chris Cochrane and Fast Forward (as the Chutneys), Kate Soper, and Rick Burkhardt, among others. Gelsey also has a PhD from New York University in Performance Studies. www.gelseybell.com.
ABOUT JASON CADY
The Wire described Jason Cady’s Post-Madonna Prima Donna as, “thoughtful satire, sharp composition.” WQXR praised his opera Happiness is the Problem for keeping “the energy hovering at 11 consistently, fusing the coloratura of Mozart’s ‘Queen of the Night’ with Glass at his most hyper-caffeinated; you’re left gasping at the end, while admiring the psychological underpinnings.” New Music Box raved about the “colorful scoring, sassy rhythms, and sweetly angular melodies” in his one-act opera, The Mother. Cady’s CDs have been released on Lockstep records and Peacock recordings. He was featured in NPR’s “The Mix: 100 Composers Under 40.” He was born in 1974 in Flint, Michigan and has lived in Brooklyn, New York since 2001.
ABOUT RODDY BOTTUM
Roddy Bottum is a NYC based composer and artist best known for his work in the seminal art rock band, Faith No More and indie rock band Imperial Teen. He’s releasing Sol Invictus this May with FNM, their first record in nearly 15 years and will tour the world with it. He also works as a composer for film and TV. Sasquatch, The Opera is his first foray into musical theater.
ABOUT EXPERIMENTS IN OPERA
Co-founded by composers Matthew Welch, Jason Cady, and Aaron Siegel, Experiments in Opera is a composer-driven initiative, featuring recent and new works with innovative answers to the traditional questions about how to connect words, story and music. Our activities respond to the pronounced need to nurture composers who are exploring musical work beyond a strictly concert setting, but furthermore into the hybrid genre of opera. Additionally Experiments in Opera builds supportive and informed audiences that are capable of contributing to its work.
Since 2011, Experiments in Opera has produced thirty new operas, collaborating with over one hundred performers, designers and directors from the New York City artist community. Experiments in Opera has presented the work of more than 20 composers including Jason Cady, Aaron Siegel, Matthew Welch, Georges Aperghis, John Zorn, Robert Ashley, Joe Diebes, Ruby Fulton, Gabrielle Herbst, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Justin Tierney, Leaha Maria Villarreal, the Cough Button collective, Jessica Pavone, Paul Pinto, Jonathan Mitchell, John King, Dave Ruder and Daniel Kushner. Venues have included Abrons Arts Center, Le Poisson Rouge, Roulette, and Issue Project Room.
All of the work developed with Experiments in Opera is documented extensively in videos, images and writings that are available in an online catalogue at experimentsinopera.com. These insightful looks into the origins of artists’ ideas and their working habits help to support EIO’s mission of building a more robust conversation about how and why opera works the way it does.
In 1978, three young composers, Jim Staley, David Weinstein and Dan Senn, founded Roulette Intermedium and began to present concerts of music, dance and intermedia art in a Tribeca loft. Weinstein had written a piece, Café Roulette, an homage to Dada and to chance operations in music. Perhaps the three artists had some premonition that an organization dedicated to experimental art was a gamble, that the odds of its survival were long. But they invoked the hazards of chance the element of risk, and thirty-four years later, their bet is still paying off.
Thousands of artists have presented their work at Roulette, including world-renowned figures such as: Maryanne Amacher, Robert Ashley, John Cage, Anthony Braxton, Bill Frisell, Philip Glass, Oliver Lake, Leroy Jenkins, Christian Marclay, Meredith Monk, Ikue More, Pauline Oliveros, Zeena Parkins, Kaija Saariaho, Henry Threadgill and John Zorn. But every season scores of young avant-garde artists make their first professional statements at Roulette.
In November 2011, Roulette moved from a 74-seat loft to a 400-seat theater with superb acoustics, and gloriously equipped thanks to the generosity of our funders – individuals, foundations, corporations, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Borough President, Steve Levin, our Council Member, and the New York State Council on the Arts.
In an astonishingly short time Roulette has become an epicenter for our Brooklyn neighborhood, and for the arts organizations of New York City. It occupies a unique position in New York City’s cultural landscape as one of the most creative and prolific centers for experimental art in the United States.