Libretto assembled by Mallory Catlett and Aaron Siegel
Based on Yellow Flowers in the Antipodean Room by Janet Frame
Music by Aaron Siegel
Directed by Mallory Catlett
Created with Gelsey Bell, Matt Evans, Justin Hicks, Paul Kerekes, Anais Maviel, Dave Ruder, and Andie Springer

Rainbird is an adaptation of the novel Yellow Flowers in the Antipodean Room by the celebrated New Zealand author Janet Frame.  Rainbird tells the story of a middle-aged family man in New Zealand named Godfrey Rainbird who gets hit by a car and is pronounced dead.  After the funeral arrangements have been made and his belongings have been cleared from the house, he wakes up in the morgue. What ensues is the emotional struggle of the Rainbird family, not in accepting Godfrey’s death, but, rather, his resurrection. Now a symbol of death, he is ostracized by his community and his family destroyed.

Behind the scenes with Aaron and Mallory

Workshop footage from Act II of Rainbird.

As part of their 2019 residency at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, Aaron Siegel and Mallory Catlett sat down with writer Melissa Levin to discuss their collaboration, and the development of Rainbird.

Artist Bios

Mallory Catlett (librettist/director) is a creator and director of performance across disciplines from opera to installation. With her company RESTLESS NYC she works with the literary and theatrical canon as a source for contemporary performance.  This Was The End, her remix of Chehkov’s Uncle Vanya, won an Obie Award, New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award, and a Henry Hewes Award. Rainbird, a co-production with Experiments in Opera, will be her first libretto, which she is co-writing with composer Aaron Siegel. Other works of opera include Mika Karlsson’s The Echo Drift (Prototype Festival), Stefan Weissman’s The Scarlet Ibis (Prototype Festival), Tarik O’Reagan’s Wanton Sublime (American Opera Projects), and Aaron Siegel’s Brother, Brother (Experiments in Opera). Her work alongside and with RESTLESS has premiered and been presented at Mabou Mines, La MaMa, 3LD, HERE Arts Center, Ontological-Hysteric Theater, PS122, Abrons Arts Center, EMPAC, Chocolate Factory, Roulette, and the Collapsable Hole; been featured at Ice Factory, COIL Festival, Prelude Festival, Prototype Festival, and BAM’s Next Wave; and toured internationally to Canada, France, UK, Ireland, and Australia. She is a 2015 Foundation for the Contemporary Arts Grantee, an Associate Artist at CultureHub, and a member of the Collapsable Hole, an artist run development and performance venue. Her upcoming work M/F Future, developed in part at BAC, is a 2016 Creative Capital project to premiere 2020.

Aaron Siegel (composer/librettist) is a composer for the concert stage and the theater. He is an enthusiastic collaborator who believes in the power of shared process and inquiry. In 2019, Siegel released A Great Many on New Amsterdam Records, featuring Mantra Percussion and clarinetist Christa Van Alstine. A recent collaboration with the U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith resulted in the oratorio I Will Tell You The Truth About This, I Will Tell You All About it, which was premiered by Harlem-based Songs of Solomon Choir at the Schomburg Center. He contributed to the collaboratively composed opera, Chunky in Heat,  in May 2019 at The Flea Theater. Siegel has been developing the new music theater piece Rainbird with long-time collaborator, director Mallory Catlett, with whom he created his first opera, Brother Brother. Siegel is one of the co-founders of Experiments in Opera (EiO) and has produced over 65 new operatic works with the company since its founding in 2011.

Gelsey Bell (performer/creator) is a singer, songwriter, and scholar. She has been described by the New York Times as “a charismatic and fiercely intelligent performer,” whose performance of her own music is “virtuosic” and “glorious noise.” She has released multiple recordings, is a current HARP Artist at HERE Arts Center, and received a Foundation for Contemporary Arts award for music/sound. She is a core member of thingNY, Varispeed, and the Chutneys. Her works include Bathroom Songs, Scaling, Our Defensive Measurements, shuffleyamamba (with Yasuko Yokoshi), Prisoner’s Song (with Erik Ruin), This Takes Place Close By (with thingNY), and the acclaimed adaptation of Robert Ashley’s Perfect Lives (with Varispeed). Performance highlights also include Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812 (Broadway) and Ghost Quartet, Robert Ashley’s Improvement and Crash, Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler’s River of Fundament, Kate Soper’s Here Be Sirens, and Gregory Whitehead’s On the Shore Dimly Seen. She has a PhD in Performance Studies from NYU and is currently completing a book about American experimental vocal music in the 1970s. She is the Critical Acts Co-editor for TDR/The Drama Review and an Associate Editor for The Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies.

Dave Ruder (performer/creator) is a musician based in Brooklyn. Over the years he has worked as a vocalist, clarinetist, guitarist, composer/songwriter, electronic musician, etc. Much of Dave’s work is done collaboratively as a member of the groups Varispeed, thingNY, and Thee Reps. He has also released numerous solo albums in different styles on Gold Bolus Recordings, a label he started and runs. Some major creations of Dave’s include Untuned (2007) for ten unplugged, untuned, electric guitars, WHY LIE? (2010), 100+ small, flexible score available online, The Gentleman Rests (2014), a meditation on the certification of the 2000 presidential election commissioned by the Jerome Foundation, and You Must Read a Lot of Jung (2018), an extended sextet created for thingNY. Additionally, Dave has worked extensively on the music of Robert Ashley, premiering two of his late compositions and performing in versions of Perfect LivesTrios (White on White)World War III (Just the Highlights)That Morning ThingPublic Opinion Descends Upon the DemonstratorsCrashLove is a Good Example, and Improvement.

Andie Tanning (violin/creator) is a violinist and performer. She is the cofounder and musical director of Wild Shore New Music, now in its seventh year as Alaska’s premier new music festival. She released her debut album, “Dandelion,” in December 2018. Steve Dollar of the National Sawdust Log writes, “The stylistically diverse Dandelion is not only a scrapbook of Springer’s experiences and influences, but also an open and always surprising collaboration with composers and video artists whose spirits are illuminated through the violinist’s intrepid musicianship and exploratory nature.” She has toured internationally as a company member of the New York City Players, has served as a multi-instrumentalist in theater groups Object Collection and New Paradise Laboratories, was the fiddle player in the musical, The Snow Child, by John Strand, Georgia Stitt and Bob Banghart, and was a violin sub in the Broadway revival of Oklahoma!. Ongoing musical collaborations include a duo with guitarist James Moore and the minimalist rock band Thee Reps. Her album with James Moore, “Gertrudes,” was released on New World Records in 2016. She has performed at LA Opera, The Kitchen, The Pompidou, and Carnegie Hall. Tanning is faculty at Larchmont Music Academy and St. Lukes School. Her work has been reviewed by the New York Times, New Sounds Live, and The Wall Street Journal.