composer: Stephen Dickman
performed by: Thomas Buckner & Desiree Halac
orchestra: S.E.M. Ensemble
conducter: Petr Kotik
director: K. Elizabeth Stevens

performance schedule:
June 20th - 30th
Thursday - Sunday 8:00pm
Sunday Matinee 2:30pm
The First Floor Theatre

"Gilgamesh" is a new 75-minute operatic ritual by composer Stephen Dickman based on The Epic of Gilgamesh, the 4500-year-old Sumerian fable that is regarded as the oldest story ever written. It is sung by Thomas Buckner, a leading performer of avant garde music, and Desiree Halac, a recent winner of the prestigious Joy in Singing Award. The orchestra is the acclaimed S.E.M. Ensemble conducted by Petr Kotik. Director is K. Elizabeth Stevens. The Epic of Gilgamesh, originally inscribed on 11 tablets, tells of the pain of Gilgamesh ("he who knows all things") after the death of his friend/double Enkidu and his own search for immortality. This search ultimately takes Gilgamesh across the Waters of Death to Utanapishti (comparable to Noah), to whom the gods gave immortality for the part he played in the great flood. The story deals powerfully with the issues of friendship, loss and the search for eternal life. The production tells the story in 11 scenes, corresponding to the original 11 tablets. The libretto was edited by Stephen Dickman from the Maureen Gallery Kovacs translation of the epic published by Stanford University Press. Orchestrations are for violin, violoncello, flute and percussion. The score uses melodic concepts from Indian music and has a pervasive rhythmic energy. Each singer performs several parts: Desiree Halac sings the narrator in addition to the female parts; Thomas Buckner sings the narrator, Gilgamesh, his double Enkidu, and the other male parts.Composer Stephen Dickman received the NEA Artist as Producer/New American Works award for his opera "Tibetan Dreams," which Allan Kozinn in The New York Times called "...lovely and rich, ...filled with...lush string textures." Dickman wrote his first opera, a radically minimalist work entitled "Real Magic in New York," with playwright Richard Foreman. After going to Rome on a Fullbright, he remained in Europe and Asia for four years and wrote "Musical Journeys," four volumes exploring primary musical ideas. His study of sarangi (Indian lute) with Pandit Ram Narayan led to his "Song Cycle for Three Violins and Three Sopranos," settings of the poetry of Jalal al-Din Rumi (CRI 498). Continuing his exploration of scale inspired by his study of Indian music, Dickman wrote "The Wheels of Ezekiel" (1985) for chamber orchestra and "Trees and Other Inclinations" (1983) for piano (both on OPUS ONE 140), and "Orchestra by the Sea" (1983) for full orchestra. His Maximus Song Cycle (1986), with poetry by Charles Olson, was premiered in 1987. In November of 1999 New World Records released a CD of his music. Currently he is working on a musical, "The Violin Maker," for which he is writing the story, lyrics and music.Baritone Thomas Buckner, through his work with both established and emerging composers and improvisers, has worked in a wide range of musical contexts, including chamber works, orchestral pieces, jazz-oriented improvisations, computer enhanced electronic works and multi-media theater pieces. His last La MaMa appearance was "The Manhattan Book of the Dead" by David First in 1994. Recent appearances include a duo concert with Cecil Taylor in the Festival of Music of Extended Duration at the Prague Castle; Morton Subotnick's "Intimate Immensity" at the Lincoln Center Festival and Robert Ashley's "When Famous Last Words Fail You" with the American Composer's Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.Mezzo-soprano Desiree Halac is Argentine/American and specializes in Lieder (German Art Songs) and Chamber Music. Her diverse musical life includes opera, song recitals and collaborations with various composers. In 2000, she received the Joy in Singing Award for her New York recital debut at Merkin Hall. She appeared in the Ravinia Festival last summer and at the Aspen Festival in 1996 and 1999. She will sing with the Hungarian State Opera next fall in "Cosi fan Tutti" and make her debut this August at the Theatre Colon in Argentina as Dido.The S.E.M. Ensemble, led by Petr Kotik, has become internationally recognized as one of the foremost ensembles dedicated to New Music. It has toured Europe three times, and last season, it performed at the Takemitsu Memorial concert at Oji Hall in Tokyo. They recently premiered a new piece by Kotik in a concert at Alice Tully Hall.Director K. Elizabeth Stevens has been an associate of Target Margin Theater, where she directed "Dick in London" and "Whirligig." She recently directed "Baby with the Bathwater" in Greensboro, North Carolina as part of Triad Stage's inaugural season. She spent last season as Artistic Associate and Literary Manager at Dallas Theater Center, where she directed an acclaimed production of Wit. She has an MFA from Yale School of Drama.
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