The Dallas Opera this week announced a big influx of cash by way of the National Endowment for the Arts. The $30,000 N.E.A. grant will go directly toward production costs for a high-tech regional premier in 2014.
Basically, all this money means that a robot opera is coming to Dallas. "Robot opera?" you say. Yes, Virginia, robot opera.
Death and the Powers is the brainchild of composer and MIT professor Tod Machover. A technologically driven work that takes place in a futuristic post-human world, this one-act opera is the story of Simon Powers, a terminally ill billionaire obsessed with his legacy who uploads his consciousness into an artificial system. Throughout the opera, human singers on stage interact with robots and an interactive set.
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In an interview earlier this year, Machover told me that "Death and the Powers is based on some pretty crazy stuff." He went on: "It's a story about an older man who probably wants to live forever but chooses to leave the world and everything about himself there. It's kind of about death and legacy but also, there are robots."
Death and the Powers was commissioned by Prince Albert of Monaco and premiered by the Opéra de Monte-Carlo in 2010. The work has since appeared in Chicago and Boston. American poet laureate Robert Pinsky wrote the libretto (the text of the opera).
Death and the Powers will run at the Winspear Opera House in February of 2014. Check out the video below to see excerpts from the opera with commentary by the composer: