A unique combination of music, theater, dance and media affects will explore the depths of the human mind during FusionChamber's performances of "Miss Donnithorne's Maggot" and "Eight Songs for a Mad King" at 7:30 p.m. March 20 and March 21 in the ATLAS Black Box Theatre at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The performance pieces are a dark, humorous and disturbing compilation of songs that delve into eroticism and desire, insanity and perceived hierarchy, isolation and the decaying mind.
Both works were composed by the British classical music innovator Peter Maxwell Davies and are considered to be modern classical music masterpieces for their challenging subject matter and extreme and extended use of the human voice.
"Miss Donnithorne's Maggot" has been described by Randolph Stow, the FusionChamber librettist for the work, as "a base and cowardly slur on the reputation of an unfortunate lady." The piece is based on the life of Miss Eliza Emily Donnithorne, the woman who inspired Miss Haveshim from Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations.
In 1856, Miss Donnithorne became engaged to a naval officer who disappeared on her wedding day. When she returned home, she chained the front door and remained inside for the rest of her life. She continued to wear her wedding dress, rumor has it, and the wedding cake and breakfast remained on the dining room table for the next 30 years. The "maggot" in the title refers primarily to the fantastic eccentricities of Miss Donnithorne's mind.
"Eight Songs for a Mad King" is an expressionist musical melodrama based on King George III who, it is speculated, experienced mental decline from a neurological disease.
"The audience will be taken on a journey that stumbles provocatively between sanity and insanity," said Randall Scotting, who will perform the main part in the composition. "There is such poignant truth and fragility and a real visceral sense of emotion in these pieces that I think we can all relate to."
Chicago-based video and performance artist Chelsea Tonelli Knight created accompanying footage for "Miss Donnithorne's Maggot" while studying in Northern Italy as a Fulbright Scholar. Shot in an abandoned house once inhabited by an outcast who horded items and didn't leave her home for several years, the video explores the morbid, often violent fantasies of a recluse.
Angie Yeowell brings her unique vision to the choreography and direction of the pieces. She has studied dance and contemporary theater as well as performed with the Prague Chamber Ballet and as a free-lance dancer-artist throughout Europe.
"Hopefully this music will challenge our audience to look inward and really think about the way we see each other," said conductor Christopher Zemliauskas, a CU faculty member and associate conductor for the Central City Opera.
Formed to explore the connections between innovative and important works from the Modern and Early music classical genres, FusionChamber concerts promise a uniquely intimate and passion-filled theatrical experience.
The performances will be the culmination of a pilot residency between FusionChamber and the Center for Arts, Media & Performance at the ATLAS Institute, an educational institute that integrates technology with the arts and humanities.
"Our goal is to provide a space for artists to take risks and realize their vision," said Rebekah West, director of the Center for Arts, Media & Performance. "We chose FusionChamber for this inaugural residency because of their passion and commitment to exploration."
The core artists of FusionChamber are predominantly from Boulder and have been recognized individually in the New York Times and the Des Moines Register. They bring a wealth of creative experience and talent to their multidisciplinary art. The performers are affiliated with such prestigious institutions as Juilliard, Central City Opera, New York City Opera, the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, Calif., Opera Colorado, the Spoleto Festival in Italy, and the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art.
The Black Box Theatre is located in the ATLAS building at 18th Street and Euclid on the CU campus. Parking is available in the Euclid Autopark. Tickets for the performances are $12 for the general public and $7 for students. Tickets may be purchased online at www.fusionchamber.org or by calling (303) 786-0447.