Christian Science Monitor delves into Death and the Powers

Tod Machover with robotic chandelier, photo by Joanne Ciccarello

There’s an excellent article, “A thoroughly modern opera: Robots enter a new frontier,”  just out by writer Gregory Lamb in the Christian Science Monitor. Through his interviews with the creative team, Lamb helps to explicate the many layers of meaning in the technological wizardry of Death and the Powers.

Lamb writes, “all this technology, some of the most sophisticated to be found on any theatrical stage, is in the service of telling a very human story.” Agrees director Diane Paulus: “‘I think what’s exciting about this opera is the meditation on technology…The subject matter itself is about how technology is part of our lives, and therefore there is actual technology in the show…. But it’s actually a very poignant story about a family.'”

In the article, Marc Scorca, president and chief executive officer of Opera America, who saw “Death and the Powers” when it held its world première at the Salle Garnier opera house in Monaco in September 2010, expresses the sentiment that “No other opera he can think of has taken on the subject of the effects of technology on humanity as deeply.”

The article quotes composer Tod Machover explaining why he is drawn to technology in his music: “‘I’ve always been intrigued by how to [use] all the wonderful things that technology can do to make delicate, complex, layered sound,’ he says…’I think of electronics as all the sounds that don’t exist in a normal orchestra.'”

As for why Machover writes operas, a form he admits he detested as a kid, the article explains: “‘My music has always told stories,” [Machover] says. His aim is to never lose his audience, whom he likes to think of as a group of people on a white-water rafting trip. ‘You have a guide, and you know you’re not going to fall out,’ he says. ‘You’re going down this [river] which is kind of crazy, but you’re secure and you know where you are.'”

The music garners high praise from Paulus: “‘[It] has a texture that is quite powerful and has incredible lyricism, almost a kind of Benjamin Brittenesque power to it…It’s not “atonal and alienating. It’s not at all like that…It’s challenging, serious music. But it has extreme moments of beauty and melody.'”

Here’s the full text of “A thoroughly modern opera: Robots enter a new frontier.” What do you think? Are you excited about seeing Death and the Powers this spring in Boston and Chicago?

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