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eighth blackbird / Blair Thomas & Company / Lucy Shelton Pierrot Lunaire – a cabaret opera

Mar 30 – Apr 1, 2006

7:30 pm; Tickets $22, MCA members $18

The phenomenal ensemble eighth blackbird and soprano Lucy Shelton team up with Blair Thomas in a staging of Arnold Schoenberg’s seminal atonal song-cycle. Pierrot—the comic stock character from Italian commedia dell’arte—is reflected through the dark lens of late nineteenth-century European cabaret. Richly emotive and overflowing with expressionistic longing, Schoenberg’s masterful setting of twenty-one poems by the Belgian symbolist Albert Giraud summons the spirit of Pierrot in a search for artistic inspiration. Thomas’s evocative staging of puppetry, shadows, and costumed members of eighth blackbird visually underscores Schoenberg’s powerful, hallucinatory musical landscape.


Derek Bermel, Tied Shifts (2004)
In August of 2001, I traveled to Plovdiv, Bulgaria, to spend a month working with the great Bulgarian folk clarinetist Nikola Iliev. Fascinated by the melodies in odd meters executed at lightning speeds, I wanted to gain firsthand knowledge of the Thracian folk style by learning to play the songs from a master musician. In transcribing melodies…the process made it virtually impossible to guess the meter of a song simply by listening…downbeats could conceivably be inaudible…the knowledge of the ‘base’ meter would be for players and familiar listeners alone…To an uninitiated ear, tied notes were often decorated with mordents – I use the term generally designated for inflection similar to the baroque ornamentation — leaving the impression that the meter was in a state of constant flux, shifting with each passing measure. These impressions are those of a Western musician, and they became the points of departure for this piece. — Derek Bermel

Jacob Druckman, Reflections of the Nature of Water (1986)
I find this evocative composition a startling actualization of the presence of water through sound. From listening to the music of Druckman’s six movements I’ve conjured two characters that have their own reasons for seeking out the water’s presence. One is an old man bent by the burdens of his lifetime and the other is a young girl bouncing with the elastic energy of her childhood. Their story unfolds following the narrative arc found in Druckman’s music. The puppet show follows the traditions of 19th Century pantomime (storytelling without speech), with the part of the third character, water, played by the music itself. In this role the music both tells the story and shapes the destinies of the other two characters. — Blair Thomas

Arnold Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire (1912)

Three Times Seven Poems: Acts I, II, and III, featuring Lucy Shelton as The Poet