Lincoln Center's upcoming White Light Festival (October 20-November 19, 2011), in its second season, will include two outstanding Theater Productions among the range of works of music, film, dance, art and discussion to be presented. On November 2 and 3, at the Rose Theater, Frederick P. Rose Hall, New York-based actress Tina Benko will perform the title role and Malian singer/songwriter Rokia Traoré the role of the nursemaid in the New York premiere of Desdemona, a compelling new work that explores the essential compassion and forgiveness inherent in our capacity to love. The work was created by Nobel Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison and eminent theater and opera director Peter Sellars, in collaboration with Traoré. From November 8-November 12, notEd English actor Stephen Dillane will reprise his stunning one-man tour-de-force Four Quartets, directed by Katie Mitchell. The 75-minute-long performance of T.S. Eliot's poem is followed by the Miró Quartet's interpretation of Beethoven's String Quartet in A minor, Op.132, which inspired the poet's work. Mr. Dillane and the Miró Quartet first performed Four Quartets in New York in December 2009 as part of Lincoln Center's New Visions series.
Tickets are $40, 55, 70, 85, and 100 for Desdemona and are $65 for Four Quartets. They are available for sale online at www.WhiteLightFestival.org, by calling CenterCharge, 212-721-6500, or at the Avery Fisher or Alice Tully Hall box offices, Broadway and 65th Street. Programs, artists, and ticket prices are subject to change.
The White Light Festival, created by Jane Moss, Ehrenkranz Artistic Director is the annual exploration of music and art's power to reveal the many dimensions of our interior lives. Says Ms. Moss, "There are few forces and experiences left in our lives today that allow us to discover the essence of what it means to be human and to fully inhabit one's self. Musical and artistic expression have an unmatched capacity to directly and immediately penetrate our hearts and reveal the many beautiful rooms-so frequently emptied and shuttered-that lie within it." In addition to performances, the popular White Light Lounges, including those following performances of Desdemona and Four Quartets, will give audience members a chance to linger after the performances and discuss their shared experience with the performers and fellow concert-goers. The White Light Festival will present 58 artists and 11 ensembles from 30 countries in 10 venues on and off the Lincoln Center campus.
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Desdemona is a meditation on male/female relations, violence and the transcendent power of love. It takes as its point of departure an imaginary conversation between the doomed Shakespearean heroine of Othello, who will be portrayed by actress Tina Benko, and her black nursemaid, Barbary, portrayed by acclaimed Malian vocal artist Rokia Traoré. The two women share stories and songs composed and sung by Traoré, who is accompanied by a small ensemble on African instruments. Award-winning American theater/opera director Peter Sellars describes a key scene, late in Act IV, when Desdemona sings her "Willow Song" as an inspiration. Desdemona tells Emilia that she learned the song from her nurse, Barbary, who died of a broken heart singing it. "In Shakespeare's England, ‘Barbary' meant ‘Africa.' Courageous, loving, independently-minded Desdemona was raised by an African woman, growing up with African stories and learning African songs." The evening's texts-Morrison's spoken by Benko, and set to music by Traoré-intertwined with Traoré's songs in her native Bambara and French, move across continents, shared histories, and time.
Tina Benko recently appeared in Ivo van Hove's production of The Little Foxes, and Wallace Shawn's Marie and Bruce. Her other New York theater credits include the Broadway productions of Irena's Vow, Joe Egg, and Top Girls; Helen of Troy in The Age of Iron at CSC; and the NY premieres of Restoration, Dark Yellow, Post-Mortem, Rough Sketch, and Charles Mee's Wintertime. Ms. Benko's T.V. credits include Ugly Betty, Law and Order, Chappelle's Show, and three seasons on Showtime's Brotherhood. Ms. Benko's films include: The Avengers, Puccini For Beginners, Photo Op, Lucky Days, The Hungry Ghost, and The Nanny Diaries. She has appeared in workshops of new plays with Lincoln Center Directors Lab, NY Theatre Workshop, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Women's Project, The Flea, Clubbed Thumb, The Lark, and Williamstown Theatre Festival. In addition she has co-written and starred in the plays Gazebo and Crush the Infamous Thing; and directed the solo play Lou based on the memoirs of Lou Andreas' Salomé.
The daughter of a Malian diplomat who was posted to the USA, Europe and the Middle East, Rokia Traoré studied in Brussels and sang in a high-school rap band. In 1996, she appeared on Mali's foremost music TV program with two songs, "Finini" and "Mouineïssa," which became local hits. In 1997, she won the Radio France International prize for African Discovery of the Year before releasing her 1998 debut album Mouineïssa to overwhelming praise. Traoré's second album, Wanita, further raised her critical profile. The album was chosen as the best folk/roots/world release of 2000 in the fRoots magazine critics' poll, and Billboard called it "one of the finest records issued anywhere this year." Wanita also made numerous Best of 2000 lists, including that of The New York Times. In a continuing celebration of an evolving performer and songwriter, the same panel of journalists that awarded Wanita the 2000 award for best folk/roots/world release deemed Bowmboï the No. 1 World Music Album of 2003 in the BBC Critics' Poll. She is perhaps most celebrated for her live shows, which Time Out London says are "arguably the most exciting, most thrilling live African music show around." On Bowmboï, her breakthrough 2003 release, Traoré-who is fluent in several languages-sings exclusively in her native Bamanan. Known for her outspoken lyrics, Traoré covers a variety of topics, including poverty and social justice on her latest recording, Tchamantché, which was awarded France's prestigious Victoires de la Musique for World Music Album in 2009. Peter Sellars commissioned Traoré to create a work for Vienna's New Crowned Hope Festival, celebrating the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. The result was a triumphant, "quasi-opera," Wati, about the final year of Mozart's life. In Wati, Traoré re-imagines a dying Mozart as a griot in ancient West Africa, heir to a long line of hereditary musicians.
Toni Morrison is the Robert F. Goheen Professor Emerita in the Humanities at Princeton University. Her nine major novels, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, Jazz, Paradise, Love and A Mercy have received extensive critical acclaim. She received the National Book Critics Award in 1978 for Song of Solomon and the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Beloved. In 2006 Beloved was chosen by The New York Times Book Review as the best work of American fiction published in the last quarter-century. Ms. Morrison's lyrics Honey and Rue, commissioned by Carnegie Hall for Kathleen Battle, with music by André Previn, premiered January 1992; Four Songs with music by Mr. Previn, premiered by Sylvia McNair at Carnegie Hall, November 1994; Sweet Talk written for Jessye Norman with music by Richard Danielpour, premiered April 1997; and Woman.Life.Song commissioned by Carnegie Hall for Jessye Norman with music by Judith Weir, premiered April 2000; the opera Margaret Garner with music by Richard Danielpour, premiered in May 2005. Ms. Morrison received France's Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur, the Commandeur Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and the U.S.'s National Humanities Medal among other honors. In 1993, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
American theater, opera and festival director Peter Sellars, has gained renown worldwide for his transformative interpretations of artistic masterpieces and collaborative projects with an extraordinary range of creative artists across three decades. Sellars' early work crossed genres and travelled in time with powerful contemporary versions of works by Shakespeare, Brecht, Gershwin, Mozart, Handel and Bach. Later, he collaborated with composer John Adams on the operas Nixon in China, Doctor Atomic and The Death of Klinghoffer. Sellars has staged operas at the Chicago Lyric Opera, the Glyndebourne Festival, the Netherlands Opera, the Opéra National de Paris, the Salzburg Festival, and the San Francisco Opera. In recent years, new operas by Kaija Saariaho and Amin Maalouf, Osvaldo Golijov and David Henry Hwang, and Tan Dun, along with new staged productions of works by Messiaen, Ligeti, Hindemith, Kurtág and Stravinsky have joined the list of his innovative body of work. Sellars, who has directed many international festivals, is a resident curator at the Telluride Film Festival and a professor of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Erasmus Prize, The Sundance Institute Risk-Takers Award, and the Gish Prize, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 7:30
Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 7:30
Rose Theater, Time Warner Center (Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center), Broadway at 60th St
Desdemona (New York premiere)
Toni Morrison, text
Peter Sellars, director
Rokia Traoré, music and vocals
Tina Benko, Desdemona
Fatim Kouyaté, vocalist
Kadiatou Sangaré, vocalist
Bintou Soumbounou, vocalist
Mamah Diabaté, ngoni
Mamadyba Camara, kora
James F. Ingalls, lighting design
A post-performance discussion with Toni Morrison, Rokia Traoré and Peter Sellars, will take place on November 3.
The audience is invited to White Light Lounges on Wednesday, November 2 and Thursday, November 3 following the performances, in at65, in the Grand Foyer of Alice Tully Hall, 65th Street and Broadway.