Random Inspiration in a Bookstore

-by Amy Noe Dudas-

The Fifth Third Bank Theater at Aranoff Center in Cincinnati is a small, open concept venue which recently(July 21,2017) staged Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt by composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek. Andy and I were so moved by this production and found it an illustration of our vision for DIVA.

Mazzoli was inspired after she found a publication of Isabelle Eberhardt’s recovered journal pages in a bookstore. Eberhardt fled to Algeria after the death of her family. Disguised as a man, she converted to Islam and joined a Sufi order, exploring the desert. After surviving a suicide pact with her lover and an assassination attempt by a religious fanatic, Eberhardt died in a flash flood at the age of 27.

Using a simple set of a single tree in a black box theater and creating complex effects only with hanging scrims and lighting, director Marco Pelle gave us a mesmerizing production that moved us to tears. Conductor Keitaro Harada led concert:nova through the score for only five instruments (flute, clarinet, piano, bass, and electric guitar). The cast, made up of six vocalists (including mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer in the title role) and three members of the Cincinnati ballet, kept us on the edge of our seats as they told Eberhardt’s story in this phenomenal multimedia work.

The Wall Street Journal called it “powerful.” The New York Times referred to it as a “captivating multimedia spectacle.” The Cincinnati Enquirer perfectly labeled it as “intoxicating.” We barely moved throughout the entire 1 hour, 20 minute performance.

It is important to us to support venues like this that promote progressive works by artists who may not have otherwise had an opportunity to give voice to their inspiration. This production represents the first time in its 97-year history that the Cincinnati Opera has produced a work by a female composer. We hope, on a perhaps smaller scale (at first), to provide similar opportunities for any artist who may not otherwise have a forum to give his or her art a voice. We may need some time to get it moving, but stay tuned to see how you can be a part of this exciting new venture.


Amy Noe Dudas

This image of the stage is a perfect view of how this show was produced.  Minimal and powerful.

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