Backwards from Winter

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.

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 … 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, 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/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.

Jennifer Williams, Director

Praised by the San Francisco Chronicle as an “imaginative” director of “particular ingenuity,” Jennifer Williams is quickly gaining recognition for her innovative interpretations of classic operas and bold productions of contemporary works. She is the founding Artistic Director of DC Public Opera, an experimental company that produces opera in found spaces in Washington, DC. A Fulbright Artist Grant recipient, Dr. Williams has worked throughout the U.S. and Europe, including at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Staatsoper Stuttgart, Komische Oper Berlin, Oper Frankfurt, the San Francisco Opera Center, the Glimmerglass Festival, Boston Lyric Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Central City Opera, Wolf Trap Opera Company, Chicago Opera Theater, and Pittsburgh Opera. As the San Francisco Opera Center’s Apprentice Stage Director, she directed a critically acclaimed Merola Grand Finale at the War Memorial Opera House.

 She recently directed new productions of Mohammed Fairouz’s Sumeida’s Song and Ricky Ian Gordon and Royce Vavrek’s 27 at Pittsburgh Opera; site-specific productions of Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, La bohème, and Schubert’s Goethe-Lieder; a fully staged Saint Matthew Passion in Cincinnati’s Saint Peter in Chains Cathedral; and a highly acclaimed modern production of La bohème at Miami Music Festival. She has been on the faculties of CCM Spoleto, Miami Music Festival and Seagle Music Colony. Dr. 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.