This weekend, Marigny Opera Ballet kicks off 2019 by premiering a three-part program that its founder, Dave Hurlbert, terms one of the most ambitious efforts in the troupe's five-year history.
The local company, home-based at the Marigny Opera House, will perform original pieces that draw their inspiration from 19th century New Orleans-born composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, German composer Arnold Schoenberg and French novelist Jean Genet.
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“Gottschalk Suite,” incorporating three works by Gottschalk — including his best-known composition “Bamboula” — leads the program. Katalin Lukacs is the piano accompanist and Derwin May Jr. is the choreographer.
Diogo de Lima choreographs the next piece, “Querelle,” based on the 1947 Genet novel, “Querelle de Brest.” Accompanying the seven dancers will be the New Resonance Chamber Ensemble playing an original score composed by Byron Asher and conducted by Francis Scully.
The evening’s final piece, “Pierrot Lunaire,” will feature Schoenberg’s 1912 chamber composition, again performed by New Resonance. Rebecca Allen is the choreographer and Phyllis Treigle, the soprano soloist, will sing the lyrics in German.
In addition to “Bamboula,” the other two dances in the Gottschalk performance are “Pasquinade, Caprice for Piano” and his “Grande Tarantelle,” based on a popular Italian dance. May described the combined pieces as “very moving, fun and lighthearted, bringing the joy of dance to the stage and showing the different personalities and their characters.”
However, May also said his 15-minute segment is rigorous and syncopated.
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"It’s been a challenge for me because I don’t normally choreograph to music like this but it’s definitely a chance for growth: a chance for me to open my ears and eyes to different types of music," he said.
“Querelle,” set in the French port city of Brest, follows the exploits of a sailor, Georges Querelle, a bisexual thief, drug dealer and murderer. Genet’s novel was considered risqué for its time due to its depiction of homosexuality and prostitution, and the action made it “very challenging” for de Lima to choreograph.
“It was very hard for me to make it into a dance piece because we only use movement to tell a story,” de Lima said. “I’m not really a big fan of mimicking actions. I try to stay out of that and let the body speak from inside out and then translate those emotions.”
Edward Spots will dance the title role.
“Pierrot Lunaire” takes its name from 21 selected poems written in the 1880s by Belgian poet Albert Giraud. Most of the dances are performed by title character Joshua Bell along with supporting dancers from the company.
The central character is a clown whose moods appear to be governed by the phases of the moon.
“It was a project Dave (Hurlbert) presented to me a little over a year ago," Allen said. "The music was challenging and atonal, and I happen to love music like this. So I found it really inspiring and kind of a delightful landscape for me and my imagination to run wild.
“The challenge I got from Dave was to somehow create a narrative, even if it wasn’t a linear narrative,” Allen said. “I had to create something concrete out of symbolist poetry which is meant to evoke feelings and moods.”
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The piece, Allen said, will make use of projections that show the various phases of the moon, as well as flashlights to depict moonbeams. “What I’m trying to show visually is like a warped sense of reality or an exaggerated or distorted version of (the protagonist’s) reality,” she said.
Due to subject matter, the production is not recommended for anyone under 18.
'Gottschalk Suite,' 'Querelle' and 'Pierrot Lunaire'
WHAT: Three dances performed by the Marigny Opera Ballet with the New Resonance Chamber Orchestra
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Marigny Opera House, 725 St. Ferdinand Street, New Orleans
INFO: (504) 948-9998. marignyoperahouse.org