Roaratorio: An Irish Circus on Finnegan's Wake

October 7 – 12, 1986

Premiere US Premiere
Production Language English
Country of Origin United States
Description The 1986 Next Wave Festival opens with one of the most exciting events in its three-year history. Inspired by James Joyce's epic novel Finnegan's Wake, Roaratorio is aptly described by composer Cage as an Irish Circus. Like a three-ring circus, its action is non-stop and multi-layered. Roaratorio features the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, 5 musicians from Ireland, and a taped score of sounds collected from around the world by the composer. Because of the size and scope of this production, it has never before been performed on this continent.

This program included both the American premiere of Roaratorio, An Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake as well as Inlets 2. Roaratorio was based on a composition by John Cage in which Cage wrote mesostic poems based on lines from Finnegans Wake, which were then recited in performance alongside music based on Irish jigs, reels and songs. David Vaughn, archivist for the Merce Cunningham Foundation, explains that “Cunningham, who identified with the ‘feeling of dance’ he found in Joyce’s book, created choreography with motifs on jigs and reels, a ‘hopping’ dance, promenades and strolls, and folk dances that suddenly expand into huge communal circles.”
Identifier 1986f.00404