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Carmina Slovenica

Carmina Slovenica is a production house covering a variety of activities: production of concerts and stage projects, festivals, publishing and education programs.

Photo: Cory Weaver

Toxic psalms

Ultimate collective experience


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About the project

I'll tell you. You're young, but you're one of us, and I'm one of us, so I'll tell you.

Performed by:
Vocal Theatre Carmina Slovenica

Toxic Psalms are a reflection of the spiritual anguish of today. The word "toxic" derives from the Greek Toxon (meaning weapon, bow), while the word "psalm" derives from Psallein, meaning 'playing' (an instrument) as well as "to snatch", "steal" or "remove". Toxic Psalms metaphorically mean to draw a poisonous bow which is being played on in gloria to 'move something away' - tense psalms that are about to be released.

At the centre of the project is the shaman idea: everyone and everything that man creates can be turned against him if used without respect for life. To have control over something matterless, we control it with the knowledge about it and so gain power over it. The almost sinister thought "I'll tell you. You're young, but you're one of us, and I'm one of us, so I'll tell you." gives Toxic Psalms its tone. Death speaks and murderous plague intones in the background of the whole concert arch.

Scenes move between different spiritual worlds of the past and the present. The setting is an imaginary world moving among the shadows of our ancestors and is a reflection of modernity at the same time. Toxic Psalms are a reflection of the spiritual anguish of today. Through music the project reflects Palestine, Syria weapons, concentration camps, blood feuds, extinctions, contaminations of religions, and creates a reflection of human brutality. The life of a man is changed into a drama here and now: men killing for the glory of their psalms. The author's poise is not one of an agitator - stirring the feeling that "something has to be done" - it is rigorously contemplative. Despite this "detachment", the violence in Toxic Psalms is politically stressed and religiously marked. Religion is one of the main reasons for murderous violence in the world. But true morality requires from us to accept full responsibility for our actions without hiding behind the figure of the big Other and to accept full responsibility for actions without hiding in the anonymity of a group.

Music: Jacob Cooper, Bronius Kutavičius, Karin Rehnqvist, Liga Celma, John Pamintuan, Tellu Virkkalla, Veljo Tormis, Lojze Lebič, Boaz Avni, Sergei Rachmaninov, Sarah Hopkins, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Syrian orthodox

Texts: Stanislaw Lem, Hanne Blank, Svetlana Makarovič, Hafiz, Jean-Luc Nancy, Karmina Šilec, Ifigenija Zagoričnik Simonović, Drago Jančar

Pre-recorded sounds: Marko Hatlak, Musica Cubicularis, Karmina Šilec, Willi Bopp, Danilo Ženko, Big Band of Slovenian Army Forces, Voice: Dean Santonieri

Concept: Karmina Šilec
Light: Andrej Hajdinjak
Set: Karmina Šilec
Costumes:  Belinda Radulović
Premiere: 2015, Prototype Festival, New York 


"CS creates fully produced theatrical productions and events that utilize scenic, costume, lighting. sound, and video design to create a genre all their own. The choristers have been highly trained in musicianship, vocal technique, and performance practices. The production involved highly stage and complex choreographed moves for the chorus, which they executed with pristine precision withough Karmina conducting. The performance aesthetic could be linked to Pina Bausch and has a distinctive Eastern European flavor, frequenltly exploring topics of concern to women. (Beth Morrison, the creative producec of Beth Morrison Projects)

From the Press

…the grandiosity of the staging rivals what one might see at the Met…an overwhelming aural and visual experience… Šilec presents her arcana with a heavy dose of beauty and wonder…"
Theatre Mania

… vibrantly theatrical, genre-blurring, unusual in its techniques, eclectic in its musical style and politically charged… one hopes CS will become a regular visitor to New York…
The New York Times

… breathtaking and equally relevant multimedia suite…A Sonically Thrilling, Disquieting Premiere For Karmina Silec’s Toxic Psalms…
New York Music Daily

… striking new work by the rabidly talented Carmina Slovenica…The ensemble and its director, Karmina Silec, have created haunting images…
The New York Times

…Carmina Slovenica is the musical answer to Bausch's groundbreaking concept of Tantztheater… provocative pastich… the true highlight is the singing. Indeed, Šilec has helped to shape these young women into crack musicians…
BWW - Opera World

…Carmina Slovenica are in your face, created by women, driven by women, not afraid to show their teeth or shout down injustice…pure talent and virtuosity is astounding…. the languages, time periods, and cultures blurred into visceral emotion and reaction ...
San Francisco Classical Voice

…Toxic Psalms" adds a savage yet polished theatricality to the mix as well as an ambiguity all too rare in American performance. …all add up to an evening that’s bracing yet, perversely enough, enchanting...
The New York Times 

...jaw-droppingly gorgeous singing…strikingly staged by Karmina Silec…Visually the show was elegantly spare…The women of Carmina Slovenica are collectively and individually heroic.., they sent their voices pealing out like a band of angels… 
New York  Observer

… power of the performers… haunting theatrical moments …
Wall Street Journal

... Theaterspectacle… a theater which aims for perfection in any discipline…
... audience can not do much more than almost breathless look and marvel at so much quality… 
… Carmina Slovenica brings a constant stream of ideas, voice, movement, and impressions - and dosed - emotions. 
... a well trained group of thirty women, who control both voice and movement…
Opera News Magazin

… At times somber and meditative, at times visceral.. incredibly talented young women of Carmina Slovenica remind us that a collective can also be a positive power… With its high-contrast details, Toxic Psalms at times resembled a more budget-conscious Robert Wilson production.. the performance’s message was often submerged by the incredible visuals ...

… crystal-clear voices with theater order make an impressive performance …
… Carmina Slovenica is not only a women's choir performing at top level; the discipline and mastery of the singers are incredible without hampering the liveliness of the concert …
… with such music and statements you have no further need for any theatrical violence ...

… a nightmarish collage on the theme of religious violence is the fascinating opening presentation of the annual music theater Rotterdam Opera Days …

… Theatrical singing at top level …
… beautiful voices and an extraordinary theatrical instinct ...
… not only their voices, but also their bodies are their instrument. Extreme discipline in larynxes and limbs and the excellent musicality give you goose bumps. In this sense they brought theatrical singing to the top level. That will again be the merit of Šilec?

… the opening presentation Toxic Psalms of Carmina Slovenica was well chosen: overwhelming and unconventional music with no plot, where from beginning to end you are on the edge of your chair. The vocal theater of artistic director Karmina Šilec built artfully choreographed scenes around fantastically sung music.
… intense performance of the choir and the rhythm of the show were really good ...
NRC Handelsblad

… the mighty but graceful Slovenian women’s choir …
New York Music Daily

... Some listeners will recall the raw feminine energy of "Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares," while others will see parallels with the work of Heiner Goebbels and David Lang. All will be moved by the show’s condemnation of "men killing for the glory of their psalms ...
The New Yorker

... striking new work by the rabidly talented Slovenian female vocal ensemble Carmina Slovenica ...
 The New York Times

 ... All add up to an evening that’s bracing yet, perversely enough, enchanting ...
 The New York Times

... radiantly sung musical selections ...
The New York Times

... Ms. Silec is savvy about maintaining dramatic momentum, and the performers execute every shift in tone with subtlety and agility ...
The New YorkTimes

... The ensemble and its director, Karmina Silec, have created haunting images ... 
The New York Times

… while intoning glorious straight harmonies, which occasionally stop on a dime to spine-tingling effect. The sound is medieval and ecclesiastical, yet distinctly modern. It often feels like peering into an avant-garde nunnery ...
Theatre Mania

... All of the material is conveyed with commitment and precision from this highly skilled vocal ensemble. In addition to making her cast sound extraordinary, director Šilec makes great use of the depth of St. Ann's Warehouse, having the cast emerge from the far-upstage shadows and bringing them face-to-face with the audience downstage ...
Theatre Mania

... A Visceral Slide Into Darkness ... 
The New York Times

... The excellent singers swirl, march, gesture and pose in the gloomy, cavernous space while singing music ranging from Pergolesi’s "Stabat Mater" to pieces by contemporary composers from Scandinavia to Slovenia.
… power of the performers… haunting theatrical moments …
Wall Street Journal

… innovative theater company Carmina Slovenica …
France Press

... The choice of music spanned the centuries and the globe and was all the more fascinating, and relevant, for the ambitious and striking arrangements of all but one of the older works. And while it wouldn’t be exactly accurate to characterize the movements of the choir as dance – Silec calls it "choregie" – the choreography was just as ambitious, and amplified the disturbing quality of the performance ...
New York Music Daily

... Why, then, did I leave St. Ann’s smiling? Because "Toxic Psalms" proves that with even the most somber material, there can be delight in sheer virtuosity, in the intensity of live performance and in being introduced to a group one hopes will become a regular visitor to New York ...
New York Times

... Silec’s direction toyed with crowd dynamics on both the conformist and nonconformist sides with a coldly sardonic humor that offered momentary respite from the lingering bleakness of the music ...
New York Music Daily

... Hooting, Hissing and Ululating to Protest Man’s Inhumanity… 
New York Review

BWW Reviews
TOXIC PSALMS New York Premiere

Hooting, Hissing and Ululating to Protest Man’s Inhumanity
Carmina Slovenica Sings the Haunting ‘Toxic Psalms’

Toxic Psalms: 'We are instructed too much – how to understand, how to feel'

Against Type
A festival showcasing the variety of "indie opera" returns.

A Visceral Slide Into Darkness
‘Toxic Psalms,’ in the Prototype Festival, Explores Ethical Choices

Choir explores collective brutality on New York stage

... Without the popular short-cuts and crossover arrangements that flirt with the audience and try to serve complex content in a popular manner, more or less banal ...

... With Toxic Psalms Carmina Slovenica yet again proves to be a big leap ahead of its followers.
Peter Rak, Delo


Photo gallery

Toxic psalms
Toxic psalms <em>Photo: Cory Weaver</em>

Photo: Cory Weaver

Toxic psalms <em>Photo: Cory Weaver</em>

Photo: Cory Weaver

Toxic psalms <em>Photo: Cory Weaver</em>

Photo: Cory Weaver

Toxic psalms <em>Photo: Cory Weaver</em>

Photo: Cory Weaver

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