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ART: Opera's subject: trio of artists from pre-WWI Eastern Europe


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New Guinness Record

Carnegie University
School of Fine Arts
By Marcel Marco (here)  

Saturday, March 28, 2009
Composer Jason Hoogerhyde will be the first to tell you it was intimidating to think about writing and producing an opera about three seminal artists - Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky, German artist Gabriele Mьnter and Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg - whose work and collaborative ideas had a seismic impact on culture in the early 20th century and still reverberates today.
     "It's difficult for a composer to write an opera about a composer," Hoogerhyde says.
     But Hoogerhyde did. He collaborated with his colleagues, theater artist Sergio Costola and art historian Kim Smith, and this weekend "The Color of Dissonance"
, directed by Alexander Iliev  will get its premiere at Southwestern University, where all three are on the faculty.
     The opera follows the ideas of Kandinsky, Mьnter and Schoenberg during the brief period when their lives intersected. On the eve of World War I, the trio together developed new artistic theories, advocating an intuitive, spontaneous approach to art, not an intellectual one. They espoused abstraction and a break from realism. They published treatises and organized exhibits and concerts. And while World War I put an end to their collaboration, their avant-garde ideas of abstraction continued, shaping the course of the arts.
"These artists moved from a common artistic language to a pluralistic language," Hoogerhyde says. "They were interested at looking inward, rather than at the external world. And we're still feeling the ramifications of that today."

Perhaps it's serendipity then that it took such a contemporary collaboration to create a multimedia-laced opera about such pluralistic personalities as Kandinsky, Mьnter and Schoenberg. "The Color of Dissonance" involves a nearly 100-member cast of singers, dancers and actors and live continuously changing digital projections of about 7,000 images.

Perhaps it wasn't really serendipity. When the leaders at Southwestern University's Sarofim School of the Arts went looking for a production to celebrate the renovation of the school's Alma Thomas Theater, they wanted something that would incorporate all the artistic disciplines.
     Kandinsky, Mьnter and Schoenberg seemed a natural focus to the trio of Southwestern faculty. "The were trying to create a new art and in turn change society," Costola says. "And they sought to involve the body, mind and spirit to create that conflict between the individual personality and society."
     Hoogerhyde, Costola and Smith collaborated on the libretto of "The Color of Dissonance" using text culled from the correspondence and writings of Kandinsky, Mьnter and Schoenberg. The approximately 100-minute opera is divided into five scenes, each focusing on a single important moment when the lives of three artists intersected.
     Each of the roles is triple cast with a singer, a dancer and an actor portraying Kandinsky, Mьnter and Schoenberg, usually with the three embodiments of each character on stage at the same time. Southwestern vocal faculty members sing the leads; baritones Bruce Cain and Oliver Worthington and mezzo-soprano Carol Kreuscher. Southwestern student round out the cast while the orchestra is a mix of students and faculty.
     Costola and his crew mined Kandinsky's and Mьnter's paintings, Schoenberg's hand-written musical scores as well as historic film footage and photographs to assemble a vast collection of images that make for the bulk of the production's visual setting. Advanced software allows five images to be projected at once with some just alighting on a dancers body or on one portion of the large backdrop screen.
     For his part, Hoogerhyde didn't want to borrow from Schцnberg's very specific atonal style.
"The music is really my own neo-tonal language, but it involves a lot of quotations from and homage to Schoeberg," says Hoogerhyde. "It wouldn't have been right to imitate (someone else)."
Surely, the highly individualistic Kandinsky, Mьnter and Schoenberg would have no doubt agreed.
'The Color of Dissonance'
When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Alma Thomas Theater, Southwestern University, 1001 University Ave., Georgetown
Cost: $15 ($12 seniors, $10 students and youths)
Information: 512-863-1378, www.southwestern.edu/boxoffice




     Bulgarian Mime Teaches Actors Movement from the Ground Up

     by Dean Poynor (3/12/2009)


       When Dr. Alexandar Iliev speaks, his voice is calm and relaxed. But don’t let his disarming lilt fool you, this man has seen the world, and knows more than he lets on. This past month, “Sasha” Iliev spent a week with CMU undergraduate actors and directors working on all aspects of movement, both for theatre and for life.
       Who is Sasha Iliev? It’s easier to ask who he is not. A theatre professor at the NATFIZ school in Sofia, Bulgaria since the early 1990’s, Dr. Iliev is also a self-described sports enthusiast / anthropologist / theatre director / mime / teacher / guru. He has studied so many approaches to theatre, and the connections between body and mind, that one cannot imagine how he has fit them into a single lifetime.
       As an example:

  • Sasha Iliev speaks 11 languages, ranging from his native Bulgarian (“perfect”) to Ancient Greek (“good.”)
  • Sasha Iilev once gave a mime show near the peak of Mt. Everest, recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest performance ever made.
  • Sasha Iliev has studied theatre around the world, from Dervish dance in Turkey, to traditional puppet theatre in Indonesia, to Tibetan mystery Cham in Nepal, to Chinese Zin Zyu theatre with the Beijing Opera. He has also studied various systems of acting from Russian Stanislavski, to German Brecht, to Italian Commedia Dell’Arte.
  • Sasha Iliev has studied martial arts, including Chinese Kung fu, Japanese Aikido, karate, and judo, and Vietnamese voo dao. He has also learned from various yoga traditions including Tibetan Djam tso massage, Raja Yoga, Agni Yoga, and Chinese An Muo “sportsmen’s massage.”

In addition to this extensive training, Dr. Iliev also tours the world giving workshops, on various subjects. This past Saturday, Sasha brought his tremendous experience to CMU during a workshop designed around the Mack Sennet system of physical comedy. Sennet, an early silent film artist, and contemporary of Charley Chaplin, developed a complete series of movements that would translate to the demands of silent film, while providing maximum comic effect. His techniques were crystallized in the films of the Keystone Cops.
       As actors explored these techniques, they found themselves running, rolling, falling, and slapping their way through an increasingly complex maze of patterns and movements. The system was designed to be infinitely repeatable, to accommodate the demanding film schedule and multiple “takes” for each shot. Students learned to work the silent gag, fall gag, slapstick, and nonsense, in a way that they could incorporate in theatre work. This workshop was far more than simply “stage combat” work (though Sasha Iliev teaches that, too.) It was an approach to working with other actors, and one’s own body, to produce heightened comic effects, through precise movements, that were motivated by a character’s needs. As a result, this workshop was a memorable and exciting experience for everyone involved.
       So who knows where Sasha Iliev will turn up next? Perhaps not even the master himself.


       The Color of Dissonance

     April 3-5, 2009 Graphic Design copyright Tyler King (2009)
     An opera premiering April 3rd – 5th
     Original opera to be performed at Southwestern




       Two years of multidisciplinary, international collaboration will come to fruition in April as Southwestern University’s Sarofim School of Fine Arts presents the premiere of an original opera called “The Color of Dissonance.”
       The opera is based on the correspondence between Russian artist Wassily Kandinksy, German artist Gabriele Mьnter and Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg in the period just before World War I. Their artistic collaboration played an important role in the development of modernism in Western music and art from 1911 to 1914.
       The project began two years ago when faculty members in the Sarofim School of Fine Arts were brainstorming what could be done to commemorate the renovation and addition to the university’s Fine Arts Center.
       “We wanted to create an original production that would bring music, theatre and art together,” said Kim Smith, associate professor of art history. “We cast about for times in history when music, theatre and art history came together, and this seemed like a natural fit.”
       Smith helped write the libretto for the opera along with Sergio Costola, assistant professor of theatre, and Jason Hoogerhyde, assistant professor of music. Hoogerhyde also wrote the score for it. The three received funds to stage the production from a grant The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation gave Southwestern to help faculty members develop collaborative projects.

       The opera’s music will be brought to life by 100 performers, including the SU Orchestra conducted by Lois Ferrari and the SU Chorale conducted by Kenny Sheppard. SU vocal faculty Bruce Cain, Carol Kreuscher, and Oliver Worthington will perform as soloists.

       Smith said the title of the opera comes from references Schoenberg and Kandinsky made to “dissonance as the new consonance” in modern art and music.
       Unlike more traditional stagings of operas, the setting of “The Color of Dissonance” will be created and continuously recreated during the performance by projected images, video and text, as well as by objects moved by dancers.
       “Since this opera is about the development of modernism in the arts, we wanted to replace traditional ways of doing things with more modern ways,” Hoogerhyde said. “This will enable us to highlight the artwork in ways we couldn’t do with a traditional set.”
       To help create the multimedia backdrops, the Southwestern faculty members turned to Jeff Burke, the executive director of the Center for Research in Engineering, Media and Performance at UCLA. Burke is collaborating with a team of Southwestern visual arts students on the backdrops.
       Burke, Costola and Jared J. Stein, another assistant professor of theatre at Southwestern, recruited renowned Bulgarian choreographer and performance anthropologist Alexandar (“Sasha”) Iliev to direct the production. Burke, Costola, Stein and Iliev are all members of Fourthworld Theatre Projects, an international theatre company based out of New York.
       “We needed a director with a strong vision who could bring the libretto to life,” Costola said. “Sasha has helped us incorporate pantomime, dance and other physical forms of theatre into the production. He also has helped us incorporate some theatrical techniques that were developed in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. The cast will include two of Iliev’s students from the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria.
       Hoogerhyde’s score for the opera, while written in a 21st century language, employs several quotations of, and homages to Schoenberg’s music. These references serve as catalysts for new musical directions throughout the opera’s five scenes.
       The Sarofim School of Fine Arts will stage the premiere performance of an original production entitled The Color of Dissonance, a creative adaptation of the correspondence between Kandinsky, Mьnter, and Schoenberg, whose artistic collaboration played an important role in the development of modernism in Western music and art during the period 1911-14.
       In the spirit of the remarkable and cross-disciplinary collaboration between Kandinsky, Mьnter, and Schoenberg, The Color of Dissonance brings together theater, music, and art within a single production, and features an original score composed by Jason Hoogerhyde, Assistant Professor in Southwestern’s Music Department. The friendship between these three figures will be recounted with dramatic and historical integrity, offering a window onto this pivotal moment in early twentieth-century culture. We encourage the audience to engage thoughtfully with this history, and to recognize the potential of interdisciplinary projects to transcend convention.
       In conjunction with the performance of The Color of Dissonance, a one-day symposium will be held on Friday, April 3rd before the opening performance. The symposium features specialists from the fields of German cultural, music, and art history, and will provide a critical and historical context for the performances of the opera.

       Color of Dissonance Symposium, Friday, April 3, Alma Thomas Theater

       10:30 a.m.    “Occultism and the Creative Unconscious in Fin-de-Siиcle Germany” by Corinna Treitel, Department of History, Washington University
       1:30 p.m.    “Mьnter and Kandinsky’s Masquerade of Modern Love” by Bibiana Obler, Department of Fine Arts & Art History, George Washington University
       2:30 p.m.    “‘The Air of Another Planet: Kandinsky, Schoenberg, and Stefan George’s Entrьckung” by Severine Neff, Department of Music, University of North Carolina
       4:00 p.m.    “Making Modernism in Central Texas” by Sergio Costola, Theater Department; Jason Hoogerhyde, Music Department; Kimberly Smith, Art & Art History Department, Southwestern University
       Questions about the symposium can be directed to Kim Smith.
       Questions about the original music created for this production can be directed to composer Jason Hoogerhyde.
       Questions about the opera and its performance can be directed to Sergio Costola .

Posted February 25, 2009



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October 7, 2005 08:42 AM | Permalink

     Bulgarian mime performs to beat own Guinness record
     Every single news section should have a bit of the absurd. Keeping in line with this belief, I have decided to cover the famous and powerful art of mimes.
     Popular Bulgarian mime artist Alexander Iliev is set to smash his own Guinness record by staging a 26-hour performance. The mime marathon includes hundreds of different pantomime pieces, dances of Eastern European countries, clown sketches, circus acts and variety tricks, as well as dances with original national masks from the repertoire of the greatest mime masters in the world.

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15:00 Thu 12 Jul 2001 - By Rozalia Hristova

Alexander Iliev
   A unique mime marathon took place at Zlatni Pyasutsi (Golden Sands) resort near Varna this week and applied to be entered in the Guinness Book of World Records. Popular Bulgarian mime artist Alexander Iliev performed for 24 hours in the show that started on Tuesday at 10am and ended at 10am on Wednesday. Iliev was acting on an amphitheatric stage surrounded by grass in the centre of the resort. Ralitsa Georgieva, a young mime artist, also participated in the show.
   The mime marathon included more than 400 different pantomime pieces, eastern dances, clown sketches, circus acts and variety tricks, as well as dances with original national masks from the repertoire of the greatest mime masters in the world. The actor’s performance was accompanied by a variety of musical pieces ranging from traditional Chinese and Tibetan songs, classical and jazz music, to contemporary Bulgarian and international pop songs.
   “During marathons of this kind, the mime artist loses over 10kg of his weight,” Iliev explained. “He walks more than 140 miles on stage and drinks more than 40 litres of water.”
   The performer was allowed to have a one-minute break every hour. He said that the preparation for such a marathon was very complex. “Your body needs exposure to various physical stresses, coordination and balance exercises, and daily workouts. It’s all a matter of accumulating skill and being in good physical shape.”
   This was not the first artistic marathon for Iliev. In 1992, he entered the Guinness Book of World Records with a 24-hour mime marathon and then, in 1994, beat his own record by performing for 25 consecutive hours. This week’s marathon could be a new record as it was held outdoors for the first time.
   Iliev also found his way into the Guinness files with his participation in the so-called Everest marathon with the highest staged concert ever at 5,350m above sea level in 1996.
   His partner in the mime marathon, Georgieva, said that she volunteered to take part in the adventure. Her longest performance before the marathon was a three-hour play at the National Theatre and Film Academy where she studies. “I will try to reach and even break the record next summer,” Georgieva said. She plans to train this summer by performing mime sketches in the streets. She said she admires her teacher and wants to become at least as good at mime art as he is.
   “I am not really interested in breaking a record and getting into the Guinness Book of World Records,” said Iliev. “This is first of all a patriotic marathon. We want to attract a maximum number of foreign tourists.” The actor said his performance was also a way to present Bulgaria in a more unusual way and to offer unconventional forms of tourism. “We do not compare to the impression that the Rila Monastery, for example, gives foreign tourists. We just want them to have unusual, even bizarre memories of the country.”
   The marathon was also a stage to promote and sell the new travel guide of Bulgaria, which was written by Iliev and Evgeni Dinchev. Editions of “A Guidebook To Bulgaria” in Bulgarian and English can be bought in bookstores and at Slaveikov Square in Sofia.