Blog Post

Multimedia Opera Planning

I'm officially underway on my first opera! While the multimedia element makes many aspects of planning and organizing more complicated, it also serves as an excellent buffer to distribute the workload for myself and for the performing musicians. This blog will be concerned with the forces involved with this project, documenting what needs to be done by myself, as well as what portions of the work might be "outsourced." I am hoping to get feedback from those wishing to collaborate on this project and from those who have advice based on experience with similar projects.




1. Libretto

I am not a writer, so I originally intended to find a librettist, but as this project was started by a plot concept of my own, I found that once I added enough details I had more or less finished a rough draft of the libretto. I have left some of the arias and more poetic sections in shorthand and would love to find a talented writer or poet to assist with these. Any interested persons let me know!


2. Dance

My composition program has an annual collaboration with the dance department for a concert in the spring. I met with a dozen choreographers yesterday and should know who I am working with shortly. I explained to them the nature of this project and that I would like to have a choreographed piece that works both as part of this opera and as a stand alone piece for the spring concert.


3. Musicians (soprano, tenor, bass, choir, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion, conductor)

Another one I can definitely outsource! The lead role will be played by a soprano and I have a close friend that is interested in the part. I intend to confirm musicians after having both music to provide and a concert date chosen. Unfortunately I cannot schedule the concert until January, but I am hoping to have this piece performed in March since players are usually very busy in April and May with recitals. I am also hoping the conductor will be able to help organize the musicians. There may end up being more than one conductor to split the workload and to divide by the conductors skills (choral versus instrumental). The space may require two conductors with one on the balcony and one on the stage.


4. Music (for 4-channel tape, interactive electronics with instruments, or purely acoustic.)

I intend to do all of the music/software part myself, but parts of this will be dependent on outside forces (choreography, video, population algorithm, etc.).


5. Costumes

I know my school has an excellent costume shop that I walk by regularly. I believe I will only want costumes for the soprano and tenor rolls and will look into this further when I know who will be playing those rolls. My wife is also a seamstress, and might be coerced into helping if the costume design is not too time intensive. The dancers will also be costumed, but they have a variety of (free!) premade costumes they can choose from. Sensors may or may not play a roll in costume design... to be determined at a later date.

6. Set design

If a set is made it will be minimal due to the amount of time allowed for set up (the morning of the concert). I am a carpenter by trade and my advisor has a woodworking area in his house, which could be very useful in February in Indiana. So far, it doesnt seem like much of this will be necessary, but I would like to keep it open as an option and allocate time for it just in case.


7. Video

The biggest difficulty for this will be lighting. The space I wish to use has windows and I know now that I will have an afternoon concert. I know this because there will almost certainly be one or two other concerts in the same space that day and being first provides marginally adequate set up and equipment testing time. My HASTAC sponsors with IDAH have suggested that I might be able to borrow as many as three large flat panel televisions that can be used for video sections or as an interactive part of the set. This would work much better in the lighting conditions than a projector.

I have toyed with the idea of making video myself, but would prefer to find someone to help. I rather enjoy the collaborative process and the feedback that provides.


8. Population Algorithm

Heres a novel one for opera! The libretto is based on the struggle to survive as a species after a population limiting event. I would like to use an algorithm to take input from the libretto as the story progresses and use the output of data to control certain aspects of the music. My research into this so far has shown that there are near limitless variables that contribute to a population's viability, so I will need to limit these. I would like to consult a biologist to get some feedback on this, but I want to have a more complete draft of the libretto first.


I would love to hear some feedback from people who are interested in collaborating (with writing, video, costumes, scientific consultant, or otherwise). Any other suggestions are of course welcome! I expect there will be other aspects to deal with later on- timing, lighting, procuring a stage manager, publicity- but I think getting these first 8 forces organized should be a solid start!



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