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Through this collaboration, director Ellen Sebastian Chang, composer Mariana Sadovska, and Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble created an evening-length “futuristic folk opera,” weaving together traditional Slavic folk songs with original, new vocal and instrumental music.  The Rusalka Cycle, was performed by Kitka’s nine vocalists, accompanied by an ensemble of Western classical and Eastern European folk musicians.  Its focal point, the Rusalki, are powerful female figures in Slavic folklore, who appear in many old songs sung by village women in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and surrounding regions.

Lead artist Ellen Sebastian Chang brought to this project a wide-ranging background in lighting design, playwrighting, and stage direction.  She has directed many projects with cross-cultural themes, incorporating traditional art forms, and focusing on women’s issues.   Chang and Kitka had followed one another’s work since 1998, when Chang directed the ensemble in Cal Performances’ Klezmer Mania!

Composer Mariana Sadovska has worked all her life in both music and theater.  Born in 1972, in the city of Lviv in Western Ukraine, she was trained as a classical pianist as a young girl at the Lviv Conservatory.  From 1991-2001, Sadovska worked as a principal actor, composer, and music director with the Gardzienice Centre for Theatre Practices in Poland.  Since the fall of 1999, she has appeared as a collaborating artist in three Yara Arts Group festivals at La Mama Experimental Theatre in New York.

Over its performance history, Kitka has earned international acclaim for its innovative presentations of traditional and contemporary Eastern European vocal music.  In recent seasons, the ensemble has collaborated with a number of composers, choreographers, filmmakers, and theater directors.  Kitka’s sound is distinctive, making use of contemporary-sounding extended vocal techniques.