(HERE Artist Residency Program)

Mata Hari Matt Marks & Paul Peers

Show Description

Mata Hari is an interdisciplinary opera-theater piece. The story is inspired by the life of Mata Hari, the exotic dancer who was executed for espionage during World War I. The story is placed during last months of her life while incarcerated in St. Lazare prison, Paris, France. It focuses on her relationships with the five men that lead to her execution in 1917.


Photo by Benjamin Heller

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Artist Bio

Matt Marks
Matt Marks is a composer/performer of innovative opera and music-theater works, as well as unique and exciting instrumental and electronic music. A founding member of Alarm Will Sound, he also performs as a French hornist with such acclaimed new music ensembles as the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Signal, and ACME. He has recorded for Warp Records, Nonesuch, Cantaloupe Music, as well as many other independent labels. As a composer and arranger, Matt’s work has been called “staggeringly creative” by The New York Times, “obsessively detailed” by New York Magazine, and “stunning” by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Lincoln Center, The Barbican Center, The Bang on a Can Marathon, and live on WNYC radio. Matt’s first album, his post-Christian nihilist pop opera, The Little Death: Vol. 1, released on New Amsterdam Records, was described as “cheerily seductive” by the NY Times and “unabashedly boppy, baroquely multireferential, then suddenly sentimental” by Time Out NY. TLDV1 was also one of Time Out NY’s Top Ten Classical albums of 2010 and it contained one of Huffington Post’s Top Ten Alternative Art Songs of the Decade.
Other recent projects include a sold-out run of his “pop horror fashion show” The House of Von Macramé at the Bushwick Starr, his short operatic work Bluetooth Islands for the Brooklyn Philharmonic, a remix for Meredith Monk’s latest album, and a live realization of The Dirty Projectors’ album/opera The Getty Address. Upcoming projects include a commission to write a mini-opera for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2012-13 season; his opera Mata Hari: The Great Imitator at the HERE Arts Center in NYC; a piece for the D.C.-based Great Noise Ensemble; and his follow-up to TLDV1, The Little Death: Vol. 2.


Paul Peers

Paul is a stage director whose work spans theatre, musical-theatre and opera. He is a teacher of the Japanese performing art of Kenbu (Sword Dance). He trained under the late Maeda Asano Sensei of the Ryushin Ryu school, based in Nagoya, Japan. Paul was one of the first foreigners to publicly perform Kenbu in Japan, where he won awards in Tokyo and Nagoya.

Paul holds an MFA from Columbia University’s Theater Directing Program, New York. His opera directing debut was Händel’s Xerxes for Grammy nominated Boston Baroque. He directed Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera at the Alexander Kasser Theater, New Jersey and was invited back again to Boston Baroque to direct Händel’s rarely performed Amadigi di Gaula.

Paul’s international directing credits are: Australia, David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross for the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Shakespeare’s King Lear for Lightning Strike Theatre Company, Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade, Menken and Ashman’s Little Shop of Horrors for Adelaide College of Arts; Canada, Giuseppe Verdi’s Don Carlo and Amon Miyamoto’s production of Tan Dun’s Tea: A Mirror of Soul for Vancouver Opera; Germany, Geöffnet for the Dosto Projekt in Berlin.

His New York Off-Off Broadway credits are: Libby Leonard’s Blue Balloon for Columbia University School of the Arts’ New Play Feast Festival at the 4th Street Theatre, Seneca’s Thyestes at the Theater of the Riverside Church, Love is in the Air at the 14th Street Y, Tennessee Williams’ Talk to me like the Rain and Let Me Listen at The Sanford Meisner Theater, Shadow Boxing by James Gaddas at The Theater for the New City and Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine at New York Theatre Lab.

Currently, Paul is a resident artist at the HERE Arts Residency Program to develop a new opera-theatre piece about the femme fatale Mata Hari. His most recent engagement was Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore for Hawaii Opera Theatre in May 2016.

Artist Statement

Matt Marks
The Mata Hari project intrigued me for three reasons: This is an opportunity for me to work with a stage director and see my work realized visually in time and space; I love creating musical portraits of characters\ whose personalities are rich, multi-faceted, and deceptive; and I love working with historic text as a basis for creating my music. The music I make tends not to live in one genre for very long, often shifting styles multiple times over the span of a few phrases, so I felt the mercurial quality of Mata Hari’s personality would be well-suited for my musical portrait of her and her relationships. However, despite the fact that the height of Mata Hari’s drama occurred at the end of her life, in the 1910s, my aim is not to explicitly recreate the music of the era, captivating though it may be. The core instrumental ensemble consists of a pianist, a guitarist/banjoist, violinist, accordionist and percussionist, which is certainly reminiscent of a Parisian café band from the time, but the music they play is as much from our time as it is from the 1910s, as well as the 1800s. Mata Hari is a complex character whose personality, ranging between class and crass, we aim to portray in as much of a visceral manner as possible. My music serves to load the pistol, so to speak, in whichever style it may take to do so.

Paul Peers
Mata Hari, a chamber opera, is the most challenging project that I have undertaken to date. The project integrates physical theatre, 5 singers, 5 instrumentalists, an actor and interactive video art. After eight years of working in regional opera I am at a point in my career where I am ready to develop my own opera aesthetic and tell stories outside the standard operatic repertoire. This project presents a chance for me to leave mainstream opera and collaborate with a living composer for the first time. I have chosen Matt Marks because his compositions draw from multiple genres of music juxtaposed with non-fictional sources of text. His music evokes the elusive nature of Mata Hari where fact and fiction are sometimes difficult to discern. Mata Hari’s name is synonymous with the modern archetype of the “Femme Fatale”. As a librettist I find this archetype fascinating, because it engages the darker side of women’s nature. The challenge will be to create a text that illuminates the humanity behind the icon of Mata Hari. As a director I am attracted to this project because of the innovative approach to push the boundaries of the operatic form. To develop new audiences opera needs to evolve with current artistic trends particularly with integrating various technologies into the form. Live video effects layered into the narrative will express a non-linear recalling of memories as Mata Hari faces her interrogator. My
vision integrates the combining of stylized movement, imagery and live music into the stage action to convey a psychological reality that encompasses both the fictional and factual aspects of Mata Hari’s story.


Chopt Logic

Chopt Logic

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Pictures from our Culturemart Performances are posted!

Follow the link below to check out photos by Benjamin Heller of our Culturemart performances. Mata Hari on Flickr

The Battle to Make Opera Cool

Awesome Daily Beast article featuring some of the most badass movers and shakers in the opera world these days. HERE Arts, Beth Morrison, Kamala Sankaram, Michael Marcotte, David T Little and Matt Marks http://thebea.st/1zvePJi

Three Days in the Dot, Preparing for Culturemart!

Matt and I spent three concentrated days in the Dot theatre, focusing on the new music and staging for our up-coming work in progress performance for HERE's Culturemart Festival in March. Thank you to our wonderful cast Tina Mitchell (Mata...