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The Conservatory to Present U.S. Premiere of Olga Neuwirth's Lost Highway

Lost Highway, the dramatic music theater work by noted Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth, will receive its U.S. premiere in February 2007 by the Contemporary Music Division of the Conservatory in a co-production with Miller Theatre at Columbia University.

Neuwirth collaborated with Elfriede Jelinek, winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize for Literature, on the libretto for Lost Highway. Its genesis, however, is the film by David Lynch and Barry Gifford, released in 1997 by October Films.

Lost Highway the opera received its world premiere in Graz, Austria, on October 31, 2003, during the Steirischer Herbst Festival of New Music in co-production with the year-long festival Graz 2003: Cultural Capital of Europe and Theater Basel. About that production, Larry L. Lash wrote in the Financial Times: “Lost Highway entertains, challenges our perceptions of opera, and demands to be experienced.”

The U.S. premiere of Lost Highway will be staged in Oberlin Thursday through Saturday, February 8 through 10, 2007, at 8 p.m. in Finney Chapel. The work, which is performed in English, then travels to New York City for two performances at Miller Theatre on Friday, February 23, and Saturday, February 24, at 8 p.m.  These productions contain adult content and themes, and are not recommended for young audiences.

Tickets for the Oberlin production of Lost Highway are required and are $5 for the general public, $3 for students. Call Oberlin’s Central Ticket Service, located in the lobby of Hall Auditorium, at 440-775-8169 or 1-800-371-0178. Seating is general admission. Finney Chapel is wheelchair accessible.

Reserved-seat tickets for the Miller Theatre production are $35 and can be purchased by calling Miller Theatre’s box office at 212-854-7799 or online at www.millertheatre.com. Miller Theatre is wheelchair accessible and is located on the campus of Columbia University on Broadway at 116th Street, New York, New York.

Strickland Gardner Professor of Music Timothy Weiss will conduct the award-winning Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble in the production. Jonathon Field, Associate Professor of Opera Theater and Director of Oberlin Opera Theater, will provide stage direction. Sound design is by Associate Professor of Computer Music and Digital Arts Tom Lopez, who is also chair of the TIMARA (Technology in Music and Related Arts) program. The producer of Lost Highway is Professor of Composition Lewis Nielson, Chair of Oberlin’s Composition Department and Director of its Division of Contemporary Music.

An article on the Boosey & Hawkes web site (Boosey & Hawkes is Neuwirth’s publisher) describes Neuwirth’s musical language “as a disturbed search for orientation in a labyrinth of possible meanings, making her the ideal artist to tackle” Lynch’s cult film. Through the use of video projection simultaneous to live performance and a rich mixture of musical resources involving electronic sound manipulation as well as conventional instrumental sound, the music theater work engages in the same kind of post-modern and surrealistic narrative layering as the film.

For his New York Times review of the opera Lost Highway, Robert Hilferty wrote: “The resulting score is enigmatic and labyrinthine, constantly morphing from one thing to the next. Ms. Neuwirth … knows how to bend and twist sound like no other."

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