Backwards from Winter

Monodrama for Soprano, Electric Cello, Computer Sound and Video
by
Douglas Knehans (music) and Juanita Rockwell (libretto)

Photo by David Fraser

Backwards from Winter, performed at Dark Mofo in Hobart, Tasmania, in 2018, is an hour-long operatic monodrama. It explores a single woman’s reflection on a love relationship as seen through various elemental filters of seasons, color, nature, emotion, and memory as told through live voice, live electronic/computer music, and multiple video streams.

She traces the past year with her beloved, moving backwards through time, from deep winter, when she is in grief over his death, to autumn, when she experiences the sharp pain of losing him in a storm, and on to the heat of their passion in summer and the heart-opening birth of their love in spring

Just as our conventional experience of linear time can be disrupted by deep grief or joy, this operatic work destabilizes theatrical conventions of narrative, character, psychology, conflict, language, and setting as it explores impermanence, loss, and love.

Douglas Knehans

Composer

With a gift for extravagant color, beautiful melodic style, and engaging, soulfully dramatic work, the music of award-winning composer Douglas Knehans has gained attention around the world. Knehans’ two-piano work cascade has been hailed by Fanfare Magazine as “effective…incisive…[and] hauntingly beautiful.” A disc of his early music for acoustic and electric cello was released on Ablaze Records in the fall of 2010 and was called “amazingly sophisticated…very beautiful…intriguing… [and] captivating” by Audiophile Audition.

Knehans has received awards from the American Music Center, the NEA, the Australia Council Performing Arts Board, Yale University, the MacDowell Colony, Opera Australia, The Cannes Film Festival, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, The National Symphony Orchestra, The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Meet the Composer, and a host of others. His works have been broadcast on ABC Radio and Television (Australia); NPR and PBS (USA); RAI Radio and Television (Italy); and HTKY, the National Television Broadcaster in Ukraine.

He received his initial music education at the Australian National University. He has received scholarships and awards from Queens College, CUNY, where he gained his M.A. in composition with Distinguished Professor and renowned composer Thea Musgrave, and won the first Luigi Dallapiccola Composition Award (1991) for outstanding achievement in music composition. In 1991, Knehans entered the Doctoral program at Yale University where he studied with Pulitzer Prize winning composer Jacob Druckman, graduating with the Woods Chandler Memorial Prize (1993) for best composition in a larger form.

Knehans has been chair of Composition at the University of Alabama School of Music; was Professor of Music and Director of the University of Tasmania Conservatorium of Music between 2000-2008; and Dean of the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati from 2008-2010. He is currently the Norman Dinerstein Professor of Composition Scholar at CCM.


Juanita Rockwell

Librettist

Juanita Rockwell is a writer and director specializing in the development of new work at such venues and companies as The Ontological, Mabou Mines/Suite, Culture Project, Blue Heron, Bushwick Starr, Access Theatre (NYC); Theatre of the First Amendment, Source, Atlas, DCAC, Everyman, Theatre Project, Single Carrot, Iron Crow, AcmeCorporation, UnSaddest Factory, Bell Foundry (DC/Baltimore); Gas & Electric Arts (Philadelphia); Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford Arts Center, Jorgenson Theatre, Ashford Barn (Connecticut); City Theatre, Black Sheep Festival (Pittsburgh); Teatro Municipão (São Paolo); Teatro Abya Yala (San José, CR); RS9 (Budapest); and broadcast on NPR. Produced writing for performance includes The World is Round (libretto and direction for opera, composer James Sellars), Waterwalk (libretto for gamelan opera, composer Robert Macht); Cave in the Sky (script and direction for puppets/multimedia); Lunar Pantoum (text for dance-theatre); The Circle (script for alternative art audiowalk); Upstream (script for radioplay); Across the Void, Packing/Pecking, Language Monkey, Quantum Soup (short plays); Playing Dead (translation from Presnyakovs w/Yury Urnov); Between Trains, What’s a Little Death (plays with songs, composer Chas Marsh).

As Artistic Director of Hartford’s Company One for six years, Juanita directed early premieres for stage and radio. In 1994 she became the founding artistic director of Towson University’s experimental MFA in Theatre, directing the program for a dozen years. She continues to teach in the grad program at Towson, as well as in the MA/MFA in Creative Writing at Wilkes University, also consulting on its development.

Past project support includes NEA, TCG, ITI, MD State Arts Council; and as writer-in-residence for the Ko Festival, the O’Neill Center’s National Theatre Institute, and the Visual Playwriting Conference at Gallaudet. Juanita is a Fulbright Scholar as well as member of the Society of Directors and Choreographers and the Dramatists Guild.

Photo by Patrick Klein Meuleman

Judith Weusten

Soprano

Dutch soprano Judith Weusten received her Bachelor in Music at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam in June 2017. There she studied voice with Valérie Guillorit and Pierre Mak and was coached by Jan-Paul Grijpink. She now studies at the Dutch National Opera Academy with Margreet Honig.

In May 2016, Judith was part of the Opera Forward Festival of the Dutch National Opera where she performed in a newly composed opera by Mathilde Wantenaar. Later that same year, she sang the role of Lucy in Menotti’s The Telephone. In 2017, she performed her first role at the Dutch National Opera Academy as Sandmann/Taumann in Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel.

She is comfortable in Lied and oratorio as well, regularly performing in recitals. She has sung soprano solos in Haydn’s Schöpfung, Fauré’s Requiem, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, and various Bach and Mozart cantatas.

This year, she will perform Lucia in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, Frasquita in Bizet’s Carmen and Despina in Mozart’s Così fan Tutte.


Antonis Pratsinakis

E-Cello

Antonis Pratsinakis is a cellist based in Amsterdam. In recent years he has focused on creating performances, including dance, video, acting, and culinary disciplines. He has also participated in numerous music and music theater productions with Kameroperahuis, Ergon Ensemble, Veenfabriek, Atlas Ensemble, Sonnevanck, Toneelgroep Amsterdam, and Korzo Theater. Highlights of these productions include performing solo cello in Peter Maxwell Davis’s Vesalii Icones and the 2017 tour as composer and live performer with choreographer Jasper van Luijk creating the dance performance The Nonsense Society.

He has performed as a soloist and chamber musician in Greece, Germany, Holland, Austria, Bulgaria, Belgium, Italy, Turkey, and Serbia, where he received excellent reviews for his playing. An active chamber music player, he has recorded with the Infinity Piano Trio for the National Radio of Bulgaria. Recently he is working on producing his own music with e-cello as well as acoustic cello.

He studied in Thessaloniki with R. Dragnev and completed his Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Amsterdam with D. Ferschtman and J. den Herder, supported by scholarships from the Greek State Scholarships Foundation and Scholingsfonds.

For more information visit: antonispratsinakis.com


Chris Jackson

Actor

Since graduating with a Bachelor of Contemporary Arts – Theatre from the University of Tasmania in 2005, Chris has worked across the theatre and performance sector in many capacities including directing, acting, and performance art and design, as well as completing a Master of Contemporary Arts degree in theatre and performance. His work has been seen at local, state, national, and international levels.

Highlights include acting/performing in Dancing Back Home (JUTE/Mudlark Theatre Inc.), Borders (IHOS Opera/JUNCTION Arts Festival); Savages (Persona Collective/JUNCTION Arts Festival); Artaud Defacteau (OzFrank Thetre Matrix); assistant directing the Helpmann nominated Barbarians (IHOS Opera/MONA FOMA); and serving as vision designer for Relax the Chimp (TasDance/JUNCTION Arts Festival), Chasing a Sound Like Rain, which toured Tasmania and Canada (LYTE/10 Days on the Island). He was composer/sound designer for I Am a Lake (Mudlark Theatre Inc.) for which he received Best Design in the Professional Theatre category at the Tasmanian Theatre Awards. He also earned two nominations for Blackadder in the Community Theatre section for his work as Edmund and for lighting design. Most recently, he performed in the new work staged at MTC’s Southbank Theatre, Islamophilia; Encore Theatre’s Blood Brothers; and the installation work PANOPTICON at Dark MOFO alongside an array of artists.

Chris is currently an Associate Lecturer, Production Manager and Theatre Technical Officer at the School of Creative Arts whilst also nearing completion of a Master of Fine Arts candidature.

Constantine Koukias

Mise-en-scène

Constantine Koukias is a Greek-Tasmanian composer and opera director based in Amsterdam. His avant-garde approach to opera has resulted in hybrid productions such as Days and Nights with Christ, To Traverse Water, MIKROVION (Small Life – 36 Images in a Phantom Flux of Life), The Divine Kiss, and Tesla – Lightning in His Hand. His most recent large-scale work The Barbarians, inspired by Constantine Cavafy’s famous poem “Waiting for the Barbarians” and commissioned by the Museum of Old and New Art.

His works range from large-scale music-theatre and opera to mobile installation-art events. His compositions have earned acclaim as remarkable for their mesmerising, atmospheric qualities and production designs.

In 1993, he was commissioned by the Sydney Opera House Trust to compose ICON, a large-scale music-theatre piece, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Sydney Opera House.

Additional theatre works include Kimisis – Falling AsleepBordersOrfeo, Rapture – Sonic Taxi Performance, Schwa – The Neutral Vowel, Antigone and The Da Ponte Project. Prayer Bells, which draws on traditions of Latin, Hebrew and Byzantine chant, had its USA premiere at the Chicago Cultural Centre.

In 2004, he was awarded a Sir Winston Churchill Fellowship. His Incantation II for soprano and digital delay won the International Valentino Bucchi Vocal Prize in Rome in 1997. His design credits include the internationally acclaimed Odyssey and Medea.

In 2014-15, Kimisis – Falling Asleep, a chamber opera for soprano and electric trombone, had its Netherlands premiere at Splendor Amsterdam and later toured to the Karavaan Festival.


Ivan Paitre

Mise-en-scène

Ivan Paitre was born in France and is currently based Amsterdam. Over the years, he has lived and worked in major cities all over the world: Montreal, Miami, Paris, London, and São Paulo, to name but a few.

Ivan is at home in a variety of genres, from sound and film production to site-specific décor and costume design, and is employed for projects in the worlds of modern pop/opera/theatre and for commercial events.

His early training was focussed on the music industry. From 2003 to 2005, he was mentored by multi-platinum producer/songwriter and Grammy winner Rudy Perez in Miami Beach.

In 2008, after gaining much experience in the USA and France, he oversaw the live sound engineering production for Le Caveaux des oubliettes in Paris. In France, too, he added lighting design to his skill set, discovering Cymatic light VJ installations of vibrating water.

Recent film projects include Werzerkering, Reliviation by Wouter Springer and Ray van Der Bas, starring Pamela Anders; and Biljestdag (Day of Reckoning) by Gideon van Eeden and Ray van der Bas, starring John Leddy and Wendy Riksen.

He was the assistant producer on numerous editions of Inner Voyage by Ballet Bernasconi based in San Francisco.

Ivan is involved with the Amsterdam-based Kuza Studios – a creative agency aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development goals, working with companies and foundations to create immersive digital media and powerful events to drive Corporate Social Responsibility.


Cazerine Barry

Projection Design

Cazerine Barry is an artist who has worked in many areas of performance, direction, and media. Over the past 20 years, her work has been presented in Australia as well as in Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, Jakarta, Mexico City, Beijing, Paris, Christchurch, Taranaki, Glasgow, and Monaco.

She is the recipient of the New Media Fellowship and Eva Czajor Memorial Award. Her other awards include an Asialink Residency in Taiwan, a Highly commended Australian Cinematography Award, and a cultural exchange award from the Australian Indonesian Institute. Her short films have been purchased by SBS and BBC television. She has created media for performances with Australian companies Vitalstatistix, Playbox, Back to Back, Terrapin Theatre, Cirque, Flying Fruit Fly Circus, Black Hole Theatre, and Arena Theatre Company.

Recent commissions include Parteitag (Concertgebouw Orchestra/Holland Festival) composed by Brett Dean, the song cycles A Thousand Doors A Thousand Windows and The Legend of Ned Kelly (Terrapin Theatre) composed by Constantine Koukias, and SQUARE (North Arts) composed by Euphonia.

She has collaborated with David Chisholm on the digital pantomime SPRUNGInsurgency for Melbourne University Union Theatre, and the development phases of opera noir Dr. Couteau and musical theatre work Revival. She has recently presented excerpts of Olegas for IHOS Opera while completing her degree in early education. Since that time, she has produced visual media for the musical theatre development Carnegie 18 at the Arts Centre and worked on a solo project through the assistance of Creative Victoria.


Greg Gurr

Sound Design

Greg began his interest in audio at 16 while still at school in Tasmania. Throughout his career, he has worked as an acoustic jazz and contemporary music concert engineer, a film and video sound recordist, and a designer/engineer in a variety of theatre performance. Some of the highlights of Greg’s career have included engineering the sound for Roy Orbison, Don Burrows, Ivan Rebroff, The Angels, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGee and touring with international acts 10CC, ELO, and The Stranglers. Greg was also sound recordist on Words and Silk, an award winning documentary on author Gerald Murnane.

Greg’s first IHOS production was Days and Nights with Christ in 1997. Since then he has designed and operated the sound for productions including the small music theatre works Kimisis – Falling Asleep, Kitchen Table Rondo, and Prayer Bells and the large-format productions The Divine Kiss, Sea Chant, Tesla – Lightning in His Hand, and The Barbarians for the Museum of Old & New Art.

He also designed the works for the IHOS Music Theatre Laboratory including Spirits of the Hoist, Schwa – the Neutral Vowel, As if Electronically ControlledTouch Wood and Antigone.

Following his retirement from ABC TV, Greg has focused on other interests such as photography, 3D recording, and plane-wave technology in audio design.


Jason James

Lightning

Jason has worked as a lighting and projection designer for over twelve years,

His recent credits include Red Racing Hood, Big Baby, Pip and Pooch, Shadow Dreams, Sleeping Horses Lie, Love (Terrapin Puppet Theatre); Born from Animals, Branch Book Bench, The Company I Keep, If I jumped I’d Fly (Tasmanian Theatre Company); Motel Dreaming, Galla Placidia (Dark MOFO); Echo, The Barbarians, and Kimisis (IHOS); Tell Tails (Bridget Bridge); Abandoned Dances, Episodes, Birds (Mature Age Dance Ensemble); Wild at Heart, Motel Dreaming (Unconscious Collective); Spiegeltent (Ten Days on the Island); and Fall, Winter, Spring (Second Echo Ensemble).

Jason has been developing a broader arts practice around light over the last seven years. He is currently studying Visual Arts at the Tasmanian College of the Arts and has had artworks presented in festivals around Tasmania. The two most recent were Angry Electrons, a solo show in Dark MOFO 2015, and Crevasse, which was a part of envelop(e) curated by Matt Warren, a co-presentation between Contemporary Arts Tasmania and Dark MOFO.

jasongarethjames.com


Mik Lavage

Surveillance Design & Projection Operator

Mik Lavage is an Australian sound and vision designer, composer, and musician. Working on stage and screen, Mik has been nominated for AFI awards (screen) and worked on shows nominated for the Helpmann Awards (stage).

Mik has collaborated with a broad range of artists and companies from the ancient Greek leanings of IHOS to the acrobatic worlds of The Tom Tom Crew, Company 2, and Strange Fruit, and has performed worldwide in Melbourne, Munich, Montreal, Detroit, Paris, and Taipei, among other locations. He currently tours globally with The Orkestra of the Underground, Company 2, IHOS, Hermitude, and Toni Childs working as a sound designer, a musical performer, and a designer of interactive visual elements.

Mik is also a graduate of AFTRS (Australian Film, Television & Radio School) in music composition for film, and has produced numerous albums as a solo artist as well as with Toni Childs. His music has been featured in many dance, theatre, and film productions that range from political documentary to feature film.

May 25, 2018

World premiere

Center for Contemporary Opera
Symphony Space, Thalia Theater
2537 Broadway at 95th Street
New York, NY 10025-6990

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June 20–23, 2018

Australian premiere

Foundation IHOS Amsterdam
City Hall,
57-63 Macquarie Street
Hobart, Tasmania, 7001

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