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A PrestIdigitation IN Four PARTS

Project Description

Fifth House Ensemble and the Chicago College of the Performing Arts team up with American Academy of Arts and Letters Academy Award-winning composer Daron Hagen in the creation of an innovative collaborative work that  examines in a non-linear narrative the American Story by limning the memories and half-remembered dreams of actor, director, writer, and painter ORSON WELLES during the last few moments of his life.

Read an extensive interview with Hagen about the opera at the F is for Film blog here.

  • suggests that the American Experiment is a Creative Process.
  • advances the notion that Welles’ quest to “go beyond himself” was more than a thirst for self-actuation; it was an intertwined quest for social justice and creative liberty.
  • exists in torso.
  • takes a different shape every time it is performed.
  • expands and contracts in size depending on the venue, whether it be a Church Basement or High School Gym, a Homeless Shelter or Park Avenue Brownstone, a Dive Bar or a Black Box, a Recital Hall or a Grand Opera House.
  • is called a prestidigitation because it is comprised of 52 sound collages that are triggered by The Magician in performance “on the fly” in an un-predetermined sequence. Taken together, and combined with live and pre-recorded performances by singers and instrumentalists of both notated and improvised music, they form Welles’ consciousness.
  • manifests the creative vision of Daron Hagen, who is crafting a stream-of-consciousness, intertextual, post-genre score and libretto that adheres to no single cultural-aesthetic hegemonic hierarchy or dogma.
  • is a complex, tightly-organized sonic mobile that shuffles and reshuffles scraps of dialogue and interviews, totemic motives such as “Rosebud,” fragments of half-forgotten tunes, the sound of rain, bells, applause, footsteps—all pressed into service in the pursuit of the truth about a mystery more profound than the meaning of the name of a child’s sled—Art was not his life, the Process of Making Art was.may last from 60-90 minutes.
  • may or may not have from one to one hundred instrumentalists who may or may not sing, vocalise, move, and improvise.
  • may be staged or un-staged.
  • may or may not include any number of roles, spoken, sung, and mute for children and adults.
  • may be declaimed or danced rather than sung.
  • may exist entirely as an interactive website.
  • may, in fact, not exist at all, except as a set of options.
  • may simply be a memory; or the dream of an idea.
  • ends with Welles’ death and apotheosis.

Production Team Workspace here.


DARON HAGEN

Composer / Librettist / Director

For more information, visit: www.daronhagen.com

Composer / Librettist / Director Daron Hagen (Photo: Karen Pearson)

Composer / Librettist / Director Daron Hagen (Photo: Karen Pearson)

Daron Hagen (b. 1961) was recognized in 2014 by the American Academy of Arts and Letters with an Academy Award citing his "outstanding artistic achievement and acknowledging the composer who has arrived at his or her own voice"—an extraordinary statement, as his effusively eclectic works blend with subversive fluency Renaissance polyphony and extended vocal techniques, 40s Americana and electro-acoustic soundscapes, ambient sound installations and opulent multi-media verismo operas, 60s folk rock and Weimar agitprop, sprawling Modernist sound mass works and exquisitely-wrought chamber works and concertos for traditional Japanese instruments. The citation goes on to characterize him as "a multi-faceted composer who does a first-rate job on anything concerning music—its creation, its performance, and its communicability. His remarkable and diverse music compositions include operas, choral works, symphonies, and chamber music. In addition, he is celebrated for his work as a conductor, artistic and stage director, and librettist.”

Hagen is currently developing the "post-genre multi-media performance happening" Orson Rehearsed,  Afterwards, an evening-long cycle of songs for four singers and piano for the Brooklyn Art Song Society and Philadelphia's Lyric Fest, and 9/10, a site-specific encounter for six singers and pre-recorded electro-acoustic sounds supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship melding improvisation and pre-notated arias that unfolds over dinner in a restaurant in Little Italy the night before the destruction of the Twin Towers.

The mid-career recipient of commissions from the New York Philharmonic, Seattle Opera, Philadelphia Orchestra, and over a dozen other major orchestras and opera companies, he has written more than 350 works for the concert stage, including 9 operas (A Woman in Morocco, Shining Brow, Amelia, Bandanna, Vera of Las Vegas), and the forthcoming Orson, which he will also design and direct; 14 concertos (for Gary Graffman, Jaime Laredo, Sharon Robinson), 5 symphonies (Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Oakland, Albany, Phoenix), 22 song cycles (Paul Sperry, Kings Singers, Ashley Putnam); and dozens of chamber, band, and choral works. Hagen is a frequent conductor, collaborative pianist, librettist, and stage director of his own theatrical works who has worked with Leonard Bernstein, Ken Cazan, Michael Christie, Lara Downes, JoAnn Falletta, Nathan Gunn, Kate Lindsey, Michael Morgan, Robert Orth, Gerard Schwarz, Leonard Slatkin, and Stephen Wadsworth, among others.

A Lifetime Member of the Corporation of Yaddo, a Trustee of the Douglas Moore Fund for American Opera, Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestra Society of Philadelphia, and Chair of Composition for the Wintergreen Festival Music Academy, he also serves as a Distinguished Mentor for Composers Now. He has served as artistic director of the Seasons Music Festival, and as president of the Lotte Lehmann Foundation. Hagen made his debut as a stage director with Kentucky Opera and has directed productions at Symphony Space in New York City, the Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the McCarter Theater in Princeton (New York Stories, The Antient Concert, A Woman in Morocco). He writes regularly for the Huffington Post and other online journals.

Born in Wisconsin, Hagen studied composition with Ned Rorem at the Curtis Institute and David Diamond at the Juilliard School, then worked extensively as a copyist and editor for numerous concert composers and Broadway shows, including Elliot Carter, Virgil Thomson, Gian Carlo Menotti, and Disney. He taught for a decade at Bard College, and served on the faculties of the Curtis Institute, the Chicago College of Performing Arts, New York University, and the Princeton Atelier, among others, before turning his attention solely to teaching privately and creating. His music is recorded on Naxos, Albany, CRI, and Bridge. A Manhattanite for 28 years, he and his wife, composer Gilda Lyons, moved Upstate in 2011 to raise their sons. (April 2017)


CHICAGO COLLEGE OF PERFORMING ARTS

Producing Partner

For more information, visit: https://www.roosevelt.edu/colleges/ccpa 

 

Chicago College of Performing Arts or CCPA is a performing arts college that is housed at Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois. While CCPA is officially a part of Roosevelt University, CCPA (both the institution and its students) has its own distinct personality. The relationship between the two is much like that of the Eastman School of Music and The University of Rochester or The College-Conservatory of Music and the University of Cincinnati. The college has two divisions: the Music Conservatory and the Theatre Conservatory. Nearly 600 students come from more than 40 states and 25 countries to study at CCPA. The faculty consists primarily of world class professional actors, directors and musicians, including nearly 30 members of the Chicago Symphony and the Lyric Opera of Chicago (half of whom are principals) and theatre performers with credits from Broadway to Chicago and the West Coast.


THE NEW MERCURY COLLECTIVE

Collaborative Partner

For more information, visit: www.newmercurycollective.com

Formed in 2017 by artistic director Daron Hagen and named after Orson Welles' Mercury Theater, the New Mercury Collective exists to create and sustain a laboratory for artistic exploration, creative risk-taking, and performance in which its members can collaborate on the creation and performance of post-genre works combining theater, music, and emerging technology for audiences of all types underpinned by a fierce committment to social justice and civic activism. NMC's members bring a staggering breadth of practical experience, training, and expertise to the development of Orson Rehearsed, the collective's first project.

 Robert Orth has performed 134 roles in opera and musicals in scores of cities including London, Berlin, Rome, New York, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Portland, Washington D.C., and Denver. He was named “Artist of the Year” by both New York City Opera and Seattle Opera. New York City Opera also gave him the Christopher Keene Award for new and unusual repertoire.

Veteran soprano Carol Greif Schuele is equally at home in opera, musical theater, and straight drama, and has starred in dozens of major operatic and musical theater roles over the past thirty years regionally and at her home company, the Skylight Theater in Milwaukee. She teaches at Cardinal Stritch College.

A 2016 League of American Orchestras Emerging Artist, Gabriel Preisser has been praised by Opera News for his “handsome voice, charismatic energy, and timbral allure” and The New York Times called his performance as Lt Gordon “wonderful.” He also serves as executive & artistic director of Opera Orlando and is co-founder and CEO of Angels & Demons Entertainment. serves as executive & artistic director of Opera Orlando and is co-founder and CEO of Angels & Demons Entertainment. 

Gilda Lyons is a New York-based cutting-edge vocalist and composer specializing in extended vocal techniques, improvisation and post-genre works combining technology and social activism who also serves as founding artistic director of the Phoenix Concerts in Manhattan and on the composition faculty of the Hartt School.

Robert Frankenberry is a vocalist, pianist, educator, actor, and conductor. As music director for Opera Theater of Pittsburgh/OT Summerfest, he has collaborated with Jonathan Eaton on critically-praised reinterpretations of Gluck, Bizet, and Hagen operas, among others. As a singer and actor, he’s recorded major roles for Naxos, and created and performed in a new “pocket” Ring Cycle for Skylight Music Theater. He is the pianist for Pittsburgh’s IonSound, and six other national-level new music ensembles and has written operas himself.

Mezzo-soprano Melisa Bonetti has been hailed by Opera today as “a warm, supple mezzo that struck all the right impressions” and as “commanding a wonderful presence in the lower middle voice but also easily soaring heavenward with a well-schooled top.”  She has appeared with Kentucky Opera, the Lexington Philharmonic, the Queens Symphony Orchestra, Wolf Trap Opera, and I Sing Beijing.


FIFTH HOUSE ENSEMBLE

Collaborative Partner

For more information, visit www.fifth-house.com

Fifth House Ensemble

Fifth House Ensemble

The Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble is a versatile and dynamic group praised by the New York Times for its “conviction, authority, and finesse.” Defined by limitless imagination, the ensemble engages curiosity to create unexpected connections with artistic collaborators and audiences of all types, breathing life into repertoire both established and emerging. Over the last decade, the ensemble has engaged theater groups, visual artists, animators, living composers, astronomers, folk musicians and corporate innovators through transformative cross-media performance experiences for audiences of every type.

As part of its 2016-2017 season, Fifth House Ensemble (5HE) celebrates the release of Nedudim, its latest release on Cedille Records, with Mediterranean folk band Baladino. It has been praised as “an impeccable album with an extraordinary array of songs from Spain’s Jewish diaspora and the best of contemporary chamber music” by World Music Central. The ensemble performs Dan Visconti’s Soundings at the inaugural Ear Taxi Festival, and will tour with Mike Mills and Robert McDuffie performing Mills’ Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra. 5HE visits Mount Royal University (Calgary, AB) with Journey, an interactive arrangement for 5HE of Austin Wintory’s Grammy-nominated score responsive to live game play; and Concordia University (Ann Arbor, MI) with Voices from the Dust Bowl, a collaboration with the Chicago bluegrass band Henhouse Prowlers and composer Steven Snowden that engages worker stories from the Library of Congress’s archives and from worker rights organizations nationwide. 5HE also visits The Driehaus Museum, Carolina Strings Academy, the Eastman School of Music, DePauw University’s 21CMPosium, and the Cleveland Institute of Music for performances, training workshops, and residency activities this season.

Performances in previous seasons include those at Ravinia, Montalvo Arts Center (CA), the Texas Performing Arts, Civic Music Association (IA), Old Town School of Folk Music, WFMT Impromptu, the Chicago Cultural Center, Rush Hour Concerts at St. James, National Sawdust (NY) and the Miller Theatre (NY).

Through the ensemble’s heartfelt social and civic practice work, 5HE has co-created artistic projects with urban neighborhoods, social service organizations, and an agricultural community to spark conversations on issues that matter. Recent projects include Broken Text, a collaboration with Raven Theatre and DJ Searchl1te inspired by multi-week residencies at the Cook County Temporary Youth Detention Center and St. Leonard’s Ministries; Nedudim, an exploration of music and cultural identity in collaboration with Baladino that engages Chicago-based organizations representing Israel, Iran, Germany and Spain, and Harvest, a year-long partnership with DePauw University and the 

Music Central. The ensemble performs Dan Visconti’s Soundings at the inaugural Ear Taxi Festival, and will tour with Mike Mills and Robert McDuffie performing Mills’ Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra. 5HE visits Mount Royal University (Calgary, AB) with Journey, an interactive arrangement for 5HE of Austin Wintory’s Grammy-nominated score responsive to live game play; and Concordia University (Ann Arbor, MI) with Voices from the Dust Bowl, a collaboration with the Chicago bluegrass band Henhouse Prowlers and composer Steven Snowden that engages worker stories from the Library of Congress’s archives and from worker rights organizations nationwide. 5HE also visits The Driehaus Museum, Carolina Strings Academy, the Eastman School of Music, DePauw University’s 21CMPosium, and the Cleveland Institute of Music for performances, training workshops, and residency activities this season.

Performances in previous seasons include those at Ravinia, Montalvo Arts Center (CA), the Texas Performing Arts, Civic Music Association (IA), Old Town School of Folk Music, WFMT Impromptu, the Chicago Cultural Center, Rush Hour Concerts at St. James, National Sawdust (NY) and the Miller Theatre (NY).

Through the ensemble’s heartfelt social and civic practice work, 5HE has co-created artistic projects with urban neighborhoods, social service organizations, and an agricultural community to spark conversations on issues that matter. Recent projects include Broken Text, a collaboration with Raven Theatre and DJ Searchl1te inspired by multi-week residencies at the Cook County Temporary Youth Detention Center and St. Leonard’s Ministries; Nedudim, an exploration of music and cultural identity in collaboration with Baladino that engages Chicago-based organizations representing Israel, Iran, Germany and Spain, and Harvest, a year-long partnership with DePauw University and the stman School of Music, New England Conservatory, Indiana University, Northwestern University, DePaul University, and the Colburn School. In 2012, 5HE launched fresh inc, a one of a kind chamber music festival that brings together composers and instrumentalists for side-by-side performances, receiving creative presentation and entrepreneurship training.

5HE is currently an Ensemble in Residence at the Music Institute of Chicago.

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