About the Grant

$28,000 to support Tesla in New York (MAP 2010), an evening length music theater piece by composer-writer Phil Kline and writer-director Jim Jarmusch. The work will be a "more or less" true series of fantasies based on the incredible life of Nikola Tesla, and focusing on the years he lived in downtown Manhattan.

About the Project

Tesla was one of the most remarkable and enigmatic men of the twentieth century. An ethnic Serb raised in Croatia, he came to America as a young man to pursue a career in the new field of electrical engineering, with a special interest in electro-magnetism. He worked with Thomas Edison and was greatly admired by Mark Twain and Robert Wood Johnson. He invented the modern method of electrical distribution that powered the second industrial revolution, and was acknowledged to be the true inventor of wireless communication. And yet, despite all that, he died impoverished and alone, talking to pigeons in his room at the Hotel New Yorker.

will unfold in a series of surreal and dreamlike tableaus, beginning with a pastoral prelude set in Smiljan, Tesla's childhood home in the Lika mountains of Croatia, then setting down in the New York City of the late 19th century, where the young inventor arrives and establishes a laboratory at 44 West Houston Street. The aim of the production is an essential and symbolic, rather than literally detailed truth, rooted in the suggestive power of image and sound. Vivid hallucinations trump dull facts. We believe opera should be unclassifiable and are calling this an opera in the sense of the word’s literal meaning: opera is the plural of opus, work, hence a combining of different works or art forms. Particular inspiration comes from the 17th century baroque operas of Monteverdi and Purcell, and the fantastic theater works of Richard Foreman and Stanley Silverman, Robert Wilson and Philip Glass that emanated from the lofts of downtown New York City, right where Tesla once lived, in the 1970s.

Related Websites

Phil Kline


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