Is technology making or breaking our world? That question is central to THE_OPER&, a bold new opera to be developed and premiered at Duke University that uses the high-drama framework of opera and advanced technology to explore ideas of apocalypse, renewal, and survival in the modern age. During each performance, a computer system preloaded with video, sound, and poetic text fragments generates an original world, specific to the room and audience. That world eventually cedes to entropy, disintegrating from disaster and destruction until it falls into chaos, only to be rebuilt. The cycle repeats. A voice — the system’s — narrates the action, expressing the computer’s consciousness as a chorus of voices responds to the changing environment. The score moves from minimal and ambient to complex, industrial textures, a soundscape linked to the rise and fall and rise of the world within the room.
The team behind THE_OPER& (pronounced “the operand”) is an accomplished one. John Supko, a Duke music professor and acclaimed composer, partnered with Duke art professor and “recombinant poetics” pioneer Bill Seaman to build both text and music; Seaman also contributed high-definition video. Award-winning director and designer Jim Findlay, a frequent Duke Performances collaborator and a Duke alumnus, is the production designer and director. Narrated by Seaman and sung by Boston’s heralded eight-voice Lorelei Ensemble, THE_OPER& is a multidisciplinary collaboration that evokes the opera of Robert Ashley, the linguistic games of Raymond Roussel, and the experimental productions of Robert Wilson.
An allegory for our uncertain times and an examination of our interface with the technology we create, THE_OPER& asks essential questions about the kind of future we may pursue.
Made possible, in part, with support from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation & the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts at Duke University.