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Shana Moulton & Nick Hallett Stage An Opera

March 28, 2014

What is your tree? In this film, artist Shana Moulton and composer Nick Hallett collaborate on the opera Whispering Pines 10—rehearsing and performing this one-act production at the New Museum of Contemporary Art as part of the Rhizome New Silent series. The opera, directed by Elyse Singer, features additional performances from the soprano Daisy Press, voicing the subconscious thoughts of Moulton’s alter-ego Cynthia, and the vocalist Katie Eastburn who plays an environmental activist modeled after Julia “Butterfly” Hill, who famously lived for over two years in a 1,000-year-old California Redwood tree in order to protect it from being cut down.

A new take on the operatic form of the monodrama or “mad scene,” the agoraphobic and hypochondriacal Cynthia struggles with her domestic interior—filled with kitschy New Age objects—turning to nature to discover that her life is boundless and full of magic. Drawing on the artist’s own biography for narrative inspiration, Moulton says “I’m presenting my own struggle, my own paranoia or neurosis…this personal, fallible point of view.” Staged in a multimedia virtual environment that compliments the dream-logic of the opera’s narrative, Moulton’s video imagery and wordless movements are synchronized with Hallett’s original score and libretto in a form of dynamic live animation.

Originating at The Kitchen in 2010, Whispering Pines 10 has toured to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, and The Andy Warhol Museum, among other venues. It is currently being developed as an Internet serial drama with support from Creative Capital.

More information and credits


Art21 New York Close Up Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Editor: Rafael Salazar & Ava Wiland. Cinematography: Rafael Salazar, Andrew David Watson, and Ava Wiland. Sound: Nicholas Lindner & Ava Wiland. Associate Producer: Ian Forster. Design: Crux Studio & Open. Artwork: Shana Moulton. Music & Lyrics: Nick Hallett. Thanks: Max Abeles, Shelley Burgon, Travis Chamberlain, Jeff Cook, Lauren Cornell, Duncan Cutler, Katie Eastburn, Experimental Television Center, Harvestworks Digital Media Arts Center, Craig LeBlang, Bronk Monroe, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, Daisy Press, Rhizome, Adam Rokhsar, Elyse Singer, and Joshua White. An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Art21 New York Close Up is supported, in part, by The Lambent Foundation; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and by individual contributors.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Shana Moulton

Shana Moulton was born in 1976 in Oakhurst, California, where she currently resides after spending a number of years living and working in New York. Moulton’s humorous performances and videos are built around her kitschy alter ego, Cynthia, a character the artist developed during graduate school. Loosely rooted in Moulton’s childhood experiences growing up in a senior-citizen trailer park that her parents owned in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, her videos are fantastical renderings in bubblegum hues, with a hint of the dark side lurking just below the surface.

Nick Hallett

Nick Hallett was born in 1974 in Boston, and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. A composer and vocalist, Hallett works in the overlapping worlds of music, visual art, and performance. He draws on a wide range of seemingly contrasting musical genres—from indie rock to early Romantic to electronica to opera—to create arrangements that deploy the voice as an instrument.