Epiphany: The Cycle of Life
A co-production between Young People’s Chorus of New York City and VisionIntoArt for a 2015 World Premiere at BAM’s Next Wave Festival.
Epiphany - Paola Prestini (composer); Niloufar Talebi (librettist); and Ali Hossaini (video artist)
Intermezzo – Netsayi (composer and librettist) and Ali Hossaini (video artist)
Ouroboros - Sarah Kirkland Snider (composer); Nathaniel Bellows (librettist); and Ali Hossaini (video artist)
Original Concept and Video by Ali Hossaini
Theatrical Concept and Stage Direction by Michael McQuilken
Scenic and Lighting Design by Maruti Evans
Costume Design by Nicolas K. Projection
Design by Brad Peterson
Sound Design by Nicholas Pope
Performed by Young People’s Chorus of New York City, Francisco J. Núñez, Music Director, with American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) [Ben Russell & Caleb Burhans, violins, Caitlin Lynch, viola, Clarice Jensen, cello & artistic director], and percussionists David Cossin, Ian Rosenbaum, and Ibrahim “Thiokho” Diagne.
ABOUT THE PROJECT:
An exuberant living installation filled with live music, Epiphany: The Cycle of Life sends its audience through tunnels of light while reflecting on our earthly attachments and our place in the cosmos. Based on video cycles by Ali Hossaini (Epiphany and Ouroboros), Francisco J. Núñez, YPC Founder and Artistic Director, conducts the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, joined by Zimbabwean singer Netsayi, American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), percussionists David Cossin, Ibrahima “Thiokho” Diagne, and Ian Rosenbaum as they perform world premiere compositions by Paola Prestini, Netsayi, and Sarah Kirkland Snider. This ecstatic and mysterious hour of new music blossoms within a vibrant and all-encompassing media and scenic installation. The performance consists of three parts, Epiphany, Intermezzo, and Ouroboros.
Epiphany is a reflection on the endless cycle of death and rebirth, told through the eyes of youth. The event began as a reflection on mortality for Ali Hossaini who was with his mother when she died. As she became less animated, her environment came alive. Brightly colored balloons were talking, she said. The walls were breathing. Many cultures believe that when our parents die, they leave a cord that connects us to the numinous beyond. In creating the original video installation — also entitled Epiphany — Ali imagined a world where everything was full of grace, and, guided by several spiritual traditions, he began exploring that world with a camera. Then, drawing from the Latin Mass, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, pre-Columbian Aztec poetry, Zoroastrian beliefs, and death-bed conversations, librettist Niloufar Talebi envisioned a story of transformations — of being released into the unknown. Paola Prestini then composed a modern Requiem for Niloufar’s libretto — a new musical world for the Young People’s Chorus of New York City that will usher us through that transformation.
Responding to the idea of Epiphany, Netsayi reflected on her beliefs and how they related to her music. She says, “To me, faith is about humility and discipline, a commitment to a single path. Therein lies freedom. Life in Zimbabwe is very close to death. At the time of writing this music, I attended a series of funerals, and this influenced my approach from responding to a concept to responding to the reality of my daily environment. Death is beyond our understanding. We free ourselves by leaving the need to understand at the garden gate and stepping onto the path.” Intermezzo is a celebration of the freedom we may find in the acceptance of our contribution to this eternal cycle of life and death.
Ouroboros is the Ancient Greek circular symbol of the snake eating its own tail — an emblem of rebirth and cyclicality, “the eternal return.” It serves as the inspiration for Sarah Kirkland Snider’s work by the same name, with text by Nathaniel Bellows, which explores the struggle — and eventual freedom — that arises from the self’s efforts to understand, and transcend, the constraints of the human world. Ouroboros is visually focused on a grand view of our majestic and unfathomable universe — an extraordinary vantage that connects the most massive supernova to the tiniest single-celled creature.
Epiphany: The Cycle of Life received project support from Melville and Leila Straus, Jill and Bill Steinberg, the Howard Gilman Foundation,and, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with the City Council and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.