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Composed by Kamala Sankaram | Libretto by Susan Yankowitz
Directed by Rachel Dickstein | Music Direction by Steven Osgood
PROTOTYPE Festival, January 8-18, 2014
Co-produced by Beth Morrison Projects and HERE
ABOUT THE WORK
THUMBPRINT, a 90-minute contemporary opera-theatre work by Kamala Sankaram and Susan Yankowitz, is inspired by the experiences of Mukhtar Mai, the first female victim of gang rape to bring her male attackers to justice in Pakistan. In lieu of a financial settlement, Mai requested the construction of schools for girls. She hoped to educate the young to help prevent the humiliation of signing their name with only a thumbprint.
The libretto originates from a series of interviews with Mai, and explores the deep family ties and tribal traditions that led up to an astonishing act of courage. The score is a dynamic collision of Hindustani and European opera influences with an ensemble of six singers and six instrumentalists, featuring flute, violin and viola, upright bass, piano/harmonium, and percussion (drums and tabla).
THUMBPRINT began as a song-cycle commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects for the 2009 21c Liederabend at Galapagos Art Space. It was further developed for the 2011 iteration at The Kitchen, and will now receive its world premiere as a fully staged production in this collaboration between BMP and HERE.
KAMALA SANKARAM’s music has been praised as “strikingly original” (Allan Kozinn, NY Times), and performed as part of American Opera Projects “Opera Grows in Brooklyn” series, at HERE Arts Center, the Stone, the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, the Santa Fe New Music Festival, and the Lucerne Festival, among others. She had the featured commission on the 2009 21c Liederabend, selected as one of Time Out’s 10 Best Classical Concerts. Her music for SOUNDING (directed by Kristin Marting) was praised as “gorgeous pop-rock interludes” (Time Out NY). She was the 2011 Con Edison/Exploring the Metropolis Composer-in-Residence at the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy and the 2012 Composer-in-Residence at the Eugene O’Neil Theater. She has received grants from the MAP Fund, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Meet the Composer, and the Asian Women’s Giving Circle, as well as residencies from the MacDowell Colony, the Watermill Center and the Hermitage. As a resident artist at HERE Arts Center, Kamala created MIRANDA, a steampunk murder mystery opera called “enjoyable, utterly original opera” (NY Post) and “among the very best theater achievements of 2012” (NYTheatre.com). Miranda was named winner of the New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Production of a Musical. As a performer, Kamala Sankaram has collaborated with and premiered pieces by the Philip Glass Ensemble, the Wooster Group, Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, eighth blackbird, Eve Beglarian, Phil Kline, David T. Little, Corey Dargel, Taylor Ho Bynum, Tristan Perich, Fred Ho, the Dogs of Desire, and Anti-Social Music, among others. She has recorded with Anthony Braxton (TRILLIUM E: Braxton House), Phil Kline (Around the World in a Daze: Starkland Records), End (The Sick Generation: Hymen Records), Death Comet Crew (Dominatrix), the Albany Symphony Orchestra and Anti- Social Music. She is currently collaborating with acclaimed playwright Susan Yankowitz on “Thumbprint,” a new chamber opera blending Western and Hindustani classical traditions, produced by Beth Morrison Projects.
SUSAN YANKOWITZ is a playwright, novelist, librettist and occasional screenwriter. Among her best- known plays are NIGHT SKY (produced off-B’way and internationally); PHAEDRA IN DELIRIUM (produced at CSC and WPP, NY; winner, QRL poetic play competition); TERMINAL and 1969TERMINAL1996, collaborations with Joseph Chaikin’s Open Theatre (Drama Desk Award); A KNIFE IN THE HEART (Sledgehammer Theatre, San Diego); and FOREIGN BODIES (finalist, O’Neill Conference 2008.) She wrote the libretto for CHÉRI, with music by Michael Dellaira, SLAIN IN THE SPIRIT, with music by Taj Mahal, and book/lyrics for TRUE ROMANCES, music by Elmer Bernstein. Her long monologue about Mukhtar Mai is in continual production in the U.S. and internationally as part of SEVEN. She has been honored by grants from the NEA, NYFA, TCG, and Guggenheim, McKnight and Rockefeller Foundations, among others.
Rachel Dickstein devised, choreographed, and directed the world premieres of the critically acclaimed SEPTIMUS AND CLARISSA (adapted by Ellen McLaughlin from Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway) at the Baruch Performing Arts Center, FIRE THROWS at 3LD ART & Technology Center, INNOCENTS at the Ohio Theatre (based on Edith Wharton’s THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, BETROTHED (based on stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, Chekhov and S. Ansky) at the Ohio Theatre. Other Ripe Time projects include THE SECRET OF STEEP RAVINES at P.S. 122, THE HOLY MOTHER OF HADLEY NEW YORK by Barbara Wiechmann and co-produced with New Georges, and THE PALACE AT 4 A.M. (based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe and the work of photographer Sophie Calle) presented at HERE Arts Center. Other recent directing projects include Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd’s IN WHAT LANGUAGE? at the Asia Society, REDCAT, and the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art and Ellen McLaughlin’s version of THE TROJAN WOMEN at Fordham University. Rachel has created and directed other new works for New York Theatre Workshop, New Georges, The Ohio Theatre, SUNY-Purchase, NYSF/Joe’s Pub, Lincoln Center Theatre Director’s Lab, Drama League Director’s Project and Seattle’s Annex Theatre. She has served as a resident director at New Dramatists and Assistant Director to dance-theatre luminary Martha Clarke nationally and internationally. She has received grants, commissions, fellowships and residencies from NYSCA, the Rockefeller MAP Fund, P.S. 122, NEA/TCG, the Drama League, the Ko Festival of Performance, and Yale University where she received her B.A. Rachel is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance at the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Purchase College, SUNY. Rachel is developing THE WORLD IS ROUND a new music theatre piece with composer Heather Christian and SYLVAN WOOD, a site specific collaboration with designer Susan Zeeman Rogers commissioned by People’s Light and Theatre Company to be staged at Longwood Gardens.
Steven Osgood, with his unique combination of theatrical and musical background, brings to the podium a musical incisiveness and dramatic insight which is rare in today’s emerging conductors. He has proven his expertise in repertoire ranging from the Baroque through this century’s most challenging scores, and is quickly becoming a much sought after conductor across North America.
From 2001 to 2008 Mr. Osgood was Artistic Director of American Opera Projects, a company dedicated to the development and production of new operatic works. With AOP he conducted the world premieres of Paula Kimper’s Patience and Sarah at the 1998 Lincoln Center Festival, and Janice Hamer’s Lost Childhood at the International Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv in 2007. He created the company’s nationally recognized Composers and the Voice Workshop Series, and led workshops of dozens of works in development, including most recently Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness, Conrad Cummings’ The Golden Gate, and Séance on a Wet Afternoon by Stephen Schwartz.
Mr. Osgood’s commitment to contemporary opera extends well beyond his work with American Opera Projects. He prepared the world premiere production of Tan Dun’s first opera Marco Polo for the Munich Bienalle in 1996. Tan then invited him to conduct the world premiere production and tour of his second opera Peony Pavilion, with director Peter Sellars. Mr. Osgood also conducted the world premiere of Jonathan Sheffer’sBlood on the Dining Room Floor in its critically acclaimed Off-Broadway run. With the Santa Fe Opera he was Assistant Conductor for the world premieres of Peter Lieberson’s Ashoka’s Dream, and Bright Sheng’s Madame Mao, as well as the American premieres of Hans Werner Henze’sVenus und Adonis, and Kaija Saariaho’s L’amour de loin. With Dicapo Opera Theater he has conducted Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, and the American premiere of the chamber version of Tobias Picker’s Thérèse Raquin. Mr. Osgood led Manhattan School of Music’s productions of Lukas Foss’ Griffelkin, and Lee Hoiby’ rarely heard A Month in the Country, a recording of which is available on Albany Records.
Mr. Osgood has worked with many of North America’s premiere opera companies, including the Lake George Opera Festival, Canadian Opera Company, and the San Francisco Opera. He made his New York City Opera debut conducting La bohème in 2003. In 2006 he made his debut with Edmonton Opera conducting the renowned Robert LePage production of Bluebeard’s Castle and Erwartung. He joined the music staff of the Metropolitan Opera in 2006 as Assistant Conductor for the world premiere of Tan Dun’s The First Emperor, and added productions of La Traviataand Phillip Glass’ Satyagraha in the 2007/08 season.
The 2008/09 season features the world premiere of Xenakis’s Oresteia at the Miller Theater, directed by Luca Vegetti; Tan Dun’s Marco Polo with De Nederlands Opera, directed by Pierre Audi; and a return engagement with Edmonton Opera to conduct La Traviata. Summer 2009 brings an orchestral concert with the Wintergreen Symphony, and Mr. Osgood’s debut with Chautauqua Opera conducting Tosca. Mr. Osgood marks the beginning of the 2009/10 season with his Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony debut, in a program featuring Tony Award nominee Louise Pitre.
“Sankaram’s tuneful score and standout performance are well worth a listen.”
-The New York Post
“A streamlined and powerful music drama, affecting exactly because it is, mostly, a direct and focussed narrative that trusts the audience to see, hear and understand exactly what is going on and what it all means…”
-New York Classical Review
“Ms. Sankaram’s music, inflected with the rhythms and melismas of Indian ragas, has a driving percussive energy and a distinctive sound…the action shifted seamlessly from realistic action to stylized choreography, taking the story into the realm of myth.”
-The Wall Street Journal
“To those who complain that opera is an elitist indulgence served up to snobs in dinner jackets, New York’s latest world premiere may come as something of a shock… The score is an alluring blend of South Asian and Western music, and the production starkly innovative.”
-Agence France Press
Funded in part with generous support from…
Multi-Arts Production Fund
Funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
With additional support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Asian Women’s Giving Circle