Singing the Underworld: Peni Candra Rini, Samita Sinha, and Qian YiVIEW EVENT DETAILS
Three Women Sing of Hell
From the divine to the nether world, the human voice calls out to us – telling stories of life and love, of joy and sadness, of death and danger. Through the power of their unique voices, three extraordinary women present their different interpretations of hell, inspired by the Asia Society Museum exhibition Comparative Hell: Arts of Asian Underworlds.
Indonesian composer, songwriter, and singer Peni Candra Rini uses traditional and experimental music and theater to present a modern interpretation of the myth of Nyai Rara Kidul. Rara: The Javanese Goddess of the Underworld is a new work that embodies the contradictions of feminine power. In Javanese mysticism, the universe is a woman, as is the earth, and the Southern Ocean off the coast of Java, is guarded by the goddess Nyai Rara Kidul. “Rara” is a term for women with a pure soul, but Nyai Rara Kidul has a complex dual nature: She is Janus-faced, both a protector and enabler as well as a destroyer, while being capable of purifying destruction.
Renowned Kunqu opera performer Qian Yi sings “The Infernal Judgment” from the classic tale of love and redemption, The Peony Pavilion. The story tells the story of a beautiful girl, Du Liniang, who falls in love with a handsome scholar she meets in a dream. She wakes up, overcome with longing for this man, and gradually falls ill and dies only to be awakened in hell. In hell she is led before the judge of the underworld who cannot believe she has been condemned to hell only through transgressions made in a dream. After he ascertains that her crime was not physical but only imagined in a dream, he releases her to return to find her love in real life.
In “Red Thread,” artist and composer Samita Sinha and collaborator Grey Mcmurray respond to the themes of Comparative Hell through embodied sound woven with utterances of Lalla, the 14th-century Kashmiri poet.
Peni Candra Rini is a renowned Javanese singer, composer, and faculty member at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts. She is a master of several traditional forms and is regarded as one of Indonesia’s most daring young composers. She is a former recipient of grants from the Asian Cultural Council, is a two-time grantee of the US State Department’s One Beat Program, and in 2022 was awarded an Aga Khan Foundation laureate of the arts. She is currently composing a suite of works on the theme of climate change, commissioned by the Kronos Quartet. During the spring 2023 semester she is teaching as a Visiting Fulbright Artist-Scholar at the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University. Ms Candra Rini is supported in this performance by Dr. Andy McGraw, Associate Professor and Chair of Music at the University of Richmond. McGraw has published extensively on traditional and experimental music in Indonesia and has studied under and collaborated with many of Indonesia’s leading composers.
Qian Yi studied classical Chinese opera (Kunqu) at the Shanghai Opera School. As a member of the Shanghai Opera Company, she became known for her leading roles in The Legend of the White Snake, The Water Margin, and other standards of the classical Chinese opera repertoire. The Chinese Ministry of Culture recognized her as one of the country’s finest young Kunqu actors. In 1998, Qian Yi was cast in the lead role of Lincoln Center Festival’s epic 19-hour production of The Peony Pavilion. The production toured internationally, playing at major international festivals in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia. The New York Times described her as “China's reigning opera princess.” She is accompanied by Wu Liang （吴湸）Percussionist and the Executive and Managing Director of New York Chinese Opera Society and Guo Zhaoshun (果兆顺) Chinese traditional lute player who performs on pipa, zhongruan, and daruan. graduated from the Tianjin Conservatory of Music in 1979.
Samita Sinha is an artist and composer who creates multidisciplinary performance works that investigate origins of voice: the quantum entanglement of listening and sounding, how voice emerges from the body and consciousness, and how voice can be claimed and rescued from voicelessness. She synthesizes Indian vocal traditions (Hindustani classical and Bengali Baul folk) and embodied energetic practices to create a decolonized, bodily, multivalent language of vibration and transformation. Sinha’s works have been commissioned by Asia Society, Performance Space 122 and Invisible Dog Art Center, Danspace, Rubin Museum, Queens Museum, Gibney Dance, and Onassis Foundation, and presented by The Kitchen, Wexner Center for the Arts, REDCAT, PICA, National Sawdust and others. She is joined by musician Grey Mcmurray