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Digital Residency: Brian Lobel & Friends

For many singers throughout the world, the process of finding one’s artistic voice starts with 24 Italian Songs & Arias, the classic Schirmer songbook (originally published in 1894) featuring classics like Caro Mio Ben, Sebben Crudele, and Amarilli, Mia Bella. Regardless of background or nationality, singers both professional and amateur will be familiar with 24, its austere yellow and green calligraphied cover, its often-handed-down and worn bindings, its penciled-in breath marks, pronunciations, and phrases, and its often-maligned Victorian-era arrangements of Baroque classics.

24 Italian Songs & Arias acts as a shared starting point for so many singers’ journeys, and presents us with our project collecting answers to the question “What is the voice that you found while finding your voice?” How is it possible that one 100-page book starts journeys that go in so many different ways? Some journeys meander in private, some journeys explode with great success, and others take difficult, joyous, regretful, and unpredictable courses.

24 Italian Songs & Arias (& Voices) explores this starting point and the voices that were developed beyond it. En route to collating 24 versions of the 24 classics, we are interested in hearing about the journeys of their singers. Some will be stories of success, some of failure, and some of the gloriously messy in-betweens. As we gather our 24 interpretations of 24 Italian Songs & Arias we will also be inviting others to submit their own versions and their own stories, demonstrating this shared starting point and its potential far beyond our expectations. We want to know how the journey of singing engages one’s voice — personal, artistic, and political — and how these voices can come together in new and meaningful ways.

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Residency Support

Supporting Sponsors
Maurice and Linda Binkow
Julia Darlow and John O’Meara
Anne and Paul Glendon
Norman and Debbie Herbert

Patron Sponsors
Carol Amster
Stephen and Rosamund Forrest
Beverley and Gerson Geltner
Susan and Richard Gutow
James and Nancy Stanley

Funded in part by
UMS Sustaining Directors
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts

Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan

This Digital Arts Adventure is made possible by

UMCU Arts Adventures

About the Artists

Theater and performance artist Brian is an artist and scholar who attended the University of Michigan and is now based in the UK. He came to prominence as a performance artist in 2003 with his monologue piece BALL, which reflected on a cancer diagnosis in his 20s. Since that time, he has performed at the Sydney Opera House, the National Theatre, and Harvard Medical School, exploring the intersections of health, illness, disability, and medical research. His most recent work includes BINGE, a one-on-one performance that takes the solitary experience of binge-watching television shows and transforming it into an opportunity to figure out where we are and how to connect; 24 Italian Songs and Arias, which explores personal and professional failure; and Fun with Cancer Patients, which provides participants an opportunity to reflect on their unique experiences and wisdom.

Lobel’s unique biography and life experiences will lead to a further exploration of marginalization and vulnerability, the impact or intimate stories mixed with grander public narratives, and failure. For his UMS residency, Brian’s collaborators are the British soprano Gweneth-Ann Rand, the Canadian musical director and recitalist Allyson Devenish, and the British contralto Naomi Felix. Collectively, they will create a digital archive featuring video recordings of each of the 24 Italian Songs and Arias sung by a diverse array of singers who also share their own experiences of failure.

Upcoming Events

Events coming soon.

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Meet the full Digital Artist Residency cohort:

Wendell Pierce | Tarek Yamani & Spektral Quartet | Tunde Olaniran | Cleo Parker Robinson | Brian Lobel & Friends | Joyce DiDonato