Mannes school of music presents a new production of robert ashley's masterpiece of experimental opera, dust

Highly Anticipated Production in Collaboration with Original Robert Ashley Collaborators Joan La Barbara, Mimi Johnson, and Tom Hamilton

DUST will be presented from February 2-4, 2017

Students during a rehearsal of DUST

New York, NY, January 13, 2017 – Mannes School of Music at The New School, now celebrating its centennial year, announces a four-performance run of Robert Ashley’s groundbreaking opera, DUST, with a new production by William Gustafson and Troy Hourie. With a score and libretto by Robert Ashley, this production of DUST will feature students from The New School’s College of Performing Arts under the musical direction of long-time Ashley collaborator and friend, Joan La Barbara. Tom Hamilton, a member of the original production, will be involved as a production and musical consultant.

Composed in 1998, DUST combines live mixing and sound processing, improvisation, and pre-recorded music, all over a libretto based off of the free-associations, conversations, and waking dreams of five “street people.” The highly experimental vocal delivery combines a range of traditional and unconventional vocal techniques, from singing and speaking, to mumbling and whispering. In writing DUST, Ashley created only a libretto with limited notation as a roadmap for performers, and required cast members to learn the work through listening rather than reading. The musical construct is remarkably original.

"Ashley's vocal style is quite unique in the literature of contemporary opera, requiring each singer to create the character vocally as well as theatrically, and using speech delivery shaped by intonation and exaggerated inflection,” said Joan La Barbara, Mannes faculty and an internationally renowned vocalist who performed and collaborated closely with Ashley. “It is an important and unique opportunity for Mannes students to be able to learn this manner of singing, and it has been a pleasure to coach and mentor our young performers through this process. The layers of story-telling involved in the texts Ashley wrote explore first, second, and third person complexities, interwoven with historical context, and offer particular challenges to the acting skills of our young performers, who are brilliantly actualizing these tasks."

“Producing this type of experimental work is not without its challenges, especially in a music conservatory environment,” said William Gustafson, Stage Director and Associate Dean at Mannes. “We have been fortunate to have a great team and to have the space to allow our students to experiment and invent their own characters and performances in a highly organic way. Working with Joan La Barbara and Tom Hamilton has provided for a direct connection to Ashley’s legacy while simultaneously allowing for a fresh approach to production creation. After finishing early work and a DUST workshop series with Parsons School of Design in April, we are very excited to now be presenting DUST to the public in a fully staged, new production”

DUST is set in English and will be performed in English without supertitles. Sound Design and live mixing are by David Van Tieghem (Mannes faculty and former Ashley collaborator) and Emily Auciello. Troy Hourie is the Scenographer and Paul Cegys is the Associate Scenographer. Julie Mason Groob is the Vice Dean for Production at The New School’s College of Performing Arts. She has worked on DUST with Production Manager Melissa Futch and Stage Manager Suzi Bonnot.

Mario Diaz-Moresco performs the lead role, a homeless, nameless character. Julia Meadows is Lucille and Alexander Greenzeig is The Rug. Marisa Karchin and Samantha Scully share the role of Shirley Temple. Allison Gish and Evelyn Rivera-Cardenas share Green Pants.

“DUST has been the perfect project for Mannes and The New School. Robert Ashley could not have known when he wrote this groundbreaking work in 1998 that its message – one that calls attention to the societal ills of drug addiction, homelessness, and a disappearing social safety net – would be so timely nearly 20 years later,” said Richard Kessler, Dean of Mannes and Executive Dean of the College of Performing Arts. “The New School has long been a home to artists who worked and lived outside of the mainstream, and who were often ahead of their time; Robert Ashley is among this cohort. We believe in the importance of presenting and celebrating artists like Ashley and the impact that their work can have on society.”

DUST will be presented at Stiefel Hall (4th floor of 55 West 13th Street, New York, NY, 10011) on:

  • Thursday, February 2, 8:00pm
  • Friday, February 3, 8:00pm
  • Saturday, February 4, 3:00pm
  • Saturday, February 4, 8:00pm

There will be pre-concert panel discussions prior to the opening performance on Thursday, February 2, and the Saturday matinee on Saturday, February 4. The panel will include William Gustafson, Joan La Barbara, and Troy Hourie
Tickets are available at

The concert is free for the press, but they must rsvp with Will Wilbur

Founded in 1916, Mannes School of Music at The New School seeks to develop citizen artists who engage with the world around them in and through music, in traditional, new, and emergent forms of practice. Our eminent faculty of artists, scholars, and educators of international stature, including active professionals from all areas of the music world foster close, constructive relationships with students and are committed to advancing the creative role of music throughout all aspects of our rapidly changing society. Notable faculty include Jeremy Denk, multi-award winning and MacArthur Fellow pianist; Dave Douglas, multi-award winning and MacArthur Fellow trumpeter; Cynthia Phelps, principal violist of The New York Philharmonic; David Chan, Concertmaster of The Metropolitian Opera; Joan La Barbara, vocalist and pioneer in contemporary vocal music; William Burden, renowned operatic tenor; David T Little, composer; Missy Mazzoli, composer; Paul Moravec, composer; and many more.

Founded in 1919, The New School was born out of principles of academic freedom, tolerance, and experimentation. Committed to social engagement, The New School today remains in the vanguard of innovation in higher education, with more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students challenging the status quo in design and the social sciences, liberal arts, management, the arts, and media. The New School welcomes thousands of adult learners annually for continuing education courses and calendar of lectures, screenings, readings, and concerts. Through its online learning portals, research institutes, and international partnerships, The New School maintains a global presence. Learn more at



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Media Contacts:

Will Wilbur,
The New School
212-229-5667 x 3990

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