Famed Avant-Garde Cellist, Choreographer Team Up for Multimedia Opera at MASS MoCA

Maya Beiser

(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – Artists from the classical music and dance avant-garde will join forces when, after a 10-day residency, contemporary cellist Maya Beiser, the founding cellist of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, teams with radical choreographer Karole Armitage to perform the psychological cello opera Elsewhere on Saturday, December 10, 2011, at 8 p.m. in MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center as part of MASS MoCA’s series of work-in-progress showings. Beiser, who has been christened the “cello goddess” by the New Yorker, will be accompanied by Armitage and four dancers and the work will feature video from Peter Nigrini and environments by Riccardo Hernandez.

In two acts, Elsewhere tells the tale of two heroic women who are fighting to survive the apocalypse, each attempting to come to terms with their existence as calamity and puzzlement engulf their lives. The first act takes inspiration from “I am Writing to You from a Far Off Country” by surrealist poet Henri Michaux, while the second act interprets the biblical story of Lot’s wife. The collaborators will only be working on and presenting the first act (called “Far Off Country”) during their residency.

Far Off Country unfolds as a letter from a young woman witnessing her world as it comes to its end. She takes refuge in a secluded hermitage filled with video that shows the dissolution of the natural world. An alternately haunted and rhapsodic score composed by Eve Beglarian and set to the lyrical Michaux text is an imagining of a dying planet. The voice of the cello attempts to communicate the plight of these cloistered women to another woman in a distant land whose face and voice the audience sees and hears electronically.

Karole Armitage

By incorporating cello, vocals, spoken word, video, dance, and elaborate sets, the piece draws the audience into their catastrophic worlds. This work-in-progress was created through the collaboration of Beiser with celebrated theater director Robert Woodruff. The opera was composed by Eve Beglarian, Missy Mazzoli, and Michael Gordon, the founder of the Bang on a Can Festival. It is a Beth Morrison Projects production.

Beiser was raised on a diverse kibbutz in Israel, growing up alongside Jews, Muslims, and Christians, which provided great inspiration for her musical endeavors. Educated at Yale University, Beiser has gone on to redefine the cello repertoire. Her eclectic, contemporary work has resulted in partnerships with such composers as Tan Dun, Brian Eno, and Philip Glass. Beiser has also contributed her cello expertise on film soundtracks The Great Debators and Blood Diamond, in addition to being the founding cellist of the Bang on a Can All-Stars. As Arts San Francisco describes, Beiser is “a supercellist … emotion-driven star actress with all the technical prowess you could ask for.”

Drinks from the MASS MoCA bar, as well as dinner and snacks from Lickety Split, are available before and during all shows. Tickets are $15 and $10 for students. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office located off Marshall Street in North Adams, open from 11 – 5 every day. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during Box Office hours or purchased online at MASS MoCA.




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