Nine Circles featured in the International Strad Magazine
"One thing is certain - wherever the next Nine Circles production goes, audiences are bound to be intrigued by this ensembleís original blend of words, music and drama, and by their exploration of the seemingly limitless possibilities of the violin."
The Strad read the entire article
When Samson Met Delilah
The workís creators, Jonathan Levi and Bruce Saylor, achieved a poignant effect by casting a violinist as Samson...Mr. Morgenstern didnít sing, communicating solely through his instrument. This became a perfect demonstration of supreme ability.
The New York Times
Guest from the Future
A new opera dramatizes the storied all-night meeting in 1945 between Russian poet Anna Akhmatova and british philosopher Isaiah Berlin. Was the encounter a key moment in cold war history, as she believed? (And can philosophy REALLY be sung?)
The Boston Globe (more)
The libretto by Jonathan Levi charts Akhmatovaís tumultuous life - her emergence as a captivating talent in tsarist St Petersburg, the persecutions of Stalinís years of terror, her official denunciation in 1946. The composer Mel Marvin, previously active on Broadway, displays a keen sense of music drama in a score that affectingly mixes astringency with tonal references. The musicís dark colours, rhythmic verve and symphonic textures mesh neatly with the subject matter...Guest from the Future is a "chamber opera" but the only thing small-scaled is the eight-player orchestra, and it made a mighty sound under David Leviís leadership.
The Financial Times
Hip, self-conscious, postmodern by intent, often tongue-in-cheek... Itís refreshingly post- classical to see an opera that can laugh at itself.
The Village Voice
Precisely what opera today can be: vibrant, expressive and engaging. A unique and dexterous blend of contrasting elements, it has a multitextured score by Mel Marvin that is not afraid of either disonnance or beauty and calmly absorbs elements of jazz and rock music. Jonathan Leviís libretto mixes ordinary, everyday things into the outrageously implausible. The tone moves from humor to heartbreak, from clinical to sensual.
The New Haven Register
Challenging, engaging, and fun--a small gem of modern work that abandons many of the pretensions of not just contemporary opera, but of a strictly interpreted reality and truth as well.
The Art of the Fugitive
"The underlying theme of Celanís work is the Holocaust: born in 1920, he lost his parents in Nazi camps and took his own life in 1970. His most famous poem - nearly worshipped in Germany - is Todesfuge or DeathFugue, a direct evocation of the camps: the blue eyed commandant orders the Jewish musicians to play while their fellow prisoners dig ígraves in the airí for the dead, all in cadences that echo the unrelenting tread of marching feet..." "...the poem proved startlingly effective when thrust together with Bachís Chaconne. Gil Morgenstern became the imprisoned violinist, playing incongruously beautiful music while Fred Sanders danced in grimacing anguish. It changed the whole flavor of the poem, which has a music of its own, but that was part of the point...And there were fine musical performances by Jean Kopperud, a clarinetist; Sophie Shao, a cellist; and Eric Huebner, a pianist."
The New York Times
"Morgenstern communicated his reverence and affinity for Bach by a bone-deep familiarity with every phrase...there were moments - as in his rendition of the magnificent Chaconne from the Sonate for Solo Violin in D Minor - when he seemed to embody the spirit of the pan-European high culture that assimilated Jews prior to the war (and that created a tragically false sense of safety)."
"Weíre not here to tell yet another Holocaust story," says violinist Gil Morgenstern about his latest music-theater collaboration with writer Jonathan Levi for their Nine Circles Chamber Theatre. "Weíre here to raise the questions of art and survival.""
New York Magazine
The Scrimshaw Violin
An exquisite new work…modern opera in the best sense: concise, witty, elegant and bold.
Bruce Saylorís score holds the piece together so smartly. The basic underpinning is a sturdy, muscular tonal accompaniment spicily laced with references to Jewish cantilena, Bachís solo violin music, and various jazz-pop idioms, as well as vocal lines that often bloom with real expressive eloquence. So much accessibility would seem to guarantee The Scrimshaw Violin continued life, and the expert manner of its presentation augurs well for the future of Nine Circles.
New York Magazine
What their company performs sounds like opera, but writer Jonathan Levi and violinist Gil Morgenstern would be delighted if you mistook it for chamber music.
Anything but easily categorizable, The Scrimshaw Violin may be pointing the way to one of the hardest artistic feats imaginable, a genuinely new melding of literature, music and theater that invigorates all three. Call it a trifecta.