Nutria

Dancing to a New Beat: Diego de Lima and Nutria Create Wary Heat for The Art of Jazz

Crunch time! Final rehearsals for The Art of Jazz — three world premiere productions that combine the control of ballet with the freewheeling improvisation of jazz performed by well-known live jazz trios.
Director Dave Hurlbert has teamed award winning Marigny Opera Ballet choreographers Diogo de Lima, Nikki Hefko and Barbara Hayley with composers Helen Gillet, Larry Sieberth and Nutria (Byron Asher, Trey Boudreaux and Shawn Myers) a triple-threat evening of original dance and music.
Members of the Marigny Opera Ballet Company include Kellis McSparrin Oldenburg, Gretchen Erickson, John Bozeman, Ashlie Russell, Joshua Bell, Christian Delery and Lauren Guynes.
Performances are scheduled for Thursday Feb. 9th, Friday Feb. 10th, and Sunday Feb. 12th (No Saturday performance). Tickets $35/$25 (students and seniors) are available at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2592575.
 
Q&A: Nutria
Formed in 2014, Nutria is an instrumental trio that performs original compositions with an emphasis on collective improvisation. Their music explores jazz, chamber music, traditional music of the African diaspora and Eastern Europe and the avant-garde.  
Meet composer-musicians Byron Asher, clarinet/saxophone; Trey Boudreaux, acoustic bass; and Shawn Myers, drums, creators of “Wary Heat,” the closing number of The Art of Jazz.
How did you get together?
Byron: We met as graduate students in the Jazz Studies program at the University of New Orleans. Since leaving school we have released an EP, several music videos and completed a two-week tour of the Midwest, playing jazz clubs, art galleries, dive bars and community spaces. Plans for 2017 include a new record, a return tour to the Midwest, and other local performances.  

Have you ever composed music for a ballet?  How did your composition for The
Art of Jazz differ from other pieces you’ve done that didn’t involve dance?
Byron: I have performed for dance before, and I have composed for film and theatre, but never for ballet. Our music relies heavily on improvisation, as well as composition, so the trick with this piece was to write music that we felt represented the sound we have as a band and captured the spontaneity of our live performances without the crutch of improvisation. I say crutch because we as musicians who improvise can sometimes over-rely on that ability and neglect the work of composition. The three of us in Nutria take both crafts seriously. 
Trey: I have performed improvised music for improvised dance before, but this is the first composition that was through-composed and choreographed in advance.  This project was a huge undertaking for our band, which usually delves deeply into improvisation along with composition.  This piece is almost only through-composed, pre-planned music with little-to-no improvisation.
Shawn: Texture was taken more into consideration and length. All other tunes we have written have solos involved which creates a different feeling/spontaneity we couldn’t use in this case. Group writing makes it necessary to build off of ideas rather than create ideas.

What do you want the audience to experience when they’re listening to The Art of Jazz?

Trey: 
I don’t place many expectations on my audiences in general; I just hope that the final product of this piece delivers an interesting and thought-provoking time for whoever experiences it.  I am most interested by the diversity of experience and perspective in an audience, and how their interpretations shed new light on an already complex project.
Shawn:  
I want them to connect with sound and movement in a new way. I want them to redefine what jazz is. New Orleans is the birth place of jazz, but it has expanded throughout the entire globe now. Many other cultures and communities have contributed to it in different ways. We hope to encompass many facets of the world through the lens of jazz and ballet to connect to a greater community.
What are the next two things on your creative bucket list?
Byron:
As a band, we’re currently working towards releasing another record, due out next Fall/Winter, and we’re working on setting up a consistent touring schedule. Booking tours is hard work for a relatively new and unknown weirdo jazz group, so we don’t plan on being on tour full-time, but we would like to be doing a couple of quality tours each year. The next run will be in March to the upper Midwest, including Minneapolis, Chicago and Indianapolis. Personally, I’m working towards the premiere of another large composition in April that is based in research I’ve been doing for the past few years on the New Orleans clarinet tradition.
Trey: 
An acoustic chamber ensemble playing my new compositions, and a series of duo projects with some of my close musical collaborators.
Shawn: 
o   Electronic Music Production
o   Recording An album
What composers/musicians inspired your section of The Art of Jazz?
Byron:
Each of us was in charge of composing one of the three movements, with input from the rest of us, so each movement features the personal compositional style of each of us. That said, in research for my movement, I was inspired by 20th century ballets by Stravinsky and Aaron Copland, as well as the work of Bartok, but I was also playing the record “Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do” by London-based quartet Sons of Kemet on repeat all summer, so I think that probably played into my writing a lot. 
Shawn:
   o   Haitian Music
   o   Ghanaian, Togolese and Beninois Musics
   o   Sonny Rollins, Fly Trio, Steve Lehman, Chris Potter
   o   Stravinsky
Was the experience with the Art of Jazz collaborative? How much interaction did you have with the choreographer?
Shawn: 
Yes, it was. A lot of key words to relate to each other’s medium.
Byron:
We met with choreographer Diogo de Lima early on in the writing process and then again towards the end. Initially, we watched video of his choreography and picked his brain on what his vision was. His chief directive was: “Make it sexy.” I think we achieved that. The early writing process was very collaborative between the three of us as we spent the summer bringing fragments and ideas to rehearsal to workshop before sitting down to finalize our scores. And in that finalization, which was solitary work, we, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not, borrowed and stole ideas and melodic fragments from each other to repurpose for our own writing. In a way you could call it a “collaborative bleed.”
 Trey:
We maintained good communication with Diogo de Lima, the
choreographer.  However, after our first meeting, we knew we trusted one another and wanted to leave each other to do our own thing.  Having that trust and allowing freedom will yield the most interesting product, so while we talked concepts in a broad way, we really just wanted to see each other’s approach and throw curve balls at one another until things balanced out.

What’s does the next generation of jazz music look like?

Byron:
I’m inspired by the number of (young) musicians in New Orleans, many of whom are friends and colleagues, who are invested in making interesting, original music that, for lack of a better term, comes out of the jazz idiom. Is all of it swinging? No, but I don’t believe that to be a prerequisite for jazziness. It is new, adventurous music, and I find that exciting. I suppose if we all keep doing what we’re trying to do, that’s something to look forward to! 
Trey: Jazz is a sometimes-confusing word that describes a time, a music, an approach that manifests in modern music in many ways, some more subtle than others.  Whether musicians describe themselves as “jazz musicians” or not, there are always incredible new musicians, composers, improvisers, etc. that assimilate movements and styles like jazz and do the unexpected.  More good art is on the horizon. 
Shawn:
Wild!
What’s on your personal playlist?
Byron:
Right now, avant garde saxophonist Matana Roberts and Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Hot Sevens.
Trey:
This week, Beethoven Quartets and Schnittke String, the new release from A Tribe Called Quest, Copland’s “Appalachian Spring”, and the early Creole music recordings of Amede Ardoin.
Shawn:
   o   Field Recordings from my recent trip to Ghana, Togo and Benin
   o   Workout – Hank Mobley
   o   Selebeyone – Steve Lehman
 o   History of Color EP – El Bu’ho and Barrio 

Barbara Hayley

Dancing to a New Beat: 3 Choreographers + 3 Composers = The Art of Jazz                       

Marigny Opera Ballet is busy prepping three world premiere productions that combine the control of ballet with the freewheeling improvisation of jazz performed by well-known live jazz trios.
David Hurlbert and the award winning Marigny Opera Ballet have teamed choreographers Diogo de Lima, Nikki Hefko and Barbara Hayley with composers Helen Gillet, Larry Sieberth and Nutria (Byron Asher, Trey Boudreaux and Shawn Myers) for The Art of Jazz, a triple-threat evening of original dance and music.
Performances are scheduled for Thursday Feb. 9th, Friday Feb. 10th, and Sunday Feb. 12th (No Saturday performance). Tickets $35/$25 (students and seniors) are available at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2592575.
Q&A: The Art of Jazz 
Meet Barbara Hayley, one of three choreographers featured in the Marigny Opera ballet production.
 
What are some of the challenges of integrating the discipline of ballet with the  improvisational nature of jazz?
 
No challenges.  This is a modern dance piece with wonderful dancers who have the facility to shift between improvisational, technical, and expressive ways of moving. 
 
What choreographers inspired your work on The Art of Jazz? 
 
Not a choreographer, but director Akira Kurosawa’s text for a painting he created for the crows sequence from Dreams, 1990: ”A human is a genius while dreaming.  Fearless and brave, like a genius.”
 
If you have a creative bucket list, what are some of things on it?
 
        Continued collaboration with composers.
        More community-based expression.
 
How collaborative was your work on The Art of Jazz?
 
The dancers and I made the piece together.  They contributed their artistry and movement from beginning to end.   Larry Sieberth, the composer, and I met from the very beginning. He attended exploratory rehearsals last August and was completely engaged and supportive of my work and the work of the dancers.
 
What kind of story are you are telling in The Art of Jazz?
 
No story.  It is not linear or narrative.   Audience members may come away with a different ‘story’ or response.  All are valid.  
What’s on your personal playlist?
 
        Alabama Shakes
        Sergio Cervett
i
What can you tell us about your dancers? Are they new to Marigny Opera Ballet? 
 
They are beautifully trained in classical ballet, modern dance, jazz and musical theatre techniques AND the art of choreography.  They bring all that they know to rehearsal and dance full out all the time.  Two in “Dance of the Dreamers” are new this season.  Maya Taylor, rehearsal director for Marigny Opera Ballet is essential and is the consistent through line for the company. 
 
A Deeper Dive:  Barbara Hayley
Choreographer, teacher and former dancer
Barbara Hayley has been Artistic Director of New Orleans Dance (NOD) since 1987. This modern dance repertory company of local dance artists has merited Classical Arts Awards
for modern dance production and choreography for 12 years.  Today, NOD is a project based company. 
Ms. Hayley was awarded the Community Arts Award (formerly Mayor’s Arts Award) in 2009.  She is a choreographer for site-specific, community-based, and concert dance venues. 
She is a professor with Tulane’s Newcomb Dance Program, Department of Theatre and Dance and dance coordinator.  
Before moving to New Orleans, she received her MFA from NYU Tisch School for the Arts, worked with a variety of choreographers, and directed Barbara Hayley & Dancers in NYC.

Lawrence Sieberth

Dancing to a new Beat: Jazz Musicians and Dance Company Create Three New Works

No, you don’t have to go to New York to catch three world premiere productions that combine the control of ballet with the freewheeling improvisation of jazz performed by well-known live jazz trios.
Not when the award winning Marigny Opera Ballet teams choreographers Diogo de Lima, Nikki Hefko and Barbara Hayley with composers Helen Gillet, Larry Sieberth and Nutria (Byron Asher, Trey Boudreaux and Shawn Myers) for The Art of Jazz, a triple-threat evening of original dance and music.
Performances are scheduled for Thursday Feb. 9th, Friday Feb. 10th, and Sunday Feb. 12th (No Saturday performance). Tickets $35/$25 (students and seniors) are available at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2592575.
 
 Q&A: The Art of Jazz 
Meet Lawrence Sieberth, one of three composers featured in the Marigny Opera ballet production
 
How does your composition for The Art of Jazz differ from other pieces you’ve done that didn’t involve dance?
 
This project requires thinking about the music’s association with movement. The music’s emotional content has to create a meaningful development for the purpose of choreography — whereas jazz is about soloistic development. My piece is classical in nature, almost through-composed so there is a framework for a correlation to movement. The duration of ideas becomes very important as opposed to instrumental jazz where evolution is not time constrained 
 
What do you want the audience to experience when they’re listening to The Art of Jazz?

Foremost is to enjoy the performance – additionally the audience members should feel on a deep level the journey that the music combined with movement brings. Hopefully it will bring an emotional ‘newness’ to the listener

What are the next two things on your creative bucket list?

Composing new material for my group Estrella Banda at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and finishing a suite written for piano trio, percussion and orchestra.

What composers/musicians inspired your section of The Art of Jazz?

Messian, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Mingus

Was the experience you’re having with The Art of Jazz collaborative? How much interaction did you have with the choreographer?
 

After composing the piece I have been to several rehearsals and have expressed a few ideas — however I feel that Barbara Hayley needs the freedom to do her own thing — my ideas are mainly to point out synchronistic details in the music.

What does the next generation of jazz look like?

Jazz has become quite institutionalized – it has always been a vehicle for self-expression rather than emulation.

 

What is on your personal playlist?

Olivia Trummer (Classical to Jazz 1)
Geoffrey Keezer (Via)
Toru Takemitsu (Spirit Garden)
Akira Nishimura (Esse in Anima)

A Deeper Dive: Lawrence Sieberth

“I’ve always considered music to be a bridge to the spirit world…I perceive music with an architectural bent — add and subtract — everything is connected.”
Pianist, composer and producer Lawrence Sieberth is at home in virtually any musical setting. While based in jazz, his musical vision is not limited by genre barriers—he prefers to integrate the many facets of music and performance into an engaging, inclusive experience. Sieberth’s own neo-bop improvisations and experimental inclinations combine with his classical and world music influences providing an extensive musical vocabulary for both performances and compositions for television, film, and stage.
His transcendent 2009 album “New New Orleans” finds him literally center stage, a solo piano set wherein traditional New Orleans jazz pieces get a brilliant surveying with some judicious modern overtones sprinkled throughout them. That same year saw the far side of the spectrum via “Arkipelago,” an album exploring the area(s) where the ethereal overlaps with the earthy, where fevered fantasy coalesces with funk, the Second Line strolls Alpha Centauri. In the most recent album “It’s Magic” in collaboration with singer Germaine Bazzle, Sieberth’s exemplary skills as accompanist come to the fore—songs such as “Bye Blackbird” and “Sophisticated Lady” are not merely covered but made anew, the notes dangling from his fingertips as if they were dipped in honey.
Sieberth’s local ensembles vary from New Orleans traditional to questing improvisations, from the avant-garde to mainstream jazz and R&B. He has performed at virtually every venue in New Orleans, from small clubs to the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival where he has been a regular featured artist and musical director of over 30 years. His collaborations with notable local performers include: Johnny Adams, Charles Neville, Leslie Smith, Tony Dagradi, Jeremy Davenport, John Vidacovich, Luther Kent, Leah Chase, Topsy Chapman, Herlin Riley, Brian ‘Breeze’ Cayolle, Victor Goines and Jason Marsalis.
He presently performs and tours with Gerald French & the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band, Germaine Bazzle, and Lena Prima (daughter of the legendary Louis Prima) with whom has just released a Christmas CD playing duo with Lena on vocals
A commissioner on the Louisiana Music Commission, Sieberth was honored by New Orleans Magazine (1998) as outstanding contemporary jazz pianist. His CD “Heartstrings” was chosen by Jazziz (1995) in their ‘Keyboards on Fire’ special issue. He has also received numerous grants including the Louisiana Artist Fellowship Award and the 2009 Asante Award and is a recent recipient of the Community Partnership Grant sponsored by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Sieberth was formerly adjunct Professor of Jazz Studies at both the University of New Orleans
and Loyola University at New Orleans, teaching courses in jazz piano, theory, arranging and improvisation.
He attended Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA, with Alvin Batiste (1975); Loyola University New
Orleans, La. (1976), and Hartt College, Hartford, CT (1977).

 

A Very Merry Marigny Christmas!

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. From the elegant Arbor House wreaths on the St. Ferdinand Street doors to OperaCréole’s authentic Creole Christmas tree on stage, the joyful sounds of the season are peeling out from Marigny Opera House.  

Two unique holiday programs by artists familiar to MOH supporters will bring down the curtain on 2016.  “Both OperaCréole and BREVE share an uncommon dedication to the study and performance of works that are overlooked and underperformed,” says Founder and Executive Director Dave Hurlbert. Although much of his own focus is on new work, he sees tremendous value in bringing these neglected musical gems to new generations of audiences.

First up this weekend is OperaCréole’s sumptuous tribute to tribute to the Advent and Christmas traditions of Creoles from years past in “A Creole Christmas.”

“We’re dedicated to researching and performing lost or rarely performed music, and sharing with the community the contributions of our people to this musical art form, not only in New Orleans, but around the world,” says Giovanna Joseph, Founder and Executive Director of the internationally recognized opera company.

“Opera and classical music in New Orleans and around the world have always included the contributions of persons of color, “Joseph continues.  No surprise then that OperaCréole’s next MOH production is Lucien Lambert’s rarely performed La Flamenca (1889). Lambert, son of Charles Lucien Lambert, was a New Orleans born free Creole composer of color who found success in France. The four act opera is scheduled for May 19-21 2017.

At a time of year when we both look forward to the future and recollect the traditions of the past, BREVE (The Baton Rouge Early Vocal Ensemble) returns to MOH to present “Christmas in the Marigny,” an a capella program of traditional carols and music on Saturday, December 17 at 7 p.m.
Founded in 2010, The Baton Rouge Early Vocal Ensemble is one of the few early music ensembles in the state of Louisiana. They are dedicated to the study and performance of Renaissance and Baroque music that is lesser-known and under-appreciated. Special emphasis is given to musical works that have no discography.
 
Tickets for both productions are available online
Put Us on Your Christmas Tree
The 2016 Mignon Faget Adornament — a handcrafted 24K gold-plated bronze replica of the iconic Marigny Opera House – is a collectible that benefits the Marigny Opera House Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to support the work of local performing artists. 
Only 35 of these bespoke creations remain.
Shop now on our website (http://bit.ly/2gnu08x) through December 16. Your $40 gift means that you’ll receive the adornament via USPS within five business days. 
You can also purchase the adornament through Mignon Faget (http://bit.ly/2fhnbm3).
And All That Jazz
If you missed our sold out “Giselle Deslondes” in November, better plan now for Marigny Opera Ballet’s “The Art of Jazz,” three premieres by Diogo de Lima, Nikki Hefko and Barbara Hayley, with music composed and performed by jazz artists Helen Gillet, Larry Sieberth and Nutria (Byron Asher, Trey Boudreax and Shawn Myers).
Tickets $35/$25 Students and Seniors, available online or at the door. Performances Thursday Feb. 9th, Friday Feb. 10th, and Sunday Feb. 12th (No Saturday performance). 
  
Time to Reflect, Time to Remember
The awe and wonder of Christmas pageants past at Holy Trinity Church are part of a past that’s cherished and embraced. Now, as we end our fifth year as a Church of the Arts, we look forward to many more tomorrows of dance and music and theatre.
So many people and organizations got us to today. Not to mention performers, dancers, composers, actors, directors, singers, musicians, costumers, staff and volunteers. Board members. Audiences. Neighbors. Sponsors. Subscribers. Holy Trinity Church and School supporters. We love you all and wish you the happiest of holidays.

 

Francis Scully

Founder and Director, New Resonance Orchestra
Music Director, Marigny Opera Ballet

Over Coffee

by Sharon O’Brien

At CC’s on Esplanade Avenue, Francis Scully is reflecting on a range of topics – from his singular approach to classical music to the special challenges of being music director for the Marigny Opera Ballet’s “Giselle Deslondes.”
What’s particularly refreshing about Scully is the breadth of his vision and his willingness to leave the confines and silos of traditional classical music to engage and create with dance companies, theaters, and visual artists.  As he sees it, “with classical music, we need to stimulate our own creativity. It’s really exhilarating to connect with artists in other disciplines. It moves us forward to the next thing. It helps us think in different ways.”
Ultimately, “our goal is to reach new listeners. We’re telling them ‘this music is about you, it touches on your concerns, and it’s made by people like you.’ We’re not messing with the music of great composers, but we are saying that the listener is the hero.”
In many ways the antithesis of twentieth century conductors like Toscanini, Scully thinks of conducting differently. “It’s a larger umbrella than just waving the hands. It encompasses all sorts of administrative things, pre-concert planning, creative strategy and curatorial functions.  You know, I think a lot about how to respond to the challenges of being a conductor in 2016. Maybe this isn’t just about music, but also this idea of collaboration. . . . “
Scully didn’t have a classical music background growing up. He listened to rock, letting himself free range through different musical eras and genres, coming to classical music in his teens.  Like others of his generation, he benefitted from technology that disrupted the old ways of listening to music.  Prior to digitalization, music was strictly classified and categorized by type, genre and delivery mechanism (e.g., live, radio, record stores, tape).  “These categories – socially and from an access standpoint — are disintegrating.  If you have the interest in say Balinese music, you can find it. “
The Norfolk, VA native studied violin in public school and went on to an undergraduate degree in violin performance from Catholic University and a master’s in conducting from the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University. After graduation he landed an internship with the Berlin Philharmonic and traveled through Europe listening and learning. “I first went to Berlin in 2000.  I wasn’t there in the 1990s, but there was this sense of a huge upheaval all at once.  Artists were there, experimenting, throwing off all of this creative energy.”
A 2007 trip to visit his parents in New Orleans became another inflection point.  “Getting off the plane from frigid Berlin, I went straight to a Mardi Gras parade in 70-degree weather.”  What he felt in New Orleans was a blast of the creative energy he’d experienced in Berlin.  Then, there was the chance to be part of rebuilding the city after the storm. “It felt like a place that was uniquely open to experiment at that moment.”
No surprise then that Scully’s first project was a Post-Katrina piece, Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.”  It seemed to answer questions he always asks himself about his work, “How do you celebrate what’s happening here?  How do you express the spirit of this community? The Idea is always to connect classical music with whatever’s going on. . . .  We have to come up with a good reason for why in 2016 are we doing this.”
More than just a conventional concert, this 2008 “Rebuilding Appalachian Spring” was a multimedia show with actors, dancers, video projections and the debut performance of his New Resonance Orchestra. The composition of New Resonance, which draws from the ranks of LPO, NOCCA faculty and freelance professional musicians, varies with each production.  And so do Scully’s collaborators.  For “Haydn Seek,” Scully’s June 2016 production at Marigny Opera House, he partnered with Goat in the Road Productions to literally bring in the clowns for chase scenes and broad physical comedy in eight Haydn symphonies.
Was the 18th century Austrian composer rolling in his grave? Scully doesn’t think so. In an interview with Dean Shapiro in The New Orleans Advocate, he explained that somewhere in the 1760s and 1770s, Haydn started the practice of using symphonic music for theatrical performances, possibly even for comedy interludes in between the acts. Scully also finds evidence that seems to indicate that Haydn was thinking about theatrical gestures and timing. “So it seemed like we could put together a fun program of some of these really unusual works that are specifically theatrical and add our own little touches to it.”
Scully’s association with Marigny Opera House dates to 2009 when it was still Holy Trinity Church, a deconsecrated neighborhood place of worship soon to be acquired by Dave Hurlbert and Scott King. Since then, Scully has been a frequent collaborator with Hurlbert, Tucker Fuller, and others on a dazzling variety of productions.
For “Giselle Deslondes,” Scully thinks of himself as sort of the second level in the creative process, following what composer Tucker Fuller and choreographer Maya Taylor have already devised.  That said, the challenges are ample. “We’ve never heard this piece before. No one hears it until the very first night of rehearsal with the orchestra.
“The ballet company has been working with computer generated music for rehearsals and does not experience the full orchestra until a week before opening. So there are different tempos, different sounds from what the dancers are accustomed to.  So, how can I put this together — how I can take what everyone else has already contributed and make it work. That’s my challenge now.”

 

You can hear the New Resonance Chamber Orchestra at the world premiere of “Giselle Deslondes” featuring choreography by Maya Taylor and score by Tucker Fuller  November 17-20 at the Marigny Opera Househttp://www.newresonanceorchestra.org/

Kellis McSparrin Oldenburg

Dancing Giselle Deslondes

by Sharon O’Brien

Kellis McSparrin Oldenburg — dancer, choreographer and teacher– will dance the title role in Marigny Opera Ballet’s world premiere of Giselle Deslondes.  The Clinton, MS native received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2010. Following her undergraduate studies, she moved to New York City to pursue her master’s degree in dance at New York University, graduating from Tisch School of the Arts with a Masters of Fine Arts in 2012.
A former instructor of dance at Belhaven University in Jackson, MS, Kellis specializes in ballet, contemporary, jazz and musical theatre techniques. She has also orchestrated a freelance choreography business for the past nine years.  Kellis and her husband, Kirk, currently live in New Orleans, where she is a dancer and choreographer for Marigny Opera Ballet.
What was your introduction to Giselle? Did you ever dance in a production? Did you study the 1841 production in a dance history class?  Why is Giselle a turning point in the history of ballet?
My first experience with Giselle was in my Dance History class in undergrad. The ballet was presented as the epitome of Romantic Ballet, and I instantly fell in love with the characters, the movement and the story.  It is just one of those iconic ballets that defined the style and development of the dance form.
Will your performance incorporate anything – a step, a movement, a gesture – from any of the earlier Giselles?
The movement of Giselle is new and original choreography by Maya Taylor, but the essence and intention of her choreography definitely pays homage to the earlier Giselles.  For me, I am inspired really inspired by the character of Giselle, and while the movement might be more contemporary, my performance quality is reflective of the timeless story of Giselle.
Although the Marigny Opera Ballet production is set in a different time and place – 1930 New Orleans – and features a new score by Tucker Fuller, how are you and Maya making the character relatable to contemporary audiences?
I think there is a rawness and realness to Giselle, and Maya has coached me on finding that realness through my movement and my performance.  Everyone has experienced love, heartbreak, betrayal, forgiveness, joy, bitter sweetness . . . . and these universal emotions are what drive the story of Giselle.  The key is authenticity.
Giselle has been called the Hamlet of ballet. So to dance the title role is an immense challenge. For its 2012 Giselle, the National Ballet of Canada cast four sets of Giselles and Albrechts.  What kind of research did you do? How did you prepare for the physical demands of the role?
I’m a visual learner, so I watched a lot of different portrayals of Giselle.  Seeing how different dancers interpret the story and her character helped me craft my own definition of who Giselle is.  I also do a lot of journaling and character analysis for my personal journey into who Giselle is.
In terms of the physical demands, we rehearse with Marigny five days a week, so the schedule is quite rigorous.  We have company class before every rehearsal, and I also try to exercise regularly, eat healthy and get plenty of sleep.  Maya’s choreography is very full-bodied and challenging, so I have worked hard to be in the best physical shape possible so that I can give the role of Giselle my absolute best.
Both the 1841 and the 2016 Giselle require your character to constantly change, evolve and transform. So, in addition to the physicality of the role, you have to present these transformations in a way that a contemporary audience relates to.  What would you say are the biggest emotional challenges of the role?
I don’t want to give too much away about the ballet, but Giselle does experience madness as a result of a broken heart.  That scene is probably the most challenging for me because I really have to let myself “go there.” That madness has to be authentic or it will fall flat and won’t be believable. It is exhilarating and daunting at the same time.
How is the Marigny Opera Ballet different from other dance companies you’ve worked with?
Dancing with MOB has shown me where my limitations are and how to push past them.  We are held to a high standard, both technically and artistically, and I love that expectation.  I am a different dancer now than I was when I started with MOB last season; I have made so many discoveries and breakthroughs . . . I feel like I’m really unlocking my potential and defining myself as an artist.  Plus, you can’t beat performing to live music!
Are you teaching class as well as well rehearsing Giselle?
I’m an adjunct instructor in the University of Southern Mississippi’s Department of Dance. Twice a week, I commute to Hattiesburg, MS from New Orleans and I currently teach Advanced Modern Technique, Dance Production and Dance Appreciation.  I’m also a yoga instructor and I often teach company class for the Marigny Opera Ballet.
What’s your first post-Giselle project?
Rest. 🙂  And then we start rehearsing for our next MOB program!
If you have a creative bucket list, what are some of things on it?

 

I’m in awe of Maya and her ability to choreograph a full-length, complex ballet.  I think it would be an awesome, challenging experience and I’d really like to try my hand at it someday.

New Entrance, New Era for Marigny Opera House

Since 1847 when architect Theodore Giraud designed the former Holy Trinity Church, generations of New Orleanians have passed through its iconic doors on St. Ferdinand Street.  From baptism at the beginning of life through the funeral mass at the end, the structure was a familiar, well-loved portal in the spiritual life of Marigny and Bywater until its deconsecration in 1997.

When word got out that the Marigny Opera House (MOH) was changing its entrance from St. Ferdinand Street to Dauphine, there was some regret that the original doorway would lose its importance.

Founder Scott R. King understands. Like other alterations to the structure, fabrication of the elegant new seven ft. portal on Dauphine Street is the latest iteration in mandated requirements to improve safety and access for participants and audiences. “Obviously, you’re going to need an impressive entrance to the theatre — an architectural statement that signals that you’re entering a beautiful theatre.”

The commanding bronze arch echoes the shape of all of the arches in the building, with Marigny Opera House in large metal letters on one side of the gate and Soli Deo Gloria on the other. (Bach ended all of his religious works and some of his secular ones with SDG – to the glory of God alone.)

Creation the new entrance was inspired by a design by New Orleans architect Rick Fifield with input from San Francisco designer Jeff Marcus who created the MOH logo as well as Steven M. Donnelly of Metal One Studios on Royal Street who fabricated the gate. 

Crafting the gate became a true collaboration, very much in the spirit of the nineteenth century German crafts people who lived near the church.   “I have tremendous admiration for craftsmen, people who actually build things,” King says. “Rick recommended Steve to us, but what happened when Steve was studying the design was that he brought new insight and ideas on how to make the gate more beautiful, less heavy and less expensive to build.“

Relocation of the entrance has a number of benefits, all of which enhance the comfort and convenience of audiences, performers and staff.  The initial Church layout was designed around a procession moving towards the altar table, with pews at one end and the altar at the other.  “Working with the original configuration meant that the first thing audiences entering the building saw was the back of the risers,” King explains.

He and co-founder Dave Hurlbert have been transforming the building into a “church of the arts” for the past five years, working through ravages caused by hurricanes and years of neglect. “The first thing we did was to save it from the elements. Water was coming in when it rained and there termites, raccoons and other vermin. Cats Claw vines and other vegetation had to be fought back.”

With a number of significant infrastructure enhancements like the new light board, the entrance on Dauphine signals the beginning of a new era for MOH that will see development of additional structures and a garden along the Dauphine side of the building. In addition to providing a scene shop, dressing rooms and other support for the theatre, the plan also includes a house for King and Hurlbert, who feel that living and working in the same space is key to what they’re are trying to accomplish.

 

Maya Taylor

OVER COFFEE

by Sharon O’Brien

Early afternoon at Café Fatoush in The Healing Center on St. Claude. This is a Turkish coffee shop/restaurant with an air of the mildly exotic about it. It is a good place to meet because it’s usually quiet. Even on weekends when it’s packed with chess players hovering over chess boards, it’s quiet.
Another woman mistakes me for the person she’s meeting with that day.

When Maya Taylor enters, you know without having to ask that it’s Maya, rehearsal director and resident choreographer extraordinaire for the Marigny Opera Ballet.

BEGINNING SEASON THREE
After four months off, Taylor is charged and ready to get started. “It’s really beautiful season – there’s something for everyone to come and see. And something for all the dancers, too.“ She’s spent months pouring over videos of dance hall footage from the twenties and thirties. Envisioning how composer Tucker Fuller will transmute Tin Pan Alley ditties and other music of the period into the score for Giselle Desponds, a full length contemporary ballet that world premieres at Marigny Opera House on November 17.

Her process involves listening to the music over and over, setting aside time to parse the score and get the structure down. Taylor’s been working with Executive Director David Hurlbert’s scenario and Fuller for some time now, but she’s clearly eager to begin working with her dancers.
The Marigny Opera Ballet Company of eight dancers includes several members from last season as well as newcomers. “They’re super talented, hardworking, and open to anything I throw at them during our rehearsals.”

Dancers spend an hour five days a week in class, followed by three hours of rehearsal.  Learning each other as well as the dance. In addition to being classically trained in ballet, the dancers are fluent in modern, jazz, and improvisation. They will be learning and playing with the Charleston and Black Bottom for the dance hall scene.

While Balanchine famously compared dancers to instruments that the choreographer plays, Taylor’s work tends to be more collaborative. She believes that the element of play is essential to training and rehearsing.  Sometimes, even an incorrect dance move gets kept in because it works.  With a story as dark as Giselle’s, there is room for laugher and light, especially in Act I where dancers are responding to music’s that’s very fast, powerful and dramatic.

THE RETURN OF ORFEO
While her own contemporary dance ensemble Maya Taylor Dance continues on a project basis, Taylor’s main focus is the Marigny Opera Ballet which she joined in 2014, creating such works as Selcouth Liaisons, Summer from The Four Seasons, and a group version of Under a Glass Bell.

In 2014, Marigny Opera Ballet commissioned Taylor to choreograph Orfeo, her first full-length contemporary ballet.  Based on the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, reviewer Chris Waddington applauded “choreographer Maya Taylor’s ardent, articulate gloss on the oft-treated legend of doomed lovers.” Audiences agreed, responding with sold out houses.

When the decision was made to close the current season with a reprise of Orfeo, Taylor was delighted.  With four dancers new to the ballet, she looks forward to tweaking the elements that will help make the ballet even stronger.

DANCING IN CHURCH
Writing in the Huffington Post, Hallie Sekof describes the use of location by contemporary choreographers in such a way that the space becomes as much a part of the performance as the bodies of the dancers. Indeed, by rejecting the confines of the concert stage choreographers like Taylor are disrupting conventional notions of performance and responding to the architecture and history of (in this case) an historic structure.

“The beautiful space at the Marigny is a major part of why I love working there,” Taylor acknowledges.  “It is so beautiful, vast, and provides a lot of time to contemplate where I want to go with movement and with the dancers. I think everyone that steps into the space falls in love with it.”

“Collaborating with Dave and Tucker has also been a dream as they have a very clear vision and I am so thrilled to create the choreography to add to this original version of Giselle.”

Tucker Fuller

OVER COFFEE

Midmorning in Café Luna. Not much happening. Whirrs and beeps of coffee machines, low murmur of convo, nothing out of character for a cozy, uptown coffee shop except for maybe one thing. There’s a bitcoin ATM next to the counter, an anachronism all the more consequential because it’s likely one of a few such ATMs in town, a harbinger of the future in a city which thrives on its past and dotes on financial icons like The Whitney.

Still, the laid back ambience with its minor dissonance seems spot on to talk music and the life of a composer in the Crescent City with Tucker Fuller, composer of Marigny Opera Ballet’s November world premiere, Giselle Deslondes.

GISELLE DESLONDES

This is not your mother’s Giselle or even your sister’s. This is music set to a stripped down story line that plops the original folk tale smack in the middle of Faubourg Marigny in 1930’s New Orleans.
Well, what about Adophe Adam, composer of what has been called the “Hamlet of Ballets”? Well, what about him?  “I’ve listened to the score,” Fuller says. “It’s very lush, pretty and of its time, but I didn’t take much or anything from it.”

The 1841 work is “a problem ballet, like a problem play, e.g. A Winter’s Tale.” One thing off-putting about the original was its ham-handed characterizations. “This poor fragile lady who falls in love and is taken advantage of by this terrible man.”

Fuller’s Giselle is a charming, charismatic woman, with a Scheherazade-like way of drawing people to her.  Not so much the victim. Act 2 depicts what happens to Giselle as Giselle’s choice.  So, Giselle Deslondes is less a caricature than her 19th century counterpart and more complex and relatable to contemporary audiences.

INSPIRATION

“I tried to keep in mind music from the first third of the last century – not just jazz but Tin Pan Alley. There were a number of composers in that period (including Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Kurt Weil) who were interested in popular music.”

Working with a scenario created by Marigny Opera Ballet Executive Director David Hurlbert, Fuller drew major inspiration from New Orleans’ much loved New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra. Although New Leviathan doesn’t create original compositions, it draws music from archives throughout the U.S., especially the Tulane University Jazz Archive and Tin Pan Alley.  Its uniqueness comes from instrumentation. So Fuller’s Giselle Deslondes is scored for pre-depression era jazz orchestra, one that includes strings.

Act I, he says, consists of consists of the kind of music you’d hear in a dance hall – polka, foxtrot, waltz and Charleston.  “Act II goes away from the dance hall but takes everything from the beginning and develops it. “ Voodoo is an important element here, with the well-known Wilis (a group of supernatural women who dance men to death) from the original Giselle replaced with a witch and spirit slaves.

CHALLENGES OF COMPOSING FOR BALLET

“Writing for ballet is hard. Very difficult. I take the scenario and parcel it into numbers and scenes. From there, I start writing and imagining what the dance might be like and how much time it might take.

“I then sit down with Dave Hurlbert and choreographer Maya Taylor and talk through how I visualize everything happening. I come up with a blueprint. Then, when Maya starts working with the choreography, she might say ‘this section is a little long’ or ‘can you add a couple of bars here.”
“I’m not a dancer. So I want to see if what I’m imagining in my head works aligns with their visions of the ballet.”

“I worked with Maya on last year’s Orfeo.”

“Maya gets things done. She’s disciplined and focused. No waiting around for the muse to strike, if you know what I mean. Maya’s also very thoughtful. We click very well when we’re talking about character and motivation.”

“It’s fun, too, because Maya and Dave will sometimes see something or will have an idea about how to do something. So, it’s a real collaboration.”

COLLABORATION

Every ballet begins with a vision and takes its shape from a scenario created by Hurlbert that’s then translated into music and choreography.

“Dave’s genius was to take the original story which involved 16 dancers and strip it down to eight. While many contemporary versions of Giselle disrupt the setting, period and costumes, few create new scores as we have.”

What elevates Marigny Opera Ballet is its ability to commission original scores and choreography that are presented with a live orchestra. Being able to work with a conductor and musicians is almost a luxury for contemporary dancers.  If a dancer is having difficulty with the pace of the music, the conductor is able to adjust tempo to movement.

Key to the team’s third season of award-winning productions is musical director Francis Scully who founded New Resonance Orchestra in 2008. Scully’s musicians are mostly drawn from the ranks of the LPO and the NOCCA faculty.

Because New Resonance focuses on innovative approaches to presentation, Scully is a great fit for the Marigny Opera Ballet and for Tucker Fuller.  For Fuller’s Orfeo, which will be reprised this season, Scully’s 13-member string/woodwind chamber orchestra was a major contributor to the production’s critical success.

“Francis is fantastic, extraordinary and thoughtful.  He goes above and beyond — It’s wonderful to work with a conductor who spends so much time going through the score and doing his own analysis of the entire piece.”

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE IN NEW ORLEANS

“It seems everything I’ve been asked to do by Marigny Opera House has pushed me in different directions. Everything I’ve been asked to do for them is very different — from the religious music to Orfeo, from sort of a Baroque pastiche style to jazz. They’ve all been challenging, but when you train as a composer, you just do it.”

For a composer, New Orleans is a kind of nirvana. “A main difference between New Orleans and New York is that I can afford to live here, although that’s getting harder. There’s like a thousand composers in NYC trying to do whatever they do.  I like being away from that scene, being able to write things, find an audience and connect with it.”

“Here it’s really nice. I’ve been able to do more theatrical stuff. It’s a different kind of composing.  It’s not so much about what you want to do but being able to work with performers and directors and choreographers.”

“There’s so much going on here. It’s a very lively arts scene. A ton of things going on.  What I like about New Orleans is that it doesn’t have many of the trappings you find in other cities, cities with a specific aesthetic.”

“I’ve been in New Orleans since August 2010. I’ve lived in lots of different places but there’s no other place in the U.S. like this one.”

Season Overview

Marigny Opera Ballet Begins Its Third Season November 18th

by Sharon O’Brien

After last season’s rave reviews and SRO performances, it’s a good idea to buy season and individual performance tickets well in advance. Now is not too soon. 

Giselle DeslondesGiselle Deslondes  World Premiere 
November 18-20, 2016 
Choreography: Maya Taylor 
Music: Tucker Fuller 
New Resonance Chamber Orchestra 
Set in the Faubourg Marigny in 1930, Giselle Deslondes is a heart-breaking story of betrayal, madness and redemption. The full-length, two-act ballet features a newly-commissioned orchestral score by acclaimed local composer Tucker Fuller.

                                                                                                 
The Art of Jazz 
February 10-12, 2017 
Choreography: Diogo de Lima; Nikki Hefko 
Music: Helen Gillet; Lawrence Sieberth; NUTRIO (Byron Asher, Sean Myers, Trey Boudreaux) 
An inspired collaboration of some of New Orleans’ finest jazz artists and choreographers, The Art of Jazz will feature three premieres to live jazz ensembles.

Orfeo at Marigny Opera HouseOrfeo
April 14-16, 2017 
Choreography: Maya Taylor 
Music: Tucker Fuller 
New Resonance Chamber Orchestra 
The sold-out favorite from last season returns. A full-length contemporary ballet based on 
the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, Orfeo charts the course of an impossible love, from the hills of Parnassus to the depths of Hades and back.

At A Glance
WHAT: Marigny Opera Ballet 2016/2017 Season 
WHEN: Opening Night Gala November 17, 2017; Performances through April 16, 2017 
WHERE: Marigny Opera House, New Orleans 
TICKETS: Individual tickets and season subscriptions available now online at www.marignyoperahouse.org or www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2592543

About the Marigny Opera Ballet 
Founded in 2014, the Marigny Opera Ballet is a professional contemporary ballet company based in the Marigny Opera House of New Orleans. Its award-winning performances have included the works of New Orleans-based choreographers, Donna Crump, Diogo de Lima, Maya Taylor, Nikki Hefko and Maritza Mercado-Narcisse. The Company performs to live music, frequently newly-commissioned works by local composers.