On the program for the March 27, American Mavericks concert, is music from John Cage’s enigmatic Song Books with Jessye Norman, Meredith Monk, and Joan La Barbara joining Michael Tilson Thomas and his San Francisco Symphony.
Imagine video screens pulsing with images that reinforce action. Envision three houses with cut-away walls, revealing the three divas. They explore three Cage worlds: one of theater, one populated by avant-garde French composer Erik Satie and Dada icon Marcel Duchamp, and another of Cage's idol Henry David Thoreau. The action is directed by Yuval Sharon, who has staged productions with New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera, and many other companies. But no two performances are the same, for the singers act on the moment’s inspiration, guided by Cage’s prompts. “Leave the stage by going up (flying) or by going down through a trap door,” Cage directs in one number. “Return in the same way wearing an animal’s head.” “Breathe as though you had lost your voice.” Prepare for fractured settings from Thoreau: “Wasps are building summer squashes, saw a fish hawk, when I hear this both bushes and trees are thinly leaved.”
Here, Tilson Thomas, Norman, and La Barbara discuss Cage's evocative and playful work.
Photographs from John Cage's Song Books performed recently at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco by Joan La Barbara, Meredith Monk, Jessye Norman, Michael Tilson Thomas, and members of the San Francisco Symphony during the American Mavericks festival. Photos by Kristen Loken
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