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Rokia Traoré Gives NY Premiere of "Desdemona," Collaboration with Toni Morrison, Peter Sellars, at Lincoln Center

Rokia Traore
Desdemona, Rokia Traoré's theatrical collaboration with director Peter Sellars and Nobel Prize–winning novelist Toni Morrison, receives its New York premiere at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater tonight, with an encore presentation tomorrow night. The presentation is as part of the second-annual White Light Festival, "an exploration of music’s power to illuminate our interior lives." For tickets, go to

The New York Times, in a feature article on the piece and its creators, describes Desdemona as "an interactive narrative of words, music and song about Shakespeare’s doomed heroine, who speaks to the audience from the grave about the traumas of race, class, gender, war—and the transformative power of love." Read the article at

Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed, reviewing last week's US premiere at Berkeley's Zellerbach Playhouse, cites "Traoré's eloquent songs and entrancing voice" and calls the piece "astonishing ... a great, challenging, haunting and lasting work." Read the complete review at

Traoré, Sellars, and cast member Tina Benko stopped by the studios at New York NPR member station WNYC for an appearance on Soundcheck to talk with host John Schaefer about Desdemona and perform live. You can listen to the segment here:

Created in response to Sellars's 2009 direction of Shakespeare's Othello, the piece, featuring a script by Morrison and music by Traoré, imagines a conversation from beyond the grave between Shakespeare's Desdemona and Barbary, the woman Shakespeare identifies as the African nurse who raised her. After centuries of colonialism and racism, the two women share stories, songs, determination, and hope for a different future. Traoré sings the role of Barbary. Sellars directs.

Sellars, a frequent collaborator with Nonesuch artists like John Adams and Dawn Upshaw, first worked with Traoré on a reimagining of Mozart's The Magic Flute for the composer's 250th anniversary.

To peruse Rokia Traoré's Nonesuch catalog, head to the Nonesuch Store, where CD orders include high-quality, 320 kbps MP3s at checkout.


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