Wayne Shorter, Saxophone genuis and bassist Esperanza Spalding together in “IPHIGENIA”




Production Features Set Designs By Luminary Architect Frank Gehry

Live Chat With Shorter, Spalding And Gehry moderated by Renée Fleming To Take Place September 23rd At 5pm PT/8pm

Los Angeles, California.  In “Iphigenia,” two of the most visionary and daring musical voices of our time – composer Wayne Shorter, generally acknowledged to be jazzs greatest living composer” (The New York Times) and librettist and performer esperanza spalding, well over a decade into one of the most fruitful and strikingly original careers” (Rolling Stone) have created a modern operatic re-imagining of a powerful ancient story. 

The production is directed by Obie Award winner Lileana Blain-Cruz, and conducted by Clark Rundell, with scenic design by Frank Gehry — longtime friend and creative collaborator of Shorter and spalding’s.  Costume design is by Montana Levi Blanco, lighting design by Jen Schriever and sound design by Mark Grey. Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw contributed a cappella vocal arrangements, and additional text is provided by US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, Safiya Sinclair, and Ganavya Doraiswamy. “Iphigenia” is produced by Jeff Tang (Executive Creative Producer), Cath Brittan (Producer) and Mara Isaacs (Octopus Theatricals, Tour Producer), and the opera is made possible by Real Magic, a company created by spalding and Tang, to develop “Iphigenia” in an environment of radical experimentation and open collaboration.

In support of  “Iphigenia,” a virtual fundraiser will take place on Thursday, 9/23 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET, hosted by soprano Karen Slack. The event will feature a live conversation and Q&A with Shorter, spalding and Gehry, moderated by soprano Renée Fleming, followed by a musical set by spalding and pianist Leo Genovese. The proceeds from the program will go toward engagement, inclusion, and access initiatives for the opera tour.  Tickets to the event can be purchased at www.betterunite.com/iphigeniafundraiser.

Unlike traditional operas which open in a different city once a season, “Iphigenia” will debut as a traveling operatic performance with stops in Boston (ArtsEmerson, November 12 and 13), Washington, DC (The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, December 10 and 11), Berkeley (Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley, February 12) and Los Angeles (The Broad Stage, February 17, 18, 19). A final tech residency with preview performances will take place in North Adams, MA (MASS MoCA, November 5 and 6).  Nine vocalists (including spalding) will lead a 10-person chorus and chamber orchestra local to each venue. They will be accompanied by stars of the jazz world including Brian Blade, John Patitucci and Danilo Pérez from the Wayne Shorter Quartet, and Jeff “Tain” Watts (at MASS MoCa and ArtsEmerson)

Shorter and spalding’s “Iphigenia,” unlike its forebears, is not an adaptation of the Greek myth as much as it is an intervention into myth-making itself, and an intervention into music and opera as we know it. Classical and jazz forms collide in a full orchestral score that features Shorter’s groundbreaking method of symphonic improvisation. spalding’s libretto is deeply poetic and then suddenly radical – “Iphigenia” is multiplied, her identity is fractured and shared until the stage is occupied by a chorus of her.  “Iphigenia” stares down the history of opera and makes some demands on its future: No more tragic women singing through suicide and going mad in perfect pitch. No more spectacles of women dead and dying.  In the end Shorter and spalding turn their gaze outward beyond the stage: What will we make, they ask, at this precise moment in our collective present when we are so desperately in need of new visions for the world.

 Our Iphigenia has at its core a sense of autonomy,” says spalding. “In this adventure of life, you have freedom of choice. All cards are on the table and Iphigenia gets to choose, free of everything. Through her example, we can learn how to take a creative approach to everything, using the power of spontaneous engagement. The overarching sentiment is one of humanistic love, of wanting to re-awaken the dreams of youth free of the pressures of adulthood.”

Iphigenia” is co-commissioned by Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley; The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, DC); The Broad Stage (Los Angeles); ArtsEmerson (Boston); Carolina Performing Arts (Chapel Hill, NC); and MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA).

Generous support for “Iphigenia” is provided by the Ford Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Alexander Leff, Thomas M. Neff, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, New Music USA, and everyone who gave to the “Iphigenia” crowdfunding campaign.