On THE PRIESTESS OF MORPHINE, composer Rosśa Crean and librettist Aiden K. Feltkamp create a beautifully haunting portrait of a Gertrud Günther, a young Jewish lesbian caught between her two selves during the Third Reich, who bravely sought her inner truth and passions while forced to live in the shadows.
Today, Rosśa is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to discover how synesthesia influences Rosśa’s perspectives, and why they would gravitate towards the creative field even if they weren’t a musician…
Tell us about your first performance.
Oh wow…I am pretty sure it was at my parents’ church. I was twelve, and sang O Holy Night for the Christmas pageant. I remember my knees were shaking so badly that I had to hang onto the microphone stand. I also remember lots of people saying to me afterwards, “I didn’t know you could sing that high!” That event was pretty ironic, considering that two years in the future I ended up becoming a bass-baritone.
What inspires you to write and/or perform?
I was a painfully shy child, and having synesthesia, I had no one around who saw or understood the world in the same way I did. Music, through both singing and composing, became the way I could share and express myself to others. When I write and perform, I get to put a piece of my mind and perspective out there into the world, and over the years I have found collaborators and listeners who have related to the topics I cover, and that is what keeps me moving forward.
If we looked through your music library, what would we be surprised to find?
That I own EVERY SINGLE CD release that Anonymous 4 has ever released. I love early music, and I think many people are so surprised to hear that there are so many similarities between early music and contemporary composition. One of my upcoming opera projects will be incorporating early music instruments with baroque gesturing and electronics. I love that amalgamation!
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?
Many folks are surprised to find that I am also a visual artist, including painting, ink prints, and art installations. I feel incredibly grateful that I am able to pursue many creative avenues, but if music was not a part of my life, I would most definitely still be in the creative field. No way to escape it!
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
Just thinking about the possibilities makes me giddy! I would love to work with The Crossing at some point. I know many of the vocalists in that group, and they are all so brilliant and open to taking risks. Kathleen Supove is another one. I saw her at New Music Gathering years back when it was at Peabody Conservatory, and she came out in a black spandex outfit that had a skeleton painted on it, along with these big black chunky boots, and along with the programming she performed that evening, I knew I had found a kindred spirit. Diamanda Galás is another one that I think I would faint if I met. I have been such a fan of her unapologetically bold work since I was 16, and she set the bar for what I wanted to do as a performer and composer.
Do you have any specific hopes about what this album will mean to listeners?
I want LGBTQIA+ listeners to understand that we will not be erased, and that any art of incredible beauty such as the work of Marie-Madeleine will find its way to those who need to know that we always existed and will continue to thrive. I want contemporary music listeners to understand that a piece of music can be effective and moving without having to fit in a label or predictable structure. I hope that listeners can understand the amount of time, money, and work independent creators spend to make art that not only edifies their creative efforts, but also strives to speak to the audience and helps us find a way to connect to them. We are never going to reach everyone, but we do our best to find the listeners who appreciate our work, and hopefully in turn appreciate us.