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For immediate release: Sept. 24, 2002

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Chamber Opera to Complement Cezanne Exhibition at Princeton University Art Museum

Opera Dates: October 22 and 23, 2002, 8:00 p.m., Taplin Auditorium, Fine Hall, Princeton University


Praise for Cézanne's Doubt:

"Though Cézanne's creative angst is not realized in a traditional manner -- this is about as far from verismo as opera can get -- there is something in the aching, fragile, otherworldly beauty of the instrumental music that captures the essence of the subject." -- Opera News August 1998

"Cézanne's Doubt…is a strange and strangely moving exploration into the tortured mind of the great painter, the conflict that played out in him between expression and order… Some of it seemed to hover as long, unwavering lines right at the edge of perception; then would come an arc of sound, a melody like a clear burst of color worthy of Cézanne himself." -- LA Weekly, August 1998

PRINCETON, NJ - Cezanne's Doubt, a chamber opera for solo voice, clarinet, tuba, cello, audio and video processing by Daniel Rothman, will be performed October 22 and 23, 2002, at Princeton University.

The two musical performances, sponsored by Friends of the Princeton University Art Museum, are planned in conjunction with the museum's special exhibition "Cézanne in Focus: Watercolors from the Henry and Rose Pearlman Collection." Opening on Saturday, October 19, 2002, the exhibition will be on view in the special exhibition gallery through January 12, 2003.

The opera was inspired by French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty's seminal essay, which explores the painter's crisis between experience and expression. Since the only character is Cézanne, who does not flail himself around a stage in existential torment, it is not opera in any traditional sense. But the actual subject, the synthesis and expression of an experience, is both an ordinary and extraordinary crisis, perfectly human and brilliantly characterized by Cézanne.

Cézanne's obsession with sight brought him beyond the boundaries of mid-nineteenth century painting's aesthetic conventions, seeking a way to express an object in the act of appearing rather than its mere representation. But unlike the Impressionists, of whom he felt that objects in their paintings were submerged, lost their proper weight, and were broken up in the spectrum, Cézanne graduated colors with a progression of chromatic nuances across the object's form and to the light it receives.

Cézanne's doubt not only manifests from his artistic obsessions but he also wondered if the novelty of his painting might not come from trouble with his eyes -- that his life was somehow based on an accident of his body. Giacometti, in conversation with James Lord, often referred to Cézanne's inability to finish a piece, slashing his canvases after hundreds of sittings. He was reclusive with moods swinging wildly between extreme arrogance and despair. And Emile Zola, his longtime friend, abandoned him as a "failure and suicide."

Cézanne's Doubt takes place in Cézanne's mind: his words with Zola, his self reflection, his letters to his son Paul, and Baudelaire's poem Une Charogne. The poem mediates between Cézanne's visual revelations, Rothman's musical ones -- of a microtonal palette of tuned multiphonics, upper spectra harmonics, and subtle acoustic signal processing that is as much about hearing as Cézanne's is about seeing, and the processed projected video by artists Elliot Anderson and Jim Campbell, itself a narrative of perception.

The Princeton performances, by Richard Lalli (baritone), David Smeyers (clarinet), William Roper (tuba), Ted Mook (cello), and Kent Clelland (electronics) with video processing by Elliot Anderson and Jim Campbell, will be the world premiere of a new version of the opera. Six years, several performances, and its CD recording on New World Records later, these performances of Cézanne's Doubt replace Wadada Leo Smith on the trumpet with William Roper on the tuba. In the following excerpt, Daniel Rothman explains his decision to rewrite the part for a new instrument and performer.

When I first thought about Cézanne's Doubt as a chamber opera exploring the crisis of expression, its small ensemble of clarinet, trumpet and cello made ambiguous the relationship between their narrative roles and the subtle ways in which they extend the harmonic palette of our musical tradition. While the opera claimed to be as much about hearing as about seeing, the trumpet through Wadada Leo Smith's unique character became the non-verbal inner voice of Cézanne as it was sung by Tom Buckner.

My own artistic sensibilities evolved during the past six years, and the opera's many performances began to appear to me as a musically formalized reflection on a dynamic problem, particularly as the visual aspect of the work by the artists Elliot Anderson and Jim Campbell changed relative to the time and place. While the trumpet had effectively identified with the character of Cézanne, I began to feel that my own primary interest in perception was subordinated. And as the life of the opera through these past six years prepared the theme with this narrative, the work now seems ready to depart from its civilized situation. In other words, if it was conceptualized metaphorically, it must continue to take its audience on an exploration or face becoming only a story about an explorer.

By replacing the opera's most sympathetic instrumental voice with one that may, in Merleau-Ponty's words, intensify the graduation of colors in "a progression of chromatic nuances across the object's form to the light it receives," the work introduces a new quality of attention. This decision also underscores the very problem of art: if a work, a style, an aesthetic appeals to us, what is the purpose of changing or abandoning it? The answer can only be that that is the responsibility of the artist and failing to do so would fail Cézanne.

The Composer

Daniel Rothman composed Cézanne's Doubt in 1996, with support from the National Endowment of the Arts, for the singer and advocate of new music, Tom Buckner, who sang its premiere at the Steirischer Herbst's Musikprotokoll festival 1996 (Austria). Cézanne's Doubt, featuring Mr. Buckner, is available on New World Records.

Originally from New York City, Rothman lives in Los Angeles, where he is on the Critical Studies faculty at California Institute of the Arts, and founded both Wires Center for New & Experimental Music and the esoteric recording label Los Angeles River Records.

The Performers

Kent Clelland is a composer and audio/media software developer currently residing in Berlin. Concentrating on the role of computers in live-event productions, Clelland's music and experiments range from soundtracks for avant garde short films to dance theatre productions, from traditional concert hall settings to dance club live-sets. During the early 1990s he began designing and fabricating his own tools suited specifically to his artistic needs, cobbling together discarded electronics and hacking together computer programs. Clelland's interest in the correspondance between modern hierarchical software developement tools and the architectural aspects of musical structure are synthesized in his approach to software development as a compositional process; his writings on that subject are published in the proceedings of Sonic Acts 2001: the Art of Programming. His latest computer music program, "NI-Spektral Delay", which won the 2002 musical instruments international press award for most innovative product, is available exclusively through Native Instruments [www.native-instruments.com]. Selections of Clelland's avantgarde computer music can be heard online at http://fals.ch under the artist name 'kent.'

Richard Lalli is an associate professor of music at Yale University, where he has taught since 1982. He currently conducts the Yale Collegium Musicum, an ensemble established by Paul Hindemith in the 1940's devoted to early music. The Collegium often performs works from manuscripts in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscripts Library in New Haven; this year they will present what might well be the modern premiere of secular cantatas and an oratorio by Alessandro Scarlatti.

Mr. Lalli performs around the world as a singer. He has given solo recitals at Wigmore Hall, the Spoleto Festival USA, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, Merkin Hall in New York, Salle Cortot, and the United States Embassy in Paris. During the Schubert bicentenary year Lalli presented the three Schubert cycles at Yale University, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and in Paris. During the past few seasons he has been particularly active in the performance of chamber music, performing Schoenberg's Ode to Napoleon on the Lincoln Center Chamber Players series at Alice Tully Hall, and appearing with the Boston Camerata, the Arcadia Players, Sequitur, and ARTEK. As a pianist he has participated in chamber music programs with the Mirror Visions Ensemble in Weill Recital Hall, Town Hall, and in Paris, London, Stockholm, Basel, Edinburgh, and Budapest. And in recent seasons, Lalli has premiered works by Yehudi Wyner, Kathryn Alexander, Tom Cipullo, Christopher Berg, Richard Wilson, Lewis Spratlan, Francine Trester, Ricky Ian Gordon, Richard Pearson Thomas, Eric Zivian, Braxton Blake, Daron Hagen, Juliana Hall, and William Ryden.

This season Mr. Lalli will perform William Walton's Façade with the composer's widow, Lady Susana Walton. He will give six concerts at the Musée Carnavalet, the museum of the city of Paris.

Lalli and the pianist Gary Chapman, who have together recorded four discs of popular songs, have appeared at festivals around the world, as well as the Players' Club, the Carlyle, the Park Plaza, and The Whitney Museum of American Art. Their recording accompanies a new Yale University Press publication, Listening to Classical American Popular Songs, by Allen Forte.

Lalli is a graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy, Oberlin Conservatory, and Yale School of Music.

Ted Mook is associated with some of today's most innovative and exciting composers by either commissioning or dragging into the light of day several ground-breaking masterpieces which have blossomed into what could pass for popularity (at least for new music). Undaunted by adversity, Mr. Mook has donned tights, sung in falsetto, puzzled out arcane microtonal systems of 72 notes per octave, negotiated labor contracts, slogged through 1000 performances of a Broadway show, toured the US with a Pamphlet B Broadway tour, driven through Bulgaria to play a new music concert, performed under great conductors, against bad conductors, and in general, pitched his tent all over the musical terrain and has yet to find a decent space to sleep.

As a cellist his performances have taken him across the US and to Europe, from major halls to the most squalid, beery underground venues. Mr. Mook has played new music at the Library of Congress, the American Academy in Rome, the venerable Monday Evening Concerts at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Wexner Center at Ohio State, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Kitchen, The Knitting Factory, the Herbst Theater in San Francisco and the Ijsbreker in Amsterdam. He is a veteran performer at the Bang on a Can Festival, and has participated in MusikProtokoll im Steirischen Herbst in Graz, Austria, the International Festival Musique Actuelle in Canada, the New England Bach Festival in Marlboro, Vermont, the Wellesley Composers Conference, the Bethlehem Music Festival, the USArts Festival in Berlin, the Synthesis International Festival for Contemporary Music in Skopje, Macedonia, and the Bard Festival. His concerts have been broadcast on NPR and its many affiliates, with appearances on Performance Today, New Sounds and Morning Pro Musica.

He has recorded over 3 dozen works, including Lois V. Vierk's Simoom for eight multi-tracked cellos, Ezra Sim's Solo in Four Movements (with its 72-note per octave source scale), discs of standard repertoire with the New York-based Philharmonia Virtuosi, and the cast albums for several Broadway shows. His label credits include ECM, Arabesque, Opus One, CRI, Columbia Masterworks, Warner-Atlantic, New World, Mode, Ess.A.Y., Avant, Cambridge, New World, Music and Arts, Experimental Intermedia, Ear Rational, and Northeastern Records.

He has premiered works by some of today's most prestigious composers, among them Chen Yi, John Zorn, Daniel Rothman, Lee Hyla, Ezra Sims, David Lang, and Ralph Shapey, and gave the World Premiere of one of Roger Session's last works, the Duo for Violin and Cello. As a member of Newband he performed on the original instruments of Harry Partch in critically acclaimed concerts and theatrical productions in the US and in Europe, reconstructing the original Adapted Viola parts for cello and tenor violin. He co-produced and performed on Newband discs, and produced and performed on the world's first complete recording of Harry Partch's 17 Lyrics of Li Po for Intoning Voice and tenor violin for the Tzadik label.

He is based in New York City, where he free-lances with most of the city's major musical organizations and Broadway shows, is a husband to mezzo-soprano Mary Nessinger, and a father to Sophia, who likes to put on a tutu and be a ballerina.

William Roper, tubaist and multi-disciplinary artist, studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Case Western Reserve University, Cal State University Northridge, Los Angeles City College, Carnegie-Mellon University and independently in New York City.

He has toured North America and Europe as soloist and with jazz and classical ensembles. His musicianship is represented on recordings with rock bands, spoken word artists, world beat bands, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and movie soundtracks. In the genre of improvised music he has played and/or recorded with: The Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, American Jazz Institute ensembles, The Luckman Jazz Orchestra, Bobby Bradford, Anthony Braxton, Jimmy Cleveland, Douglas Ewart, Vinny Golia, Billy Higgins, Glenn Horiuchi, Yusef Lateef, James Newton, John Rapson, Kim Richmond, Adam Rudolph, Wadada Leo Smith, Horace Tapscott, Michael Vlatkovich and Francis Wong.

In roles as performer, composer or visual artist, William Roper has received grants from the NEA, California Arts Council, L.A. Cultural Affairs Dept., Brody Arts Fund, ArtMatters Inc., Meet the Composer, The Durfee Foundation, American Composers Forum and the Djerassi Resident Artist Program. He has fulfilled commissions from Dance Los Angeles, the Gloria Newman Dance Theatre, Rudy Perez and Eve Stabolepsy.

He has released two CDs as a leader: Juneteenth and Roper's Darn! Yarns, on Asian Improv Records, and two as a co-leader: The Lament of Absalom and Double Yellow on Asian Improv and Thankyou Records, respectively.

David Smeyers was born in Detroit, Michigan. He received his formal musical education at The Juilliard School and, with the help of a Fulbright Grant, at the Conservatoire de Musique in Rouen, France. Mr. Smeyers obtained prizes at the International Clarinet Competitions in Toulon and Paris. His work as a soloist, with Beate Zelinsky (together they form „Das Klarinettenduo Zelinsky/Smeyers") and as a member of the „Quartett Avance" has taken him to North and South America, Asia and Europe. He has collaborated with several well-known composers (György Kurtág, Helmut Lachenmann, Giacinto Scelsi and Karlheinz Stockhausen, among others). He has made numerous radio, record and CD productions (Elliott Carter, Hanns Eisler, Helmut Lachenmann, Daniel Rothman, Giacinto Scelsi, Stefan Wolpe in cooperation with the CPO, col legno, Los Angeles River Records, ProViva, Thorofon, and Wergo labels). He has written extensively for English and German language music publications. Beate Zelinsky and David Smeyers' volume Pro Musica Nova/Studies for the playing of contemporary music for Clarinet was published by Breitkopf & Härtel. Currently Mr. Smeyers is Director of New Music Studies and Artistic Director of the ‚ensemble für neue musik' at the Hochschule für Musik Köln (Germany).

Ticket Information

Tickets are $10, available after October 1 by calling (609) 258-1742. They are free of charge to the Friends of the Princeton University Art Museum, Friends of Music, Princeton faculty, and students.

Museum Information

The museum is open to the public without charge. Free highlights tours of the collection are given every Saturday at 2:00 p.m. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. It is closed on Monday and major holidays. The museum shop closes at 5:00 p.m. The museum is located in the middle of the Princeton University campus, next to Prospect House and Gardens. Due to construction, visitors should use the staff entrance on the west side of the building, across the green from Dodd Hall. For further information, please call (609) 258-3788, or visit our new web site at www.princetonartmuseum.org.

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