Robert Mapplethorpe's most provocative photographs can still provoke.

The Washington Post

Triptych (Eyes of One on Another)
Finding Poetry and Music in Mapplethorpe
Composed by Bryce Dessner
Libretto by korde arrington tuttle,
    featuring words by Essex Hemphill and Patti Smith
Directed by Kaneza Schaal
Featuring Roomful of Teeth,
    special guests Alicia Hall Moran and Isaiah Robinson,
    and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players
Music direction and conducting by Brad Wells

A Cal Performances Co-Commission

The cool classical symmetry and bold eroticism of Robert Mapplethorpe's photography meet sound and text in a hybrid theatrical experience that invites us to reflect on the intimate acts of looking and being looked at. Composer Bryce Dessner, best known as a member of the rock group The National, has had a lifelong fascination with the transgressive beauty of Mapplethorpe's work, and now collaborates with librettist korde arrington tuttle, designer Carlos Soto, and director Kaneza Schaal to revisit the photographer's oeuvre nearly 30 years after it instigated a now-infamous obscenity trial and controversy at the National Endowment for the Arts. The libretto draws on the poetry of Patti Smith and the writings of Essex Hemphill, who chronicled the African-American gay community during the AIDS epidemic and directly addressed the contradictions at the core of Mapplethorpe's work. Dessner's new score is performed by the Grammy-winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, joined by special guests Alicia Hall Moran and Isaiah Robinson, and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. Beautifully crafted and performed...[Dessner] creates a full spectrum of tonalities from the deepest black shadows to blazing white highlights (SF Classical Voice).

Approximate run time of this performance is 1 hour and 10 minutes without intermission

This production features sexually explicit images from the Robert Mapplethorpe collection that may be inappropriate for some audience members. Discretion is advised.

Set and costume design by Carlos Soto
Lighting design by Yuki Nakase
Video by Simon Harding
Dramaturgy by Talvin Wilks and Christopher Myers

Produced by ArKtype/Thomas O. Kriegsmann in cooperation with The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.

Produced in residency with and commissioned by University Musical Society, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. Co-produced by Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, music and artistic director. Triptych was co-commissioned by BAM; Luminato Festival, Toronto, Canada; Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Athens, Greece; Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati, OH; Cal Performances, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA; Stanford Live, Stanford University, Stanford, CA; Adelaide Festival, Australia; John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for performance as part of DirectCurrent 2019; ArtsEmerson: World on Stage, Emerson College, Boston, MA; Texas Performing Arts, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX; Holland Festival, Amsterdam; Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; the Momentary, Bentonville, AR; Celebrity Series of Boston, MA; and residency development through MassMOCA, North Adams, MA.


Parking Alerts

Parking will be a problem on campus for the Sep 28 performance due to a concert at the Greek Theatre on campus. Please see our Parking Alert section for more information.

Related Events

Public Discussion
Sat, Sep 28, 5pm
Durham Studio Theater, Dwinelle Hall
Eyes of Artists on the World: Hearing and Seeing Today Through Mapplethorpe's Legacy. Sabrina Klein, Cal Performances' director of artistic literacy, moderates a discussion on making meaning from the marriage of new music, performance, and imagery. Panelists: Triptych librettist korde arrington tuttle, conceptual artist and UCB professor of photography Liz Linden, Stanford University professor and scholar of queer art and culture Richard Meyer, and musician and scholar of sound and meaning Serena Le.

Catharsis Café
Sat, Sep 28
Zellerbach Hall Lobby Mezzanine
Join us for a post-performance reception and discussion with fellow audience members. Free to ticket holders.

Major support for public programs provided by Bank of America.

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Explore More

Feature Article
Reframing the Image
Triptych Focuses a Contemporary Lens on Robert Mapplethorpe's Provocative Art

by Thomas May

In this age of selfies, promiscuously disseminated Snapchat sexting, and Instagram—the omnipresent reflection of our image-saturated, disposable culture—it almost defies belief that an exhibition of photographs was once the flashpoint...READ ARTICLE

Vanity Fair When Robert Mapplethorpe Took New York

Hyperallergic Pulled into Robert Mapplethorpe's Vortex of Voyeurism

The Smithsonian Magazine When Art Fought the Law and the Art Won

The New Yorker Roomful of Teeth is Revolutionizing Choral Music

SF Classical Voice Caroline Shaw [of Roomful of Teeth] Is Firing on All Creative Cylinders

Triptych Program Notes excerpt by Christopher Myers, dramaturg for Triptych (Eyes of One on Another)

Program Notes

Program notes are available online. [PDF]