Amidst the isolation and racial uprisings in the early summer of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic continued its spread, forty-four current and former company members came together (while being apart) to create something as a community in support of the Black LivesMatter movement… In 1991, three years after Arnie’s passing at the height of the AIDS pandemic, Jones made Arnie’s CONTINUOUS REPLAY choreography into a full company work—which has connected generations of company members and was, for most of them, the only way to know Arnie. The diverse cast of performers spanning four decades—including Arthur Aviles, Sean Curran, Odile Reine-Adelaide, Stefanie Batten Bland, Rosalynde LeBlanc, Heidi Latsky, Jenna Riegel, and many others—filmed themselves while in isolation across four continents. The original soundtrack is created by composer John Oswald and editing of the videos was done by Associate Artistic Director Janet Wong.*
In conjunction with the theatrical production of two plays based on his books, Édouard Louis will give a talk—moderated by the New Yorker theater critic Alexandra Schwartz—at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Co-presented by BAM and St. Ann’s Warehouse, performances of Thomas Ostermeier, Florian Borchmeyer, and Louis’ adaptation of HISTORY OF VIOLENCE begin at St. Ann’s on November 13. THE END OF EDDY—adapted by Pamela Carter—starts at BAM the following night.
In three venues—first at London’s Barbican, then at the Brooklyn Academy ofMusic, and finally at UCLA—an 80-minute performance of 100 overlapping solos will be overseen by MerceCunningham Dance Company alumni as the work of the late, great choreographer continues to invigorate the canon and astonish new generations.
“This Event, and the longstanding, continuing partnerships with these three premier organizations, are true signs that the Cunningham legacy is alive and well ten years after his passing.” — Ken Tabachnick, executive director of the trust
In Los Angeles, the event will be staged by Andrea Weber—a dancer with the company from 2004 to 2011—with DylanCrossman. JenniferSteinkamp designed the set at Royce Hall, and Jessica Wodinsky is the lighting designer.
Madison Greenstone, Bethan Kellough, Stephan Moore, Stephanie Richards, and Suzanne Thorpe will provide live musical accompaniment, organized by Stephan Moore.
The dancers for the Los Angeles section are PaigeAmicon, BarryBrannum, LorrinBrubaker, Rena Butler, TamsinCarlson, Erin Dowd, Katherine Helen Fisher, Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson, Casey Hess, Thomas House, Laurel Jenkins, Burr Johnson, Vanessa Knouse, Cori Kresge, Brian Lawson, Jessica Liu, Victor Lozano, Daniel McCusker, Polly Motley, Jermaine Maurice Spivey, SavannahSpratt, Pam Tanowitz, Ros Warby, Riley Watts, and Sam Wentz, with Cemiyon Barber and UnaLudviksen as understudies.
From top: Gerda Peterich, Merce Cunningham in Sixteen Dances for Soloist and Company ofThree (detail), 1952; Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled [Merce (III)] , 1953, courtesy of the RobertRauschenberg Foundation; Andrea Weber at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2012, dancing Cunningham as part of the exhibition Dancing Around the Bride, photograph by Constance Mensh; Cunningham (2).
“We begin as piano virtuosos and then start rummaging about and foraging in the human sciences and philosophy and finally go to seed. Because we didn’t reach the absolute limit and go beyond this limit, I thought, because we gave up in the face of a genius in our field. But if I’m honest I could never have become a piano virtuoso, because at bottom I never wanted to be a piano virtuoso, because I always had the greatest misgivings about it and misused my virtuosity at the piano in my deterioration process, indeed I always felt from the beginning that piano players were ridiculous; seduced by my thoroughly remarkable talent at the piano, I drilled it into my piano playing and then, after one and a half decades of torture, chased it back out again, abruptly, unscrupulously. It’s not my way to sacrifice my existence to sentimentality.” — The Loser, by Thomas Bernhard*
In the novel The Loser—Bernhard’s comedic 1983 screed on artistry, obsession, and mediocrity—a garrulous narrator recounts, with comedic vitriol, the lifelong consequences of a summer he and his friend Wertheimer spent with the young pianist Glenn Gould at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, all under the instruction of Vladimir Horowitz.
Once the narrator and Wertheimer—labeled “the loser” by Gould in the novel—finally realize that their talents will never equal Gould’s, they abandon their pianos. The narrator gives his Steinway to the nine-year-old daughter of a schoolteacher, who ruined it “in the shortest period imaginable, I wasn’t pained by this fact, on the contrary, I observed this cretinous destruction of my piano with perverse pleasure.”*
The narrator’s story had a profound effect on David Lang when he read the novel in the late 1990s: “I couldn’t read it silently. I ended up yelling the entire book to my reflection in the mirror in my bathroom, from start to finish, which was very exciting. And that day I started imagining what it would be like to add music to it.”
The result is Lang’s hour-long opera the loser. For his libretto, Lang was compelled by necessity to eliminate much of Bernhard’s text, including the long-winded political diatribes—there was nothing the Austrian author hated more than Austrian society. Lang’s focus was the persona of the narrator, and “managing our [changing] perceptions of a character” became the way to bring action to the piece.
Not that the protagonist moves around much. In Lang’s dramatic staging, the narrator stands atop a twenty-foot-high platform, suspended in space and performing exclusively for the audience in the balcony. (Orchestra seats are not occupied for the production.) During the second half of the loser a piano (and pianist) appear on stage, and delicate, ghostly sounds echo throughout the auditorium.
This astonishing work premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2016, with baritone Rod Gilfry as the narrator, and Conrad Tao on piano. The LA OperaOff Grand presentation of the loser brings both of these artists to downtown Los Angeles, joined by Bang on a Can Opera—Isabel Hagen (viola), Mariel Roberts (cello), Pat Swoboda (double bass), Owen Weaver (percussion)—and conducted by Lesley Leighton.
The lighting design is by Jennifer Tipton, the sets by Jim Findlay, and costumes were designed by the performance and installation artist Suzanne Bocanegra.