S.E.M. Ensemble


Upcoming Performances


Petr Kotik's chamber opera Master-Pieces will be performed at Bohemian National Hall on April 28th.

SEM will play two pieces by Jacques Beckaert, as part of Thomas Buckner's "Interpretations" series at Roulette. The concert will take place at 8pm on May 3. Tickets here.

NODO 2018 will take place from June 24-28 in Ostrava. Info on the festival is available here.

Concert Announcement: April 28th




Sat. April 28, 2018, 8:30PM

- at -

Bohemian National Hall
321 E 73rd St, New York, NY 10021

Free - RSVP Here

Petr Kotik’s chamber opera, Master-Pieces (2014-2015) will receive its first staged performance in the U.S. at Bohemian National Hall (NYC) on Saturday, April 28, 2018 (8:30 pm). The 70-minute work was commissioned by the new opera festival NODO (Czech Republic), which premiered it in 2014. The revised and final version was performed at the Ostrava Days 2015 Festival and directed by Jiří Nekvasil, who will stage the New York performance.


Petr Kotik - Master-Pieces (2014-15)

S.E.M. Ensemble

Christina Kay, Soprano

Steven Wilson, Tenor

Jose Pietri-Coimbre, Baritone

Nicholas Hay, Bass

Pauline Kim Harris, Violin

Liuh-Wen Ting, Viola

Jeffrey Reinhardt, English Horn/Oboe

Tim Leopold, Trombone

Amanda Gookin, Cello

Chris Nappi, Percussion

Debra Kay Anderson, Narrator

James Falzone, Narrator

Kerry Wolf, Narrator

Master-Pieces is a meditation on the nature of the creative process, and on works that we identify as masterpieces. Kotik’s libretto uses text from Gertrude Stein’s 1936 lecture, “What Are Master-Pieces and Why Are There So Few of Them.” The piece combines a conversation among the singers with a quasi-lecture, interrupted by three narrators whose text comes from Stein's diary she kept from 1943 to 1944, "The Wars I Have Seen." The diary refers to situations Stein experienced during WWII and places the opera in a certain time and space. 

Stein states, “the masterpiece has nothing to do with human nature or with identity, it has to do with the human mind and entity. It is a thing in itself and not in relation.” The opera develops this idea by asking: When we do something, is it about ourselves (identity), or about the work itself (entity)? A focus on oneself diminishes the chance of doing something extraordinary: if it is that, it will not be a masterpiece. This is why a masterpiece is timeless and cannot be identified with its author while, simultaneously, it is tied to its author and is an expression of its time.

Kotik’s Master-Pieces goes beyond the spectacle of musical performance, investigating a meaningful subject within a theatrical setting. The work's energy comes from the very questions raised by Stein in her lecture, as she continuously veers away from her subject to contemplate and investigate issues of creative processes and the relationship between artists and the work they create. The words – sometimes sung and sometimes spoken – strive to retain the poetry of Stein’s language while opening various layers of meaning.

S.E.M. Ensemble’s 2017-18 season has been made possible with the generous support of the New York State Council on the Arts in partnership with Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, The Phaedrus Foundation, The Amphion Foundation, The Low Road Foundation, Sheldon Berlow, Virginia Dwan, Beth Greenberg and Jim Wright, Raymond Learsy, Joseph Leighly, Rotraut Moquay, Renée Levine Packer, Tristan Perich, Noni Pratt, Andrew Reynolds, and Todd Tarantino. Special thanks to Paula Cooper, Jasper Johns, Werner Kramarsky, and Brooklyn District 33 Councilman Stephen T. Levin. 

Recent News

Petr Kotik conducted Ostravská banda as part of the Bridges festival in Vienna on April 14th. He also conducted "Essential Feldman" in Prague on April 8th.

On March 10th, SEM prepared for their performance at MaerzMusik with a highly successful preview concert of For Philip Guston. Photos here!


The S.E.M Ensemble's annual Emerging Composers Workshop took place from February 9th-13th, with a concert of the seven participating composers taking place on the 13th. More on this show in our events section.

Our performance of Julius Eastman's Femenine at The Kitchen was reviewed by Zachary Woolfe in The New York Times. You can read the review here.

Seth Colter Walls attended our preview of Cage, Kotik, and Eastman: 1972 / 2017 on behalf of The New York Times. Check out his review here.