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Kitka to premiere a song cycle on texts by ‘Russia’s Sappho’

Poster design for Kitka
Poster design for Kitka
by Peter Ellerby, courtesy of the National Queer Arts Festival

This year Kitka, the Bay Area’s trailblazing and internationally acclaimed women’s vocal ensemble, will be contributing to the seventeenth annual National Queer Arts Festival, which began this past Friday evening and will continue through Sunday, July 6, with a rather unique approach to song cycle. They will give the world premiere of a new composition by Eric Banks entitled I Will Remember Everything, based on texts by the Russian poet Sophia Parnok. Born to a Jewish intellectual family in 1885, Parnok was Russia’s first openly lesbian poet, for which she is sometimes known as “Russia’s Sappho.” Parnok published her first volume of poetry in 1916, but in 1928 she was deprived of the ability to publish and fell into oblivion.

Banks made the study of Parnok’s work a major research project. On the basis of that research, he selected 28 poems and fragments to create a libretto for I Will Remember Everything. He also translated the texts into English, and the performance will require singing in both Russian and English. Musically, he drew upon four of the modal systems that were associated with Russian Jewish practices during the nineteenth century.

I Will Remember Everything will be given two performances in San Francisco at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 20, and 7 p.m. on Sunday, June 22. Both performances will take place at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church (500 De Haro Street, at the foot of Potrero Hill). General admission will be $23 with a discounted price of $20 for seniors and students. In addition, there will be $35 “Gold Circle” tickets for prime front and center seating in a reserved section. Brown Paper Tickets has created separate event pages for the Friday and Sunday performances. Tickets may also be purchased by calling Brown Paper Tickets at 800-838-3008.