Past Shows

The Echo Drift

Artist’s Praise

Mikael Karlsson’s original score peaked the senses and ran a whole gamut of expression… My only reservation about the music was that there wasn’t more of it...
— Sarah Batschelet, Bachtrack

As usual, what rose from the pit aroused true pleasure
— Ilona Landgraf, Landgraf on Dance

  • share this

About the Show

World Premiere
January 10, 12 – 13, 18 – 20 at 7:30pm

At Baruch Performing Arts Center

Convicted murderer Walker Loats is trapped in a timeless prison. Unexpectedly befriended by a moth with an offer of a perceived way to freedom, Walker must choose between paying her dues or taking a shortcut that offers to rig the game in her favor. Oscillating between the confines of a tiny cell and an expansive visual world of animation, The Echo Drift unravels a cycle of deceit, temptation, seduction, and fantastical perception. Featuring a live chamber ensemble, electronics, and a six-channel surround sound system, this world premiere opera explores the freewheeling nature of the mind when it is robbed of external stimuli and questions, when in extreme circumstances, is it possible to act in a way that goes against one’s nature?

Music by Mikael Karlsson
Libretto by Elle Kunnos de Voss & Kathryn Walat
Directed by Mallory Catlett
Conducted by Nicholas DeMaison
Environment Design by Elle Kunnos de Voss
Projection Design by Simon Harding
Lighting Design by Christopher Kuhl
Costume and Prop Design by Andreea Mincic
Animations by Dara Hamidi & Simon Harding with drawings by Elle Kunnos de Voss
Orchestration by Mikael Karlsson & Michael P. Atkinson

With the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE)
Pianist Aaron Likness

Walker Loats Blythe Gaissert
Governor & The Moth John Kelly

The Echo Drift was originally developed by Mikael Karlsson and Elle Kunnos de Voss in a full-length workshop presented by the Embassy of Sweden in Washington DC in 2014. The Echo Drift was commissioned, developed and produced by Beth Morrison Projects, HERE, and American Opera Projects.

Produced in association with Baruch Performing Arts Center


Show run time: 70 minutes

Image by Elle Kunnos de Voss

Artist Bio

Mikael Karlsson (Composer) writes music ranging from orchestral music, full evening modern ballets at major opera houses to chamber music, chamber operas and the occasional pop song. In 2014, he was awarded the Lakond Award to “an exceptional mid-career composer” from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Mr. Karlsson’s music has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Le Poisson Rouge, Lincoln Center, MoMA, and as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival at Merkin Concert Hall. His commissions for dance include works for Nederlands Dans Theater, the Paris Opera, The Vienna State Opera, Ailey II, the Royal Swedish Opera and Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, Semperoper (Dresden) and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. He has worked with major contemporary music ensembles in the US (International Contemporary Ensemble, American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) and Europe (Dahlkvist Quartet) and enjoys an ongoing collaboration with celebrated choreographer Alexander Ekman. Mr. Karlsson lives in Harlem, NYC, and has released 12 albums to date.

Elle Kunnos de Voss (Librettist & Environment Designer) is a NY-based Swedish artist and designer. Her work ranges from creative writing, graphics and illustration, production design, set and costume design to architecture. Kunnos de Voss holds an M.A. from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Design. After graduating in 2004, Elle moved to New York City and has since completed production design for films, designed sets and costumes for performing arts productions in Europe and the US and is currently developing an opera with LA based composer and artist Micah Silver. For her work on The Echo Drift libretto she received the Opera Genesis Fellowship, alongside composer Mikael Karlsson, in 2015. In Sweden she recently developed Justine, a theatrical dance piece, with choreographer Charlotta Öfverholm. The piece celebrates individuality and deals with justice, in a story of how imagination triumphs over oppression. Other recent work includes set and costume design for Fernando Melos If walls could speak at The Apollo Theater, NYC, costume design for Too Much by Wendy Houston, Dansens Hus Stockholm, The Misanthrope by Hunger and Thirst Theater New York, story and illustration for Book of Loveistanis with co-writer Gudlaug Fridgeirsdottir for Gudrun Publishing / Safnabókin, Reykjiavik. Recent film projects include Peilin Kuo's Piano Forte / Samba Filmworks NY, The Frigid by Aizhan Tuganbay / NY, The Ceremony by Lina Mannheimer / French Quarter Film which premiered at SXSW in 2015, Girls Lost by Alexandra-Therese Keining / Gotafilm which premiered at TIFF 2016.

Kathryn Walat (Librettist) is co-librettist (with composer Gregory Spears) of the opera Paul’s Case, developed by American Opera Projects and produced at PROTOTYPE, after its premiere at UrbanArias in 2013. Called a “masterpiece” and “gem” (New York Observer), it appeared in The New Yorker’s annual list of Ten Notable Performances, and was produced by Pittsburgh Opera in 2014. She is also the librettist of Jason and the Argonauts, commissioned and produced by Lyric Opera of Chicago, and toured to over 20,000 young audience members in Chicago neighborhoods. As a playwright, her work Creation (about music and the artistic process) premiered at the Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena, for which she was nominated for an LA Stage Alliance Ovation Award for Playwriting. Her play Victoria Martin: Math Team Queen premiered Off-Broadway at the Women’s Project, and was published in New Playwrights: The Best Plays of 2007; and her politically resonant Bleeding Kansas premiered at the Hangar Theatre and received a Francesca Primus Citation from the American Theatre Critics Association. Commissioned by MCC Theater, Yale Repertory Theatre, New Georges, and Actors Theatre of Louisville, Kate has been in residence at such places as the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, the American Academy in Rome, and Yaddo. She received her BA from Brown University, and MFA from Yale School of Drama.

Mallory Catlett (Director) is an Obie award- winning director, dramaturg, and creator of performance across disciplines, such as City Council Meeting, a regional experiment in participatory democracy (with Aaron Landsman and Jim Findlay) that the audience performs; the internationally touring Beowulf, Banana Bag & Bodice’s musical bar room brawl; Dread Scott’s Decision, a Supreme Court recitation and performance installation; and This Was the End, a remix of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Catlett has also directed new opera, including The Scarlet Ibis (Beth Morrison Projects), Brother, Brother (Experiments in Opera), and The Wanton Sublime (AOP). In New York, her work has premiered at HERE, Ontological-Hysteric, PS122, Abrons, Chocolate Factory, Roulette & the Collapsable Hole; been featured at FIAF, the Ice Factory, COIL, Prelude, PROTOTYPE and BAM’s Next Wave; developed with residencies at Baryishniykov Arts, MacDowell, Performing Garage, Abrons, HERE, Mabou Mines, LMCC and Yaddo; and toured internationally to Canada, France, UK, Ireland & Australia. She is a 2015 Foundation for the Contemporary Arts and 2016 Creative Capital grantee.

Nicholas DeMaison (Conductor) is a New York-based conductor and composer whose performances, including dozens of premieres of new instrumental, operatic, and choral works, have been described as “consistently invigorating” (New York Times), “enchanted” (Seen and Heard International), and of the stage premiere of Charles Fussell's The Astronauts's Tale at BAM, Opera News wrote: "DeMaison drew shifting, vibrant colors from the accomplished orchestra." Currently the Principal Conductor of ECCE (East Coast Contemporary Ensemble) and Music Director of the Rensselaer Orchestra and Concert Choir in Troy, NY, his recent appearances have included engagements at the Beijing Modern Music Festival (NCPA,Beijing), Handan Grand Theater (Handan, China), MondayEvening Concert Series (Zipper Hall, Los Angeles), The Stone (New York City), Brooklyn Academy of Music (Brooklyn, NY), and Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (Troy, NY), premiering, among other things, new operas by Mojiao Wang (Encounter), James Ilgenfritz (The Ticket That Exploded), and Nathan Davis (Hagoromo). He recently completed a chamber arrangement of Milhaud’s La Mère Coupable, in which form the opera received its US premiere, and is currently working to complete Pauline Oliveros' opera The Nubian Word for Flowers for posthumous premiere, and developing a new semi-staged production of Ibsen/Grieg's Peer Gynt for performance at EMPAC in Troy, NY.

Simon Harding (Projection Designer) is an award-winning designer for live performance. He has designed nationally and internationally for theater, dance, and performance art work. Harding was a co-founder and the resident designer for SaBooge Theatre, designing all of their productions including the critically acclaimed shows Hatched, Fathom, and Every Day Above Ground. Upcoming/Recent: Custodians of Beauty (Palissimo), Strangers in Paradise (Opera Omaha), The Iceman Cometh [Act IV] (Target Margin Labs). 

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) is an artist collective committed to transforming the way music is created and experienced. As performer, curator, and educator, ICE explores how new music intersects with communities across the world. The ensemble’s 35 members are featured as soloists, chamber musicians, commissioners, and collaborators with the foremost musical artists of our time. A recipient of the American Music Center’s Trailblazer Award and the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, ICE was also named the 2014 Musical America Ensemble of the Year. The group currently serves as artists in residence at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ Mostly Mozart Festival, and previously led a five-year residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. New initiatives include OpenICE, made possible with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which offers free concerts and related programming wherever ICE performs, and enables a working process with composers to unfold in public settings. DigitICE catalogues the ensemble’s performances in a free online streaming video library. ICE's First Page program is a commissioning consortium that fosters close collaborations between performers, composers, and listeners as new music is developed.  EntICE, a side-by-side youth program, places ICE musicians within youth orchestras as they premiere new commissioned works together. Yamaha Artist Services New York is the exclusive piano provider for ICE.

American Opera Projects (Co-Producer) Brooklyn’s American Opera Projects (AOP) returns to the PROTOTYPE Festival having previously associate produced Weisman and Cote's The Scarlet Ibis (2015) and developed Gregory Spears and Kathryn Walat's Paul's Case (UrbanArias’ production, 2014). AOP develops and launches new operas, and offers training programs for students and emerging composers and librettists. AOP-produced world premieres include Paterson and Cote's Three Way (Nashville Opera, BAM, 2017), Davis and Pelsue’s Hagoromo starring Wendy Whelan (BAM, 2015), Nkeiru Okoye's Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (Irondale Center, 2014), Lera Auerbach's The Blind (Lincoln Center Festival, 2013), and Kaminsky, Reed, and Campbell's As One (BAM 2014), commissioned and developed by AOP, one of the most produced contemporary operas written in the past 50 years with over 16 new productions through 2018. AOP has fostered the development of 54 composers & librettists, including composer Mikael Karlsson, in Composers & the Voice, a free two-year program training fundamentals of writing for the voice and opera stage. AOP offers C&V alumni residencies at The Hermitage Artist Retreat, which hosted The Echo Drift creators Karlsson, Kunnos de Voss, along with director Catlett. Recent AOP operas that premiered with co-producers include Boquiren and Neer's Independence Eve (UrbanArias, 2017), Sonenberg, Nester, and Campbell's The Summer King (Pittsburgh Opera, 2017; Michigan Opera Theatre, 2018), Tarik O'Regan and Tom Phillips' Heart of Darkness (London's Royal Opera House, 2011; Opera Parallèle, 2015). Upcoming World Premieres: Six Twenty Outrageous (Symphony Space, Feb 2018), and Ashes and Snow (Pittsburgh Opera, Feb 2018 and BAM Next Wave Festival, Nov 2018).



Blythe Gaissert (Walker Loats) has established herself as a fresh and exciting artist in great demand in the United States and abroad for opera, concert and recital engagements. In the coming 2017-18 season, Ms. Gaissert will be creating the role of Walker Loats in Mikael Karlsson’s cutting edge one woman opera The Echo Drift at the Prototype Festival in NYC, reprising the role of Hannah After in As One with San Diego Opera, and singing Hester Prynne in the Professional Premiere of The Scarlett Professor at Amherst College. She is also a member of the alt/classical/rock group The Knells, who will be releasing their second album in Fall of 2017. A champion of new music, Ms. Gaissert has worked with numerous composers and librettists on dozens of new works, and has been a part of American Opera Projects Composers and the Voice series since 2014. Ms. Gaissert has worked with companies such as the Metropolitan Opera, LA Opera, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Opera Colorado, Tulsa Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Aldeburgh Festival in England, Lyrique en Mer in France, Opera Southwest, Opera Saratoga, and more. 

John Kelly (Governor & The Moth) is a performance and visual artist. His original works have been performed at The Kitchen, Lincoln Center, the Whitney Biennial, PS 122, BAM’s Next Wave Festival, and London’s Tate Modern. Awards include: 2 Bessie Awards; 2 Obie Awards; 2 NEA American Masterpiece Awards; a CalArts Alpert Award; the Ethyl Eichelberger Award.  Fellowships: The American Academy in Rome; The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; The Guggenheim Foundation; The Sundance Theatre Institute; and a USA Artists Award Fellowship. Acting credits include the Broadway production of James Joyce’s The Dead; Christopher Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage and Rinde Eckert’s Orpheus X at A.R.T.; Threepenny Opera at Atlantic Theatre Company; David Little’s Dog Days; and The Clerk’s Tale, a film by James Franco. As a vocalist and lyricist he has collaborated with David Del Tredici, recorded with Laurie Anderson, and frequently performed the works of John Cage. He recently released his first solo recording, Beauty Kills Me. Kelly is currently developing a new solo work Time No Line, premiering La MaMa in the spring of 2018.



Artist Statement

Mikael Karlsson & Elle Kunnos de Voss, Co-Creators

With The Echo Drift, we were interested in the space between opposing extremes: the physical (a confined cell) versus the psychological (the mind), endless time (a timeless prison) versus a lifespan of a few days (the lifespan of a moth), a confined space (a solitary cell) versus a place (The Echo Drift) where space and time are pulled to a single point, and the true nature of a person versus her better intentions.

In The Echo Drift, a con artist in solitary confinement struggles with the effects of complete isolation. Robbed of external stimuli, her mind unleashes the uncompromised nature of her being onto herself, allowing for a merging of the real and the imagined in a way that is truthful beyond the specifics of the story at hand.

This allows us as story-tellers to incorporate animated visuals and spatial sound elements in a way that isn’t only fanciful, but instead necessary to tell the story as an immersive experience for the audience.