PROTOTYPE: Opera | Theatre | Now has been completely re-envisioned following the Covid-19 crisis. The result is a series of multi-disciplinary, cross-platform events that expand the technological boundaries of opera-theatre and music-theatre and offer a new vision for the audience experience.
The annual festival presented by Beth Morrison Projects (“More than any other figure in the industry, Beth Morrison has helped to propel the art form into the 21st century.” – Opera News) and HERE (“Since 1993, HERE has been one of New York's most prolific producing and presenting organizations.”) is now in its ninth season.
The festival opens with three world premiere vocal theatre works: Modulation, a “self-guided digital exploration of isolation, fear, and identity” by 13 composers; Times3 (Times x Times x Times), “an immersive sonic experience” in Times Square by Geoff Sobelle & Pamela Z; and Ocean Body, a multi-screen film and music installation at HERE by composer/vocalists Helga Davis and Shara Nova and director-filmmaker Mark DeChiazza.
There are also be three digital US premieres from abroad and all festival offerings will be free, except for Modulation.
The Festival directors, in a joint statement, said:
The works our audiences are used to seeing in PROTOTYPE generally take 3-5 years to develop and produce. This year, as COVID necessitated that we put aside our originally planned festival, we recognized an opportunity. Warp-speed festival curation and artistic creation meant we could directly respond to our current time. To what has happened to our world in 2020.
While we can't gather together in the dark of our beloved theatres, we can still take our audiences on a journey. A journey for this moment; one that has asked a group of artists to dream in different ways, collaborate in different ways, and create in different ways. The world is suffering in unimaginable ways right now. We believe that the best way for us to respond is to do what we do best – giving audiences a festival filled with astonishing work by breathtaking artists.
PROTOTYPE launches January 8, 2021, with the digital world premiere of Modulation, a ground-breaking exploration of how opera and theatre can adapt to the digital format. The piece will allow audience members to choose their path through a series of musical and visual experiences that grapple with themes of isolation, identity, and fear. The digital and design experience is created in partnership with Imaginary Places, creators of the acclaimed digital quarantine response piece Decameron Row, and the thirteen individual works that make up the experience are composed by some of the most provocative and diverse voices in contemporary music: Jojo Abot, Sahba Aminikia, Juhi Bansal, Raven Chacon, Carmina Escobar, Yvette Jackson, Molly Joyce, Jimmy López, Angelica Negrón, Paul Pinto, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Joel Thompson, and Bora Yoon.
On January 9, PROTOTYPE will unveil Times3 (Times x Times x Times), a world premiere sonic journey through Times Square – past, present and imagined. Created by composer Pamela Z and theatre artist Geoff Sobelle, this immersive sound experience weaves seamlessly in and out of the fabric of the city, exploring the history of the pulsing heart of New York City before it was silenced by the pandemic.
The multi-screen film and music installation Ocean Body will also premiere on January 9 at HERE. In-person by appointment audiences of eight people at a time will experience an audiovisual experience crafted by composer/vocalists Helga Davis and Shara Nova, director-filmmaker Mark DeChiazza, and visual artist Annica Cuppetelli. The emotionally charged installation will combine four video screens with surround sound audio, growing from the longstanding musical and personal relationship between Davis and Nova.
US digital premieres
In addition to the three world premieres, PROTOTYPE will offer the US digital premieres of three deeply-relevant works, each streamed for free on-demand on the PROTOTYPE website.
The Murder of Halit Yozgat, composed by Ben Frost & Petter Ekmann with libretto by Daniela Danz, tells the story of 21-year-old Halit Yozgat, who was assassinated during broad daylight in 2006 in Kassel, Germany in his immigrant parents' café. Combining sound art, electronic music, and dark metal, this production directed by Ben Frost confronts the issues of racial violence, structural racism and institutional blindness.
The Planet – A Lament, directed by Garin Nugroho and composed and performed by Septina Rosalina Layan, tells the story of a community devastated by a tsunami, blending song, dance, and ritual with cinematic visuals, to tell a story of creation and destruction set against the backdrop of environmental disaster.
Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists, composed by Valgeir Sigurðsson with text by a. Rawlings, and directed by Sara Martí, creates a visceral, visually spectacular world around the cyclic metamorphosis and life cycle of butterflies and moths, bringing audiences into a cocoon where the borders between dreams and reality are blurred.
Tickets for Modulation are on sale for $25, with the remaining shows offered for free in an effort to provide the highest possible level of access to art during these challenging times. Entrance for all shows must be reserved in advance by visiting prototypefestival.org.
Top photo: The Planet – A Lament
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.