The Center for Contemporary Opera concludes its historic 35th season with the world premiere of
Backwards from Winter
Monodrama for Soprano, Electric Cello, Computer Sound and Video by Douglas Knehans (music) and Juanita Rockwell (libretto)
Backwards from Winter is an hour long operatic monodrama exploring a single woman's reflection on a love relationship as seen through various elemental filters of seasons, color, nature, emotion and memory and 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 where she is in grief over his death, to autumn, where she experiences the sharp pain of losing him in a storm, through the summer's heat of their passion, to 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.
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 ... 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 ... captivating ..." by Audiophile Audition.
Douglas 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.
Douglas Knehans 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, receiving 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 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/Balto); Gas & Electric Arts (Phila); Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford Arts Center, Jorgenson Theatre, Ashford Barn (CT); City Theatre, Black Sheep Festival (P'burgh); 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.
The German soprano Anke Briegel studied at the University of Music, Drama and Media in Hannover, Germany and at the Conservatorio Statale di Musica Luigi Cherubini in Florence, Italy. She graduated in 2010. Her education concluded with several master classes, with Aribert Reimann, Ileana Cotrubas and Barbara Bonney, among others.
She was awarded both the Music Prize of Ulm, Germany, 2009 and the Bajazzo-Award of the patronage society of the Theater Dortmund, Germany, 2013.
In 2005 Anke Briegel had her opera debut at Hamburgische Staatsoper, Germany as Warwara Dobrosjolowa in Arme Leute. From the 2010-11 season until summer 2014 she was a member of the Theater Dortmund. While there she sang main roles in her Fach such as Gretel (Hänsel und Gretel), Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Adina (L'elisir d'amore) and Musetta (La Boheme). Furthermore, she performed at the Theater Bielefeld, Staatsoper Hannover, Aalto Musiktheater Essen, Nationaltheater Mannheim and the festival of Schwetzingen, Germany.
She joined the ensemble of the Royal Opera House Copenhagen, Denmark in summer 2014. Her roles here included so far Sophie (Der Rosenkavalier), Morgana (Alcina), Pamina (Die Zauberflöte) Ännchen (Der Freischütz), Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi), Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Jenny (Rise and fall of the city of Mahagonny), Corinna (Viaggio a Reims) and Gilda (Rigoletto).
The New National Theatre Opera Tokyo, Japan invited her to sing Sophie (Rosenkavalier) in May 2015.
In October 2017 Anke Briegel sang the title role of the world premiere of Momo by Svitlana Azarova at the Royal Opera House Copenhagen, Denmark.
Besides opera she also regularly performs concert repertoire, such as Bach's Johannespassion at the Konzerthaus Dortmund with Jac van Steen 2013, or Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem with Michael Boder at the Royal Opera House Copenhagen 2014.
Jeffrey Krieger has been for three decades among the new generation of solo recitalists who have incorporated technology - the computer and video - as well as an electric cello built by Vermont craftsman, Tucker Barrett into performance. He has received numerous national awards for this work among which a prestigious 1993 Solo Recitalist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts which allowed extensive touring in the USA, a 1996 State of Connecticut Commission on the Arts Artist Fellowship for work in multi-media, as well as awards from the Canada Council, the Roberts Foundation Creation of New Work Initiative, New England Foundation for the Arts, and American Composers Forum.
Mr. Krieger has performed at prestigious venues, music schools and conservatories, museums, and international music festivals across the US and abroad. Past performances of note have been as featured soloist with the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center's New York State Theater and the Saratoga Festival, a solo recital sponsored by the American-Lithuanian Society of New York of music by Lithuanian composer, Osvaldas Balakauskas at Merkin Concert Hall, NYC, and a performance of Videocello at the Kennedy Center.
Mr. Krieger has been a frequent performer and guest lecturer at educational institutions such as the Cincinnati Conservatory, San Francisco Conservatory, Peabody Conservatory, Yale University, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and the Conservatorium of Music, Hobart, Tasmania. Performances at international music festivals have included the Boston Cyberarts Festival; International Festival of Electronic Art at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; International Festival of Arts and Ideas, New Haven; Subtropics Festival, Miami International University; New Directions Cello Festival at the Knitting Factory, New York City; Ebeltoft Festival, Denmarck. In 2000 he was soloist on the electric cello with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, and in 2001 performed composer, Robert Carl's A Wide Open Field for electric cello with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts. In 2007 and 2008 he served as Cultural Ambassador to India performing concerts of American music sponsored by the US Embassy which included performances at the American Center Auditoriums of New Delhi and Mumbai.
Mr. Krieger has recorded numerous electric cello works for New World Records, Vienna Modern Masters, Capstone, Innova, O.O. Discs and Ablaze Records.
Mr. Krieger has a Bachelor of Music Degree from the Hartt School of Music and a Master of Music Degree fromthe Yale School of Music. He has served as Principal Cellist of the Hartford Symphony since 1979.
Hailed by The San Francisco Chronicle as an "imaginative" director of "particular ingenuity," director Jennifer Williams works throughout the U.S. and internationally, including at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Staatsoper Stuttgart, Komische Oper Berlin, Oper Frankfurt, The Glimmerglass Festival, and San Francisco Opera Center. She is the founding Artistic Director of DC Public Opera, an experimental company that produces opera installations in site-specific spaces in Washington, DC. She recently directed acclaimed new productions of Mohammed Fairouz's Sumeida's Song and Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek's 27 for Pittsburgh Opera and "consistently imaginative" and "extraordinarily beautiful" new productions of Les contes d'Hoffmann and La bohème for Miami Music Festival. Recent and upcoming engagements include directing Ariadne auf Naxos at Austin Opera for Francesca Zambello, the world premiere of Douglas Knehans' Backwards from Winter for Center for Contemporary Opera, and a site-specific installation of A Midsummer Night's Dream with video projections in the round in Miami's stunning Faena Center (Miami Music Festival). In 2017, she joins the directing staff of Houston Grand Opera as well as the faculty of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, where she serves as a Drama Coach.
Ms. Williams was the Apprentice Stage Director for the San Francisco Opera Merola Opera Program, directing a critically acclaimed Merola Grand Finale at the War Memorial Opera House conducted by maestro Nicholas McGegan. Other recent directing engagements include immersive, site-specific installations of The Turn of the Screw (featuring an aerialist-soprano performing the role of Miss Jessel from a trapeze and interactive video projections), Don Giovanni (The Mayflower Hotel), Così fan tutte (a Warhol-inspired production in DC's waterfront art gallery, The Torpedo Factory), La bohème (DC's historic 19th-century market, Eastern Market Hall), and Schubert's Goethe-Lieder (staged in the round in the Austrian Embassy); new productions of Three Decembers, Le nozze di Figaro, La clemenza di Tito, Rigoletto, La Cenerentola, a fully staged Saint Matthew Passion in Cincinnati's celebrated Saint Peter in Chains Cathedral, a gala concert featuring Carl Tanner, Marianne Cornetti and Angela Meade led by maestro Antony Walker; and bel canto scenes at Glimmerglass's Alice Busch Opera Theater led by maestro Joseph Colaneri.
A Fulbright Scholar, Ms. Williams holds an Artist Diploma in Opera Stage Directing from CCM, an M.A. and Ph.D. in Theatre History and Criticism from Cornell University and an A.B. with honors in Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities from the University of Chicago.