August 23, 2023
New Production of Tod Machover's VALIS Premieres at MIT

Based on the novel by Philip K. Dick

Davóne Tines, Bass-Baritone
Anaïs Reno, Mezzo-Soprano
Directed by Jay Scheib

September 8-10, 2023
MIT Theater Arts Performance Space
345 Vassar Street, Cambridge MA

FREE Tickets on Eventbrite

New York, NY: August 23, 2023 -- Tod Machover’s first opera, VALIS, broke new ground and garnered rave reviews when it premiered in 1987. The CD of VALIS – still available on Bridge Records – was named “Best of the Year” by The New York Times. Now, for the first time in almost 30 years, a brand-new production of VALIS gives audiences an opportunity to experience a live performance of this seminal work. Performances take place at the MIT Theater Arts Performance Space on Friday and Saturday, September 8 and 9, at 7:30 pm and Sunday, September 10, at 3:00 pm. 

Based on the novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick, VALIS 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. 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. 

Davóne Tines, left; Anaïs Reno, right

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 especially for this production at the MIT Media Lab. 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 conjured psychedelic floating figures in the recent production of Wagner’s “Parsifal” at Bayreuth this summer. 

Davóne Tines said he was immediately excited about the prospect of portraying this role because it has deep resonances with his own life and journey. "Science Fiction may be an unexpected source for opera, but it's a special mode of literature interested in investigating human reality by showing alternate ones," said Tines. "The stories are often able to clearly metaphorize human existence and put a magnifying glass to social constructs in a deeply engaging, intuitive and revelatory way. Tod Machover has done this brilliantly by creating an incisive and ethereal score. I also love the collaborative and iterative way of working he and the MIT Media Lab bring. I'm excited to share this beautiful and propulsive piece.”

About this new production, Tod Machover writes: “VALIS was the start of so many of my musical preoccupations, dramatic conceptions, and many of my ideas for expression-enhancing interactive performance technologies. 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.”

About the original VALIS
and the award-winning Bridge Recording

a work of bold imagination, strongly individual personality, and undeniable emotional impact” --Musical America

“one of the brightest and most intelligent of new American operas” --The New Yorker

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 his Musical America 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. He spoke to The New York Times about the work before the premiere. 

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 in the new issue of Chamber Music Magazine; he and his team are currently building such AI music systems at the MIT Media Lab, some of which are featured in this new production of VALIS.

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

About Tod Machover


Co-presented by MIT Media Lab / MIT Theater Arts / Opera Of The Future

Friday, September 8 at 7:30
Saturday, September 9 at 7:30
Sunday, September 10 at 3 pm

MIT Theater Arts Performance Space
345 Vassar Street, Cambridge MA

Davóne Tines, Bass-Baritone
Anaïs Reno, Mezzo-Soprano
Jay Scheib, Director
Tod Machover, Conductor
Technology by the MIT Media Lab

RESERVATIONS via Eventbrite
More Info about VALIS

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