Magdalene

Beth Morrison Projects, Danielle Birrittella, Zoe Aja Moore, and Marie Howe
WEST COAST PREMIERE

About

Magdalene is a chamber opera in thirteen movements—a wild meditation on transformation and desire scored by the collective voice of fourteen women composers: Leila Adu, Ruby Kato Attwood, Danielle Birrittella, Sheena Birrittella, Christina Courtin, Gabrielle Herbst, Molly Joyce, Emma O’Halloran, Tanner Porter, Ellen Reid, Kamala Sankaram, Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir, Annika Socolofsky, and Gyða Valtýsdóttir. Set to Marie Howe’s Magdalene poems, the opera invites an audience into the interior world of the archetypal figure Mary Magdalene—enlarging her to cross time and space, she appears as a woman alive now, who strives to heal the unyielding split between the sacred and the sexual. Encountering her life in flashes—wandering through a hotel, lighting birthday candles, making love in the ocean—Magdalene finds transcendence in the mundane to finally become the subject of her own story.

 

The program includes post-show talks on June 5, 7 and 8 with the cast and creative team.

Please note: Magdalene contains nudity and mature content.

A breath of pure creative power.

David Salazar, OperaWire

Produced and co-presented by Beth Morrison Projects.

Commissioned and produced by PROTOTYPE Festival, a partnership between Beth Morrison Projects and HERE. Premiered at the PROTOTYPE Festival 2020. The production of Magdalene received funding from OPERA America’s Opera Fund. This project was made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

about the artists

Beth Morrison Projects

Beth Morrison Projects (BMP) is one of the foremost creators and producers of new opera-theatre and music theatre, with a fierce commitment to leading the industry into the future, cultivating a new generation of talent, and telling the stories of our time.

Founded by “contemporary opera mastermind” (LA Times) Beth Morrison, who was honored as one of Musical America’s Artists of the Year/Agents of Change in 2020 and a Kennedy Center Next50 in 2022, BMP has grown into “a driving force behind America’s thriving opera scene” (Financial Times), with Opera News declaring that the company, “more than any other… has helped propel the art form into the twenty-first century.”

Operating across the US and internationally, with offices in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, BMP’s unique model offers living composers the support, guidance, and freedom to experiment, allowing them to create singularly innovative and impactful projects. Since forming in 2006, the company has commissioned, developed, produced and toured over 60 works in 14 countries around the world, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning chamber operas Angel’s Bone and p r i s m.

In 2013, BMP co-founded the PROTOTYPE Festival with HERE Arts Center, which has been called “utterly essential” (The New York Times), “indispensable” (The New Yorker), and “one of the world’s top festivals of contemporary opera and theater” (Associated Press)

Website

 

Danielle Birrittella

Danielle Birrittella (Performer/Co-Creator) is a California-based performer, composer, and creator of new works. Her “high, crystalline soprano” (The Wall Street Journal) has been said to “deliver a delicacy that is emotionally tranquilizing” (Georgie Magazine). As a performer, Danielle has been called “mesmerizing… as hypnotic to watch as she is to hear” (Parterre), “exposed, intelligent, earnest… powerful and persuasive” (The New York Times), possessing a “radiant, almost angelic presence” (Financial Times). As a composer, Danielle has been lauded as, “something of a nostalgic enigma with a penchant for impeccably balanced songwriting” (Pop Matters). Danielle is the creator of Sonnets To Orpheus, an immersive song cycle set to Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry, the co-creator of Magdalene, and the creator of the forthcoming opera, Sentinel. Performances include: PROTOTYPE Festival, Disney Hall’s REDCAT, LAX Festival, The Chautauqua Institute, The Standard, The Ace, Sofar Sounds, Bootleg Theater, Automata Arts, La Musica Lirica (Italy), La Main d’Or (France), and the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba. In addition to working as an artist, Danielle practices as a licensed depth psychotherapist. She holds degrees from NYU (BA), Pacifica Graduate Institute (MA), and California Institute of the Arts (MFA) in Theatre and Vocal Performance.

Instagram / X / Facebook / Website

 

Zoe Aja Moore

Zoe Aja Moore (Director/Co-Creator) is an artist and director who uses experimental and rigorous theatrical practices to make performance, theater, opera, and participatory events. Her work has been presented by The Tank, The Ohio Theater, Williamstown Theater Festival, The Theater at the Ace Hotel, Bootleg Theater, The LAX Festival, REDCAT, home LA, Los Angeles Road Concerts, ltd los angeles, Automata, National Sawdust,  Studio Teatrgaleria Warsaw, CalArts’ Center for New Performance, HERE Art Center, Prototype Festival, Long Beach Opera, The Ford, SFMOMA, National Gallery of Singapore, Los Angeles Philharmonic, UC Santa Barbara, University of Michigan, and LACMA among others. Originally from New York City, Zoe is a member of the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab and holds an MFA in Directing from the California Institute of the Arts.

 

Marie Howe

Marie Howe (Poet) is the author of four volumes of poetry: Magdalene: Poems; The Kingdom of Ordinary Time; The Good Thief; and What the Living Do, and she is the co-editor of a book of essays, In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, AGNI, Ploughshares, Harvard Review, and The Partisan Review, among others. She has been a fellow at the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College and a recipient of NEA and Guggenheim fellowships, and Stanley Kunitz selected Howe for a Lavan Younger Poets Prize from the American Academy of Poets. In 2015, she received the Academy of American Poets Poetry Fellowship which recognizes distinguished poetic achievement. From 2012-2014, she served as the Poet Laureate of New York State.

 

Leila Adu

Leila Adu (Composer) is an astonishing force in the space where electropop, avant-classical, and singer-songwriter meet. Exploring her roots in New Zealand, Britain, and Ghana, Adu is an international artist who has performed at festivals and venues across the world. Compared to Nina Simone and Joanna Newsome by WNYC, Adu has released five acclaimed albums, and has given visionary solo BBC and WQXR performances. Adu holds a PhD from Princeton University in music composition.

 

Ruby Kato Attwood

Ruby Kato Attwood (Composer) is an artist living in Tio’tia:ke (Montréal, Canada). Attwood received her BFA in Studio Arts from Concordia University in 2006. Attwood’s practice engages interdisciplinary media techniques, collaboration, and political and historical discourses in the milieus of new and rock music.

 

Sheena Birrittella

Sheena Birrittella (Composer) is a Los Angeles-based composer. A graduate of CalArts and the UCLA Film Scoring Program, she has applied her versatile composing abilities to an array of works for film, media, and live performances. In addition, Birrittella composes for production company We Are All In, Bleeding Fingers Music, and Imaginary Friends Music Partners.

 

Christina Courtin

Christina Courtin (Composer) is a multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, composer, and arranger. She has released four solo recordings of her original songs, one recording with her synth band Pilot Violet, several recordings as a member of the Knights (including a Grammy nomination in 2016), and has contributed to multiple film scores, commercials, TV shows, concerts, and artistic endeavors in a plethora of ways. 

 

Gabrielle Herbst

Gabrielle Herbst (Composer) is a composer and vocalist. She has premiered her compositions at venues, including Roulette, National Sawdust, The Stone, Issue Project Room, HERE Arts Center, and MATA. She studied at Bard College and currently attends Yale School of Music where she studies composition with Martin Bresnick, Aaron Jay Kernis, and David Lang, and released her sophomore album, Empty Me, on Double Double Whammy in 2018. 

 

Molly Joyce

Molly Joyce’s (Composer) music has been described as of “serene power” (The New York Times) and “superb effect” (The Wire). Her work has been featured at TEDxMidAtlantic, Bang on a Can, Pitchfork, and WNYC’s New Sounds. Joyce often sings and plays with her vintage toy organ, and studied at The Juilliard School, Royal Conservatory of The Hague, and Yale School of Music. 

 

Emma O’Halloran

Praised by I Care If You Listen for writing “some of the most unencumbered, authentic, and joyful music that I have heard in recent years,” Irish composer Emma O’Halloran (Composer) is known for her unabashed embrace of pop influences. Freely intertwining acoustic and electronic music, she has written for folk musicians, chamber ensembles, turntables, laptop orchestra, symphony orchestra, film, and theater. 

 

Tanner Porter

Tanner Porter (Composer) is a composer-performer and songwriter from California. In her “original art songs that are by turns seductive and confessional” (Steve Smith, The New Yorker), Porter explores her love of storytelling. Tanner’s work has been performed at New Music Detroit’s Strange Beautiful Music, the 2018 New Music Gathering, and in Carnegie Hall. Porter received degrees in Music Composition from the University of Michigan and from the Yale School of Music.

 

Ellen Reid

Ellen Reid (Composer) is a composer and sound artist. Her work has been hailed as “ineffably moving” by Mark Swed of the LA Times, “radiant” by Alex Ross of The New Yorker, and it’s been said that her vocal writing would “make you believe that the mythical sirens really existed” (KCRW). Recent projects include: dreams of the new world commissioned by Los Angeles Master Chorale, Petrichor commissioned by LACO, HOPSCOTCH with The Industry (directed by. Yuval Sharon), and a sound installation for HBO.

 

Kamala Sankaram

Praised as “one of the most exciting opera composers in the country” (The Washington Post), composer Kamala Sankaram(Composer) moves freely between the worlds of experimental music and contemporary opera. Known for her work pushing the boundaries of the operatic form, she has created operas as varied as The Last Stand, a 10-hour opera created for the trees of Prospect Park, Brooklyn; Looking at You, techno-noir featuring live datamining of the audience and a chorus of 25 singing tablet computers; all decisions will be made by consensus, one of the first live performances over Zoom; and The Parksville Murders, the world’s first virtual reality opera. 

 

Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir

Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir (Composer) hails from the peripheries of Iceland. Within her works, Snæbjörnsdóttir seeks to establish an internal logic from which the soundscapes emerge, sometimes integrating visual and aural phenomena into an indivisible whole. Her work has been performed widely and by groups such as the Oslo Philharmonic (Norway), International Contemporary Ensemble ICE (US), and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra (Iceland).She has received recognition from the International Harp Competition in Japan and was the 2nd prize winner at the Rencontres Internationales de la Harpe in France.

 

Annika Socolofsky

Annika Socolofsky (Composer) is a US composer and avant-folk vocalist. She has collaborated with artists such as the Rochester Philharmonic, Albany Symphony, Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Eighth Blackbird, Third Coast Percussion, Sō Percussion, and Iarla Ó Lionáird. Socolofsky is a doctoral candidate in composition at Princeton University where her research focuses on Dolly Parton’s vocal technique and interpretation as compositional practice. 

 

Gyða Valtýsdóttir

Gyða Valtýsdóttir (Composer) is a versatile performer, cellist, and composer. She was a founding member of the experimental dream-pop band múm in her early teens before leaving the band to finish her classical education. Along with her solo projects, Valtýsdóttir writes music for films, dance, and installations. Her albums Epicycle (2016) and Evolution (2018) both won the album of the year at the Iceland music awards.

cast & creative team

CAST

Danielle Birrittella & Ariana Daub 

 

CREATIVE

Danielle Birrittella (Co-Creator & Performer) 

Zoe Aja Moore (Co-Creator & Director) 

Marie Howe (Poet) 

Mila Henry (Conductor) 

Leila Adu (Composer)

Ruby Kato Attwood (Composer) 

Sheena Birrittella (Composer) 

Christina Courtin (Composer) 

Gabrielle Herbst (Composer) 

Molly Joyce (Composer) 

Emma O’Halloran (Composer) 

Tanner Porter (Composer) 

Kamala Sankaram (Composer) 

Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir (Composer) 

Annika Socolofsky (Composer) 

Gyða Valtýsdóttir (Composer) 

Ellen Reid (Composer) 

Hana Kim & Randy Wong-Westbrooke (Scenic Designer) 

Emilie Sabath & Keith Skretch (Video Designers) 

Christopher Kuhl (Lighting Designer) 

Emilie Sabath & Chris Lael Larson (Cinematographers)

Lacausa (Costume Designer) 

Ariana Daub (Assistant Choreographer) 

Beth Morrison Projects (Producer

trailer