Preview Series: Prologue

Approaching a new piece of music, especially one as complex as an opera, is an imposing challenge for the audience. There is almost too much to take in – the story, music, language, the action and staging. Most audience members will feel as though they have barely grazed the surface the first time they see it. Sadly, that may be the only opportunity for most people to experience the work. Contrast this to how opera lovers typically take in a performance of a favorite classic. They will know the story and the music intimately, and are primed to be swept away (or not) by a particular interpretation.

We set up this blog to see if we could simulate, with a new opera, the richness of seeing a familiar work. Over the past months, we have introduced you to the creative team, performing artists and technology behind Death and the Powers. Getting all of these components to “click” and work flawlessly on stage was itself a high-wire act. Now we are launching a series of video excerpts from the world premiere performance in Monaco. We provide subtitles, scene synopses and the full text of Robert Pinsky’s superb libretto, so that by the time you arrive at your seat, you will be ready to be swept along by this futuristic yet deeply human drama.

Darkness.  Robots roll, lurch, and glide onstage as a group and then disassemble into separate units.  Four robots emerge from the pack and begin to speak.  In their dialogue, each robot tries to understand the meaning of the word “death,” a strange concept they encounter in a drama left behind by their human creators.  At the end of the prologue, still puzzled by the idea of death, the robots proceed to follow the human creators’ command to perform the ritual drama.  The robot leader announces: “Now it is time we started.”

Video production by Paula Aguilera and Jonathan Williams


Units assembled for the ritual
Performance at command,
As the Human Creators have ordained,
In memory of the Past.


This concept I can’t understand,
At the core of the drama—
What is this
“Death”—Is it a form of waste?


ROBOT THREE (voiced by EVVY)
I too cannot understand:
What is this
“Death” “Death” “Death”?
—Is it an excessive cost?

Or is it a form of entropy?
Of data rearranged?

Why did the Human Creators
Command a performance on a theme
Impossible to comprehend.

What is suffering?
How can I perceive
What I cannot feel?

All we can understand
Is the Human Creators’ command:

In memory of the Original Past
And the Organic Age,
We perform this drama
We cannot understand.

Although the meaning is lost,
Back in the Organic Age,

We perform, to obey their command.
Whatever the Human Creators planned
Before they departed—

Units deployed as Individuals will receive
One Thousand Human Rights Status Credits.
Now, it is time we started.

To be continued…

Death and the Powers Preview Series
Series intro and prologue
Memory Download
Scene 1: Simon and the System
Scene 2: System Soliloquy

Scene 3: Getting to Know You
Scene 4: Evvy’s Touch

Scene 5: Nicholas and the Robots
Scene 6: The World Reacts
Scene 7: Into the System
Scene 8: Miseries, Memory and Miranda

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