“The little match girl passion,” which will be performed at the Pérez Art Museum Miami on June 2, is another great challenge undertaken by the IlluminArts group, a Knight Arts Challenge winner that focuses on vocal and chamber music presented in alternative spaces. Its goal is to “illuminate” corners of the repertoire that need to be explored in a city like Miami, which, sooner rather than later, will have to take a leap in various cultural disciplines if it wants to keep pace with other cities.
This month, time arrived for the opera-cantata by David Lang, winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize, to be “installed” at the PAMM exhibit featuring the work of Doris Salcedo, the notable artist from Bogotá, Colombia.
Composer David Lang.
According to mezzo-soprano Amanda Crider, IlluminArts’ director, “We decided to bring together Lang’s piece and Salcedo’s work because both emphasize the importance of duality in the creative realm, in which hope and suffering are at each end of the spectrum.”
Lang’s piece was inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen tale, written for four voices and percussion, and premiered by Paul Hillier from Theatre of Voices. It tells the story of a girl who sells matches, freezing to death, fighting against abuse and poverty, but holding on so strongly to hope and faith that they take her to her redemption, contrasting a sweet past with a bitter present.
Similarly, artist Doris Salcedo’s sculptures illustrate the multiple facets of social injustice in Colombian society. Without intending to, both creators, from different countries, working in different disciplines, come together to describe these “multiple dualities,” the strength and the fragility, the ephemeral and the permanent, where the elements of healing and repair appear in the process.
Artist Doris Salcedo.
While the original Andersen tale suggests a moral parable between the girl’s suffering and that of Christ, Lang’s version–modeled after Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion”–aims at the vital and intimate correspondence between beauty and horror as inseparable entities. In just 35 minutes, Lang builds a cantata rooted in the minimalism that it represents and at the same time returns to its origins, the English madrigal and the medieval music–again, extremes that come together, accented by allusions to the distant past and the upheaval in our present.
IlluminArts version simply “connects the dots” under the direction of R.B. Schlather–whose credits include “Norma” at the Liceo in Barcelona and who is readying himself to direct both versions of “Turandot,” Busoni’s and Puccini-Berio’s, at the Bard Music Festival next August. “The little match girl passion” also features soprano Anne-Carolyn Bird with countertenor Brennan Hall, tenor Karim Sulayman, bass Zachary James and Michael Weinfield-Zell on percussion.
This marriage between opera and museum proposed here by Schlather is not new for the young director. He’s been doing it at New York’s Whitebox Art Center with acclaimed installations of George Frideric Handel’s “Alcina” and “Orlando” (he plans to close the trilogy with “Ariodante”), and will also take “the little match girl passion” to several museums, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum.
At any rate, it is an irresistible invitation to be at a “passion”–at least if we want to keep pace with what is happening in the world and with the work of the multidisciplinary artists who comprise IlluminArts.
“The little match girl passion” will be performed at the Pérez Art Museum Miami on June 2 at 7 p.m. There are daily open rehearsals (free with museum admission) through May 31 from 1-4 p.m.