As chaos erupted at last night’s ornately multi-colored Emerson Paramount, slam, pop, pow, wow, kaboom soundtrack and Licht (Einstein) From Ceres Lim Jacob Cosmic Cowboy In Bayreuth meets Hayden Planetarium a mixture of myth, madness and everyday life. Animated lip animation superheroes who doppelganged The lead singers and dancers (the gallumfeng to embody the singers’ ideas on stage) sounded too cute by half at times, but that’s probably the cosmic point of the comic book.
Composer Elena Rohr showed us a great new groove. Her instrumental music responded powerfully to the broad drama and total seriousness of Jacobs’ texts: cut from science fiction, awakened with current events, borrowed from Sumerian mythology, and filled with her patented metaphysical musings. We captured the show and it never left us, endowing the stage with stunning planetarium projections filled with fantasy gods and goddesses, doubling the cartoon superheroes, virtual scripts to guide the text, and irresistibly accessible and exemplar points, in great shape. Tristan and Isolde A duet of love, Porcellian and Bartokian choral numbers plus a hugely deadly rage. But at the heart of the opera, the emphatic and continuous singing kept us almost non-stop. Indeed, universe creator and savior Tia, as sung dramatically by Karami Heller, unleashed the magical fires of chaos from the Brunhild of our time.
But how are we supposed to take the bag’s tale? It certainly wasn’t played for laughs, but the dialogue and overtures of constant creation and destruction left us wondering, “Do we dry our heads, cry, or shake our heads?” Is it Jacobs? Ouroboros All over again? In various guises, the characters sow seed, carry crowds, and destroy the same while sometimes human and other like-like characters squabble with each other, and in the last act with corporate colonists and Mars undertakers. The title character, Sopranos a robotic Olympia figure while engaging in a touching love duo with the Mother of the Universe. After three acts of creation, love, and chaos, Murdoch throws his killer web, but Tia steals his sceptre. The afternoon duel of Gary Cooper concludes as Cooper and Tia victoriously run to a comet. The full summary is here.
I would never have guessed that Elena Rohr wrote the score. She told us how she listened to her teens doing Debusian adjustments in a rock band as the quarry guitarist got lost. I wrote Barlando’s lyrical lines for singers that somehow lifted the monotony of the lyrics. Various solo melodies, duets and group pieces maintained the excitement and tension, and were rarely comforting, except for the excerpted love duet and the delicious ayozo of the human-robot-armed “Mother Touch Me” dance. But more was happening musically beneath the lyrical stereotype. Complex rhythms and the interaction of colors provided as much interest from the built-in forces as the larger hole ranges often conveyed. The grumpy, powerful music of these superheroes and villains contrasted with the yearning of innocent children and corporate banality. From the band Juventas New Music in the pit, the ubiquitous timpani part delivered its fateful hits in a vocal network intertwined through the occasional but essential contributions of electric harpsichord, which listened to dry narrative support from an equal baroque Baroque period. Three brass drummers supported as needed. Individual meager tendons struggled to get out of the hole.
Orchestra conductor Tian Hui Ng showed clear rhythm with his stick and precise form with his left arm and eloquent hand. Rohr deeply appreciated his work.
All the main singers showed mastery. Carami Hillaire as Tia/Tiamat sings with remarkable strength and conviction almost continuously. Her arch-nemesis Tylar Putnam (Marduk/Commander) has stood his ground with a polished vocal projection of tone and character. With a perfectly focused masculine soprano voice and suitably entertaining demeanor, Daniel Moody delivered the unforgettable Quingu/Cooper instrument. Some slight amplification of the singers changed vocal perception several times.
Great writing across the entire Proscenium arc, the spiraling projections of Pirate Epstein’s computer graphics demonstrated great artistic skill in telling the history of the universe. Where else can the Mayflower turn into a cyber spaceship and oil rigs lead to futuristic facilities?
Stage director Sam Helfrich saw the crowd of experts from various teams from the big cast while also seamlessly blending images on scrim with the performer. Derek Van Heel manages to light up the live action without blurring expectations.
The Google Glass VR boxes provided to depict the chaos proved to be a difficult game for most of us, and we also didn’t want to use our phones during the presentation to read the summary. In the absence of printed evidence, and given all the advanced display equipment available, it would have been useful to provide a description of the complex tale scene as well as titling the hypertext.
Running continues tonight and tomorrow. Let’s hope the votes continue.
Lee Eisman is a newspaper publisher detective