Past Shows

Visitations: “Theotokia” and “The War Reporter”

Artist’s Praise

A desperate, wounded bunch. ... intricate … wrenching … starkly isolated.
— Alex Ross, The New Yorker

Layered ensemble writing with astringent, clashing harmonies that makes the audience feel as possessed as the protagonists.
— Heidi Waleson, Wall Street Journal

Dylan Herbert gave a searing performance in the title role, minutely finessing the vibrato in his bright baritone to suggest Watson’s encroaching panic.
— James Jorden, New York Observer

These operas are striking, not only for the commanding performances given by those involved, but also for the scientific accuracy of [the] artistic choices.
— Ajai Raj, The Scientist

I’d go to a lot more operas if they were all as compact and engaging as these were.
— Jason Das,

A charged performance that travels between moods of strict personal severity...penetrating in meaning.
— Daniele Sahr, Seen and Heard International

A compelling story, to be sure.
— Marsha Lederman, The Globe and Mail

Theotokia projects a lean beauty that is bleak and eerie. The War Reporter is poetic and stirring.

Jonathan Berger's lithe, evocative music. Writing for five voices and an instrumental chamber ensemble, with a few unobtrusive layers of electronic sounds, Berger created two richly characterized scores that helped pull a listener into the world of each piece.
— San Francisco Chronicle

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About the Show

Visitations is the New York premiere of  two one-act chamber operas by composer/researcher Jonathan Berger and librettist Dan O’Brien based on the phenomenon of auditory hallucinations: The War Reporter and Theotokia.

Theotokia takes the audience inside the consciousness of a man who, beset by hallucinatory voices, is taunted and seduced by the mother of God. Illuminating the experience of one possessed by ritualistic and religious hallucinatory delusions, the work portrays the inner struggle of mental illness in a rich musical, dramatic, and philosophical counterpoint. 

The War Reporter depicts the true story of Pulitzer Prize-winning combat journalist Paul Watson, as he seeks to rid himself of the haunting voice of an American soldier whose corpse he photographed in the streets of Mogadishu in 1993. Librettist Dan O’Brien’s interviews with Watson are the primary source for the work.

A Post-Show Conversation will follow the January 12 show. Pulitzer Prize-winning combat journalist Paul Watson will be joining us for this conversation.

Written for the medieval quartet New York Polyphony, Visitations also stars soprano Mellissa Hughes.  Visitations was commisioned by and premiered at Stanford Live in April 2013 in a Beth Morrison Projects and Stanford Live co-production, and is a co-presentation with Roulette for PROTOTYPE 2014.

Location: Roulette Theatre, 509 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11217.

Composer: Jonathan Berger
Librettist: Dan O’Brien
Music Director: Christopher Rountree
Director: Rinde Eckert

Performed by:
Mellissa Hughes (soprano)
New York Polyphony

Scenic Design: Kate Edmunds
Video Design: Mark DeChiazza
Costume Design: Sandra Woodall
Costume Design: Connie Strayer
Instrumentalists: Jack Quartet:
Stephen Gosling (piano)
Tara O’Connor (flute)
Pascal Archer (clarinet)
David Cossin (percussion)
Doug Balliett (contrabass)

The skecthes of the performance in the photos tab are made by Jason Das,

Artist Bio

Jonathan Berger is the Denning Family Provostial Professor in Music at Stanford University, where he teaches composition, music theory, and cognition at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). He was the founding co-director of the Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts (SICA, now the Stanford Arts Institute) and founding director of Yale University’s Center for Studies in Music Technology. Berger’s “dissonant but supple” (New York Times) compositions integrate science and human experience, i.e. what does a cancer cell or golf swing sound like? And why does a song make us cry?  Playfully called “a musician who accidentally became a scientist” by American Public Media’s Weekend America, Berger is an active researcher with over 70 publications in a wide range of fields relating to music, science and technology. Research areas include studies in music cognition, audio restoration, signal processing, and statistical methods for automatic music recognition, classification and transcription. He is a sought-after lecturer, and is frequently quoted as an authority on psychoacoustic phenomena. Since its founding in 2006, Berger has overseen the annual Stanford Symposium on Music and the Brain. 

Dan O’Brien’s play The Body of an American won the inaugural Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama and the winner of the L. Arnold Weissberger Award, and premiered at Portland Center Stage in 2012 directed by Bill Rauch. O’Brien’s debut poetry collection War Reporter is forthcoming in 2013 from Hanging Loose Press in New York City and CB Editions in London. Off-Broadway and regional productions of O’Brien’s plays include The Cherry Sisters Revisited (Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival), The Dear Boy (Second Stage Theatre), The Voyage of the Carcass (SoHo Playhouse; Page 73 Productions), Moving Picture (Williamstown Theatre Festival), Am Lit (Ensemble Studio Theatre), The House in Hydesville (Geva Theatre Center), Key West (Geva), and Lamarck (Perishable Theatre). He has served as a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University, a Sundance Institute Time Warner Fellow, the inaugural Djerassi Fellow in Playwriting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and twice as the Tennessee Williams Fellow at The University of the South (Sewanee). Originally from New York, O’Brien lives in Los Angeles.