Composer-Arranger, Musical Dramaturg, Vocalist, Actress, Folklorist, Teacher
Mariana Sadovska has worked all her life in both music and theatre. Born in 1972 in the city of Lviv in Western Ukraine, she was trained from an early age as a classical pianist at Lviv’s Ludkewytch National Music School, where she graduated with honors. In her late teens, she joined Lviv’s Les Kurbas Theatre, one of Ukraine’s leading theater companies, known for its intensively physical performance style coupled with rich vocal work. From 1991 to 2001 Sadovska worked as a principal actor, composer, and music director with the Gardzienice Centre for Theatre Practices in Poland directed by Vladimierz Staniewski. Gardzienice has received worldwide acclaim for its virtuoso “anthropological-experimental” performances rooted in rugged fieldwork in isolated rural areas of the world. Like Les Kurbas’, Gardzienice’s work is a thrilling combination of physical theater coupled with ecstatic vocal ensemble work. Gardzienice's productions are the result of "expeditions" to places where traditional culture is still preserved today. With Gardzienice, Ms. Sadovska traveled throughout Eastern and Western Europe as well as to Brazil, Egypt, Japan, and the United States, appearing in the company’s productions of The Life of Protopope Awwakum, Carmina Burana and most recently Metamorfozy, which she co-created with composer Maciej Rychly using relics of ancient Greek music. In 1998, for her role in Metamorfozy she won the “Best Actress Award” given by the Polish Theatre Union. As the musical director of the Gardzienice Theatre, Ms. Sadovska has conducted numerous workshops at colleges, universities and arts centers around the world, including one with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, UK.
Since 1999, Sadovska has appeared as a collaborating artist in three Yara Arts Group festivals at La Mama Experimental Theater in New York. She first worked with Yara's director, Virlana Tkacz, on an international project in Ukraine in 1991, titled In the Light. As Yara’s Artist-in-Residence in the 2001-2002 season, she created the music for Song Tree (2000), Obo: Our Shamanism (2001), and Kupala (2001/2002), and also performed lead roles in these pieces. In New York, Ms. Sadovska also conducted special workshops on Ukrainian traditional Calling Songs, Winter Songs, Spring Songs and Late Spring Songs and gave solo performances at the Golden Festival and the Balkan Cabaret. In 2002, Kupala was remounted in Kiev, Ukraine, with a cast of Ukrainian and American actors. In conjunction with this performance Sadovska, in collaboration with Tkacz, organized the Veczornytci artist gatherings with indigenous singers in the Ukrainian villages Kriaczkivka and Svarytcevytchi.
In 2003, Sadovska created the music for the production of Bogoslaw Schaeffer’s "Qwartet for four actors" directed by Andre Erlen at Forum Freies Theater in Dusseldorf. Concurrent projects touring internationally included Callings and In the Beginning There Was a Song, both duo performances with the Israeli experimental vocalist Victoria Hanna. Callings and In the Beginning There Was a Song were presented to critical acclaim at Lviv’s Golden Line Festival, and subsequently toured Israel, Poland, and the USA. In 2003-2004 Sadovska co-created the multi-media performance piece Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors with Poland’s Quartet Jorgi and the Berlin-based film-maker Hiroko Tanahashi. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors toured the US in February, March, and April 2004.
In 2004, Sadovska composed the music for the theatre performance Sklavy, directed by William Docolomanski at the Svandovo Theatre of Prague. Her score, based on Ukrainian immigration songs, was nominated for the Alfred-Radok Award in Prague in 2005.
In the spring 2005 Sadovska was the recipient of a coveted guest artist fellowship at Princeton University’s (New Jersey, USA) Artist’s Atelier program, curated by Nobel Prize winning-writer and Princeton professor Toni Morrison. During her Princeton residency, Sadovska collaborated with New York theater directors Lars Jan and Roger Babb and created music for the mixed media production of Midsummernight.
In August 2005, Mariana Sadovska and Lars Jan were sponsored by US embassy, Goethe Institute and Aga Khan Trust for Culture to lead workshops at Kabul University and the Kabul National Theatre, and conduct ethnographic expeditions in the villages of Northern Afghanistan.
Also in 2005, she collaborated with the American women’s vocal ensemble KITKA and stage director Ellen Sebastian Chang to co-create and premiere the futuristic folk opera The Rusalka Cycle: Songs Between the Worlds. The project, supported by major grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller MAP Fund, the Creative Work Fund, and the Trust for Mutual Understanding, took its inspiration from Ukrainian folklore surrounding the liminal female spirits known as Rusalki. Sadovska began this project with a major Ukrainian ethnographic expedition with Kitka and Chang, which encompassed collaborative creative workshops and artist exchange meetings with acclaimed Ukrainian and Polish theater and folk music artists including Natalka Polovynka and the Majsternia Pisni Ensemble, The Les Kurbas’ Theatre Troupe, Choreographer Joanna Wichowska, Ensemble Drevo, Nina Matvienko, as well as rural field work in the Polissia region to witness the unique rituals Vodinnian Kusta and Rusalian Easter. Plans are underway to remount The Rusalka Cycle in San Francisco, Albuquerque, Chicago, and New York City in 2008.
In December 2005, Sadovska performed her new multi-media piece Without Ground at Symphony Space in New York City in collaboration with acclaimed New York musicians Anthony Coleman, Doug Wieselman, and Roberto Rodriguez, with original video work by Lars Jan. In early 2006 she conducted series of Ukrainian polyphonic singing workshops at the Svandovo theatre in Prague and at the Pan theatre in Paris.
For the past fourteen years, Mariana Sadovska has traveled to villages in the Poltava, Polissia, Hutsul, and Lemko regions of Ukraine to collect folk songs and rituals. In each village she has cultivated deep relationships with elder culture-bearers whose lives, songs, and stories have inspired much of her recent work. In 1993 she initiated and co-organized the Hidden Territories project, a large expedition to Ukraine with an international group of artists, musicians and researchers, and co-produced a documentary film about the legendary Carpathian folk musician Mogur. In 2001, Sadovska co-organized the second annual Festival "Ukraine-Poland-Europe" at the Gardzienice Centre for Theatre Practices for which she brought village singers together with artists working on the cutting edge of contemporary performance practice.
Altmaster (Poland) recorded Mariana Sadovska’s vocal work for Gardzienice’s Metamorfozy in 2000. In June 2001, Global Village Music USA released Songs I Learned in Ukraine, a CD of Sadovska’s modern interpretations of favorite songs gathered from her Ukrainian village expeditions. Later that year, in collaboration with Radio Lublin (Poland), Yara Arts Group (USA), UNESCO, and other international sponsors, she produced Song Tree, a collection of polyphonic folk songs sung by village elders from Polissia and Poltava. In 2005 Evoe performing artists produced a second solo album Borderland featuring pianist Anthony Coleman, trumpeter Frank London, and clarinetist Doug Wieselman, percussionist Roberto Juan Rodgriguez, and bassist Brad Jones. Borderland recently won the prestigious Northern-Westfalia award, for “Best New World Music Album”. Diaphonica Records (USA) will release music from The Rusalka Cycle: Songs Between the Worlds in November 2006, and a CD of music from the play Sklavy is also currently in production.
Mariana Sadovska believes in music as a “living dialogue” between the performer and the listener. She comments:
“I do not sing found in books. Each song I sing was given to me by a specific woman. I heard the story of the song, learned the way it should be sung, and understood that a song can be the map which leads you to your life.” Creating her own innovative compositions and arrangements in dialogue with ancient traditions, Mariana Sadovska approaches each piece with a fresh and uniquely personal vision. In a 2001 review of her solo show Enchantment Songs, New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff commented: “Sometimes a musician has such an inborn desire to communicate that her message naturally becomes universal: it doesn’t matter whether she is singing soul or bel canto or folk. Such was the case with the Ukrainian singer Mariana Sadovska.… The responsibilities, protocol, and tradition of whatever style she is working in just vanish; she replaces them with pure vitality.”
Updated Fall 2006