The Dallas Opera launches an unparalleled new initiative combining opera and technology with the first-ever global interactive simulcast of an opera. Death and the Powers, written by acclaimed American composer, inventor and professor at the MIT Media Lab, Tod Machover, receives its Dallas Opera premiere performances in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center on February 12, 14, 15 and 16. On Sunday, February 16th at 2:00 pm Central Time, the opera will be simulcast to ten locations in the U.S. and abroad.
Death and the Powers received its world premiere September 24, 2010 at L’Opéra de Monte-Carlo – Salle Garnier; its United States premiere March 18, 2011 with Harvard’s American Repertory Theater andOpera Boston; and its Midwest premiere April 2, 2011 at Chicago Opera Theater. The work was named a2012 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Music for both its score and the innovative technology created by Machover and his Opera of the Future Group at the MIT Media Lab.
Described by The Wall Street Journal as having “Passionate intensity, full-bodied arias in a post-organic world,”Death and the Powers blends Machover’s artistic and technological expertise to create an inventive score filled with arching melodic lines, richly nuanced textures and propulsive rhythms. Characterized by Opera magazine as, “A grand, rich, deeply serious new opera,” Death and the Powers tells the story of Simon Powers, a successful and powerful business man, who wishes to perpetuate his existence beyond the decay of his natural being. Nearing the end of his life, Powers seizes his one chance for immortality by downloading his consciousness into his environment, creating a living version of his mind and spirit, called “The System.” His family, friends and associates must decide what this means, whether or not Simon is actually alive, how it affects them and—most importantly—whether they, too, should follow.
The Dallas Opera production of Death and the Powers, supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, features an animatronic stage, a surround sound system with hundreds of speakers, nine semi-autonomous singing robots and an over-sized, specially designed-and-constructed chandelier that emulates the human voice and responds to physical touch. Simon exits the stage and enters a soundproof booth in the orchestra pit, where sensors are attached to his body. These sensors translate his voice, breath, and physical gestures to the chandelier and a trio of three-sided, robotic walls, each weighing two tons. The System comes to life with sound, light and movement reflecting Simon’s thoughts, feelings, memories and desires as he attempts to entice his loved ones to join him in his altered state of existence.
The libretto for Death and the Powers was written by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinksy from a story by Pinsky and Randy Weiner and directed by Diane Paulus, who is renowned for her talent in delivering adventurous productions with palpable audience appeal, as in her recent revivals of HAIR, Porgy and Bess and Pippin on Broadway. Ms. Paulus is joined by choreographer Karole Armitage and production designer Alex McDowell, who is best known as the creative director of films such as Man of Steel, Minority Report and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The Global Interactive Simulcast is the latest development in a strategic approach in expanding the Dallas Opera’s community footprint and raising its international profile. Beginning with our first simulcast at Annette Strauss Square in 2010 and proceeding to venues such as AT&T Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys) and Klyde Warren Park, the company has exposed tens of thousands of new patrons to the art form in a relatively short period of time. Another key element of the company’s new strategy has been to initiate a wide ranging set of artistic collaborations with organizations such as the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the Dallas Theater Center, MIT Media Lab, Dallas Children’s Theater, Southern Methodist University, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and Dallas Farmer’s Market. All of these initiatives have helped to challenge outdated public perceptions of the art form and have taken opera “off its pedestal” to seek out the next generation of audiences.
Highly praised for his interpretations in contemporary opera roles, baritone Robert Orth joins the Dallas cast ofDeath and the Powers in the leading role of Simon Powers. Soprano Joélle Harvey reprises her role as Miranda; mezzo soprano Patricia Risley returns as Evvy, Simon’s third wife; and tenor Hal Cazalet makes his Dallas Opera debut as Nicholas, Simon’s research assistant and adopted son.
MOBILE AND INTERACTIVE MOMENTS
On February 16, 2014, audience members participating remotely across ten worldwide locations will be able to take advantage of live, enhanced streaming and dedicated onsite interactive moments made accessible via a specially designed, downloadable app created by the MIT Media Lab. During strategically choreographed segments throughout the opera, remote audiences will have an opportunity to participate in the live performance at The Dallas Opera, as well as to virtually experience Simon Powers’ life in The System through site specific audio, video and multimedia content. Images from Simon’s memory, news headlines, stock trading data and other matters that occupy his mind will be flashed onto mobile devices either concurrently or in waves reaching certain devices at varying times. Additionally, as many as ten HD cameras placed throughout the set and upon various electronic props will provide a “robot’s eye-view” of the opera as well as a view of the multiple layers of information Simon Powers might be seeing or thinking from within The System. Some remote viewers receive a physical, pulsating buzz on their device while others experience a touch-sensitive glowing light resembling an element in the plot. The added media content will provide remote audiences with a unique perspective of the opera and bring the sounds and sights in Dallas – literally – “within reach” providing an innovative, intriguing complement to the live experience taking place on stage.
Another unique embellishment involves “The Moody Foundation Chandelier” – a computer-controlled, transformable, LED-enhanced chandelier which is a central architectural and design element of the Winspear Opera House. Using the mobile app created for the Death and the Powers simulcast, remote audience members can affect The Moody Foundation Chandelier’s illumination, shape and motion in real time during significant moments in the opera by sending commands through their mobile devices. The audience seated in the Dallas opera house will feel the presence of others watching the opera around the world as they witness the chandelier’s dramatic changes.
In writing about Tod Machover for Opera News, Philip Kennicott references Machover’s use of The System as [one] possibly drawing in part from “[John Cage’s] sense that the world itself is a kind of music – that listening can connect us to something deeper than notes on the page or sounds of an instrument – is lurking somewhere in the background.” Kennicott goes on to say that “Machover describes his ongoing musical project as an effort to connect that encompassing all-and-everything sense of the world as music into music made with traditional means, into opera, into the opera house and its time-tested tools for making dramas live onstage…[He] confounds expectations [with] music of rare emotional depth.” This artistic mastery combined with cutting edge technology as well as current mobile and interactive practice clearly place Machover in a category of his own – and nearly every musical and scientific element in his arsenal will be on display either in the opera house or on location February 16, 2014.
To actively participate in this interactive simulcast, audience members at each site will download the specially created app - entitled Powers Live - which has been designed to work on any smartphone or tablet supporting Apple iOS 6 and 7 and Android 4.0 and higher. Available through the Apple iOS App Store and Google Play, Powers Live was designed and implemented at the MIT Media Lab by graduate students Peter Torpey and Ben Bloomberg, under Tod Machover's direction. Powers Live will be available for download beginning February 1, 2014.
SIMULCAST LOCATIONS & VENUES
New York, NY: National Opera Center at Opera America
New York, NY: Brooklyn Academy of Music, BAMcinématek
San Francisco, CA: San Francisco Conservatory of Music
Los Angeles, CA: The Industry at The Hammer Museum
Silicon Valley, CA: Stanford University, Bing Concert Hall
Philadelphia, PA: Opera Philadelphia at The Franklin Institute
Cambridge, MA: MIT Media Lab
Dallas, TX: Perot Museum of Nature and Science
London: Royal Academy of Music
Stockholm: University College of Opera and Royal Institute of Technology
Paris: Le Laboratoire (awaiting finalization)
Tod Machover, called “America’s most wired composer” by The Los Angeles Times, is recognized as one of the most innovative composers of his generation, and celebrated for inventing new technologies for music. Machover studied with Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions at The Juilliard School and was the first Director of Musical Research at Pierre Boulez's IRCAM in Paris. He is the Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media at the MIT Media Lab (Cambridge USA) and Director of its Opera of the Future Group. Since 2006, Machover has also been Visiting Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Machover is especially known for his visionary operas, including VALIS (based on Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi classic and commissioned by the Centre Pompidou in Paris); Brain Opera (which invites the audience to collaborate live and online); Skellig (based on David Almond’s award-winning novel and premiered at the Sage Gateshead in 2008); and the “robotic” Death and the Powers which premiered in Monaco (at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo under the patronage of Prince Albert II), Boston and Chicago during the 2010/2011 season.
On March 1, 2014, the Perth International Arts Festival premieres Machover's Between the Desert and the Deep Blue Sea: A Symphony for Perth as the festival finale. The third (after Toronto and Edinburgh) in a growing series of “collaborative city symphonies,” Machover has invited people of all ages and backgrounds to work with him – using specially designed online tools – to create a musical portrait of the place where they live. The Perth Symphony will be performed by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Carolyn Kuan. And launching March 27, 2014 at the Le Laboratoire in Paris, in collaboration with the Media Lab and Dalai Lama Center at MIT, Machover’s Vocal Vibrations combines a multilayered, surround-sound vocal fantasia with an interactive, meditative singing experience to explore new ways that the human voice can influence mental and physical health. The project runs in Paris through the summer and will move to the Le Lab in Cambridge, MA in October 2014.
Tod Machover's compositions have been commissioned and performed by many of the world's most prestigious ensembles and soloists, including Opera America, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Ensemble InterContemporain, Ensemble Modern, BBC Scottish Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Pops, Houston Grand Opera, Bunkamura (Tokyo), Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Carnegie Hall, Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, Ars Electronica, Casa da Musica (Porto), American Composers Orchestra, Tokyo String Quartet, Kronos Quartet, Ying Quartet, Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Kim Kashkashian, Matt Haimovitz, and many more. His work has been awarded numerous prizes and honors, among others from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Fromm and Koussevitzky Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, the German Culture Ministry, and the French Culture Ministry, which named him a Chevalier de l'Order des Arts et des Lettres. In 2010 he received the Arts Prize from the World Technology Network (CNN/Time Inc.), the Raymond Kurzweil Prize for Music and Technology and was Finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music. He was the first recipient of the Arts Advocacy Award from the Kennedy Center’s National Committee of the Performing Arts in September 2013.
Tod Machover is renowned for designing new technologies for music performance and creation, such as Hyperinstruments, “smart” performance systems that extend expression for virtuosi, from Yo-Yo Ma to Prince, as well as for the general public. The popular videogames Guitar Hero and Rock Band grew out of Machover’s Lab. His Hyperscore software—which allows anyone to compose original music using lines and colors—has enabled children around the world to have their music performed by major orchestras, chamber music ensembles, and rock bands.
Tod Machover’s music is published by Boosey & Hawkes and Ricordi Editions, and has been recorded on the Bridge, Oxingale, Erato, Albany and New World labels. Much of his music is also available via iTunes.
Librettist Robert Pinsky is an American poet, essayist, literary critic, and translator. From 1997 to 2000, he served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. During his tenure, Pinsky founded the Favorite Poem Project (favoritepoem.org), in which thousands of Americans shared their favorite poems.
Pinsky is the author of nineteen books. His newest is an anthology for poets called Singing School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters. Other recent works are his Selected Poems andPoemJazz, a CD with Grammy-winning pianist Laurence Hobgood. His landmark, best-selling translation of The Inferno of Dante received the Los Angeles Times Book Award in poetry. His volume of poetry The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-1996 was a Pulitzer Prize nominee and received the Lenore Marshall Award. Last spring, the Shakespeare Theatre Company performed Pinsky’s newly commissioned adaptation and translation of Friedrich Schiller’s Wallenstein.
Robert Pinsky teaches in the graduate writing program at Boston University. He is the winner of the PEN/Voelcker Award, the William Carlos Williams Prize, and the Theodore M. Roethke Memorial Poetry Award. He is the only member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters to have appeared on The Simpsons and The Colbert
Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny has worked closely with Tod Machover, MIT and leading opera companies in the U.S., U.K. and continental Europe to add these new interactive and creative elements to an already outstanding twenty-first century masterpiece.
Since being appointed The Dallas Opera’s General Director and CEO in 2010, Cerny has expanded the company’s programming to include – side by side with productions of beloved opera classics - more contemporary operas and high-profile commissions by many of the world’s leading opera composers including Jake Heggie, Joby Talbot and Mark Adamo. With degrees in both music and physics, Cerny is tremendously enthusiastic about incorporating the use of technology in live performance such as TDO’s acclaimed production of Tristan und Isolde in 2011, and in using technology to bring opera to a diverse audience through simulcasts in public spaces and sports facilities
Keith Cerny entered the University of California of Berkeley at the age of 15, where he was the youngest full-time undergraduate, graduating at the age of 20 with degrees in Music and Physics, both with highest honors. While a student, he also worked as a programmer for the Samuel Silver Space Sciences Laboratory and the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.
Following graduation from Berkeley, Cerny won a Fulbright scholarship to the U.K. where he studied at the English National Opera and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and free-lanced extensively as an opera coach, accompanist, and conductor. During this period, he was also awarded the prestigious Alfred Hertz Memorial Fellowship in piano performance from the University of California.
He received an MBA from Harvard Business School, with honors, in 1991. Following graduation he joined the management consultant McKinsey & Co, where he began to specialize in telecommunications. In 1998, Cerny joined Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), one the world’s leading strategy and systems integration firms, where he became a Partner in Communications and High-technology. In his consulting career, Keith worked extensively with wireless and wireline telecom firms in the US and Latin America, in both core telecom and internet businesses.
Cerny was hired by the Board of the San Francisco Opera in 2004 as Executive Director (COO) and CFO to lead a turnaround of the company, following an institution-threatening downturn prior to his arrival. Among his many projects at the San Francisco Opera was a companywide implementation of Tessitura, the industry-standard CRM system for performing arts. In 1998, Keith became the CEO of sheetmusicplus.com, the largest online retailer of sheet music.
He has worked extensively for various opera companies in the US and UK. His past pro bono consulting activities include work for English National Opera, San Francisco Opera, Opera America, Washington National Opera, Atlanta Opera, Spoleto Festival USA, Los Angeles Opera, and Houston Grand Opera. In 2011, he was elected to the Board of Directors of Opera America, where Mr. Cerny also serves as Chair of the Strategy Committee. Mr. Cerny holds a Ph.D. in econometrics and development policy from the Open University in the U.K.
Conductor Nicole Paiement, who made her Dallas Opera debut conducting Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse in 2012, is the Artistic Director of Opera Parallèle (OP), a professional company in San Francisco, dedicated to contemporary opera. With the company, Paiement has conducted many new productions including the World premiere of the commissioned chamber version of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby, the West Coast premiere of John Rea’s re-orchestration of Berg’s Wozzeck, Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar and the commission of Dante De Silva’s opera Gesualdo, Prince of Madness – presented as a graphic opera.
Upcoming projects include the American premiere of Adam Gorb’s opera Anya 17,Francis Poulenc’s Les mamelles de Tirésias and Kurt Weill’s Mahagonny Songspiel. Paiement is an active guest conductor, specializing in contemporary music. She has premiered and commissioned numerous works from composers around the world and recorded extensively.
Paiement is the Artistic Director of the BluePrint Project – a new music series sponsored by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. With this music series, she has commissioned, premiered and recorded works from many living American composers. Paiement is also the Director of Ensembles at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she conducts the orchestra and opera productions.
Producer Robert A. Ellis has continued a lifelong interest in opera as a board member of San Francisco Opera and of the contemporary opera company, Opera Parallèle. Ellis is also an active advisor, investor and director of Internet companies. He was a principal of xoom.com, which completed an IPO in 1999 and later merged with NBC’s Internet properties. He founded Compact Publishing, an early digital publisher, which was sold to the Learning Company in 1995, served as the CEO of eNature, which was sold to the National Wildlife Federation and foundedBonjour Paris, a travel destination site still operating there. Many years ago he was a Vice President of Time-Life Inc. and a correspondent for TIME Magazine.
DEATH AND THE POWERS
by Tod Machover
February 12, 14, 15 & 16(m), 2014
Global Interactive Simulcast – Sunday, February 16, 2014,
2:00 PM Central Time
An opera in one act with libretto by Robert Pinsky,
based on a story by Pinsky and Randy Weiner
Time: Unknown time in the future
Place: Earth, the home of billionaire Simon Powers
Conductor: Nicole Paiement
Original Stage Director: Diane Paulus
Stage Director: Andrew Eggert
Production Design: Alex McDowell
Choreography: Karole Armitage
Costume Design: David C. Woolard
Lighting Design: Don Holder
Sound Design: Chris Full
Wig & Make-up Supervisor: David Zimmerman
Starring: Robert Orth (Simon Powers), Joélle Harvey (Miranda), Patricia Risley (Evvy), Hal Cazalet (Nicholas), Frank Kelley (The United Way), David Kravitz (The United Nations), Tom McNichols (The Administration).
Single tickets and subscriptions for The Dallas Opera’s 2013-2014 Season are available by visitingwww.dallasopera.org or by calling 214-443-1000
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