Tree of Codes Receives US Premiere at Spoleto Festival

Jun 1, 2018

Spoleto Festival USA presents the US premiere of Liza Lim's Tree of Codes, based in part on Jonathan Safran Foer's book.
Credit Nina Jua Klein

Among the featured operas of the 2018 Spoleto Festival is Tree of Codes, a 2015 work by Australian composer Liza Lim.  The opera received its US premiere on May 26th at Dock Street Theatre, and is being performed there through June 7th under the direction of Ong Keng Sen. Performing Tree of Codes is the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra, conducted by John Kennedy. Singers Elliot Madore and Marisol Montalvo fill the two on-stage roles.

Lim was inspired to write the opera after encountering Jonathan Safran Foer’s art book of the same name. With words and phrases cut out of the pages such that only islands of text remain, Foer’s Tree of Codes is equal parts literary work and sculptural object, inviting the reader to look through the gaps and imagine other worlds.

“I was so fascinated by how it looked and the subject matter,” Lim says of the book, “that I ran out to get it and immediately thought: this would be great material to work with in terms of an opera.”

For Lim, the book’s suggestions of other layers of reality lent itself to adaptation as a staged dramatic work, especially as an opera.

“Opera is one of those unreal worlds. It’s a place where you can imagine other realities. It is a make-believe world.”

In this interview that aired Thursday, May 31st, SCPR’s Bradley Fuller talks with Lim about Tree of Codes and her work with the “Composing Women” Program at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where she is a professor of composition.