Arts Studies Professor Featured in Opera Today

December 8, 2010
By Cherry Crayton

Here’s a second update on composer and arts studies professor Rodney Waschka, whom we first  wrote about in NC State’s Winter 2006 issue.  A few months ago we reported that Waschka won first place in the computer animation category in the 2010 Stella Artois St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase and first place in the experimental category at the Sunscreen Film Festival for his work on the short film Horizon, which you can view above. Waschka both co-produced and composed the music for the film. And now, he’s featured in an extensive Q&A in the latest Opera Today, and in this excerpt, he talks about his next project:

I have a lot of possible things in mind, but the thing about an opera composer is that since anything larger takes so many resources, what’s going to happen depends on which idea has some real possibilities of happening. Despite the fact that plenty of other people have done operas based on Gogol’s Government Inspector, I think I could do a good job. I would reset it in a banana republic, and the government inspector who is coming would be the American ambassador. Someone else shows up on the plane, and they mistake him for the ambassador, and you can see how things would go from there.

Another idea that I had, now past its moment in time, concerned the anniversary for Jane Austen — I had an idea for a Jane Austen opera that would make a matched pair with La Serva Padrona. Three characters: Jane Austen, a singing part; Reginald Bigg-Wither, the man to whom she was engaged for less than twenty-four hours in 1802, a singing part; and a friend of Austen’s, one of the Bigg-Wither’s sisters, a speaking and piano playing part. The opera would tell the story of Austen’s visit to the Bigg-Withers’ home, that engagement, and the breaking of the engagement. The opera could have two versions. One version would have the only music coming from the piano (or perhaps piano and electronics), with the piano part played on stage by the non-singing character that would be a melding of Austen’s friends, the sisters Alathea and Catherine Bigg-Wither. That character would have reason to be confidante and accompanist for both her friend and her brother. Another version would include piano and orchestra. It could be done with La Serva Padrona, and then it would provide a whole evening that makes some kind of sense.

Read the entire interview in Opera Today here, and read NC State magazine’s story about him and his composing process — which he compares to being like computer programming — here.

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