Main content

Prof. Kamala Sankaram opened American Opera Initiative Festival

Composition Professor Kamala Sankaram opened Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative with the world premiere of Taking Up Serpents.

This acclaimed festival featured four world premieres from January 11 - 13, 2019 in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.

In Taking Up Serpents, 25-year-old Kayla is the estranged daughter of a fire-and-brimstone preacher who is dangerously bitten by one of his own snakes. Kayla’s journey home forces her to confront her troubled upbringing. With a score showcasing Sankaram’s deft stylistic eclecticism and an original story inspired by Dye’s roots in the Deep South, Taking Up Serpents calls into question faith, family, and destiny, with shocking results.

Professor Kamala Sankaram noted, “I write opera with the goal of using musical storytelling to create empathy for unfamiliar people and places. Taking Up Serpents is operatic as the characters’ faith imbues the world with meaning that is larger than life. To capture this world, I explored musical expressions of numerology and Christian mysticism. Each theme, chord, and rhythmic choice reflects a gnostic connection to man, God, or the devil. Through musical mysticism, I hope to provide a window into a culture that is far removed from the typical urban opera audience.”

Read more about the festival.

Read the review in the Wall Street Journal