Past Shows

anatomy theater

Artist’s Praise entertains even as you know full well that something is very wrong with this picture.
— Mark Swed, The Los Angeles Times

Lang, once a post-minimalist enfant terrible, has solidified his standing as an American master.
— The New Yorker

Quietly seductive
— Mark Swed, The los Angeles Times

Gruesome and fascinating
— Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal

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About the Show

New York City Premiere 
January 7, 8 and 10-14 at 8 PM

Inspired by actual medical texts from the 17th and 18th century, anatomy theater follows the progression of a convicted murderess from her confession to execution, to denouncement, and finally to dissection, including an anatomy lesson for curious onlookers.  It is a moral dissection that seeks to discover how the insides of evildoers are different from those of righteous citizens.  Written by Pulitzer Prize-Winning composer David Lang and world-renowned visual artist Mark Dion, anatomy theater is a sardonic, tuneful and grisly theatrical event.

Composer: David Lang
Librettists: Mark Dion & David Lang
Director: Bob McGrath
Conductor: Christopher Rountree

Scenic Designer: Mark Dion
Lighting Designer: Christopher Kuhl
Video Designer: Bill Morrison
Projection Designer: Laurie Olinder
Sound Designer & Audio Engineer: Garth MacAleavey
Costume Designer: Alixandra Gage Englund
Assistant Director: Alexander Gedeon
Stage Manager: Ryan Gohsman
Assistant Stage Manager: Julie Hurley

Sarah Osborne: Peabody Southwell
Joshua Crouch: Marc Kudisch
Baron Peel: Robert Osborne
Ambrose Strang: Timur

With the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE)

Additional Credits:
International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE): Kivie Cahn-Lipman, Phyllis Chen, Nathan Davis, Erica Dicker, Emi Ferguson, Gareth Flowers, Anne Lanzilotti, Josh Rubin, and Randy Zigler

Supernumeraries: Rosario Alvarez, Irina Kaplan, Ana Kirkland, Yeujia Low, Moira McCormick, Matt McDonough, Andrew Schurr, and Natasha Thweat

Video Engineer: Simon Harding
Assistant to the Director: Robert Kitchens
Consultant Production Manager: Sarah Peterson
Production Manager: Carly Levin
Wardrobe Assistant: Casper Sutton-Fosman
Rehearsal Pianist: John Arida

At BRIC House

A Ridge Theater Production. Developed and Produced by Beth Morrison Projects. Development support provided by BRIC and MassMoCA. anatomy theater premiered at LA Opera in a Beth Morrison Projects production in June 2016.

anatomy theater was co-commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects, Ridge Theater, Justus & Helen Schlichting, Linda & Stuart Nelson, Paul King, Marla Mayer & Chris Ahearn. Additional commissioning support provided by BRIC, Nancy & Barry Sanders and Miles & Joni Benickes.  anatomy theater is funded, in part, by an award from The National Endowment for the Arts - Art Works, and by public funds from The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.  Additional funding was provided by the Multi-Arts Production Fund (MAP), the Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts and New Music USA.

Co-presented with BRIC

Lead photo by James Matthew Daniel, slideshow by Craig T. Mathew and James Matthew Daniel

Show run time: 90 minutes

Post-Performance Conversation will follow the January 11 show.


Beer has been lovingly provided by Brooklyn Brewery.

Brooklyn Brewery



Artist Bio

David Lang (Composer & Librettist) received the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for his piece the little match girl passion, commissioned by Carnegie Hall for the vocal ensemble Theater of Voices, directed by Paul Hillier.  His work is regularly performed by major music, dance, opera and theatrical organizations throughout the world. Recent works include the concerto man made for the ensemble So Percussion and a consortium of orchestras, including the BBC Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic; mountain for the Cincinnati Symphony; and death speaks, for Shara Worden, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and Owen Pallett, at Carnegie Hall. In 2015 Lang composed the music for Paolo Sorrentino's film Youth, for which he received Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Critics Choice nominations, among others. Lang is Professor of Music Composition at the Yale School of Music, and is co-founder and co-artistic director of New York’s legendary music festival Bang on a Can.

Mark Dion (Librettist & Scenic Designer) creates work which examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge and the natural world, questioning the authoritative role of the scientific voice in contemporary society. He has had major exhibitions at the Miami Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Connecticut, the Tate Gallery in London, and the British Museum of Natural History in London. He is co-director of Mildred’s Lane, an innovative visual art education and residency program in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania. For over two decades, he has worked in the public realm on a wide range of scales, from architecture projects to print project in newspaper. He produced large scale permanent commissions for Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany as well as for the Montevideo Biannale in Uruguay, the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, the Rose Art Museum and the Port of Los Angeles.

Artist Statement

No singers were harmed in the creation of this opera.

It seems like an odd statement to make about an entertainment, but it is definitely appropriate to make it, since our piece is so full of terrifying things.  Crime and punishment, execution, dissection, the thin line that separates moralistic cruelty from dispassionate scientific inquiry – they are all there.

anatomy theater is an opera of villains.  There are no lovers, no peacemakers, no heroes in shining armor coming to the rescue. All the characters in our opera are dangerous.

The subject of our opera is a gruesome one - the public dissection of the body of a murderer, in order to find the physical seat of her moral corruption. Set loosely in the early years of the 18th century, the opera mashes up some of the more shockingly pernicious ideas from the history of medicine. It should come as no surprise that the history of anatomy and the history of medicine in general - as well as the history of opera itself - is well stocked with attitudes of misogyny and contempt for the poor. anatomy theater's libretto closely follows the ideas, methods, manners and even some of the surviving documents of early medical thought.

For much of the history of anatomical inquiry the only bodies available for dissection were those of executed convicts, and, after 1752, exclusively murderers. It was genuinely thought that the anatomy of evil people was different from that of law-abiding citizens, that their evil was written on their organs, and that specialists could identify the differences and demonstrate them publicly.  This made public dissections a kind of moral carnival, in which upstanding citizens could literally look down on the flawed remains of evildoers. It is also true that the act of anatomical examination was understood clearly as an additional punishment that could be meted out beyond the death of the convict.

Female cadavers were very rare. In fact, when Vesalius, the pre-eminent anatomist of the 16th century, posed for the frontispiece piece of his "De Corporis Fabrica" (1543) he braggingly made Jan Stephen van Calcar depict him dissecting a woman's body. In England, The Anatomy Act of 1832 put a stop to grave robbing and the illicit trade in corpses, but it allowed anatomists access to unclaimed bodies from prisons, poor houses and charity hospitals, forever linking the teaching of dissection with poverty, criminality and powerlessness.

- Mark Dion & David Lang