New Musical Theater: Creation, Production & Performances
Over its 35-year history, the Paul Dresher Ensemble has earned a well-deserved reputation for its acclaimed music-theater productions. Most have been collaboratively created by teams of artists long associated with Paul Dresher, including writer-director Rinde Eckert, set designer Alexander V. Nichols, lighting designer Tom Ontiveros, director Melissa Weaver, tenor John Duykers, sound engineer Greg Kuhn, instrument builder Daniel Schmidt, Paul Dresher Electro-Acoustic Band, among many others.
All of these artists have a deep commitment to multidisciplinary art and to a creative process where music, text, movement, visuals, and dramatic elements are developed simultaneously. The art works they make explore new modes of creation and expand the expressive range of contemporary music theater and opera.
Our best known early works — Slow Fire (1988), Power Failure (1988-89), and Pioneer (1990) — were co-created by Paul Dresher, Rinde Eckert, and regular members of the Paul Dresher Ensemble.
- In 2001, the Ensemble premiered Sound Stage, performed on a set of huge invented musical instruments.
- 2006 saw the premiere of Dresher’s chamber opera The Tyrant by Cleveland Opera, featuring tenor John Duykers in the leading role.
- A second work for invented instruments, Dresher and Eckert’s Schick Machine, created with percussionist Steven Schick, followed in 2009, when it was premiered by Stanford Lively Arts.
The Paul Dresher Ensemble regularly produces theatrical works created by individual artists or collaborative teams working outside our immediate organization. These include:
- I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky (1995)
John Adams, Peter Sellars, and June Jordan;
- Ravenshead (1998)
A solo opera by Steve Mackey and Rinde Eckert;
- Horizon (2005)
- Three operas by Erling Wold: A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil (2000), Mordake (2008) and Certitude and Joy (2012).
The Ensemble is among the few new music organizations to take its music-theater works on regular tours across the US and internationally.
- Slow Fire has had over 150 US and 3 European performances.
- Pioneer and Power Failure have each been performed at least 30 times.
- Eckert’s Ravenshead has enjoyed over 50 performances and continues to tour.
- The Tyrant has been performed at multiple venues in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, the University of Texas Austin, the University of Wisconsin, and in Bolzano, Italy and Rotterdam, Netherlands.
- Schick Machine has toured to Hong Kong, UC San Diego and UCLA, and will travel to University of Maryland this October.