Cheerily seductive ... crafty juxtapositions, clashes and transformations...
— Steve Smith, The New York Times
The instrumental writing burst with color. There is, I think, no fighting this music.
— Mark Swed, The Los Angeles Times
January 5-7 and 11-14 at 7 PM and January 8 at 2 PM
Mata Hari is an exploration of love and survival of the famous woman whose exploits in espionage took her back and forth across WWI Europe and ultimately made her a scapegoat. The piece pushes operatic form with its electro-acoustic instrumentation, mixed vocal styles, manipulated video design, and clever melding of historical materials. Languishing in a Paris prison during the final months of her life, Mata Hari relives her tempestuous relationships with the men who loved and loathed her, and ultimately destroyed her.
Composer: Matt Marks
Librettist/Director: Paul Peers
Conductor: David Bloom
Scenic Designer: Neal Wilkinson
Light Designer: Lucrecia Briceno
Projection Designer: David Palmer
Costume Designer: Oana Botez
Sound Engineer: Isaac Jones
Choreographer: Anabella Lenzu
Stage Manager: Aislinn Curry
Associate Choreographer: Angela Schopke
Scenic Associate: Joseph Wolfslau
Assistant Director: Pálína Jónsdóttir
Mata Hari: Tina Mitchell
Sister Léonide: Mary MacKenzie
Cpt. Bouchardon: Jeffrey Gavett
Cpt. Ladoux: Daniel Neer
Rudolf MacLeod/Col. Denvignes: Steve Hrycelak
Vadime/Spirit of Norman: Tomás Cruz
Col. Von Kalle: Joshua Jeremiah
Guitar/Banjo: James Moore
Piano/Keyboard: Mila Henry
Violin: Helen Yee
Accordion: Kamala Sankaram
Technical Director: Carl Whipple
Master Electrician: Betsy Chester
Wig & Wardrobe Supervisor: Kimberly Lennox
At HERE’s Mainstage Theatre
Mata Hari was commissioned and developed by HERE through the HERE Artist Residency Program. The world premiere is produced for PROTOTYPE by HERE and Beth Morrison Projects. Additional support for Mata Hari was provided by the New York State Council on the Arts. Additional developmental support provided by Baruch Performing Arts Center.
Photo by Benjamin Heller
Show run time: 90 Minutes
Panel Discussion "Illumination or Exploitation: Depicting Violence Against Women in Art" will follow the January 8 show.
Post-Performance Conversation will follow the January 11 show.
Matt Marks (Composer) is a composer of darkly comic opera-theater works and instrumental/electronic music that experiments with narrative and pop idioms. A founding member of Alarm Will Sound, he also performs as a French hornist, vocalist, and keyboardist with such acclaimed new music ensembles as the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), ACME, and the Wordless Orchestra. He has recorded for Universal Music, Warp Records, Nonesuch, Cantaloupe Music, New Amsterdam, among many independent labels. Matt has appeared as a soloist with the LA Philharmonic and live on This American Life at BAM. As a composer and arranger, Matt’s work has been called “staggeringly creative” by The New York Times, “obsessively detailed” by New York Magazine, and The LA Times writes that there is “no fighting this music.” His work has been presented at Carnegie Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Lincoln Center, The Barbican Center, The Bang on a Can Marathon, 21st Century Liederabend, and live on WNYC radio. Commissions include those from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Alarm Will Sound, HERE Arts Center, the Bushwick Starr, Hotel Elefant, and JFund. Recent artist residencies include University of Rochester (2016) –where he was also a visiting professor– and HERE Arts Center (2014-17). Matt is currently on faculty at The New School.
Paul Peers (Librettist/Director) is a stage director whose work spans theatre, musical-theatre and opera. Paul’s opera directing debut was Händel’s Xerxes for Grammy nominated Boston Baroque. He directed Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera at the Alexander Kasser Theater, New Jersey and was invited back again to Boston Baroque to direct Händel’s rarely performed Amadigi di Gaula. Paul’s international directing credits are: Australia, David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross for the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Shakespeare’s King Lear for Lightning Strike Theatre Company, Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade, Menken and Ashman’s Little Shop of Horrors for Adelaide College of Arts; Canada, Giuseppe Verdi’s Don Carlo and Amon Miyamoto’s production of Tan Dun’s Tea: A Mirror of Soul for Vancouver Opera; Germany, Geöffnet for the Dosto Projekt in Berlin. His New York Off-Off Broadway credits are: Libby Leonard’s Blue Balloon at the 4th Street Theatre, Seneca’s Thyestes at the Theater of the Riverside Church, Love is in the Air at the 14th Street Y, Tennessee Williams’ Talk to me like the Rain and Let Me Listen at The Sanford Meisner Theater, Shadow Boxing by James Gaddas at The Theater for the New City and Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine at New York Theatre Lab. His most recent engagement was Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore for Hawaii Opera Theatre in May 2016.
Mata Hari might be my first serious opera-theater piece, and I mean that like 20% in terms of scope and 80% tone. There’s something daunting about going from writing works heavy with humor, irony, and bombast to an earnest character study about a widely-recognized historical figure, someone whose personality was so extraordinary as to make my own musical excesses seem dull in comparison. I also have an allergy to modern operas that telegraph “Seriousness” to their audiences like every moment is weighted with megatons of cruciality. Mata Hari was not a terribly “Serious” person. She was a scandalous exotic dancer/courtesan who created a fictionalized foreign persona. Yet, she was also a shrewd businesswoman, mother, and –as most people know her– WWI spy. Composing Mata Hari was a effort in creating a serious opera without ever letting it feel “Serious.” The opera aims to sincerely explore her life, loves, fall, and death while keeping the unfettered exuberance of her character in the forefront of the music, without ever overpowering it. Paul Peers’ libretto helps immensely, as it laser-focuses on significant aspects of her life, shining a light on crucial –if often tantalizingly contradictory– facets of her personality and on the machinations of the men who engineered her downfall. Paul’s passion for the project was infectious, and it soon swept me into a similar obsession with her character and story. There may still be a certain amount of humor, irony, and bombast in the score for Mata Hari, but it’s genuinely inspired by her own.
Mata Hari, is the most challenging project that I have undertaken to date. Not only is this my debut as a librettist, the project also integrates physical theatre, 6 singers, 4 instrumentalists, an actor and interactive video art. Collaborating with a living composer for the first time has been an exciting journey. Matt Marks’ music is very compelling, because his anachronistic composition style that draws from many genres of music. His music evokes the elusive nature of Mata Hari where fact and fiction are sometimes difficult to discern. Mata Hari’s name is synonymous with the modern archetype of the “Femme Fatale”. As a librettist I find this archetype fascinating, because it engages the darker side of women’s nature. The challenge was to illuminate the humanity that lies behind the iconic veil. As a director my goal was to push the boundaries of the operatic form by integrating various technologies. Live video effects layered into the narrative will express a non-linear recalling of Mata Hari’s memories, hopes and fears. My vision integrates the combining of movement, imagery and live music into the stage action to convey a psychological reality that encompasses both the fictional and factual aspects of Mata Hari’s story.