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From its inception,
Beginning in 1980, much of St. Annís early programming was based on classical musicóchoral and opera programs, noonday organ recitals, performances by TASHI, THE ACADEMY OF ANCIENT MUSIC and others. St. Annís had a surprising and defining early success with its staging of the first American puppet opera, AMY TROMPETTERíS production of Rossini's THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, with the Brooklyn Opera Society in 1983. Trompetterís enchanting production was ecstatically revived on its 20th anniversary at St. Annís Warehouse in 2003. In 2007, it played again to sold-out houses in a new German version at the Festspielhaus St. Polten just outside of
CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER, under Artistic Director
CHARLES WADSWORTH, offered preview concerts at St. Annís from
1981-1983, which then led to BACH CANTATA SUNDAYS under the direction
of the Societyís cellist, FRED SHERRY. The seven-year cantata series
proved instrumental in forming St. Ann's genre-defying approach to
music programming and helped build the reputation of THE ORCHESTRA OF
ST. LUKEíS, then a new band.
In 1985, BREAD AND PUPPET THEATER was invited to stage Bach Cantata #4 ("Christ lag in Todesbanden") as part of the series. By 1988, the program included the American Premiere of JOHN CALE's The Falklands Suite. The following year, St. Ann's and BAM instigated the reunion of Cale and LOU REED, founders of the VELVET UNDERGROUND, by commissioning Songs for ĎDrella, their celebrated song cycle in remembrance of Andy Warhol.
Intrigued by the range and ambition of St. Annís performances, artists began to take increasing interest and helped to further St. Ann's international reputation under the leadership of founding Artistic Director SUSAN FELDMAN and Program Director JANINE NICHOLS. In 1989, the idiosyncratic record producer HAL WILLNER brought MARIANNE FAITHFULL to St. Annís for a pair of concerts: a retrospective released by Island Records as "Blazing Away" and "definitive" (NY Times) performances as Anna in the Brecht/Weill masterwork, The Seven Deadly Sins.
In signature St. Annís fashion, The Seven Deadly Sins spawned the sextet, HUDSON SHAD, and the award-winning production of
On the occasion of its 10th anniversary, Rolling Stone dubbed St. Annís "the guiding light in New Yorkís avant-rock scene."
In 1991, Willner and St. Annís presented the first of its thematic multi-artist performances, Greetings from Tim Buckley, which introduced the late JEFF BUCKLEY to a wider world, followed by several Halloween programs (Nevermore: Readings from Edgar Allan Poe) and the inspired, sprawling Harry Smith Project in 1999 featuring such eclectic artists as NICK CAVE, VAN DYKE PARKS, RUFUS WAINWRIGHT, THURSTON MOORE, and others.
St. Annís enjoyed further success with thematic concerts led by music director PETER HOLSAPPLE, including Bryter Layter: Music of Nick Drake (1997), Listen Listen: Music of Sandy Denny (1998) and Songs of the Century (1999) with BETH ORTON and JIMMIE DALE GILMORE.
Other sparkling achievements in the old building were
St. Annís presented a wide variety of concerts in many disciplines
(rock, jazz, world and roots music especially), using its rising
reputation to introduce new and overlooked artists to growing
audiences. Among the most memorable performances: LES MYSTERES DES VOIX
BULGARES (1988), AARON NEVILLEís first solo shows (1988-1989), MARTA
SEBESTYEN with MUZSIKAS (1989), RICHARD THOMPSON, DR. JOHN, GARTH
HUDSON, VIC CHESNUTT, PETER BLEGVAD, VICTORIA WILLIAMS, JIMMY SCOTT,
ROBIN HOLCOMB, JIMMIE DALE GILMORE, DEL MCCOURY, and the WORLD
SAXOPHONE QUARTET with FONTELLA BASS.
AARON NEVILLE, DAVID BYRNE and RICHARD THOMPSON, EMMYLOU HARRIS, ROSANNE CASH, and JACKSON BROWNE performed benefit concerts. And rare evenings by TERRY ALLEN, MICHAEL VENTURA and BUTCH HANCOCK; DAN PENN and SPOONER OLDHAM, JOHN CALE and BOB NEUWIRTH, and MARY MARGARET OíHARA are fondly remembered. So too, St. Ann's production of DAVID BYRNEís orchestral music for The Forest at Town Hall in 1992.
St. Annís has had the blues for a long time! In 1989, The Mississippi Delta Blues Festival featured some rare New York performances. The Piano Blues Who's Who (1990) explored the rhythmic distinctions of cities between New Orleans and Chicago. A celebration of the Music of the Mississippi Hill Country, featuring LUCINDA WILLIAMS and OTHAR TURNER, among others, was the debut performance at St. Annís Warehouse in 2001.
All the while, St. Annís has been smitten with puppets. For years, BREAD AND PUPPET THEATER appeared annually. MABOU MINES' director LEE BREUER staged the first Peter and Wendy at St. Annís in 1992. And JANIE GEISER, as close to a household name as anyone in puppet theater, was the prime mover behind The Lab, St. Annís experimental haven for artists working in puppet theater. The Lab celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2007. Now under the direction of DAN HURLIN and DAVID NEUMANN, The Lab concludes each spring with Labapalooza!, a mini festival of new works developed by Lab participants.
After moving to an old spice milling factory at
In 2004, SAW and Artistic Director,
2005 launched important new relationships, as SAW welcomed London's ROYAL COURT THEATRE with its seminal productions of Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis, directed by the fabulous JAMES MACDONALD, and Poland's TR WARSZAWA production of Risk Everything directed by brilliant GRZEGORZ JARZYNA. That year, St. Annís produced a series of live, onstage "sound plays" with SIRIUS SATELLITE RADIO, SOUTH BANK CENTRE, and UCLA Live!: Theater of the New Ear, a unique collaboration between composer CARTER BURWELL and filmmakers CHARLIE KAUFMAN and THE COEN BROTHERS. Sawbones, Hope Leaves the Theater, and Anomalisa featured STEVE BUSCEMI, JOHN GOODMAN, MARCIA GAY HARDEN, PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, JOHN SLATTERY, BROOKE SMITH, HOPE DAVIS, PETER DINKLAGE, MERYL STREEP, JENNIFER JASON LEIGH, TOM NOONAN, and DAVID THEWLIS.
St. Annís celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a new presentation of ROY NATHANSON'S Fire at Keaton's Bar & Grill featuring DEBORAH HARRY, LOU REED, LAURIE ANDERSON, ANTONY, CHOCOLATE GENIUS, NELLIE MCKAY, THEO BLECKMANN, DAN ZANES and other friends.
In 2006/2007, SAW produced two World Premieres: Lou Reedís Berlin, directed by JULIAN SCHNABEL, which traveled to the Sydney Festival, Australia and subsequently toured 14 European cities in summer 2007; and CYNTHIA HOPKINS' Part 2 of her Accidental Trilogy, Must Don't Whip 'Um. St. Annís received four Drama Desk Award nominations for its productions of LES FRERES CORBUSIER's Hell House and DANIEL KRAMER'S high octane Woyzeck in 2006. The season ended with HAL WILLNER'S Rogues Gallery Live, a rollicking gala benefit concert, featuring BRYAN FERRY, GAVIN FRIDAY, LOU REED, LAURIE ANDERSON, JANINE NICHOLS, JENNIE MULDAUR, KEMBRA, BABY GRAMPS, ANTONY, and other good friends.