Arts & Culture

Student portrays Arab Spring in opera

Kutner ’14 stages original work ‘The Days Between’ with Royce Fellowship support

By
Staff Writer
Friday, February 21, 2014

Jesse Weil ’16 performs in Ben Kutner’s ’14 original opera on the Arab Spring, “The Days Between,” which is currently running at the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts.

If you think you’ve read enough analysis on the Arab Spring, maybe it’s time to see it staged as an opera. Filtering the score through a political lens, Ben Kutner ’14 has attempted to present just that.

Bolstered by a Royce Fellowship and a creative force of 51 collaborators, Kutner, a former Herald senior staff writer, has cooked up “The Days Between,” an original, student-run opera that opened last night at the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts and runs through tomorrow. The piece is part interdisciplinary political performance, part avant-garde construction.

Kutner first became interested in composition at the end of high school, developing his passion further at Brown.

Kutner’s inspiration originated while conducting Production Workshop’s “Next to Normal” last spring, which was directed by Zach Rufa ’14. His work on the musical helped Kutner develop confidence as a composer for performance, he said.

At that point, “I felt I had sufficient experience to write melodies for a larger piece, for an opera,” Kutner said.

Kutner, a double-concentrator in music and international relations, found a confluence of passion in the operatic medium. His studies at Brown have largely circulated around the Arab Spring, which he felt was “just an extremely operatic concept to sketch.”

“I wanted to write a piece on the Arab Spring, but not using words — rather, using music. I wanted to examine constructivist, liberalist and realist lenses, and how these played into music,” Kutner said.

Awarded the Royce Fellowship, which supports undergraduate research initiatives, Kutner “shut (him)self in a room for three months” to complete the piece.

The work also received support from the Dean’s Discretionary Grant, the Department of Music and Production Workshop’s New Works grant.

Only after submitting his Royce proposal did Kutner speak with Rufa, and the pair decided to produce the piece together.

Even before the piece was written, the pair began to assemble a creative team. With all additional cast and crew, the team grew to 51.

Fall rehearsals centered on the score, accompanied by acting exercises intended to connect performers with their physique, said cast member Amelia Scaramucci ’17.

“Zach is all about the way the body moves, and a lot of his exercises were getting in touch with your body,” Scaramucci said. Since winter break, rehearsals have honed in on the text and the score.

Several revolutions and three seasons later, “The Days Between” is ready to rumble.

 

“The Days Between” continues its run tonight at 8 p.m. and tomorrow at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m in the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts.