Professor Wins Funding for Collaborative ‘Floating’ Opera

photo of the opera Death With Interruptions showing musicians on stage
Professor Kurt Rohde, standing in center, during a performance of his opera "Death With Interruptions."

Composer and UC Davis Professor Kurt Rohde and two artistic colleagues have received $50,000 to develop a “floating” opera in New York City. The financial award from the Creative Capital Foundation will support “Newtown Odyssey” by Rohde, writer Dana Spiotta and performance and visual artist Marie Lorenz. It will be performed on waterway barges with audience members watching from moving boats and will will address themes of themes of climate change, environmental justice and civic responsibility..

The three artists have engaged only in preliminary discussions, so the exact form and content of the work to be staged in 2022 hasn’t been decided, said Rohde, a professor in the Department of Music in the College of Letters and Science.

“This is a completely unexpected show of support for this project,” Rohde said. “The entire team is extremely thrilled by the surprise of it all.”

Rohde and Spiotta met when both were living in Rome as recipients of the Rome Prize in 2009, and they have long been discussing a collaboration.

“It was a matter of timing and finding a project that would allow us to work together equally, in ways we never have before, and making it a collaborative project with other artists and the community,” Rohde said.

Rohde, also a violist, is a recipient of the Berlin Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Bogliasco Foundation fellowship, a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies fellowship, the Lydian String Quartet Commission Prize, and an Arts and Letters Award in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is co-founder of the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble and is artistic director of the Composers Conference. His operas “Death With Interruptions” and “Never was a knight...” were premiered in San Francisco in 2015 and 2017, respectively.

Spiotta is a National Book Critics Circle Award and National Book Award finalist. She is an associate professor in Syracuse University’s Master of Fine Arts creative writing program.

Lorenz travels through urban waterways in boats she designs and builds, collecting the tidal debris that accumulates, and makes videos and installations that document and respond to what she encounters. 

The three are among 42 artists to receive support from Creative Capital this year. The award is designed not as a one-time infusion of cash, but as the beginning of a long-term partnership –– one that helps artists build stable and sustainable practices that can enrich their projects and careers. 

— Jeffrey Day, content strategist in the College of Letters and Science

 

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