December 3, 2019

Southern Crossings:

Composition and Collaboration
Maison Francaise East Gallery, Buell Hall Columbia University 515 West 116th Street New York, NY 10027 United States
Free and open to the public

A conversation with composer Zaid Jabri and his librettists, Yvette Christiansë and Rosalind Morris

About this Event

This event is part of a series of talks organized by the Institute for Ideas and Imagination at Reid Hall in Paris and the Maison Française in Morningside Heights. It is also co-sponsored by the Heyman Center for the Humanities and Society of Fellows.

A meeting of minds? A missed encounter? In 1836, as the abolition of slavery came into effect, the famed astronomer, John Herschel, and his wife, Margaret, returned to England from Cape Town where, two years earlier, they had entertained Charles Darwin. Southern Crossings restages the failed dinner in the dream-image of what might have been. The chamber opera, with music by Zaid Jabri and a libretto by Yvette Christiansë and Rosalind Morris, comprises a layered set of conversations about time—of evolution, eternity, and freedom; and revolution—of ideas and nations—between Darwin and the Herschels, and their indentured servants, January and Leah.

The composer and librettists share their experience and thoughts about the music and conceptual work of their collaboration.

Zaid Jabri is an award-winning composer from Syria who studied with Zbigniew Bujarski and Krzysztof Penderecki at the Academy of Music in Poland. Published by Donemus (nl), his music has been performed at Carnegie Hall, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and at festivals and concert halls throughout Europe, the US, Canada and the Middle East. Jabri has been honored with residential fellowships at Harvard, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and McDowell Colony. He has also shared a Bellagio residency with the librettists for their work on the opera Cities of Salt. He was a Fellow at the Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination in Paris last year, and is presently a Fellow at Columbia’s Society of Fellows.

Yvette T. Christiansë is an award-winning novelist, poet, and literary critic from South Africa, and is Ann Whitney Olin Professor and Chair of the Department of Africana Studies at Barnard College. She is the author of the novel, Unconfessed, two volumes of poetry, including Castaway and Imprendehora, and a book of literary criticism entitled Toni Morrison: An Ethnical Poetics. Christiansë has also written the lyrics for two other works by Jabri, including A Garden among the Flames, which premiered at Carnegie Hall, and (R)evolution, for voice and piano, which premiered in Bonn, Germany.

Rosalind C. Morris is an anthropologist, cultural critic and filmmaker who is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. She is the author of numerous books and essays, the most recent of which is The Returns of Fetishism: Charles de Brosses and the Afterlives of an Idea. In addition to her anthropological scholarship, Morris has collaborated widely with visual artists in South Africa (where she conducts field research), including William Kentridge, Clive van den Berg, Ebrahim Hajee, and Songezile Madikida. Her poetry and more experimental writing has appeared in such journals as Literary Imagination, the New Ohio Review, and The Capilano Review. Her documentary film, We are Zama Zama is in post-production and will be released in 2020.

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Please arrive ahead of time to secure a spot.

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