\"Death and the Powers\" in Chicago

Dallas Opera Does the Robot

The Dallas Opera's $30,000 NEA grant will go toward the regional premiere of Death and the Powers, a high-tech opera by Tod Machover of MIT.

published Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Yesterday the National Endowment for the Arts announced its first wave of 2013 Art Works grants, and one of the eight North Texas groups receiving funds was The Dallas Opera. It gets $30,000 for the production of the regional premiere of Tod Machover's opera Death and the Powers.

The opera, composed by Machover, of the MIT Media Lab, and with a libretto by American laurette Robert Pinsky, premiered in Chicago in 2010. In Dallas, it will have three performances in February, 2014.

Here's more from the Dallas Opera news release:

DALLAS, NOVEMBER 27, 2012 – The Dallas Opera is pleased to be the recipient of a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in support of our upcoming production of Death and the Powers, a groundbreaking regional premiere scheduled for three performances in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Centerduring the 2013-2014 Season.

The critically acclaimed contemporary work will open on February 12, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. with additional performances on Friday, February 14 at 7:30 and Sunday, February 16 (m) at 2:00 p.m. 

This dynamic one-act opera was created in 2010 by composer Tod Machover, a near legendary Professor of Music and Media at the MIT Media Lab (Cambridge, Massachusetts) and American poet laureate Robert Pinsky, the librettist.  The work was commissioned by the Monaco-based Futurum Association, to promote futuristic projects combining the arts and sciences, and originally presented by Opéra de Monte-Carlo where it earned rave reviews. 

Working with members of the MIT Media Lab, Machover produced "a challenging opera that questioned how far the human race can push technological development toward immortality."  The action centers on a terminally ill billionaire who downloads his consciousness into an artificial construct and then attempts to persuade his loved ones to join him there.  Critic Stephen J. Mudge ofOpera News added: "Any worry that the opera might be taking itself too seriously is answered by Pinsky's witty and at times lighthearted libretto, which treats the situation with respect but levity." 

Jeremy Eichler of The Boston Globe wrote that the sci-fi opera, subsequently performed in Boston and Chicago, "sets its gaze on subjects both ancient and ultra-modern. In the former camp is the question of whether the soul, or something beyond the body, can live after our death. In the latter camp is the question of the deeper meanings of our infatuation with technology — the way we experience our lives increasingly through its prism…That trailblazing technology is itself put to the service of exploring these points is one of the work's many ironies that cumulatively leave you with plenty to think about after the robots have powered down for the night." 

The Chicago Tribune gave the new work four stars: "Death and the Powers is a must-see for anybody who cares about the exciting new techno-driven direction music theater is taking in the early 21st century." 

"Programming this important and genre-stretching work by Tod Machover underscores the Dallas Opera's unwavering commitment to significantly broadening our programming, both by presenting 20th and 21st century works as well as lesser-known works deserving a permanent place in our repertoire," explains Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny.  "This major regional premiere will allow us to reach out to those North Texans who are excited by the prospect of experiencing a work that overlays contemporary technology on traditional operatic practice.  Especially when it marries the Dallas Opera's reputation for exceptional artistry and vivid imagination with the cutting-edge, 21st century technologies the state-of-the-art Winspear Opera House can provide."


Here's video from the premiere production of Death and the Powers:

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Dallas Opera Does the Robot
The Dallas Opera's $30,000 NEA grant will go toward the regional premiere of Death and the Powers, a high-tech opera by Tod Machover of MIT.
by Mark Lowry

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