Composer and National Sawdust co-founder, Paola Prestini returns to MASS MoCA with a work-in-progress preview of her new opera Old Man and the Sea, created with Royce Vavrek and Karmina Šilec, that interweaves Hemingway’s classic fable with original portraits of quotidian life to create a look at aging, legacy, and our relationship to oceans. The evening will include an excerpt of the new work, followed by a conversation on stage with the principal creative team.
The cornerstone of National Sawdust's mentorship program, the Hildegard Commission is its program for emerging composers who are women or of other traditionally marginalized genders. This year's cohort of composers -- Andrea Guterres, Hannah Ishizaki, Yaz Lancaster, DM R, Kelley Sheehan and Foteini Tryferopoulou -- were given the works of the poet C.P. Cavafy to use as a source of inspiration for their commissions, and the resulting works will be available as a sonic installation for the month of April in a rink-level public space of Rockefeller Center. The soundscape features recordings of the new works by the National Sawdust Ensemble.
This conversation, curated in partnership with the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, a historically queer space, welcomes poet Richie Hofmann and the museum’s Director of Curatorial Programs Stamatina Gregory to explore Cavafy’s identity as a gay writer, and his influence on generations of LGTBQIA+ writers, artists and thinkers. This event is presented by McNally Jackson Bookstores.
Tongues North Star Remixes stretches out the vast musical universe of Tanya Tagaq, which encompasses experimental, avant, electronic, industrial and more, into a collection that features remixes by Daedelus, The Halluci Nation, Paola Prestini and others.
Aging Magician is an epic opera-theater work written to help children understand the nature of death via the story of Harold, an old clockmaker writing a book about an aging magician in search of a young child to pass his knowledge on to. Creators Julian Crouch, Rinde Eckert, Paola Prestini, Mark Stewart and the Attacca Quartet created a set that can be played on as a giant instrument, bringing together the worlds of music, theater, puppetry, instrument making and scenic design to paint this poignant allegory on time, youth and the peculiar magic of ordinary life, or perhaps, the ordinary magic of peculiar life. Written for the Attacca Quartet and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, who participated in a ten year journey to create the work: a culmination of education, professional development, and deep process work.
“The rich artistic elements of “Aging Magician” come together powerfully.”
– The New York Times
The Hubble Cantata was the first ever live event fusing a major musical performance with virtual reality, taking primary inspiration from astrophysicist Mario Livio’s interconnected thoughts between human loss, love and sorrow, and the life cycle of a star. Supported by an adult choir, children’s choir and chamber orchestra, the work joins the visual beauty and depth of Hubble’s images with the narrative of the lead character, an astrophysicist who had lost his wife.
“It astounded me, this feeling of floating above Earth, and tears began to emerge from my cardboard goggles.”
– The New Yorker
Con Alma is an operatic tableau on isolation adapted both as an album and a groundbreaking live digital experience, featuring original works alongside classic songs from the Mexican and Jazz songbook. It's the result of the impulses that arrested the minds and hearts of two extraordinary artists – gifted singer-songwriter Magos Herrera and composer Paola Prestini – at a time when they were prevented from being together alongside the broader community of fellow artists they work with regularly. A pioneering digital project during the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, Con Alma incorporated cutting-edge technology to synchronize streamed performance during the groundbreaking streamed performance event that launched the album.
Deeply engaged...a genre-crossing blend of Mexican folk staples, American jazz standards and original musical meditations on isolation.
— The Washington Post
Houses of Zodiac: Poems for Cello is an album, film and immersive performance with video, that combines spoken word, movement, music and image to explore the intersection of mind, body and nature. Taking its title from the twelve houses of the zodiac as facets of the self, the project draws inspiration from explorations of the subconscious through the writings of Anaïs Nin, Pablo Neruda, Brenda Shaughnessy and Natasha Trethewey. A culmination of years of collaboration, a family of sound bound by friendship and poetic imagery, each solo cello work traverses the career of composer Paola Prestini through the fierce, sonic interpretations of former Kronos Quartet member, Jefferey Ziegler. With film by Murat Eyuboglu, and the unexpected encounter of “The Rogue Ballerina”, (New York City Ballet’s first Asian American star) Georgina Pazcoguin, and Sankai Juku member and Butoh star, Dai Matsuoka.
"One of the greatest and most ambitious solo cello albums of all time."
– Strings Magazine
Based on the best-seller by two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo, Edward Tulane is an acclaimed opera for audiences of all ages, that takes us on a miraculous journey from the depths of the deep blue sea to the streets of Memphis. This is Paola's first grand opera, and she was the first woman to have been commissioned by the Minnesota National Opera for their New Works Initiative. With a libretto by Mark Campbell, this elegantly whimsical Minnesota original shows us a true miracle– that if you open your heart, you can find home.
"A production that can engage a multi-generational audience with its score, story and eye-popping visuals...Prestini's arias and orchestrations are a combination of simplicity and complexity."
– Minnesota Star-Tribune
Sensorium Ex is an opera in development that centers around the story of Mem and Kitsune, a mother-child relationship that explores what it means to be human through the intersections of love, science and tech ethics, corporate greed, a mystical escape and a robot named Sophia. The opera will form the core of an integrated web of emergent artistic, scientific and community-driven collaborations which take key ideas and themes of the Opera from Stage to society.
Sensorium Ex has a larger mission of using art to reframe how society views people with disabilities. As the first opera starring a nonverbal lead, with a libretto written the mother of a nonverbal son, and a creative team made up of leaders in disability awareness, the piece is the first to truly incorporate disabled people from the ground up.
"One of the six trends to watch in the Arts in the US by Inside Philanthropy"
– Inside Philanthropy
"... prolific international composer Paola Prestini brings a work-in-progress preview of her new opera to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts' Hunter Center for an excerpted performance and conversation with the creative team."