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Early music specialist Benjamin Bagby and his Sequentia ensemble will perform Edda: Viking Tales of Lust, Revenge, and Family, a medieval opera created by Bagby and contemporary theater artist Ping Chong, 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, at the Williams Center for the Arts.

Tickets cost $15 and may be ordered by calling the box office at 610-330-5009.

A talk on the themes of the performance will precede it 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

Edda and the talk are part of Lafayette’s biennial Roethke Festival, named for Theodore Roethke (1908-63), a former Lafayette faculty member and noted poet of the 1940s and ’50s. Roethke published several critically acclaimed volumes of poetry, including The Waking, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1954. This year’s festival, titled “Icons of Memory/Voices of Myth,” takes place Nov. 5-17.

The legend of the curse of gold found in the ancient Icelandic Edda will be sung to the original Eddic poems (ca. 800-100) in Old Icelandic, also known as Old Norse, the language of the Vikings. (English subtitles will be provided.) The Icelandic Edda is the earliest medieval manuscript containing ancient germanic myths, stories of gods and heroes, and tales of possession, betrayal, and revenge. Its pages reflect the pagan beliefs of the oral culture and bardic genius of the pre-Christian North as heard by medieval Icelanders. Many of these legends and characters found their way centuries later into other incarnations, the most famous of which include the music-dramas of Richard Wagner. Loki, Odinn, Brynhild, Sigurdur, Fafnir, and the Valkyries all make appearances in the Eddic poems.

Sequentia’s first Edda production (1995-97) culminated in a 1999 award-winning CD recorded in Iceland. Three members of the original project are taking part in this new production.

Bagby’s baritone voice and authoritative command of early music have long sustained the worldwide acclaim that Sequentia enjoys. He joins Swedish sopranos Lena Norin and Agnethe Christensen, and instrumentalists Elizabeth Gaver (fiddle) and Norbert Rodenkirchen (flutes and lyre), in presenting these ancient Nordic tales of greed, vengeance, and murder, populated by deities, mortals, and ominous figures of prophecy and doom.

The first graduate to earn a voice degree specializing in early music at the Oberlin Conservatory (Ohio), Bagby also received a degree in German literature from Oberlin College. He worked professionally in New York City during his student years, performing in North America and Europe as a member of the New York Pro Musica. Following graduation from Oberlin, he received a Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellowship for the study of medieval song. He subsequently received an advanced degree from the Schola Cantorum in 1977, when he and Barbara Thornton first formed Sequentia. The pair created over 60 concert programs that encompass the entire spectrum of medieval music, giving performances all over the world. Following Thornton’s death, Bagby became sole director of Sequentia.

Bagby also gives solo performances of Anglo-Saxon oral poetry, including a bardic rendition of Beowulf that receives at least 20 performances yearly, plays medieval harp, and directs the Sequentia ensemble of men’s voices, Sons of Thunder, a vocal ensemble for the performance of medieval liturgical polyphony and chant.

Edda is led by the stage concept and directorial vision of Ping Chong. Acclaimed for his award-winning accomplishments in experimental theater such as The Games, Angels of Swedenbourg, and Nosferatu (produced at Lafayette in 1991), and for his imaginative forays into Asian culture (including Chinoiserie, seen at Lafayette in 1995), Ping Chong is recognized as one of the most original and influential talents in American theater.

Ping Chong was born in 1946 and raised in the Chinatown section of New York City. He studied filmmaking and graphic design at the School of Visual Arts and the Pratt Institute. Ping Chong began his theatrical career as a member of Meredith Monk’s The House Foundation. He collaborated with her on several major works, including The Travelogue Series and The Games, for which they shared the Outstanding Achievement in Music Theatre Award in 1986.

In 1972, Ping Chong gathered a group of artists at the Lee Nagrin Studio in New York City to create Lazarus, his first independent theatre work. Since then, he has created over 35 works for the stage, winning two Obie Awards. He also has received six National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a TCG/Pew Charitable Trust National Theatre Fellowship, a National Institute for Music Theatre Award, two Bessie Awards, and a Playwrights USA Award.

The 2001-2002 Performance Series at Lafayette is supported in part by gifts from members of Friends of the Williams Center for the Arts, and by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, and New England Foundation for the Arts.

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