(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – In the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, two figure skaters representing America and East Germany battled for Olympic gold, both accompanied by music from “Carmen.” On Saturday, January 27, at 8pm, mezzo-soprano Alicia Hall Moran, herself a former figure skater, tells French composer Georges Bizet’s epic story in “Breaking Ice,” an all-out musical fantasy for the concert stage, joined by fearless NYC jazz trio Harriet Tubman, at MASS MoCA in a work-in-progress showing.
A year before the Berlin Wall fell, at the height of the ice-skating mania of the late 1980s, the geopolitical battle between East and West, Communism and Capitalism, took to the ice. Two figure skaters, one representing America — Debi Thomas — and the other East Germany — Katarina Witt — clashed for gold. Both performances, choreographed to music from the groundbreaking opera “Carmen,” scorched the ice with fiery, flirtatious tragedy; it came to be known as “the Battle of the Carmens.” Moran uses this perfect storm of pop-culture craze and geopolitical tension as inspiration when she retells the infamous tale.
Alicia Hall Moran is a multi-dimensional artist performing and composing opera, theater, and jazz. Pushing the boundaries of music in concerts and collaborations noted for their flair, intelligence, and audacity, Moran’s work transcends mediums while upholding the traditions of her ancestors and teachers. She has gained international recognition for her technical virtuosity and brilliant interpretation of song, with her critically acclaimed pieces the motown project, The Five Fans, and BLEED. With the release of her debut album HEAVY BLUE, Moran was extolled by All About Jazz for “forging her own [American Songbook] out of labor and love. Indeed, she is a culture in and of herself, rising like a sunrise too bright to drink in, except in smallest sips.”
In partnership with husband and collaborator jazz pianist Jason Moran, she was awarded a 2017 Art of Change fellowship by the Ford Foundation, and has generated work for the Venice Biennale, Whitney Biennial, and Walker Art Center, among many others. Moran made her lauded Broadway debut as Bess in the Tony-winning revival of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. She has been commissioned by ArtPublic/Miami Art Basel, Museum of Modern Art, The Kitchen, and Histories Remixed/Art Institute of Chicago, and has collaborated with celebrated artists including Carrie Mae Weems, Adam Pendleton, Joan Jonas, Ragnar Kjartansson, Simone Leigh, choreographer Bill T. Jones, musicians such as Bill Frisell, Charles Lloyd, and writers from Simon Schama to Carl Hancock Rux.
Joining Moran as her attention turns to the rink is the NYC jazz trio Harriet Tubman. Named after the heroic African-American figure, Harriet Tubman formed in 1998 when drummer J.T. Lewis, guitarist Brandon Ross, and bassist Melvin Gibbs came together to start a band. Deeply inspired by the ideals of freedom, Harriet Tubman’s music explores the soul’s depths for liberated musical expression and continues the process of musical innovation begun by such artists as Ornette Coleman, Jimi Hendrix, Derrick May, Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Parliament-Funkadelic.
On Saturday, January 27, at 8pm, Moran takes to the rink in an all-out musical fantasy for the concert stage, bringing the mid-winter freeze inside for this blazing Spanish epic — no triple axels included. Lickety Split, MASS MoCA’s in-house café, serves up fresh salads, homemade soup, and lip-smacking pub fare. The MASS MoCA bar is always well-stocked with local beer from Bright Ideas Brewing and Berkshire Mountain Distillery spirits. Tickets are $5 for students and members, $14 in advance, $20 day of, and $30 preferred. Tickets for all events are available through the MASS MoCA box office located on Marshall Street in North Adams, open 11am to 5pm every day except Tuesdays. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 x1 during box office hours or purchased online at MASS MoCA. All events are held rain or shine.