November 2 @ National Sawdust
I am writing an opera! And we need to raise a lot of money to make this ambitious project come to life. Here’s what it’s all about. (Or if you don’t need to be convinced, please click here to buy tickets to our November 2 benefit, where you can hang with the opera creators and see/hear a brand-new scene, along with lots of great food and drink at Brooklyn’s most exciting new music venue, National Sawdust.)
Our opera tells the story of the struggle over the fate of New York City between Robert Moses, builder of New York’s bridges, parks, and highways for four decades, and Jane Jacobs, the legendary writer and urban theorist who led community opposition against him. It is a story about New York and its inhabitants and the ways cities work, not just in the mid-20th century, but in our own time. The story of Moses and Jacobs is a story that needs to be told now.
Our story will be told through a synthesis of music, text (both sung and projected), animation, and movement. My collaborators on this opera are director/animator Joshua Frankel, whom many of you will know from his groundbreaking work on our film, Plan of the City; librettist Tracy K Smith, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her incredible Life on Mars; and the wonderful choreographer Will Rawls, who has worked with a wide array of fantastic artists, from Nicholas Leichter to Marina Abramovic to David Byrne and beyond. Also joining me, accompanying the singers and a massive presence in their own right, is NOW Ensemble, the “house orchestra” for this project.
We are devising technology to tell this story in a new way and using educational outreach to expand the opera’s impact beyond the stage. Through our partnership with 3-Legged-Dog (co-producers of the opera), Josh and a team of engineers have created unique, modular LED screens that will move around the set throughout the opera. This flexible stage will (among other things) allow the characters on stage to enact the urban planning visions contained in the opera, creating and changing their environment (Jacobs) or having it changed for them (Moses). You can see a preliminary version of the stage setup in the workshop picture above. Our educational outreach program involves interactions with students in the cities where the operas take place, asking them to think about their own environments as places that have been changed and will be again. How would these kids change their environment if they had Moses’s authority? And how do they see Jacobs’s theories reflected in the world around them?
This is the most ambitious creative project of my lifetime, by far, and the one that has the greatest potential for broad cultural impact. Mounting an opera presents extreme challenges in today’s financial and artistic climate. Even with a small cast and highly efficient, streamlined production staff, the sheer number of people involved and the enormous scope of the work itself makes every budget item instantly substantial. When, like us, you are working completely independent of any opera presenter, you are paying for every aspect of the production, including people, space, and (in our case) technology.
I hope you feel convinced and eager to support what we’re trying to create. If so, please purchase a ticket to the benefit — it is the only way we can bring this massive undertaking from dream to reality.