The New Social Environment#571

While There’s Light: An Opera by Vincent Katz and Sarah Sarhandi

Featuring Rachel Levitsky, Loré Lixenberg, Katz, Sarhandi, and Bill Bankes-Jones


1 p.m. Eastern / 10 a.m. Pacific

Poet Rachel Levitsky, mezzo-soprano Loré Lixenberg, poet Vincent Katz, and musician Sarah Sarhandi join opera director Bill Bankes-Jones for a conversation. We conclude with a poetry reading by Valerie Hsiung.

In this talk

More information information on While There’s Light here →

Rachel Levitsky

A photograph of Rachel Levitsky
Feminist avant-garde poet, novelist, essayist, translator, editor, and educator Rachel Levitsky is a founder of Belladonna* Collaborative. She is a Professor of Writing at Pratt Institute, Naropa University, and occasionally for Poets House and The Poetry Project. She was born in New York City and earned an MFA from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.

Loré Lixenberg

A portrait of mezzo-soprano Loré Lixenberg.
British mezzo-soprano and director Loré Lixenberg specializes in contemporary music, and has performed widely in opera, concert repertory, and music theatre, working with many leading composers. She regularly collaborates with composer and librettist Richard Thomas, Peaches/Baby Janes, Millie and Death, among others. She runs Berlin-based art space La Plaque Tournante with composer Frederic Acquaviva, a space devoted to avant garde exhibitions, installations, and performances.

Vincent Katz

A photo of Vincent Katz
Poet, translator, and hybrid-form prose writer Vincent Katz is the author of the poetry collections Broadway for Paul (2020), Southness (2016), Swimming Home (2015), and the book of translations, The Complete Elegies of Sextus Propertius (2004). His writing on contemporary art and poetry has appeared in Art in America, the Brooklyn Rail, and The Poetry Project Newsletter. As curator of the Readings in Contemporary Poetry series at Dia:Chelsea from 2010-2021, Katz edited the anthology Readings in Contemporary Poetry (Dia Art Foundation, 2017). In 2021, pieces from an opera in collaboration with composer Sarah Sarhandi were performed at the Tête-à-Tête Opera Festival in London. He lives in New York City.

Sarah Sarhandi

Black and white photo of Sarah Sarhandi holding a viola.
Based in London, Sarah Sarhandi is a composer and virtuoso violist with joint British and Pakistani heritage. She studied viola as a performer at the Royal Academy of Music. Her music weaves together fluid sometimes fragmented melody, viola, voices including her own, sound and electronica. She is particularly interested in and recognized for her collaborative work. She has recorded and performed worldwide, written and recorded for film and TV. Recently she has begun to create her own videos as well as initiate projects driven by her music with film and video practitioners.

Bill Bankes-Jones

Photo of Bill Bankes-Jones
British opera director Bill Bankes-Jones is Artistic Director and founder of Tête à Tête. He is best-known for his work in new opera, having directed over 100 world premieres. He lead the company’s expansion and creation of Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival in 2006. In 2012, he was listed in the Evening Standard’s 1000 Most Influential Londoners for his work on the Festival. In 2020, he was involved in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport’s pilot performance for the safe return of opera during the COVID-19 pandemic as Tête à Tête’s Artistic Director, and worked on ensuring that year’s Festival went ahead safely. He was awarded a British Empire Medal in that year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours for “services to Opera and Diversity.”

The Rail has a tradition of ending our conversations with a poetry reading, and we’re fortunate to have Valerie Hsiung reading.

Valerie Hsiung

Photo of Valerie Hsuing
Born in the Year of the Earth Snake and raised by Chinese-Taiwanese immigrants in Cincinnati, Ohio, Valerie Hsiung is a poet and interdisciplinary artist, and the author of several poetry and hybrid writing collections, including To love an artist (Essay Press, forthcoming), selected by Renee Gladman for the Essay Press Book Prize and outside voices, please (CSU), among others. Her writing has appeared in print (The Believer, New Delta Review, Black Sun Lit), in flesh (Treefort Music Festival, Common Area Maintenance, The Poetry Project), and in sound waves (Montez Press Radio, Hyle Greece). Her work has been supported by Foundation for Contemporary Arts, PEN America, Lighthouse Works, and public streets and trails she has walked on and hummed along for years.

❤️ 🌈 We'd like to thank the The Terra Foundation for American Art for making these daily conversations possible, and for their support of our growing archive.