JOAN OF ARC

JOAN OF ARC is divided into 9 sections. This film clip is from REMEMBRANCE which is the last section of the Teatr Stu production.

For soprano and surround sound or (choreographed - chorus and orchestra)



Painted photo of Trudy Ellen Craney by Gail Hadani

Painted photo of Trudy Ellen Craney by Gail Hadani

Painted photo of Trudy Ellen Craney by Gail Hadani

Painted photo of Trudy Ellen Craney by Gail Hadani

 

OPERA NEWS REVIEW, NYC

Obie and Sondheim Award-winning composer Noa Ain's Joan of Arc -- a seventy minute quasi opera featuring one singer, soprano Trudy Ellen Craney, and a recorded soundscape of music, voices and atmospheric sounds -- is a brilliantly conceived experience. In the composer's words. "I wanted to create a piece that was not theater, not concert, but would feel as if Joan had manifested at this Easter season [world premiere April 30], had come to this sacred space, for this hour, to remember (with us as witnesses) the events that led to her death at the stake." This composition strips away the romantic distortions encrusting the Joan story. Ain gives one a sense of Joan as she really may have existed -- a complex human being, responsive to her "voices," angry, frustrated and confused. As Joan speaks, the listener identifies with her, and the physical and emotional experiences of her trial and execution become clear and compelling.

To accomplish her purpose, Ain opted for an intelligent blend of tradition and innovation. Stylistically, the score is reminiscent of Kitaro and other contemporary composer/arrangers who feature a layering and texturing of sounds in a linear context. Sung in French, the language of the story's locale, the vocal line for the soloist is extremely demanding. Innovations include a massive surround-sound system that succeeds in making music without making an intrusive media statement. In the capable hands of sound designer Bernard Fox. Ain's music, orchestrated by Andy Brick, bathes the audience in sound that is full rather than merely loud, sound that is experienced physically without being overwhelming.

The recorded material for the premiere was played back from a RADAR system (twenty-four bit, twenty four track) on twenty full-range, processed speakers and four sub-woofers. The speakers, in two groups of eight, were arranged as four high (twenty-two feet in the air) and four low (seven feet in the air), on either side of the hall, plus two at each end, allowing the audience to experience the sound as though sitting in the "sweetspot" between a pair of stereo speakers. A small amount of electronic reverberation was added to create a cathedral ambience.

The collaborators chose the Angel Orensantz Foundation, a former synagogue on Manhattan's Lower East Side, for this premiere. The atmosphere of the sanctuary performance space evoked a universal spiritual response, with the added benefit of resembling the sort of medieval room in which a trial might have taken place. Whether by design or by chance, the late-afternoon time chosen for the performance proved ideal, with changes in light filtering through the old windows adding to the ambience.

A special work demands a special soloist, and Craney was the right artist, giving a riveting performance as Joan. Craney's youthful lyric soprano made Joan's utterances seem like a natural extension of speech. At times, she moved through the capacity audience, seeming to float from point to point, engaging individual audience members as one might wish to confront a judge or witness. It is difficult to imagine a more effective singing actress in the role.

The trial and execution of Joan of Arc in the fifteenth century -- an ugly political undertaking -- was the last major event of the Inquisition in France. The victimization of Joan at the hands of the authorities is a vivid reminder of the dangers of power and the wisdom of separating church and state. In this skillfully crafted, moving new musical retelling, Ain affirms the story's importance from Joan's perspective, creating a human experience rather than a legend.

DONALD WESTWOOD


CRICOTEKA REVIEW, KRAKOW POLAND

Cricoteka is the Krakow museum and performance space dedicated to the work of Tadeusz Kantor
Teatr Stu Producer, Artistic Director Krzysztof Jasinski

Noa Ain's Joan of Arc: An Inner Opera

We all know the story of Joan of Arc. She is the heroine of a true-to-life myth that is present in our universal consciousness. After all, how many fables are we taught in which the hero is a bold and talented young woman? How many of them are actually true? Joan of Arc's story is a gift for us all, for it reminds us that woman also have the power to lead and effect change. Told innumerable times, in numerous languages, present in various works of art, passed down through the centuries, Joan of Arc's life story is one that bears great importance, and it deserves re-telling. Countless paintings, theater performances, and films have re-enacted the great journey of the young adolescent girl who followed the angelic voices that told her to follow herdream and lead France, ultimately sacrificing her life for her great ideals, but none have ever taken the path of depicting her inner life. This is what makes Noa Ain's opera so singular, for it suggests a different approach. For when entering Ms. Ain's soundscape, we are invited to witness not so much the dramaticevents ofJoan's life, but rather of her intimate inner world.

Noa Ain captures the emotional reality of Joan on every level.

Performed by the very animated and exquisite soprano, Marzena Lubaszka, the "living" Joan acts as a divining rod through which the ecstatic sounds of the past emerge. Set in an intimate stage setting, Joan stands alone. Her world consists of transforming light, a candle, a chair, and a tiny stage platform reminiscent of a church pulpit. The "living" Joan inhabits a world of sound and memory. She is brave as a warrior, standing alone with nothing more than her body and a song to protect her from the world. Joan's innocence and youth are made manifest in the mirror of her experience, displayed in a series of short films directed by Ms. Ain's daughter, writer Julia Ain-Krupa. These short films offer another layer of memory and image to the production, weaving in and out of the performance in an emotionally nuanced dance. The shimmering and bold Tallulah Bradshaw, who makes her cinematic debut in Teatr Stu ' s Polish production, plays young Joan.

Noa Ain's opera is an hour-long performance designed to be performed in a "Sacred" space, such as a church or a temple, for such a space has an inherent atmosphere of reverie, as well as unique acoustic capabilities. When performed in a theater space (which in this instance, was the STU theater in Krakow ), the stage is adapted accordingly, rearranged to suit this purpose. The system of surround sound and the presence of two screens onto which the videos are projected, give the audience an experience of multi-level introspection. And so the piece takes us immediately to the realm of Joan' s famous inner visions.

Ain prefers to use simple language both in music and in video.

Lubaszka stands alone on stage. The dramaturgic and visual elements of the stage design are also rather ascetic, such as with the fire, shed from its volatility and brutal force, reduced to a symbol, as an elegant and self­ contained bowl is placed before the audience. Here opposing elements are juxtaposed. The score, simple but lush, with its invisible voices, envelops the audience just as Joan's angels did her inner life. Silences also appear in an unusual way, breaking the emotional heights of the piece, and no attempt is made to add distracting visual elements on stage. There are sections of the opera where the singer just listens, not as an audience member, but as a performer who is being filled with light and sound. And these moments of pause act as meditations or prayers to which the audience must give themselves in order to accompany her into these ecstatic states. And this limitation pays off, for we are invited to go deeper and deeper into Joan's inner world, instead of further and further into the story. By witnessing Joan ' s intimate world, we can perhaps get a glimpse of what's universal about her path, what lays at the heart of all kinds of social activism, all voices against violence and injustice. Her story captivates us, and remains inspiring.

In Ain's opera a new world emerges, and it isn't one of stage sets and props, buta visionary realm of vast emotional soundscapes, vibrant and extreme, serene and coherent, not at all suggesting the supernatural fantasy or split mind within Joan' s personality. The choir and flute -like timbres create a meditative, inward ambience, a space of self-communion and prayer. The tempo is always calm, and there is an almost constant presence of intert wining, polyphonic lines, enhancing the atmosphere of contemplation and duration. The two planes, visual and musical, compliment and permeate one another, as if throughout the piece Joan is looking at different parts of her spiritual self.

The videos consist of very simple images, like cherished childhood memories that one keeps coming back to, drawing upon. The videos are mostly silent, working as background for the opera, however the opening also contains music, quoting a popular children' s song, "Jak dobrze bye poziomk,( ("How good tobe a wild strawberry"), a reference immediately recognizable toa Polish audience . The song itself is an affirmation of life in its simplest, purest state , a consent to existence, and to one' s lot in life . Joan's song is also in many ways the song of a child. For she is a child who has yet to encounter the world, but for whom everything is possible, including an idyllic image of the world she has come toinhabit, an ideal well worth fighting  for.

Anna Szwajgier Music Curator; Cricoteka


COMPOSER NOTES

In 1996, while working on a Young Peoples' Opera commissioned by the Kennedy Center, I visited the Corcoran gallery and came across the wonderful painting of Joan by Maurice Boutet de Monveil. Joan was kneeling in her father’s garden as angels showed her a vision of herself as she would be in the near future. I was struck by this as well as by the fact that the painting seemed to be divided down the center. Joan and the garden were painted in earth colors, the angelic vision in shimmering gold and yet, somehow, the painting seemed completely balanced, the gold never outweighed what was “real.”

It was with these thoughts in mind that I began work on Joan. I decided that I wanted the audience to experience what Joan experienced, to be enveloped in a “divine” wash of sound so physical that it would take one completely out of a temporal state. I wanted to create a piece that was not theater, not concert, but would feel as if Joan had manifested at this Easter season, had come to this sacred space, for this hour, to remember (with us as witnesses), the events that led to her death. I wanted to keep the physicality of the piece simple and natural. It is the music itself that envelops and transports the listener, as Joan remembers, her voices call and are answered by melodies that mysteriously appear, only to disappear again in a rhapsody out-of-time.