Eighth Blackbird and Lucy Shelton | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Eighth Blackbird and Lucy Shelton

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The members of the new-music ensemble Eighth Blackbird create a remarkable range of sounds with a riveting intensity. For this program they and soprano Lucy Shelton will perform Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, his last important work in the expressionist style and his first to use sprechstimme, an often eerie-sounding combination of spoken and sung text at designated pitches. Highly melodramatic and primarily atonal, the work sets 21 poems by Albert Giraud: the first act concerns love, sex, and religion, the second a more hallucinatory and nightmarish world, and the third Pierrot's journey home, haunted by the past. It was written in 1912 at the request of actress-singer Albertine Zehme, who wanted a song cycle for a new "high art" cabaret. In this production, staged by puppet and theater artist Blair Thomas, Shelton will be in grotesque costume and makeup, interacting with a life-size puppet dressed as Pierrot that's manipulated by three puppeteers. The musicians will also be in costume, and given that there's a different combination of instruments for each song--they play flutes, clarinets, violin, viola, cello, and piano--there'll be a lot of coming and going. The program will also include Derek Bermel's 2004 Tied Shifts and Jacob Druckman's 1986 Reflections on the Nature of Water, a six-movement work written for solo marimba but rearranged here for puppet theater and Eighth Blackbird. Also 8 PM, Friday and Saturday, March 31 and April 1. Thu 3/30, 7:30 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010, $22, $18 for MCA members.

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