R.B. Schlather, Artist & Opera Director
Called in the New Yorker “One of the most original and moving scores of recent years,” American composer David Lang's celebrated, haunting 2008 Pulitzer-Prize winning "The Little Match Girl Passion," based on the classic Danish parable by Hans Christian Anderson, becomes the material for Hudson, NY resident R. B. Schlather’s 5-hour, one-day-only performance installation on Saturday 8.20.16 (12-5pm) at The School in Kinderhook, NY. The performance is free and open to the public.
Last Sunday I visited Schlather at his home for a nice strong cup of tea in his garden…
Learn more about the R. B. Schlather
Q's & Photos by Kate Orne
Home: A 1880s house in Hudson with my husband, Adam H. Weinert, and rescue dog, Bandito.
Current frame of mind: Focused.
Natural talent: Organizing people in space.
What’s cool about Opera? It’s loud, it’s sensual, it depicts conflict, it’s a combination of body and text and music that describes a dramatic action, and there’s a huge history of 400+ years of operas to discover.
How to seduce opera haters: I’m most interested in early opera from the eighteenth century when opera was at the center of popular entertainment and spectacle; the music was pop music and, if you listen, the melodies are as catchy as anything contemporary. I like to do those pieces but strip away all the sets and costumes, the decoration, and take it back to bodies in space making sounds and throwing themselves into each other. It’s more immediate, physical and dynamic.
The upcoming performance at The School: It’s a re-performance of a staging made at the Perez Art Museum in Miami commissioned and produced by Miami-based Art Song and the Vocal Chamber Music Series IlluminArts. It’s five hours and five musicians and me directing them to locate a performance of composer David Lang’s Pulitzer Prize winning “the little match girl passion” within the architecture of The School. It’s live, it’s spontaneous; it’s like a bunch of dogs looking for a place to lie down for the night. The performance is us finding the sweet spot that will make Lang’s piece come alive for the visitors.
My dear friend Amanda Crider started a series in Miami pairing live classical music with the visual arts in museum and gallery settings, and we got in touch when I started directing operas as process art exhibitions in NYC. I suggested David Lang’s “The little match girl passion”, a piece we both wanted to do, as a week long performance activation to accompany a Doris Salcedo exhibition at PAMM this spring.
I mentioned it to Rachel Fainter at The School during a site visit and it turned out to be a good fit with the artists Jack was going to exhibit this summer and I’m thrilled they were interested to host this piece. Amanda is amazing at raising money and so, because of a grant, we’re able to present this performance free and open to the public. An important part of my practice is removing the economic barriers to opera and classical music so that people can come see live, unamplified musicians for free.
Why stage it at The School? It’s one of the most beautiful spaces I’ve ever been in and each time I go I’m reminded how beautiful it is. And I love working and getting energized by these kinds of spaces that speak to me, that cry out to have performers in them. Additionally, it’s so special and singular to have this kind of place so close to home that I can work and sleep in my own bed at night – a luxury in this business!
I’m not particularly good at: Communicating.
Creator I am influenced by: Designer Rick Owens
Hardest aspect of being a creator: Raising money.
What keeps me up at night: Planning a meal
What gets me up in the morning: Emails.
I am distracted by: Architecture, Instagram, singers and stalking.
Where I tend to meet new people: Working on a gig.
An unexpected responsibility created by living outside a large city: Engaging with local government.
Recent nature sighting: Pulling about three dozen ticks off Bandito after spending July 4th on Shelter Island. Also, he got sprayed twice by a skunk last week and thus I learned to make a paste with baking soda, dish soap, and hydrogen peroxide. He was very scared but very patient.
Good and bad things about neighbors: Good things are they can be examples of grace, humanity, warmth, and privacy. Bad things are they can be judgmental of your aesthetic choices, and visa versa!
Worst advice offered when leaving the city: I can’t think of any bad advice about leaving the city. And we go back so frequently it doesn’t feel like we’ve left. During the summer it’s particularly nice to be upstate.
I regretted leaving the city when: We closed the door on the U-Haul and started driving. But that was two years ago. Now, when I go back, I have trouble imagining Adam and I being there because we are home now.
My advice to future transplants: Live close to a train.