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Released: February 12, 2009 · Download (39 KB PDF)

Museum Brings Artist’s Restaging of The Return of Ulysses to San Francisco 

Acknowledging the importance of theatrical work in William Kentridge’s oeuvre, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will present The Return of Ulysses, an opera directed by the artist. The Return of Ulysses will run at Project Artaud Theater, San Francisco, from Tuesday, March 24, through Saturday, March 28 (Opening Night Benefit Performance March 25), and is a production of Pacific Operaworks, Seattle, with musical direction by three-time Grammy nominee Stephen Stubbs and puppetry by Kentridge’s longtime collaborator, the Handspring Puppet Company of Cape Town, South Africa.

Kentridge’s acclaimed reinterpretation of Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria (Claudio Monteverdi’s seminal masterpiece from 1640) was first performed in Brussels in 1998. This limited-engagement revival of the artist’s original production will be overseen by director Luc de Wit and features actors and musicians, as well as life-size wooden puppets and projections of Kentridge’s signature animated charcoal drawings.

Performed in Italian with English supertitles, The Return of Ulysses is based on Homer’s Odyssey, focusing on the hero’s return to Ithaca after his voyage 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.

Kentridge recreates Monteverdi’s classic for our time by setting the story in mid-20th-century South Africa and placing the dying Ulysses in a hospital ward in Johannesburg. Incorporating the artist’s video projections—inspired in part by medical films and images of the body taken from X-rays, MRIs, and angiograms—Kentridge’s restaging of the piece adds a fascinating visual world to Homer’s epic and Monteverdi’s music, highlighting the fine line between internal and external forces within the story, as well as the mortal frailty of Ulysses and all mythic heroes.

The Return of Ulysses is presented in conjunction with the exhibition William Kentridge: Five Themes (on view at SFMOMA March 14 through May 31, 2009) and marks the latest installment of Live Art at SFMOMA, an ongoing series of innovative public programs designed to embrace the event-driven, performance-based nature of today’s most engaging contemporary art. 

An opera by Claudio Monteverdi
Directed by William Kentridge
Revival directed by Luc de Wit; produced by Pacific Operaworks, Seattle; musical direction by Stephen Stubbs; featuring the Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa
Tuesday–Saturday, March 24–28, 8 p.m.
Discounted Preview Performance: March 24
Opening Night Benefit Performance: March 25
Project Artaud Theater, 450 Florida Street, San Francisco
Performed in Italian with English supertitles; approximately 100 minutes; no intermission.
$60–$100 general; $45–$85 SFMOMA members, students, and seniors; preview $25-$40.
For tickets, visit www.sfmoma.org/kentridgeopera or call Ticketmaster at 800.745.3000.

Wednesday, March 25
Reception: 5:30–7:30 p.m.
Performance: 8 p.m.
The Modern Art Council, SFMOMA’s primary fund-raising auxiliary, hosts the highly anticipated opening night of The Return of Ulysses. Mingle at a pre-show cocktail reception, then see the production in its San Francisco debut. All proceeds support SFMOMA’s exhibitions and public programs. $750 Grand Benefactor; $500 Benefactor; $350 Patron.
For tickets, call the Modern Art Council at 415.618.3268 or email mac@sfmoma.org. For more information, visit www.sfmoma.org/kentridgeopera.

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.

Panel Discussion:
The Return of Ulysses
Stephen Stubbs, Pacific Operaworks; musicians and performers from The Return of Ulysses
Saturday, March 28, 2 p.m.
Phyllis Wattis Theater, SFMOMA
Join members of the San Francisco production of William Kentridge’s The Return of Ulysses for this behind-the-scenes look at making and performing this celebrated restaging of Monteverdi’s opera. Expect a puppet demonstration.
$10 general; $7 SFMOMA members, students, and seniors. Program tickets are available at the museum (no surcharge) or through tickets.sfmoma.org/tickets(surcharge applies).

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.

William Kentridge: Five Themes is organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Norton Museum of Art. Generous support for the exhibition is provided by the Koret Foundation. Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. The San Francisco presentation of the exhibition is made possible by generous support from Doris and Donald Fisher.

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

Jill Lynch 415.357.4172
Clara Hatcher Baruth 415.357.4177 chatcher@sfmoma.org
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