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.
Composer/videographer/FAU professor Joey Bargsten, with co-producer/writer Thea Zimmer, presented their multimedia opera, MelanchoLalaland™, at Miami Beach Cinematheque on Sunday, September 13, 2015 . Funded in part by the Knight Foundation, MelanchoLalaland™ included local singers and dancers in a live mix with video, animation, and digital music.
While the text of MelanchoLalaland is sung, it is far from traditional opera. The production’s plot is decidedly postmodern and unstuffy, with a setting both chilling and comic. Its characters include Kenny Longtin, vice president of Melancuria, Inc., a global corporation that specializes in anti-melancholia drugs and drive-through self-pleasuring pods. Melancuria, Inc.’s target market includes the mobs of enlightenment-challenged Americans picketing outside its gates.
Kenny Longtin’s hapless nemesis is the story’s hero, Harold “Booster” Krant, Melancuria, Inc.‘s Senior Aesthetic Experience Engineer. Booster is surrounded by disgruntled employees, dissatisfied girlfriends, dubious deities in dreadlocks, and apathetic ancient Latin choruses. Read Synopsis or watch performance documentation, or listen to the centerpiece of the work, Casual (Sex) Friday.
Contact: melancholalaland at gmail dot com;
Sneak Peak (above) is a really short video snippet of our performance of MelanchoLalaland™: Scenes from a Transmedia Opera at Miami Light Box on February 3, 2015, in conjunction with FilmGate Interactive Conference. Complete Flickr slideshow of stills here.
The evening began with my little talk, where I mostly explained what a transmedia opera is, why on Earth we’d want to make one, and technical details. This set a scholarly tone for the performance, but it also allowed me to indulge in a little geekyness (as in, all that Latin in the libretto, and not even Latin you can dance to!).
Next, two of the main characters of the opera, Booster (Santo Martin Cordero) and Tess (Vanessa Rose Rivera) reflect for a moment on Booster’s hallucinatory visions. Following this, the first big scene in the first act of the opera, “Team Melancuria™”. Booster’s tumult is next recounted in a dance, Darkness is Of My Nature (Tenebre autem naturea mea sunt), which is the dance of Booster’s brain chemicals, co-choreographed by Thea Zimmer, Katie Wiegman and Danielle Kipnis. This was followed by a sneak preview of the film Casual (Sex) Friday, with the voice-over of the protagonist sung in full mezzo soprano by Katharine Goeldner. Casual (Sex) Friday is based on the short story by Thea Zimmer. After C(S)F, the cast took their bows, echoed by Kinect-activated sound essays in the closing credits.
Thanks, as always, to Diliana Alexander and the staff at FilmGate.org, tech help at Miami Light Project, Mike Lue for technical assistance, Katie Weigman and Danielle Kipnis for their dance, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters Advisory Board of Florida Atlantic University, the Robert and Inez Bailyn Foundation, the Avid Corporation, and the State of Florida Department of State, Bureau of Cultural Affairs, for their generous support on this project!
Celebrated Mezzo Adds Multimedia Opera to Her Résumé
I’ve just completed recording Katharine Goeldner singing the soundtrack for my film-Intermezzo Casual_Sex_Fridays . Katharine has established an international reputation as one of today’s finest mezzo-sopranos. She has appeared at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Savonlinna Festival, Welsh National Opera, Minnesota Opera, and with the opera houses of Madrid, Salzburg, Oviedo, Toulouse, Lyon, Paris, Dallas, Antwerp, Bilbao, Seville and Dresden. Upcoming performances include Herodias in Salome with Virginia Opera, Bruckner’s Te Deum with the Oxford (UK) Philomusica, and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden. Katharine studied at The University of Iowa, where I taught her Freshman Music Theory class—a friendship which led to her collaboration with me on MelanchoLalaLand™. On the process of recording the Intermezzo, she says,
“This collaboration came about through the randomness of FaceBook, where I was able to re-connect with my Freshman theory professor. It’s been good to work together again – or actually, I think this is the first time I’ve performed one of (his) pieces. . . I have worked with living composers before and it’s interesting to learn each others languages – I have to learn the musical language of the particular composer and he or she has to become familiar with the individual characteristics of my voice. It’s exciting to be part of the creative process.”
My Intermezzo will be presented as a short film between the two acts of the (live) multimedia opera. With a stirring libretto by MelanchoLalaland™’s producer, Thea Zimmer, the piece is told through the internal monologue of a survivor of an office shooting. To evade the shooter, she hides in a cramped supply closet and tries to piece together the events of the shooting and the killer’s identity. Katharine’s participation in MelanchoLaland™ was made possible in part through the support of the John M. and James L. Knight Foundation and by the Dorothy H. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters Advisory Board of Florida Atlantic University.
Getting the Ball Rolling: My Knight Arts Challenge Award
AUDIO & SCORE EXCERPTS
Complete audio of film/intermezzo Casual (Sex) Friday™ (CSF) with performance by mezzo soprano Katharine Goeldner here.
Complete short story by Thea Zimmer, upon which the film/intermezzo is based.
Full orchestral score for CSF. (parts available on request)
SLIDESHOW OF PREVIEW PERFORMANCE