Welcome to MelanchoLalaland™!

It’s the 21st century, and time to re-invent opera, but in a way that’s more fun, less pretentious, and a little messed up.

Melancholalaland™ brings together singers and dancers in a live mix with video, animation, and original electronic music. Audience input is also encouraged. While the text of Melancholalaland™ is sung, it is far from traditional opera and has as much in common with pop and amateur performance styles, such as karaoke. The production’s plot, likewise, is decidedly postmodern and unstuffy, with a setting both chilling and comic.

Watch this video [What is Melancholalaland?] to find out more about its dystopic/near-futuristic narrative arc and its innovative transmedia elements!


MelanchoLalaland was described as “opera on acid” by some who attended and enjoyed its Knight-Foundation-funded premiere (a single performance) at a Miami Beach venue in Sept. 2015. Ever since its only other public showing—a Feb. 2015 preview of the opera’s first act at Miami’s FilmGate Interactive conference—it’s also been referred to as transmedia opera. Our goal has always been to provide a new vision of the possibilities of opera, which was certainly achieved if based on the glowing reviews from the audience that included many younger adults with scant experience with opera or musical comedy. We’ll continue to appeal to a broad range of audience members, not only those curious about new opera and new music and dance, but also students and aficionados of transmedia happenings.

For more about the Evolution of Melancholalaland


Basic Logistics

We (Bargsten and Zimmer) can get together a cast (like we did for the 2015 premiere) and we can bring the entire cast to your venue, festival, etc. Alternatively, we can set MelanchoLalaland on your already established ensemble and/or on local vocalists and dancers in your arts community.

Performance Configurations

Here are just three ways that MelanchoLalaland can be produced in the future; however, there are, no doubt, several more. We can make the production as small- to large-scale as you want—it all depends on the venue as well as the funding we can put our heads together to get.

The minimal performance configuration for MelanchoLalaland, which we used at its premiere at Miami Beach Cinematheque, an art-house cinema with a small performance space:

  • Three live vocalists (Soprano, Tenor, Baritone). With our limited budget for the Miami premiere, we made the most of the four vocalists we hired for that production. Matthew Maness (main protagonist – tenor) was live in four scenes and videoed {briefly} in two. Vanessa Rose Rivera (soprano) was seen live in two scenes, and videoed in four (for her portrayal of four different characters [one major, three minor/supporting]). Michael Angelo Gonzalez (baritone) was live in four scenes and videoed in two (for his portrayal of three characters {one major, two minor/ supporting]). Joanne Togati (soprano) was videoed in two scenes (two different characters). Katharine Goeldner (soprano) was recorded (as voiceover) in the intermission film within the opera (Casual [Sex} Friday).
  • Video elements included videoed characters, as mentioned above, as well as virtually all stage settings/backdrops, some animations, and the electronically produced score. To be produced with three new live vocalists, Dr. Bargsten would need to shoot some additional/minimal shots of these principal vocalists to be edited into existing video backdrops.
  • Videoed dancers for the two short dance pieces in MelanchoLalaland. This footage has already been shot and is ready to go for the next production with just a few small adjustments in the video.

A bigger-budget production would add some or all of the following:

  • Live dancers for one or both dance pieces of MelanchoLalaland. “Darkness is Also of My Nature” requires two dancers on stage, who dance in front of an interactive video grid as well as interact with other video elements. “Dance of the Maladies” requires five dancers.
  • Some videoed vocalists could be live. Some videoed segments of the three principal vocalists, mentioned above, could be done live (with fairly minimal adaptations to existing video). Likewise, the supporting cast—Charlie, the frenemy, in the warehouse scene, or the “extra” female vocalists in the “Heaven” scene—could also be live (budget permitting) or they can remain all or in part on video.
  • Film intermezzo (Casual {Sex} Friday) performed with live soprano. Please note that the current voiceover—for this short film within the opera—is provided by Katharine Goeldner, a former student of Bargsten’s, who’s now an internationally recognized soprano who’s sung roles at the NY Met! Also, a live ensemble (if you have one you want to use) can also replace string, percussion, and piano parts of score, as well as other orchestral instruments if available.


One great thing about digital backdrops/settings (on a screen) is this allows for subtitles even for the live vocalists—a feature for anyone who’s ever said they don’t go to operas or musical comedies because they don’t know what the singers are saying!

With regard to stagecraft, MelanchoLalaland requires only a stage, or black-box theater, or large room with theatrical lighting—plus a single video projector and screen to provide the settings and staging elements. With the help of local digital artists and animators, we were able to realize the compelling sets and backdrops that are, in themselves, studies in digital art. They are, of course, portable, adaptable and, again, some of their elements can also be done live—budget permitting.


We are not an ensemble, just a power couple. See Bargsten’s Bio. Zimmer’s is forthcoming.

Contact us!


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