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Triptych (Eyes of One on Another)

Staged Productions

Wednesday June 26, 20.00, Stavros Niarchos Hall GNO

Triptych (Eyes of One on Another)

Bryce Dessner, composer and guitarist for The National, was only 14 years old when a wave of protests swept his hometown of Cincinnati against a retrospective exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photos, The Perfect Moment. Of course it wasn’t his glossy photographs of flowers that caused controversy but the nude pictures and the BDSM references. The outbreak of violence around the Contemporary Arts Center left a deep impression on Dessner, who was not allowed to see the photographs at the time. He now returns to this incident, creating a new multimedia show dedicated to the creative universe of Robert Mapplethorpe. The work is dedicated to the way in which Mapplethorpe’s work shocks, seduces, provokes, and sparks off debates and internal quests.

Triptych (Eyes of One on Another), as its title suggests, does not merely bring the audience face to face with Mapplethorpe’s photographs through the filter of a new reading, courtesy of Dessner. It goes deeper and explores the way we see and are seen. It acts as a mirror that allows us to look straight at our deepest desires, our real fears and our very humanity. Because even thirty years after Robert Mapplethorpe’s death from AIDS, his work continues to energize us. Mapplethorpe’s images -which will be projected in the background during the show- retain intact the rare ability to unite and divide their audience emotionally, culturally, and socially. After all, conservative reflexes and dominant perceptions of gender and sexuality have not yet fully familiarized themselves with the world of the New York-born photographer.

Dessner believes that this is the perfect moment to examine issues of American identity. He focuses on the legacy that Mapplethorpe left us through the way he presented African-American men and the black body. This, according to the composer, is an important parameter of Triptych. “My doorway into Mapplethorpe was a love of these images and appreciation for the beauty of the work,” said Dessner in an interview to Ann Arbor District Library’s online publication Pulp. “And I hope that extends as well through the music and the words that we've managed to make. We don't necessarily have a thesis or an agenda, with the exception that, at the heart of the work, is a sense of love and humanity.”

On stage will be the Grammy Award-winning eight-member vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, constantly renegotiating and testing the potential of the human voice. With sophisticated vocal techniques, a deep knowledge of history and tradition, they essentially create a repertoire without borders. Along with Roomful of Teeth, we will also listen to a Greek contemporary music ensemble that is enjoying an international career, Ergon Ensemble.

The direction is by Kaneza Schaal and the libretto by Korde Arrington Tuttle. Also included are texts by Patti Smith, Mapplethorpe’s close friend and muse, and Essex Hemphill. The premiere took place on March 5th with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) is one of the international organizations that commissioned the project, with the support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).

Creative and Production Team
Composed by Bryce Dessner
Librettist: Korde Arrington Tuttle
Featuring words by Essex Hemphill & Patti Smith
Director: Kaneza Schaal
Performers: Alicia Hall Moran, Isaiah Robinson, and Roomful of Teeth (Jason Awbrey, Eliza Bagg, Cameron Beauchamp, Martha Cluver, Eric Dudley, Estelí Gomez, Virginia Kelsey, Thann Scoggin)
Music Director and Conductor: Brad Wells
Contributing Choreographer and Performer: Martell Ruffin
Musicians: Antonis Pratsinakis – Cello, Elias Livieratos – Viola, Faidon Miliadis – Violin, Manos Ventouras – French Horn, Kostas Tzekos – Clarinet, Babis Taliadouros - Percussion, Panago Karamouzi – Percussion
Alexandros Drymonitis – Electric Guitar, Stefanos Nassos – Piano/harmonium
Producer: ArKtype / Thomas O. Kriegsmann, in cooperation with The Robert Mapplethorpe FoundationSet and Costume Design: Carlos Soto
Lighting Design: Yuki Nakase
Video: Simon Harding
Sound Design: Damon Lange,
Associate Director: Lilleth Glimcher
Associate Music Director: William Brittelle
Dramaturgy: Talvin Wilks and Christopher Myers
Production Stage Manager: Ryan Gohsman
Assistant Stage Manager: Heather Englander
Production Assistant: Victoria Nassif
Session Copyist and Score Manager: Dominic Mekky

Music by Bryce Dessner is used with permission of Chester Music Ltd.

“A radical new work…there was no singular emotional direction a work of this scope could portray, and composer Bryce Dessner fluidly swept us from the awe-inspiring cathedral, to the cold and calculating courtroom, to the intimate bedroom with a score that surged with electricity, sparkling clarity, and biting poignancy.”

“Beautifully crafted and performed.”
San Francisco Classical Voice

“What came through most clearly – often thrillingly – was the score…Gorgeous vocal sound for its own sake…Moran delivered the goods with authority…My overall impression was one of the sheer joy of singing.”
Classical Voice North America

“Witty and wicked…forbidding and seductive…The language is stylized and extravagantly poetic, matching the photographs’ explicit sexual content while meeting their cool elegance with punk Romanticism.”
The New York Times

“Dessner personifies what appears to be a generational shift in musicians.”
The Washington Post

“A man who slips in and out of musical guises with disarming ease…this is gorgeous and full-hearted music.”

Produced in Residency with and Commissioned by University Musical Society, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. Co-produced by Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel Music and Artistic Director. TRIPTYCH was co-commissioned by BAM; Luminato Festival, Toronto, Canada; Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Athens, Greece; Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati, OH; Cal Performances, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA; Stanford Live, Stanford University, Stanford, CA; Adelaide Festival, Australia; John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for performance as part of DirectCurrent 2019; ArtsEmerson: World on Stage, Emerson College, Boston, MA; Texas Performing Arts, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX; Holland Festival, Amsterdam; Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; the Momentary, Bentonville, AR, Celebrity Series of Boston, MA, and residency development through MassMOCA, North Adams, MA.