Tune in to Afternoon New Music on Tuesday, February 14 from 3:00 - 6:00 PM EST for a post-show talkback with William Gustafson and Joan La Barbara on their reproduction of the groundbreaking Robert Ashley opera, DUST.
Composed in 1998, DUST combines live mixing and sound processing, improvisation, and pre-recorded music, all over a libretto based off of the free-associations, conversations, and waking dreams of five “street people.” The highly experimental vocal delivery combines a range of traditional and unconventional vocal techniques, from singing and speaking, to mumbling and whispering. In writing DUST, Ashley created only a libretto with limited notation as a roadmap for performers, and required cast members to learn the work through listening rather than reading. The musical construct is remarkably original.
Gustafson, director, Joan La Barbara, musical director and one of the original vocalists and performers in Ashley's 1998 production, as well as a DUST cast member will comment on the reconstruction process and discuss the restaging of the opera in contemporary times.
"Ashley's vocal style is quite unique in the literature of contemporary opera, requiring each singer to create the character vocally as well as theatrically, and using speech delivery shaped by intonation and exaggerated inflection,” said Joan La Barbara, Mannes faculty and an internationally renowned vocalist who performed and collaborated closely with Ashley. “It is an important and unique opportunity for Mannes students to be able to learn this manner of singing, and it has been a pleasure to coach and mentor our young performers through this process. The layers of story-telling involved in the texts Ashley wrote explore first, second, and third person complexities, interwoven with historical context, and offer particular challenges to the acting skills of our young performers, who are brilliantly actualizing these tasks."
“Producing this type of experimental work is not without its challenges, especially in a music conservatory environment,” said William Gustafson, Stage Director and Associate Dean at Mannes. “We have been fortunate to have a great team and to have the space to allow our students to experiment and invent their own characters and performances in a highly organic way. Working with Joan La Barbara and Tom Hamilton has provided for a direct connection to Ashley’s legacy while simultaneously allowing for a fresh approach to production creation. After finishing early work and a DUST workshop series with Parsons School of Design in April, we are very excited to now be presenting DUST to the public in a fully staged, new production”