John Musto 's

Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt

September/October 2017

American Museum of Natural History

Cast & Creative Team

  • Creative Team

  • John Musto

  • Eric Einhorn
    (Librettist/Stage Director)

  • Geoffrey McDonald

About the Production

Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt

A world premiere site-specific opera for families
with music by John Musto & libretto by Eric Einhorn
Co-commissioned & co-produced with Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Lyric Unlimited & Pittsburgh Opera

Created in Partnership with the American Museum of Natural History
Premieres Fall 2017 in the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs


On Site Opera (OSO) announces the world premiere of Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt, a new site-specific opera for family audiences with music by John Musto and libretto by Eric Einhorn. Co-commissioned and co-produced with Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Lyric Unlimited and Pittsburgh Opera, Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt is based on the real-life experiences of Rhoda Knight Kalt and her trips to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) with her grandfather Charles R. Knight, the famous naturalist artist who was commissioned to create paintings and sculptures of prehistoric creatures – many still on display at the AMNH today. The opera premieres in the AMNH’s Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs in the fall 2017 before traveling to Chicago (Lyric Unlimited) and Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh Opera).


In the early 20th century, Dr. Henry Fairfield Osborn, paleontologist and president of the AMNH, turned to painter Charles R. Knight to bring their fossil collection to life for museum visitors. Through his work, Knight took viewers millions of years back in time to view non-avian dinosaurs as active, fleshed out creatures. Every weekend, Knight’s granddaughter Rhoda accompanied “Toppy” (as she called him) to the museum while he worked. As Knight painted, little Rhoda watched in awe as the massive fossils unpacked by the museum’s paleontologists were transformed into living, breathing creatures on Toppy’s canvases and sculptures.


Inspired by the stories of Rhoda and “Toppy,” OSO has commissioned American composer John Musto and Eric Einhorn, to bring Rhoda’s Fossil Hunt to life. Audiences will join Rhoda as she goes on a hunt for missing fossils around the hall, while learning about the interconnectedness of creativity and science. Following the premiere performance in the fall of 2017, Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt, will be featured in a month-long performance residency at the AMNH.


Funding for Rhoda and the Fossil Hunt is provided in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.



About Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Lyric Unlimited:

Lyric Unlimited, a division of Lyric Opera of Chicago, offers a multifaceted program of education, community engagement and artistic initiatives. The purpose of Lyric Unlimited is to provide a relevant cultural service to communities throughout the Chicago area, including communities for whom opera and opera companies have been largely irrelevant; to explore a wide range of ways in which Lyric can collaborate with cultural and community organizations throughout the area; and to advance the development of opera, exploring ways in which opera as an art form can resonate more powerfully, and in a range of different ways, with people of multiple backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests. In the 2015/16 season, 94,386 individuals participated in Lyric Unlimited programs.


About Pittsburgh Opera:
Pittsburgh Opera celebrates its 78th season in 2016-17. Established by five intrepid women in 1939, Pittsburgh Opera is viewed as one of the most vibrant opera organizations in the U.S., with a rich artistic tradition, outstanding educational programs, an acclaimed artist training program, and a progressive outlook toward the future. Pittsburgh Opera is unveiling the world premiere of Daniel Sonenberg’s The Summer King – the Josh Gibson story – in 2017, and Mohammed Fairouz’s Bhutto in 2018. Its green initiative culminated in LEED® Silver certification for its Strip District headquarters, and its capacity as a true community partner has increased significantly under General Director Christopher Hahn’s leadership.


About American Museum of Natural History (AMNH.ORG):
The American Museum of Natural History, founded in 1869, is one of the world’s preeminent scientific, educational, and cultural institutions. The Museum encompasses 45 permanent exhibition halls, including the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the Hayden Planetarium, as well as galleries for temporary exhibitions. It is home to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, New York State’s official memorial to its 33rd governor and the nation’s 26th president, and a tribute to Roosevelt’s enduring legacy of conservation. The Museum’s five active research divisions and three cross-disciplinary centers support approximately 200 scientists, whose work draws on a world-class permanent collection of more than 33 million specimens and artifacts, as well as specialized collections for frozen tissue and genomic and astrophysical data, and one of the largest natural history libraries in the world. Through its Richard Gilder Graduate School, it is the only American museum authorized to grant the Ph.D. degree and the Master of Arts in Teaching degree. Annual attendance has grown to approximately 5 million, and the Museum’s exhibitions and Space Shows can be seen in venues on five continents. The Museum’s website and collection of apps for mobile devices extend its collections, exhibitions, and educational programs to millions more beyond its walls. Visit for more information.


Pictured: Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus) by Charles R. Knight, 1898
American Museum of Natural History