Dancing the Lives of Sts. Teresa, Sebastian and Francis
By the time the avant-garde opera “Four Saints in Three Acts “opened in 1934, Gertrude Stein had expanded its cast to more than 20 saints and added an extra act.
Prepping for the Friday October 6th opening of his Book of Saints ballet, producer and librettist Dave Hurlbert is holding the Marigny Opera Ballet world premiere production to a scant three saints in two acts, along with three supporting seraphs or seraphim.
As Church of the Arts, Marigny Opera House regularly presents contemporary and classical religious music. Even so, Book of Saints is something of a passion project for Hurlbert and collaborators — composer Tucker Brooks, choreographer Teresa Fellion and conductor Francis Scully.
“You can’t work here and not be inspired by the space itself — the oldness, the sacredness, the indelible connection to the parish and the community, “Hurlbert says. “Our mission as a church is to celebrate the arts as a common spiritual bond among all people.”
Book of Saints, which opens Marigny Opera Ballet’s fourth season, is its most ambitious production to date, and features the New Resonance Chamber Orchestra together with the 8-singer vocal ensemble Krewe de Voix under the direction of Paul Weber.
Acclaimed New Orleans composer Tucker Fuller’s original score is a cantata – a narrative piece of music for voices with instrumental accompaniment. The ballet opens and ends with the Litany of Saints from the Latin Mass, a formal prayer of the Roman Catholic Church.
The lyrics for the music accompanying St. Teresa are two pieces of her writing, in her native Spanish: “Remember that you have only one soul…” and “Let nothing disturb you…” St. Sebastian’s lyrics are drawn from contemporary accounts of persecution under the Roman Emperor Diocletian (303 AD). The Act One music for St. Francis is based on an Italian madrigal of the 13th century, “Diana was not more pleasing to her lover…” in Act Two, a prayer attributed to St. Francis is used, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
In addition to providing opportunities for local composers and musicians, Hurlbert’s employment of well-known New York choreographer Teresa Fellion is evidence of his longstanding commitment to provide opportunities for growth and enrichment within the ballet company.
Book of Saints will be presented at the Marigny Opera House (725 St. Ferdinand Street, New Orleans) on October 6th and 7th at 8pm, and on Sunday October 8th at 7pm. Tickets are available online now at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3067542 .