ORPHEUS ASCENDING (2006)

a one-act electroacoustic opera for two singers and eight digital soundtracks

Cast

The Woman (soprano)

The Man (baritone)

 

Libretto by the composer

adapted from Powers of Two

  Sound Example available

 
Duration: 26 min.

Technical requirements: Eight-channel tape diffusion (or stereo reduction on CD) and amplified singers, plus optional video projection


Synopsis:

The two singers, who are young urbanites dressed in contemporary clothes, are caught up in their own respective worlds, the Woman who sings of her love for the ideal "Orpheus" as expressed through the romantic poetry she is always reading, and the Man with his cell phone who falls in love with the idealized video image of the Woman. Once they meet, they seem to fall in love, but quickly discover that the other person is not living up to their ideal expectations, as symbolized by the Man not being able to understand the poetry adored by the Woman. He becomes distraught and she withdraws, after singing a Sonnet to Orpheus. The Man awakens and fears he is dead, as if blinded by a bright light. When he hears the Woman's voice, he wonders if it is a hallucination, but in a reversal of the Orpheus and Eurydice story, she warns him not to look at her, and tells him to approach her backwards and rely on hearing her voice. After several failed attempts, during which he loses some of his worldly apparel, the Man is blindfolded and urged to give up his reliance on sight and reason. He finally ceases to resist and is guided backwards, clothed anew and re-united with the Woman. The act ends with the joyful song "We are the stars which sing", a traditional First Nations text.

The text used in the opera is derived from lyric poetry by Katherine Philips (1631-64); Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661-1720), and R. M. Rilke (in a new translation by Norbert Ruebsaat), with additional material written by the composer.

Technical Note:

The tape is composed solely from sung and spoken voices, Pacific Rim percussion, and Italian ambiences, all digitally processed (using granulation and resonators) with the composer's PODX system and diffused through Harmonic Functions' DM8 signal processor.


References:

B. Truax, "Sounds and Sources in Powers of Two: Towards a Contemporary Myth," Organised Sound, 1(1), 13-21, 1996.

B. Truax, "The aesthetics of computer music: a questionable concept reconsidered," Organised Sound, 5(3), 119-126, 2000.


home