"I Fioretti in Musica- Opera in Danza" is an original Italian Opera that imagines St. Francis of Assisi as a character in modern New York.
The libretto and concept by Gian Marco Lo Forte is based on the 14th century book of poems in vulgar Italian Little Flowers and includes an original polyphonic score for 5 voices called mottetti composed by Sasha Zamler-Carhart layered and juxtaposed with electroacoustic live voice processing and music inspired by New York City's street noise composed by Ryan Carter. The intimate setting will include art and projections by visual artist Mark Tambella, choreography by Philip Montana and puppetry and masks made with garbage and savaged materials by Cathy Shaw and Abby Felder to evoke ancient festivities in Umbria and in Medieval Italy.
"I Fioretti in Musica- Opera in Danza" includes 4 important events in the life of Saint Francis: Assuming a life of Simplicity, Preaching to the birds, Taming the wolf and Welcoming the thieves to the monastery. These chapters are an exquisite expression of the religious life of the Middle Ages. Their peculiar charm and atmosphere comes from the early Franciscan spirit: a childlike faith, a lively sense of the supernatural and a simple literalness.
Gian Marco Lo Forte (libretto, concept & direction, design): www.pioneersgoeast.org
Ryan Carter (electronic composer): www.ryancarter.org
Sasha Zamler-Carhart (vocal composer) www.zamler-carhart.com
Philip Montana (choreographer)
Angela Wendt (costume design): www.angela.wendt.net
Jane Catherine Shaw (puppet design): www.janecatherineshaw.com
Mark Tambella (paintings & drawings): Paintings @ www.johndavisgallery.com
Ji-youn Francesca Chang (lighting design): www.Jiyounchangdesign.com
George Drance (assistant director): www.magistheatre.org
A Play of Miracle
by Kelly Aliano, offoffonline.com
Every once in a while, there is a work of theater that is remarkable in some way: thrilling, touching, unforgettable. More infrequently than even that, on the rarest of rare moments, there is a production that is not only somehow remarkable but also pure art, a representation of what theater can (and perhaps should) be. I Fiorretti in Musica – Opera in Danza presented by Pioneers go East Company is one such work. In its sheer simplicity, it is utter genius.
The play tells the story of Saint Francis, divided into four chapters: “Assuming a Life of Simplicity,” “Preaching to the Birds,” “Taming the Wolf,” and “Thieves and Beggars.” Yet any attempt at summarizing would not even remotely approximate what this production actually is. The story being told – one of self-sacrifice, forgiveness, and faith – would be compelling in its own right. This play, however, rather than being a traditional theatrical narrative, is an exploration of the various elements that can combine in the theater. The piece incorporates music, dance, painting, poetry, puppetry, and junk sculpture, emphasizing just how integrative of an art form theater can be.
The storytelling elements are isolated from one another; no character who sings also performs in the central action. Rather, the various components seem strategically layered one upon another. This technique adds a unique richness to the piece while also highlighting how limited traditional storytelling may, in fact, be. All of the pieces of the theatrical puzzle compliment each other beautifully, from the way light reflects off of costumes to how the music pairs with the dance movements.
There are truly memorable, striking moments in this play. In the first chapter, the ensemble surrounding Francesco pelt shoes at him, cruelly and maliciously. Yet Francesco engages them in a game, forgiving them instantly and offering to them the chance to follow him. This moment is touching and profoundly human. Each of these episodes is punctuated with paintings projected onto the backdrop and poetic text describing what is happening in the scene. These elements add to the richness of the overall work. Although any individual component would tell a certain aspect of the tale, by bringing them all together, the story is rendered in a multifaceted manner that no single element could present.
Life appears to spring forth in this performance. The random trash and scraps of paper that are assembled to create a slew of birds seem to come alive through the careful choreography of the puppeteers' motions. The set is evocative, showing ways in which mundane detritus can become the most magical of playlands. The use of everyday household objects to create the world of the story goes beyond the merely clever. At times, it is so well-conceived that it borders on the astonishing.
This is a special work of theater. It takes a heartfelt tale and presents it in new and innovative ways. There are moments within this performance that will linger long after the house lights come on. Perhaps, these moments will stick with the viewer for a long time to come. For this reason, I Fioretti in Musica is a production not to be missed.