– Composer Luna Pearl Woolf

Project Spotlight: New Music for Beckett

We are thrilled to announce the winner of our inaugural call for scores! Selected from nearly 150 applicants from around the world, Luna Pearl Woolf will write an original score to Samuel Beckett’s mime play Act Without Words I. The premiere, directed by Mark Streshinsky and featuring the brilliant clarinetist Renata Rakova, takes place on the second day of Bard Music West, Saturday March 18th, 2017. 

“Stage action and music should be dangerous and bizarre, absolutely exaggerated, absolutely crazy.”  György Ligeti

"At once wistful and modern, the clarinet can turn from swashbuckling to heartbreaking in an instant, reflecting the tension between dynamic action and inert hopelessness in the play itself."
—Luna Pearl Woolf


Part of our mission at Bard Music West is to create and promote new music. Which is why it was important to us to commission a composer starting with our very first season. Composer Luna Pearl Woolf, has written an original score for Bard Music West to be performed in a production of Samuel Beckett’s mime play Act Without Words I. This cross-genre and cross-continental project is not to be missed. Woolf, in Montreal, director Mark Streshinsky (West Edge Opera), in Oakland, and brilliant young clarinetist Renata Rakova, in Austria, have been collaborating online to create an unparalleled new work of art, just for you. 

Beckett —The Ligeti Connection

György Ligeti was fascinated by the Theater of the Absurd — a movement of plays written in the late 1950s that went to logical extremes to explore existentialist ideas. In 1956, absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett wrote his first mime play, Act Without Words I. The play features a single nameless protagonist who is thrown onstage into a desert survival scene, and is then taunted by various objects. Multi-layered and full of dark humor, the play addresses the absurdity of human existence.  

The Production

Beckett called for unspecified music to be written and performed alongside the play, and the first composer to write for it was his cousin, John S. Beckett. Woolf's new composition for solo clarinet will be performed from memory, putting Rakova into a theatrical role, and the actor into a musical one, as she describes:

"In fact the play will form a kind of musical duet with the clarinet - sounds originating on and around the stage, including the whistle, the movement of blocks and palm fronds, and even the man’s body falling repeatedly to the ground will form a sonic dialog with the music. "



About Composer Luna Pearl Woolf

The music of composer Luna Pearl Woolf has been praised for its “psychological nuances and emotional depth,” by the New York Times. Her works in opera, dramatic chamber music, silent film and music-storytelling have been commissioned by Carnegie Hall, Washington National Opera, Minnesota Sinfonia, Salle Bourgie, ECM+, as well as individual artists and festivals, collaborating with artists such as Joyce DiDonato, Frederica von Stade, Daniel Taylor, Lisa Delan, Christopher O’Riley, the Brentano String Quartet, and the Russian National Orchestra, as well as Academy Award-winner Jeremy Irons and author Cornelia Funke.

This season the Washington National Opera, Francesca Zambello Artistic Director, premiered Better Gods, a new opera centered on Queen Lili‘uokalani and the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, with librettist Caitlin Vincent. The sold-out production was directed by Ethan McSweeny and conducted by Timothy Myers. Woolf is the featured composer in The Washington Chorus’s New Music for a New Age series, performing Après Moi le Déluge, a post-Katrina lament for cello and choir, and The Pillar, recipient of Opera America’s 2014 Discovery Grant, conducted by Julian Wachner. Cellist Matt Haimovitz commissioned a new work as part of his Overtures to Bach tour and recoding. The piece, for solo cello piccolo, was premiered at Miller Theatre in New York City and released on the PENTATONE Oxingale Series. Montreal’s Musée des Beaux-Arts hosts a composer portrait evening of Woolf’s music, including One to One to One, a new commission responding to a major work in the museum’s permanent collection. Mélange à trois, Woolf’s wordless opera for violin, cello and percussion, commissioned by the BIK ensemble, opens the program.

Woolf’s recorded music is available internationally on the Oxingale and PENTATONE labels. She has been featured on NPR, BBC, CBC, MPR and WNYC and in the New York Times, Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Opera News, Strings Magazine, New Music Box, and L’Opéra among others.

Woolf founded the ground-breaking Oxingale Records with cellist Matt Haimovitz in 2000, garnering several GRAMMY, INDIE and JUNO nominations, and launched Oxingale Music in 2010, publishing the works of award winning composers.