Experiments in Opera Presents Anthony Braxton

Feisty Opera Company Improvises at The Brick

By: - Jun 18, 2023

The Brick presents
Anthony Braxton Theater Improvisations
by Experiments in Opera
June 15-17, 2023

Rob Reese, actor/director
Kamala Sankaram, vocals
Nate Wooley, trumpet
James Fei, saxophones
Ingrid Laubrock, saxophones

Thursday June 15 — Rob Reese, Nate Wooley Kamala Sankaram
Friday June 16— Rob Reese, James Fei, Kamala Sankaram
Saturday June 17— Rob Reese, Ingrid Laubrock, Kamala Sankaram

In 1999, Anthony Braxton caught the performance of an Improv group at Wesleyan College where he has taught for twenty-three years. Among its members was Lin Manuel Miranda. He picked a trooper and asked him to do an improvisation with him. The duo, collaborating on compositions 279 to 283, was the inspiration for this funny, hip and moving improv designed by Experiments in Opera (EiO).  Jason Cady and Aaron Siegel both studied with Braxton at Wesleyan and his influence is clear their mission and their work.

Experiments in Opera has not only a taste for the most appropriate and often unusual music but also for the drama in which it is embedded.  Cady has become a first-rate librettist. He has a musician’s sense of the word. This is reflected in The Brick performance.

There are three lines developed: the spoken word Rob Reese, saxophone by Ingrid Laubrock on Saturday and the stunning Kamala Sankaram singing, speaking and lithely moving as a bull charging Reese to Kate Winslet in Titanic.  Or rather, a Titanic masthead.

Sankaram was disappointed when Reese told her that this Titanic was not going to sink. This was a re-enactment. 

In addition to flying solo and then mixing and matching, the triplets often comment at the end of a midget sequence: "Weird!  Was that weird?  Was that weird enough?"  We the audience were instead enchanted, entranced and laughing.  

Time is often kept by large and small hourglasses with sand running through. Cards clipped to dangling lines could be randomly grabbed for musical direction.  

Braxton speaks through his music.  It sounds like language. Ingrid Laubrock spoke through her saxophone, even as she races around the stage and sprawls on her back on the floor.  Reese pulls jokes out of his pocket. This is physical opera.

Braxton's musical speech enables him to launch stories.  Later in life he would take up opera, absorbing Richard Wagner.  His unique way of presentation is just right for the world today, a  listening world aching for direct address that has melody, humor and engagement.  

This is a perfect work to be performed in the NY Phil’s new Sidewalk Studio, with curtains up.