Foreign Experiences at the Roulette Intermedium

FOREIGN EXPERIENCES. An Opera by Robert Ashley. Courtesy roulette.org
FOREIGN EXPERIENCES. An Opera by Robert Ashley. Courtesy roulette.org

NEW YORK – Foreign Experiences at the Roulette Intermedium

Foreign Experiences was a performance of Robert Ashley’s fascinating, unique approach to structure and storytelling in an avant-garde operatic setting. Essentially, a cast of seven highly skilled singers masterfully projected a narrative comprised of almost non-stop syllables of text for about 80 minutes. Language and meaning were dramatically expressed through song, lines of poetic verse, and a dash of sprechstimme.

The arguably prosaic libretto of Foreign Experiences portrays Don Jr, a college student who leaves the Midwest for California. There, imaginations run wild as Don Jr. suffers from isolation, loneliness, and deprivation that draw him to the brink of madness. He devolves into a diminishing sense of reality, immerses himself in existential incantation, and engages in the universal search for the meaning of life.


L-R Kayleigh Butcher, Courtesy kayleighbutcher.com. Bonnie Lander, Courtesy bonnielander.com. Brian McCorkle, Photo by Marco Berardi, installation by Ali Dolanbay

L-R Kayleigh Butcher, Courtesy kayleighbutcher.com. Bonnie Lander, Courtesy bonnielander.com. Brian McCorkle, Photo by Marco Berardi, installation by Ali Dolanbay

In what might also be described as a “spoken word” performance, the performers portrayed Ashley’s hallmark technique of elevating speech into a form of musical expression. Singers performed in both unison and harmony against an ambient, immersive soundscape of prerecorded electronic music consisting of broad phrases, echoing syllables, and other sounds. The performers seamlessly adhered to tempos determined by a click track while adjusting their pitch and conforming to tonal center shifts of the sonic accompaniment.

The performers spoke in a conversational, musical manner, blurring the lines between dialogue and melody. Moreover, the storyline was presented nonlinearly in loosely associated episodic encounters and contemplations. Don Jr. was a character who explored his inner thoughts, dilemmas, psyche, cultural shock, and self-discovery.

L-R Aliza Simons, Courtesy 5of4.com, Dave Ruder, Courtesy daveruder.com, Paul Pinto, Courtesy pfpinto.com. Gelsey Bell, Courtesy gelseybell.com

L-R Aliza Simons, Courtesy 5of4.com, Dave Ruder, Courtesy daveruder.com, Paul Pinto, Courtesy pfpinto.com. Gelsey Bell, Courtesy gelseybell.com

Seeking context, imaginative listeners likely ruminated on the swift patter of Gilbert & Sullivan’s I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General, Lennie Bruce’s comedic streams of consciousness, and Alban Berg’s Wozzeck and his apocalyptic descent into madness. Perhaps also, one imagined the monophonic chanting of priests, the solemnity of requiem plainsong, the desperate “hasty orisons” of Wilfred Owens’ Anthem for Doomed Youth, or the dramatic power of a Greek chorus. Clearly, there was something for everyone!



Foreign Experiences was fun, imaginative, and engaging. It was a product of incredible artistry by seven excellent singers who drew a full house and commanded well-earned and extended standing ovations. The sound and lighting were sophisticated and effective.

The Cast of Robert Ashley's Foreign Experiences performing on stage at Roulette Intermedium, Brooklyn, NY. Photo by Edward Kliszus

The Cast of Robert Ashley’s Foreign Experiences performing on stage at Roulette Intermedium, Brooklyn, NY. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Foreign Experiences at the Roulette Intermedium

For seven voices and prerecorded electronic orchestra
Co-produced by Roulette Intermedium and Performing Artservices

By Robert Ashley (1993)

Singers

Gelsey Bell
Kayleigh Butcher
Bonnie Lander
Brian McCorkle
Paul Pinto
Dave Ruder
Aliza Simons

Tom Hamilton – Music Director and Sound Design
David Moodey – Stage Design and Lighting
Mimi Johnson – Producer

Roulette Intermedium

509 Atlantic Avenue
(Entrance on the Corner of Third Avenue; Accessible Entrance on Atlantic Ave)
Brooklyn, NY 11217

For information and tickets, click HERE.

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of American Classical Orchestra presents Astronomical, American Classical Orchestra Performs Bach’s B Minor MassOratorio Society of NY Performs Mahler, Beethoven, and Karen P. Thomas, and the  Park Avenue Chamber Symphony Records Tchaikovsky.


Foreign Experiences at the Roulette Intermedium

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