Opera News review

“a bold impression from the start … a perfect illustration of music’s capacity to mend.”

Berkshire Fine Arts review

Prism at Roulette in Brooklyn, World Premiere is Luminescent

Prism is not only a superb saxophone ensemble. It ranks high in the chamber music world. Delivering unique and surprising programs in high style is their forte. Mending Wall was no exception. The quartet not only gave us stunning music. In matching grey wigs, they moved smoothly to rhythms which impelled them across a large flat floor area.

Arturo O’Farrill took to the stage to perform his wild offering on piano. He creates the impression of an annual gathering in San Diego on the Tijuana border where people sing, ‘fuck your wall.’ … Dutch director Jorinde Keesmaat came on board for this ambitious project which combined moving florescent tubes, instrumentalists choreographed and speaking, and the remarkable Tony Arnold singing and speaking, as well as gathering rocks.

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PRISM Quartet’s Brilliant, Uncanny ‘Mending Wall’ Premieres at Roulette

“PRISM, together with Tony Arnold as soprano and O’Farrill as pianist, gave to the evening a fullness of sound, theatrics, and charisma that show how accessible and exciting new music can be when powerful artistic choices are made. Jorinde Keesmaat’s rich, playful, and uncanny production is ideal for our re-emergent performing arts: something authentically different for our authentically different era.” 

PRISM “performed with the zeal and puckishness of an improv troupe. The production deliberately showed the awkwardness of new music performance itself, and leaned into that awkwardness—doing what avant-garde performers so often wish to do but frequently fall short of: giving the audience a genuinely new experience that challenges their assumptions of what music and performance are.”

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OperaWire feature

“Mending Wall – How PRISM Saxophone Quartet Joined Forces with Soprano Tony Arnold for a Unique Musical Journey” By Chris Ruel

From the article:

“The content of the poem, ‘Where Her Eye Sits,’ related to PRISM’s theme of mending walls, the demise of apartheid and that regime, and the construction of a new vision of society,” George Lewis told OperaWire in an interview. “[The poem] is like a libretto and directs what happens in the piece. In this case, I wanted to look at the imagery of the poem and have sounds that would relate to that. I also wanted to give a sense of distress, foreboding, horror–things that come out in the poem. I wanted to have a sense of dynamism about the saxophone music and the voice blending to express in a way the meaning of the words. When you see a word like ‘blood,’ what does that bring up in your mind? It’s important to do that.

“I just wish he [Keorapetse Kgositsile] were here to hear it. Close friends will be able to hear it and they’ll appreciate keeping his work before the public and honoring him and his enormous place in the world of letters, the world of activism, and his courage; the courage with which he fought apartheid and overcame it through the power of words and his love of music. That’s why I did it.”

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Observer preview

“Spring’s Best Opera Reveals an Art Form Rapidly Innovating” By Mary von Aue

Mending Wall is another great example of emerging opera stars bending the rules with what opera can do. Prism Quartet tapped Jorinde Keesmaat and soprano Tony Arnold to link four major works by the composers Arturo O’Farrill, George Lewis, Juri Seo and Martin Bresnick to make music inspired by four poets. Each composer was given a single prompt: chose a poem to represent their own experience of living behind walls.”

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Philadelphia Inquirer preview

“Classical spring: Top pianists, Beethoven all over the place—and a knock-your-socks-off ‘Elektra’” by Peter Dobrin

“What’s the meaning of a wall in this day and age? [Prism] answers in the world premiere of “Mending Wall,” a fully staged theatrical collection of works by composers George Lewis, Arturo O’Farrill, Juri Seo, and Martin Bresnick. The poetry of Robert Frost figures into one work.”