Chamber choir Volti brings Pandora myth to life 

click to enlarge Volti and Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir rehearse "Pandora's Gift," a world premiere opening this weekend in San Francisco. - COURTESY JEANETTE ATHERTON
  • Volti and Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir rehearse "Pandora's Gift," a world premiere opening this weekend in San Francisco.
San Francisco’s innovative contemporary chamber choir Volti is tackling Pandora’s box.

"Pandora's Gift,” a commissioned world premiere by composer Mark Winges and librettist Denise Newman onstage at Z Space in The City this week, won’t likely be a staid affair.

Volti executive director Barbara Heroux calls the piece "an exploration of the beauty, terror and promise of the Pandora myth through music, poetry, drama and movement."

Directed and choreographed by Erika Chong Shuch and featuring the East Bay Children’s Choir, “Pandora’s Gift” – which is being billed as a “multimedia performance art piece for voices” – won’t simply be 50 choristers standing and singing.

The work involves movement and theatrical elements to tell the tale of Pandora, the woman in Greek mythology who opened a jar and released to the world all the evils besetting humanity, leaving only hope inside.

"There is no one person representing Pandora. It has more elements of ritual than story, and the genre of unaccompanied choir highlights this. It tells an audience less by not having specific characters, but invites them into the myth more, giving them the freedom to project their own heart and mind onto the experience as it unfolds,” says Winges, Volti's resident composer.

Shuch adds, "I think we are telling a story about the kind of beauty that happens when we close our eyes, forget that the world is watching, and face an aspect of self that we don’t quite understand. And maybe this is where true 'hope' lives. In the mystery. In the silences between. Behind closed eyes."

Newman's text exemplifies the composer's intention in describing Pandora's action:

"Why not do what wants to be done?

Dusk seeks dawn, low, high.

Hot wants cool, wet, dry.

One quick peek for the curious."

In addition to “Pandora’s Gift,” Volti’s upcoming program includes world premieres of works by Ryan Brown and LJ White, winners of Volti’s young composer competition, as well as post-concert receptions during which the creative team will field questions from audience members, who are invited to share their reactions. The Gerbode/Hewlett Music Commissioning program contributed a $50,000 grant to the project.


Pandora's Gift

Presented by Volti

Where: Z Space, 450 Florida St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. May 16, 4 p.m. May 17

Tickets: $10 to $45

Contact: (415) 771-3352,

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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