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Persephone in the Late Anthropocene

This spring brings the world premiere of Persephone in the Late Anthropocene, a new spoken opera by Hinge/Works that reimagines the ancient goddess of spring, Persephone, in our modern age of climate change. Co-created by composer Denis Nye and librettist Megan Grumbling, this opera has been in the works for nearly two years now, through the ongoing efforts of over twenty incredible artists who have committed to giving their time and passion to this project for the long-term. We first presented a short excerpt in the fall of 2014 at the Belfast Poetry Festival, then staged the first movement last May in a workshop production here in Portland. We’re thrilled this spring to finally present the culmination of everyone’s years of work: the complete, full-length production of Persephone in the Late Anthropocene, in a two-week run at SPACE Gallery in Portland, Maine, with a live quartet and a full-scale gallery installation.

This production is a collaboration between several lead artists: Director Tess Van Horn will draw on the dramatic practices of Robert Wilson and Anne Bogart in storytelling not just with words but also with the body. Visual Artist Jenna Crowder is creating an installation that will both serve as a set and occupy the main gallery of SPACE for the entire month of May. And as part of his lighting design for Persephone, our lighting designer Corey Anderson is actually building his own light bulbs from scratch. We’ll complete the opera’s full sensory experience by making available premium tickets to Persephone that include unique tastings conceptually paired with each movement, by relational artist Genevieve Johnson, as well as a specially created "Underworld" or "Aboveground" cocktail byNathaniel Meiklejohn of The Jewel Box. 

Our actors are Bridgette Kelly (Persephone), Deborah Paley (Demeter), Ian Bannon (Chorus), Paul Haley (Chorus), and Marjolaine Whittlesey (Chorus). Our musicians are Ben Meiklejohn (oboe), and members of the Prospero Quartet: Victoria Hurlburt (violin), Leigh-Ashley Milne (viola),  Volkhard Lindner and Lilith Dudley Holland (cello), conducted by Cameron John Prescott. Persephone is assistant directed by stage manager Rene Johnson.

In the ancient myth, Persephone lives underground for 3 months of the year, which is why we have winter. Our reinterpretation is told by a modern Persephone, who moves erratically between worlds; by her wise but heavily medicated mother Demeter; and by a human Chorus. The libretto ranges from lyric verse to edgy, magical realist prose poems and an imagined Farmer’s Almanac. The score is a post-Romantic chamber work for oboe, violin, viola, and cello, filtered live through a digital delay to evoke the disjunction and crisis – as well as the beauty – of our modern world.

Persephone will premiere at SPACE Gallery in Portland, Maine, on Thursday, May 12, 2016 and run through Sunday, May 22. In addition, the accompanying installation will be on view May 6 through June 4, and open to viewers during SPACE’s gallery hours.

We are seeking funding to support the costs of the production. We are grateful to the Maine Arts Commission and the Puffin Foundation for supporting Persephone, and we are looking for funds to cover the rest of the production costs. 

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