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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Festival Preview: PROTOTYPE 2019

The good, the loud and the weird in avant-garde opera.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Cellist and singer Leah Coloff stars in Thistree at this year's PROTOTYPE Festival.
Photo © 2019 HERE.
The new year is here, and January means it's time for the PROTOTYPE Festival. Now in its seventh year, this is the annual celebration of cutting edge opera and experimental theater pieces, centered around the the TriBeCa performance space HERE. The Festival opens on Jan. 5 and runs to Jan. 13 this year, offering eleven new works in venues on both sides of the East River. There's also a Festival Soirée. This year it's Jan. 9 at 6:30pm at City Winery.

Here's the slate:



4.48 PSYCHOSIS by Philip Venables
(Baruch Performing Arts Center, Jan. 5-6, 8-9, 11-12 8pm)
An import from the Royal Opera at Covent Garden, this is Philip Venables' uncompromising deep dive into depression and a search for a sense of identity. The story is based on the last play by Sarah Kane, which tells its story in twenty-four fragmentary episodes. The jewel of this year's festival.

The Infinite Hotel by Michael Joseph McQuilken
(Ironside, Jan. 5, 12 5pm and 9pm, Jan. 7-11 at 7:30pm)
Rock and roll and multimedia collide in Fort Greene as Ironside presents composer Michael Joseph McQuilken's new work. The Infinite Hotel invites audiences into the experience of five strangers writing music across great distances of space and time. So it's like a Roberto Bolaño novel, but a lot louder.

Pancho Villa from a Safe Distance
(BRIC House, Jan. 5-8 7:30pm, Jan. 6 2pm)
Not an opera per se but a multimedia concert reflecting on the life of the Mexican bandit and revolutionary, shining a light on the troubled United States-Mexico border and relationship and attempting to find some kind of historic context for the conflict. Texas-based composer Graham Reynolds writes for six players, two singers and mixed media.

p r i s m by Ellen Reid
(La MaMa Etc., Jan. 6-7 9-12 7:30pm
Ellen Reid's new opera takes the listener into the world of Bibi, a young and sickly child trapped in a sterile room haunted by a mysterious illness. However, her curiosity may be too strong to be ignored... Presented by Beth Morrison Projects with Trinity Wall Street. Julian Wachner conducts.

Thistree by Leah Coloff
(HERE, 145 6th Avenue, New York NY, 10013. January 6 4pm, Jan. 7-8, 10-12 7:30pm)
A cellist in a 25-foot cape is the focal point of Thistree, Leah Coloff's new work for solo instrument and a backing band. Non-traditional but that's why you go to this festival, isn't it?

Train With No Midnight by Joseph Keckler
(HERE, 145 6th Avenue, New York NY, 10013. Jan. 5, 7-8, 10-12 at 9:30pm. Jan. 6, 13 at 6pm)
A world premiere of this multi-media work by composer Joseph Keckler.  which moves on a round-the-world journey like stops on a late-night train. Presented by PROTOTYPE in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College.

Of Time and Place by Ellen Reid and David T. Little
(St. Paul's Chapel, Jan. 6 6pm)
Two new short pieces by composer Ellen Reid and David T. Little resound in the most historic church in lower Manhattan. (George Washington prayed here.) Ms. Reid's offering is dreams of the new world, and Mr. Little presents Am I Born. Performed by the Choir of Trinity Wall Street under the baton of Julian Wachner.

Out of Bounds 
featuring Partita for Eight Voices by Caroline Shaw
(Times Square, Jan. 7 at 4pm and 7pm. Rain date Jan. 8)
Now in its third year, this experimental series presents new music in unexpected locations. This year, the vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth will sing the Partita for Eight Voices by composer Caroline Shaw at the Crossroads of the World: Times Square. A rapt audience of tourists, music lovers and performers dressed as Elmo will be in attendance. Free.

The Little Death Vol. 1 by Matt Marks
(Roulette, Jan. 8 8:30pm)
Composer Matt Marks made waves at last year's festival with his challenging opera Mata Hari. He died in 2018, but the Festival honors his memory with this Brooklyn performance of his first stage work. The ad copy promises " electro-pop hooks, frenetically chopped break beats, hypnotic lyrics, and apocalyptic Christian imagery" telling the story of a nameless boy and girl navigating the perils of growing up in a fundimentalist environment. One night only. All proceeds will fund the arts ensemble Alarm Will Sound.

Mila, Great Sorcerer by Andrea Clearfield
(Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Jan. 12-13 1:30pm)
Two matinee concert performances of this work which chronicles the path from black magic and mass murder to wisdom to enlightenment. It is the story of Mila, who overcame his bloody past to become one of the great teachers in Tibetan Buddhism.

Stinney: An American Execution by Frances Pollock
(Florence Gould Hall—French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) Jan. 12 5pm, Jan. 13 3pm)
George Stinney was, at just 14 years old, the youngest person ever executed in the American penal system. This unflinching new opera by Frances Pollock tells the story of his arrest, trial and death in stark and stunning fashion. Presented by Harlem Stage.

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.