Honoring a long-held spirit of pushing boundaries with artists, music, ideas, and audiences, the Festival celebrates its milestone 70th year by broadening the roster of artists, continuing a focus on concerts for the community, and expanding the Festival’s geographic reach
Ojai welcomes Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho and showcases her works including the American premieres of the chamber version of La Passion de Simone and her newest dramatic creation Only the Sound Remains
Ojai presents a commissioned work by Pulitzer Prize-winning Caroline Shaw Don’t Let Me Be Lonely and presents the world premieres of Josephine Baker: A Personal Portrait with arrangements and music by percussionist/composer Tyshawn Sorey and a new work by Cuban composer/conductor Tania León for YOLA (Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles) and ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble)
ICE and the Calder Quartet return on the heels of their brilliant 2015 Festival appearances, and Ojai welcomes alumni soprano Julia Bullock and violinist/vocalist Carla Kihlstedt; Ojai debuts include the Grammy-winning vocal collective Roomful of Teeth, Egyptian singer Dina El Wedidi, Indian Carnatic singer Aruna Sairam, and YOLA
Media partner WQXR’s Q2 Music hosts Peter Sellars and select festival artists in New York on May 13 at 7pm as a special live event at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WQXR and WNYC; “Q2 Music Presents Peter Sellars” will be webcast live on Q2 Music and video-streamed live on q2music.org and thegreenespace.org.
In its sixth season, Cal Performances’ Ojai at Berkeley is slated for June 16 to 18, 2016 following the Ojai Music Festival
“The Ojai Valley has long been recognized as a rare and beautiful natural site that invites retreat, renewal, and regeneration, from Chumash ceremonial life to Krishnamurti’s legendary talks under the trees. The valley has both a grandeur and a human scale that inspire and allow the deepest human questions to resonate, and create a setting for the most personal search for answers. The magical play of light across the canyon and the heady aroma of orange blossoms bring the senses to life, awaken the mind, and create a profound aura of openness and well-being.
Music incites many of the same thoughts and emotions, with similar immensity and intimacy and awe. The 70th Ojai Music Festival will gather this powerful energy and spirit of inquiry and reflection into a weekend of peak experiences and secret revelations.” – Peter Sellars, 2016 Music Director
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 9, 2015
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The 70th Ojai Music Festival (June 9-12, 2016) with Music Director Peter Sellars pays tribute to a defining hallmark of the Festival — reimagining each year by affording the appointed music director creative freedom to explore their artistic interests and collaborations. Acclaimed opera and theatre director Peter Sellars’ vision for the upcoming Festival honors its long-held spirit of challenging audiences musically and intellectually – a celebration of music in the context of our world today.
Festival Artistic Director Thomas W. Morris says, “I have known Peter Sellars since 1979, and when I came to Ojai, I always knew he would be one of the Festival’s Music Directors. There is nothing more fitting than to make this appointment on the occasion of the Festival’s 70th anniversary. Peter brings exactly the breadth of vision, spirit of innovation, and profound energy that are all so firmly rooted in Ojai. His Festival is building on the heritage of past achievements, but more importantly, lays the groundwork for an even more exciting future.”
Peter Sellars has long been known for infusing his music and opera productions with contemporary ideas and social issues. Believing that most classical music is grounded in spiritual and political contexts, he includes a variety of perspectives in his work. He says, “Art was invented as a way to face really difficult things with a sense that in facing them, you’ve already started the healing process.” As such, the 70th Festival is about opening up to new ideas, new music, new audiences, and new communities.
Mr. Sellars is one of the most innovative and powerful forces in the arts, both in America and abroad. His partnership with Ojai dates back to 1992 when he directed a daring version of Stravinsky’s Histoire du Soldat with Music Director Pierre Boulez. Returning to Ojai in 2011 with Music Director Dawn Upshaw, he directed the critically acclaimed world premiere of the staged production of George Crumb’s song cycle, The Winds of Destiny.
Premieres by Kaija Saariaho
Concerts throughout the Festival feature the work of Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, a frequent collaborator of Peter Sellars who describes the featured work:
“For the first time, composer Kaija Saariaho will come to Ojai. We will feature two of her most potent and visionary works. Her new chamber version of La Passion de Simone, a meditation on the life of the courageous French philosopher Simone Weil, written to a wise and humane text by Amin Maalouf, will receive its American premiere with the extraordinary young soprano Julia Bullock. It is a work of startling integrity and permanent challenge in dark times, with a flame of hope that burns brightly and intensely in the darkness. The fierce commitment and brilliance of that flame will be embodied by ICE and Roomful of Teeth, conducted by Joana Carneiro.”
Kaija Saariho’s newest operatic creation is a sequence of two Japanese Noh plays in versions by Ezra Pound, entitled Only the Sound Remains. Again Ojai will offer the American premiere. These two plays will be performed in the tradition of Japanese Takigi Noh, outdoors, lightly held in the gentle grasp of a protective arroyo under a radiant early morning sky for “Feather Mantle,” a play of illumination, transcendence and evanescence, and just before midnight under an intense starlit sky for “Always Strong,” the harrowing and haunted story of a young warrior’s spirit struggling to return to life on earth.”
Only the Sound Remains, staged by Peter Sellars, will be performed in the outdoor amphitheater at the Ojai Valley School Upper Campus, a natural setting perfectly suited to the transcendent and otherworldly nature of the plays. Just before midnight on Friday (June 10), the Festival will present Always Strong, and the following morning (June 11), Only the Sound Remains continues with Feather Mantle in the same outdoor venue. Performers include countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, baritone Davone Tines, Roomful of Teeth, Calder Quartet, percussionist Dustin Donahue, flutist Camilla Hoitenga, kantele (a traditional Finnish plucked string instrument) player Eija Kankaanranta, and dancer Laurel Jenkins.
Ojai Debuts and New Works
Making Ojai debuts in June will be the Egyptian singer, Dina El Wedidi, and Indian Carnatic singer Aruna Sairam. In Peter Sellars’ words:
“From Tahrir Square in Cairo, Dina El Wedidi and her band come to America to present a new song cycle that paints a personal picture of the realities, aspirations, disappointments, and determination of the Egyptian revolution. Dina El Wedidi epitomizes the new Egyptian women of a rising generation, her unmistakable voice alive with courage, allure, and the breath of freedom. Her band includes traditional Egyptian and modern electronic instruments, and for these performances she will bring three extraordinary older women from the Egyptian zār tradition, who are singing in full-throated solidarity with the activism and vision of Dina and her generation.”
We are thrilled to welcome to Ojai one of the most revered, beloved, surprising, and progressive stars of South Indian music. Aruna Sairam traces her artistic and spiritual lineages from some of the great gurus of the female vocal tradition, both within her own family and across multiple strands of Indian music. She also collaborates with folk artists, electronic ensembles, and pioneering jazz musicians such as Vijay Iyer. This is a woman who lives and moves in many worlds and holds them all magically on the breath. South Indian music is itself a spiritual quest, a philosophical journey, and an evolving state of ecstasy, rapture, and atonement. Aruna Sairam is one of the masters whose long, sinuous vocal line delineates a past that rises spontaneously in her breath as the future.”
Soprano Julia Bullock will be featured in the world premiere of Josephine Baker: A Personal Portrait, with new music and arrangements for ICE by composer/multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey.
“Julia Bullock will also be the center of a unique and poignant evening honoring the brilliance, daring, public courage, and private tragedies of Josephine Baker, the black icon who created a singing, dancing declaration of independence with her black body, and blazed a trail of irresistible challenge and charm in France in the same years that Simone Weil pursued her feminist vigil on behalf of a larger humanity. Our Ojai evening will be a very personal portrait of Josephine as a fearless fighter for civil rights and a visionary who paid dearly for every forward step. Musical arrangements and original music for the evening will be crafted by the brilliant and deeply cool jazz avatar Tyshawn Sorey, with new poems by one of America’s great poets, Claudia Rankine, providing a quietly shocking meta-narrative that frames Baker’s epic passage through the world.“
Additional concerts feature chamber music of Saariaho and works by Caroline Shaw, Carla Kihlstedt and Du Yun, performed by ICE and the Grammy Award-winning vocal collective, Roomful of Teeth.
“This year’s Festival will have its rituals. At mid-day there will be concerts of the kaleidoscopic and more rarely performed chamber works of Kaija Saariaho. The later afternoons will offer music of longing and consolation. Caroline Shaw’s works will be paired with Carla Kihlstedt’s phosphorescent exploration of dream worlds, At Night We Walk in Circles and Are Consumed by Fire, and Du Yun’s peeling away the surface of the world in An Empty Garlic.”
Claudia Rankine’s seminal book, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, inspires another Ojai commission, a new vocal work by Caroline Shaw. Intensely personal, under the skin states of emotion, memory, and hope emerge in Caroline Shaw’s body of work as well as in her body – Caroline Shaw’s music is drawn from her voice, from her throat, from her heart, her pulse, and her blood. Her new work will once again be composed for the ensemble Roomful of Teeth who will also be reprising her Pulitzer Prize winning Partita for 8 Voices for Ojai.”
An addition to this year’s Festival schedule will be beginning on Friday and Sunday mornings with Sonic Meditations by Pauline Oliveros, realized by ICE and performed at Meditation Mount.
On Sunday afternoon (June 12), the Festival will present an extremely rarified American premiere of Canadian composer Claude Vivier’s Kopernkius, performed by Roomful of Teeth and ICE.
“Based on his own libretto, Claude Vivier’s Kopernikus is an uncategorizable, genre-defying opera/ritual. The posthumous discovery and rediscovery of Vivier’s clairvoyant, tragic, and otherworldly music has brought the dawning realization that the world lost a great composer with his appalling and premature death in 1983. A generation later, his music speaks with a fresh and searing clarity that transcends time – it is medieval and it is modern, it is bizarre and it is Balinese, it is carnal and it is Canadian. And it remains just beyond our earthly sphere. Seven instruments and seven vocalists portray Agni the Hindu God of Fire, Lewis Carroll, Merlin, the Queen of the Night, a blind prophet, an old monk, Tristan and Isolde, Mozart, the Master of the High Seas, and Copernicus and Copernicus’ mother. Claude Vivier’s project: “start again at the beginning, really put the world to rights, rediscover sensitivity.” To quote Copernicus’ mother, “the world is getting ready for a huge change, would you like to participate?”
Free Concerts for the Ojai Community
On Sunday morning (June 12), the Festival will present for the first time two free events for families as part of the regular Festival schedule, at the Ojai Art Center and in the Libbey Bowl.
“The final Sunday of the Festival will shift into an exuberant children’s festival for the first half of the day, featuring music written and performed by, with, and for children and anyone who is ready to listen to the world with fresh ears. The doyenne of the toy piano, Phyllis Chen will compose, perform, and trigger a participatory cascade of toy piano mania and magnificence. Next, YOLA, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s essential and ebullient Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles comes up to Ojai to join forces with ICE in performing a newly commissioned work by the celebrated and sensational Cuban-born composer Tania León, followed by a second world premiere of a new work written by Los Angeles teenager Sharon Hurvitz.”
Free Street Party Concert in Santa Paula
On Sunday evening, the Festival will present a free street party on the main street of neighboring Santa Paula – half hour drive east – featuring ICE, Dina El Wedidi, Aruna Sairam, Roomful of Teeth, and other artists, expanding the geographic boundaries of the Festival.
“The 70th Ojai Festival will then expand and flow into a huge street party in the adjacent town of Santa Paula, culminating in the sheer communal pleasure of the joy of improvisation, increasingly wild juxtapositions, spontaneous jam sessions and very, very good times.”
Ideas: Ojai Talks, Transformation Talks, Concert Insights
Ojai Talks will launch the Festival on Thursday, June 9 with Ojai Talks Director Ara Guzelimian in conversation with Peter Sellars and Kaija Saariaho, at the Ojai Valley Community Church. Preceding the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday musical performances on the Libbey Bowl stage will be Transformation Talks: Light into Dark, Dark into Light – a series of discussions with prominent guest panelists moderated by Peter Sellars.
“These talks and lectures will illuminate and amplify current events with cultural, historical, and philosophical perspectives, alternating with sessions focused on spiritual thinkers offering quieter moments of contemplation and peace across the days.”
Concert Insights with Christopher Hailey interviewing featured artists will take place before concerts at the Libbey Park Tennis Courts.
Q2 Music Presents Peter Sellars: Music and Conversation with 2016 Ojai Music Festival Music Director Friday, May 13 at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WQXR and WNYC
Ojai’s newest media partner, WQXR’s Q2 Music, hosts a special advance exploration of the 70th Ojai Music Festival with an event of discussion and music on May 13 at 7pm (TBC). This New York event features 2016 Music Director Peter Sellars and will be hosted by Q2 Music’s Helga Davis (Einstein on the Beach, You Us We All). Select 2016 Festival artists will join Mr. Sellars for the live program, which will also be simulcast on Q2 Music and q2music.org and thegreenespace.org. The Greene Space’s mission is to galvanize conversations around the life, arts, and politics of New York and our world. Opened in 2009, the space makes boundaries between street and studio transparent and the possibility for dynamic dialogue is limitless as audiences are met everywhere they are — on air, online, and on the street. Launched with the 2015 Ojai Music Festival, details of additional highlights of the partnership with WQXR’s Q2 Music will be announced in early 2016. For details on the May 13 event, visit The Greene Space website.
Ojai at Berkeley
Marking the sixth year of artistic partnership, Ojai at Berkeley celebrates the dynamic nature of the Ojai Music Festival and of Cal Performances. As two distinct communities with similar values, Ojai and Berkeley are known for intrepid artistic discovery, spirited intellect, and enduring engagement in the arts. Inaugurated in 2011, Ojai at Berkeley is a joint force that enables co-commissions and co-productions and allows artists to achieve more than could be imagined by each organization separately. Ojai at Berkeley follows the 2016 Ojai Music Festival and will take place from June 18 to 20 in Berkeley, CA. Ojai at Berkeley will announce its program schedule in February 2016. For more information visit CalPerformances.org.
Peter Sellars, 2016 Music Director
Opera, theater, and festival director Peter Sellars has gained international renown for his groundbreaking and transformative interpretations of artistic masterpieces and for collaborative projects with an extraordinary range of creative artists. He has staged operas at the Dutch National Opera, English National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Opéra National de Paris, Salzburg Festival, and San Francisco Opera, among others, and has established a reputation for bringing 20th-century and contemporary operas to the stage, including works by Hindemith, Ligeti, Messiaen, and Stravinsky.
He has been a driving force in the creation of many new works with longtime collaborator John Adams, including Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, El Niño, Doctor Atomic, A Flowering Tree, and The Gospel According to the Other Mary. Inspired by the compositions of Kaija Saariaho, Mr. Sellars has guided the creation of productions of her work that have expanded the repertoire of modern opera. Desdemona, a collaboration with Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison and Malian composer and singer Rokia Traoré, has been performed in major cities across Europe and the U.S.
Recent projects include a production of The Indian Queen, combining Purcell music, text, and dance, and a concert staging of Pélleas et Melisande with the Berlin Philharmonic. In 2015 Sellars collaborated with flex dance pioneer Reggie Gray and a group of 21 dancers from the New York City flex community to create Flexn, a powerful work confronting issues of social injustice in America which will be seen in Europe this summer. Upcoming projects in 2016 include a concert staging of Orlando di Lasso’s Lagrime di San Pietro with the Los Angeles Master Chorale.
Mr. Sellars has led several major arts festivals, including the 1990 and 1993 Los Angeles Festivals and the 2002 Adelaide Arts Festival. In 2006 he was Artistic Director of New Crowned Hope, a month-long festival in Vienna for which he invited artists from diverse cultural backgrounds to create new work in the fields of music, theater, dance, film, the visual arts and architecture for the celebration of Mozart’s 250th birth anniversary.
He is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA, a resident curator of the Telluride Film Festival, and was a Mentor for the Rolex Arts Initiative. In 2014-2015 he is director-in-residence at the English National Opera and is currently director-in-residence at the Berlin Philharmonic. His awards include a MacArthur Fellowship, the Erasmus Prize for contributions to European Culture, the Lillian Gish Prize for outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind, and the Polar Music Prize. Peter Sellars is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Thomas W. Morris, Artistic Director
Thomas W. Morris was appointed Artistic Director of the Ojai Music Festival starting with the 2004 Festival and will provide artistic direction through the 75th Festival in 2021. Mr. Morris is recognized as one of the most innovative leaders in the orchestra industry and served as the long-time chief executive of both The Cleveland Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Morris is currently active nationally and internationally as a consultant, lecturer, teacher, and writer.
As Artistic Director, Mr. Morris is responsible for artistic planning, and each year appoints a music director with whom he collaborates on shaping the Festival’s programming. During his decade-long tenure, audiences have increased and the scope of the Festival has expanded, most recently to include a collaborative partnership, Ojai at Berkeley, with Cal Performances.
Mr. Morris was a founding director of Spring for Music, and served as the project’s artistic director. He served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Curtis Institute of Music and was chair of its Board of Overseers, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Interlochen Center for the Arts. He is also an accomplished percussionist.
About the Ojai Music Festival
From its founding in 1947, the Ojai Music Festival has created a place for groundbreaking musical experiences, bringing together innovative artists and curious audiences in an intimate, idyllic setting 80 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The Festival presents broad-ranging programs in unusual ways with an eclectic mix of rarely performed music, refreshing juxtapositions of musical styles, and music by today’s composers. The four-day festival is a complete immersive experience with concerts, free community events, symposia, and gatherings. Considered a highlight of the international music summer season, Ojai has remained a leader in the classical music landscape.
The Ojai Music Festival attracts the world’s greatest musical artists. Through its unique structure of the Artistic Director appointing an annual Music Director, Ojai has presented a “who’s who” of music including: Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky, Olivier Messiaen, Michael Tilson Thomas, Kent Nagano, Pierre Boulez, John Adams, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Robert Spano, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, David Robertson, eighth blackbird, George Benjamin, Dawn Upshaw, Leif Ove Andsnes, Mark Morris, Jeremy Denk, and Steven Schick. Following the upcoming 70th Festival with Peter Sellars, Ojai will welcome MacArthur Fellow Vijay Iyer in 2017 and Esa-Pekka Salonen in 2018 as its music directors.
About Media Partner Q2 Music
Part of WQXR, New York City’s classical music station, Q2 Music is a listener-supported, online home dedicated to contemporary classical composers, innovative ensembles, and live webcasts from the City’s leading new-music venues. The live 24/7 music stream available at www.wqxr.org/q2music/, includes immersive festivals, insightful commentary from hosts and composers, full-length album streams, in-depth interviews with trend-setting artists and special live events at The Greene Space at WQXR. Q2 Music is also available via the free WQXR app.
Festival Series Passes
Festival series passes are available for the 2016 Festival and may be purchased online at OjaiFestival.org or by calling (805) 646-2053. 2016 Ojai Music Festival series passes range from $140 to $860 for reserved seating and lawn series passes start at $60. Single concert tickets will be available in spring 2016. Directions to Ojai, as well as information regarding lodging, a concierge services for visitors, and other Ojai activities, are also available on the Ojai web site.