“You think you know who I am. I want you to look closer...”
Prestini - Reid - Muhly - Mazzoli - Vavrek

Both an installation and a live performance, UNTITLED is a series of four monodramas which invite audiences to intimately experience the visceral power of operatic storytelling as tactile experience.

The audience as voyeur, witnesses transformative scenes of lust, creation, empowerment and destruction.

About the work

Inspired by iconic photographs from Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills (1977–80), #12, #60, #39 and #48, the piece is a study of one woman in four identities. In each scene she confronts a critical choice that determines the course of her life and the lives of others.

Through this new work, the photographic lens is expanded into a live physical and sonic environment that challenges archetype and identity - the roles we are assigned, and the roles we are empowered to embody.

Artistic Team

Eve Gigliotti, Creative Producer & Mezzo-soprano
Royce Vavrek, Librettist
Nico Muhly, Composer
Paola Prestini, Composer
Ellen Reid, Composer
Missy Mazzoli, Composer
RB Schlather, Director

Timeline & Process

Currently in development Untitled began as a National Sawdust Project, is co-commissioned by The Kennedy Center, and San Diego Opera for the reopening of the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. Workshops in April 2019 and January 2020 have offered the opportunity to complete the libretto, define the staging concept for the performance, and explore excerpts of music by each composer.

Performance Setting

Untitled is intended as an installation performance work for fine art spaces, galleries and non-proscenium settings.

Performers & Instrumentation

Mezzo-soprano: Eve Gigliotti

Ensemble of 7-8 musicians: strings, clarinet, bass, electronic keyboard, and electronics

Preliminary Technical Specification

PA system: all performers will be amplified Lighting: freestanding film-set lights

Staging: the piece will manifest in a site-specific form and use the natural setting of the room in which it is presented. Each space will be supplemented with risers and barriers which will inform the relationship between the audience and performers.

Artist Statements

Eve Gigliotti, Creative Producer & Mezzo-soprano

You think you know who I am. I want you to look closer…

Part of the genius of the Film Stills series by Cindy Sherman is that each Film Still presents an image as an intersection of a scene, suggesting that there is a beginning, middle, and end to that captured moment. It is the possibilities that lie within the imagined world of each of these stories which serve as the spark for Untitled (inspired by Film Stills). Drawn from personal experience, Untitled follows the story of a woman in four parts - a role-playing grifter, a passionate arsonist, a transformed mother, and an abandoned young girl. Stories perhaps initially influenced by bias, in turn, challenge the boundaries of self-definition in relief to societal roles, forging an authentic expression of self-identity and rebellion.

R.B. Schlather, Director

I am an artist and opera stage director whose practice has been about taking works of classical music out of concert halls, or opera theaters, and experimenting with installing them in unusual, alternative spaces. I’ve worked across public sites, galleries and museums. My impulse was to present these four monodramas, as we are calling them, as dimensional, living portraits in neutral, public gathering spaces. Anywhere but a concert hall.’

Four musical scenes disrupt public spaces where we are in conversation with the experience of art. Each scene can be treated as a separate timed installation or occurrence, with all four scenes also designed to come together as a whole chamber opera performance, too. The character of ‘actress’ is articulated with poetry and music, describing an internal life with physical gesture and sound. Untitled (inspired by Film Stills) is an exploration of the operatic form.

We have the ability with this piece to adapt to every space with the intent in creating an immersive, active watching from viewers. The audience is active as the action is happening around and in front of them: they surround the ensemble, they are barricaded back from the space much like they are witnesses to a ‘colossal accident’, a private moment, a crime scene... The ‘actress’ travels throughout the crowd, interrupting the audience experience, unveiling a story in process, a journey of transformation and bravery. The actress changes shape, sheds her skins, and leaves evidence of life left in her wake.

This new production is an opportunity to create an immersive experience totally unlike anything you’ve ever seen, a way of dimensionalizing portraits of women in transition, a vivid exploration of the shared desire for knowledge, momentum and purpose in our lives, in the midst of an increasingly unknowable ‘now’ in our contemporary world. Who are we? Where are we going?

Photos by Jill Steinberg