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a new opera by Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spalding

Produced in association with REAL MAGIC

Currently in development.

Premiere fall 2020

Creative Team

Wayne Shorter, Composer

Esperanza Spalding, Librettist and performer

Additional creatives to be announced.

Project Description

IPHIGENIA, with music by WAYNE SHORTER and libretto by ESPERANZA SPALDING, is a modern operatic re-imagining of a powerful ancient story by two of the most visionary and daring musical voices of our time. 

Whether you recognize the name IPHIGENIA or not, you know the story. A group of powerful men tell a woman that she must make an enormous sacrifice in order to serve the greater good. It’s a story that has plagued civilization since the beginning of time. Shorter and Spalding have transposed Euripides’ play onto a modern-day film set culminating with Gene’s (Iphigenia’s) final decision to risk everything in order to break the pattern of being held captive to the stories - stories about race, gender, and relationships -  we’ve been told can never change.

The musical language of the piece combines Shorter’s ground-breaking method of symphonic improvisation with Spalding’s colorful, conversational libretto. Each performance will involve musical and theatrical improvisation, ending with a mass improvisation that will live and change every evening; audiences will never experience the same show twice. 

Our Iphigenia has at its core a sense of autonomy – in this adventure of life, you have freedom of choice. All cards are on the table and Iphigenia gets to choose, free of everything. Through her example, we can learn how to take a creative approach to everything, using the power of spontaneous engagement. The overarching sentiment is one of humanistic love, of wanting to re-awaken the dreams of youth free of the pressures of adulthood.
— Esperanza Spalding
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Wayne Shorter

“Generally acknowledged to be jazz's greatest living composer” (New York Times), Wayne Shorter has left an indelible mark on the development of music for the last half-century. He first rose to prominence in the late 1950’s as the primary composer for Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. He next joined the Miles Davis Quintet becoming what that bandleader referred to as the ensemble’s “intellectual musical catalyst” before co-founding the pioneering group Weather Report. Since 2001, he has led his own highly acclaimed quartet.

His works have been performed by the Chicago Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Lyon Symphony, National Polish Radio
Symphonic Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Prague Philharmonic and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Acclaimed artists and ensembles as Renée Fleming and the Imani Winds have also performed his works. He has received commissions from the National, St. Louis, and Nashville Symphony Orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the La Jolla Music Society. In all, Mr. Shorter has realized over 200 compositions and dozens of these works have become modern standards.

“Mr. Shorter’s mastery is in knocking down the wall
between jazz and classical.”
                                   - The New York Times

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Esperanza Spalding

Bassist/composer/vocalist Esperanza Spalding combines influences and moves between musical worlds, performing and collaborating with the likes of Bruno Mars, Milton Nascimento, Jack DeJohnette, Guinga, George Duke, Janelle Monáe, Herbie Hancock,
Prince, Stevie Wonder, and Wayne Shorter.

Spalding collaborated with Gil Goldstein for her 2011 Chamber Music Society, breaking musical lines of jazz improvisation to classical music. This garnered her Best New Artist at the 53rd Grammy Awards, an unprecedented achievement by a jazz musician. The subsequently released Radio Music Society brought pop music together with a mosaic array of jazz legends and musicians. Both albums have led international music charts and gained multiple awards and Grammys.

Spalding continues to expand the boundaries of her artistry. Recent projects include composing “Wild Rose” for Dianne Reeves’ album Beautiful Life and arranging “Boys In The Trees” for Carly Simon’s upcoming album. She has taught at Berklee College of Music
and given numerous master classes and workshops throughout North America, Mexico, and Europe.

In her ongoing commitment to innovate and make the unprecedented her norm, Spalding brings with her an ever-expanding collage of art and music along with devoted support for education, social justice, and environmental stewardship.