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Lena Herzog - Peak Debut

Last Whispers

October 19 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
|Recurring Event (See all)

One event on October 17, 2019 at 7:30 pm

One event on October 18, 2019 at 7:30 pm

One event on October 19, 2019 at 7:30 pm

One event on October 20, 2019 at 1:30 pm

One event on October 20, 2019 at 7:30 pm

Trained in linguistics and philosophy, Lena Herzog is a multimedia artist whose work has been exhibited around the world. Last Whispers, an immersive cinematic experience dedicated to vanishing languages, is the result of Herzog’s ongoing interest in indigenous dialects, which are disappearing at an astonishing rate. By 2050, half of the roughly 7,000 languages spoken around the world will fall silent. In Herzog’s oratorio, the historical recordings of more than 40 endangered or lost languages come alive among the echoes of collapsing stars in a work The New Yorker critic Alex Ross calls “haunting and singular.” Multiple panels and open discussions are planned to provide deeper understanding of the languages and what is being done worldwide to protect indigenous voices from fading away.

The United Nations General Assembly has designated 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages.


Oratorio and Panel Discussion Schedule
Herzog’s immersive oratorio, Last Whispers, will be preceded by panel discussions on select days, outlined below. This unique experience will be offered in back-to-back presentations on Sunday, October 20.


A public discourse prompted by questions posed by Dr. Oppenheim

Dr. Lois Oppenheim – Moderator
(Chair, Dept of Modern Languages & Literature)
With Participants
Dr. Daniel Mengara
(Prof. of French – Dept of Modern Languages & Literatures)
Dr. Teresa Fiore
(Prof. of Italian, Inserra Endowed Chair – Dept of Modern Languages & Literatures)
Dr. Maisa Taha
(Prof. of Linguistic and Cultural Anthropology – Dept of Anthropology)
Zoe Aguiar
MSU Undergrad – Japanese Minor; identifies as Hispanic
Bryan Checo
MSU Undergrad – Italian Minor; identifies as Hispanic, Taino heritage
Andy Sweeney
MSU Undergrad – German Major; in process of converting to Judaism and studying Arabic Culture


After the immersive oratorio film, Lena Herzog will be joined by Peak Performances Executive Director Jedediah Wheeler in a First Impressions exchange with the audience to discuss her research on lost languages and the creation process of Last Whispers.


Mary Linn, Curator of Cultural and Linguistic Revitalization at the Smithsonian, will show how endangered and minoritized languages communities are engaged in innovative efforts to reclaim their languages, renew or sustain traditional lifeways, and take control of their futures using examples from several resilient communities in North America, Western Europe, and Tibetan areas of China.


Ross Perlin brings together scholars and activists invested in protecting and revitalizing native languages in our region.

Ross Perlin
Co-Director, Endangered Language Alliance (New York, USA)
Chief Vincent Mann
Turtle Clan Chief of the Ramapough Lenape Nation
Gloria “Tadii” Angeles
Indigenous Cuicateca Migrant (Oaxaca, Mexico)
Karen Mosko
Lunaape language keeper (Munsee-Delaware Nation, Canada)
Ibrahima Kellitigue Traore
N’ko Language Activist
Sasha LaPointe
Dr. George A. Kiraz
Senior Research Associate, Institute for Advanced Society, Princeton; Director of the Beth Mardutho Syriac Institute

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 20 @ 1:30 PM & 3:00 PM
Back-to-back presentations of the immersive oratorio.

Attend multiple Last Whispers events for the price of a single ticket.
Because of the unique nature of this series – including rich panel discussions and an experience that lends itself to repeated viewing- audiences are invited to attend one or more events for the price of a single ticket. For more information, please contact the box office


Romeo CastellucciDirector and stage, lighting and costume designer Romeo Castellucci (Cesena, Italy, 1960) is known throughout the world for creating a theatre founded on the totality of the arts and aimed at an integral perception. He has also written various theoretical essays on directing. His theatre engages in a type of dramaturgy that overturns the primacy of literature, thus becoming a complex and supple form of art, a theatre made of extraordinarily rich images expressed in a language as comprehensible as music, sculpture, painting or architecture. The Societas Raffaello Sanzio, the theatre company he created in 1981, is internationally recognised as one of today’s most important for its radical aesthetic stance and the profoundly human nature of its creations. Since 2006, after the eleven performances of the cycle Tragedia Endogonidia, a monumental recapitulation of tragedy in contemporary Europe, Romeo Castellucci has also worked on individual projects.His stagings are regularly invited to and produced by the most prestigious international theatres, opera houses and festivals, in over fifty countries covering all the continents.Among his most recent creations: Sul concetto di volto nel figlio di Dio(2011), Parsifal by Richard Wagner (2011), The Four Seasons Restaurant(2012), Hyperion based on Friedrich Hölderlin (2013), Orfeo ed Euridice by Christoph W. Gluck (2014), Neither by Morton Feldman (2014), Go Down, Moses (2014), Le Sacre du Printemps by Igor Stravinsky (2014), Ödipus der Tyrann (2015), Moses und Aronby Arnold Schönberg (2015), The Minister’s Black Veil inspired by Hawthorne’s parable (2016), Jeanne au bûcher by Arthur Honegger(2017), Democracy in America freely inspired by Alexis de Tocqueville(2017), Tannhäuser by Richard Wagner (2017) and at the Dutch National Opera of Amsterdam Dar Floss der Medusaby Hans Werner Henze (2018). He has received numerous awards and distinctions. In 1996, he was given the Europa Prize Nuove realtà teatrali, and in 2002 was named Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the Ministry of Culture of the French Republic. In 2005, he was appointed director of the theatre section of the Venice Biennale. In 2008, he was named “associated artist” by the artistic committee of the Festival d’Avignon for its 62nd edition. In 2010, Le Monde chose his Trilogy ‘Divina Commedia’ as best performance, and the only theatrical work included among the most significant cultural events of the decade 2000-2010. In 2013 the Venice Biennale awarded him its prestigious Prize Golden Lion for his career in theatre. In 2014, he received a degree honoris causa from the University of Bologna Alma Mater Studiorum in the disciplines of Music and Theatre. Opernwelt, the leading German periodical in the field of opera, also awarded him its prize for Best Director 2014. The 2014 and 2015 seasons of the Festival d’Automne in Paris, each presenting three of his works as part of the Portrait Biennale, definitively established him as one of the major artists of our time. In 2015 he received the UBU Prize for the best set-design for the production Go Down, Moses.


pdf program peak performances

In The News

Zachary Woolfe, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Dying Languages Cry Out in ‘Last Whispers’
The 45-minute piece confronts a startling reality: According to Unesco, nearly half of the world’s approximately 6,000 languages are endangered. But Ms. Herzog approaches this dismal subject in a decidedly poetic, almost abstract way, conveying the aura of all that’s being lost rather than haranguing. Continue Reading


Last Whispers was created in collaboration with The Endangered Languages Institute, SOAS, University of London. It is co-presented by The Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, UNESCO

Programs in Peak Performances’ 2019-20 season are made possible in part by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.


Date: October 19
Time: 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm


Organizer Name: Arts & Cultural Programming