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“Stories sung, wonders performed. Beautifully rendered…intricate and intriguing, this understated show enthralled.  The depth of tradition was palpable. Part opera, part folk concert, part performance art piece, this show kept us watching, kept us believing... the universality of this music and its setting was wonderful. As with the best of contemporary performance, this work worked from its tradition, while finding new articulations and ideas within it.
UK National Art Service’s The Observatory (London) ~

“So much of the power of Margraff’s work relies on her uncommon
use of language – lyrical, image-filled, forever ricocheting back and forth
between the profound and the absurd.” ~ Austin American Statesman

“From the enchanting lilt of librettist Ruth Margraff’s voice…the gorgeously poetic dialogue with which Margraff has endowed her libretto, the intoxicating Balkan rhythms composer Nikos Brisco has laced through his score for a feisty gypsy band, and the historic subject matter complete with warring factions, bloodthirsty brothers, and dangerous seduction…the duo may have a little masterpiece on their hands.” ~Arts Cure Magazine ~


“Ruth Margraff is a distinguished innovator capable of bending boundaries in opera and musical theater”~ City Pages (Minneapolis) ~ 

“Ruth Margraff is a vital voice in shaping the future of American theatre… a warrior writer riding the vanguard of New Wave opera, pushing the boundaries of the stage. To the prosaic ears of an American, Margraff's language might sound like music. It works on you like a song, the way a song can take you from one emotion to another between one note and the next. It works on you like a dream...She travels everywhere, like an electrifying idea.
~ The Austin Chronicle

“Margraff stretches the bounds of opera”
Providence Journal

“Audaciously original...”
The Moscow Times

“An astonishing, well-crafted odyssey… world hybrid style of art that spans the continents… such passions vicariously open the deeper questions of life… CAFÉ ANTARSIA seeks to commemorate forgotten people as colossal and important. Margraff and Brisco push their boundaries into a new hybrid art form. They update the 1980s idea of hybrid multimedia theatre by merging East with West, the ancient with the avant-garde….graced with history, drama, poetry and extraordinary music.” ~ Red Snap Magazine

“…Tightly-rendered performances.  Principal singers Nikos Brisco and Ruth Margraff both have attractive voices… Striking in its immediacy are songs which mix exotic, evocative lyrics (in English) with vigorous strummed guitars, undulating rhythmic grooves, and catchy vocal choruses. Café Antarsia Ensemble is a tight unit with compelling material of wide-ranging appeal.”
~ Sequenza21: Imaginational Anthem Vol. 3 ~

“Eastern folk…a churning, rhythmically sumptuous stew…gives a modern edge to the gypsy-folk feel…with great finesse so you can either dance away or feast your ears on the details.  And the band members have such varied ethnic and professional backgrounds that Cafe Antarsia's adventurous crossbred sound seems perfectly natural and rings authentic.”~ City Music /Greater Rochester’s Alternative Weekly ~  

Asked what effect she wants The Cry Pitch Carrolls to have on audience members, [Ruth Margraff] replies: “Through the specificity of this very personal world, it’s like I’m opening my heart to you. I want you to also open that part of your heart.” It’s her wish that we understand the children we were and the futures we hold in our hands. “I hope that you feel you can express whatever sorrow you have and transform it into something beautiful.”
Georgia Straight Magazine Arts Canada's Largest Urban Weekly (Vancouver, CANADA)

“An album length play... hypnotic...brutal...a baptism of fire.”
The Austin Chronicle

“Enough frissons for a full novel written in verse...potently hewn piece of rural American mythology.
Dallas Observer

“Brilliantly performed...layer after layer of richly textured emotion...imminent danger...with precision of cadence and inflection.”
The Dallas Morning News

"This is cabaret theater as damnation tongue in chic...with everything from breathy love songs to darkly urgent ballads with a Balkan flavor."
New York Village Voice

“Greek yet inescapably modern sound”

“Composer Brisco has written a melodic score full of gypsy influences…Special mention must go to Orpheus’ four-piece band: guitarists Brisco and Ron Riley, percussionist Rami El-Aasser, and accordion player Ruth Margraff all perform beautifully.”
New York

“A mix of Balkan, Greek, Texan and rock sounds. These faintly exotic melodies make for a most unusual soundscape. As befits the underworld, the songs are lamentations, full of keening and pain.”
New York CurtainUp

“A special nod goes to the band, whose mix of Greek, Balkan, and rock sounds lend the piece the rock-epic feel, and the Sirens whose harmonies are as sweet as the juice of a pomegranate.”
New York

“Ruth Margraff’s phrases shimmered with majestic images and ebbed with the erupting emotions that murmur within the hearts of her characters.”
Dance Project Sequence New York/Arts Cure

VOICE OF THE DRAGON 2 (Apollo Theater 2004):
“Crouching Leopard, Somersaulting Dragon... Shaolin Secret Stories is an opera without songs...a nearly nonstop display of leaping, punching, somersaulting, sword-wielding combat choreographed for a dozen martial artists...VOICE OF THE DRAGON tells tales of the Shaolin Temple, the cradle of the Chinese martial arts... in narration written by Mr. Ho and Ruth an elegantly costumed narrator...shift[ing] between high-flown storytelling...with glints of humor…as a jazzy martial-arts pageant, it orchestrated some impressive razzle-dazzle."
The New York Times

VOICE OF THE DRAGON 1 (Columbia Artists Management, Inc. national tour 2003) “Like ‘Peter and the Wolf,’ imaginative and engaging ….a lot of fun…gives the musical equivalent of ‘Pow!’”
The Washington Post
“…An incredible visionary piece of work…stunning, explosive, acrobatic jazz-ballet…the story has a very powerful historical message.”
The Malibu Times

“…Crackling music and boisterous narration…hilarious…This is adventuresome, visual music…and the 17th Century never seemed so modern.”
Record Review

“…Stunning, kinetic, and beautiful…bold, poignant and provocative, it creates a dialogue that goes beyond and confronts.”
Asian American Journal: International Examiner

“…Manages to evoke both the exotic pomp of imperial Beijing and the rippling cool of a Soho nightclub.”
Chicago Reader

“Between the sublime and the scandalous”
Caribbean Daylight Express

“Revolutionary composer Fred Ho and downtown playwright Ruth Margraff fuse jazz, Chinese opera and martial arts to create a tale rife with deception, intrigue and political opportunism…”
The New York Village Voice pick of the week

VOICE OF THE DRAGON 1 (Brooklyn Academy of Music 2001)
"One of the best dance scores to be heard in these parts in recent times. The music was brash yet densely textured and full of witty musical asides. It required – and paid – close listening..."
The New York Times

NIGHT VISION (Cooper Union Grand Hall 1999, BAM Café,
Here 2000) “If the mere thought of opera puts you to sleep, NIGHT VISION could be the super-caffeinated corrective to slap
you awake. By infusing a traditional form with pop culture elements, this production creates something new and exciting… as a wholly original
work of art. Ho is supported by the talented Ms. Margraff whose beautiful
lyrics remain poetic while never turning obscure..."
Show Business Weekly Magazine

NEO-Romantic Moments in Recent Theatre History & mandates for American Theatre they put forth:EXAMPLE: Ruth Margraff and Fred Ho premiere their extraordinary opera NIGHT VISION in 2000, telling the story of a super-star vampire eating her way out of the Third World to take over New York. In a vision/dream/press conference she returns to her home in the Arabian Desert. The vampire screams, the raw emotions over rawer music all combine to create a Neo-Romanti excess of politics, ideas and feeling that floods the stage like blood from a wound rent in the throat of the sky. MANDATE: Neo-Romanticism offers a freedom of dramatic structure and form that allows politics and complicated thought to transmogrify into pure emotion.”
Celise Kalke & Brian Bergstorm’s MANIFESTO for Playwrights’ Center (Minneapolis)

“The Burlesque Flogging” from RED FROGS (Bottoms Dream 2001)
"Edgy, confrontational… worthy of Jean Genet
The Los Angeles Times

This is language rejuvenated, snapping and humming, proving pliant and newly elastic"
Backstage West Review (Los Angeles)

(published in American Theater 2002)

"Come on Down... where the play's the star"
New York Magazine

RED FROGS (PS122 2002) "Entertaining, odd and a sculpture or work of art or music, each spectator will have a highly individualistic idea of what is taking place."
Show Business Weekly

“Margraff’s sensational tale is part Norma Rae and part Barbarella on the beach. Gidget never had this much fun!”
Next Magazine (New York)

"[RED FROGS] takes its audience on a joyful glee ride through a landscape of contemporary culture blurred and distorted by tidal waves and the author's own wicked sense of humor...the plays carnival atmosphere bursts with joie de vivre...While there's plenty of meaning to be found in RED FROGS…Margraff's message is a roller coaster of fun,"
American Theater Web

"Cherish good avant-garde theater, like Red Frogs at P.S. 122...brilliant ideas build on one another like a crossword puzzle, and the stage and audience share an in-on-the-joke camaraderie...RED FROGS fuses a bewildering variety of ideas and themes and styles into an almost indescribable but very exciting evening."
New York Theater.Com

THE ELEKTRA FUGUES (Bottoms Dream 1999)
"The sheer beauty...of Ruth Margraff's free-wheelingadaptation ...creates a hypnotic montage of words and literary images...rhythm substitutes for tone, so there are no arias to speak of--rather, soliloquies and overlapping rants what the author describes as a "choral flotsam."
Los Angeles Weekly

"Passion Runs High in The Elektra Fugues...A fragmented, poetic...intriguing... vision of emotional discord.. of vengeance that plays on cultural archetypes"
Los Angeles Times

THE ELEKTRA FUGUES (Tiny Mythic/HERE 1996) This cascading libretto...spinning emotional and scientific orbits...eloquently subtle symbioses...Elektra's gutteral ravings...with the vocal endurance of a quintet of Diamanda Galases...words would form into motivic images sliding into unison...spinning in emotional and stylistic orbits...subtle symbiosis...mesmerizing dynamic of rich material and uncanny artistry."
The New York Village Voice

Margraff and Maner...succeed in something rich and strange... charged with bestial rage and soaring lyricism you are often, gratefully, thrown utterly off balance."
Off:Journal of Alternative Theater

THE CRY PITCH CARROLLS (Salvage Vanguard 1999)
"Riveting Carrolls is Austin original... Ruth Margraff's near-opera The Cry Pitch Carrolls suspends normal time and action in 75 magical minutes...the most imaginative show of the season --it blurs the recognized operates completely within its own conventions, yet never completely loses touch with shared human experience and traditional artistic expression... only once in a very long while have we seen anything this mesmerizingly original”
The Austin-American Statesman

"The Cry Pitch Carrolls...opens us to redemption and to a transformation so rare that we tremble with the wonder of it...the magic is so natural and pure and white that it is able to amaze us...Margraff seeds the air with enchantment through her dense but lyrical text, wherein we feel the ache of loss and absence and a longing to be warmed and made new...creating a perfect winter world unto itself...a moment of sweet, sweet fulfillment."
The Austin Chronicle

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