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Indepth Arts News:

"Bang on a Can and Ben Katchor Collaborate on Revolutionary New Opera"
2000-07-19 until 2000-08-05
North Adams, MA, USA United States of America

In an innovative new opera, the legendary, eclectic, and uncompromisingly funky Bang on a Can teams up with cult cartoonist and this year's MacArthur Award winner Ben Katchor to create The Carbon Copy Building, a dynamic trip through the gritty side of urban life. The opera is directed by and Obie-Award winner Bob McGrath. The Carbon Copy Building will show twice, Friday and Saturday, August 4 and 5, in MASS MoCA's Hunter Center for the Performing Arts. Both performances are at 8 pm.

With a plot involving a simple package delivery from one building to the other, this opera explores the very different lives these twins buildings lead. One building is upscale, while the second building, in the Bent Spoon District, deteriorates and subdivides into tiny offices housing an endless list of unlikely businesses - an emergency chewing-gum-removal service, an eternal flame maintenance company, even a dessert embalmer who preserves uneaten food as memoirs of special events.

Set by Cult Cartoonist Ben Katchor

Recent MacArthur Award winner Ben Katchor has been an innovator in comics since he was a teenager. His strips have been syndicated all over the country, appearing in the Forward, Metropolis Magazine, and dozens of other newspapers, and have developed an almost cult following. His works include Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer; The Cardboard Valise; and The Jew of New York. He has received the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. He was the subject of a lengthy profile by Lawrence Wechsler, entitled A Wanderer in the Perfect City, which appeared in The New Yorker and in 1994 was named Best Cartoonist by New York Magazine. Katchor collaborated with producer David Isay on a series of radio dramas for NPR.

The four singers play nearly a dozen characters and expertly handle the difficult task of adding depth to the characters without robbing them of the comic book ambience. Director McGrath maintains the comic book feel right down to the voice balloons. For the set Katchor's detailed drawings are enlarged and layered through slide and video projection techniques.

Bang on a Can Create Eclectic Score

The innovative music composed by Bang on a Can founders and artistic directors Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe bring irreverence and wit to Katchor's comic book backdrops. (The musical imagery, for example, includes a funeral march for uneaten food.) The New York-based Bang on a Can is dedicated to creating a forum for the most innovative and adventurous music of our time. Lang calls the music they've written for this opera eclectic saying, This is opera, but it's definitely not a 400-pound lady with a big vibratto. It's music for people who live below 14th Street-very urban, very downtown.

Michael Gordon's background includes underground rock bands in New York and formal composition studies at Yale. His recent opera Chaos is a fast-paced science fiction spectacle, which premiered at The Kitchen in New York to rave reviews and packed houses. Sunshine of Your Love, a commission for the new Ensemble Modern Orchestra, toured Europe last summer, premiering at the Edinburgh Festival. Trance, a work for London's Icebreaker Ensemble, has been performed at Lincoln Center and The Kennedy Center.

Composer David Lang has been commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Singers, and the American Composers Orchestra. He is composer-in-residence at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. His awards include the Rome Prize, a Kennedy Center/Friedheim Award, the Reveson Fellowship with the New York Philharmonic, and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the NY Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Composer Julia Wolfe has received commissions from the Kronos Quartet, the American Composers Orchestra, the Koussevitzky Foundation, the Huddersfield Festival, and the Rotterdam Arts Council. Her work has been performed by The San Francisco Symphony, Margaret Leng Tan, and Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne. Her awards include a Charles Ives Scholarship and an Academy Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, two ASCAP Foundation grants, a fellowship at Princeton University, residency at the MacDowell Colony and Djerassi Institute, and a Fulbright fellowship.

Bob McGrath is the Artistic Director of Ridge Theater where he has directed and staged all productions since the theater's inception. A two-time Obie winner, McGrath recently staged several productions at the American Repertory Theater including Susan Sontag's Alice in Bed and Robert Coover's Charlie in the House of Rue. He is currently developing a play with Ridge Theater based on Outsider artist Henry Darger by Mac Wellman.

The Carbon Copy Building was produced in association with Ridge Theater.

Tickets Available Now

Tickets to The Carbon Copy Building are $28 for orchestra seating and $22 for mezzanine seating. Tickets are available by calling the MASS MoCA Box Office at 413.662.2111 or online at www.massmoca.org. Tickets may also be purchased in person from 10 - 6 daily at MASS MoCA at 87 Marshall St. in North Adams, Mass.

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