Thursday, April 26, 2007

Toy Opera

This (and this) just might have more potential for the future of opera than the latest forms of digital transmission, populist kowtows, or diva-and-director-driven spectacles. Randall Wong, composer, sopranist, and Curator of Music for the Museum of Jurassic Technology, has joined the Toy Theatre revival movement, and the admixture of camp, surreal suspensions of disbelief, and old fashioned (or even steampunk) theatre magic, all re-made in miniature, would seem to lead inevitably to opera. The idea of being able to pack all of the hardware of an opera production into a valise for parlor performances is an attractive one, with highbrow echoes of Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp and lowbrow echoes aplenty. Besides, who can complain anymore about dwindling audiences when the goal is for the entire audience to be able to move smoothly together from the dining room to the performance in the parlor before the gents adjourn for cigars and brandy in the billiard room? I have the impression that Wong's music for his operas began largely with classical pastiche but is composed increasingly in his own voice. In any case, I can't fault anyone who'd retell the Orpheus myth with toasters and alarm clocks, or who'd render the sexually-retrograde world of Flatland in an appropriately retrograde theatrical environment.

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