Site-Specific Staging of Morton Feldman’s ‘Neither’ by Jonah Bokaer at Hudson Opera House

Jonah Bokaer

Jonah Bokaer

(HUDSON, N.Y.) – Internationally acclaimed choreographer Jonah Bokaer unveils his staging of Morton Feldman’s rarely performed opera “Neither” with two performances specifically designed for the architecture of the Hudson Opera House on Friday and Saturday, October 2-3, at 7pm. Bokaer’s staging begins with a silent prologue, performed without accompaniment, to introduce the movement and integrate the stark, visual staging with the music. By employing a “leveling” strategy for the choreography, the music, dance, and visuals, the performers inhabit a shared physical space in a non-hierarchical “field.” A 16-line poem by Samuel Beckett serves as the libretto.

Bokaer and members of his company will also offer a free, family-friendly movement workshop on Saturday, October 3, at 10am.

Tickets to the Friday and Saturday evening performances can be purchased by calling (518) 822-1438 or visiting Hudson Opera House. With support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a limited number of free tickets have been set aside for students and nonprofit organizations serving the Hudson community to attend the Friday performance.

“Neither” is an opera composed by the experimental, American composer Morton Feldman with a 16-line poem by Samuel Beckett serving as the libretto. In 1976, Feldman invited Beckett to meet in Berlin to discuss collaborating on an opera commissioned by the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. The resulting work for soloist and chamber orchestra is often called a monodrama, although Feldman described it as an anti-opera. As noted by the music critic Raymond Tuttle, “Neither, is difficult to describe. It is equally difficult to ignore.”

For these performances at the Hudson Opera House, the staging uses the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra’s recording of “Neither”, conducted by Kwamé Ryan with renowned soprano Petra Hoffman.

“Neither” is a challenging work, both for audiences confronted by its minimalist score and existential themes, and for directors challenged by the cerebral, abstract nature of the 60-minute, one-act opera. Since its premiere in Rome in 1977, “Neither” has been fully staged on very few occasions, most recently by New York City Opera in 2011 as part of a mixed bill.

“I’ve worked with a great deal of Morton Feldman’s music over the years, including choreography for Why Patterns,” says Bokaer, who has spent nearly eight years working on his approach to “Neither”. “In his score for ‘Neither,’ Feldman leaves lots of empty space that I find intriguing and that naturally lends itself to a movement-based interpretation.”

Feldman’s score begins with an extended non-vocal section, necessitated, at least in part, because Beckett was late in delivering his libretto (famously mailed on the back of a postcard). Similarly, Bokaer’s staging begins with a silent prologue, performed without accompaniment, to introduce the movement and integrate the stark, visual staging with the music. By employing a “leveling” strategy for the choreography, the music, dance, and visuals, the performers inhabit a shared physical space in a non-hierarchical “field”.

Recently named a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellow in Choreography in May, 2015, Jonah Bokaer was born to Tunisian and American parents in Ithaca, N.Y., and has been active as a choreographer and exhibiting artist since 2002. Bokaer’s creative team and cast of performers are of Tunisian, Iranian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Moroccan, and French decent, and include the dramaturge Youness Anzane, and dancers Faris Al-Shathir, Samir Bitar, Jonah Bokaer, Tsvi Bokaer, and James Koroni.

 

These performances are made possible with support from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in Choreography, the National Endowment for the Arts / Art Works program, and the in-kind support from Second Ward Foundation.

 

Jonah Bokaer is an international choreographer and exhibiting artist. The creator of 55 works in a wide variety of media (dances, videos, motion capture works, three interactive installations, four mobile applications, and one film), Bokaer’s work has been produced throughout theaters in Belgium, Canada, Cuba, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Recent performances include two seasons at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the Festival d’Avignon in France, Théâtre de la Cité Internationale in Paris, the BAM Next Wave Festival, for which he was commissioned for the inauguration of BAM Fisher, and the Festival di Spoleto, Italy.

 

Creating choreography for museum spaces since 2002, Bokaer has performed at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, P.S.1 MoMA, The New Museum, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. He has worked closely with performing arts curators for programs at The Asia Society (2011, 2014), Le Carré d’Art à Nîmes, IVAM Valencia, Kunsthalle St. Gallen, MUDAM Luxembourg, and La Triennale di Milano.

 

In 2008-2009 Bokaer became the first dance artist to be appointed a Young Leader of the French American Foundation, in acknowledgment of his efforts to develop Chez Bushwick, and CPR – Center for Performance Research, two independent arts centers which nurture young artists in New York City and internationally. Bokaer has collaborated with artists including Daniel Arsham (2007-present), Anne Carson, Merce Cunningham, Robert Gober, Anthony McCall, Tino Sehgal, Lee Ufan (Guggenheim Retrospective 2011), and Robert Wilson (2007-present).

 

As choreographer for Robert Wilson, he has completed many operas including “Faust” (Polish National Opera), “Aïda” (Teatro dell’Opera di Roma), “KOOL” (Japan/USA Guggenheim Works & Process), “Fronteras” (IVAM Valenica), and “On The Beach” (Baryshnikov Arts Center).

 

Bokaer was recently named one of ten American artists to receive a Doris Duke Charitable Foundation grant award for the development of his third mobile application, in partnership with Georgia Tech.

 

 

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