September 21–28, 2019
Conversations swirl about opera’s demise. But just as death arias provide the emotional heart of classic opera, Joseph Keckler extols the enduring life and relevance of an artform purportedly in its death throes.
With the style of a rock star, the three-plus-octave voice of a classically trained bass-baritone, and a keen comic sensibility, Keckler brings his rich voice and one-of-a-kind vision to an absurd yet affecting world premiere. Combining death sequences drawn from the canon of classic opera with original narratives and music, this ensemble performance collage is at once a festive meditation, a strange ritual, and a morbid medley of epic proportions.
Featuring full-length arias and snippets of music, Let Me Die also plays with the poetics of fragmentation; the title comes from “Lasciatemi morire,” the Monteverdi death song which is itself a fragment from a lost opera.
Performed in English, German with English supertitles.
“What begins as funny becomes increasingly tragic. Keckler’s power as a singer and his commanding stage presence draw the audience out of the comedy of the work—but then he punctuates the drama with humorous commentary.” Hyperallergic
“I do appreciate a good death aria and the paradoxical way that a character who is supposedly fatally wounded or otherwise enfeebled can deliver the most arresting and even technically demanding lament—a representation of the body failing via a virtuosic display that requires so much of the body. But that’s the way opera works.” Joseph Keckler
Member discounts available
Presented in partnership with Opera Philadelphia as part of the 019 Festival
Photos by Dominic M. Mercier (featured), Frans Franciscus (below). M. Sharkey (center)
Let Me Die is a project of Creative Capital. It was developed in part during a Roman J. Witt Artist Residency at The University of Michigan Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, with a work-in-progress preview at Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. Let Me Die was also developed in part during a residency at Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York, NY.
It was developed, in part, with assistance from the Orchard Project, Ari Edelson, Artistic Director.
And by Camp Fringe 2017 at FringeArts, Philadelphia. The project also benefited from residencies at Yaddo and MacDowell.
Support for Let Me Die has been provided to Opera Philadelphia by the William Penn Foundation.
Festival Producers Larry & Ann Rosen Spector Festival Co-Producers Tony Forte & Ryan Hummel; Shelley Green & Michael Golden; Sissie & Herb Lipton
Sept 6 at 4pm at the Fringe Festival Bookstore in Cherry Street Pier
Joseph Keckler and Sarah Williams (Opera Philadelphia) moderated by Dr. Laura Portano-Biggs (University of Pennsylvania)
About Joseph Keckler
Recently hailed by The New York Times as “major vocal talent whose range shatters the conventional boundaries,” singer, musician, writer, artist and humorist Joseph Keckler has garnered acclaim for his rich, versatile 3+ octave voice and sharp wit. He performs widely and has appeared at Centre Pompidou, Miami Art Basel, UCB, SXSW, Adult Swim Festival, the Lincoln Center and many other venues internationally. He made his off-broadway debut at the Lincoln Center in Preludes. He is the author of many songs, videos, and short pieces, as well as several evening-length performance pieces and plays. His book Dragon at the Edge of a Flat World was published by Turtle Point Press in 2017.
Interview with Joseph Keckler
FringeArts: What inspired Let Me Die?
Joseph Keckler: I was attracted to the scenes in part because of the paradox they present: often the deaths in opera are the most virtuosic displays. So although these moments depict bodily failure they are in reality great vocal and physical feats.
I also noticed people talking about opera, as an art form, in terms of death: “opera is not dead,” etc., and was compelled by the idea that seeing opera once functioned as a “rehearsal for death.”
FringeArts: Other than death, what themes and qualities do you see running through the operatic death scenes?
Joseph Keckler: The scenes are alternately—or sometimes simultaneously—sublime and absurd. That’s my jam.
FringeArts: What do you hope audiences take away from Let Me Die?
Joseph Keckler: Nothing. To the contrary, I hope they leave something behind.
Joseph Keckler by Olivia Laing in BOMB
Excerpt: Joseph Keckler is a magician, a vagabond of the outer boroughs with an eye for the unorthodox, irregular, anomalous, and eccentric. The first time I met him, in 2011, I was struck both by his silver jacket and his impeccable manners. He’s the most charming man I know, also the most fragrant … As a writer and singer he nudges language to its limits; as a performer he is uncannily commanding.
“Shroom Trip Opera,” an original song by Joseph Keckler