The Return of Ulysses

Related Exhibition William Kentridge

Tuesday, March 24 - Saturday, March 28, 2009
Performance begins promptly at 8:00 p.m.
Late seating will not be permitted.
Opening Night Benefit Performance
Wednesday, March 25, 20095:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Project Artaud Theater450 Florida StreetSan Francis

A superb tale is always worth the retelling. A story from Homer's Odyssey was brought to vivid life by Claudio Monteverdi in 1640 with The Return of Ulysses (Il Ritorno d'Ulisse), which focuses on the hero's return to Ithaca after his journey of more than 20 years. Aided by the goddess Minerva and disguised as an old beggar, he reveals his true identity and power as he routs the unwelcome suitors who have plundered his home and wooed his long-suffering wife, Penelope.

Monteverdi's masterful wedding of words with music of unique expressive exactness gave birth to one of the seminal masterpieces of opera. Kentridge recreates the story for our time, placing the dying Ulysses in a hospital ward in mid-20th-century Johannesburg. Using animated charcoal drawings and life-size wooden puppets, Kentridge adds a fascinating visual world to Homer's epic and Monteverdi's music, bringing us into direct contact with the power of myth. Performed in Italian with English supertitles; 100 minutes.

The Return of Ulysses is presented in conjunction with William Kentridge: Five Themes in acknowledgment of the profound importance of theatrical work in Kentridge's oeuvre.


An opera by Claudio Monteverdi
Directed by William Kentridge

Additional Info

Revival directed by Luc de Wit
Produced by Pacific Operaworks, Seattle
Musical direction by Stephen Stubbs
Featuring the Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa

The Return of Ulysses is made possible by generous support from the Koret Foundation, Doris and Donald Fisher, the Mimi and Peter Haas Fund, and Nancy and Steven H. Oliver. Virgin America is the official airline of this production.

Support for Live Art at SFMOMA is provided by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Major support for the opening night of The Return of Ulysses is provided by KPMG LLP.

Additional support is provided by Peggy and Willis Newton.

Special thanks to our wine sponsor, Napa Valley Vintners.

Image credit: The Return of Ulysses, production still; photo: John Hodgkiss, © Handspring Puppet Company