Backwards from Winter

Monodrama for Soprano, Electric Cello, Computer Sound and Video
Douglas Knehans (music) and Juanita Rockwell (libretto)

The story


Backwards from Winter is an hour long operatic monodrama exploring a single woman’s reflection on a love relationship as seen through various elemental filters of seasons, color, nature, emotion and memory and told through live voice, live electronic/computer music and multiple video streams.

She traces the past year with her beloved, moving backwards through time: from deep winter where she is in grief over his death, to autumn, where she experiences the sharp pain of losing him in a storm, through the summer’s heat of their passion, to the heart-opening birth of their love in spring.

Just as our conventional experience of linear time can be disrupted by deep grief or joy, this operatic work destabilizes theatrical conventions of narrative, character, psychology, conflict, language and setting as it explores impermanence, loss and love. 



Douglas Knehans

With a gift for extravagant color, beautiful melodic style, and engaging, soulfully dramatic work, the music of award winning composer Douglas Knehans has gained attention around the world. Knehans’ two-piano work cascade has been hailed by Fanfare Magazine as “... effective ... incisive ... hauntingly beautiful ...” A disc of his early music for acoustic and electric cello was released on Ablaze Records in the fall of 2010 and was called “amazingly sophisticated ... very beautiful ... intriguing ... captivating ...” by Audiophile Audition.

Douglas Knehans has received awards from the American Music Center, the NEA, the Australia Council Performing Arts Board, Yale University, the MacDowell Colony, Opera Australia, The Cannes Film Festival, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, The National Symphony Orchestra, The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Meet the Composer and a host of others. His works have been broadcast on ABC Radio and Television (Australia); NPR and PBS (USA); RAI Radio and Television (Italy); and HTKY, the National Television Broadcaster in Ukraine.

Douglas Knehans received his initial music education at the Australian National University. He has received scholarships and awards from Queens College, CUNY where he gained his M.A. in composition with Distinguished Professor and renowned composer Thea Musgrave, receiving the first Luigi Dallapiccola Composition Award (1991) for outstanding achievement in music composition. In 1991 Knehans entered the Doctoral program at Yale University where he studied with Pulitzer Prize winning composer Jacob Druckman, graduating with the Woods Chandler Memorial Prize (1993) for best composition in a larger form.

Knehans has been chair of Composition at the University of Alabama School of Music; was Professor of Music and Director of the University of Tasmania Conservatorium of Music between 2000-2008; and Dean of the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati from 2008-2010. He is currently the Norman Dinerstein Professor of Composition Scholar at CCM.

Juanita Rockwell

Juanita Rockwell is a writer and director specializing in the development of new work at such venues and companies as The Ontological, Mabou Mines/Suite, Culture Project, Blue Heron, Bushwick Starr, Access Theatre (NYC); Theatre of the First Amendment, Source, Atlas, DCAC, Everyman, Theatre Project, Single Carrot, Iron Crow, AcmeCorporation, UnSaddest Factory, Bell Foundry (DC/Balto); Gas & Electric Arts (Phila); Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford Arts Center, Jorgenson Theatre, Ashford Barn (CT); City Theatre, Black Sheep Festival (P’burgh); Teatro Municipão (São Paolo); Teatro Abya Yala (San José, CR); RS9 (Budapest); and broadcast on NPR. Produced writing for performance includes The World is Round (libretto and direction for opera, composer James Sellars), Waterwalk* (libretto for gamelan opera, composer Robert Macht); Cave in the Sky (script and direction for puppets/multimedia); Lunar Pantoum* (text for dance-theatre); The Circle (script for alternative art audiowalk); Upstream (script for radioplay); Across the Void, Packing/Pecking, Language Monkey, Quantum Soup* (short plays); Playing Dead* (translation from Presnyakovs w/Yury Urnov); Between Trains, What’s a Little Death* (plays with songs, composer Chas Marsh).

As Artistic Director of Hartford’s Company One for six years, Juanita directed early premieres for stage and radio. In 1994 she became the founding artistic director of Towson University’s experimental MFA in Theatre, directing the program for a dozen years. She continues to teach in the grad program at Towson, as well as in the MA/MFA in Creative Writing at Wilkes University, also consulting on its development.

Past project support includes NEA, TCG, ITI, MD State Arts Council; and as writer-in-residence for the Ko Festival, the O’Neill Center’s National Theatre Institute, and the Visual Playwriting Conference at Gallaudet. Juanita is a Fulbright Scholar as well as member of the Society of Directors and Choreographers and the Dramatists Guild.

Konstantin Koukias

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Design & Direction

Konstantin Koukias is a Greek-Tasmanian composer & opera director based in Amsterdam. His avant-garde approach to the presentation of opera has resulted in hybrid productions such as Days and Nights with Christ, To Traverse Water, MIKROVION (Small Life - 36 Images in a Phantom Flux of Life), The Divine Kiss, Tesla - Lightning in His Hand and most recently The Barbarians, inspired by Constantine Cavafy’s famous poem Waiting for the Barbarians, commissioned by the Museum of Old & New Art. 

His works range from large-scale music theatre & opera to mobile installation art events.
In 1993 he was commissioned by the Sydney Opera House Trust to compose ICON, a large-scale music theatre piece to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Sydney Opera House. Music theatre works include Kimisis – Falling Asleep, Borders, Orfeo, Rapture - Sonic Taxi Performance, Schwa – The Neutral Vowel, Antigone and The Da Ponte Project.  His work Prayer Bells, which draws on traditions of Latin, Hebrew and Byzantine chant, had its USA premiere at the Chicago Cultural Centre.

In 2004 he was awarded a Sir Winston Churchill Fellowship. His Incantation II for soprano and digital delay won the International Valentino Bucchi Vocal Prize in Rome in 1997. Koukias has been the recipient of numerous international commissions and awards. His design credits include the internationally acclaimed Odyssey and Medea. 

In 2014/15 , Kimisis – Falling Asleep, a chamber opera for Soprano & Electric Trombone, Splendor Amsterdam and Karavaan Festival. Before the Flames Goes out Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Musée du Judaïsme Paris, Jüdisches Museum Berlin, The Boy Who Fell Out of The Sky for Ondes Martentot & Orchestra & Shaped by Trees A Film opera by Biasino Pezzimenti.





The Dutch soprano Marijje van Stralen is successful in an unparalleled repertoire of compelling operas by Lully and Purcell to new works by leading composers Jonathan Dove, Louis Andriessen, Richard Rijnvos and Philippe Boesmans. In the Saturday Matinee was Marijje Rays include soloist in the world premiere of Legend of Peter-Jan Wagemans conducted by Jaap van Zweden and conducted by Frans Bruggen in the opera Les Indes Galantes, Rameau. 

She sang in the opera Reigen of Bushmen with various performances in the Netherlands and Paris. Marijje sang in the opera After Life by Michel van der Aa (Melbourne festival) Marijje was further told, among other things in the title role of Mandolino Ron Ford with the ensemble of the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, at the NedPhO in the role of Frasquita (Carmen) Kreizberg and conducted by the BBC Ulster Orchestra Dances by Louis Andriessen. In Robeco summer concerts in the operas of Mozart, Bastien und Bastienne (Bastienne) and Der Schauspieldirektor (M.Silberklang), with the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gerard Korsten and the Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jan -Willem Friend.

Website: https://marijjevanstralen.nl/


Antonis Pratsinakis

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Electric Cello

Antonis Pratsinakis is a cellist based in Amsterdam. The past years he has focused on creating performances, including dance, video, acting, and culinary disciplines. He has also participated in numerous music and music theater productions with Kameroperahuis, Ergon Ensemble, Veenfabriek, Atlas Ensemble, Sonnevanck, Toneelgroep Amsterdam, and Korzo Theater. Highlights of these productions include performing solo cello in P.M. Davies Vesalii Icones (for solo dancer, solo cello, and ensemble) and the 2017 tour as composer and live performer with choreographer Jasper van Luijk creating the dance performance “The Nonsense Society”.

He has performed as a soloist and chamber musician in Greece, Germany, Holland, Austria, Bulgaria, Belgium, Italy, Turkey, and Serbia, where he received excellent reviews for his playing. An active chamber music player, he has recorded with the Infinity Piano Trio for the National Radio of Bulgaria. Recently he is working on producing his own music with e-cello as well as acoustic cello. 

He studied in Thessaloniki with R. Dragnev and completed his Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Amsterdam with D. Ferschtman and J. den Herder, supported by scholarships from the Greek State Scholarships Foundation and Scholingsfonds. 

For more information visit: www.antonispratsinakis.com


production Team

Our talented production team will bring to vivid life the unique vision of Knehans/Rockwell's BACKWARDS FROM WINTER

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cazerine barry
Projection design

Cazerine Barry is an artist who has worked in many areas of performance, direction and media. In the past 20 year’s her work has been presented nationally along with Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, Jakarta, Mexico City, Beijing, Paris, Christchurch, Taranaki, Glasgow and Monaco.

She is the recipient of the 2000 New Media Fellowship and Eva Czajor Memorial Award; other awards include an Asialink Residency in Taiwan, a Highly commended Australian Cinematography Award and a cultural exchange award from the Australian Indonesian Institute. Her short films have been purchased by SBS and BBC television. She has created media for performance with Australian companies Vitalstatistix, Playbox, Back to Back, Terrapin Theatre, Cirque, Flying Fruit Fly Circus, Black Hole Theatre and Arena Theatre Company.

Recent commissions include Parteitag composed by Brett Dean for the Concertgebouw Orchestra & Holland Festival, the song cycle A Thousand Doors A Thousand Windows & The Legend of Ned Kelly for Terrapin Theatre composed by Constantine Koukias and SQUARE composed by Euphonia for North Arts.

She has collaborated with David Chisholm on the digital pantomime SPRUNG, Insurgency for Melbourne University Union Theatre and the development phases of opera noir Dr. Couteau and musical theatre work Revival. She has recently presented excerpts of Olegas for IHOS Opera while completing her degree in early education. Since that time, she has produced visual media for the musical theatre development Carnegie 18 at the Arts Centre and worked on a solo project through the assistance of Creative Victoria.

bastien forestier
associate designer

Born in Luxembourg, and raised in a forest tree house by his stage director and painter mother, and conductor father, Bastien Forestier learned early on how to externalise his vivid imagination. Naturally, his taste for transforming and experimenting with the world around him only grew with time, leading him in 2008 to the post of Accessories Designer with the Chatelet Théâtre in Paris for shows such as West Side StoryA Little Night Music and The Magic Flute (2009), and, most recently, for Mozart's Il Re­ Pastore.

Over the last seven years, Bastien has provided set designs for opera companies and theatres throughout France and abroad. His first opera design was for the children's opera Le Paradis des Chats (Capitole, Toulouse). In 2011, in the heat of the Arab Spring, he toured the Maghreb with Stéphane Olivier Bisson's daring production of Caligula. Since then he has been producing his own designs, as well as being co-designer for the renowned Pierre Yves Leprince, for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Ben Jonson's Volpone, amongst many other productions.

His set for the touring production of Don Giovanni (Opéra en Plein Air 2014) was appreciated by over 40,000 spectators and toured extensively in France and Belgium. Recent works have included Oresteia by Iannis Xenakis (Bastille, Paris 2015); and the design for Offenbach's La Chatte Métamorphosée en Femme. (Festival: Le Classique c’est pour le vieux!, 59 Rivoli, Paris 2015). In addition to theatre productions, his original design accessories have also appeared in advertising campaigns and magazines, including Vogue Italia for photographer Peter Lindbergh with Milla Jovovich. In 2016 his designs for Kurt Weill's Dreigroschenoper where be in performance at the Gennevilliers Théâtre. 

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Digital Mapping &
Surveillance design

A versatile and professional creative, Eelco Viel is a visual/motion designer with a background in print media and interactive design. Born and raised in Amsterdam, with a thriving passion for visual storytelling.

After years working as an in-house editor and animator in video production companies, he made the jump of setting his own company to develop different digital media outlets for storytelling and visuals.

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Niels Gomperts

Gomperts made his debut with the television program VTWG (Many Time Low Money). This he made with two friends on behalf of Villa Achterwerk. Gomperts presented the program, the friends did the camera work, sound and assembly. In 13 episodes they showed what fun things can be done with little money.

In 2010 he was featured in Mark de Cloe's Shocking Blue movie, which earned him a Gold Calvinomination for Best Male Assistance. The prize went to his nose over to actor Jeroen Willems who at that moment played his father in a film by Flemish director Christophe Van Rompaey.

After the success of Penoza's first season, where Gomperts performs Lucien van Walraven, the son of Monic Hendrickx, he is also featured in the second, third and fourth season of this series.