In the 150th anniversary year of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s timeless novels, the Barbican and the BBC Symphony Orchestra is presenting the UK premiere of Unsuk Chin’s first opera Alice in Wonderland in a new multimedia production by British director, designer and filmmaker Netia Jones. The composer also penned the libretto, co-writing it with Tony Award winning playwright David Henry Hwang, America’s most-produced living opera librettist who is best known for his critically acclaimed Puccini-inspired Broadway play M. Butterfly.
The UK premiere takes place on March 8, 2015, at 7:30 at Barbican Hall. Ticket prices and more information can be found www.barbican.org.uk or call the Barbican Box Office: 0845 120 7550.
In a modern take on the Victorian classic, Netia Jones creates a dynamic visual world including live projections and animated characters inhabiting the scene alongside the performers. The staging provides a visual counterpart for Chin’s score, mixing dark and riotous drawings by British gonzo-artist Ralph Steadman with bright and colourful elements inspired by sources as eclectic as the score itself. Jones’ fully-choreographed production also features a black and white chessboard floor and the whole orchestra on stage, becoming part of the set. The staging is a collaborative venture with theLos Angeles Philharmonic, receiving its world premiere at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in February 2015 . Alice in Wonderland marks Jones’ return to the Barbican after her critically-acclaimed productions of Knussen’s double-bill Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop! (2012) and Britten’s Curlew River (2013).
An adaptation of Carroll’s much-loved Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the sequel Through the Looking-Glass, Unsuk Chin’s work was premiered at the Bavarian State Opera as part of the 2007 Munich Opera Festival and has since received stage productions in Geneva, Bielefeld and Saint Louis.
Baldur Brönnimann will conduct a cast of international stars of the operatic world, including American coloratura soprano Rachele Gilmore in the title role, American mezzo soprano Jane Henschel as the Queen of Hearts, German baritone Dietrich Henschel as the Mad Hatter, and British countertenor Andrew Watts singing the roles of White Rabbit, Badger and March Hare.
Composer Unsuk Chin said: “I am looking forward with excitement to the UK premiere of my opera Alice in Wonderland. It will be a very special moment in my career – after all, the story is such a vital part of British culture! The Barbican production will be the UK premiere for Netia Jones’ multimedia staging. It will be great to have this extra dimension, since Alice in Wonderland is all about alternative realities and imaginary worlds full of mirages and mazes. Nothing is quite as it seems; everyday reality and physical laws are transcended by means of absurdities, paradoxes and dream-like leaps of logic. What could be more natural, then, than to juxtapose live performance with multimedia and interactive elements?”
Director Netia Jones said: “In Alice In Wonderland Unsuk Chin and David Henry Hwang have created an exhilaratingly brilliant opera which is at once wildly original and completely authentic. Their take on this beloved story is a riot of ideas and imagination – clever, dark, hilarious and profound, which meets its match perfectly in the sharp genius of Ralph Steadman’s illustrations. Here crazed anarchy and mathematical precision co-exist in a madcap landscape with its own glorious internal logic. In this production live performance and projection are intertwined, an explosion of colour, character and animation, with the orchestra and the musical pyrotechnics that create Unsuk Chin’s breathtaking sound world a central character in the staging.”
Rachele Gilmore Alice
Marie Arnet Cat
Jane Henschel Queen of Hearts
Stephen Richardson King of Hearts, Old Man 2, Crab
Jenni Bank Duchess
Andrew Watts White Rabbit, Badger, March Hare
Christopher Lemmings Mouse/Dormouse
Dietrich Henschel Mad Hatter
Rafael Moras, Pat/Cook/Invisible Man
Lacey Jo Benter Two/Owl
Nicholas Brownlee Old Man 1/Eaglet/Fish-Footman
Kihun Yoon Five/Executioner/Duck
Unsuk Chin was born in 1961 in Seoul, South Korea, and has lived in Berlin since 1988. Her music has attracted international conductors including Simon Rattle, Gustavo Dudamel, Kent Nagano, Esa-Pekka Salonen, David Robertson, Peter Eötvös, Neeme Järvi, Markus Stenz, Myung-Whun Chung, George Benjamin, Susanna Mälkki, François -Xavier Roth, Leif Segerstam and Ilan Volkov, among others. It is modern in language, but lyrical and non-doctrinaire in communicative power. Chin has received many honours, including the 2004 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for her Violin Concerto, the 2005 Arnold Schoenberg Prize, the 2010 Prince Pierre Foundation Music Award, and the 2012 Ho-Am Prize.
She has been commissioned by leading performing organisations and her music has been performed in major festivals and concert series in Europe, the Far East, and North America by orchestras and ensembles such as the Berlin Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Ensemble Modern, Kronos Quartet and Arditti Quartet. In addition, Unsuk Chin has been active in writing electronic music, receiving commissions from IRCAM and other electronic music studios.
In 2007, Chin’s first opera Alice in Wonderland was given its world première at the Bavarian State Opera as the opening of the Munich Opera Festival and released on DVD by Unitel Classica. Her second opera Alice Through the Looking Glass is commissioned by The Royal Opera in London for premiere in the 2018/19 season. Since 2006, Chin has overseen the contemporary music series of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, a series which she founded herself. Since 2011, she has served as Artistic Director of the ‘Music of Today’ series of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. Portrait CDs of her music have appeared on Deutsche Grammophon, Kairos and Analekta.
David Henry Hwang‘s work includes the plays M.Butterfly, Chinglish, Yellow Face, Golden Child, The Dance and the Railroad, and FOB, as well as the Broadway musicals Aida (co-author), Flower Drum Song (2002 revival), and Tarzan. Upcoming productions include two new musicals: The Forgotten Arm, with music and lyrics by Aimee Mann and Paul Bryan, for the Public Theater; and Pretty Dead Girl, with music and lyrics by Anne-Marie Milazzo.
As America’s most-produced living opera librettist, he has written four pieces with composer Philip Glass, including The Voyage (Metropolitan Opera, 1992), as well as Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar (two 2007 Grammy Awards), Bright Sheng’s The Silver River (1997), Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland (2007 “World Premiere of the Year” by Opernwelt magazine), Howard Shore’s The Fly (2008) and Huang Ruo’s An American Soldier (2014). Upcoming operas include Through the Looking Glass with Unsuk Chin for the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and Dream of the Red Chamber with Bright Sheng for the San Francisco Opera.
Mr. Hwang penned the screenplays for M. Butterfly (1993), starring Jeremy Irons and John Lone; Golden Gate (1994), starring Matt Dillon and Joan Chen; and Possession (co-writer, 2002), starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart. With the pop star Prince, he co-wrote the song “Solo,” released on Prince’s 1994 gold album Come. He is currently writing a feature film for Dreamworks Animation and the film adaptation of Chinglish, to be directed by Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow, the Fast & Furious franchise), as well as creating an original television series, “Shanghai,” for Lions Gate and Bravo.
Hwang is a Tony Award® winner and three-time nominee, a three-time Obie Award winner, and a two-time Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He received the 2011 PEN/Laura Pels Award, the 2012 William Inge Award, the 2012 Steinberg “Mimi” Award, and the 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award, and recently completed his the Residency One Playwright term at NYC’s Signature Theatre, which produced a season of his plays, including the world premiere of his newest work Kung Fu in February 2014. He serves as President of Young Playwrights Inc, and sits on the boards of the Lark Play Development Center, The American Theatre Wing, and The Actors Fund.
About the Barbican
A world-class arts and learning organisation, the Barbican pushes the boundaries of all major art forms including dance, film, music, theatre and visual arts. Its creative learning programme further underpins everything it does. Over 1.5 million people pass through the Barbican’s doors annually, hundreds of artists and performers are featured, and more than 300 staff work onsite. The architecturally renowned centre opened in 1982 and comprises the Barbican Hall, the Barbican Theatre, the Pit, Cinemas One, Two and Three, Barbican Art Gallery, a second gallery The Curve, foyers and public spaces, a library, Lakeside Terrace, a glasshouse conservatory, conference facilities and three restaurants. The City of London Corporation is the founder and principal funder of the Barbican Centre.
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Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia starred as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, and made her jazz vocalist debut in Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz “LADY” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York. She is profiled in Jade Magazine.
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