BAM’s Fall Season Kicks Off With a Beach Opera
The Brooklyn Academy of Music is bringing the beach to you.
The star of its fall season, announced Thursday, is a theatrical installation — a surreal opera set at an indoor imitation beach — that paints a portrait of sunbather tranquillity with menacing undercurrents (did you catch the aria about a boyfriend drowning in the ocean?). The production, “Sun & Sea,” which will open at BAM Fisher and run for two weeks before touring the country, won the top prize when it debuted in the Lithuanian pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2019. This will be the American premiere.
“It’s an incredible spectacle,” David Binder, BAM’s artistic director who saw it in Venice, said in a phone conversation on Wednesday. “The beachgoers are just passing the day away as things are coming to an end.”
Those attending will watch from a 360-degree balcony as 13 singers and approximately 25 local community members who act as beachgoers scroll on their phones, play cards and fill in Sudoku puzzles. In Venice, lines stretched down the canal and around the piazza to see it. In a New York Times review of that installation, Joshua Barone wrote that the opera, created by the filmmaker and director Rugile Barzdziukaite, the writer Vaiva Grainyte and the artist and composer Lina Lapelyte, has a “haunting simplicity that insinuates itself into your memory and, possibly, your opinions.” The audience watched from above on the upstairs mezzanine of a warehouse, he wrote, “as if observing animals at a zoo or creatures under a microscope.”
“Within a single hour of dangerously gentle melodies, it manages to animate a panoramic cast of characters whose stories coalesce into a portrait of an apocalyptic climate crisis that goes down as easily as a trip to the beach,” Barone wrote.
The fall season continues with creations by artists from Japan, Brazil and Portugal, all of them New York premieres.
Later in September, the Japanese sound artist ASUNA will perform his site-specific sound installation, “100 Keyboards,” in which the same note is simultaneously played and sustained on 100 battery-operated toy keyboards arranged in a circle, creating waves of overlapping notes until they climax to what BAM calls “a singular resonant reverberation.”
In October, the Portuguese playwright-actor Tiago Rodrigues will stage his collaborative theater experiment “By Heart,” in which 10 audience members are asked to memorize a poem. It will be his first performance in the United States since being appointed the next director of France’s Avignon Festival, the storied annual arts festival that turns the city into a giant theater each July.
“The theme is that if we can remember words or texts by heart, they can never be taken away, or suppressed, or censored, or destroyed,” Binder said. “It’s very simple, but also deeply political.”
It will be followed in November by the Brazilian choreographer Alice Ripoll’s dance piece “Cria.” Ripoll and the 10-member group Suave, an all-Black company that includes transgender performers, will mix funk, samba and break dance with passinho, the dance craze that grew out of Rio’s favelas, in the company’s first United States performance. It is billed as an experience that “relocates the wild exuberance of adolescence.”
While BAM typically announces its fall season all at once, Binder said that, this year, additional programs will be announced on a rolling basis as details are finalized.
“There’s just a huge appetite, I think, for artistic adventures right now,” he said. “And I’m so excited to see how artists respond to that hunger.”