Death and the Powers Premiere – Video

Check out this footage from the world premiere performance of Death and the Powers. We get to hear audience reactions. Composer Tod Machover describes how everything came together flawlessly – a huge achievement in itself given the sheer complexity of all the technology, lighting and audio, as well as the demands of the opera itself. Looking forward to performances in Boston and Chicago next spring!!

Interview with Tod Machover 1: The Idea Behind Death and the Powers

Tod and I got together during an extremely rare moment of down time to shoot this interview a few days ago, right inside the beautiful Opéra de Monte-Carlo, or Monte Carlo Opera House. We had so much to talk about that I decided to cut up his interview into a few installments, starting with how Death and the Powers came to be – and like everything about this opera, the way it began was certainly atypical. I had been really looking forward to filming this interview, since the very first idea that blossomed into this opera started with Tod over ten years ago! Talking with Tod, who has been called “America’s Most Wired Composer”, was both enlightening and entertaining – hopefully this short video will give you some insight into what goes into creating a huge production like this one. Keep checking back for the next installment within the next couple of days!

Monaco: day 1

The Fairmont Hairpin

It’s hard to believe so many things about being in Monaco. The fact that we’re staying above the Fairmont Hairpin, the most famous loop of the Monaco Grand Prix, or that we get to live and work every day right along the glistening Mediterranean Sea, or that we’re even here in Monaco at all – I’m pinching myself between every course of our elaborate three-course dinners (which, incidentally, helps to keep one from falling prey to jet lag!). Most of all, the fact that the opera is finally coming to fruition and that the world premiere is next week is completely surreal. Ariane Martins, one of the producers of the opera, said it best when she wrote,

“In my first days working with Tod back in 1999 – at the time helping with the final production stages for turning his Brain Opera project into a permanent installation at the Haus der Musik in Vienna and gearing up to start producing Toy Symphony – I heard for the first time about the seed idea for what became the Death and the Powers opera. It’s truly amazing to think that the company is now finally getting ready to head to Monaco for the premiere!”

Over ten years have passed since Death and the Powers was conceived, and in the next two weeks it all comes together. Now THAT is hard to believe.

I traveled to Monaco almost all of yesterday with the robot team, which consists mostly of undergrad researchers (or UROPs) from MIT. After we arrived at the Monte Carlo Opera House, the UROPs headed right to the workshop, where they unpacked the robots and assessed the extent of the work to be done:

The robot team, led by Bob Hsiung, discuss what needs to get done over the next few days.

UROP Karen Hart hard at work, fixing a robot.

(from l-r) Mike Miller, Akito Van Troyer, Kelsey Brigance

Acclimating to working in Europe has been challenging for a number of reasons, including the language barrier with the stage crew, the limitations on internet accessibility, and the time difference between here and home (since we’re being honest here, there have been a fair number of naps taken in between long work sessions). Still, the robot team – as well as the rest of the Opera of the Future and Futurum – are working tirelessly to pull off an incredible show next weekend, and even after only two days, the effort is paying off.

Tomorrow I’ll be filming our first exclusive interview with Tod Machover, the composer, and will also hopefully (should the internet connection be more lenient) be posting an interview with Frank Kelley, David Kravitz, and Tom McNichols, who play the United Way, the United Nations, and the Administration, respectively. Until then, good night from Monaco!

MIT News: Disembodied Performance

Tod Machover’s Death and the Powers, which features robots as performers, premieres this month. Is this the future of opera?

There’s a great feature story from the M.I.T. news office today about Death and the Powers. The story provides an excellent overview of the opera and goes into some depth on Tod Machover’s vision to develop technologies that enhance the audience’s connection with live, human performance. Accompanying the story is a dazzling video that provides a foretaste of the opera. Death and the Powers premieres at a gala opening on September 24 in Monaco.

A quote from the article:

This creative fusion of music and technology could reposition opera as an art form that embraces innovation, says Marc Scorca, president and CEO of Opera America, a nonprofit that serves U.S. opera companies. He notes that for hundreds of years, opera was known for welcoming innovation through new technologies and instrumentation. But that role was usurped in the late 19th century when film emerged as the most innovative art form; opera appeared staid in comparison.

“I’m always cheering when I see opera once again reasserting itself as the richest tapestry for innovative, live art,” Scorca says.

Lunch at the Consulate General of Monaco in New York

Yesterday, Tod was invited to lunch at the Consulate General of Monaco in New York as the guest of honor to speak to top members of the U.S. press about Death and the Powers. The event aimed to introduce the press to the Monaco premiere of the opera, as well as interest them in covering Powers when it comes back the States. Elle Berde of the Consulate wrote of the event:
“Tod Machover, MIT’s composer extraordinaire and the brains behind the new opera “Death and The Powers: The Robots’ Opera”, was guest of honor at lunch at the Consulate General of Monaco in New York today hosted by the Hon. Maguy Maccario Doyle. Set to premiere in Monte-Carlo on September 24, Machover – whom the LA Times calls, “America’s most wired composer”- presented details of his visionary, ground-breaking opera to some of New York’s most esteemed music, cultural and arts press. Generous support for “Death and the Powers” has been provided by the Monaco-based Futurum Association.”

Invitation to lunch at the Monaco Consulate in New York

(l-r) George Loomis (International Herald Tribune, Financial Times), Hon. Maguy Maccario (Consul General of Monaco), Tod Machover (composer, MIT Media Lab) and John Rockwell (The New York Times). (Photo credit: Elle Berdy)

Monaco gift bags, including goodies from Powers (Tod Machover)

Table set for press lunch at the Monaco Consulate (Tod Machover)

iPads on the table for Tod's presentation on Powers (Tod Machover)

Also shown on the iPads at the table was a series of  short series of clips featuring set pieces and robots that are well on their way to being ready for the September premiere, put together by yours truly:

Guests gathering for the press lunch at the Monaco Consulate (Tod Machover)