Press Room

The Kennedy Center presents the DC Premiere of The Hubble Cantata, produced by VisionIntoArt/National Sawdust (VIA/NS) & Beth Morrison Projects on May 25; VIA Records Releases Recording on May 19

On May 25, following the “resounding success” (New York Observer) of its world premiere before an audience of thousands last summer, The Hubble Cantata comes to the Kennedy Center, where VisionIntoArt/National Sawdust (VIA/NS) and Beth Morrison Projects present its DC premiere. A major milestone in interdisciplinary collaboration, the space-inspired cantata pushes the boundaries of art, science, and technology, combining Fistful of Stars – a cutting-edge virtual reality film by Eliza McNitt – with a “luminously involving” (Los Angeles Times) score by composer and VIA/NS founder Paola Prestini; a libretto by Royce Vavrek (Breaking the Waves and Dog Days); additional text and narration by astrophysicist and New York Times bestselling author Dr. Mario Livio; visual effects by The Endless Collective (Gravity, Interstellar, and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos); and a 360-degree soundscape developed by Arup, the global leaders in acoustic and sound design. Starring soprano Talise Trevigne and baritone Nathan Gunn, the performance will also feature a 3-piece instrumental ensemble and a 100-person choir drawn from the Washington Chorus, all under the leadership of Julian Wachner. The event will take place during JFK Centennial Week, the week-long celebration with which the Kennedy Center honors its namesake, the late President John F. Kennedy, whose 100th birthday would have fallen on May 29. Audiences can also enjoy The Hubble Cantata at home starting on May 19, when VIA Records releases its original recording. Click here to listen to “Heart Pulls and Betelgeuse.”

Framed by the birth and death of a star, The Hubble Cantata takes its audience on a cosmic journey that explores the parallels between astral and human life. This culminates with a simulated voyage through the Orion Nebula, for which audience members are invited to don cardboard VR headsets and, using their smartphones and a companion app designed by Wemersive, experience Eliza McNitt’s Fistful of Stars, which brings to life images captured by the Hubble Telescope in a 360-degree world. Through his poignant narration, Dr. Mario Livio – a renowned astrophysicist and bestselling author who worked with the Hubble Space Telescope for 24 years – helps contextualize the human characters’ story within the grand scheme of the cosmos.

When the cantata premiered to an open-air audience of over 6,000 at last summer’s BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival in New York, it was hailed as “a thundering opus” (Hyperallergic). According to VAN magazine,

“Prestini’s score … [was] vividly shimmering and raging with the emotional temperatures of characters as suggested in Vavrek’s libretto, and generally conjuring up an authentically cosmic atmosphere with its trembling strings, ethereal wind lines, and luminous glockenspiel.”

As The Guardian observed, “The event also demonstrated that classical musicians aren’t content with sitting on the sidelines as more pop and rock artists get involved with VR videos.” The New York Observer effused:

“[In] Prestini’s brilliant collaboration…, Hubble pushes its classical cosmic themes ever more upward than any orchestral work these ears have heard in a long time, upward and toward the stars. … The Hubble Cantata is a work that knows no parallel, pushing boundaries of technology and presentation that push our city’s relationship with multi-disciplinary performance further into uncharted territory. … It’s such commitment to using new technology, not as a driving force but as a means to accent the work, that makes The Hubble Cantata a resounding success. … A more enticing young person’s gateway into the world of classical music does not exist.”

Indeed, as the New Yorker marveled:

Crescendos, beauty, drama … It astounded me, this feeling of floating above Earth, and tears began to emerge from my cardboard goggles. … I remembered, a bit startled, that we were all looking at our phones – a gesture known to disregard the common experience, the present moment. Here, it was providing it: 6,000 of us together, in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, floating around the Orion Nebula.”

When National Sawdust opened its doors in Brooklyn in October 2015, incubation of complete multi-disciplinary works like The Hubble Cantata – from creation, to recording and performances – was central to the institution’s artistic mission. The VR film, Fistful of Stars, a National Sawdust production, was recently featured in the first Virtual Cinema slate at the SXSW Film Festival in March and will be included in the Virtual Reality Library at the Cannes Film Festival’s Marché du Film. With the VIA Records album release – captured in the intimate and acoustically exemplary environment of National Sawdust and featuring Grammy Award-winning vocalists Jessica Rivera and Nathan Gunn under the musical direction of Julian Wachner The Hubble Cantata finds one more medium for audiences to experience the work.

Wachner and Gunn both reprise their performances at the upcoming Washington premiere, when they will be joined by Grammy Award-nominated soprano Talise Trevigne. The Hubble Cantata performance takes place during JFK Centennial Week, which crowns the Kennedy Center’s year-long tribute to the late President for whom it was named. Other highlights of the historic birthday week include DJ Spooky’s Rebirth of a Nation, which addresses civil rights and freedom; the Washington Ballet’s Frontier, which was inspired by Kennedy’s aspirations for America as a leader of artistic, cultural, and intellectual excellence; a National Symphony Orchestra concert featuring Yo-Yo Ma and the world premiere of a new Mason Bates commission; and a campus-wide centennial Open House.

Click here to download high-resolution photos.

DC premiere of The Hubble Cantata

May 25
Washington, DC
Kennedy Center
Paola Prestini, composer
Dr. Mario Livio, narrator, astrophysicist and advisor
Royce Vavrek, librettist
Eliza McNitt, VR filmmaker
Visual Effects by The Endless Collective
Arup, 3D Sound Design
Jess Engel, VR Producer, in association with Virtualize

Talise Trevigne, soprano
Nathan Gunn, baritone
Julian Wachner, conductor
The Washington Chorus (Julian Wachner, Music Director)
Instrumental ensemble

VIA Records releases premiere recording of The Hubble Cantata
May 19
Paola Prestini, composer
Dr. Mario Livio, narrator, astrophysicist and advisor
Royce Vavrek, librettist
Arup, 3D Sound Design
Terence Caulkins, Lead 3D Sound Designer
Léonard Roussel, 3D Sound Designer
Raj Patel, Executive Producer 3D Sound
Sasha Arutyunova, photography featuring Wendy Whelan
Eliza McNitt, creative direction and concept
Ben Tousley, package design
Produced in association with Beth Morrison Projects
Original commission by Bay Chamber Concerts for A New Frontier 201

Jessica Rivera, soprano
Nathan Gunn, baritone
Julian Wachner, conductor
1B1 (Jan Bjøranger, Artistic Director)
NOVUS NY (Julian Wachner, Music Director)
The Washington Chorus (Julian Wachner, Music Director)
Brooklyn Youth Chorus (Dianne Berkun Menaker, Artistic Director)

The Hubble Cantata is a co-production between VisionIntoArt/National Sawdust and Arup, in association with Beth Morrison Projects

© 21C Media Group, May 2017


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