• Zellerbach Hall @ UC Berkeley (map)
  • 101 zellerbach hall #4800
  • Berkeley, CA 94720

The cool classical symmetry and bold eroticism of Robert Mapplethorpe's photography meet sound and text in a hybrid theatrical experience that invites us to reflect on the intimate acts of looking and being looked at. Composer Bryce Dessner, best known as a member of the rock group The National, has had a lifelong fascination with the transgressive beauty of Mapplethorpe's work, and now collaborates with librettist korde arrington tuttle, designer Carlos Soto, and director Kaneza Schaal to revisit the photographer's oeuvre nearly 30 years after it instigated a now-infamous obscenity trial and controversy at the National Endowment for the Arts. The libretto draws on the poetry of Patti Smith and the writings of Essex Hemphill, who chronicled the African-American gay community during the AIDS epidemic and directly addressed the contradictions at the core of Mapplethorpe's work. Dessner's new score is performed by the Grammy-winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, joined by special guests Alicia Hall Moran and Isaiah Robinson, and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. Beautifully crafted and performed...[Dessner] creates a full spectrum of tonalities from the deepest black shadows to blazing white highlights (SF Classical Voice). 

This production features sexually explicit images from the Robert Mapplethorpe collection that may be inappropriate for some audience members. Discretion is advised.