Ballroom Marfa Art Fund


Watch Vidas Perfectas Via Live Stream

17 Apr 2014


Robert Ashley and Alex Waterman, Performance of El Parque, Vidas Perfectas, Irondale Theater, Brooklyn, NY; December 2011, Pictured: Ned Sublette as ‘R’, aka Raoul de Noget, Courtesy of the artist. Photograph by Phillip Stearns.

For anyone unable to make it to the performances of Vidas Perfectas at the Whitney Biennial, be sure to tune into the performance’s live stream beginning today.

Here is the schedule (all times EST):

each episode is 30 minutes, plus 15-minute changeovers between episodes

Thursday, April 17

1:30pm (El Parque, La Iglesia)

4:30pm (La Iglesia, El Parque

Friday, April 18

1:30pm (El Banco, El Salon)

6:30pm (El Banco, El Salon, El Bar)

Saturday, April 19

12pm (El Supermercado, El Banco)

4:30pm (El Bar, El Patio de Atras)

Sunday, April 20

12pm (El Supermercado, El Bar)

4:30pm (El Parque,

N+1, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal Reflect on Robert Ashley, “Perfect Lives”, and “Vidas Perfectas” at the Whitney

16 Apr 2014


Vidas Perfectas premieres tomorrow at the Whitney Biennial and many have taken this opportunity to reflect on Robert Ashley’s legacy and the great works he left behind, particularly this recent three-opera series at the Whitney.

In an article for The Wall Street Journal, Corinne Ramey discusses with director Alex Waterman what drew him to Ashley’s operas:

“That’s the genius of Bob’s work,” said Mr. Waterman, in the Williamsburg apartment he shares with his wife Elisa Santiago, who performs in “Vidas Perfectas,” and their toddler son. “His idea of an opera is that it’s characters in a landscape telling stories musically.”

For Mr. Waterman, a major attraction of Ashley’s work is the idea of music as a social and collaborative process, where a less formal interpretation—like that of the performance collective Varispeed, which produced a site-specific “Perfect Lives” in the Catskills—is just as valid as Mr. Waterman’s more formal one.

“I’m interested in music not just as a way of organizing sound,” said Mr. Waterman, “but as a way of thinking about who we are when we gather together, and how we listen and speak together, and how we produce things together.”

Paul Grimstad focuses on the importance of Ashley’s Perfect Lives: A Television Opera for N+1 Magazine. An excerpt:

While the operas for television might seem yet another way in which the calculatedly outrageous became a commonplace of 20th-century art, Ashley’s work looks more like an ingenious trick of defamiliarization whereby that quaint banality “television” is transformed into a medium for opera. In the end, I think, Ashley was mostly interested in the sound of Americans talking to each other, or talking to themselves: insistent, often indistinct, never meaningless, demotic. In these voices can be heard something revelatory and strange, as if someone took the lid off life and let us see the works.

Finally, Steve Smith eulogizes Ashley in The New York Times. Finding comfort in the fact that Waterman’s new productions of Ashley’s work manage to both be faithful to Ashley’s vision while cleverly building upon them. An excerpt:

What I have appreciated most about previous reconceptions of Ashley’s operas was the extent to which newcomers found fresh possibilities. Already in “Crash,” broadened horizons were evident. Ms. Bell’s inquisitive “yeah” was not Mr. Pinto’s hipster aside. Mr. McCorkle’s stammer was more pronounced than Ms. Kidambi’s. Ms. Simons and Mr. Ruder employed distinct hues of wistfulness. If the specter of death haunted this wistful, articulate swan song, prospects of preservation and renewal were also at hand.

After extensive filming on location in Marfa, Vidas Perfectas will debut at the Whitney Biennial tomorrow, April 17, 2014. Please join us here in Far West Texas as the production returns to Marfa and El Paso from July 10-14.

Alex Waterman on Celebrating Robert Ashley

11 Mar 2014


Above photo, production still shot on location in Marfa, TX, February 2014 Courtesy of Alex Waterman and Peter Szollosi

Waterman, the director of Vidas Perfectas, a co-production with Ballroom Marfa and the El Paso Opera, recently shared this letter via email with friends and supporters after Robert Ashley’s passing on March 3. The subject was “Celebrating Robert Ashley’s Life and Work”:

Dear Friends and Supporters,

On February 21, 2014, we launched a 30-day Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to compensate the extraordinary talent and to cover the costs of all the technical equipment we need to stage 3 Operas by Robert Ashley at the Whitney Biennial.

On March 3, 2014, our friend, inspiration, and the composer of these incredible operas, Robert Ashley, passed away.

As we grieve and come to accept the new reality of these productions without Bob, we still face the daunting and awkward task of fundraising.

What’s clear to us is that these operas need to be staged. Bob would not have wanted a memorial concert. What he would want is for his work to be appreciated and performed with love and care, with a thoughtfulness that comes from spending days, months, years… working together and sharing these stories.

At the Whitney Biennial, we don’t want to grieve, we want to celebrate. Bob’s work has always been grounded in an every day life, even when the music veers to the cosmic. His operas are about the people he knew, the stories shared, the books read, the questions asked, the revelations unveiled. By staging his work, we celebrate a mind keen to the nuances of conversation and thought, and a life lived fully.

As difficult as it is to ask under these circumstances, we do need your help. We want these operas to be staged with the best possible sound, lighting, video, and sets, in order to honor Robert Ashley and his work. 12 days remain to raise nearly $35,000. My gratitude goes to those who have already donated. If we don’t reach our goal, we lose it all.