The cool classical symmetry and bold eroticism of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography meet sound and text in a hybrid theatrical experience that invites the viewer to reflect on the intimate acts of looking and being looked at. Composer Bryce Dessner, well known for his other musical role as a member of the rock band The National, has had a lifelong fascination with the transgressive beauty of Mapplethorpe’s work, and now collaborates with librettist Korde Arrington Tuttle, designer Carlos Soto, and director Kaneza Schaal to revisit the photographer’s oeuvre nearly 30 years after it instigated a now-infamous obscenity trial and controversy at the National Endowment for the Arts. The libretto draws on the poetry of Patti Smith and the writings of Essex Hemphill, who chronicled the African-American gay community during the AIDS epidemic and directly addressed the contradictions at the core of Mapplethorpe's work. The music is performed by the Grammy-winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, joined by a chamber orchestra.
This production features sexually explicit images from the Robert Mapplethorpe collection that may be inappropriate for some audience members. Discretion is advised.