Lear on the 2nd Floor

An Opera Inspired by King Lear

Lear on the Second Floor, an Opera by Composer Anthony Davis and Playwright Allan Havis, is  a contemporary inversion of Shakespeare's King Lear in which a prominent neuroscience researcher (Dr. Nora Lear) is suddenly beset by dementia.


Biographies & News

Anthony Davis


Opera News has called Anthony Davis, “A National Treasure,” for his pioneering work in opera.  His music has made an important contribution not only in opera, but in chamber, choral and orchestral music. He has been on the cutting edge of improvised music and Jazz for over three decades. Anthony Davis continues to explore new avenues of expression while retaining a distinctly original voice. Mr. Davis has composed six operas. X: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MALCOLM X with a libretto by Thulani Davis, had its world premiere at the New York City Opera in 1986. A recording of the opera was released in 1992 on the Gramavision label and earned a Grammy nomination for music composition. UNDER THE DOUBLE MOON, with a libretto by Deborah Atherton, premiered at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis in 1989 and TANIA, an opera based on the kidnapping of Patty Hearst with a libretto by Michael John La Chiusa, premiered at the American Music Theater Festival in 1992 was recorded and released for KOCH International in October of 2001 and received its European premiere in Vienna in November, 2003. His fourth opera, AMISTAD premiered at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on November 29th, 1997. AMISTAD was created in collaboration with librettist Thulani Davis and was directed by George C. Wolfe. A new production of the opera, directed by Sam Helfrich, debuted at the Spoleto USA Festival in Charleston,, South Carolina in May, 2008. A recording of the opera was released on New World in 2008. Anthony Davis’ opera WAKONDA’S DREAM with a libretto by Yusef Komunyakaa had its world premiere with Opera Omaha in March 2007. LILITH, an opera about Adam’s first wife based on Allan Havis’ acclaimed play with a libretto by the playwright, debuted in 2009 followed by LEAR ON THE 2ND FLOOR, an opera inspired by King Lear, in March 2013. He is also collaborating with director Robert Wilson, and Cuban composer-percussionist Dafnis Prieto on DREAM OF THE SPIDER, a new opera about the Cuban Revolution. He has two music theater works in development, SHIMMER, a music theater work about the McCarthy Era with Sarah Schulman and Michael Korie and TUPELO, a music theater work about the life of Elvis Presley written with Arnold Weinstein.

Anthony Davis has composed numerous works for orchestra and chamber ensemble commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, St. Lukes Chamber Ensemble, Kansas City Symphony and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His other works include the music for the critically acclaimed Broadway production of Tony Kushner's ANGELS IN AMERICA: MILLENIUM APPROACHES, PART ONE which premiered in May, 1993 and PART TWO, PERESTROIKA which debuted in November of 1993. He has written two choral works. The first, VOYAGE THROUGH DEATH TO LIFE UPON THESE SHORES, an a cappella work based on the poem "Middle Passage" by Robert Hayden, is a harrowing tale about the slave trade and the fateful Middle Passage. His work, RESTLESS MOURNING, an oratorio for mixed chorus and chamber ensemble with live electronics, sets the poetry of Quincy Troupe and Allan Havis as well as the 102nd Psalm and presents a powerful evocation of the 9-11 Tragedy. The Carolina Chamber Chorale premiered the work at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival on May 31st, 2002. 

A graduate of Yale University in 1975, Mr. Davis is currently a professor of music at the University of California, San Diego. In 2008 he received the “Lift Every Voice” Legacy Award from the National Opera Association acknowledging his pioneering work in opera. In 2006 Mr. Davis was awarded a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.  Mr. Davis has also been honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the New York Foundation of the Arts, the National Endowment of the Arts, the Massachusetts Arts Council, the Carey Trust, Chamber Music America, Meet-the-Composer Wallace Fund, the MAP fund with the Rockefeller Foundation and Opera America. He has been an artist fellow at the MacDowell Colony, Civitella Ranieri and at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy.

Allan Havis


Over three decades, Havis has had his plays produced at theatres across the country and in Europe, including San Diego Rep, Old Globe, Vox Nova, Seattle's ACT, Odyssey, Long Wharf, South Coast Rep, American Repertory Theatre, Hartford Stage, Virginia Stage, WPA, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Trapdoor Theatre, Coral Gable’s New Theatre, Interact Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Co. and Rowholt Theater-Verlag (National German Radio). 

Works commissioned by England's Chichester Festival, Sundance, San Diego Rep, Ted Danson's Anasazi Productions, South Coast Rep, Mixed Blood, CSC Rep, Malashock Dance, Carolina Chamber Chorale, National Foundation for Jewish Culture, and University of California, San Diego.  Seventeen published plays including Morocco,

Hospitality and The Haunting of Jim Crow: Penguin/Mentor, Theatre Communications Group, Broadway Play Publishing. University of Illinois Press published his edited volume: American Political Plays. Harper/Collins published his children's novel Albert the Astronomer. His book on ninety years of  cinema, Cult Films: Taboo & Transgression, was published by University Press of America. In collaboration with renowned composer Anthony Davis, his play Lilith was re-imagined as a chamber opera, premiering at UC San Diego’s Conrad Prebys Music Center December 2009. His next collaboration with Mr. Davis was Lear on the 2nd Floor, which premiered as a work-in-process March 2012 at Princeton University, and a full length piece at UC San Diego's Conrad Prebys Music Center March 2013.  Both operas can be viewed online at UCSD TV.

Recipient of Guggenheim, Rockefeller, Kennedy Center/American Express, CBS, HBO, National Endowment for the Arts Awards, San Diego Theatre Critics Circle 2003 Outstanding New Play for Nuevo California (co-written with Bernardo Solano) and San Diego’s 2008 Patté Best Play award for The Tutor. In May of 2010, Southern Illinois University Press published his second edited volume of American Political Plays, Post 9/11. He has headed the MFA playwriting program at University of California San Diego for many years and continues to teach in the graduate writing program. He holds an MFA from Yale Drama School. Since 2006 he assumed new duties as Provost of Thurgood Marshall College/ UC San Diego.

UC San Diego Theatre Biography




Princeton Performance Press Release “Lear on the 2nd Floor”

UC San Diego's Department of Music News “ANTHONY DAVIS' LEAR ON THE 2ND FLOOR PREMIERES”

San Diego Union Tribune: 'King Lear' meets opera & Alzheimers

Kallisti Vocal Ensemble - Events - Lear on the 2nd Floor