Composition lecturer Dr Matthew Shlomowitz has just received an exciting commission for a new opera: In early 2014 I submitted a short proposal for a one-hour opera to the 6th Johann Joseph Fux Competition for Opera Composition presented by the Province of Styria in Austria. Later in the year I was one of six composers selected to progress to the second round of the competition, and asked to write a scene and develop my proposal (concept, libretto) further. It was recently announced that I am one of the two prize winners and in turn have the opportunity to complete my opera for production. My work will be performed by student singers from the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, in October 2017, along with the Austrian large ensemble Klangforum Wien. Here’s the beginning of my proposal:
As the audience enters the auditorium, the stage is in darkness aside from a video of a person restlessly trying to sleep in a hotel room. When the auditorium lights go off the video continues. After a few minutes the person on the video gets out of bed to turn the TV on and the stage lights come on.
The premise is that what the person in the hotel watches on TV is performed live on the stage. The relationship between TV and reality is reversed: the video presents ‘reality’ (person in hotel room) and the stage presents the virtual (what the person watches on the TV).
During the opera the person in the hotel flicks between various TV channels (e.g. weather channel, advertisements, shopping channel), but primarily watches the unfolding of a game-show. Each TV show is cast within an operatic context; the soloists perform the roles of the various shows. Within this ‘operatic context’, historical operatic conventions and vocal qualities are engaged (e.g. recitative, melsimatic vocal writing, high notes, operatic vibrato) in combination with other musical idioms (e.g. swing jazz, disco) to create a mystifying and fantastical mixture of musical and theatrical elements.