Past Shows

Stranger Love

Artist’s Praise

[Mattingly's music] attains critical mass and blasts off into an interstellar realm where time, space, and perspective take on an entirely different meaning.
— Jim Farber, San Francisco Classical Voice

[Mattingly's music] strikes the live listener, with almost palpable force, as a Scamander-River-like onrush of music... like a pulsating pillar of light.
— Patrick J. Vaz, The Reverberate Hills

Contemporaneous attacked, with passion…a ferocious, focused performance.
— Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times

  • share this

About the Show

Work-in-Progress Concert
January 16 & 17 at 7pm

At Roulette

Stranger Love follows two lovers whose romance unfolds to the rhythm of the seasons: in springtime, they meet; in summer, their love flourishes; autumn and winter, they face threats from without and within; a second spring brings resignation and the chance for renewal. Over time the frame broadens to offer an archetypal picture of human love, and ultimately, an astral envisioning of the divine, a love supreme. Stranger Love is inspired by the writings of Plato and Octavio Paz and is scored for a 28-piece orchestra (including three microtonal pianos). This work-in-progress concert of Act 1 unfolds across an expansive time-scale of over four hours, during which the audience is invited to leave and re-enter as desired. Stranger Love is a grand celebration of life itself, evoking the visceral thrill of a gospel revival, the ethereal calm of watching snow fall, the wonder of staring into the night sky. 

Composer Dylan Mattingly
Librettist Thomas Bartscherer
Conductor David Bloom

With Contemporaneous

Tasha: Molly Netter
Andre: Jodie Landau
Threat From Without: Jane Sheldon
Threat From Within: Jonathan Woody
Chorus 1: Elisa Sutherland
Chorus 2: Kate Maroney
Chorus 3: Charlotte Mundy
Uriel: Ellen McLaughlin

Contemporaneous: Lauren Cauley, Mikael Darmanie, Kate Dreyfuss, Matt Evans, Fanny Wyrick-Flax, Amy Garaphic, Milena Gligić, Sarah Goldfeather, Amanda Gookin, Madison Greenstone, Dara Hankins, Josh Henderson, Adam Holmes, Evan Honse, Tristan Kasten-Krauzse, Paul Kerekes, Patti Kilroy, Daniel Kochersberger, Erin Lensing, Brianne Lugo, Daniel Linden, David Nagy, Finnegan Shanahan, Alex Shiozaki, Pat Swoboda, Sabrina Tabby, and Cameron West

Commissioned by Contemporaneous. This performance is made possible by the New York State Countil on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and through the generous support of Beth Dawson.

Co-Presented with Roulette

Show run time: 4 hours including one intermission (audience is invited to leave and re-enter quietly as desired)

Image by Mervyn O'Gorman, Thomas Bartscherer, and Dylan Mattingly

Artist Bio

Dylan Mattingly (Composer) – Called “visionary magic” by Susan Scheid, composer Dylan Mattingly’s work is fundamentally ecstatic, committed to the extremes of human emotion, drawing from influences such as Olivier Messiaen, Joni Mitchell, and the microtonal folk singing of Polynesian choirs and the Bayaka of Central Africa. Mattingly is the founding co-artistic director of Contemporaneous and was previously the co-director of Formerly Known as Classical, a youth-run new music ensemble whose members play only music written in their lifetimes. Mattingly performs frequently as a cellist, bassist, pianist, guitarist, and percussionist. Among the ensembles and performers who have commissioned Mattingly are the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, the Berkeley Symphony, the Del Sol String Quartet, John Adams, Marin Alsop, Contemporaneous, Sarah Cahill, and many others. Mattingly, whose work has been described as “gorgeous” and “beautifully crafted” by the San Francisco Chronicle, was the Musical America “New Artist of the Month” for February 2013. In 2016, he was awarded the prestigious Charles Ives Scholarship by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Mattingly holds a B.A. in Classical Greek and a B.M. in Music Composition from Bard College. He holds an M.M. in Music Composition from The Yale School of Music, where he studied with David Lang, Martin Bresnick, and Christopher Theofanidis, and is mentored as well in Berkeley by composer John Adams. Mattingly is also an avid painter, poet, and pitcher, having played for Bard College’s first ever baseball team. 

Thomas Bartscherer (librettist) is the Peter Sourian Senior Lecturer in the Humanities at Bard College. A primary focus of his work has been the intersection of literature and philosophy in antiquity and the reception of classical culture in modernity. He has collaborated with Contemporaneous on two previous projects, composing the text Long After Hesiodfor the performance of Stacy Garrop’s String Quartet No. 3: Gaia and the narration for Dylan Mattingly’s The Bakkhai. Bartscherer also writes on contemporary art, new media technology, and the history and practice of liberal education. He is currently co-editing The Life of the Mind for the complete critical edition of Hannah Arendt. He has published translations from German and French and is co-editor of Erotikon: Essays on Eros Ancient and Modern and Switching Codes, both from the University of Chicago Press. He is a member of the Équipe Nietzsche at the Institut des Textes et Manuscrits Modernes and has held fellowships at the École Normale Supérieure and the University of Heidelberg. He has a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and PhD from Chicago. 

David Bloom (Conductor) is founding co-artistic director of Contemporaneous, a New York-based ensemble of 21 musicians dedicated to performing the most exciting music of the present moment. A devoted advocate for new music, David has conducted over 200 world premieres at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, (le) poisson rouge, Merkin Concert Hall, Walker Art Center, and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. He has worked with artists and ensemble as diverse as David Byrne, Donnacha Dennehy, JACK Quartet, Courtney Love, Dylan Mattingly, Andrew Norman, Present Music, NOW Ensemble, Dawn Upshaw, and Julia Wolfe. Especially active as a conductor of new opera and theater works throughout the US and Canada, David serves as music director on projects with Experiments in Opera, Beth Morrison Projects, PROTOTYPE Festival, New Amsterdam Presents, and Pig Iron Theater Company. He has recorded for the Innova, New Amsterdam, Mexican Summer, Mona, Roven, and Starkland labels. Also a passionate educator, David is the orchestra conductor for Special Music School High School and the nation’s only new music youth orchestra, Face the Music. Along with Contemporaneous, he has led residencies at such institutions as City University of New York, the University of New Orleans, Williams College, and his alma mater, Bard College. 

Contemporaneous (Ensemble) is an ensemble of 21 musicians whose mission is to bring to life the music of now. Recently recognized for a “ferocious, focused performance” (The New York Times), Contemporaneous performs and promotes the most exciting work of living composers through innovative concerts, commissions, recordings, and educational programs. Based in New York City and active throughout the United States, Contemporaneous has performed at a wide range of venues, including Lincoln Center, (le) poisson rouge, Merkin Concert Hall, Baryshnikov Arts Center, St. Ann’s Warehouse, National Sawdust, and the Bang on a Can Marathon. The ensemble has worked with artists as diverse as David Byrne, Donnacha Dennehy, Julia Wolfe, and Dawn Upshaw and has premiered over 80 new works. The ensemble was founded in 2010 at Bard College by co-artistic directors David Bloom and Dylan Mattingly. 

Artist Statement

Dylan Mattingly, Composer

Stranger Love is not practical.
Five hours long, 8 singers, 6 dancers, and an orchestra built on the engine of three microtonal pianos, it is more an out-of-body gospel revival than an opera — a gargantuan celebration of being alive.
With the zeitgeist squeezing language into 140 characters, few things could be further removed from the aesthetic expectations of the public sphere than a five-hour piece of music and theater that presupposes the power of abstraction and importance of joy. 
When I tell people I’m writing a five-hour long opera, I often receive a quizzical and somewhat terrified look, as if to say, “nothing in my life is 5 hours long!” And that’s exactly it — there is nowhere in our lives we can go to pull back from the speed of our thoughts and the mechanisms we’ve built to carry us through the present into the future. Yet it’s from such a vantage point that we can look with perspective upon who we are and what it means to be alive, together, in a universe exploding with love and agony and joy. If you could choose to live five hours in a world where time bends to love like gravity, and moments of bliss, of fear and of rapture — the moments in which you’ve felt most alive — are the pillars that hold up the fabric of the stars — wouldn’t you?
That’s what Stranger Love is — an endless love letter to the world we might dream to inhabit. It’s not practical. It’s on the other side of life.

Thomas Bartscherer, librettist

In a strange and beautiful book titled The Double Flame, Octavio Paz writes that love is “a wager against time and its accidents.” Through it, “we catch a glimpse, in this life, of the other life. Not of eternal life, but… of pure vitality." Something like that intuition or hope or delusion has inspired the making of Stranger Love. The work is the fruit of a conversation about music and language conducted over the course of years. In the making, music and words were composed in response to one another—at times one, then the other coming first. The working rhythm was call and response.
The sources are many and diverse. Plato’s Symposium informs the overall structure of the three acts, and his conception of love (erôs) has been our tutelary spirit. The story of star-crossed lovers, like the one presented in Act I, is familiar, even archtyepal, while the specific threats any given couple encounters, and how they respond to them, are poignantly unique and rooted in time. Rousseau’s Julie and St. Preux are nothing like Héloïse and Abelard, and yet Julie is also the new Héloïse. Through the interplay of abstract and particular, dialogue and diegesis, we’ve endeavored to tell a new story, a new kind of story, that’s also familiar, one that invites the audience to dwell within it and, in the end, to complete it with us. “Another opera about love?,” someone recently asked me. The right answer, I think, is that we could do no other. We couldn’t not make this very thing. But also, as one of Shakespeare’s poems puts it, love, like the sun, is daily new and old. Just so, Stranger Love is telling what is told.