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Zohn Collective with La Coperacha. Photo courtesy Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon

Photo courtesy Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon

Zohn Collective with La Coperacha

Friday, October 18, 2019, 7:30–9:30 p.m.
Location:  Gartner Auditorium
Gartner Auditorium

About The Event

This evening-length concert brings together two literary-based contemporary musical works dramatized through puppetry. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in music in 2011 by Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon and based on Pedro Páramo by Mexican author Juan Rulfo, Comala explores our search for identity and love inside ancestral memory. Staged with the Mexican puppet company La Coperacha, this production is based on distinguished Oaxacan artist Alejandro Santiago’s stunning sculpture project 2501 migrants; it premiered at the Festival Cultural de Mayo in Guadalajara in 2018. Over its 39 years of existence, La Coperacha has established itself as one of the most relevant and groundbreaking cultural institutions in Mexico. Their work draws inspiration from folktales, contemporary pictorial work by Mexico’s leading painters and cartoonists, and diverse musical genres. Also on the program is a new work composed especially for this project by Daniel Pesca. The pairing of the two works, delicately connected by a prismatic interrelationship of thematic threads between their literary texts, invites distinct but complementary reflections on fundamental themes of love, loss, and identity.

The Zohn Collective features Tony Arnold, soprano; Zach Finkelstein, tenor; Tim Weiss, conductor. Theatrical puppets by La Coperacha (Guadalajara); staging by Antonio Camacho.

$25, CMA members $22.

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Program Notes

Program

“Portals”

Nocturnes (2019/world premiere) Daniel Pesca (b. 1985)

I. La Notte (The Medici Chapel)
II. Petite Berçeuse
III. The New Night
IV. Lullaby to Two Growing Old

Zachary Finkelstein, tenor
The Zohn Collective

— Brief Pause —

Comala Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon (b. 1962)

1. Murmullo de grillos
2. Canciones lejanas
3. Arena
4. Subir y bajar
5. Galileo
6. Una tras otra
7. Rebotes
8. Sangre
9. Filoteo
10. Un eco
11. Sorbo de vida
12. Nuestro polvo
13. Chona
14. Nunca sueño
15. Papalotes
16. El mar
17. Suelo mojado
18. Risas Viejas
19. Dándose vueltas
20. Quién sabe
21. Junto a tu gente
22. Turicatas
23. De tierra
24. Estrellas hinchadas

Tony Arnold, soprano
Zachary Finkelstein, tenor
The Zohn Collective & La Coperacha

Program Notes

Portals

“Portals” is a project that seeks to build aesthetic and social bridges through collaborative art. On one level, the artistic content of the project intertwines dualities such as life/afterlife, perception/memory, reality/fantasy, and love/hatred. On a broader level, our project seeks to highlight the interaction between literature, music, and puppetry, with the purpose of finding a balance between the unity of the whole and the independence of each art form. Lastly, we strive to take a community-based perspective, in which we reach diverse audiences through complementary performance and outreach activities with bicultural and bilingual content.

“Portals” brings together two contemporary musical works based on literary texts. These works are the scenic cantata Comala, by Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon, and Nocturnes, composed especially for this project by Daniel Pesca. The two works are delicately connected by a prismatic interrelationship of thematic threads between their texts. Their pairing invites distinct but complementary reflections on fundamental themes of love, loss, and identity.

Nocturnes

Nocturnes is a setting of four poems by Irving Feldman, composed in 2019 for tenor Zach Finkelstein and the Zohn Collective. The cycle brings together poems that span several decades of the poet’s career, unified by their nocturnal imagery. The varied structures and poetic techniques of the individual poems compelled me to approach each setting differently. The first song responds to the changing imagery of its three stanzas, represented as three distinct musical landscapes that the tenor windingly navigates. This is the broadest canvas of the cycle. The concise second song pivots between the miniaturized, delicate world of insects and the gently swaying motion characteristic of lullabies. The third song is a continuous process of accelaration and intensification punctuated by a repeated refrain: “And the new night was newer.” The final song is the most aria-like, setting a florid vocal line against often austere music for the ensemble. Although its poem is rather brief, the setting is expansive, with sizable stretches music for instruments alone acting as a frame for the text.

While the hues of the poems and, hence, of the music are prevailingly dark, I do not think of this work as dark in the sense of moody, disconsolate, or despairing. Rather, night in these poems is often rapturous, or enchanted, or an occasion to reflect upon our dearest memories. Hence, brilliant light pierces the darkness in the first and third poems, and accompanies the lone speaker of the fourth poem. The heat, warmth, and glow of human connection—uninterrupted by darkness or even death—suffuses this poetry and has inspired my music. I am eternally grateful to Irving for the opportunity to set his words, which are precious to me.

—Daniel Pesca

Nocturnes
Poetry by Irving Feldman

I. La Notte (The Medici Chapel)
With you I am falling
In the blackest rose where shadow-petal
On petal of shadow is laid, to deeper
Darkness leading, falling
Falling with you
And denial sinks on remorse
In the forgotten hour dropping,
And absence swallows out the light
Falling with you
In the heart of dying
Blackest center of blackest rose:
Sleeping I am with you
In perpetual falling poised—

For my eye is on the flame.
I am its gathered darkness, the world is
Exceeding light, and light of light,
And of that light is still light,
And light unloosed and light unending.

I ride out with you along the riverside
At dawn; in the damp marsh I hold the horse,
Speaking in your ear my news
Of the journey. I am your frosty
Breathing, the ground of your walking,
The listening companion, now a bridge
And now an abyss; like the winter’s sun
I move with you, in the crackling forest,
Where the white birds sing.

II. Petite Berçeuse
Dark-time. The little ones like bees
Have stolen the light, packed it away
In their healthy mandibles and gone off.
Rest, little soul, of your lithe cunnings,
Of your tattling tattoo undressed. They
Have taken the daylight in their keeping;
Safe in the hive, hidden, it will not chide
You if you are silent. At last, listen:
Under the fallow sad song of your neighbor’s
Life, or the blood waltzing in your ear:
Dispossessed, uncharming, enormous
Bodies approach; they wish to fulfill you.

III. The New Night
When the night arrived supreme
Over the empty place,
Safe in death hiding,
You went on denying,
But, Let there be light! said
Your eyes with desire,
And there was light,
Light without color,
And the new night was newer.

Will the night arrive, asked
Your tongue, that I may greet it?
And the little light was there,
Bespoken and a danger,
Very little
And a star,
And the new night was newer.

Has the night come? said
Your body, I wish to arise.
And you arose,
A little way,
And were the light
And the danger,
Little light without color.
And the new night was newer.

IV. Lullaby to Two Growing Old
For you alone under the eaves
At nightfall I sing these few black notes,
Which then become a sky and go like leaves
Under your lids, upon your throats—

For you alone. For you alone
My fretting wings trace in a little night,
The little night where all your years are one
And I am alone but for your light

To which I sing—for you alone.
I have come close again to watch your sleep;
Now that you are old and children of your son,
Slowly toward you my years creep. And I weep,

Under the eaves for you alone.

Comala

My scenic cantata Comala is based on the beautiful novel Pedro Páramo, by the great Mexican author Juan Rulfo. Pedro Páramo is an essential work in Latin American letters and surely belongs among the greatest literary achievements of the 20th century. The novel, at once local and universal, embodies a rare confluence of exceptional narrative imagination with exquisite poetic sensibility. To explain why Pedro Páramo moves me so deeply is beyond my capabilities as an essayist. In Comala I have tried to express this internal commotion and pay homage to the wondrous artistry of Rulfo.

Comala is a musicalization of fragments selected from Pedro Páramo and set as a sequence of interwoven scenes that chronicle characters and “themes” that particularly touch me. Comala is thus my musical “Thread of Ariadne” through Rulfo’s complex story of love and search for identity, in which the borders between past, present, life, and afterlife are dissolved. The fractured narrative of Pedro Páramo unfolds in a village where the spirits, voices, and memories of the dead interact with the living in multi-layered narrative planes. In Comala, this is principally conveyed by assigning speech to the living and song to the dead. The idea behind this approach is that the living act under the pressure of time, seeking immediate communication, whereas the dead, free from the bonds of time, reflect endlessly in song.

Comala is an evolving composition. The first version of the work was premiered by The Furious Band at the Festival Música y Escena in México City, in 2001. A later version of the work was recorded for Bridge Records in 2010 by the Eastman BroadBand, under the direction of Juan Trigos. The following year, it was selected as one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in music composition, and awarded the Lillian Fairchild Award. The work has continued to grow and reconfigure in the ensuing years as new scenes give voice to additional characters from the novel. The current version, comprising twenty-four scenes, was completed for this tour. Videos of a previous production can be viewed on the Zohn Collective website (zohncollective.com).

Program

1. Murmullo de grillos
2. Canciones lejanas
3. Arena
4. Subir y bajar
5. Galileo
6. Una tras otra
7. Rebotes
8. Sangre
9. Filoteo
10. Un eco
11. Sorbo de vida
12. Nuestro polvo
13. Chona
14. Nunca sueño
15. Papalotes
16. El mar
17. Suelo mojado
18. Risas Viejas
19. Dándose vueltas
20. Quién sabe
21. Junto a tu gente
22. Turicatas
23. De tierra
24. Estrellas hinchadas

—Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon

About this staging of Comala

The readings that a work like Pedro Páramo can offer are almost infinite. The vision that Rulfo offers of a country that we all know and live, is at the same time familiar and foreign. Through his music, Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon lays bare the brutal contemporaneity and relevance of Rulfian cosmogony—steeped in Jalisco and Mexico, yet universal—offering us the irresistible challenge of giving it form, movement, and personality on the stage.

To this effect, we have channeled the powerful spell of Alejandro Santiago’s monumental sculpture project, his 2501 Migrants, through puppetry, acting, and dance, to stage the characters of the Rulfian towns—the “Comalas” and “Luvinas”—that shape our own country, and many others.

In this way, our staging is both particular and universal. It is a scene by scene account of the fine and detailed interplay of music and literature, rendered through the special pairing that composers and puppets have mysteriously cultivated through history.

It is an opportunity given to us by Rulfo, by Ricardo who asked us to realize his original conception of staging Comala through puppetry, to which we have brought the imagery of Alejandro Santiago, in search of a distinct, new, and universal reading to Pedro Páramo.

—Antonio Camacho, Director of La Coperacha

About the Artists

Vocalists

Celebrated as a “luminary in the world of chamber music and art song” (Huffington Post), soprano Tony Arnold is internationally acclaimed as a leading proponent of contemporary music in concert and recording, having premiered hundreds of works by established and emerging composers and recorded more than thirty discs. She has been recognized with the 2015 Brandeis Creative Arts Award and the first-prize at the 2001 Gaudeamus International Competition. Ms. Arnold was the 2009 Howard Hanson Professor at Eastman School of Music and currently serves on the faculty of the Tanglewood Music Center and Peabody Conservatory.

American-Canadian Zach Finkelstein has established himself as a leading tenor soloist in North America and abroad, from Seattle’s Benaroya Hall to New York’s Lincoln Center to London’s Sadler’s Wells to the National Arts Center in Beijing, China. Zach’s debut album, Britten and Pears: the Canticles, featuring acclaimed recitalist Byron Schenkman, singers Vicki St. Pierre and Alexander Hajek, and Seattle Symphony principals Jeffrey Fair and Valerie Muzzolini Gordon was released in 2017. Zach is known for his “refined” and “elegant” (Vancouver Observer) interpretation of the works of Bach, Mozart, and Handel, as well as for his championing of contemporary music.

Zohn Collective

Zohn Collective is a contemporary music collective which seeks to produce and perform artist-driven projects generated by its members. Zohn Collective released its first CD under the Oberlin Music label in 2018 and has performed internationally, most recently at the Festival de Mayo in Guadalajara, Mexico. Other recent events include performances, workshops, and recording projects held at the University of Kentucky (Lexington), Belmont University, Oberlin Conservatory, Northern Kentucky University, and Notre Dame University. The collective has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Mid Atlantic Foundation and the Paul R. Judy Center for Innovation and Research.

Conductor Timothy Weiss has earned critical acclaim for his performances and bold programming throughout the United States and abroad. His repertoire in contemporary music includes masterworks, recent compositions, and numerous premieres and commissions. He has received the Adventurous Programming Award from the League of American Orchestras. Weiss directs the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble at the Aspen Music Festival, and the Arctic Philharmonic Sinfonietta in Bodø, Norway. Recent engagements include the Arctic Philharmonic in Norway, Orchestra 2001 in Philadelphia, BBC Scottish Symphony, Britten Sinfonia in London, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and the Melbourne Symphony in Australia.

Described as “ferociously talented” (The Oregonian) and “an exemplary performer” (Steve Smith, The Log Journal), Grammy-Award winning flutist Molly Barth specializes in the music of today. In demand as a soloist, clinician, and adjudicator, Molly has visited esteemed venues throughout the world. She recently released her first solo album on the Albany label, titled Vento Appassionato. She can also be heard as a chamber musician on numerous recordings on Cedille, Innova, and Oberlin Music. She is currently a member of Duo Damiana and the Zohn Collective. Molly is Assistant Professor of Flute at the Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University.

Brant Blackard is an active performer, arranger, and educator. Brant has maintained interest in all things percussion, whether that may be teaching marching drumline, touring as a percussion duo, or playing drumset in metal bands. In 2014 he placed first in the graduate division of the Great Plains International Marimba Competition, and was the 2015 Milton Shlesinger Prize winner. Originally from Arkansas, Brant is currently based out of Rochester, NY where he is pursuing a DMA from the Eastman School of Music. Brant’s teachers include Michael Burritt, Bill Cahn, Chip Ross, Leigh Howard Stevens, and Blake Tyson.

Hailed as a “highly skillful and an even more highly adventurous player” (Washington City Paper) with “virtuosity, sensitivity, and beauty of tone” (Fanfare), Noah Getz has performed and lectured worldwide, including appearances at the Melbourne Recital Centre, Carnegie Hall, the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, the Polish Woodwind Festival, and the Degollado Theater in Guadalajara, Mexico. His premiere of in every way I remember you at the National Gallery of Art was acclaimed as “spectacular and wonderfully provocative” (Washington Post). Recently, Getz has premiered works by Chick Corea and Grammy-Award winning composer Stephen Hartke.

The musical endeavors of Dieter Hennings Yeomans span from new music on guitar to early music for lute, baroque guitar, and theorbo and can be heard on the Nonesuch, Bridge, Parma, Nre Branch, Innova, and Oberlin Music recording labels. Mr. Hennings has been a soloist with Canada’s New Music Concerts Ensemble, Tito Sccipa Orchestra of Lecce, Italy, and the Orquesta Filarmónica de Sonora, to name a few. He has won first prize at the 2008 Aaron Brock International Guitar Competition, and at the 2002 Villa de Petrer, among others. He is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Kentucky.

Playing with “live-wire splendor” (New York Times), violinist Hanna Hurwitz equally enjoys performing classics of the repertoire as well as new music of our time. Hanna has performed with Ensemble Dal Niente, Argento Chamber Ensemble, Mivos Quartet, Lucerne Festival Academy, Eastman BroadBand, and Slee Sinfonietta, and at festivals including the Washington Island Music Festival, SoundSCAPE Festival and Festival Spaziomusica in Italy, as well as the Cervantino Festival and Festival Internacional Chihuahua in Mexico. Hanna is featured on recordings from Bridge Records, Urtext, Innova, and Oberlin Music. She is currently Assistant Professor of Music at Denison University.

Sammy Lesnick is a clarinetist living in New York City, devoted to the performance of chamber music and contemporary music. Sammy was the winner of Eastman’s 2013 clarinet concerto competition, performing Magnus Lindberg’s concerto with the Eastman Philharmonia and conductor Brad Lubman. He was awarded first place clarinet at the Washington State solo competition in 2012 and in the same year won the Seattle Symphony Young Artist Competition. Sammy has performed with Alarm Will Sound and Ensemble Signal, and at the Kennedy Center and other esteemed venues in the U.S., Italy, France, Spain, and Greece.

Daniel Pesca, pianist and composer, is a passionate advocate for new music and a committed performer of the chamber music repertoire. He has shared the stage with many new music ensembles, including the Grossman Ensemble, Ensemble Signal, Ensemble Dal Niente, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, and the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble. He has performed at the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and at contemporary music festivals in Spain, Italy, Greece, and Vermont. Daniel is featured on recordings from Centaur Records, Block M Records, Oberlin Music, and Urtext Classics. He is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Cellist Colin Stokes has been performing to critical acclaim from a young age. At 17 he was featured in concerts with Yo-Yo Ma at the Baltimore Symphony’s Meyerhoff Hall and Strathmore Hall, which were broadcast on NPR’s Performance Today. Colin Stokes is part of the electro-classical project Symphoniacs and he spends much of his time traveling and performing in Europe. Colin can also be found on recent albums by jazz/world music artists Petros Klampanis and Magda Giannikou. As a teaching-artist with Bridge Arts Ensemble, Colin Stokes performs and teaches in the rural school districts of the Adirondack Park region.

Paul Vaillancourt is Professor of Percussion at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. He has been a featured soloist at the Banff and Aspen Music Festivals, with the National Arts Center and Ottawa Symphony Orchestras, St. Petersburg Chamber Orchestra, Guanajuato Philharmonic Orchestra, and Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra. He has performed internationally with many contemporary music ensembles including Bent Frequency, Sonic Generator, Furious Band, The Fountain City Ensemble, and STRIKE. He directs the orchestra at the Springer Opera House in Columbus, Georgia. Vaillancourt has recorded for the Parma, Ravello, Albany, Luminescence, CRI, Tzadik, Naxos, Oberlin Music, and New Chris labels.

Literature has been a source of inspiration for many of Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon’s compositions, such as the song cycle Songtree, on poetry by Raúl Aceves and William Shakespeare, and the scenic cantata Comala, based on the novel Pedro Páramo, by Juan Rulfo. Comala was selected as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2011. His works have been performed and recorded internationally, and supported by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Koussevitzky Foundation, Fromm Foundation, Barlow Endowment, Guggenheim Foundation, and México’s Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte. He is Professor of Composition at the Eastman School of Music.

La Coperacha

Over its 40 years of existence, La Coperacha has established itself as one of the most relevant and groundbreaking cultural institutions in Mexico. That this unique puppet and theater company has thrived in a country where independent (non-governmental) artistic projects rarely endure, attests to the vision, talent, and resilience of its founder and director, Antonio Camacho. The art of La Coperacha stands out for the originality and beauty of its puppetry, the direct and purposeful narrative of their stagings, and its syncretic visual style. Their work draws inspiration from popular culture, contemporary pictorial work, and diverse musical genres.

Antonio Camacho Oropeza is founder and director of La Coperacha since 1979. His work has been the recipient of grants from local, national and international institutions since 1994. He has conceived and directed more than 120 puppet plays for children and young audiences in theatre and television. In partnership with the government of the city of Guadalajara, he manages the historical landmark Casa Reforma, a house from the 17th century, leading its restoration, rescue, and rehabilitation. Antonio’s unique style fuses comedy, painting, and cartoon drawing, and takes puppeteering from the community theater on the streets, to big opera houses.

Teacher and psychologist Olga Gámez Ibarra is a co-founder of La Coperacha. She is artistic director of the company as well as a specialized actor in puppet theatre and has been part of La Coperacha’s numerous international tours. She has designed and built a significant part of the group’s puppet collection and coordinated the development of collaborative productions, in addition to contributing her own creative work. Her style blends puppets and literature and most recently explored a historical dimension. Olga Gámez conceives art as a psychological medium for the teaching and therapy of children.

Héctor Caro is international director of La Coperacha and actor since 1985. Nowadays he lives in Quito. He founded La Coperacha Do Brasil in Belo Horizonte, where he also directs the Mostra de Teatro Sem Fronteiras. His artistic career is deeply linked to two groups in Guadalajara: El Venero, Colectivo Teatral Independiente, A.C. (1985—2001); and La Coperacha, El Arte de los Títeres, A.C., since 1989. He has performed in more than fifty theater productions, as well as taken part in cultural television shows and educative videos. He has taught acting, direction, corporal training, vocal techniques, and puppet and object manipulation workshops.

Elisbeida Suárez is the leading puppet and theater actor of La Coperacha. She is the legal representative from the CSO El Arte de los Títeres and the coordinator of Teatro America, the main stage of Casa Reforma. She holds a degree in Performing Art, specializing in theater, from the Universidad de Guadalajara. Her career, since 2000, includes puppet, theater and video productions. She has also participated in professional development workshops with national and international teachers. Her work as an actor and puppeteer has been recognized by cultural institutions across Mexico.

Actor, researcher, theater director, oral narrator, writer, puppeteer and teacher, Alejandro Herrera holds both a BA in Performing Arts, and a master’s degree in Education and Expression for Arts from the Universidad de Guadalajara. He is also licensed as a technical professional on dramatic arts by the Educational Center for Theater Research and has studied with international teachers in different acting workshops. He has participated in more than seventy productions, as well as short and feature-length films at important international festivals.

Nicolás Pallares freelances as a performer with different art companies such as La Coperacha Puppet Theater, “Laboratorio punto D” and “La Nao de los Sueños.” He is the chief of production for La Coperacha since 2016 at Casa Reforma and its Teatro Mobile. He has dramatized readings, theater stagings, and participated in percussion workshops with ensembles devoted to African music. In 1996 he graduated as an actor from the Theater School of Jalisco. He maintains up to date in his artistic education by participating in physical theater and film courses.

Narciso Sánchez is one of the most recognized figures of contemporary dance in the state of Jalisco with a prolific career that spans more than 25 years. For Narciso, dance is his life’s inspiration founded in ethics, discipline, rigor and passion. His selfless work and teaching has set true guidelines for contemporary dance development. Since 2012 he is the Artistic and Choreographic Director of the company “8 AND Cuerpos en acción.” A talented and versatile interpreter, he has worked with some of the most renowned names in Mexico’s dance scene.

As the newest members of La Coperacha, Cesar Enrique Camarena Vera and Alejandro Salazar Orozco were invited to collaborate for their work crafting popular art made of cardboard and papier-mâché. Both are self-taught sculptors and painters and work as freelancer designers in the puppet-building department for La Coperacha’s productions.

Production Staff

Cora Lynn Swise is a lighting designer, stage manager, and production manager from Chicago, Illinois. She graduated with honors from Emerson College in 2016 and works for Bread and Roses Productions. She is currently the production manager for the 2019–2020 season of Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble. Previously, she worked for Redtwist Theater Company, Chicago Theater Works, and Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music on numerous opera productions.

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This performance presented in collaboration with the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Eastman School of Music. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit www.arts.gov.

Participation of La Coperacha in Portals is possible thanks to the support of the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes.

Antonio Camacho is a beneficiary of the program “México en Escena 8th Edition” of the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes.

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National Endowment for the Arts
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Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes

    These programs made possible in part by the Ernest L. and Louise M. Gartner Fund, the P. J. McMyler Musical Endowment Fund, and the Anton and Rose Zverina Music Fund.

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