Photo by Megan Meister, Dallas Opera
One of the operabots from the cast of Death and the Powers went AWOL a few days ago from the Media Lab. It turned up yesterday in, of all places, the Dallas Cowboys Stadium! Apparently it was invited there to help publicize the Dallas Opera’s 2013-2014 season, which will include a simulcast of Turandot this April. Death and the Powers performances are scheduled for February 12, 14, 15 and 16 of next year.
According to the Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Opera’s production of Death and the Powers “will feature baritone Robert Orth as the dying entrepreneur Simon Powers, soprano Joélle Harvey as Miranda, mezzo Patricia Risley as Evvy and tenor Hal Cazalet as Nicholas.
“Employing cutting-edge technology, the production will be directed by Diane Paulus, designed by Alex McDowell and conducted by Nicole Paiement. A partnership with the Perot Museum of Nature and Science will include special exhibits, lectures, demonstrations and workshops.”
Read the full story here: Dallas Opera announces 2013-14 season, ‘Turandot’ simulcast at Cowboys Stadium
More coverage here: Culturemap Dallas: Dallas Opera goes big for 2013-14 season, with another Cowboys Stadium simulcast
From Tod Machover’s Facebook page: “Terrific new pictures by photographer Jean-Claude Dhien, taken at the MIT Media Lab last month. They were commissioned by France’s Télérama magazine, which for some reason decided to run a totally different set of images for their story last week. I prefer these!!!”
M.I.T. Media Lab graduate student Peter Torpey, a key collaborator in Tod Machover’s opera “Death and the Powers,” has published an in-depth paper detailing the opera’s groundbreaking technology in the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in interactive performance technology for live theater and music. You can read it here.
Digital systems for live multimodal performance in Death and the Powers.
By Peter A. Torpey.
International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media
Volume 8 Number 1
© 2012 Intellect Ltd Miscellaneous. English language. doi: 10.1386/padm.8.1.109_1
The opera Death and the Powers by Tod Machover tells the story of a man, Simon Powers, who evades death by transferring his essence into his environment as his corporeal body dies. To realize the effect of the theatrical environment coming alive as the main character, the Opera of the Future research group at the MIT Media Lab developed new technologies and control systems for interactive robotics, sound and visuals in live theatre. A core component of this work is the technique of Disembodied Performance, a method and associated technological infrastructure that translates the live performance of the offstage opera singer into multimodal representations onstage. The author was principally responsible for the control architecture and Disembodied Performance software implementation, as well as the design of the visual language used to represent Simon Powers. These digitally enabled elements were created in order to support the story of the opera and facilitate the process of crafting and rehearsing the staged experience. This article reflects on the dialogue between the design of the technological systems in conjunction with the development of the story and scenography of the opera. Several design principles are presented for the role of new technologies in digital opera and music-driven performance contexts that arose during the course of this work. The discussed methods of cuing, authoring, organizing and collaborating suggest an approach for scoring the multimedia elements of digitally augmented stagecraft.
Photo by Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
At last the story can be told! For the past several months, the Opera of the Future team has been cranking away on a top-secret project to create an enhanced version of Sleep No More, the runaway hit theater experience currently playing in New York City. Last week, they beta tested the system with live audience members. Each was paired with an online participant. The twist: Neither knew about the other. We’re not giving away too much by revealing that bit of information, because there remains so much for participants to discover once they are inside the world of Sleep No More. The New York Times Arts blogger Dave Itzkoff reported on his experience in yesterday’s New York Times: A Guinea Pig’s Night at the Theater.
If you haven’t seen Sleep No More, we highly recommend it. Some links:
Sleep No More NYC
New York Times – Slide show
New York Times Interactive – Something Wicked
WBUR (90.9FM) launched its “Visionaries” series today with a feature about Tod Machover. The program airs one more time today, at 5:50PM EST, and should be available later on as a podcast. The transcript of the story is available online, together with this new video showing some of the projects at the MIT Media Lab’s Opera of the Future group. Don’t miss the wonderful footage of Dan Ellsey, a 37-year-old man with cerebral palsy, whose inner composer was set free by Hyperscore software. Watch the unfettered joy on his face as he listens to a song he composed.
You never know what you’ll stumble across on the Internet. This week’s buried treasure come to light is this video clip from a presentation Tod Machover gave in 1996 at Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria. Visitors to the famous electronic arts festival had an opportunity to explore the interactive installation and take in a live performance of this landmark work. For more information about the Brain Opera, check out this website. It’s a bit outdated, but Tod says there are plans to refurbish the site with material from the digital archives.
Tod is just back from a whirlwind trip to London where he brainstormed with director Braham Murray, his collaborator on Resurrection and Skellig, about new opera and theater concepts, and launched a new project with theater group Punchdrunk (more soon on these soon). But first he swung by the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden – fresh off an overnight transatlantic flight – to test his “personal opera” concept, in anticipation of next summer’s Olympics. The idea was to recruit Londoners who remembered the 1948 Olympics, the last time they were held in London, and to create compactly powerful operas drawn from those memories. Teams from the MIT Media Lab and the Royal Opera House worked with 25 seniors to create and perform 6 remarkable mini-operas in a single day. The launch of “Personal Opera” was deemed a success by all, so it will be full-speed-ahead to do this on a larger scale for the London Summer Olympics in 2012.
Here are some photos of the trip and of the “Personal Opera” workshop from Tod’s iPhone:
The 2011 edition of “Open Mind: Sharing Knowledge for a Better Future,” features a chapter written by Tod Machover, “Ópera del futuro para robots y también para personas” (Future Opera for Robots and People Too), available in Spanish and English. Tod delves into the role of music in our lives and the potential of technology to distance us from music, or conversely to bring us into a more intimate, fulfilling engagement with it. In the conclusion, he draws an analogy between our food culture and musical culture. Chew on that!
“We all enjoy eating at three-star restaurants and admire the achievements of the world’s greatest chefs. At the same time, we do not hesitate to dive in ourselves to prepare special meals of high quality on special occasions. We also put together daily meals for ourselves, improvising content that reflects our personal styles. We enjoy eating and even studying the most ‘expert’ cuisine we can find, but are not scared to make and invent our own. In turn, the fact that we constantly prepare food ourselves makes us better understand and appreciate other food that we encounter.
“Music—and most of the arts—have come very far from such a ‘healthy’ ecology, and it is this that we need to reinvent. Technology can help, as it can act as a bridge to each of us depending on our background and experience, taking advantage of our skills and compensating for our limitations. Even more importantly, we need to establish a fundamentally new partnership between all of the potential participants in our musical culture, including individual artists, all parts of the music business, technology, lifestyle, health and social organizations, music presenting and broadcasting entities, research institutions, artists-as-mentors and—last but not least—the music-loving public. Only in this way can we establish a culture that will allow music to reach its full potential in shaping and transforming our experience.”
The Open Mind series is published annually by the multinational Spanish banking group BBVA. It focuses on articles about today’s most interesting and vital subjects, written by the world’s foremost specialists.
SAGE Gateshead on the banks of the Tyne
Check out the updated official Death and the Powers website. We appreciate feedback!
Tod is on a whirlwind trip to Europe this week, giving talks and meeting with collaborators. He’s in Prague today (June 19), where he’ll be speaking about the production design and technology of Death and the Powers to audiences attending the Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space.
On June 21, he’ll be at the SAGE Gateshead in Newcastle, England, where his opera Skellig debuted in 2008. This time, he’ll be addressing delegates to the European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO) Digital Conference.
For the 23rd, Tod heads down to the south of France for the Cannes Lions Festival, which is billed as “ the world’s only truly global meeting place for creative professionals in the communications industry.” He’ll be part of a session on what the music industry can teach advertisers, sharing the stage with will.i.am. Check out Cannes Countdown: What Not to Miss This Year.
We keep coming across commentaries from people who saw or heard about Death and the Powers. Here’s one posted at high SCORE New Music Center: “The medium is the message in Tod Machover’s opera ‘Death and the Powers’. To quote: ”In fact, the communication of the theme of this opera is heightened to the utmost by its highly technological delivery. A fine 21st century example of Canadian Philosopher Marshal McLuhan’s maxim ‘the medium is the message’(5). In fact, should ‘the System’ ever become reality, it may make use of innovations not unlike those developed by Peter Torpey, research assistant at MIT Media Lab and creator of ‘the System’ as it appeared on-stage.”
Patricia Risley, mezzo soprano
Opera News hails Patricia Risley for “her voice…luscious and agile, her characterization both boisterous and tender” as well as her beautiful “singing with ease and certainty.” Frequently sought after on national and international stages, Patricia Risley’s 2010-11 season includes her debut with New York City Opera as Dinah in Bernstein’s A Quiet Place. She also creates the role of Evvy Powers in Machover’s Death and the Powers at Opera de Monte Carlo and returns to Florentine Opera for Dido in Dido and Aeneas, Santa Fe Opera for Margret in Wozzeck, and Palm Beach Opera for Dorabella in Così fan tutte. She also sings the Stewardess in Dove’s Flight with Austin Lyric Opera and returns to the Metropolitan Opera roster for La traviata. Last season, she returned to the Metropolitan Opera to reprise Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi and for its production of Il barbiere di Siviglia, sang her first performances of Sharon Falconer in Aldrige’s Elmer Gantry with Florentine Opera (to be released on the Naxos label), and returned to Arizona Opera for Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia. (Read more at Patricia Risley’s Web page)
Here is Patricia in Scene 4 of Death and the Powers. Video from rehearsal at the Cutler Majestic Theater, Boston, August 2010.
And the other.
Yes, yes that and
And this and that and more and all
And the other and O yes
All yes all yes, all yes.
Patricia talks about her role as Evvy
Patricia in the role of Cherubino