Oceanic Versesis an opera that musically paints a picture of Italy as it once was, a cross section of cultures expressed through song. The story was derived from lost languages, texts and melodic lines of ancient songs, and found poems, and was sung in various dialects including Griko, Genoese, and Sardinian, coloring the work with the spirits and traditions of various ethnic and cultural influences.
This is a type of identity piece, that uses songs and a culture close to my heart. Choose a song or image that expresses who you are.
Choose either the original "A La Sulfatara" or "Fimmene" (in the audio player above) or the photo by Ali Hossaini, or your own samples, as an inspiration point for a new work.
Find additional samples here:
Oceanic Versesis an opera that was developed at a Carnegie Hall Professional Training Workshop in 2008-2009. It truly marked the beginning of an extraordinary journey. When I was selected for the opportunity, I was thrilled. I knew I wanted to try something very different, and so I decided to deeply explore Italian folk influences in a profound way, knowing that composer Osvaldo Golijov would be the perfect composer as a mentor for this journey.
In 2007, I was in residence at Sound Res, a residency program in Lecce, Italy, where different artists are invited to create and connect with the Salento landscape, both for its nature and its cultural elements. I was there with composer Philip Glass and other amazing musicians. My understanding of Italy, which I left when I was very young, expanded, and my love of that side of my heritage deepened, as I became aware of Italy as a cross cultural land full of artistic hybrids. I began to record sound samples, and was invited to work in a foster care home with children and was moved by the voices of the young kids and how they referred to their own ancient traditions in order to express their very current feelings. I was touched to see that traditional culture was still very much alive, even if part of it was so embedded in a time and a rural life style that is forever gone. I started to explore the notion of lost traditions, lost languages, and the meaning of culture under transformation. I saw how the Salento region served as a metaphor for fading civilizations and rebirth. This experience served as the inspiration for Oceanic Verses.
The work musically painted a picture of Italy as it once was, a cross section of cultures expressed through song. The story was derived from lost languages, texts of ancient songs, and found poems, and was sung in various dialects including Griko, Genoese, and Sardinian, coloring the work with the spirits and traditions of various ethnic and cultural influences.
The project then was expanded for New York City Opera VOX festival, and it now has become a multimedia and collaborative opera, in collaboration with film artist Ali Hossaini and librettist Donna Di Novelli. It will open at the Kennedy Center, then at Winter Garden for the River to River festival, and finally, at the Barbican Centre with the BBC Orchestra.
The setting of the opera can be summed up in those topic movements: the Oceans bringing immigrants to shore; the Shores changing with each new footprint, in particular, Salento as the backdrop for a fading civilization that is waiting to be reborn. Under its taught dry skin resurging immigrants plant themselves in a land, both troubled and ripe with hope.
OCEANIC VERSESfollows four separate arcs as a Sailor (folksinger Claudio Prima) gets lost at sea; a Scholar investigating immigration (improviser Helga Davis) loses her suitcase; a Mother (soprano Hila Plitmann) goes hungry and finds her voice; and a Soldier (Chris Burchett) crawls through a war zone and finds his love. All four characters are joined by their yearning to uncover the past.