Tabula Rasa Artist Interview: Liz Bouk

Mezzo Liz Bouk is originating the role of Dada artist Tristan Tzara in the world premiere of TABULA RASA, a new jazz opera by Felix Jarrar & Bea Goodwin that tells the feminist story of one of the most iconic women of 1920s Paris: Kiki de Montparnasse. Liz shares his thoughts on Tristan, the Dada movement in Paris, and how the idea of a blank slate, tabula rasa, ties it all together.

May 4, 5, 11, and 12th @ 8pm

Blue Building

222 E 46th St., NYC

Hi! I’m Liz Bouk, mezzo-soprano, portraying Tristan Tzara in this world premiere of Tabula Rasa.

 Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Photo credit: Joyce Yin

The opera’s title means “blank slate,” and that feels especially appropriate for this first performance. When singers perform roles from the standard repertory, they bring to life characters who others have brought to life before. My interpretations sometimes build on, sometimes react against, and will often be compared to those of artists who have come before me.

In this case, Tristan Tzara is my blank slate, my tabula rasa, on which to make my own mark. I love that no one else has done this role before! I get to bring whatever I want to the table and I get to work together with other artists who are also doing something for the first time.

Of course, Tzara isn’t an entirely blank slate. Brittany Goodwin has already put this beautiful, funny, mind-bending poetry in his mouth as he swings to this revolutionary jazz-opera score by Felix Jarrar. And Tzara was a real person and part of a real artistic movement in 1920s Paris: Dada.

 Tristan Tzara

Tristan Tzara

Marc Dachy’s book DADA: The Revolt of Art has been my go-to guide for all things Dada. It’s a collection of photographs highlighting Dada people and art, accompanied by short segments of history. Seeing photos of Tristan Tzara, Man Ray, Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia and their work helped me understand how their lives as artists were all intertwined, and how they contributed to and created the Dada movement.

The Tabula Rasa itself is also a kind of “blank slate” in the ways it breaks from traditional operatic convention, just as the Dada artists sought to re-define art in the 1920’s. The interactive staging and artsy venue invites the audience to move from room to room as they are transported back to 1920’s Paris along with the cast of Dada artists, muses, and instrumentalists. The music too pushes boundaries as it moves seamlessly in and out of traditional arias, jazz themes, recitative, and dialogue.

And Kiki’s story --- a female lead whose experiences drive the plot-line forward --- stands in sharp contrast to the traditionally male-focused narratives we are accustomed to. It’s a world premiere you won’t want to miss!

 Photo credit: Joyce Yin

Photo credit: Joyce Yin