New York, NY (Vocus) September 23, 2010
Evan Ziporyn’s cross-cultural opera A House in Bali, directed by Jay Scheib, will receive its East Coast premiere in Boston on October 8 and 9 at 7:30pm at the Cutler Majestic Theater at Emerson College (219 Tremont Street, Boston, MA). Produced by Bang on a Can, A House in Bali intertwines the sounds of a 16-member Balinese gamelan with Western opera, Balinese singers, live video feeds, and the pulsating post-minimalism of the Bang on a Can All-Stars.
Tickets are $30, 40, 50, and a 20% Early Bird discount is available until October 1 on tickets purchased online at http://bangonacan.org/press_room/articles/112. Regularly priced tickets are available at 617.824.8000 or http://www.maj.org/events/2010/Bali.cfm.
Based on the memoirs of trailblazing composer Colin McPhee, the work re-imagines first contact between cultures in 1930s Bali through the prism of the cross-cultural present. This mixed-media performance follows the course of McPhee's sojourn to Bali, his encounters with anthropologist Margaret Mead and painter Walter Spies, and their ultimately tragic relationship with dancer I Sampih, a Balinese youth whom McPhee mentors after the boy saves his life. Images from 1930s photographs - many by Mead herself - and music of the period - from Bali and from McPhee's own hand - merge with live re-creations and (dis)simulations in this bold study of artifice, connection, and alienation, set at the crossroads of the cultural and the personal.
Eighty years ago, “quite by accident,” Colin McPhee, a young Canadian composer studying in Paris, heard a scratchy recording of Balinese gamelan. He was entranced, throwing away a promising career to travel to the island and document what he had heard. His memoir, A House in Bali, recounts his sojourn there: a found paradise, a tradition threatened by modernity, the pleasures and agonies of the not-so-innocent abroad. Eschewing the colonial lifestyle of the capital, McPhee instead built a house in a traditional village, navigating the inscrutable and shifting opinions of the village elders. Once ensconced, he scandalized the Dutch authorities by befriending the Balinese, and began his task of documenting music he considered doomed to extinction. His guides and mentors are two fellow émigrés, each with their own agenda, German-Russian artist Walter Spies, and noted American anthropologist Margaret Mead. McPhee's diligent transcription project is disrupted by the arrival of a ten-year old peasant boy, Sampih, who had saved him from drowning in the river during a flash flood. McPhee brought the boy into his household, first as a domestic worker, and then hiring the finest teachers on the island to train him in classical Balinese dance. McPhee's fragile paradise is soon shattered by politics, war, the supernatural, and his own inability to control the boy.
Along the way is a tragic love story, not between two people but between two cultures. This is mirrored in McPhee's relationship with Sampih, in whom he sees everything he thinks he sees in Bali: purity, effervescence, an unconscious out-flowing of grace and beauty, unencumbered by restrictions and taboos of western culture. The opera telescopes the story: it is a single journey, beginning with McPhee's Parisian crisis and ending with his final departure. It balances on that ridge between two cultures, each singing in its own distinctive voice through the music of Evan Ziporyn. Under Jay Scheib’s direction, we see the action both directly and through the camera lens, itself projecting images from both past and present, filtered – literally - to blur the distinction.
This visually stunning spectacle unites the 16-piece Balinese Gamelan Salukat its Boston and New York debuts, and New York's iconoclastic electric chamber ensemble Bang on a Can All-Stars. The opera also features Balinese choreography by Kadek Dewi Aryani and vocals by leading operatic and traditional Balinese singers, including Peter Tantsits as Colin McPhee; Kazakh tenor Timur Bekbosunov as Walter Spies; and Canadian soprano Anne Harley as famed researcher Margaret Mead. The Balinese boy the Westerners meet, Sampih, will be portrayed by 14-year-old Boston native Nyoman Triyana Usadhi. The roles of Sampih’s parents will be performed by celebrated Balinese artists (and Nyoman’s real-life parents), I Nyoman Catra and Desak Made Suarti Laksmi.
A House in Bali premiered at Puri Saraswati in Ubud, Bali in June 2009 (the first-ever performance of any form of Western opera in Bali) and was performed at the Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, CA in September 2009.
Like McPhee, Ziporyn has oscillated between two artistic worlds, west and east, for his whole adult life. Circumstance provided him with many more avenues to bring them together than were available to McPhee; for Ziporyn, this project is a culmination. His 30-year involvement with Balinese gamelan began with a research trip to Bali in 1981. He studied legong drumming with I Madé Lebah, who had been a good friend of Colin McPhee. Returning to America, Ziporyn joined Gamelan Sekar Jaya, traveling with them on their famous first Balinese tour in 1985. As a Professor of Music at MIT, he founded Gamelan Galak Tika, composing numerous cross-cultural works, including the memorial work for gamelan and orchestra, Ngaben (for Sari Club). He also collaborated with dalang Wayan Wija on a full length wayang kulit with Western accompaniment, Shadow Bang, which has been performed in New York, Boston, and Amsterdam. In 2005 he brought Galak Tika to Bali, performing at the International Arts Festival and throughout the island. At the same time, he has traveled the world with Bang on a Can, collaborating with artists such as Steve Reich, Iva Bittová, Don Byron, Yo-Yo Ma & the Silk Road Project, Meredith Monk, Terry Riley, and Matthew Shipp. Ziporyn is Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For more information, visit http://www.ziporyn.com.
Known for his use of media in live performance, Jay Scheib's works have been seen throughout Europe and the United States. Recent and upcoming productions include Beethoven’s Fidelio at the Saarländisches Staatstheater in Saarbrücken Germany; Bellona, Destroyer of Cities, after Samuel Delany's novel Dhalgren was premiered at The Kitchen earlier this year and will be performed again at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston next year. Born in Shenandoah, Iowa, Scheib is recipient of the MIT Edgerton Award, The Richard Sherwood Award, and the NEA/TCG Program for Directors. He is a regular guest professor at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria and is Associate Professor for Theater at MIT. For more information, visit http://www.jayscheib.com.
For additional artists’ bios, please visit http://www.houseinbali.org/cast.html
For video of A House in Bali, please visit http://www.houseinbali.org/media.html
To listen to A House in Bali, scene by scene, please visit http://www.houseinbali.org/AHIB_Berkeley_sound/index.html
For press photos, please visit http://www.houseinbali.org/photos/index.html
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