Dates

9-13 March 2023

Location

Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Main Stage

Running time

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Tickets

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Perle Noire

A life dedicated to freedom and dignity

She was an exceptionally popular artist, a civilrights activist as well as a heroine of the French resistance. And now, after a life of fighting for freedom, Josephine Baker has become the first Black woman to enter the Panthéon, a mausoleum in Paris built to honour France’s most revered figures. In Perle Noire, singer Julia Bullock explores the life and struggles of this icon from a present-day perspective.

A life dedicated to freedom and dignity

In the theatrical song cycle Perle Noire, composer Tyshawn Sorey, director Peter Sellars and soprano Julia Bullock shine a light on the complex life behind the mask of an international superstar. They show a Joséphine filled with sadness, frustration, and the indefatigable desire to create a free and dignified life for herself and others.

 

Julia Bullock

In this staged song cycle, composer Tyshawn Sorey and director Peter Sellars break with the sumptuous and beguiling melodies that catapulted Baker to fame. Instead, Perle Noire is a gripping and layered interplay of song, poetry, instrumental interludes, improvisation, and elements of music from Joséphine’s native country, such as the Charleston.

Celebrated opera singer Julia Bullock – whose pristine delivery and undeniable stage presence in The Rake’s Progress, Girls of the Golden West and Michel van der Aa’s Upload have previously captivated audiences in Amsterdam – returns to Dutch National Opera for a project that is very close to her own heart.

Performance information

In English and French

Lyrics  Claudia Rankine

Direction and set design  Peter Sellars 
Costume design  Carlos Soto 
Lighting design  James F. Ingalls 
Audio  Marc Urselli
Choreography  Michael Schumacher

Joséphine Baker  Julia Bullock

International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE)
Jennifer Curtis, violin
Alice Teyssier, flute
Ryan Muncy, saxophone
Rebekah Heller, bassoon
Daniel Lippel, electric guitar
Tyshawn Sorey, piano and percussion

Co-production with Théatre du Châtelet (Parijs)

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Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine is not
a personal portrait about Joséphine, but a tribute to her’


JULIA BULLOCK - SINGER

Joséphine Baker

Joséphine Baker

In a cage, singing about her ‘home’ in Africa and dancing in a banana skirt, African American performer Joséphine Baker made her breakthrough in France in the 1920s. She soon became one of the most famous and best-paid artists in the world. Paradoxically enough, by making herself the exotic object of European fantasies, Baker was able to free herself from a prospectless and impoverished existence in her hometown of St. Louis. Her pursuit of independence and dignity was not limited to her own life, as she also played an important role in the French resistance during WWII as well as in the post-war civil rights movement in the US.

Josephine

‘Joséphine Baker is an icon of liberty’

Opera singer Julia Bullock and director Peter Sellars on Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine.

International Contemporary Ensemble

The International Contemporary Ensemble is a collective of musicians, digital media artists, performing artists and other talented individuals. The collective transforms the way music is created and experienced, often by researching how music is absorbed by the different communities that make up our world. In doing so, they give expression to a diverse and wide range of musical genres and styles, from chamber and elec­troacoustic music to improvisations and multimedia compo­sitions. In March 2023, the ensemble will providethe musical accompaniment to Perle Noire: Méditations for Joséphine.

Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine
Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine | Foto: Stephanie Berger
Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine | Foto: Stephanie Berger
Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine | Foto: Stephanie Berger
Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine | Foto: Stephanie Berger
Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine | Foto: Stephanie Berger
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Peter Sellars and Julia Bullock

‘Joséphine Baker is an icon of liberty’

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Lorenzo Viotti

‘I give my all to projects I believe in’

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Stijn Schoonderwoerd

‘We want to continue enchanting our audiences’

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