Gotham Chamber Opera

Where opera gets intimate.

Rappaccini’s Daughter – An opera for the 21st Century

Dr. Rappaccini is a creative spirit, an idealist, a visionary, a revolutionary. He is the very spirit of creation. Without that spirit we are not entirely human. It is what makes us want to stand upright and look up to the sky. Rappaccini represents that which is most precious in human beings and makes them come close to the divine. Galileo, Newton, Einstein, they all were outrageous visionaries.

At the same time, there is something deeply disturbing about this. When we reach the boundaries of human knowledge we stare into the most profound darkness. We look into the abyss and experience the limit of our humanity. Our journey is defined by uncertainty. A quest may lose its direction. A vision can become perverted. An ideal can be made to serve the most horrific and inhumane causes.

These are issues that have concerned us always and continue to be particularly relevant, perhaps more today than ever before. The 20th Century has provided us with more examples than we would ever want. Modern science faces enormous ethical dilemmas when it ventures into areas such as cloning and genetic engineering. A modern geneticist can eradicate certain characteristics of, say, corn, by manipulating its genetic structure. Should he be allowed to do similar things with human beings? How far should he go? 

Rappaccini’s final words to Beatriz: "Now you can create the children of gods/ you will travel the world, feared and worshipped, bearers of the future/ you will enjoy eternal life..." could be the words of an visionary prophet. Go forth and multiply! Reproduce in my image. Regrettably, they could also be the words of a perverted mind like Hitler’s.

Rappaccini's Daughter brings up some issues that have more relevance to our world than to 15th Century Padua, for better and also, unfortunately, for worse.

It is for this reason that I am truly delighted to see my work being done at a great University such as the University of Illinois. Opera is not only a great art form. It can also be extremely relevant to our society and uniquely suited to deal with some of the most complicated and important issues of our time. I thank all those that have been so lovingly involved in this project and my special thanks to Maestro Eduardo Diazmuñoz, who has overseen this work through its many incarnations.



Daniel Catán


Originally published in 2009 in conjunction with the performances of the opera at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Image © Elizabeth Beristain

Back to Blog
  • Pinterest
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon

Currently Gotham is in Vancouver learning about the latest trends in opera all over the world! You too can learn what's new in opera by tuning into these  live streams from the Opera America Conference:






Wednesday, May 8

New Works Forum 9:00 AM — 12:30 PM, May 8 2013

Opening Keynote Address 2:00 PM — 3:15 PM, May 8 2013
Don M. Randel will give the keynote address that will launch Opera Conference 2013 with a powerful articulation of the value of the arts. Randel is the former president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a musicologist and scholar, former president of the University of Chicago, and one of our field’s most eloquent spokespersons.

Harnessing the Power of Learning 3:30 PM — 5:00 PM, May 8 2013
Douglas McLennan, founder and editor of ArtsJournal and dynamic Opera Conference 2012 keynote speaker, returns to lead a participatory session that will demonstrate the power of crowd-sourced learning to inform and engage audiences at all levels of experience. His presentation will introduce the latest in open-source technology and distance learning

Thursday, May 9

Opera Out of Bounds in the Opera House 9:00 AM — 10:30 AM, May 9 2013

The Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase 3:30 PM — 5:00 PM, May 9 2013

The Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase is a biennial program offered as part of OPERA America’s continuing effort to foster promising opera artists. Working from a diverse list of American operas, emerging director-designer teams were asked to submit a production proposal including narrative, research images and/or design sketches. The finalists listed below received a stipend to create more complete renderings and models for their concept. Finalist teams will present their proposals and models during this special session. After the presentations, the creative teams will be available to answer questions and network with conference registrants.

Silent Night (Kevin Puts/Mark Campbell)
Director: George Cederquist
Set & Costume Designer: Marianna Csaszar
Lighting Designer: Sarah Hughey
Elmer Gantry (Robert Aldridge/Herschel Garfein)
Director: Stephanie Havey
Set Designer: Patrick Rizzotti
Costume Designer: Megan Spatz
Lighting Designer: Brandon Mitchell

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht)
Director: Walker Lewis
Set Designer: David Meyer
Costume Designer: Grace Trimble
Susannah (Carlisle Floyd)
Director: Mo Zhou
Set Designer: Tim Brown
Costume Designer: Lisa Loen
Lighting Designer: Yi Zhao

Friday, May 10

Achieving Boundless Impact 9:00 AM — 10:45 AM, May 10 2013

Adaptive changes should be integral to the work of every organization. Learn from a wide variety of leaders from within and outside the arts, who have extended civic impact, built customer loyalty and explored the very nature of innovation itself. With these powerfully honed presentations, expand your thinking about what is possible for your company.

Saturday, May 11

Closing Keynote Address 9:00 AM — 10:30 AM, May 11 2013

The conference concludes with a closing breakfast and keynote address by San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley, a dynamic leader of one of the nation’s most important companies. Gockley’s dedication to making opera relevant to the broadest possible public continues to expand the impact of the art form. Members will learn from his powerful ideas and join together to recognize the accomplishments of leaders in the field who are celebrating their 10th and 25th anniversaries.

Back to Blog
  • Pinterest
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • StumbleUpon