An offering. An opera in seven movements. A call for justice. 

Tickets start at $32

Café Open

All prices and programs subject to change.

Responding to the murder of Eric Garner, this meditative work is a creative act of resistance. Centering the voice and plea of an activist/daughter/soprano, The Ritual of Breath Is the Rite to Resist interweaves music, text, visuals and movement, gathering us together as co-conspirers—to breathe and keep breathing any way we can.

Reverberating against the ongoing theft of Black breath by the police, the work was born from a collaboration between Enrico Riley, a painter and Dartmouth professor of Studio Arts, and Jonathan Berger, a composer and professor of Music at Stanford. The two engaged Vievee Francis, a poet, to craft the powerful libretto. As the project evolved to include other artist-activists, pioneering theater artist Niegel Smith joined as director.

Click here to learn more about the project and upcoming rituals. 

To participate in our in-person rituals, please RSVP for the Ritual for Black Levity & Auspicious Attention (Oct 6), the Elevate Our Departed: Ritual for Safe Passage (Oct 7), and the Ritual of Breath Is the Rite to Resist Procession (Oct 14).

A procession of breath from the Black House to Bing Concert Hall to open the Ritual of Breath is the Rite to Resist. For the first performance on Fri, Oct 14, we will gather at the Black House between 5:30–6:00 PM in a ritual of collective breathing before our procession to Bing Concert Hall. Please dress in all white for this event. RSVP for this event here

Composer: Jonathan Berger
Visual Artist: Enrico Riley
Librettist: Vievee Francis
Director: Niegel Smith
Conductor: Kamna Gupta 
Soprano, co-choreographer: Neema Bickersteth
Co-choreographer: Trebien Pollard
Co-social impact director: Dr. Shamell Bell
Co-social impact director: Gwen Carr
Consulting choreographer: Jawole Willa Jo Zollar
Creative producer: Kim Whitener


Neema Bickersteth, soprano
Greg Ward, saxophone
Fung Chern Hwei, violin
Titilayo Ayangade, cello
Mikael Darmanie, piano
Bonnie Anne Whiting, percussion
Trebien Pollard, dancer
Isaiah Robinson, lead chorister
Community Chorus


Peter Nigrini, scenic & projection
Reza Behjat, lights
Sadah Espii Proctor, sound
Gabriel Berry, costumes
Stage Manager: Jason Kaiser
Production Manager: Brian Freeland



Generously supported by the Stanford Live Commissions and Programming Fund.

Commissioned, developed, and produced by The Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth and co-commissioned by Stanford Live.


  • View the digital program here.

Related Events


Tickets start at $32

Café Open

All prices and programs subject to change.

Why we chose this

Supporting the development of new work through commissioning allows us to develop deeper relationships with artists. We've been in process with the Ritual of Breath team for several years now to bring this powerful work to the stage. Sometimes the commissioning process is about starting new relationships as with Portland, Oregon– based Okaidja Afroso, who shines a light on vanishing fisher culture in his native Ghana. With Meklit Hadero's gift for collaboration and storytelling, her work on migration stories finds a natural home at Stanford Live. When artists are given the freedom and resources to develop work, the community benefits from the stories and expressions they reveal.

—Laura Evans, Director of Music Programs, Engagement, and Education


Bing Concert Hall

Bing Concert Hall

Seating Configurations

Tickets & Policies

Discount & Group Sales

Directions & Parking

Accessibility & Services


Health & Safety