August 10, 2023
Tod Machover 2023-2024 Season Highlights

Tod Machover, widely regarded as one of today’s most innovative composers, “has always chosen unconventional subject matter and has done so with an indomitable communicative urgency.” So said David Patrick Stearns in Musical America in his review of Tod Machover’s Overstory Overture, which premiered in March 2023 at Lincoln Center and in Seoul, Korea, and which Machover is currently developing into a full-length opera. 

Machover kicks off this season in September with a brand-new production of his very first opera, VALIS (1987), starring Davoné Tines. He will also have a chapter titled “Composing the Future of Health” in Music and Mind, a collection of essays, edited by Renée Fleming, about harnessing the arts for health and wellness (Penguin Random House, April 2024). He is working on a new City Symphony, which is scheduled to premiere in Dubai next year, in addition to a Global Symphony – Wellbeing of the World – which will premiere at various worldwide sites in 2025, with “AI Radio” versions listenable online over the coming year. 

And as the impact of AI on music-making has taken hold in the public eye, Machover – who has been a pioneer in the interplay of AI and music for decades – speaks expertly about the need for human-centered systems, as he did in The Washington Post and the forthcoming issue of Chamber Music America; he and his team are currently building such AI music systems at the MIT Media Lab. 

“America’s most wired composer” (LA Times) celebrates his 70th birthday on November 24, 2023.

2023-24 Season Highlights

September 8/9 (7:30 pm) and 10 (matinee at 3 pm), 2023 
Bass-Baritone Davóne Tines and Mezzo-Soprano Anaïs Reno
Directed by Jay Scheib; Technology by the MIT Media Lab
MIT Theater Arts Performance Space, 345 Vassar Street, Cambridge MA

Watch VALIS Trailer

Tod Machover’s first opera, VALIS, broke new ground and garnered rave reviews when it premiered in 1987, called “a work of bold imagination, strongly individual personality, and undeniable emotional impact” (Musical America) and “one of the brightest and most intelligent of new American operas” (The New Yorker). The CD of VALIS – still available on Bridge Records – was named “Best of the Year” by The New York Times. This brand-new production will give audiences the first opportunity in almost 30 years to experience a live performance of this seminal work, which is perhaps even more relevant today—in a world coming to grips with “deep fakes” and the rapid development of AI technology—than when it was first presented. 

The opera is based on the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name. VALIS tells the story of Horselover Fat—the author’s alter-ego—who has a devastating-yet-enlightening “pink light” experience. Fat explores the blurred boundaries between reality and AI technology and considers the possibility of hope in a world where all knowledge is available but little of it is verifiable. 

This production stars the path-breaking bass-baritone Davóne Tines (who starred in X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X with Detroit Opera) and mezzo-soprano Anaïs Reno, a quickly rising young vocal star with a love of jazz and The American Songbook. They are joined by a brilliant ensemble of young performers who will use newly minted, AI-enhanced performance technologies created at the MIT Media Lab especially for this production. Director Jay Scheib—Machover’s colleague at MIT—is known for genre-defying works of daring physicality and the integration of new (and used) technologies in live performance; his augmented reality technology conjures psychedelic floating figures in his new production of Wagner’s “Parsifal” at Bayreuth this summer. 

About this new production, Tod Machover writes: “So many of my musical preoccupations and dramatic conceptions, as well many of my ideas for expression-enhancing interactive performance technologies, started with VALIS. The work feels as fresh to me—and its tunes and textures as memorable—as when it first premiered in Paris, and I am very gratified to have VALIS reimagined and relaunched in collaboration with this wonderful creative and performance team so that it might move and inspire new generations.”

November 2023

Tod Machover’s visionary opera Schoenberg in Hollywood premiered in Boston in 2018 and in Vienna in 2022. Now, a new production of the opera will be presented by the School of Music of the University of Hong Kong (Shenzen), China—under the direction of noted composer/conductor/theorist Ping Jin—in November as a centerpiece of the Arnold Schoenberg Festival being held in honor of the composer’s 150th birthday. The opera was inspired by the life of Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg following his departure from Hitler’s Europe to Los Angeles in the 1930s.  It was praised as “ingeniously original” by The Wall Street Journal; “dark and brilliant” by the Boston Classical Review; “emotionally engaging…Machover’s lyrical gift was allowed to flow” by Musical America; and “a composer biography like no other” by The Boston Globe. The cast and instrumentalists for the Asian premiere of Schoenberg in Hollywood will all be Chinese, and Machover will be on hand to supervise the production.

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