Now Hear This! Radio Operas at Abrons
Experiments in Opera returns to Abrons Arts Center on February 28 and March 1 with Radio Operas – a collection of six 10-15 minute works exploring a wide range of stories highlighting the composers’ interests in Modern abstractionism, science fiction, melodrama, satire, hallucinatory experiences, scientific discoveries, and pop culture icons.
This evening of world premiere new works draws themes from a variety of inspirations ranging from a Samuel Beckett story, a skateboarding legend, founding father Thomas Paine, stamp collecting, a Martian colony and more, while exploring the questions: What does opera gain when it is presented without visuals? And, how do the different media of opera and radio play combine?
These are not nostalgic homages to the radio plays of yesteryear. EiO’s Radio Operas are daring new operatic works created by some of the premiere experimental composers of today and designed specifically with this format in mind. Rather than prioritizing stage design and visual storytelling, these opera vignettes feature sound effects performed live by a foley artist, spoken text, music and singing and will rely on the imagination of the listener to create the image of the stories.
This inversion of standard operatic presentation will be made complete when the six featured works are recorded at the studios of Q2 Music for world premiere webcasts and on-demand streaming. Q2 Music will share one opera on consecutive nights Monday through Saturday at 8 pm during a special week in March.
Featured composers: John King, Matthew Welch, Paul Pinto, Aaron Siegel, Jason Cady and Ann Heppermann, and Jonathan Mitchell.
Featured performers: Joan LaBarbara, Vince B. Vincent, Erin Flannery, Jamie Jordan – vocals; John King – viola and electronics; James Moore, Taylor Levine and Mary Halvorson – guitar; Matt Evans – percussion; Matthew Welch, Aaron Siegel – spoken voice; Karl Larson – piano; Jason Cady – modular synthesizer; Ed Herbstman, Dennis Pacheco, Annemarie Cullen, Kevin Cragg and Rebecca Robles – actors, and featuring Foley artist Steve Brush.
Radio Operas will be held on Friday February 28 and Saturday March 1, 8pm at in the Underground Theater at Abrons Art Center, 466 Grand Street, New York. For tickets ($20 general, $15 student), patrons should call Theatermania at 212-352-3101 or visit www.AbronsArtsCenter.org. In subsequent weeks to these performances, Radio Operas will be featured online through a unique partnership with Q2 Music, WQXR’s online music station devoted to 20th and 21st century classical music.
And on Saturday March 1, 2014, 5:00 PM in the Underground Theater, Abrons Arts Center Culturebot will host a free public discussion with the composers and collaborators exploring the ideas behind this innovative program.
The six RADIO OPERAS are:
Scored for soprano, percussion, viola and electronics, ‘Ping’ by John King is an adaptation of a Samuel Beckett short story written in a stream of abstract imagery and thoughts. This performance uses musical substitutions to punctuate the flow of the spoken text and will feature soprano Joan LaBarbara and electronics by John King.
‘The Mutt’ by Matthew Welch, takes as its subject freestyle skateboarder Rodney Mullen, who invented the vocabulary of modern skateboarding, endured family abuse in his youth, led a double life as a burgeoning biomedical engineer, and now is an established inventor. The music will feature James Moore and Taylor Levine, from the Dither electric guitar quartet, Matthew Welch on spoken word, and will involve electro-acoustically sequenced “Foley” skateboarding sounds by Steve Brush.
‘Thomas Paine in Violence’ by Paul Pinto is a mad psychedelic depiction of the final days of the American founding father’s life. Paine—portrayed by a soprano spurting speech, operatic vignettes and a number of extended vocal techniques—transports “herself” through space and time, including on “her” deathbed in 1809, the Stock Market of 2008, and the future. Scored for soprano, electronics and drums and featuring soprano Joan LaBarbara, and foley artist Steve Brush.
In ‘The Collector’ by Aaron Siegel, a character delivers a wild and delusional monologue detailing his dangerous obsession with stamp collecting. The natural rhythms of the spoken text are mimicked in increasing accuracy by the instruments in the ensemble. The Collector is scored for piano, soprano, vibraphone and actor and will feature pianist Karl Larson, percussionist Matt Evans, soprano Jamie Jordan and Aaron Siegel as the collector.
‘I Need Space’ by Jason Cady and Ann Heppermann tells the story of a couple moving to a Martian colony but breaking up on the way there. It is set in an alternate present: 2014 as it had been imagined by science fiction writers in the 1950s. I Need Space is scored for two voices, guitar, piano, synthesizer and Foley artist and features tenor Vince B. Vincent, soprano Erin Flannery, guitarist Mary Halvorson, pianist Karl Larson, Jason Cady on modular synthesizer and Foley artist Steve Brush.
‘These Walls Can Talk (Working Title)’ by Jonathan Mitchell tells the story of a guy who has figured out a way to extract sounds from objects. By inserting a needle into a wall (for example), he can measure the microscopic effects of variations of air pressure over time, and hear conversations that took place in that room. He can do the same thing with stones from Egypt, or the Great Wall of China.