Adriana Zabala portrays Nadia Boulanger in an imaginative chamber play at Hamel Music Center on June 3, part of the 2023 LunART Festival’s five-day celebration of women’s resilient contributions to the arts.
The LunART Festival, organized by founder and flutist Iva Ugrčić, returns for its sixth citywide iteration in 2023 with a substantial scope on the accomplishments of women in the arts across eras and mediums.
Following a free Arts & Heritage panel discussion at Arts + Literature Laboratory on opening night, May 31, with Dorothy Chang (versatile chamber composer), June Millington (of pioneering power-pop and glam group Fanny), Rachel Werner (Little Book Project Wisconsin founder), and moderator Suzan Kurry, the festival turns to its 2023 theme of “reimagine” in the evolving relationship between popular music and twentieth-century classicism.
On Thursday, June 1, a late-afternoon guitar workshop with Millington precedes an evening screening of Bobbi Jo Krals’ well-received documentary Fanny: The Right To Rock (2021) at the Goodman Community Center, as well as a Gala Chamber Music Concert the following evening, June 2, at Collins Hall in Hamel Music Center. The latter is slated to world-premiere two compositions by Edna Alejandra Longoria (“El bailongo”) and Sherri Hanson (“Om Mani Padme Hum”).
The centerpiece of the five-day showcase, on June 3, once again at Collins Hall in Hamel Music Center, is Mina Fisher’s 90-minute chamber play, NADIA, about the musical and personal life of French music teacher and conductor Nadia Boulanger. Mezzo-soprano Adriana Zabala will portray Boulanger in an essential one-woman theatrical show, accompanied and amplified by a trio of musicians: Thomas Kasdorf on piano, Kangwon Lee Kim on violin, and James Waldo on cello.
The Paris-born Boulanger (1887-1979) was the first woman to conduct a major orchestra in America, and became a leading figure in a gender-exclusionary teaching profession, educating many household names like Aaron Copland, Philip Glass, Quincy Jones, and Virgil Thomson. Zabala touts the creativity of Fisher’s writing, which is largely in the spoken word, drawing “dialogue and many scenarios from firsthand and anecdotal references to Boulanger and her life,” Zabala says—the complicated relationship with Boulanger’s sister (and fellow prodigy) Lili, pleasures of teaching, and the deaths of her father and lover.
NADIA sits at an innovative intersection of forms to reveal not only a history but an emotional world of a hidden musical figure (and one who local music teacher, composer, and former LunART participant Brian Grimm says could have her own “six degrees of” parlor game like actor Kevin Bacon). Transcending its own makeup as part-opera, part-stage play, and part-chamber concert, Zabala’s public re-telling of Boulanger’s story, and by extension, her own and Fisher’s, is an amalgamated dramatization that speaks to the enduring interrelationships of women in creative spirit. Further reflecting on the meticulous and physically-minded approach to NADIA, Zabala says she doesn’t “attempt to imitate [Boulanger] as much as to tell her story as truthfully as possible with my voice and body.”
The 2023 LunART Festival concludes on Sunday afternoon, June 4, at Arts + Literature Laboratory with a Composers Hub Spotlight. The event involves a masterclass led by Chang, lectures by Elizabeth Russell and Beth Larson, and a program of chamber compositions—including three for string quartet (by Lauren Conklin, Claire Cope, and Inna Onofrei), Alison Ogden’s “Gnomon v.2” for woodwinds, and Magdalena Gorwa’s “Potpourri” for quintet—all performed by a cast of locally affiliated musicians.
Help us publish more weird, questing, brilliant, feisty, “only on Tone Madison” stories