Experiments in Opera presented seven new operas in a two night operathon at Roulette in Brooklyn on April 1 & 2, 2015. Over the course of this opera binge, listeners heard the work of seven composers, whose arrival at opera couldn’t be more roundabout. The resulting pieces, one-act shorts and excerpts in concert and staged performances told a range of absurd, abstract, historical and hilarious stories. The audience took the plunge and stuffed its ears!
Composers included Sam Hillmer, Nick Hallett, Matthew Welch, Gelsey Bell, Jason Cady, Aaron Siegel, and Roddy Bottum.
Sam Hillmer (a/k/a Diamond Terrifier) details the disconnect between spoken words and thoughts in his auto-biographical multi-media experience titled this is soon, and that was the web this is going to be. It’s a tribute to the confused and every other variety of psychic other.
With: Sam Hillmer, Laura Paris, Lawrence Mesich, Patrick Higgins, Angus Tarnawsky, Max Alper, Michael Beharie, Data Garden and Marley G.
Nick Hallett’s To Music (Scene 1) looks at the nature of inspiration, originality, and illusion through the cautionary tale of a composer’s behavior on social media.
Nick Hallett, music, librettist; Josh Thorson, video design
With: Peter Alex Stewart, composer; Amelia Watkins, Norma; Nick Hallett, Lawyer; Emily Manzo, piano; Pauline Kim Harris, violin; Jeanann Dara, viola
To Music: Scene 1 is made possible by a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant.
Matthew Welch explores his family memoirs of wartime Philippines with his ensemble, Blarvuster in And Here We Are. The impact of cultural collisions is stressed, with text focused on the accounts of Welch’s great-uncle Edgar, an opera singer isolated by his move to Asia and internment.
Matthew Welch, composer; Daniel Neer, librettist; Based on memoirs by: Edgar Kneedler, Ethel Kneedler and Donald Kneedler
With: Matthew Welch, Blarvuster: Daniel Neer, baritone; Ben Holmes, trumpet; Joe Bergen, vibraphone; Emily Manzo, piano; Ian Riggs, bass guitar; Mike Pride, drums; Matthew Welch, alto sax and conductor
thingNY’s Gelsey Bell presents an excerpt of Rolodex Opera: a fractured story of social relationships based on a Rolodex of characters. Rather than introducing all 26 characters (a.k.a. letters of the alphabet), this performance will involve only the Accompanist, the Creator, the Dad, the Ghost/Grandparent, the Husband, the Kid, the Sibling, the Teacher, the Wife, and X.
With: thingNY: Gelsey Bell, at least voice and synths; Andrew Livingston, at least voice and bass; Paul Pinto, at least voice and percussion; Erin Rogers, at least voice and saxophone; Dave Ruder, at least voice and guitar; Jeffrey Young, at least voice and violin
When the aliens visited Earth in Jason Cady’s The Captives, they accidentally brought germs that killed off most of humanity. But alien zoologists are trying to make right by conserving the human species through a captive breeding program. The story focuses on one couple: John and Sarah, whom the aliens locked up together to reproduce. John loves Sarah, but she is not interested in him. And Sarah is not sure that humanity ought to be saved.
With: Vince B. Vincent, tenor, keyboard; Katie Eastburn, contralto, keyboard; Jessica Pavone, bass guitar; Nick Rifken, percussion; Jason Cady, modular synthesizer, pedal steel
Aaron Siegel’s Laughing investigates the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac through the eyes of a performance artist who struggles to find an outlet for his strange visions. Wrestling for understanding, the performance artist faces disorienting loss and looks to ancient stories to understand his predicament.
With: Matt Evans; Mike Sperone; Cory Bracken; Sam Livingston; Austin Vaughn; Sam Sowyrda; Carson Moody; Stuart Jackson; Mark Utley; Sayun Chang; Adam Holmes; Robby Bowen, percussion
Faith No More’s Roddy Bottum spreads the myth of Sasquatch in the aptly titled Sasquatch: The Opera. The story is about a small town family’s ‘Bigfoot Tours’ and the fallout when their daughter runs away with the real Sasquatch. Part folklore, part love story, the opera follows the demise of the family and a taboo love affair that blossoms in its aftermath.
Roddy Bottum, composer, librettist; Vaughan Alexander, costume design; Joe Foley, video
With: Robbie Daniels, Sasquatch; Colin Self, Faye; Stephen Wood, Fodder; Paul Soileau (a/k/a Christeeene), Val; Frank Haines, drum machine; Robbie Lee, synthesizer; Roddy Bottum, synthesizer; Ben Holmes, trumpet; Justin Mullens, trumpet; Mike Sperone, timpani