The Dvorak Project

Music for Film and Commercials, News

Written and directed by Rachel Perlmeter with a score and sound design by J. Anthony Allen. Inspired by the Czech composer Antonín Dvorák’s travels to the Midwest in the summer of 1893, the work mingles Dvorák’s meditations at the water’s edge – creekside – with the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the legend of Hiawatha, the phantasmagoria of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the imaginary of the American frontier, and the heady electrical and cinematic experiments of the day as experienced by a homesick Romantic composer encountering the mythic West. Dvorák was visiting the Twin Cities, in part, to research a possible opera project based on Longfellow’s epic poetic retelling of Hiawatha. But the power of the site – the crashing Minnehaha Falls – the deep banks of ferns – overwhelmed him and inspired an impromptu melody that he sketched out on his shirt-cuff and later elaborated into another work entirely – the Violin Sonatina, Op. 100. He never completed the opera. The moment marked a turning point not only in Dvorák’s career, but in American music as well.