Journalist Chris Dahlen hung out in the Cutler Majestic Theater during rehearsals of Death and the Powers last August, just before the set was shipped off to Monaco for the opera’s world premiere. His story in the current Boston Phoenix reports in detail on the numerous technological innovations in the opera. It’s an entertaining account of the knuckle-chewing that went on behind the scenes as the team of world-renowned artists and M.I.T. Media Lab students and staff dealt with an almost overwhelming number of challenges. Knowing how much of a high-wire act it is to get so many complex technical pieces to work without a glitch – and to integrate so seamlessly and effectively into the drama – makes it that much more thrilling to see in live performance.
Dahlen concludes, “But this isn’t an opera about technology: it’s an opera about the line between humans and technology, and the mysteries we run into when we cross it. To take a line from the libretto, Powers recalls a time when his daughter pressed her fingers to her throat to hear the vibration of her own voice: ‘It’s the vibration that matters . . . the ripple, not the water.'”