ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble)
David Lang: the whisper opera

  • Edlis Neeson Theater
    First Floor, Accessible via the Griffin Entrance on Pearson Street
    220 E Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

Featured image

David Lang
Photo: Peter Serling


Lang, once a post-minimalist enfant terrible, has solidified his standing as an American master.
—The New Yorker


The final concert of ICE’s third year as ensemble-in-residence at MCA Stage features a world-premiere chamber opera by David Lang, commissioned by ICE with Tony Arnold as solo soprano. This one-of-a-kind work is performed with the musicians, singer, and audience enclosed in an intimate, onstage set. Composed for flute, clarinet, percussion, cello, and solo soprano, the music and the environment work together to convey themes of secrets, and the tension between what we hide and what we choose to reveal. the whisper opera (2013) is inspired in part by Lang’s visits to rural Italy, where he was surprised to experience the powerful intimacy of small opera houses.

Lang has turned to Jim Findlay to direct the work and create the particular stage design needed for the intimate setting of the whisper opera; Findlay is an influential and delightfully provocative force as a designer and director in New York’s experimental theater world.

At the request of the artists, there will be no late seating for this performance.



Jim Findlay
Photo: Pavol Liska

Artists Up Close

First Night Post-Show Talk

Thu, May 30
Peter Taub, Director of Performance Programs, leads a discussion with the artists and audience in the theater, after the performance.

About the Artists

David Lang is cofounder and coartistic director of New York’s legendary music organization Bang on a Can. He is one of America’s most performed composers, and has a prolific catalog of opera, orchestra, chamber, and solo works as well as music for theater and dance. Lang is at the same time deeply versed in the classical tradition and committed to music that resists categorization, constantly creating new forms. His music is by turns ominous, ethereal, urgent, hypnotic, unsettling, and very emotionally direct. Lang is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Rome Prize, the BMW Music-Theater Prize (Munich), and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, the NEA, and others.

ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) was founded in Chicago in 2001, and since that time has established itself as one of the leading musical ensembles of its generation, as well as one of the most innovative young arts organizations in the US. Described by The New York Times as “one of the most adventurous and accomplished groups in new music,” ICE performs more than 50 concerts a year throughout the United States and abroad, and has commercially released six acclaimed albums. A champion of music by young composers, ICE has also given more than 400 world premieres by composers under the age of 35. On October 2, 2012, ICE’s Artistic Director Claire Chase was named a 2012 MacArthur Fellow. The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.

This concert marks the concluding program this season by International Contemporary Ensemble, the ensemble-in-residence at MCA Stage. In 2010, ICE and MCA Stage embarked on a shared three-year commitment to an entrepreneurial approach to music, by originating work and devising its rehearsal and concert performance in ways that actively engage composers, and opening the process to the public in myriad settings. The residency is also distinguished by the nontraditional formats, intimate settings, and popular technology that shape most of the public offerings.


Support for this project is generously provided by National Endowment for the Arts.