campus news

CFA, Department of Music hit the high notes with experimental opera

Two singers stand on stage rehearsing a performance.

Vocalists Rachel Calloway (left) and Tiffany Du Mouchelle, UB assistant professor of music, rehearse their roles. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki


Published February 2, 2024

“That’s what’s really unique about this: We’re collaborating, co-producing and co-presenting this piece. ”
Jamie Enser, executive director
Center for the Arts

A unique take on a classical form of theater is coming to UB on Saturday when the Center for the Arts, in collaboration with the Department of Music, presents “Lotus Lives,” a pocket chamber opera. 

A pocket opera is a term used to describe short, one-act operas and are often written for smaller casts and orchestras. “Lotus Lives” is a 55-minute production that follows the story of a Chinese American woman as she explores her heritage through the other women in her life. The story was written by Su Lian Tan, the College of Arts and Sciences’ Slee Visiting Professor for 2023-24.

Jamie Enser, executive director of the CFA, says that in addition to the novelty of hosting a pocket opera in the CFA, the production is also the first partnership between CFA and the Department of Music.

“That’s what’s really unique about this: We’re collaborating, co-producing and co-presenting this piece,” Enser says.

The partnership came about when Eric Huebner, chair of the Department of Music, told Enser about the show.

“Eric knows this opera really well and is a big supporter of it, so we discussed it and thought it was a great opportunity to combine a visiting faculty’s project and to bring in professional artists so students can see the process, firsthand, of producing a contemporary opera,” Enser says.  

A conductor and orchestra practice in an orchestra pit.

Conductor Evan Bennett (upper right) leads a rehearsal with the Meridian Arts Ensemble. Jon Nelson, UB professor of music, is a member of the ensemble, which will feature UB percussionist Tom Kolor for this production. Photo: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki

CFA is handling the production elements for the show, such as the staging and lighting, and Enser and Huebner are also coordinating a guest conductor, Evan Bennett; a guest mezzo soprano from Georgia, Rachel Callaway; and a guest director, Nathan Troupe.

“The Department of Music helped assemble this great cast of people to make this project happen. This is what I love about it,” Enser says.

The opera will take place in the Drama Theatre in CFA and features opera singers, dancers, instrumentalists and shadow puppetry.

“What I really like about this endeavor is the spirit of working together and highlighting this incredible work,” Enser adds. “It’s been a gratifying collaboration between all of us, and we’re all really excited about it.”

Collaborating with the Department of Music allows CFA to carry out its mission of amplifying the work that’s happening on campus.

“Jamie and the CFA have been absolutely a joy to work with,” Huebner notes. “Jamie’s willingness to engage with UB’s arts departments and the work she does to help promote the activities and collaborations with the departments is so refreshing and a real game-changer for artistic life on campus. We are already talking about potential future collaborations.”

“Louts Lives” takes place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday; tickets are available online and at the CFA box office.

UB faculty, staff, students and alumni can receive a $5 discount if they purchase their tickets at the box office.

“I think audiences can expect a highly entertaining, zany, and moving and dramatic show with a highly engaging, live musical score and staged presentation,” Huebner says.