Conversations about the ideas that disrupt and transform the performing arts. Each episode features an interview with an artist or performing arts scholar that delves into how innovators challenge the boundaries of their art forms. Interdisciplinary artists and work, such as opera, music theater, multimedia performance art, and dance theater; cross-cultural perspectives and historically marginalized voices are in focus. Hosted by Jennifer Williams.
Director Jennifer Williams interviews composer Ricky Ian Gordon. A leading writer of vocal music that spans art song, opera and musical theater, the GRAMMY-nominated and OBIE Award-winning composer’s work has been performed and recorded by such internationally renowned singers as Renée Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Nathan Gunn, Stephanie Blythe, Denyce Graves, Judy Collins, Kelli O’Hara, Audra MacDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, and the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, among many others. We discuss the role art plays in healing a community, composing authentic voices, and the relationship between musical theater and opera.
Jennifer Williams interviews baritone and transgender activist Lucia Lucas. Hailed as “one of the most powerful and beautiful baritone voices you can hear,” American baritone Lucia Lucas is making waves on operatic stages internationally, with recent performances in Berlin, Torino, London, Dublin, Brussels, Korea, and the United States. She is the first transgender baritone to perform a principal operatic role in the United States and the first transgender baritone to appear with the English National Opera. She was slated to make her Metropolitan Opera debut this 2020-21 season, which, at the time of this recording, has been canceled due to the pandemic. We discuss her experience launching an international performance career while transitioning, her take on some of opera’s notoriously toxic masculine roles, and blueprints for how the arts can create more inclusive spaces for future generations of transgender artists.
Jennifer Williams interviews countertenor, curator and interdisciplinarian Anthony Roth Costanzo. In addition to appearing with many of the world’s leading houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Los Angeles Opera, and Houston Grand Opera, he is also a producer and curator, creating shows for National Sawdust, Opera Philadelphia, Princeton University, and WQXR. His debut album, ARC, on Decca Gold was nominated for a 2019 GRAMMY Award, and he is Musical America’s 2019 vocalist of the year. We discuss a unique dimension of his experience starring in Philip Glass’s Akhnaten; his curatorial vision behind his operatic installation, Glass Handel; and his next ambitious venture. Interview only. Full episode available on Anchor.
Episodes with music are only available on Spotify.
Jennifer Williams interviews countertenor, curator and interdisciplinarian Anthony Roth Costanzo. In addition to appearing with many of the world’s leading houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Los Angeles Opera, and Houston Grand Opera, he is also a producer and curator, creating shows for National Sawdust, Opera Philadelphia, Princeton University, and WQXR. His debut album, ARC, on Decca Gold was nominated for a 2019 GRAMMY Award, and he is Musical America’s 2019 vocalist of the year. We discuss a unique dimension of his experience starring in Philip Glass’s Akhnaten; his curatorial vision behind his operatic installation, Glass Handel; and his next ambitious venture.
Jennifer Williams interviews soprano and Fat Politics activist Tracy Cox. Hailed by LA Weekly as a “force of nature,” Tracy Cox’s distinguished acclaim includes a Sullivan Foundation Award, the Birgit Nilsson Prize at Operalia and the Kirsten Flagstad Award from the George London Foundation. She has been interviewed by The New York Times on Fat Politics and is an in-demand consultant on diversity in the performing arts for singers, competitions and opera companies alike. We discuss fatphobia’s roots in colonialism and Protestantism, what we teach audiences when performances fail to represent diverse bodies, and why those who benefit from fatphobic systems should also dismantle them.
Jennifer Williams interviews Sharrell D. Luckett, Ph.D., acclaimed theatre director, professor, actor, scholar, and author of the book Black Acting Methods: Critical Approaches – a groundbreaking anthology which is the first book to highlight diverse acting and directing methods rooted in Afrocentrism. She is the Director of the Weinberger Center for Drama & Playwriting and professor of Drama and Performance Studies at the University of Cincinnati. We discuss Afrocentric approaches to acting and acting pedagogy; why colorblind casting is problematic and better practices for inclusive casting; and a sneak peek at future editions of her book and the future work of the Black Acting Methods Studio.
Jennifer Williams interviews composer Sarah Kirkland Snider. Deemed “one of the decade’s more gifted, up-and-coming modern classical composers” (Pitchfork), “a potentially significant voice on the American music landscape” (Philadelphia Inquirer), and “an important representative of 21st century trends in composition” (New York Classical Review), she has received commissions and performances from the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and the National Symphony Orchestra, among many others. We discuss her reimagining of mythology in her recent work, Penelope, her inter-genre music – and how the artistic impulses the classical world tells you to repress might just be the very inspiration that defines your unique and important work.
Jennifer Williams interviews composer, pianist and educator Niloufar Nourbakhsh – winner of the 2nd Hildegard Competition, recipient of a 2019 Female Discovery Grant from OPERA America, and a founding member and co-director of the Iranian Female Composers Association. We discuss the unwilling hero in her new work, “We the Innumerable;” her new perspectives on the future of technology in music; current developments in Iran’s opera scene; and her vision for the future of the Iranian Female Composers Association.
Jennifer Williams interviews performer, teacher and activist Dr. Derrell Acon. A Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Acon received an Andrew W. Mellon grant for his work on Verdian scholarship and performance. His most recent scholarship on Blacktivism and the power of performance education has been presented around the country, and he is well-known for his groundbreaking work as an activist on the subject matter of race and equity. He also enjoys an active performance career as an acclaimed bass-baritone, including recent appearances at The Glimmerglass Festival and LA Master Chorale. We discuss an overlooked avenue in Verdian scholarship, Blacktivism as scholarship and in practice, his experience as Long Beach Opera’s Director of Engagement and Equity and Black Opera Alliance’s leader, and his advice for young performer-activists.
Jennifer Williams interviews Kamala Sankaram, acclaimed composer of the first Zoom opera (All decisions will be made by consensus) as well as commissions from Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, and Beth Morrison Projects, among many others. The diverse media for which she has written include virtual and augmented reality; multimedia installations; and her operatic Bollywood surf ensemble, Bombay Rickey. We discuss the creation of her innovative works and the multifaceted relationship between technology and live performance.
Jennifer Williams interviews Laura Kaminsky, acclaimed composer of As One, the first opera about a transgender protagonist. Since its premiere in 2014 by American Opera Projects at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, As One quickly became the most frequently produced new opera in North America. We discuss the genesis of her landmark work and how an artist can expand the narrative of the human experience we see and hear on stage.
An interview with interdisciplinary artist Sarah Fornace and composer Ben Kauffman of Manual Cinema, Chicago’s Emmy Award-winning performance collective. We discuss the essential role of collaboration in their work, the genesis of a new form of multimedia immersive storytelling, and how they uniquely fuse technology and live performance.
A conversation with Alberto Varon, Associate Professor of English and Latino Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. We discuss the disruption of genre, gender and the idea of borders in contemporary Latinx opera.
Composer Ben Barson and vocalist Gizelxanath Rodriguez, co-creators of the global jazz opera, Mirror Butterfly: The Migrant Liberation Movement Suite, discuss the role of artists as activists and the possibility of an intersectional conversation about colonialism’s lasting impact on the environment.
An interview with Dr. Kirsten Paige, musicologist and THINK Fellow at Stanford University, on how Wagner assimilated 19th-century climate theory into his music dramas, stage technology at Bayreuth, and concept of "the total work of art."