Opera Butoh Lab

Opera Butoh Lab


Opera Butoh Lab is an interdisciplinary collaboration between composer Sivan Cohen Elias, pianist
Mabel Kwan, and artist/choreographer/curator Sara Zalek. We will be exploring the creation of hybrid
theater works that unify the physical and sonic dimensions of performance using the body, musical and
invented instruments, objects, texts, electronic sound design, and video projections.
These experiments will take place as workshops and rehearsals – some open to the public – in which the
collaborators will create puppetry-like relationships between different materials, media and fields. At
its heart: the theme of secrets. Hidden secrets, revealed secrets, reflections, distorted truths, illusion,
hyperrealism and the in-between.

Artist Bios

Sivan Cohen Elias’s work as a composer is cross-disciplinary, using the body, objects, installations, technological interventions and musical instruments to all constantly contribute to, and disrupt, one another’s domains. Her compositional work ranges from pieces for solo instruments, to small and large chamber music, and opera. Cohen Elias has been the recipient of numerous international awards, residencies and commissions, including the Impuls International Composition Competition (2009), commissions funded by Siemens Music Foundation, the Boost! project Prize Darmstadt Summer-course (2012), Akademie Schloss Solitude fellowship (2012), and the International Music Theatre Competition Darmstadt Prize (2016).
Born in Jerusalem, her works have been commissioned, broadcast and performed by ensembles and performers (including herself) in and around the United States, Europe, Israel, Scandinavia, and Russia. Collaborators include Elision, Klangforum Wien, MusikFabrik, Mosaik, Dal Niente, Distractfold, Mocrep, Jack Quartet, Meitar and Nikel, among many others. Festival appearances include Darmstadt Fereinkurse, Bludenz, Wien Modern, Witten, Klangspuren, Ultraschall, and Warsaw Autumn. Most recently her opera, EvE&ADINN, was commissioned by Staatstheater Darmstadt and premiered in April 2018.
After receiving her BEdMus and MMus from the Rubin Academy of Music and Buchmann-Mehta school of Music, respectively, Cohen Elias relocated to Vienna for a postgraduate program at the University for Music and Performance Art. In 2009 she commenced PhD composition studies at Harvard University under the guidance of Prof. Chaya Czernowin and prof. Hans Tutchku, graduatingin May 2017.
In 2006 and 2007 Cohen Elias served as the chairperson of the Israel Women Composers’ Forum. Throughout her time in Israel, she participated in the curation and organizing committees of international new music festivals including Tzlil Meudcan, dedicated to developing previously non-existent platforms. In 2017 she relocated to Chicago, where she was the composer in residence at the Chicago Academy for the Arts. In 2018, Cohen Elias joins the faculty at the University of Iowa as a visiting assistant professor, teaching applied composition and courses in the Electronic Music Studios.

Chicago-based, Austin-born pianist Mabel Kwan performs with the new music collective Ensemble Dal Niente, the improvising group Restroy, and as one half of the synth duo Mega Laverne and Shirley. She has commissioned and premiered new works for piano and clavichord which can be heard on her solo albums one poetic switch and Inventions. She has performed nationally and internationally, including concerts at Ravinia, Millennium Park, the Library of Congress, and the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music. Mabel is a 2017 3Arts awardee.




Sara Zalek is an artist, choreographer, and curator rooted in Butoh and investigations of personal identity. She is obsessed with time travel, experimental science, hybrid animals, permaculture, and the intentional act of transformation.​

Through Butoh Chicago, Zalek continues to connect national and international Butoh artists with Chicago art makers across genres of dance, music, film and performance art. She seeks to foster positive communication and arts integration within Chicago’s complex, overlapping arts sectors by providing opportunities for workshops, conversations, and performances.