TESLA (or the life and times of nikola tesla)

Story by Phil Kline and Jim Jarmusch
Music and libretto by Phil Kline
Film elements by Jim Jarmusch

About the Work Creators Video/Audio Gallery Press Performances


Two iconoclastic artists - Phil Kline and Jim Jarmusch - will simultaneously embrace and break operatic conventions to create a theatrical “portrait” as visionary as its subject. Inventor Nikola Tesla's ideas and discoveries were, at times, too fantastical to be believed, let alone understood.  Many still are. A dreamer with a scientific mind and a photographic memory, Tesla presented the world with, among many other things, wireless portable light bulbs in the 1890s, radio transmission, remote control devices, the possibility of making solid objects disappear, the concept of thought transmission, X-ray technology, electrically-powered vehicles, focused particle beams, free wireless global communication, and most controversially, free energy accessible from any point on our planet. Above all, he invented the modern method of electrical distribution that powered the second industrial revolution and lights the world to this day. And yet, to most he was simply a “mad scientist”. Supported by George Westinghouse, betrayed by Thomas Edison, followed by Mark Twain, Tesla was an eccentric celebrity who died impoverished, discredited and mostly forgotten, alone in his room at the Hotel New Yorker, only to be rediscovered as a cult hero a century later.

Co-commissioned by Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center for the Arts, supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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kline philPHIL KLINE
A fixture of New York’s downtown scene, Phil Kline stands out for his range and unpredictability. He makes music in many genres and contexts, from experimental electronics and sound installations to songs, choral, theater, chamber and orchestral works. Early in his career he cofounded the rock band the Del-Byzanteens with Jim Jarmusch and James Nares, collaborated with Nan Goldin on the soundtrack to The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, and played guitar in the notorious Glenn Branca Ensemble. Some of his early work evolved from performance art and used large numbers of boom boxes, such as the Christmas cult classic Unsilent Night. Other diverse works include John the Revelator, a setting of the Latin mass written for early music specialists Lionheart, and dreamcitynine, which mixed 60 percussionists with hundreds of iphones around the plaza of Lincoln Center. In 2012, AOP premiered Kline's Out Cold starring Theo Bleckmann at BAM's Next Wave festival in conjunction with a new production of Kline's Zippo Songs.

"Jim Jarmusch is one of the the most important figures in American independent cinema, but in a sense his legacy belongs as much to the world of music as it does to film. From the brawny vigor of Down By Law to the sun-bleached drones of The Limits of Control, it’s difficult to conceive of a Jarmusch film sounding any other way—you get the sense that he’d sooner recast his leads than switch out the soundtrack." - Pitchfork
Born in Ohio, Jim Jarmusch attended college at Northwestern University before heading to Columbia and then NYU's prestigious film school. His first feature film, Stranger Than Paradise (1984), put the young filmmaker on the map and established Jarmusch as new voice in cinema. He soon followed with Down by Law (1986) Mystery Train (1989), and Night on Earth (1991), films that would solidify both Jarmusch's style and place in the independent film world. Later films such as Year of the Horse (1997), Ghost Dog (1999), Broken Flowers (2005) and Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) would show a new diversity in Jarmusch's work, but his style has always very much been his own.

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Artist profile: "Theater Director Robert Wilson on Nikola Tesla's Elegance"

March 5, 2014 - INDIEWIRE
Artist profile: "Jim Jarmusch Working On An Opera, ‘Stooges’ Doc Still Happening & A New Film Is Hopefully Shooting This Fall"

April 3, 2013 - SEVEN DAYS (VERMONT)
Opera profile: "Hop Hosts an In-Progress Tesla Opera From Phil Kline and Jim Jarmusch "

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January 14, 2015
Concert reading of scenes
Presented as part of OPERA America's New Works Forum
National Opera Center, New York, NY
Conductor: Alan Pierson
Performances by Ryland Angel, Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, James Harrington, Gregory Purnhagen, Brandon Snook, Kamala Sankaram, and the American Contemporary Music Ensemble.


Summer 2014
Closed developmental workshop
Watermill Center, Watermill, NY

April 5 & 6, 2013
Concert reading of scenes
Moore Theater, Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H.
Performances by Ryland Angel and the American Contemporary Music Ensemble.
Pre-show Talk: “Ambition and Invention in the Gilded Age”; Dartmouth associate professor of history Leslie Butler.

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