“A big work with big ideas” – Opera News review

Risley, Orth and Harvey in Death and the Powers in Dallas

Risley, Orth and Harvey in Death and the Powers in Dallas

A pleasant surprise arrived in the mail this week: Opera News in its May 2014 issue gives the Dallas Opera’s production of Tod Machover’s “Death and the Powers” a glowing review. Writer Andrew Sigler praises the opera as “a big work with big ideas,” and notes that “Machover brings to bear his considerable technical prowess in the world of technology, as well as his deep sense of musical history,” to explore the premise of human consciousness merging with computer hardware.

Sigler writes that Robert Orth, in the role of Simon Powers, “embodied the character perfectly,” and praises Patricia Risley’s for giving a “smoky and sensual” performance and “real depth” to Evvy, Simon’s third and favorite wife. In the thrilling final scene, “Machover shows his operatic chops and Joélle Harvey’s Miranda all but steals the show.”

Read the full review here.

Simulcast gets thumbs up from Opera

May 14 cover.inddOpera magazine reviewed the interactive simulcast of “Death and the Powers” and pronounced that this experiment in using smartphone technology to enhance the cinematic viewing experience has “huge potential for the technologically engaged operatic culture that Machover continues to pioneer.”

Read the full review here.

Perth premiere

Updated March 8, 2014

Tod Machover’s newest collaborative symphony received its world premiere last Saturday evening at the finale of the 2014 Perth International Festival. Tod writes on his Facebook wall: “Symphony for Perth premiere went just great: large crowd with lots of young people, brilliant conducting by Carolyn Kuan, wonderful performance by WASO, lovely visuals by Peter Torpey of the MIT Media Lab, and a super-warm reception from the audience.”

CutCommon, a blog for “the new generation of classical music,” offers this insightful review. We love this quote: “Machover bring an outsider’s perspective to Perth, and as such is able to highlight the elements of our soundscape that excite him as a visitor. Machover’s vision is crafted with enough care and consideration that it rises above the superficial. Sounds are chosen not just for their meaning but also for their sonic and musical properties. In one glorious section of the first movement, a recording of speech delivered in the distinctive ‘softened ocker’ accent of West Australia blends beautifully with Machover’s orchestral composition, so that only the sharper, ‘bluer’ words gravitate to the audience’s attention. It is this wonderful division of sonic importance that defines the symphony.”

Here’s another interesting review: Western Australian: Composer distils unanswered questions: “It succeeds because Machover is not only an imaginative composer; he is also an empathic collaborator and dreamer who is able to perceive that the process, in the growth of a city as much as the growth of an individual, is as important as the end result.”

All set for Perth premiere

Hyperscore composers with Tod Machover on the stage of the Perth Concert Hall

Hyperscore composers with Tod Machover on the stage of the Perth Concert Hall

The Western Australia Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Carolyn Kuan was hard at work this morning polishing up Tod Machover’s brand-new “Symphony for Perth,” which premieres tonight at the finale of the 2014 Perth Festival. The much-anticipated work was featured in an extensive article published in today’s The Australian:

The ears of an outsider, particularly ones as attuned as Machover’s, can yield new interpretations of the familiar. One of the things that impressed him about Perth was a musical culture that was open to possibilities. “Perth is an interesting city where different groups of people intersect: an indie musician, an Aboriginal musician, a young person discovering music for the first time, someone playing the violin … There are so few preconceptions about the way things have to fit together.’’…

“I think that the ability to listen to the world, to hear the beauty, complexity and subtlety of what is already around us, will make each of our lives richer,’’ Machover says. “It is the way we can connect our imaginations with the outside world and communicate our deepest desires and dreams with others. I am trying to make a step in this direction with the process and the result of projects like a Symphony for Perth.’’

Read the full article: Tod Machover’s symphony for Perth pits man versus machine

“Vocal Vibrations” next month in Paris

From the New York Times, Feburary 24, 2014

Vocal Vibrations. Le Laboratoire, Paris. Opens March 28. Free.

From the people who brought you inhalable chocolate, here comes a high-tech singalong. Visitors start in a chamber filled with ethereal music by the composer Tod Machover. When they wander into a private “cocoon” designed by Neri Oxman, they can sing while an electronic necklace measures vibrations in the larynx, getting instant feedback as the sonic aura adapts to the visitor’s voice and a grapefruit-size “orb” vibrates in the hands. The installation will feed into a larger investigation on the healing power of the human voice. When it travels to Cambridge, Mass., in the fall, a cartilage expert will ask whether skilled humming might improve the health of joints, a neuroscientist will try to match up vocal performance and brain measurements, and a Tibetan monk will attempt to engineer a better method of chanting.

Check out these fun Perth sounds!

Photo by Tanya Voltchanskaya

Photo by Tanya Voltchanskaya

There is a fun piece in The Guardian today about Tod’s upcoming symphony orchestra piece for Perth:  Flies, crows and crashing waves: the sounds that define Perth:

Tod Machover is creating a symphony for Perth. Or, more precisely, a symphony with Perth. Between a Desert and the Deep Blue Sea, which will premiere on March 1, will be created from sounds recorded by Machover and Perth residents in and around the city, in the same manner as city-made symphonies in Edinburgh and Toronto. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and his band of researchers have been collecting sounds and encouraging citizens to manipulate them via special apps, in preparation for a performance with the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra. It’s truly collaborative music – and hugely exciting.

Check out the full article for the audio and evocative photography by Tanya Voltchanskaya.

And here is more coverage of the Perth Festival.

Reviews of “Death and the Powers” in Dallas

Nathan Hunsinger/Dallas Morning News Staff Photographer

Nathan Hunsinger/Dallas Morning News Staff Photographer

Congratulations to the cast, crew and incredible team that pulled off last night’s flawless opening night performance of the Dallas Opera’s production of “Death and the Powers”!! Much relief all around that the Operabots, moving walls and chandelier were all in splendid working order after three years in the warehouse.

Reviews are coming in! The Dallas Morning News’s morning-after review noted that the singers “get lines of remarkable naturalness, from speech-song to genuinely beautiful arias, duets and ensembles,” and said “it’s hard to imagine a finer performance, staged by Andrew Eggert and musically coordinated by conductor Nicole Paiement, with choreography by Karole Armitage. Both seen and video-processed, Robert Orth is a tour de force as Simon, his sinewy baritone faltering only in some low-ranging patches. Joélle Harvey and Patricia Risley sing radiantly as, respectively, Miranda and Evvy.” Continue reading

PBS Newshour on Opera of the Future

PBS Newshour featured the Opera of the Future group tonight. If you missed the broadcast, you can watch it here: Singing robots reflect tech’s humanity in opera of the future

Perth symphony in The Limelight

Tod Machover explains the ideas behind his series of collaborative “city symphonies” in this article he penned for the classical music publication The Limelight:

I have embarked on a series of “city symphonies” with the idea of creating musical portraits of places, inviting the collaboration of the people who live there. Toronto (Toronto Symphony Orchestra) and Edinburgh (Edinburgh International Festival and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra) were the first two places – both works premiered in 2013 – and Between the Desert and the Deep Blue Sea: A Symphony for Perth (commissioned by the Perth International Arts Festival) is the third.

Building on concepts and techniques developed for the first two projects, I started my Perth investigations in September 2013, first by reading about the city and surroundings and discussing concepts with my colleagues at the Perth Festival, then by visiting in person. While in Perth for two weeks, I explored the city extensively (binaural recorder in hand), met people from all walks of life, listened to – and improvised with – a diverse range of musicians (from indie rockers to classical instrumentalists to laptop improvisors to didgeridoo masters and more), and supervised workshops throughout the greater Perth area with students from elementary to high school using our Hyperscore graphical composition software.

The new work, “Between the Desert and the Deep Blue Sea,” premieres at the Perth Festival on March 1, 2014.

Dallas Arts+Culture on “Death and the Powers”

Excellent article on DEATH AND THE POWERS just out in the February issue of Arts+Culture Texas, one of the most prominent magazines in the state. We hear that rehearsals are going well for the show…which opens a week from today!!!

Read the full article: New Opera for a New Millennium

Joelle Harvey in Death and the Powers. Photo by Jonathan Williams.

Joelle Harvey in Death and the Powers. Photo by Jonathan Williams.